Autumn or Summer?
Following our piece ‘Autumn starts early’ in last month’s newsletter the weather has reverted back to summer with a spell of 10 days (and counting) of hot and dry conditions. It is remarkable that the hottest day of 2023 has been recorded in September.
This has an impact on our wildlife - in the last newsletter we reported on the profusion of fungi across the Forest on the back of an unseasonably wet July. This recent spell of dry weather has had an impact on the fungi with many specimens becoming desiccated. However, there is still plenty to see out there, though those species that rely on moisture to produce their fruiting bodies are noticeably thinner on the ground at the moment.
Other notable events this autumn include an impressive number of migrant moth species arriving on our shores from points further south. Notable amongst these has been the Portland Ribbon Wave with unprecedented large numbers being reported across the New Forest. This species is restricted to the Isle of Portland in the UK but it is thought that in some years it can move northwards from the near continent in suitable conditions. It is possible that it has become established locally, but time will tell. Another less welcome species is the Box-tree Moth whose larvae can decimate our native Box Tree. One recorder reported catching over 300 in his Pennington garden earlier this month! This attractive species (first recorded in 2007 as a result of an accidental release thought to originate from the horticultural trade) has become a pest, capable of defoliating entire plants and disfiguring Box hedgerows and topiary.
Images from the top, Portland Riband Wave, Box-tree Moth ©Wild New Forest
Birds have been in the headlines lately. This is traditionally a time of year that a lot of our migrant species are on the move, an exciting time for bird watchers as anything can turn up anywhere. Each year is different, depending on the success or failure of individual species and the vagaries of the weather resulting in different patterns of behaviour and movement. This year Yellow Wagtail have been obvious across the Forest. Often heard but not seen, this attractive species will follow cattle and ponies looking for invertebrates attracted to the stock and their excrement! Yellow Wagtails particularly favour areas of lawn where cattle or ponies congregate.
Numbers are starting to decline already but I am still hearing and seeing Yellow Wagtail on most visits to the Forest. Another species associated with cattle is the Cattle Egret. Once a very rare bird, we are now starting to see this species annually. This autumn good numbers have been recorded at the coast, with a regular group of up to 10 hanging out with the cattle at Pennington Marsh. Keep an eye out for these characterful birds, it can be very entertaining watching them pluck insects from the ears and other dark places on the cattle!
Image Yellow Wagtail ©Wild New Forest
As pannage season starts, we will begin start to see pigs out on the Forest foraging for fallen acorns and beech mast which can be harmful for the commoners’ stock. Visitors to the Forest will be aware we are in for a bumper berry and seed crop this autumn with our Oak and Beech trees are heavily laden. The crop cycle is cyclical but has been helped this year with the wet summer we have had. If the summer is too dry the crop can become desiccated, but the Beech mast is looking very healthy and wholesome this year. In addition, our Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Holly and Rowan among other species are holding good crops of berries; all this suggests a good winter ahead for our wildlife with plenty of natural food for our small mammals and birds in particular. Ivy, one of our most important species for wildlife, flowers from September each year providing much needed nectar for our late season butterflies, moths, hoverflies and other invertebrates. Time spent watching flowering Ivy is never wasted time; I always like to take 5 minutes to watch the coming and going of the varies species, I just love the hum of insects on an autumn day around Ivy.
In any case, as the headline suggests, our traditional seasons seem to be becoming less defined. In nature, two seasons are rarely the same and that is the beauty of the natural world. Whatever weather is thrown at us over the next month I for one will just enjoy the amazing diversity of nature by taking more time to observe the world around me.
What to look for in October.
October is peak season for fungi; if the weather breaks and we get some reasonable precipitation it should lead to an emergence of fungal fruiting bodies across the Forest. In any case the more robust and longer-lived species will be on show throughout the month. I always get a thrill seeing my first Fly Agaric or Porcelain Fungus of the year. Fungi can be found in any habitat but a look in ancient beech woodland will always reward you with some great specimens. Remember, here in the New Forest we can look but don’t pick. Let’s enjoy the fungi and leave it place for others to enjoy.
In the woodlands Pine Marten will be preparing for the long winter ahead, and as resources get low the females start to encourage their young to move on and find their own territory. At this time of year Pine Marten can turn up in unusual and unexpected places so if you have a trail camera in your garden it is worth running it through the autumn period as you never know what might turn up. If you are lucky enough to record a Pine Marten do let us know!
Birds are still on the move through October; we should see our Brent Geese and other wildfowl and waders returning to the coast, while in the Forest keep an ear out for the first seeping Redwing of the year. With our good berry crop this year there will be plenty of food for incoming thrushes as they move westwards to avoid the worst of the winter further east.
Images Parasitic Bolete on Common Earthball ©Wild New Forest
August walk highlights
With slightly better weather than July, August was another busy month. Overall, we ran fifteen scheduled guided walks, six boat trips, four bespoke walks, along with a wader ID course and a Newtown Harbour boat trip.
