The Isle of Wight is known as "dinosaur island"
and it's a stunning area for a winter's day out.
a place that is only 23 miles wide by 13 miles long, there's a large number of
interesting wildlife and natural history locations.
|Join a winter fossil hunt
or go squirrel spotting on the Isle of Wight|
The island's range of wildlife habitats include woodland, down land, coast and
The Isle of Wight is renowned as one of the top locations in
the UK for fossil hunting.
When the sea is beating hard against the coast,
it's a great time to go fossil hunting.
If you've only got time to visit
one beach, Compton Bay near Freshwater is the place to go.
You can be guaranteed
to get a picture of yourself or one of the kids standing in a genuine dinosaur
Other excellent fossil spots are Chilton Chine and Brighstone
The Isle of
Wight is also home to one of nature's spectacles - which takes place at Ryde around
Ryde Pier was the first pier to be built in England in 1813.
a hundred Pied Wagtails gather at the end of the pier for an amazing nightly show
The rest of the year this black and white bird with a bobbing
tail is a solitary and highly territorial creature, associated with fast flowing
But in winter the Pied Wagtail is one of the few insectivorous
birds that remains in the UK.
Yellow Wagtails and most of our warblers head
off to the African sun at this time of year but the Pied Wagtail toughs it out.
bird is drawn to man-made structures and places like sewerage works where it's
warmer and where insects will be attracted to warm up on stone and concrete structures.
The birds' communal winter roosts can attract tens, hundreds and sometimes
even thousands of birds.
Pied Wagtails flock together to roost for a
variety of reasons - a good warm place is hard to find so it makes sense to share
Also there is safety in numbers and, amazingly, the roost acts as an
Birds which are having difficulty in finding food
simply follow the birds that are in better condition in the morning.
Isle of Wight is one of the last southern refuges for the Red Squirrel which has
lived on the island since just after the Ice Age.
Winter sees these popular
animals at their most colourful and because they're hungry they are a little bit
easier to get close to.
The ancient woodland of Alverstone Mead is a
55-acre mixed habitat nature reserve one mile from Sandown.
guaranteed to see Red Squirrels as the wardens feed them and have around five
individual squirrels around the hide.
Because of its small size the Isle
of Wight is a natural treasure - a tiny conservation goldfish bowl.
only does it have fantastic woodland but also boasts some of the best areas of
wildflower down land.
reds arrived after the last Ice Age but haven't had the time to adapt to deciduous
woodland and are more suited to conifers.
The reds survive better in conifer
woodlands where they can reach the cones on the tips of the branches because they
are smaller and lighter.
Squirrels don't hibernate and the reds need to
feed every day - they like seeds, berries, nuts and fruit.
They do well
in winter when the food supply is good but struggle in summer when they often
lose body weight and have to spend all day feeding.
However in winter they
get out of bed early and often disappear at 11am for a siesta.
The reds are very demonstrative during the breeding
season in spring when they indulge in amazing mating chases.
They also have
a way of clenching their front paws together and flicking their tails when they're
The colour variation on the island is amazing with every shade
from pale to black.
Some of the island's squirrels are bright ginger with
blond tails, others chocolate brown or black.
The Red Squirrels have an
amazing range of calls including 'churrs' and screams when they are alarmed.