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Bird watching and wildlife guide to the Isle of Wight

Thanks to its wide variety of habitats, the Isle of Wight is teeming with wildlife – trust us, there’s much more here than just the famous red squirrel. More than 200 species of bird call the Island home, residing in the saltwater marshes, on the cliffs by the coast and within the woods.

If you’re planning to pack your binoculars and go bird watching during your next Isle of Wight holiday, you’ll need to know where to spot the rarest and most fascinating species. We’ve listed four of the best locations below.

Newtown Estuary

Bird watching island of wight

You’ll find a wide variety of rare wildlife at this protected National Nature Reserve. While spring and autumn are obviously the best times of year to go bird watching, there’s lots to see whenever you decide to visit.

In the spring, look out for cuckoos, nightingales, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, black headed gulls, whimbrels and willow warblers. When the weather starts to warm up a bit more, you stand a good chance of spotting shelducks, buzzards, barn owls, green woodpeckers, common terns, little terns, sandwich terns, oystercatchers, ospreys and yellowhammers.

Greenshanks, redshanks, black-tailed godwits, Bar-tailed godwits, merlins, grey plovers, lapwings, knots and curlews begin to make an appearance in autumn, while in winter you’ll see little egrets, wigeons, brent geese, kingfishers, dunlins, golden plovers and teals.

Peregrine falcons and mergansers are regular visitors, as are herons, Mediterranean gulls, goldeneyes and great crested grebes.

Medina Estuary

bird watching on the isle of wight

This is the estuary which splits Cowes and East Cowes on the northern side of the Island. It’s a beautiful area, and boasts plenty of wildlife, but it can be more difficult to spot the shyer species of bird here, due to the fact there is so much human activity.

Throughout the year, eagle-eyed visitors may be able to see cormorants, oystercatchers, little egrets, curlews, robins and chaffinches, as well as some more common species, including a variety of swans, gulls, tits, coots and herons. In the evenings, you might be lucky enough to see a barn owl or two.

If you’re not having much luck with birds, you may be more fortunate when it comes to spotting mammals. Rabbits, shrews, red squirrels and weasels all call Medina Estuary home.

The Needles

As you may have guessed, this iconic landmark is home to thousands of birds, as they love to nest and shelter within the many coves and on the rocks. You’ll most commonly see fulmars, gulls and cormorants hiding in the coves. Birds of prey tend to swoop around the cliffs too, including peregrine falcons and little owls.

Keep your eyes peeled for smaller birds such as the stonechat and redstart. You should see ravens, rock pipits, whinchats and the elusive Dartford warbler, too. Tennyson Down is a wonderful place to go in the summer to see a variety of bright blue butterflies, such as the chalkhill, adonis and common blue. We highly recommend taking a picnic with you!

Brading Marshes

Brading Marshes

This Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve stretches 373 hectares, so there’s plenty of opportunities to spot rare birds. It has four viewing points and lots of footpaths to follow – you’ll no doubt find yourself coming back more than once.

If you visit in the spring, you’ll likely see buzzards and lapwings flying overhead and hear cetti’s and sedge warblers singing away. Summer is a bit quieter in terms of birds, but you should still be able to spot green woodpeckers, marsh harriers, reed warblers and yellow wagtails. Meadow brown, marbled white and common blue butterflies are also in abundance at this time of year.

In autumn, when many species begin their migration, you can see swallows and house martins by the river, stocking up on food before they set out on their journey south. Keep an eye out for little egrets, redshanks and common darter dragonflies. In the colder months, many species tend to stick together in large flocks to try and stay warm. Pintails, fieldfares, wigeons and yellowhammers can be found at the reserve in winter.

Taking your dog bird watching

Many of the bird watching locations in the Isle of Wight are perfect for dog walks too, but if you’re planning to take your beloved pooch wildlife spotting with you there are a few things you need to consider first.

taking your dog bird watching

Is the reserve dog-friendly?

Not all reserves and parks are dog-friendly, especially if they are ‘protected’. Before you head out with your pet, check the reserve’s website to see whether dogs are allowed. Pay attention to any signs you see while out and about too – if it says to keep your pet on a lead, do!

Be wary of livestock

Cattle, horses and sheep can easily be spooked by overly-friendly pets, so make sure your dog is always on a lead when near other animals.

Pick up after your dog

It’s your duty to pick up after your dog, wherever it may do its business. After all, you don’t want some poor other soul to stumble upon that unpleasantness while they’re doing some bird watching of their own. If you can’t find any red bins nearby, place it in a regular bin or take it home with you.

Be considerate to others

You may love your dog to the moon and back, but other walkers and watchers might not be so keen. Remember to keep your dog under control when around others – one loud bark can force a whole flock of birds to suddenly scarper.

Keep your pet near you at all times

Don’t let your dog run off miles ahead of you; they don’t constantly have to be attached to a lead, but they should be no more than a few feet in front. Otherwise they could, unbeknownst to you, be busy disturbing birds and other wildlife, which can have an impact on breeding success.