Hengistbury Head is an unspoilt, ancient headland that boasts a nature reserve contributing to its status as an SSSI (site of specific scientific interest). It’s full of natural wonders and we spoke to staff at the Visitor Centre to find out about some of the amazing and rare animals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and plants that have set up home in one of Bournemouth’s most breathtaking beauty spots.

The Natterjack Toad

The natterjack breeds in all six of Hengistbury Head’s ponds. Breeding starts in April producing over 48,000 eggs which can result in just four of these rare toads. From May to July, you can hear them calling to each other after dusk – sometimes from over a mile away! The best time to see them is when the sun drops as they are nocturnal amphibians.

The Skylark

Studies show that there may be more skylarks per hectare in the Barn Field at Hengistbury Head than anywhere in the UK. A beautiful, ground nesting bird, sheep and cattle help to preserve the skylark’s habitat. They nest until August and some even stay with us over the winter.

The Little Egret

Hengistbury Head was only the second location in the country to find little egrets breeding during the mid 1990s, with Brownsea Island being the first. They now breed on the tree tops of the conifers in the bird sanctuary. If you’re walking past and hear a sound like a sink draining or someone finishing a milkshake, it’s likely to be the noisy but loveable little egrets!

The Bearded Tit

Listen out for the sound of ‘ping, ping, ping’ above the reed beds – it could be the beautiful bearded tit. Tesco Bags of Help has contributed to a new fully accessible bird watching platform which was built this summer, enabling visitors to make most of their experience at the reserve.

The Adder

These reptiles enjoy the vast heathland and we’re very happy to see them since numbers are declining. The male adder dances for his breeding rights – we look forward to seeing him on Strictly next year!

We mentioned sheep and cattle… well, keep an eye out for Geronimo and Genghis – calves born in May 2017. These helpful chaps graze on the ancient monument known as Double Dykes, keeping the grass and scrubland under control.

As well as these colourful characters, there are over 824 moth species at the reserve. If you head to the Visitor Centre, you might see a few varieties for yourself since the team displays those caught the previous night in the moth trap in the garden.

There are also around 500 wildflowers at the reserve including sea holly, sea lavender and sea rocket. These make up around a quarter of the UK wildflower species.

There’s a wildlife garden at the Visitor Centre where you can see wildflowers, plants and bug houses.

For further information, a programme of guided walks and events and volunteering opportunities, pay a visit to Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH6 4EW or call the team on 01202 451618.

Related

Hengistbury Head
Natural Wildlife Site
Steps in the cliff

Hengistbury Head is a relatively unspoilt and south-facing pebble beach, with imposing clay and ironstone cliffs.

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre
Country Park/Nature Reserve
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