New Forest Raven Survey: mid-May update

Russ writes:

This is the third update on the New Forest 2020 Raven survey, which is being co-ordinated by Wild New Forest - an introduction to the survey and previous updates can be found at the links below:

https://www.wildnewforest.co.uk/post/wild-new-forest-2020-raven-survey

https://www.wildnewforest.co.uk/post/new-forest-raven-survey-early-april-update


The updated map showing approximate locations of confirmed and probable breeding pairs, and territories occupied by non-breeding (mostly immature) birds is below.

In total, there are 13 confirmed nests where adults have been seen carrying nesting material or food on multiple occasions, of which at least four already have fledged young. Four of these nests, located in the north and east of the New Forest, are on pylons, with the remainder in tall conifers. There are a further four locations where birds are probably breeding but confirmation hasn’t been achieved, all of which are ‘traditional’ nest locations. We therefore have high confidence that at least 17 pairs of Ravens are currently breeding in the New Forest, with at least seven or eight additional territories occupied by non-breeding immature birds.


Most observations from nest sites in the last four weeks have involved birds carrying food to the nest and/or fledged young being seen in and around the nest (three of the nests have at least two fledged young each).

A few images and accompanying notes on how to recognise adult, immature and juvenile Ravens at this time of year are below:

Adults are currently fully winged but often rather tatty looking with notched and abraded flight feathers - they won’t commence their wing moult until the breeding season is concluded; they are mostly seen singly and flying purposely, often visibly carrying food or showing a bulging crop, as they are feeding young at or close to the nest (the adult bird shown above also has a broken leg to contend with, but still managed to produce two fledged young!).


Non-breeding immature birds are currently in active wing moult, and often show one or more steps in the hindwing profile where some of the feathers have been moulted and are re-growing (as in the example above). Many have already paired up and are therefore usually seen together, and they may have an established territory that will likely become a future breeding site.


Juveniles can be recognised by their fresh new flight feathers, often with a brownish tinge, and with no visible wear or wing moult; close views may reveal a small yellow patch at the gape (bill base), and their calls are higher pitched than adults (with thanks to Steve Hewitt for the image above).


At one site, beneath a stand of tall conifers, I recently picked up Raven primary and secondary feathers that had been shed by a non-breeding immature bird; the image below shows the size of the feathers, which are much larger than those of other members of the crow family!

We have received reports of Ravens predating a Lapwing nest at one site, and both breeding and non-breeding Ravens being mobbed by breeding Curlews; Ravens have in turn been observed mobbing Buzzards and Red Kites within their territories. Here in Woodlands, the local Carrion Crows noisily take to the air every time one of the local breeding Ravens passes overhead (and as I write they have just alerted me to a pair of non-breeding wandering Ravens in active wing moult, that briefly indulged in a bout of ‘tumbling’ display before drifting east!).

Ravens also scavenge carrion and are therefore likely to benefit from roadkills, particularly given the currently high numbers of livestock and deer in the New Forest. The image below shows a roadkill Fallow Deer at a location where at least one non-breeding immature Raven has been regularly seen, so it’s likely that this bird took advantage of the easy meal on offer.

Finally, we are very grateful to the many observers who have taken the time to submit their Raven sightings in recent weeks - these are being compiled in a database and all records will be supplied to Forestry England and Hampshire Ornithological Society at the end of the season. If you have any further Raven sightings within the New Forest National Park up to 30 June then please email them to us at: info@wildnewforest.co.uk. A summary report on this year’s results will then be produced and uploaded here later in the summer.

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