A year in review
First of all, we would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and productive New Year, we would like to pass on our appreciation and gratitude for your ongoing support of Wild New Forest.
As is often the way, at this time of year we take a look back to the highlights from the year that has just passed and take a moment to look ahead. 2023 has been another busy year both for walks and fieldwork, there have been many special moments and highlights.
Fieldwork has been split over three main projects, the ongoing Pine Marten and Hawfinch fieldwork and a new survey commissioned by the Tree Council monitoring the biodiversity gain in managed hedgerows in the Ogdens Valley.
The Ogdens Valley provides an important corridor between the New Forest and the Avon Valley where hedgerows of the valley play an important role in providing connectivity. Thanks to funding procured by The Tree Council and huge volunteer effort from Hooves Hedgelaying Club, an ambitious project is underway. Restoring hedgerows using traditional methods along the valley, this will re-create the connectivity and improve habitat for native species. Our role is to monitor the growth of biodiversity in the managed hedgerows, with un-managed hedgerows also surveyed as a control to enable us to compare growth. Last year was a baseline survey which has seen me out in the Ogdens Valley most weeks through the summer monitoring a mix of species including birds, mammals, flora, butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. It has been a learning curve, spending time exploring the life of several different hedgerows, quite different to the survey work I undertake in the Forest, but it has been hugely rewarding. Image: Magenta Rustgill, Ogdens Valley 2023 © WNF GT
I have thoroughly enjoyed rootling in the undergrowth looking for and recording a mix of species. One highlight was a potential fungi first for the New Forest in the form of Magenta Rustgill. Another highlight was several lovely evenings conducting nocturnal surveys focussing on moths and invertebrates but also recording those nocturnal mammals and birds that you can only pick up after dark. It goes without saying that Hawfinch featured amongst the special moments with one bird frequently returning to a favoured Oak tree in one of the managed hedgerows. Thankfully the Tree Council and Hooves are keeping Hawfinch in mind by ensuring there is plenty of Holly, (an important food source for Hawfinch) in their planting regime.
Bird ringing included ongoing schemes such as colour-ringing of Terns at the coast and participating in the long-term colour-ringing of Peregrine in the New Forest. In addition, we continued the Constant Effort Scheme at Keyhaven Marsh which is contributing to the national dataset for common breeding species and migrants.
Looking at the tours, a firm favourite in the calendar is the Beaulieu River Boat Trip. Each trip is different with a diverse mix of wildlife and lovely views of the river and Solent. In 2023 we were treated to great views of the resident Seals on most trips and a great mix of raptors with some exciting encounters with White-tailed Eagles, Osprey, Goshawk, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine.
We also ran our first extended trip along the river and out to the Needles exploring the seabird colonies of the western Solent and the Isle of Wight, for me this was one of the highlights of the year, getting a privileged view of the seabirds colonies led to some very special encounters. We also ran a lovely trip across to Newtown Harbour where we landed for a couple of hours to explore the nature reserve, keep an eye on the diary for 2024 dates.
Image: Common Guillemot, Isle of Wight Cruise 2023 © WNF GT
Other favourites included the various workshops. In 2023 we ran workshops looking at wader and wildfowl ID, bird song, fungi and coastal bird photography. These extended sessions often included a nice breakfast just to ensure we had the energy to put what we learnt in the classroom into practice in the field. The Fungi Explorer walks are amongst our most popular walks and 2023 was a fantastic year for fungi in the New Forest.
