Birdlife around St Helens Duver

Five Brent geese inflight across a bright blue sky

The estuary and sea around St Helens Duver on the Isle of Wight is an important wildlife habitat and provides rich feeding grounds for migrating and over-wintering birds.

Birds seen by the shore

Brent geese and wigeon fly south from their breeding grounds in the sub-Arctic to find food. They can be seen here between October and March feeding on the eelgrass beds off St Helens Ledges and in the harbour. Brent geese are one of our smallest geese, with dark plumage and a loud ‘rrouk rrouk’ call.

Birds in the harbour

The harbour area is also important for migrant wading birds such as Dunlin, Redshank, Sanderling and Turnstone, which feed on the invertebrates in the mud. The Dunlin is a small wader which feeds in flocks.
The Redshank has distinctive long red legs, and the smaller thrush-sized Turnstone engages in the painstaking activity of scooping stones up one by one with its beak, then turning or rolling them over to search for crustaceans and insects. In its spring plumage it has a white head with striking black markings and a broad black breast band. Great-crested grebe and Red-breasted merganser, a diving duck with a long serrated bill, feed on fish from the sea. Both are crested, but the male merganser has a distinctive white ‘clerical’ collar. 
The well-named redshank
A redshank probes the waters
The well-named redshank

Birds on the dune system

On the Duver itself you may see Common whitethroat, Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Linnet, mostly migrants. The whitethroat nests in bushes, and in song the male flies up, then sails down into the bushes with its wings spread and tail erect. The Wheatear feeds on the grassland in spring and autumn on migration. It has a white rump and the male has a black eye mask.

Birds by the lagoons

The shoreline, muddy harbour and salt marshes in the lagoons behind our reserve provide rich habitats for birds, especially during times of migration and in winter. Close by on the other side of the Embankment road is the Brading Marshes RSPB reserve, which encompasses most of the reclaimed land of the estuary of the River Yar and includes freshwater lagoons. Not surprisingly, this whole area is excellent for bird watching. Little egrets (which resemble a small white heron), Wigeon, Shelducks, Teal, Brent geese, curlew and lapwings are all regular visitors. Unusual migrants are occasionally blown in too.