Isle of Wight – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
The Isle of Wight is the perfect destination for watching wildlife and experiencing the great outdoors. The Island supports over 10,000 species of animals across a range of habitats from ancient woodland and chalk downs to coastal cliffs and saltmarshes. We are in bird and butterfly spotting heaven and you should easily spot our wonderful White-tailed Eagles, red squirrels and common / harbour and grey seals during your stay. You may even get lucky and see dolphins off our western and southern coasts.
Many areas of the Isle of Wight are designated National Landscapes, much of which are managed by the National Trust. It’s well worth becoming a National Trust member as you will be able to park all day for free at the beaches of Compton, Brook, The Duver and Newtown, as well as getting free entry to Mottistone Gardens, Old Battery and Bembridge Windmill. You can also buy an Explorer Pass at a special rate for 7 days.
Our friends at Natural Links have a great programme of walks – we recommend you book in advance.
Isle of Wight birdwatching
We are very lucky to have many nature reserves on the Isle of Wight. The Island’s only National Nature Reserve is at Newtown (National Trust). Here you can explore a range of habitats including wetlands, salt marshes, meadows and woodland. Visit the Seabroke hide, have a go with the scopes and pick the brains of the volunteers to help identify the birds you see (Mar – end October). In Spring Black-headed (and a few Mediterranean) Gulls nest on the island in the scrape in front of the hide. Visit Walter’s Copse on summer evenings and you should be able to hear a variety of warblers. Walk to the shoreline and you may even hear Nightingales from the other side of Clamerkin.
Bembridge Harbour is a great place to spot waders, geese and ducks and is close to the RSPB reserve at Brading Marshes. Here you can spot Marsh Harriers, Great, Little and Cattle Egrets. Also nearby is an unexpected little gem – Hershey Nature Reserve. Accessed from the esplanade between Ryde and Seaview the reserve has a large, well maintained bird hide where you can spot waterfowl, including Little Grebe, and Kingfisher.
Winter is a fantastic time to spot winter waterfowl and waders such as Brent Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin which visit the Island from Iceland, Fennoscandia and Russia. Join guided bird walks run by the National Trust (10 Feb, 3 Mar) or Bird Aware Solent (Oct – Mar). With its location off the south coast the Island is a stop off point for many Spring and Autumn migrants such as Osprey, Whimbrel and Ring Ouzel.
The Isle of Wight is host to a re-introduction programme of White-tailed Eagles. One pair has made the Island their home and two more pairs are based along the south coast. There is therefore a good possibility of spotting White-tailed Eagles fishing around the Solent or chilling out in the nearby quiet woodlands. Teresa is a keen birder so do ask if you want advice on what’s around during your stay and the best places to go birdwatching.
Isle of Wight Red Squirrels
The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in the UK where you can see red squirrels. We have around 3,500 red squirrels on the Island and the best places to spot them are at dawn and dusk in the woodlands at Alverstone Mead, Newtown (Town Copse and Walters Copse), Mottistone Estate, Parkhurst Forest and Borthwood Copse. You may also be lucky and spot one on a day out to Osborne House, Robin Hill, Garlic Farm, Shanklin Chine and the Newport to Cowes cycle track.
Isle of Wight butterflies and moths
Look out for the Glanville Fritillary which you can only see around the cliffs and chines of the southwest coast on warm days in May and June. And in the summer the chalk downs high above at Mottistone and Tennyson come alive with butterflies such as the Adonis Blue, Small Blue and Dark-green Fritillary and moths such as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth.
On the meadows at Newtown you can spot Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Marbled White and Small Skipper and moths such as the six spot burnet. Walters Copse (Newtown) and Borthwood Copse are great places to spot woodland butterfly species such as White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Speckled Wood and Purple Hairstreak.