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View of the beach at Ryde Sands, clear blue sky and golden sand

Ryde is a hugely popular beach, and with its golden sands and stunning sea views across the Solent, it’s easy to see why.

As well as being a favourite among local people, Ryde is also a vitally important habitat for a fantastic variety of migratory birds – some of which fly around 3,000 miles down from the Arctic to take advantage of the rich feeding grounds that Ryde has to offer.

Our ranger at Ryde

If you’re a regular visitor to Ryde, you may spot Ranger Charlotte either walking along the promenade or standing with her telescope, pointing out the local wildlife to passersby.

Here she explains why Ryde is so special, and highlights some of the birds that you may see over the winter months.

Ranger Charlotte at the coast
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A buffet for brent geese

Having spent most of my childhood on the beaches at Ryde and Appley, it’s wonderful to now be able to work along this special bit of coastline. With such a large tidal range, Ryde is home to some incredible habitats including sand flats and seagrass beds which support a huge diversity of marine life.

The seagrass beds in Ryde are an invaluable source of food for dark-bellied brent geese, and at lower tides, when the seagrass is exposed, you can see them tucking in enthusiastically, refuelling after their incredible journey from Siberia’s arctic tundras.

Dark-bellied brent geese at sunset
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A special place for sanderling

Sanderling have only 3 toes to aid swift running

As well as being a haven for brent geese, Ryde is also renowned for its sanderlings, pretty little wading birds that spend the winter on the Solent coast. Like the geese, they travel extraordinary distances, with some flying from Greenland and others migrating from Siberia.

During the low tides they are busy feeding out on the intertidal, where they pick up the tiny marine insects and animals that are churned up with the sand – some say they look like clockwork toys as they scuttle about, chasing the water’s edge.

At high tide these birds will be looking for somewhere to rest on the beach where they can huddle up and save some energy.

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Ryde’s other residents

You may also spot oystercatchers, turnstones and curlews during a winter walk around Ryde. It’s possible to see these species all year round, but during the winter months birds from colder climes join our resident populations to take advantage of the Island’s rich coastal feeding grounds. Little egrets are also an increasingly common sight in Ryde, and the area supports a range of different gull species.

Oystercatcher, turnstone and curlew
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Sharing the shore

We’re so lucky to live in such a special place of natural beauty that attracts these protected and vulnerable species, so it’s important that we do all we can to help them.

Balancing human recreational use of the beach with nature is challenging. Migratory birds are nervous of people and particularly of dogs – they view them as a predator due to the similarity in looks and behaviour to foxes and wolves.

If birds are disturbed too often and are forced to fly away when they should be feeding or resting, they may not take on enough energy to survive the cold weather and, ultimately, the migration back to their breeding grounds in the spring.

Thankfully there are some simple things we can all do to make sure these special birds have the space they need to thrive.

View from the top of the beach at Ryde Sands - golden sand, the sea and a blue, cloudy sky.

The first step is just to have a look when you arrive at the beach, to see if there are any birds in the area. Then, by keeping to the top of the beach or staying on the promenade, and ensuring that dogs stay close by, you’ll avoid disturbing birds feeding at the water’s edge (where they are most commonly found).

The beach and intertidal zone around the pier and hovercraft is a particularly sensitive area so it’s worth taking extra care here to ensure you don’t cause any disturbance.

If we all do our bit to look out for these birds, we can help safeguard their future and look forward to them returning back to us every winter.

Find out about the wonderful winter birdlife in other areas around the Solent, from the New Forest to Fareham and Hayling Island.