“It’s such a unique area and there’s so much to learn.”

Ever since he can remember, Paul Morton has had a passion for nature.

Growing up in Upton, Poole Harbour was his playground, and he developed a love for the birds and animals which inhabit the area.

But enjoying the incredible natural history by himself was not enough – Paul wanted others to appreciate what a remarkable place was to be found on their doorstep.

“We have one of the most special areas in the country,” he explains.

“I just love promoting and telling people, because they just don’t know. Ospreys, for example, are really iconic birds.

In Poole Harbour during August and September they’re pretty common – people have no idea.”

In 2013, several years after first coming up with the idea, Paul set up the Birds of Poole Harbour, which was initially a website for people to learn more about the species living in the area.

But the project developed into a charity which now works with local schools to inspire a love of natural history in children, offers residential trips for bird lovers from around the country, and works alongside organisations such as the RSPB and Dorset Wildlife Trust to promote and protect the harbour.

“Dorset is probably one of the best counties for bird watching,” explains Paul.

“A lot of that is Poole Harbour. I’s a huge, huge area and we don’t just focus on the water. It’s a Special Protection Area (SPA), it’s surrounded by Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSSI) and the whole of Poole Harbour is a Ramsar, which means it’s European protected wetlands.

It’s such a special harbour.”

Lush founder Mark Constantine, whose conservation campaigns Paul is often involved with, helped set up the Birds of Poole Harbour after the pair formed a friendship over their love of bird watching.

The charity now runs regular field trips, commissions surveys, posts online tutorials, writes daily sighting blogs and sets up web cams.

But one of Paul’s favourite ventures is the school trips he organises.

“Every winter from September to February we take out 20 schools on boat trips around the harbour to get kids to get involved in the nature that’s right on their doorstep,” he says.

“It’s amazing. We get them out on the water for two hours and they all get a pair of binoculars that they get taught to use on the day. They love it, and the teachers love it as well. That’s definitely my favourite bit of the project.”

Paul’s enthusiasm for the project is infectious, and he’s thrilled when people begin to share his passion.

“Since we started self-promoting ourselves as an organisation that people can come to, you’ll be amazed how many nature lovers there are out there.

There’s tens of thousands of people – even if it’s just robins in their gardens, they love it. People will email me just to tell me they’ve seen a kingfisher. They can share their excitement with us.”