An alarm call at 0530 hrs seems me on site 45 minutes later, full of tea and toast and ready for the sunrise. My aim is to photograph a striking tree near my Woodlands home in the early morning light, especially as there was a light frost overnight (a rare phenomenon in recent months!). The half-moon and some snoozing ponies keep me occupied as I await the dawn, and a particularly inquisitive pony comes close enough to enable me to get a rather abstract pony’s eye view of the awakening forest!
I eventually manage to get some acceptable shots of my target tree, but not before further distraction in the form of a trio of Hawfinches in nearby treetops and a keen Goshawk displaying overhead.
My main task for the morning is to walk the 7 km from Ashurst to Beaulieu Road Station to check for breeding waders and Ravens. The bright, sunny weather sees air temperatures quickly rise, and it soon feels like a ‘proper’ spring day. I see a flock of eight Lapwings in the air at one site, and a bird on territory where I first saw it a couple of weeks ago. A Curlew is new in and quietly feeding at a regular breeding location, and a pair of Ravens are lingering around their regular clump of pines. A smart male Wheatear near Beaulieu Road Station is a welcome first for the year, as is the small clump of Bog Beacon found in a ditch near Ashurst.
As I await the train back to Ashurst from Beaulieu Road Station, a rather confused Buff-tailed Bumblebee becomes another victim of the struggling rail network!
After lunch I venture into the north of the New Forest to do a bit of exploring. A clump of white flowers on the journey catches my attention, and after a quick check I’m happy it’s an early-flowering Summer Snowflake.
The afternoon warmth encourages butterflies to take wing, with several Brimstones, a Peacock and a Comma all recorded for the first time this year. A Box Bug is seen sunbathing on holly, while a couple of Dark-edged Bee Flies do likewise on a pine trunk, with both species seen in the company of several Drone Flies.
Birds seen include a Barn Owl (seen leaving its day roost in the canopy of a tall conifer), a trio of singing Chiffchaffs, and single Woodlark, Redpoll, Goshawk and Raven. After seeing the the half moon at dawn, I aptly find myself at Half Moon Common as dusk approaches!
I finally arrive back home exactly 12 hours after I set out, tired but very happy with my spring delights!