A ranger's rare find on the Isle of Wight

The beach at Compton, Isle of Wight

‘Bee-eaters have never nested on the island before and only five times in the UK so finding the nest was incredible for me.’ Ian Ridett, ranger on the Isle of Wight.

Ian Ridett has worked as one of our rangers for 13 years. Working on the Isle of Wight, he’s pursued his love of the countryside and particularly birds and was thrilled to discover a pair of rare bee-eaters breeding on the island in July 2014.

First sightings

‘I think the bee-eater breeding over here on the island is my best find,’ says Ian. ‘I’ve always had an interest in them and saw three over the White Lion pub in Niton in early July, which I now believe to be the ones that have set up their nest in Wydcombe.

‘They have never nested on the island before and only five times in the UK so finding the nest was incredible for me.’

Ian is happy to admit it was actually local dragonfly recorder Dave Dana who first spotted the bee-eaters on the Wydcombe Estate.

‘Dave had gone over there to do some dragonfly recording and saw a bee-eater out and about feeding,’ explains Ian. ‘I went to have a look and saw three bee-eaters.’

Finding the nest

As the bee-eaters had now been seen over a couple of days, Ian began to suspect that they might be breeding, so started searching around to see if he could see a nest.

‘I found a likely-looking hole which looked like a woodpecker hole, and as I had a contact in the RSPB I contacted them with a photograph of the nest hole. The answer came back “protect immediately with an electric fence”, which we did.

‘We finally had confirmation that it was indeed a bee-eater nest hole when we saw a bee-eater enter into it. I wanted to shout out because I was so thrilled, but this would have disturbed the birds, so Keith Ballard who manages the RSPB’s Brading Marshes Reserve and I just shook hands instead.’

Observing the birds

Ian has been on site every day since the discovery of the bee-eaters.

‘We’ve been monitoring the nest 24 hours a day because of the threat from egg collectors and predators,’ he says. ‘We knew the eggs had hatched when visits to the nest by the birds went up from five a day to 40-60 a day, often with food.

‘We’ve set up an observation area for visitors to see the bee-eaters, which is a safe distance away from the nest. We’re keen for residents and tourists on the island to share the wildlife experience and see one of the most beautiful, peculiar and dramatic birds on the British list.’