The Isle of Wight (IOW) is situated about 3 miles off the South Coast of England.
The ferry routes are (C=Cars, P=Foot Passengers):-
- Portsmouth to Fishbourne (C&P)
- Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde (P)- Fast Catamaran,
- Southsea to Ryde (P)- Hovercraft,
- Southampton to Cowes(C&P)
- Lymington to Yarmouth (C&P).
The Island is about 22miles E-W and 15 miles N-S a total of 147 square miles! (There are over 400mls of Footpaths!)
Apart from being a popular holiday destination, it also attracts walkers, sailors, naturalists and (increasingly) bird watchers.
Many varied habitats and the unspoilt nature of much of the Island make it an ideal spot for birds.
The RSPB has an active IOW branch and our first reserve is at "Brading Marsh",
(S. of Bembridge Harbour, towards Brading-no access yet so view from perimeter FPs)
The "Isle of Wight Ornithological Group" (I.W.O.G) has about 100 local members.
Generally the IOW is "Under Watched" often you have the place to yourself.
The best location, Newtown Nature Reserve is often deserted- even in summer.
At most times of the year you can expect to see about 50-85 species in a day visiting a good site/ or sites- depending on your expertise. (For a list of Good Sites see below.)
On New Year's day local groups spent the whole day birding, and regularly get over a 100 species! but this requires local knowledge, planning (and a bit of luck!) Totals for a year now exceed 200!
The best spots revolve around the estuaries and nature reserves-especially the National Trust areas of which there are many, mainly on the downs and coast.
Sea Watching is practised in the spring and autumn migrations, and Stormy weather.
The main site being St. Catherine's Point on the Southernmost tip of the Island, and "Fort Victoria" near Yarmouth.
Another good spot is "La Falaise" Car Park at the top end of Ventnor seafront, past "Spyglass Inn", (there are several shelters if wet)
also the new "Bandstand" on the Esplanade makes a good "hide" and shelter on rainy days.
Any headland will yield some seagoing activity though but the major movements tend to occur in early morning dying down by 10-11 am.
Late afternoon (4-6pm) can also be good .
S E Winds are the best. Rarities can be blown on-shore during very stormy weather.(eg Storm Petrel)
Resident (breeding) birds include some rarer species such as Cetti's Warbler, Mediterranean Gull, Raven and Peregrine. A small population of Nuthatch, Dartford Warblers and Stonechats.
Wheatear, Sand Martin and Spotted Flycatcher are scarce breeding birds nowadays
Spring and autumn migration brings all sorts of rarities; Raptors (Osprey, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite) Warblers, Sandpipers, various waders and Ducks.
In winter the wader and duck population reaches a peak and around the North coast Slavonian and other Grebes can be seen in the Solent together with Divers and Eider Ducks.
There are some birds you are very unlikely to see however. Marsh Tit is now scarce, and Willow Tit, Tawny Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch are almost absent - despite the Island's closeness to the mainland
(Most birds can cross the Solent easily - it's a mystery why others don't.)
In compensation you will see others that are rare elsewhere. Little Egrets are everywhere, up to 100 Mediterranean Gulls can often be found at Foreland or Bembridge Harbour (Winter) or Newtown (Spring).
Peregrine, Raven, Dartford Warbler (now confined to Atherfield and Whale Chine), Curlew, Oystercatcher, and Redshank can be found all year round. Chiff Chaff (e.g. at Brading Sewage works) overwinter in good numbers, with occasional wintering Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper.
Winter also provides Purple Sandpiper at Foreland, Short Eared Owls and Marsh Harriers (Especially at Laundry Lane), and Crossbills,in Firestone and Parkhurst Forests, Siskin and Redpoll at Shide, Alverstone and Freshwater Causeway.
Small numbers of Brambling are seen most years, and Waxwing occasionally turn up.