Archive for September, 2021

New era heralds exciting eco-tourism opportunities for South Dorset

Posted on: September 22nd, 2021 by Birds of Poole Harbour

A series of inspiring environmental initiatives that are being carried out across the south coast could provide multiple eco-tourism opportunities for the Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Purbeck area over the coming years. The last 18 months has seen a huge spike in the number of people wishing to not only connect with nature, but to learn about its functionality and backstory too. Over the last decade social media and mainstream news channels have often highlighted the worst and most catastrophic environmental stories from across the globe. However, here in Dorset and along the south coast a new era of positive environmental change seems to be emerging, focussing on nature and species recovery, and the positive impacts are already becoming evident.

Within the last ten years, several high profile projects have begun along the south coast with the aim of restoring lost habitats and species. These include the Poole Harbour Osprey translocation project carried out by local charity Birds of Poole Harbour, the White-tailed Sea Eagle reintroduction on the Isle of Wight carried out by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England, and the White Stork reintroduction in Sussex and Surrey run by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Warsaw Zoo. Last year also saw the launch of the new groundbreaking Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve, a joint partnership project between Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Forestry England, National Trust, Natural England, Rempstone Estate and the RSPB, and recently the Dorset Wildlife Trust obtained a new 170 hectare area of land south-east of Bere Regis which will focus on Rewilding the large previously farmed area. Plus, the National Trust currently have a licence application underway to undertake a wild Beaver reintroduction in the Little Sea area of Studland, with Beavers being renowned natural, dynamic eco-engineers that vastly improve ecosystems. Collectively, all these projects place south Dorset in a unique position to not only improve and accelerate species and ecosystem recovery, but to also attract and establish a growing eco-tourism audience.

Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained;
Over the last four years we’ve been reintroducing Osprey to Poole Harbour, in an effort to try and restore a breeding population having been absent for nearly 200 years. This summer we saw a pair form and we witnessed the male displaying high over his nest site: a behaviour that’s not been seen in southern Britain for two centuries. Although they didn’t end up breeding, this is the beginnings of re-colonisation. Then, a series of events in Sept 2021 blew my mind. Firstly, on Sept 16th an incredible sight of 36 White Stork migrated over the harbour, a scenario that probably hasn’t been seen here for nearly 400 years. Then, on the following day, one of the Isle of Wight sea eagles decided to pay us a visit, firstly hanging out briefly on the lagoon on Brownsea Island before relocating to Middlebere near RSPB Arne the following day where crowds of people got to enjoy watching this huge majestic bird of prey with its 8ft wingspan, before it alighted and headed off north. This was then followed by several other sightings of another of the projects eagles as another drifted over the Wareham Channel and Arne. To think that these birds will soon become a regular sight again having been missing from our landscape for so long and hopefully be breeding in the harbour over the coming years is just breathtaking. If anyone had said to me ten years ago that in the space of a week we’d see displaying Osprey, migrating White Storks and hunting White-tailed Sea Eagle in Poole Harbour I would have literally laughed in their face and walked off. It was all dreamland stuff ten years ago, but here we are a decade later and it’s actually happening

White-tailed Eagle – Middlebere – Kate Plater

Back in 2017, when Birds of Poole Harbour began their Osprey Translocation Project they hosted a single boat trip to show and talk to people about the project. Due to demand that year they had to put on an extra two trips. Then in 2018 they hosted eight trips, in 2019 ten trips and now, in 2021 the charity hosted fifteen cruises, all of which sold out with both locals and visitors to the area wanting to see and learn about Osprey conservation. On the Isle of Mull in Scotland, where White-tailed Sea Eagles were reintroduced in 1975, it’s now estimated that sea eagles bring in around £5 million to the local economy, highlighting the potential for when sea eagles first nest along the south coast over the coming years.

White Storks over Brands Bay – Aidan Brown
Paul Morton added;
It’s not just conservation NGO’s that are doing their bit, the councils have been doing a great job too, enhancing and improving eco-systems through schemes like their wild verges scheme. Even changing streetlights to LED lights has a positive impact on the environment. Councils should not underestimate how valuable and important schemes like the wild verges/areas scheme is for the environment and how appreciated they are by the public. Although it can sometimes feel or seem contentious, it’s this kind of progressive forward thinking to nature recovery adopted by councils that fits perfectly into the much bigger picture of what’s happening locally. The new Purbeck Heaths National Nature reserve along the south of the harbour is a vital landscape scale rewilding project, which is going to have a huge positive impact on our local environment. Gone are the days where postage stamp-sized nature reserves are managed for specific species: the future is in connecting areas of land and allowing natural processes to evolve. That’s quite easy to do in rural areas with landowner cooperation, but much harder to do in urban ones, so councils need to be bold in their approach and see what positive role they can have year after year. I’ve lived in the Poole Harbour area my whole life, and never have I been so excited and optimistic about the area’s future. There’s so much to be downhearted about in the modern world, but everyone should take great pride in what’s happening locally, embrace it, immerse themselves in it and make sure we carry on with this trajectory. Many areas would be begging to have just one of these types of projects on their doorsteps to benefit from, but the fact here in South Dorset we have six or seven says to me that we’ve got a great opportunity in the future to make great strides both environmentally and economically”.

