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Bird watching on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight - a bird watchers paradise!

Home to over 200 hundred species of birds, the Isle of Wight offers a wide choice of habitats so there is always plenty to see at any time of the year. There are three large rivers and several creeks and of course you are never far from the sea so the Island is particularly good for wading birds, ducks and waterfowl.

Amongst the mudflats and reed beds you can find Kingfisher, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Goldfinch. The Common Mallard abounds and rarer duck species like Pintail can be seen at Newtown. Majestic Grey Heron and Little Egret can also be seen in these environments. Down on the seashore, Gulls and Cormorants settle on the rocky crags before or just after bad weather. Heading inland, Yellow Hammer, Corn Bunting, Goldcrest and Dartford Warbler can be seen in the fields and forests. Other species you are likely to see are Robins, Wrens, Blue Tit, Canada, and Grelag Geese, Mute Swans, Coots, Moorhens and Dunlins. Some of the rarities include Golden Plover, the Common Golden Eye, Great Crested Grebe, Water Rail, Black Tern, Little Gull, Spoonbill, Nightingale, Shore Lark and the Cuckoo. Look out too for Harriers, Owls, Buzzards and even the Osprey and Red Kite around the downs and cliffs.

Top 5 Bird Watching Locations

1) Bembridge to Brading

Bembridge Harbour, Isle of Wight

Bembridge Harbour is a busy natural harbour at the mouth of the Eastern River Yar, offering good protection in bad weather. Brading was once a busy port in Roman times with marshes sitting neatly between the two places. The wetland, ancient woodland, farmland and downland provides a unique habitat for wildlife.

In the spring, Buzzards soar overhead, Lapwings swoop over the marshes and the distinctive song of the Cetti's Warbler and Sedge Warblers can be heard. In the summer, Marsh Harrier, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and Green Woodpecker can be seen in the grasslands. Autumn is a good time to see Little Egret, Redshank, Swallows and House Martins feed along the river on their journey south. In winter, flocks of winter waders and Pintail, Wigeon, Fieldfare and Yellowhammer can all be seen.

Other species include Hen Harrier, Short-Eared Owl, the Spoonbill, Shag and Greylag Goose. The more wooded areas and wet fields surrounding the marsh offer good habitat for Chiff Chaff, Wheater and the Cuckoo in the spring.  Other species include Kingfisher, Canada Goose, Water Rail and Grey Heron.

2) Newtown Estuary

Newtown Nature Reserve, Isle of Wight

The Newtown estuary, owned by the National Trust is a unique and protected National Nature Reserve.  It supports an abundance of rare wildlife due in part to the historical management of the intricate mix of woodland, hedgerow, salt marsh, mudflat and meadow.

In spring, the season for bird song, Nightingale, Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Black Headed Gull, Willow Warbler and Whimbrel are regular visitors whilst in summer, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Little Tern, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Osprey, Buzzard, Yellowhammer, Green Woodpecker and Barn Owl can be seen at Newtown.

In the autumn as the leaves start to fall, visitors should look out for Grey Plover, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Knot, Lapwing, Redshank, Merlin and Bar-tailed Godwit. During winter, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Wigeon, Teal, Brent Goose, Little Egret, Kingfisher. Merganser and Peregrine Falcon are regular estuary visitors.

Other species include Heron, Goldeneye, Mediterranean Gull and Great Crested Grebe.

3) The West Yar Estuary

West Yar Estuary, Isle of Wight

Heading inland from Yarmouth under the old stone bridge, the Western Yar opens out into a picturesque estuary, providing a great place to see Kingfisher, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Common Redshank, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Brent Goose and Wigeon.

The nearby woods and fields provide habitat for many small birds and raptors like Buzzard, Kestrel and the majestic Barn Owl. 

4) The Needles to Niton

Freshwater causeway Isle of Wight

The Needles, the iconic Isle of Wight landmark, offers excellent views of the sea and cliffs as well as the rolling hills of Tennyson Down. The habitat is ideal for several raptor species such as Peregrine Falcon and the Little Owl. Seabirds shelter in the coves and rocks after storms so you may see Cormorants, Fulmars and several types of gull.

The foliage covered chines in the cliffs are good places to see Redstart and the Stonechat. Other key species are Dartford warbler, Whinchat, Rock Pipit and Raven.

5) The Medina Estuary

Medina Estuary, Isle of Wight

With its source south of Newport, the River Medina divides the towns of East and West Cowes at the point where it meets the Solent. The Medina Valley is a mix of unspoilt countryside and heritage industrial buildings associated with the shipbuilding or aircraft industry.

The river is often busy with pleasure traffic and shore based activities so the bolder species like Oystercatcher, Curlew, Little Egret, Heron, Cormorant, Coots and Gulls are more prevalant. You could also see Mute Swan, Blue Tit, Chaffinch or even a Barn Owl or Little Owl.


Isle of Wight Bird Reserves

Brading Marshes
Owned by the RSPB, the 373 hectare reserve has four viewing points and miles of quiet footpaths with walks of two to three hours, display boards are sited along the way. Guided walks are often available. The old station at Brading acts as the gateway to the reserve with information and trail guides. Brading Marshes

Newtown Harbour
Owned by the National Trust, the reserve has a visitor centre with interpretation panels and exhibits. There are two hides and two nature trails (1.5km and 2.5km) with wardens often on hand to give helpful advice. Newtown Estuary

Bird Watching boat trips
Departing from Shalfleet Pier, the owner of Shalfleet Manor operates regular Estuary Safaris specifically for bird and nature lovers. The cruise lasts one hour and can take up to 6 people at a time. For information and booking please call 01983 531235.

From Yarmouth, Bob Gawn operates bird watching charters for groups and individuals aboard Wight Sapphire to places like The Needles and Alum Bay. For details please call Bob on 01983 740554 or email.

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