21 Jun 2014

21 June 14 - Sandwiches Are Provided On This Island

Birding trips to islands are normally a lot of fun. Islands are great as they have a different balance of species to the adjoining mainland, as some species have never made it to the island or died out. But sometimes species have flourished on the island, despite being wiped out on the adjacent mainland. Additionally, there is always the boat trip as well, which might produce seabirds & cetaceans, as well as the risks of seasickness. Living in Dorset, there is a limited option of islands to visit: Portland is an island only in name due to the land bridge. But we have the well known Brownsea Island & visits here are never dull. Albeit the boat trips are unlikely to provide a pelagic goodie as Brownsea is within Poole Harbour. The island is owned by the National Trust, but with the best birding areas run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Brownsea Island
Living near Swanage, then it is a double pelagic trip for me to visit Brownsea. First there is the Studland chain ferry, which gives a full 5 minutes of seawatching (or harbour watching if facing West).
Studland chain ferry: Waiting for the ferry at Studland's South Haven
Studland chain ferry: Looking back to Studland's South Haven 
Studland chain ferry: Sometimes the harbour mouth can be a busy place
Having crossed the harbour mouth, then the next crossing is the yellow boat to Brownsea. This runs from Sandbanks, only a minute walk from the Studland ferry, although there are also ferries from Poole Quay.
Brownsea Ferry: I arrived just in time to catch the ferry, but for the first time ever it was already full, due to a cub pack waiting to go to Brownsea. Normally, boats are every 30 minutes, but they turned around quicker this time as there was another cub group waiting to cross
Sandwich Tern: While waiting for the Brownsea ferry to return the Sandwich Terns are happy to keep a photographer occupied as they try to catch Sand Eels in the harbour mouth
Brownsea Ferry: The other ferry had just arrived from Poole Quay 
Brownsea Lagoon: Behind this low seawall sits the DWT Brownsea lagoon
Note, there is a landing fee to land on Brownsea. But it is free to land for National Trust members or DWT members who are only visiting the DWT reserve. Make sure you have your membership card with you. There are a number of hides providing views over the lagoon. Near to the jetty is a public hide. The other hides are on the DWT reserve.
The first DWT hides: The tower hide is now closed
The Mac hide: The Mac hide sticks out into the saline lagoon & provides amazing views of some of the Sandwich Tern islands. The sailing ship is tied up alongside Poole Quay
I quickly checked the lagoon from the National Trust buildings as it's not easy to see that part of the lagoon from the DWT hides. This revealed a Spoonbill, but little else. So it was quickly onto the reserve. Despite the boats being full, most were cubs & were heading for the other side of the island as this was where Baden-Powell held his first camp, which started the Scouting movement. The vast majority of the public were sticking to the NT parts of the island, so fortunately, the reserve would be reasonable quiet for a sunny day.
Spoonbill in the Cormorant colony: Doing what they do best - sleeping. This is a colour ringed bird & looks like the bird at Middlebere on 28 May. I'm still waiting to hear back on this bird
Normally, I check the first hide, but this time I went straight for the Mac hide. This is a great place for photographing the breeding Sandwich Terns. I thought I would get in there quickly in case, the hides started to fill up with visitors later in the day: as it's not fair if the photographers hog the best corner for photographing the Sandwich Terns. But it is easier to do that when the hide is near empty. Most of the Sandwich Tern islands are fenced. It's not unusual for a photographer to complain about the fences, but most accept the explanation that there is a problem with the local Sika Deer coming onto the lagoon after dark, as they really like the vegetation on the islands. Without the fences, the Terns would face regular trampling by the Sikas, which would have a significant impact on the number that ultimately fledge. 
Sandwich Tern: Just a few of the nesting birds 
Sandwich Tern: They are well used to the tight landings to get into the islands. The really tight bit is avoiding a poke from their neighbour's beak on landing
Sandwich Tern: Adult with a Sand Eel looking for the youngster
Sandwich Tern chick: Perhaps this is the nipper the adult is looking for
Sandwich Tern: Another arrived soon after
Sandwich Tern: Couldn't resist another photo
Sandwich Tern: Like small kids, this one is complaining it's hungry
Sandwich Tern: One final flight shot
There are also Common Terns nesting on the lagoon. They are not as large as the Sandwich Terns and have a red bill with a black tip. Whereas, Sandwich Terns have a longer black bill with a yellow tip & a shaggy crest. The Sandwich Terns arrive & start nesting first & so their chicks are fairly large, while the Common Tern chicks are only just starting to hatch.
Common Tern: The red bill, black tip and clean cut cap all separate this Common Tern from the Sandwich Terns. However, there are occasional Arctic Terns to watch out for which are erratic visitors to Brownsea in the Summer & Autumn
Common Tern: I spent so long photographing the Sandwich Terns, I largely overlooked the Common Terns. Still, there will be a next time
Sika Deer: Looking very embarrassed as caught in the reeds & also as it knows that I know it wants to get onto the Tern islands