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Saltmarsh at Newtown, Isle of Wight

This week we are running our citizen science project – the Great Solent Birdwatch (GSB). Ranger Charlotte tells us what she saw during her survey for this year’s event…

We started the project back in 2019 with the aim of inspiring people to take an interest in the coastal birds in their local area, and to provide them with an opportunity to learn more about how we can all do our bit to help protect wildlife around the Solent.

To do a GSB survey you just have to spend up to one hour counting the birds that you see in your chosen location around the Solent coast. You can then submit your results to us and contribute to our data set. The survey is also a great chance to work on your ID skills and become more familiar with our coastal feathered friends!


We have thousands of birds here over the winter months, many of which have undertaken incredible migrations by travelling huge distances from the Arctic. It’s really important that we look out for them while they are here and that we follow the coastal code.

Dark-bellied brent geese flying overhead

It’s been a busy week for us rangers! In between our usual site visits we have also been running pop-up events where we have been helping people to get involved, and on Wednesday I decided to join in the fun myself and do my own survey.

The Great Solent Birdwatch event

So what did I see on my own GSB survey?

I live and work on the Isle of Wight and chose to do my count over at Newtown National Nature Reserve, a wonderful and incredibly important site for birds and other wildlife.

The weather wasn’t ideal with some pretty strong winds, but the birds more than made up for it! Some of the species I spotted included dark-bellied brent geese, wigeon, redshank, curlew, dunlin, oystercatcher and turnstones. I also saw three different species of plover – ringed, grey and golden (my favourites!) together with some more familiar faces – cormorants, little egrets and a grey heron. A bonus was a sighting of a beautiful seal, a buzzard flying overhead and even an appearance from a white-tailed eagle!

White-tailed eagle, seal, dark-bellied brent goose and grey heron

The tide was coming in and some of the birds were busy trying to make the most of the last feeding opportunities before the water covered up the mudflats. Towards the end of my count many of them, particularly the wading birds, started to rest in and on the edge of the saltmarsh. We call this a high tide roost – where birds gather together to see out the high tide and conserve some energy by resting.

Whilst they can be tricky to spot amongst the vegetation (luckily I had my telescope), it did make them easier to count as they were all stood still! One of the hardest things when counting birds is when they are flying in flocks and are constantly moving around.

Redshank and dunlin feeding at Newtown

During my survey it was really nice to just focus on the birds and watch what they were doing. I’m really interested in animal behaviour, so it was a great opportunity to spend some time seeing how they interact with each other and the environment (whilst trying to count them all!).

You don’t have to be an expert to have a go at birdwatching or counting birds. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it all comes with experience. The more you get out there the more you will see and myself and the ranger team are always happy to help so please come and say hello if you see us!

With two more days to go, if you would like to do a survey over the weekend take a look at our Great Solent Birdwatch page for more information.

Happy Watching!

Ranger Charlotte