As those of you who follow me on Facebook may know, I didn’t write a blog post last week (Bad blogger. Very naughty blogger). That was because I was on holiday in the lovely Isle of Wight with not even a hint of internet. Hopefully this post on all the pretty things I saw will make up for missing one!
I have been going to the Isle of Wight since I was 3 years old, so it is a place I know well, and despite its familiarity I have never grown bored of it – in fact a year where I haven’t been to the Island feels somehow incomplete. This particular trip was just a long weekend, and we were lucky enough to get snug little log cabin all of thirty seconds walk from the beach. Somewhat annoyingly I woke up between 6am and 7am every morning except the last (standard holiday behaviour for me – sometimes I hate my brain!) but whilst the lack of lie-in was a shame, the early morning walks on the beach more than made up for it.
The birdlife on the beach was more varied than I expected for summer, and the curlews were out in force, foraging in the mud at low tide.
The little egrets each seemed to have their own stretch of beach, and wandered up and down occasionally stabbing their beaks into the mud for some sort of crustacean delicacy.
They were joined by the ever handsome oystercatchers, and two new species for me – Mediterranean gulls and linnets. You can imagine how excited I was to get two new birds for my species list in one morning!
A little further up the beach a pair of collared doves were enjoying the morning sunshine where the beach met the scrubland, and didn’t seem too bothered by me or my camera.
The habitat on the Isle of Wight varies massively from the north to the south side – the southern-most part of the Island has an almost Mediterranean micro-climate. Combine this with fairly un-intensive farming, plenty of privately owned, well managed land and a lower level of human habitation than a lot of South England and you have an ideal spot for wildlife. This was evident when I did my first Big Butterfly Count of this year – I counted 45 Gatekeeper butterflies in 15 minutes in one spot just up from the beach. The counts I have done since in Wiltshire have yielded a not-so-impressive total of 2 Large Whites and a Meadow Brown!
Another Butterfly Count at the Isle of Wight Zoo yielded a haul of Red Admiral butterflies on a massive buddleia bush – a fine example of how a simple choice of plant can encourage wildlife into unlikely areas. The butterflies aren’t the only wildlife at the zoo though – there are rabbits that have discovered the safety of making their burrow in a lemur enclosure, and have been living there quite happily for years! And last year a vixen had a litter or cubs in the back of the zoo, and they were happily observed by keepers (and a visiting vet!) on their lunchbreaks.
The last morning walk along the beach was a good one – the weather was sunny with a nice breeze, and I spotted a new butterfly for me, the Holly Blue, posing rather attractively on the pebbly beach. We set off for home the following day, and although I am always sad to leave the Island, at least I have some nice photos to keep me going until next time!