Brownsea Island is a small island in the United Kingdom to the south and closer to Poole and Bournemouth.
I would never have found out that such an island exists in the UK if it weren't for my curious son, who loves traveling with his finger on a map and generally has geography in his "little finger". He wanted to see red squirrels there.
"- Okay, why not." - I said, when he asked, if we could go there over the weekend.
Here in the UK, red squirrels are on the so-called red list, which means they have been completely replaced by a grey squirrels introduced from the USA.
There is no other way to get to the island than by a National Trust boat, so we went to the ticket booth in Poole for more information. We are members of the National Trust, but we wanted to know when our boat would arrive and pick us up on the next trip.
The lady inside the ticked booth charmed us, not only because of the way she talked about this extraordinary Brownsea Island, but in general she welcomed us nicely and warmly in such stormy and rainy weather.
It was the end of October and warm for this time of year, but later we learned that this weather is typical here even in winter, due to sea currents that arise around the island.
We also learned that this was the penultimate day when we could see Brownsea Island, which will be closed to visitors until spring. But we were lucky, even though the weather was not good.
Our boat trip took about 20 minutes. There were more sea cruising enthusiasts like us. We were able to see lots of boats and yachts along the way. The weather was typically stormy, windy like hell and raining, but it was something new for us, like an adventure.
On land, we were offered free travel on the most frequently used routes in a National Trust minibus. We felt like VIPs. It was worth it. Amazing views and saving time, because we only had two hours to see this island from A to Z before it closed to the public.
When we reached the island, I thought that it was a bit small compared to the descriptions on the internet and that even the map did not fully reflect the size of this place.
There are a lot of animals on Brownsea Island, including red squirrels, peacocks, deer, birds, colonies of common and sandwich terns, little egrets, black-tailed godwits, avocets, water voles, and 17 species of dragonflies.
However, we really wanted to see red squirrels. When our journey with a minibus around the island ended, we went near a small church of Saint Mary`s where those animals live and are most active.
The red squirrels population of Brownsea Island is one of the last rich population of South of England. Those native species lived in UK for around 10 000 years.
Red squirrels depends on healthy woodland, which provide them food, for example pine seeds, spruce, nuts like beech, walnut, sweet chestnut, acorns, fungus, flowers, shoots, pollen, bulbs, and bark. I saw how many young trees were planted among existing old trees by the National Trust. Such a diverse structure of age trees provides squirrels with constant food supply. My photo below shows how lovely and pleasant are woods with diversified trees.
On the way, looking for red squirrels, we crossed a long wooden track and saw a pheasant crouching in the thicket of greenery. I didn't manage to take an interesting photo or video of this bird, but I could look at it.
We found a birds hide shed for observation avocet birds. Avocets are a distinctively-patterned black and white wader birds with a long up-curved beak.
During winter months, several hundred avocets can often be observed from this hide.
During the summer months the island is a home for Dorset`s largest breeding colony of common terns. The other water birds that live here are redshanks, greenshanks, and black-tailed godwits.
We weren't lucky enough to see a single one here that day, but at the end of our trip while waiting for our boat to take us back to Poole, we saw these birds in a larger group on the lagoons. Unfortunately, these lagoons are not open to visitors and we could see them using special binoculars on land.
Look at the white and black points on the lagoon in photo below (you can also enlarge this photo) and this is what we have saw.
I saw another white bird wading in the shallow water, but I'm not sure what kind of bird it was.
Finally, we reached a woods near Saint Mary's Church. Slowly and quietly we started looking for squirrels.
Can you guess how many red squirrels are there on Brownsea Island? 🐿️🌰
Read to the end my story and the answer will be there.
Along the way, we learned some interesting facts about squirrels, which the National Trust has wonderfully displayed for visitors. Apparently the Vikings not only loved squirrel stew but also used their beautiful red fur to make clothes. In 1839 in Victorian time over 2,5 million red squirrel skins were used to make fur boas, a coil of fur worn around a ladies neck. Victorian also loved exotic pets and they put captured red squirrels in cages and put them on displayed in their houses.
We couldn't see any squirrels within our reach because they are very fast and whenever they hear rustling leaves or human footsteps they can run away faster than you can turn your head towards them.
We had a funny moment when we thought we found a squirrel in the fork of a tree branch. When we got closer to tree and took a closer look, it turned out that they were three reddish plane tree cones. These cones are covered with delicate and long spines and have started to change colour from green to brown. Probably the squirrel found them and carried them to the tree.
Autumn is the best time of year to catch a glimpse of shy red squirrels. They come down from the tree canopy to store food for the colder months ahead.
We wandered around the church several times, hoping to see lots of these cute animals. On the way back to the marina where we were supposed to wait for our boat, we walked along a path among the woods and then a red squirrel appeared, hopping briskly. And I only saw... her tail.
A few hours on this wildlife sanctuary Brownsea Island was a great adventure and although we didn't go through the entire island, we have unforgettable and wonderful memories. Thriving habitats, including woodlands, heathlands and a lagoon have created a unique haven for all kinds of wildlife.
This island is also birth place for the Scouting and Guiding movement and today, thousands of Scouts and Guides flock to the island each year to celebrate their heritage.
We decided that we would come back here in spring to see deer, take a walk along the sea shore and see places we didn't have time to see.
That day, the wind was so strong from the sea that sometimes it was difficult for me to hold the camera steady in my hands.
P.S. There is about 200.