More than 200 species to see.
With a variety of habitats and plenty of wetlands, the Isle of Wight is a natural place for birds to flock – the island is home to more than 200 species of birds, and bird watching is a year-round activity. Three large rivers, several creeks, and coastline make the island a particularly attractive refuge 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 geese and greylag 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.
Bembridge to Brading: 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.
Newtown Estuary: 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.
West Yar Estuary: 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 Needles to Niton: 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 Medina Estuary: 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.
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.
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.
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 six 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.