Beaulieu River at sunset
A year on the Beaulieu River
Following our first trial run in January this year, the Wild New Forest Beaulieu River Boat Tours have become a firm favourite in the diary, with trips running most weeks through the year. It is safe to say that no two trips have been the same, and it has been lovely to experience the changing seasons out on the river.
Over the course of the year, over 133 bird species have been recorded on the tour including many highlights, almost too many to mention. Marcus is in the fortunate position to have been on every trip this year and his main highlight has probably been enjoying the tranquillity and beauty of the river as it changes through the year. In terms of wildlife, each season, each month in fact, is slightly different, with passing migrants, winter visitors, and summer breeders all using the river in their own way. However, it is not just the river that attracts attention, the beautiful woodland and marshland it passes through adds to the scenery and diversity of species observed. The undoubted highlight for most of our guests has been the broad array of birds of prey, with the White-tailed Eagle taking centre stage, but we have also been entertained by Goshawk, Osprey, Peregrine and Marsh Harrier, frequently seen hunting across or even over the river when in the area.
We have also encountered several unusual visitors, from the rare vagrant Black Duck to passing migrants taking the opportunity to feed up along the river, including one memorable day when we were surrounded by a feeding frenzy of gulls and terns comprising several Black Terns repeatedly skimming over the boat - these in turn attracted feeding Gannets that started diving for fish nearby. Species don’t have to be rare to be enjoyable, the sheer numbers of wintering waders and wildfowl that create a swirling mass as a stooping Peregrine passes through, or enjoying the spectacle of over 1000 Mediterranean Gulls feeding along the shoreline. One of the most captivating species are the Cormorants that we frequently encounter working in groups of up to 30 individuals, driving shoals of fish to the shoreline where a feeding frenzy takes place - these not only involve the Cormorants in the water, as the commotion draws in large numbers of herons and egrets at the water’s edge that take fish driven out of the water, while marauding gulls and terns pick up any that manage to make a break for freedom.
Another favourite are the ever-present Grey and Harbour Seals that entertain us on most trips, we have got to know individuals over the course of the year, and Marcus starts to worry if he goes more than a couple of trips without seeing one regular young Grey Seal that has taken to using tenders as a sleeping platform.
It is apt that our last Wild New Forest trip of the year is a boat trip at dusk on New Year’s Eve, we will continue to run trips through 2023, keep an eye on the diary for new dates being added soon.
Wild New Forest finds new fungi species for Britain on Fungi Explorer walk
As described in the blog posted here, we were fortunate to find an apparently new species of inkcap fungus for Britain on one of our Wild New Forest Fungi Explorer walks this autumn. It took a bit of work to pin down as there are several similar looking inkcap species, but a combination of expert feedback on social media, detailed field notes and images, and DNA analysis, confirmed the species as Coprinopsis alnivora, a globally rare species first described in the United States, and only recently described from eastern Europe.
November walk highlights
Due to poor weather conditions through much of the month, we ran fewer trips than
scheduled, with four scheduled walks, four boat tours, and two bespoke walks completed.
Once again, fungi featured heavily on the walks this month, and a particular highlight was a walk devoted to Devil’s Fingers where over 100 specimens in various stages of development were found, in addition to a nice mix of classic heathland fungi species. Avian highlights on walks this month included some showy Crossbill, Hawfinch, Goshawk, and Dartford Warbler.
A change in seasons was notable in the boat tours with a considerable increase in numbers of common wintering wildfowl and waders, in particular large numbers of Teal and Dunlin were seen being harassed by a range of raptors, including Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, and Peregrine. Brent Goose numbers started increasing and Spoonbill became a regular sighting through the month. One memorable trip coincided with a storm driven influx of Kittiwake, who were vying for attention over a showy Red-throated Diver.
Fieldwork this month included ongoing ecological surveys at private sites across the New Forest and the wider Solent area. Pine Marten fieldwork has now scaled back, with the focus on monitoring a few core locations and exploring techniques to collect DNA samples. Hawfinch fieldwork was restricted to monitoring of a small number of communal roosts. At the coast the monthly WeBS count was livened by a visit from a White-tailed Eagle making counting of the thousands of wildfowl and waders a challenge!
December is a rather quiet month for walks, but in addition to our regular scheduled events we have three boat tours in the diary and a fully booked Photographic Masterclass at the coast (we still have places left on the event scheduled for 08 Jan 2023).
Looking further ahead, we will soon add new dates for scheduled boat tours and explorer walks, to enable our guests to see in 2023 with some mid-winter wildlife watching.
Our current schedule of events and access to our booking platform can be reached via our website at https://www.wildnewforest.co.uk/event-calendar
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
A slightly quieter month, most likely due to the more unsettled conditions limiting time in the field, and the slowing of the fungi season. There was a total of 363 posts and 1904 comments (vs 656 and 3870 in October). Despite the season slowing, down fungi still featured heavily, in particular some great images of Devil’s Fingers and the rare Bearded Tooth.
The most popular post this month was a lovely set of Kingfisher images by Yvonne Williams, other highlights this month included the Great Grey Shrike in the Pig Bush area, which was a favoured subject for bird photographers.
Wild New Forest Gift Vouchers
Wild New Forest Gift Vouchers are available for guided walks and boat tours, and make a perfect Christmas or birthday gift for that person that is difficult to buy for! Each voucher can be personalised and can be redeemed at any time.
Forthcoming illustrated talks
10 Jan 2023: Lymington and District Naturalists' Society (A fungi year in the New Forest)
11 Jan 2023: RSPB New Forest (Climate change and New Forest wildlife: winners and losers)