We’ve just had a mini-break down in Bournemouth area, to see relatives and to enjoy the coast.  We wanted to visit Brownsea island but the information on ferries was very confusing and as such we were unclear as to whether or not the ferries were actually running at this time of year.  So we turned up at the ferry port at Sandbanks and learned that there was an hourly ferry, so decided at the last minutes to go for a day out.

I was hoping to see a Red Squirrel, but had no expectation as to whether it would be likely.  We struck gold, seeing 6 or 7 of these beautiful animals during the day.  I imagine that winter is a good time to see them as they are madly foraging for food and easier to see.

The best area proved to be in the woodland near the church where there were a couple of photographers hanging around with a bag of bait (hazelnuts).  I was amazed that if you stayed still and exercised a little patience then they would be happy to approach very close indeed albeit quickly and skittishly.  This was indeed fortunate for me from a photography perspective, because the longest lens I had with me was the XF 56mm – hardly a wildlife lens!  The autofocus of the X-E1 isn’t really ideal for wildlife – and the Red Squirrel is a very fast moving little animal.  But I grabbed a few sharp shots – and one or two are uncropped showing how close they were happy to approach.  Such a pleasure to see these incredibly rare, beautiful animals at such close quarters.  There are around 200 on the island apparently.  Their behaviour is very different from that of their larger grey cousins – being much faster moving, more playful and superb at larger leaps.

A 70-200 would be ideal at this location – which is what I’ll bring next time.

Aside from the Squirrels, Brownsea Island was an excellent day out.  We were blessed with great weather (not expected in February) and had the beach to ourselves.

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