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Green Hill Farm ecological survey: spring 2023 review

Russ writes:

Since March 2023, I’ve been conducting regular ecological surveys at Green Hill Farm Holiday Village (Landford, New Forest) as part of a long-term biodiversity monitoring programme for the site. Green Hill Farm spans about 30 ha and includes a variety of wildlife-rich habitats including riverine woodland, boggy woodland, ponds, mature hedgerows, and wet meadows, all of which are unaffected by ongoing development at the site.

Species-rich wet meadow at Green Hill Farm containing an abundance of flora and invertebrates, including large numbers of Southern March Orchids

A particular focus is an area of land adjacent to New Road that dominantly comprises modified and semi-natural grassland, divided and bordered by a few hedgerows with some natural scrub regeneration around the margins; this land (hereafter referred to as the ‘front fields’) covers about one-third of the site and is now protected as part of a site biodiversity enhancement plan, whereby future management actions will focus on increasing biodiversity. This blog provides an update on ecological survey results at the site this spring, spanning March through to early June 2023.

Damper areas of the front fields are rich in rushes and sedges, including Compact Rush and Remote Sedge photographed here on 02 June 2023

Nearly 400 species of fauna, flora, and fungi have already been recorded, comprising 74 vertebrate species (including 54 birds and 16 mammals), 121 invertebrate species (mostly moths and beetles), 155 tree and plant species, and 28 fungi species; approximately half of these species have been recorded on the front fields.

This Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle, photographed on 02 June 2023, is one of many beetle species recorded at Green Hill Farm this spring

A pair of infrared trail cameras have been deployed at various woodland and hedgerow locations this spring, primarily targeting elusive nocturnal mammals. Three species of deer have been recorded, with at least 16 Fallow Deer, four Roe Deer, and two Muntjac Deer roaming across the site during the quiet hours. Several of the Fallow and Roe Deer are clearly pregnant, and on some images an unborn fawn could even be seen kicking against the ribs of one of the Roe Deer! Badger and Fox have also been regularly observed, with a Fox seen taking a female Pheasant on one occasion. A Stoat on 20 April was also notable, but the highlight was undoubtedly an Otter seen in woodland adjacent to a small stream in the early hours of 27 April. Several bird species were also recorded on camera, including a female Mallard with a brood of young chicks.

Badger photographed on 04 March 2023

Stoat (visible on right of image) photographed on 20 Apr 2023

Otter photographed on 27 Mar 2023

Roe Deer buck photographed on 02 May 2023

Fox photographed taking a female Pheasant on 17 May 2023

Fallow Deer pricket (young buck) photographed on 25 May 2023

Breeding bird surveys have found at least 30 bird species breeding on site, with a total of about 120 territories. Robin and Wren are the two commonest species with a combined total of just over 40 territories, which is about one-third of the total. Summer migrant visitors include Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, and Whitethroat, and three Firecrest territories were located (until recently the latter was a nationally rare species). The various ponds on site hold breeding Canada Goose, Mallard, and Moorhen. Although not breeding on site, predatory birds such as Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Raven, Red Kite, and Sparrowhawk are regularly seen overhead. The gradual conversion of one of the front fields to rank grassland has encouraged a pair of Stonechats to establish a territory there, and a flock of up to 50 Meadow Pipits spent the winter in these fields.

Male Stonechat (carrying a metal ring) photographed on 25 Mar 2023

Red Kite photographed on 25 Mar 2023

A brood of eight Blue Tit chicks photographed on 02 June 2023

The flora highlight has been a spectacular profusion of Southern Marsh Orchids in an area of damp meadow in and adjacent to the front fields, with smaller numbers of Common Spotted Orchids and occasional hybrids between the two. Areas of shorter sward and bare ground hold Bird’s foot Trefoil, Blinks, and Heath Speedwell, while damper areas hold Cuckooflower, Marsh Bedstraw, Marsh Pennywort, Marsh Thistle, Narrow Buckler Fern, Ragged Robin, and various rushes and sedges. Elsewhere on the site, single clumps of Bog Myrtle, Butcher’s Broom, and Royal Fern have all been found, which are common on the open forest but relatively scarce elsewhere in our region. The woodlands contain Wood Sage and Wood Sorrel, and there were some nice examples of the colourful Scarlet Elf Cup in the early spring.

Southern Marsh Orchid photographed on 02 June 2023

Heath Speedwell photographed on 02 June 2023

Marsh Thistle photographed on 02 June 2023

Narrow Buckler Fern and Black Snipefly photographed on 02 June 2023

The damp weather in March and April ensured there were still plenty of fungi on show, including the colourful Scarlet Elf Cup and the rather drab but much rarer Vinegar Cup (potentially only the second record for the New Forest).

Birch Mazegill fungus photographed on 17 Mar 2023

Turkeytail fungus photographed on 17 Mar 2023

Scarlet Elf Cup fungus amongst Wood Sorrel, photographed on 01 Apr 2023

Vinegar Cup fungus photographed on 01 Apr 2023

Jelly Ears photographed on 01 Apr 2023

Notable invertebrates in the front fields include Brown Argus butterfly (which is relatively scarce in the New Forest) and abundant day-flying Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths. Emperor and Golden-ringed Dragonflies have recently been seen hunting around emerging patches of scrub (Golden-ringed being our largest dragonfly), and Roesel’s Bush Cricket and Slender Groundhoppers have been recorded; the open habitats also support Cricket-bat and Labyrinth Spiders.

Brown Argus butterfly photographed on 02 June 2023

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Moth photographed on 02 June 2023

Golden-ringed Dragonfly photographed on 02 June 2023

Swollen-thighed Beetle photographed on 02 June 2023

The rank grassland of the westernmost field is also attracting additional vertebrate species, with Common Lizard, Common Toad, Grass Snake, and Field Vole all recently seen in this area.

Common Toad photographed on 25 Mar 2023

Grass Snake photographed on 02 June 2023

The summer months will see the survey focus switch to plants and invertebrates in the front fields, as well as some nocturnal bat and moth sessions - these data collectively will help inform future management actions including mowing regimes and potential future grazing.

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