Looking ahead to a season of fieldwork in the Forest
As we move into February and start to feel the days getting longer, attention starts to turn towards planning for the season ahead. Here Marcus gives a short round-up of planned Wild New Forest and New Forest Ringing Group fieldwork plus a few volunteer-based bird surveys that are taking place in the New Forest this year.
Wild New Forest are working with an increasing number of private landowners within the New Forest National Park, conducting baseline ecological surveys to inform land management action that will increase biodiversity. In addition, we run several species-specific surveys on public land, monitoring the distribution, breeding success and ecology of a range of priority species:
Pine Marten: This well documented and publicised project continues into 2023, in fact fieldwork has already started with the surveying and mapping of the survey areas to establish camera placement. Cameras will be installed from early March. Regular updates will be posted via our social media channels. In addition, we will be attempting to sample hair and scats for DNA.
Hawfinch: Fieldwork continues this year with focus on monitoring of communal roosts and a continuation of the BTO RAS project (British Trust for Ornithology, Ringing Adults for Survival) with the aid of colour-ringing which looks at survival rates of Hawfinch in the wild. In addition, we will be working with a student taking part in an RSPB project looking at Trichomoniasis in Hawfinch by taking and testing throat swabs. We will also be looking for and monitoring nesting attempts in our core study areas. Alongside the Hawfinch fieldwork, NFRG (New Forest Ringing Group) will be in the second year of our Siskin RAS, looking at site fidelity and survival rates of Siskin.
Terns: Working with RSPB and other partners, NFRG will again be colour-ringing Little, Common and Sandwich Tern in the western Solent to help assess breeding site fidelity and survival rates. This year we had our first non-European record, a Common Tern ringed in June 2021 that was seen 4000 km to the south off Senegal in April 2022. Terns generally return to breed in their second year, so we look forward to seeing the return of birds ringed at the start of the project in 2021.
Little Tern, Normandy Marsh
BTO surveys: At the coast we will again be running our BTO CES survey (Constant Effort Survey) which, following a rigorous methodology, monitors breeding success of common bird species and forms the basis of national statistics. In addition, we will take part in other BTO surveys such as BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) and WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey).
We will also engage in a number of surveys organised by other organisations, where volunteers are actively sought, a few details below:
HOS (Hampshire Ornithological Society) are looking for volunteers for Dartford Warbler and Marsh Tit surveys taking place in the New Forest this year - further details and options to take on survey squares can be found via their website at http://hantsmarsht.birdsurvey.org.uk/; a dedicated page for the Dartford Warbler survey will be online soon.
Adult and juvenile Dartford Warbler
BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) are running a national Woodcock survey this year with some squares still available in the New Forest, further details via the BTO website at https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/woodcock-survey. In addition, BTO are often looking for volunteers to take part in their BBS and WeBS surveys, if these are of interest, please contact BTO directly via their website.
Freshwater Habitats Trust are running a spawn survey, looking for observations of frog and toad spawn across the New Forest - further details can be found via their website at https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/catchment-projects/new-forest-catchment-project/new-forest-spawn-survey-2023/
These are just a few of the many organisations that are active in the New Forest and looking for volunteers, please do share with us if you are involved with a conservation organisation looking for volunteers in the New Forest.
Young Conservationist Mentoring Scheme
Wild New Forest are launching a Young Conservationist Mentoring Scheme that will run from 01 March to 31 Oct 2023. The scheme is based in the New Forest National Park and aims to support young conservationists in their career development, primarily through providing field experience in wildlife survey and monitoring, wildlife conservation, and ecotourism. It is targeted at those aged 15-25 who are considering careers in conservation and/or ecotourism, including those in education at college or university, or at early career stage. Thanks to generous philanthropic funding we are able to run this scheme at no cost to participants, and all activities will be directly supervised by the Wild New Forest Directors, Russell Wynn and Marcus Ward. The application deadline is 28 Feb 2023, and full details are on the Wild New Forest blog at the link below. Please pass on the weblink to any budding young conservationists who might be interested!
Synchronised Hawfinch release after ringing at the 2022 WNF young persons wildlife camp
January walk highlights
We had mixed fortunes with the weather through the month with some good periods of settled, dry, yet cold conditions. Overall, we had to cancel a few walks and one boat trip due to the weather, but we managed to run six scheduled walks, two boat trips and a private bespoke walk in what is our quietest period of the year.
Highlights included our first young persons walk at Oxey & Normandy Marsh which was great fun and very rewarding, jointly organised with Marcus’s son Jamie. We enjoyed a nice mix of species and discussed everything from whether waders get cold legs in the water to why some male and female of the same species have different plumage and why different shapes of beaks help birds target different prey species.
Some personal highlights included a lovely Oxey Marsh Dusk walk where a group of Spoonbill put on a great display circling overhead and Slavonian Grebe gave excellent views, and a very enjoyable boat trip with wonderful views of a White-tailed Eagle as it flew overhead along with some great views of a couple of Grey Seal cavorting with one another.
White-tailed Eagle 'G274' on Beaulieu River 28/01/2023
January is a quiet time of year for fieldwork, mainly focussed on our ongoing surveys and preparing for the season ahead. Hawfinch roosts remained quiet with numbers quite low in the New Forest, but an increasing number of records came in from the surrounding areas suggesting our birds are venturing further afield in the search for sustenance. The monthly WeBS count was especially straightforward as it coincided with the recent cold snap forcing birds to concentrate on the few unfrozen sections of my survey area.
Pine Marten fieldwork was mainly focussed on surveying areas ahead of camera deployment in March but we have been trialling the use of hair tubes as an aid to collect DNA. Marcus was delighted to record Pine Martens on camera using hair tubes deployed as part of a trial if they will be used by Pine Marten.
Two Pine Marten squabbling over a Wood Mouse, Jan 2023
Other fieldwork included some contracted ecological fieldwork on private land, both in the New Forest and further afield. Trail cameras were again checked on a private site in the south of the New Forest revealing more Otter activity.
Through Feb and March, we still have a few limited places available on forthcoming Boat Trips and the March Photographic Course. The young persons boat trip in Feb is now fully booked but we still have places for the March trip to Needs Ore which will be especially exciting as this will be the first time WNF have led a walk in this beautiful area that can be full of spectacular wildlife.
This month we will also look to pull together our full spring calendar which will include our regular series of Bird Song courses and summer evening walks looking for Nightjar and other nocturnal species. In addition, we will add a small number of Explorer walks taking areas of the New Forest that we don’t frequently visit.
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
With fewer posts than December but more comments (194/2491) the statistics reflect the quieter nature of January but the vibrancy of the Facebook page with many big topics discussed from Forest management, bird identification, the impacts of littering and out of control dogs. We work hard behind the scenes to ensure the site remains informative, educational and above all friendly. We encourage members to post their views but please do remain respectful of those with opposing views
Popular photographic subjects this month included the wintering Shorelark on Hurst Spit and the beautiful series of images depicting the frosty conditions across the New Forest.
Kingfisher, a popular photographic subject this month, this one by one of our younger members
Forthcoming illustrated talks
15 Feb 2023: Sarum U3A (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
16 Feb 2023: Ringwood WI (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
16 Mar 2023: RBBP (Hawfinch in the New Forest)
17 Mar 2023: Amersham RSPB (A New Forest Wildlife Year)
18 Mar 2023: Cafe Scientifique Highcliffe (Wildlife in the New Forest)