Finally, we can’t review the highlights of the year without mentioning the Young Persons Wildlife Camps. We ran two camps (July and October) both fully booked with 19 teenagers exploring the wonders of Franchises Lodge RSPB and nearby heathland. As always, the weekends were a delight, from watching and ringing Nightjar to stalking deer, moth trapping, illustrated talks, camera trapping and bioblitz. And who can forget the magical fungi? Our October weekend recorded over 100 species of fungi alone! These weekends simply wouldn’t be possible without the support of our volunteers, The Cameron Bespolka Trust and the RSPB, so a big thanks to you all for your support. Check out our website for details of the 2024 camps. Image: New Forest Young Persons Wildlife Camp © WNF GT
Young Explorers Wildlife Club
We are delighted with the uptake of the Young Explorers Wildlife Club and can’t wait for the first event on 13 January. We will be running over 20 events through the course of the year so if you know of anybody aged between 10-16 with a passion for wildlife, please do mention the club to them. Membership is free, as are all the events through the course of the year thanks to funding from Love the Forest and Go New Forest. Each member will receive an intro pack on their first walk and can join a moderated WhatsApp group where the members can share wildlife highlights and discuss upcoming walks. Each event will focus on a different aspect of wildlife watching, fieldcraft or ID, further details can be found on our website at www.wildnewforest.co.uk
Limited Mobility Walks
Scheduled every other month, these short walks will operate from different locations across the Forest and will be bespoke for the guests that join us based on their level of mobility. Walks are free of charge and can be booked via the WNF website here (http://tinyurl.com/WNFmobilitywalks) The routes will be level on firm terrain and will focus on wildlife, history and management of the New Forest. Carers and support workers can also join the walk free of charge. Please contact us for further info.
Many thanks to our Partners for their support:
December Walk Highlights
Slightly quieter months for walks with the shorter days and more unsettled weather that is typical at this time of year. Overall, we ran seven scheduled walks, one ID course, two boat trips and one bespoke walks.
The Full Day Birding was great fun, starting again at a Hawfinch roost before moving to the coast for the day, we managed to record a healthy total of 96 species.
December is a quiet time for fieldwork, with the main focus is on Hawfinch roosts and report writing while also putting together plans for the season ahead. The monthly WeBS count was again productive with good numbers of wildfowl and waders recorded. The roosts remained busy; in addition to the Hawfinch, good numbers of Redpoll, Brambling and Crossbill were recorded in the roosts. Whilst conducting fieldwork it was a delight to hear singing Crossbill, Song & Mistle Thrush among others, along with drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and displaying Goshawk.
Image:Great Northern Diver, Beaulieu River, 23 Dec 2023 © WNF GT
We have recently added a new series of Photographic Workshops, these are aimed at the beginner through to keen amateur and will look at basic settings, technique and fieldwork to help improve your wildlife photography. The workshops will be co-run by Marcus and Jamie Ward and will focus on different topics each season.
Also keep an eye on the website for dates for our Newtown Harbour and nesting seabird cruises that will take us around the western Solent and across to the Isle of Wight, these trips are always popular.
We are also gearing up for a busy fieldwork season. This year we will be focussing on collecting DNA samples from Pine Marten and GPS/radio tracking juvenile Hawfinch to investigate post fledging dispersal of youngsters (something we currently know very little about which has been highlighted as a significant gap in knowledge about the species).
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
The most popular post this month was a lovely set of Devil’s Fingers (aka Octopus Stinkhorn) images posted by Marion Nesbitt. Devil’s Fingers were a popular subject this month with records from a number of locations across the New Forest.
Many thanks to everyone who takes the time to leave a review on TripAdvisor. Below is a recent review received in December. We are proud to be 5* rated on TripAdvisor, all our reviews can be found here http://tinyurl.com/mrymnuw7
A very enjoyable and inspirational introduction to birdlife in the New Forest
Dec 2023 Wildfowl ID Masterclass.
I felt privileged to spend half a day with Marcus, who was so passionate and knowledgeable about not only wildfowl, but all aspects of bird and mammal life in the New Forest. The day started with a fabulous cooked breakfast, then a short presentation, followed by a couple of hours walking around Lymington Marshes, spotting and identifying the birds that we had been talking about earlier. A thoroughly enjoyable day, in which I learned a lot and felt inspired to learn a whole lot more! Very highly recommended.
10 Jan 2024: Christchurch Ornithogical Group (CHOG) (A year in the life of the New Forest)
09 Feb 2024: Hyde War Memorial Parish hall (Wildlife in and around the Ogdens Valley)
21 Feb 2024: Southbourne W.I (Woodland Wifelife of the New Forest)
27 Feb 2024: Cafe Scientifique Highcliffe (Wildlife year in the New Forest)
Some walks my be subject to change.