BROWNSEA Island has topped a public poll of the country’s favourite nature reserves.
The National Trust-owned island, in Poole Harbour, was announced the winner after being nominated in the BBC’s Countryfile Magazine poll.
Managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT), Brownsea – the spiritual home of the scout movement – has been open to the public for half a century.
DWT reserve manager Chris Thain said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected for this award.
“Winter is a particularly spectacular time to come to the lagoon and see not only a huge diversity of birds, but also in large numbers.”
Already this year, reserve workers have counted 1,973 Black-tailed Godwits and 1,181 Avocets.
Mr Thain added: “The lagoon is vitally important to over wintering wildfowl and waders, and the flocks of birds are a very impressive sight – especially if you’re a keen photographer.”
Brownsea Island was up against stiff competition in the Countryfile poll, including the RSPB’s Ouse Fen, Cambridgeshire, the Farne Islands, Northumberland, and the Bass Rock Scottish Seabird Centre in East Lothian, Scotland.
Claire Dixon, from the National Trust, said: “Brownsea is well known for its internationally important numbers of winter birds and this year, for the first time, there will be a guide in our public hide to help you spot the Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits as well as other waders.
“We also get ducks in very large numbers – we’d expect to have over 600, including Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon and Gadwell.”
The island will open on the weekends from February 8 until March 16, then every day from March 22.
Claire said: “It will be a quiet and tranquil time on the island and a great opportunity to explore and spot wildlife, even the island’s delightful Red Squirrels.”
Nature Reserves shortlisted for the Countryfile Magazine awards:
Sherwood Forest NNR, Nottinghamshire
This fragment of world-famous woodland includes 900 ancient oaks and the magnificent Major Oak.
St Kilda, Outer Hebrides
These islands rise out of the Atlantic with sublime drama and are packed with tens of thousands of seabirds.
This may be one of the busiest spots in the Peak District, but how can you resist this glorious, flower-rich reserve?
Ouse Fen RSPB, Cambridgeshire
A vast wetland habitat project, but it already has so many birds that it gives you hope for the future.
Horsey Mere, National Trust
Reedbeds, vast sky-scape and the promise of the unexpected.
Arundel WWT, West Sussex
Tranquil wetlands overlooked by Arundel Castle, famed for its water voles. Also reed and sedge warblers.
Brownsea Island, National Trust, Dorset
A diversity of habitats: sheltered lagoon, flooded woodland and pine wood. Home to red squirrels.
Bass Rock, Scottish Seabird Centre, East Lothian
The spot to see gannets, with 150,000 in peak season. Many other seabirds, too.
Farne Islands, National Trust
Accessed by boat, see seals, puffins and Arctic terns up close.
Murlough, National Trust, Co Down
A sandune system on the edge