This morning, a forecast of sunshine and heavy showers encouraged me to stay local and cover my home patch at Woodlands, which is on the northeast margin of the New Forest. My regular four-kilometre loop mostly comprises damp pasture meadows, paddocks, and small woodland blocks, adjacent to the Open Forest.
Within ten minutes of setting out I had distant views of a pair of Goshawks over a conifer inclosure, with both birds engaging in their slow-flapping display. Numerous Buzzards and a couple of Sparrowhawks were also airborne and displaying, and Kestrel and Peregrine were noted (the latter probably the long-staying colour-ringed bird). Five species of raptor within 15 minutes wasn’t a bad start!
Further on, I was delighted to hear and then see a Curlew ‘new in’ on one of the damp pastures, keeping a wary eye on the all raptors overhead! This is almost certainly a bird returning to breed in the New Forest, as in spring I regularly see a pair feeding on these fields that commute across from their nearby breeding sites in the Longwater Lawn area. I suspect the nutrient-rich pastures offer better feeding than the Open Forest, particularly early in the season.
Moving through a block of woodland, adjacent to a stream, there was plenty of flowering Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Sweet Violet and Dog’s Mercury on show, while notable species seen along the ditches and verges included Navelwort, Butchers Broom, Tutsan, Harts-tongue and Common Polypody. Snowdrops are starting to go over, but the first Blackthorn flowers are already appearing.
Heading home, another displaying Goshawk was seen more than two kilometres away, but I got much better views of a couple of dozing Roe Deer sheltering behind a hedge!