Many areas of south Dorset are protected sites, with Poole Harbour recognised as a Special Protection Area and the Jurassic Coast being a famous UNESCO world heritage site, both of which already attract large numbers of tourists to the area. Conservationists hope that with the recovery and enhancement of ecosystems and large tracts of land across the south coast, as well as seeing the recovery of keystone species such as Sea Eagles, Beavers and Ospreys, that both locals and visitors, new and old will all get to benefit from this new and exciting environmental dynamic.
Male Osprey 022 and female CJ7 on Poole Harbour nest cam

Birds of Poole Harbour and Poole Museum form new collaborative partnership after visitor centre closure

Posted on: September 9th, 2021 by Birds of Poole Harbour

Local conservation charity Birds of Poole Harbour and popular visitor attraction Poole Museum are forming a new collaborative partnership to help interpret and highlight the harbours important birdlife and natural heritage. The partnership will see Birds of Poole Harbour initially utilise part of the Museum’s gallery and exhibition space by transferring some of their popular interactive and informative displays from their engagement centre on Poole Quay, which is due to close at the end of September.

The Poole based conservation charity has spent the last 10-years developing a series of people engagement and education initiatives including their popular School Bird Boat project, as well as working on multiple conservation projects including their pioneering Osprey reintroduction within the Poole Harbour area. In 2018 they opened their new visitors centre on Poole Quay which aimed to interpret and popularise bird conservation in and around Poole and was deemed a great success. But after a year of Covid, the charity has re-evaluated it’s focus and priorities and will be closing the exhibition space this autumn.

Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained;

“this is such a new and exciting opportunity for our charity, allowing us to expand, deliver and communicate our stories much more effectively and to a much larger audience. Poole Museum has a great reputation for bringing Poole’s history to life and we hope that by including information about it’s wildlife too, it provides an extra learning journey for visitors to the museum. Like all businesses, the last 18 months has really allowed us to carefully assess where we’re most effective as a charity, what our priorities are, how we can have the biggest impact whilst remaining dynamic and influential in our local area. We’re now looking to be a lot more active out around the harbour, hosting many more events throughout the year, building on our education work and forming new partnerships to really get people excited about conservation in this incredible area.”

Plans are also currently in place to transform Poole Museum creating a major cultural quayside heritage attraction for local communities and tourists. Poole Museum’s important historic buildings will be conserved and opened-up for more people to enjoy, more of the time. The plans include creating three brand new maritime displays with the community. Volunteers, local people and visitors will all contribute to and become part of a shared history of Poole.

Plans will improve the visitor experience as well as revitalising the Lower High Street and Quay, increasing visitors to museum and local area. With the support of funders and the public it’s hoped the plans will transform the Museum to a regional scale attraction at the heart of a rejuvenated, vibrant, cultural ‘Quay Quarter’.

The Poole ‘Our Museum’ project was recently awarded an initial grant of £352,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to develop future plans for our museum. This funding allowed the museum team to carry out creative consultation and collaboration with wide range of visitors, residents, partners and community groups, as well as enabling them to work with a team of professional architects and exhibition designers.

Councillor Mohan Iyengar, Portfolio Holder for Poole Museum added;

“I am pleased that Birds of Poole Harbour and Poole Museum have come together to offer even more to our visitors. We’ve collaborated in the past and the museum has already benefited from the knowledge and passion of the charity’s team in delivering public talks and in refreshing the popular bird hide display. I hope that residents take the chance to visit again and engage with the team of ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ while they’re in residence, and at the same time find out more about Poole’s unique natural history.”

Paul Morton concluded;

“We’re at a really interesting crossroads locally with multiple exciting, new and bold conservation projects either taking place already or being planned for the future. All of which seek to restore habitats, increase biodiversity and educate the public on the richness of Poole Harbour. With Poole Museum’s perfect location combined with their long term plans, this new partnership provides a great base to continue telling these stories right in the heart of town”

The Poole Harbour Osprey reintroduction project is one of several stories the new partnership aims to tell and promote

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