Isle of Wight Birds

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I only went on one trip where I was actively seeking to find new birds while on the island. A lot of my birding was done form the beach in front of my guest house, or even from bed! I kept my binoculars on my bedside table and was able to watch a Northern Gannet (in the featured image) wheeling about shortly after I woke up one day. But because I hadn’t been to seaside habitat in England before, I still got lifers out of it. And because the one place I went for birding had a lot of heath habitat (which I had also not been to), I got lifers out of it as well. I was going to go to some wetlands relatively nearby, but that ended up not happening.

First summer European Herring Gull

First summer European Herring Gull

There were Black-headed and Herring Gulls everywhere. Great Black-backed Gulls were less common, but there were a few about–more on the western side of the island than the east. Every once in a while, you’d see a Common Tern flying around and diving for fish. It was cute how they shook themselves off after diving and taking off again. Most of the gulls on Sandown’s beach were adults. There were many more juveniles and adolescents around the Needles where they nest.

Most of these are juvenile European Herring Gulls. This must be the section of cliffs where they nest.

Most of these are juvenile European Herring Gulls. This must be the section of cliffs where they nest.

Adult Rook

Adult Rook

Rooks were actually about as numerous on the beach as the Herring Gulls and you’d see on heaths and in forests as well. Rooks are odd because the adults loose the hair-like black feathers that cover the back of the beak in most crows. I assume it’s an adaptation for scavenging carcasses. The other common corvid on the island is the Jackdaw. They’re predominantly grey instead of black and like to hang out on rooftops.

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Not pictured: twice the number of juveniles in the bush, all hanging out with this one adult.

Not pictured: twice the number of juveniles in the bush, all hanging out with this one adult.

I’m not sure what was going on, but holy crap were there a ton of juvenile European Starlings. A giant flock of them liked to spend the day in the garden by my guest house. There were dozens and dozens of them and only a few adults. They aren’t that prolific. Why was the juvenile:adult ratio so high?

Many of the feral pigeons here were white

Many of the feral pigeons here were white

Top left: a Shag; center left: a Great Cormorant; bottom right: a Great Black-backed Gull for size comparison

Top left: a Shag; center left: a Great Cormorant; bottom right: a Great Black-backed Gull for size comparison

There are two types of Cormorant on the island and I was able to find both. The Great Cormorant is bigger, has a relatively bigger head, and a more streamlined body. The Shag is smaller, has a relatively smaller head, and a bit of a potbelly.

Common Guillemot

Common Guillemot

There are a few types of pelagic birds you can potentially see on the island, but the only ones I was able to find were the Northern Gannet and the Common Guillemot. I’m still happy with that, though. It’s hard to find pelagic birds unless you’re at a rookery while they’re nesting. And I was very lucky to see the guillemots. I was looking through my binoculars at a gull and happened to pan past five black dots on the water. They were too far out to ID, so I took pictures and was able to tell after zooming way in on the image. It took a while to get a picture of them, though. I kept losing sight of them when I switched from binoculars to camera. By the time I was able to photograph them, four had flown away after a boat came too near for their liking.

Stonechat

Stonechat

Walking along the Needles Headland was quite pleasant. I was on what amounted to little more than a deer trail running anywhere from 10-20 feet from the edge of the cliff. Hardly anyone was out there. A second path further in had people on it now and again, but the only person I encountered was a guy sitting on a bench and reading a book. Other than him, it was just me and the birds, who tried to fly away from me by flying in the direction I was moving, which meant they kept having to fly again. Lots of European Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits, Common Swifts, and Barn Swallows out there. A few Stonechats as well. And I spotted a single Pied Flycatcher.

Three Meadow Pipits somehow managing to sit on a a barbed wire fence

Three Meadow Pipits somehow managing to sit on a a barbed wire fence

Juvenile European Goldfinch

Juvenile European Goldfinch

Adult European Goldfinch. Stupid reed blowing into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong moment...

Adult European Goldfinch. Stupid reed blowing into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong moment…

A couple of the birds on my list were actually on the mainland coast right before or after I boarded the ferry. My Isle of Wight & nearby coast list (35 total, 12 lifers):

  1. Common Buzzard
  2. *Montagu’s Harrier
  3. *Jackdaw
  4. *Rook
  5. Carrion Crow
  6. Eurasian Collared Dove
  7. *Stock Dove
  8. Rock Dove
  9. Wood Pigeon
  10. European Herring Gull
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Great Black-backed Gull
  13. *Sandwich Tern
  14. Common Tern
  15. *Northern Gannet
  16. *Common Guillemot
  17. *Great Cormorant
  18. *Shag
  19. House Sparrow
  20. European Starling
  21. European Goldfinch
  22. *Stonechat
  23. Pied Flycatcher
  24. *Meadow Pipit
  25. Common Kestrel
  26. Common Swift
  27. Barn Swallow (these might be split from the subspecies in the US someday)
  28. *House Martin
  29. passerine sp. 1
  30. passerine sp. 2 (Two times I heard little birds that were hiding deep in the bushes…Too bad I’m not good with songs)
  31. Common Blackbird
  32. Mute Swan
  33. Common Moorhen
  34. European Coot
  35. Mallard

//

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