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Winter birdwatching on the Isle of Wight

Fri 29 Nov 2013

Winter birdwatching on the Isle of Wight

When winter comes to the Isle of Wight, a large number of bird species leave - flying off to warmer climes and waiting for spring to return. However, the island still teems with wildlife, even in the very depths of winter, and ornithologists of all ages can be treated to some spectacular sights.

Despite measuring just 23 miles in length and 13 miles in width, the Isle of Wight is a true nature lover's paradise whatever the season and, alongside being known as 'Dinosaur Island' due to the number of prehistoric fossils on display, could also be known as 'bird island' due to the many winged wonders that can be seen here.
 
Here are just a few places to spot birdlife once the temperatures start to plummet and the tourist masses dwindle:
 
Ryde Pier

During the summer months, the historic Ryde Pier is alive with noise, with excited families enjoying some traditional seaside fun. Come the winter, and things quieten down considerably, making it the perfect place for spotting pied wagtails. Unlike their more-colourful cousins, the yellow wagtail, these stay put once autumn comes.
 
Since they are naturally drawn to man-made structures, particularly those made of stone, timber and concrete, they can be easily-spotted bobbing up and down and feasting on small insects on and around the famous pier. 

Brent Geese, a wide range of wader species and sea ducks also spend winter here and are easily spotted from the shore. What's more, not only is Ryde Pier perfect birding territory, it's also well-placed for ducking into the harbour town's many cosy pubs for a warming ale or mulled wine if the cold winds prove too much.
 
Mottistone Common

Mottistone Manor, and the sprawling grounds that surrounds the home, is popular year-round with history lovers and families keen to immerse themselves in the Isle of Wight's past. However, it's also a great place to spot some of the island's wildlife, including birds. 

A common buzzard soaring over the rolling farmland is one of the most-spectacular sights to behold here. While this majestic bird of prey is most-easily-spotted during the summer months, it can also be seen in winter - though it tends to move away from the open countryside towards man-made structures and switches from soaring to hunting from a perch. A good pair of binoculars is highly-recommended if you're birding on this part of the island.

Bembridge Harbour

Located at the mouth of the River Yar, Bembridge Harbour is a popular birding spot all year-round, and with good reason. Once the last swallows and housemartins have passed overhead on their way to Africa, the winter migrants arrive. These include a large variety of waders, Canada geese, wigeons and yellowhammers. Additionally, you may also spot year-round residents, among them hen harriers, short-eared owls and kingfishers.
 
Newtown National Nature Reserve

Long-established as one of the best places on the whole of the Isle of Wight for bird spotting, here you can look out across the marshes to spot a wide range of winter residents, including waders and sea ducks. Several public hides are dotted along the waterside and the reserve is also a great place to see the charismatic red squirrel or check out the distinctive flock of Hebridean sheep. For the best views, consider taking to the water on a chartered sailing boat.ADNFCR-3083-ID-801667121-ADNFCR

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