The weather is wreaking havoc with fieldwork at the moment, but yesterday I managed to get out on the gravel bike after the latest deluge to check the inclosures between Lyndhurst and Beaulieu Heath. As well as keeping an eye out for more Raven territories, I was keen to try and see my first Sika Deer of the year. Despite suffering an early puncture and having to navigate some severely flooded tracks on the northwest margins of Beaulieu Heath, I managed to get around the planned 35 km circuit.
Sika Deer is one of five deer species to be found in the New Forest, and are one of three non-native deer species (they were introduced in the Beaulieu area just over 100 years ago). They are carefully managed by Forestry England, with numbers limited to about 100 and a range that is restricted to the area south of the Southampton to Bournemouth railway line. This is to avoid inter-breeding with Red Deer, which are concentrated in areas north of the railway line. However, occasionally Sika Deer are encountered elsewhere in the forest, for example, on 29 Dec 2015, Marcus and I saw this young stag in with a group of Red Deer hinds in the west of the forest.
The inclosures between the railway line and Beaulieu Heath are their favoured area, especially New Copse, Frame Heath and Hawkhill Inclosures. It didn’t take me long to find a nice herd of around 25 animals, including a couple of fine stags, although as I was on the bike I’d reluctantly had to leave the camera behind! I’ve therefore taken a couple of images from Marcus’ portfolio below, showing a stag and a hind. Further details on this species, including identification, can be found on the excellent New Forest Explorers Guide site:
I also managed to locate another likely Raven territory, a couple of Crossbills, and several Reed Buntings – the latter species winters in small numbers in conifer inclosures, inhabiting drainage ditches along rides, especially where they are bounded by Purple Moor-grass and (even better) containing patches of Common Reed. The males are looking smart at the moment, so hopefully I’ll get some nice shots next time I have the camera with me!
As I write, the rain being delivered by Storm Jorge is hammering down again, and the forecast suggests the wet and windy conditions are going to be with us for a while yet!