The wader ID course was a new walk for us. Starting with a cooked breakfast at the Mayflower in Lymington, we ran through a presentation looking at various features of wader identification. We then headed out into the field around Normandy Lagoon and the waders put on a great show. We had cracking views of Ruff, and a very cooperative Bar-tailed Godwit hung out with a group of Black-tailed Godwit allowing us to test out what we had learnt. We will be re-running the course at the end of September and still have a few places remaining…
Another enjoyable trip was the Beaulieu River and Newtown Harbour Boat Trip, along with some good birding along the Beaulieu River. Newtown Harbour was very productive with three White-tailed Eagles seen, along with Osprey, Peregrine and the ever entertaining Grey and Harbour Seals. On this trip we landed at the quay at Newtown Harbour so that we could do a spot of birding on land and enjoy a coffee in the visitor centre. This month we also ran our first Fungi Explorer Walk of the season which proved to be very productive, exploring the mixed woodland at Anderwood.
August fieldwork highlights
Bird ringing at the coast was a big feature this month with the last few sessions of the BTO CES (Constant Effort Survey) completed at Keyhaven and a nice mix of sessions at Normandy Marsh. Migrants were very much a feature; one memorable encounter included 5 Grasshopper Warbler, 25 Tree Pipit, 6 Nightjar, a Nightingale and Yellow Wagtail all processed at the coast amongst a good number of common warbler such as Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
The Pine Marten survey is still continuing with cameras being relocated from a site in the centre of the Forest to the south-east of the Forest. This will be our last area of this year’s field season. To date we have recorded Pine Marten in each area surveyed; we will look to publish a blog and run a zoom session later in the year updating results of this year’s fieldwork.
Elsewhere general survey work continued at a range of private sites which mainly involved bat, invertebrate and moth surveys, taking advantage of the warmer evenings.
We have recently added a new Commoning Discovery Walk where we will head out with local commoner Suzanne Kemp to discuss all things communing and the important role livestock play in creating the habitats important for our special wildlife. We have also added two Halloween Walks as part of the New Forest Walking Festival organised by the National Park.
Our series of Fungi Explorer Walks remain popular. We will look at adding a Photography Masterclass towards the end of the month which will be an extended walk focussing on macro photography with local photographer Steve Laycock.
We have also added some Autumn Migration Walks at the coast which will focus on the wonders of migration, discussing identification and strategies of the various migratory species that visit our coast each autumn.
Images Sandwich Tern on Beaulieu River and Nightingale at Keyhaven ©Wild New Forest
In addition, we have another Young Person’s Wildlife Camp, again taking place at Cameron’s Cottage, Franchises Lodge over the weekend of 27-29 October. Full details for the weekend can be found here.
Our current schedule of events is listed below, our booking platform can be reached via our website at https://www.wildnewforest.co.uk/event-calendar
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
The Facebook page continues to be a busy hub of information With 523/2554 posts and comments in August it remains as popular as ever. The most popular post this month was Charles Watson’s lovely encounter with an Otter in the New Forest; it is wonderful that encounters such as this can happen again in the New Forest.
We would like to thank all our guests who take the time to leave a review on TripAdvisor where we are currently rated as 5*. All our reviews can be found here.
A world of discovery, Aug 2023
Within 3 minutes we knew we were going to enjoy the tree identification walk. Marcus had picked a beautiful part of the forest to discover with both ancient and plantation trees. We covered so much information I was wondering if we would remember much but a few days on it still all makes sense. As if we have a few more jigsaw pieces in place . We would definitely recommend the walk.
Wader Masterclass, Aug 2023
I had a great time at the Wader Masterclass led by Marcus. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast beforehand at The Mayflower at Lymington. The weather was dry and we were able to sit outside. We then had an introduction to Waders and were able to see the birds in detail on the laptops provided. Marcus gave a commentary on each section and were were able to ask questions at any time. After this we walked along the marsh to see for ourselves the different waders we had learnt about. We just had one heavy shower. The whole masterclass was very informative and also great fun.
Wild New Forest Vouchers
Wild New Forest Vouchers are available for walks and boat trips, and make a perfect Christmas or Birthday gift for that person who is difficult to buy for! Each voucher can be personalised and can be redeemed at anytime, just drop us an email at email@example.com for further info.
Wild New Forest Newsletter
You can now sign-up for the monthly Wild New Forest Newsletter via the website and have a copy delivered each month direct to your in-box via the link below:
Forthcoming Illustrated Talks
26 Sep 2023: Lymington Naturalists (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
18 Oct 2023: RSPB Basingstoke (A New Forest Wildlife Year)
19 Oct 2023: HIWWT Winchester (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
25 Oct 2023: RSPB Guildford (A New Forest Wildlife Year)
Visit our website at www.wildnewforest.co.uk for further details
Harbour Seal, Beaulieu River, Sep 2023 © Wild New Forest