Our diamond shaped Island is famous for its extraordinary geology, which in turn creates a wide variety of habitats – river estuaries, high cliffs, marshy wetlands, woodland and rolling countryside. This natural diversity makes it a wonderful destination for watching birds; whether you are a serious birders looking to add to your annual list, or a casual bird watcher just enjoying the fresh air and taking in the views. It is particularly good for spotting migrating birds that pass by the Island during the autumn and spring months.
In 2014 Bee-eaters nested on the Isle of Wight and successfully raised eight chicks, making it the most successful breeding attempt on record in the UK.
Bee-eaters nesting on the Isle of Wight have successfully raised eight chicks – the most successful breeding attempt on record in the UK.
Read more about the Isle of Wight Bee-eaters online.
The Isle of Wight is not only a beautiful place, it is also very accessible. A large part of the Isle of Wight has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many more parts are recognised as Sites of Special Scientific Interest with significant tracts of land owned by the National Trust. These designations are complemented by the fact that there are more miles of footpaths and bridleways than there are roads on the Isle of Wight, with several long distance trails as well as a coastal path that extends around most of the Island. This makes the Isle of Wight a welcoming place for all lovers of nature. It is also very simple to organise a day of bird watching using public transport if you are arriving without a car.
The Island also has a number of recognised reserves:
Owned by the National Trust, Newtown Nature Reserve is the largest reserve on the Isle of Wight and has a visitor centre and three hides. Footpaths run around much of the site and there is a large wooden causeway that links the old town with the historic quay. In many places and especially at low tide, you are surrounded on all sides by water. Details of access times and location can be found on the National Trust website. There are three hides on the Reserve and a number of guided walks arranged throughout the year.
Newtown is the only National Nature Reserve on the Island and has something to offer walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and historians or just those in search of peace and tranquility. Enjoy the salt marsh and the clear waters of the harbour with its bobbing sailing boats in the summer which is alive with birds in the spring and winter.
Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve
This is the Isle of Wight’s first and so far only RSPB reserve and covers a marshland area alongside the River Yar, between Brading and the estuary at Bembridge and includes and a small copse at Centurion’s Hill. The combination of river, marshlands, estuary and woodland provides a diverse bird watching site which is well served by footpaths and bridleways. Please note that there is no access to the actual reserve but there are footpaths around the site and the occasional organised walk. Brading Railway Station makes a good place to start as there is car parking and information provided.
Hersey Nature Reserve
The Alan Hersey Nature Reserve is located between Springvale and Seaview on the Island and consists of a small lake with surrounding marshland and reedbeds. The Isle of Wight Council acquired the 20 acres site and along with Natural England, the Environment Agency and local residents have provided public access as well as a hide. The Hersey Reserve is easy to access from the Duver Road.
These water meadows are situated alongside the eastern River Yar and provide an important habitat for scarce and interesting wetland flowers, invertebrates (especially dragonflies) as well as birds. The meadows are hunted by barn owls, kingfishers and herons, with other wintering wildfowl such as snipe and teal.
There’s a large hide near to the eastern entrance to the Mead which can be accessed via the cycle path that runs along to old railway track. This is also a great place to observe Red Squirrels.
Bird watching on the Isle of Wight
IOW Birds is undoubtedly the best website for bird watchers on the Isle of Wight. It is run by Derek Hale and includes up-to-date news on the latest sightings as well as an excellent archive of lists and photographs so you can see what to expect by looking at the results from previous years.
There is also an Isle of Wight Ornithological Group that undertakes monthly field walks and welcomes members from the Island and the mainland.