Autumn wildlife at Newtown

Just as the colours around us change in autumn, so too does the wildlife at Newtown. Summer visitors leave and winter migrants arrive, whilst other creatures get ready for the winter chill. Our work here ensures that this natural process can continue into the future, and with every visit you make, you’re helping to ensure this happens too.

Most of our land at Newtown is designated a Site of Significant Scientific Interest (SSSI), which makes it an important habitat for birds, animals and insects. Although Newtown has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best places on the Island to spot birds, there are many other animals that you might spy here too, getting ready before winter arrives.

Small and furry creatures

Red squirrels

The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in the UK home to the rare and protected red squirrel and Walter’s Copse at Newtown provides the perfect habitat them to survive in. They don’t hibernate over the winter so you may well spot them jumping through the branches in the woods, busy gathering food to see them through the colder months. Our work ensures that they have a ready supply of nuts (through woodland management such as coppicing) and also places to make drays.


Unlike red squirrels, dormice do hibernate over winter. They’re quite shy, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see one, but you’ll probably come across evidence for them in the form of chewed nuts. Like red squirrels, they’re fond of hazel nuts, but you can tell which creature has been feasting on them by the way it has been eaten. Red squirrels will break the nut open, whilst dormice will nibble a neat hole through them.

Ranger holding a sleeping dormouse
Holnicote Ranger holding a sleeping dormouse
Ranger holding a sleeping dormouse


Although the skies will mostly be filled with birds by autumn, if the weather stays warm enough, you may also spot bats as the sun sets. Around the village, pipistrelles swoop and dive collecting food before getting ready to hibernate for winter in old buildings, trees and roofs. 

Migrant birds

It’s a transitional time for birds as the last of the summer visitors leave and the winter migrants arrive. Birds, such as chiffchaffs, pass through on their way north-south, whilst the last of the swallows are getting ready to leave for more southerly locations. Before October ends you might spot a few house martins, sandwich terns, winchats, blackcaps, and ospreys but these will soon depart for warmer climes.

To take the place of the summer visitors, winter migrants arrive. In September and October the numbers of golden plover grow, and just like the leaves on the trees, their plumage changes colour as autumn progresses. They arrive gold and black and gradually change to buff and white. Other arriving winter visitors you may spot are:

  • lapwings
  • brent geese
  • wigeon
  • dunlins
Wigeon at Newtown
Wigeon in amongst the grass at Newtown, Isle of Wight
Wigeon at Newtown

Discover more about Newtown's wildlife at an event

Throughout the autumn, we have a series of guided bird watching walks around Newtown to help you spot these ever changing visitors.

Bird watcher with binoculars

Birdwatching walks at Newtown

As autumn makes way for winter, so to do the last of the summer birds for winter migrants at Newtown. The skies above and creeks below fill with birds as the last autumn leaves fall in the woods. We’re running a series of easy guided walks throughout the season so that you can spot, month after month, the changing birdlife at Newtown (8 October, 25 November and 9 December, 10am). Each walk is expected to last around two and a half hours and is perfect for anyone new to birdwatching.

If you'd like to try bird watching with a more competitive edge, then you might like to give our Bird Race a go.

Bird watching

Bird Race at Newtown

We need you to find as many birds as possible this half-term at Newtown (Thurs 26 Oct 9am-12.30pm, booking essential on 01983 741020). Bring the whole family along to make up your team and then spend the morning in the woods, meadows and estuary listening and looking as hard as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about birds – our experts will join in and help you out. But will your team be the one to win the race? Warm drinks and sweet snacks included.

Our work to help nature

During the autumn we undertake work to ensure that the estuary, meadows and woods are as welcoming as possible for winter wildlife. In the harbour, our rangers lower the water level in the scrape (an island) so that more mud is present for visiting waders to feed in. As a result, from the, Mercia Seabroke hide that overlooks the scrape, you’ll see flocks of long billed curlew in autumn.

A curlew wading in the waters at Newtown
A curlew wading at the water's edge at Newtown National Nature Reserve
A curlew wading in the waters at Newtown

In the woods we ‘scallop’ the tracks to create glades. This is completed on a rotation basis and involves trimming back the vegetation. It allows more light in and creates a varied structure, the result of which is a better habitat for nesting birds and wildflowers come spring.

Over in the meadows we cut back any potentially smothering brambles and scrub with a tractor. Although our cattle do an admirable job of controlling these plants, they sometimes need a little extra help. We leave some patches behind though, for hedge sparrows and wrens to nest in.

This autumn, thanks to money you have helped to raise, you’ll also find our team repairing parts of the harbour wall. We still have a long way to go though, and all donations are very welcome.

If you'd like to know more about our work at Newtown, we’re running a series of guided walks throughout the autumn. They'll help you discover more about what we do here and how the work protects the landscape and wildlife of the National Nature Reserve.