Winter birdwatching at Newtown

Once the leaves have fallen and frost paints the land in an icy blanket, it may seem like all wildlife has hibernated for the winter. But over at Newtown, the creeks and estuary are full of life. Winter wildfowl and waders migrate here during the colder months from their breeding grounds further afield, making it the perfect place to go birdwatching in the cooler months.

As the countryside around us changes, so too does the birdlife at Newtown. Having lost their summer plumage, many of the migrants display feathers of icy white and muted browns which reflect the winter landscape. But flashes of colour can still be seen if you know where to go.

Where to go winter birdwatching at Newtown?

Cassey Bridge

Just south along the road from the Old Town Hall you’ll find Cassey Bridge. From here you may spot some of the many different species of duck which have made the long journey from their summer breeding grounds. Male teal with their chestnut heads, broad green eye patches and yellow tails provide a little colour on a grey winter day and travel from as far away as Siberia. Meanwhile wigeon have come to Britain to escape the freezing ice of Scandinavia and Russia. You’ll also see pintail ducks dabbling in the estuary until late February or even into March.

A teal basks in the warmth of the winter sun
A brightly-coloured teal standing in the broken ice of the water's edge on a cold winter morning at Newtown
A teal basks in the warmth of the winter sun

A splash of colour is also provided by the little egret whose bright yellow feet can be seen wading through the estuarine waters, whilst the bright blue of kingfishers may flit by. Cassey Bridge is also the perfect place to just sit quietly and wait for the birds to come to you.

" One of my favourite winter sights is to see the iridescent feathers of the visiting ducks highlighted by the winter sun."
- Robin, Countryside Manager
Wigeon at Newtown
Wigeon in amongst the grass at Newtown, Isle of Wight
Wigeon at Newtown

Newtown Quay

On a walk to the quay, why not take a little detour through the meadows and spend a few moments relaxing on the bench here? If you do, you may be lucky enough to spot the long legged and long beaked, black-tailed godwits. The breeding population of the UK migrates to the warmer climes of West Africa for the winter, but in turn Icelandic birds arrive here, seeking their own winter warmth.

Down at the quay itself, waders elegantly stride through the salty water. Turnstones, with their bright orange legs, are found around rocks, from under which they pick out food. Redshanks are easily spotted with their vivid orange-red legs and bills, whilst greenshanks also visit the quay at this time of year.


The well-named redshank hunting at Newtown
A redshank probes the waters of Newtown estuary
The well-named redshank hunting at Newtown

East Hide

The East Hide, one of three hides at Newtown, is open all year. From here you get a view of the main marsh where you can spot dunlin, plovers and knot in their winter plumage. As the tide heads towards the land, different types of bird can be seen, and gradually, as the water rises, they will come closer and closer, eventually roosting for the night on the saltmarshes and shore. Many of these birds fly in flocks of hundreds or even thousands, which wheel and turn in unison in the skies above. As they come into land, the combined effect of their pale undersides and wings is a flash of white in the winter sun.

A sizeable group of golden plover take off from the water after being disturbed on the Newtown estuary

Winter birdwatching walks at Newtown

If you’ve been inspired to see all the winter birds at Newtown, you're just starting out in birdwatching, or would like a little help identifying the seasonal visitors, then you might like to come along to one of our birdwatching walks (18 Jan, 15 Feb & 1 March, 10am). Each guided walk is expected to last around two and a half hours and is perfect for anyone new to birdwatching.

What to bring?

As Newtown is so close to the sea, the fields and footpaths can become very wet and muddy. However, if you wear walking boots or wellies, bring binoculars, plenty of warm layers and a flask of something hot, you’ll be set up for a day of winter birdwatching.

Volunteer at Newtown

Would you like to share your love of Newtown and wildlife with other visitors? If so, we'd love you to join us as a volunteer to help us look after this special place.

Visitors bird watching

Guided walk volunteers

We look after some of the best places to see nature and would like to provide more guided walks to help others appreciate the natural world, but we need your help to do this. If you have a good knowledge of all things wildlife, landscapes or history, and enjoy sharing your knowledge with other visitors, we’d love you to join us as a guided walk volunteer.

Bioblitz at Newtown National Nature Reserve June 2016, using a lens to magnify insects

Visitor engagement volunteers

We’re making Newtown an even better place to visit and would like enthusiastic volunteers to welcome visitors to this special place. We’d need you to share with them everything that you love about Newtown and its wildlife, to ensure that their visit is enjoyable and inspiring.