I generally don’t do New Years resolutions, however, I am making an exception this year and promised myself that I will aim to write a blog once per week to look back at highlights of the preceding weeks guided walks and fieldwork in the New Forest.
The year got off with a bang with four intrepid guests joining me on the ‘Big Bird Day’, managing to record 85 species across two locations. The highlights for me was a good total of 34 Hawfinch seen coming out of roost and a wonderful sight of over 1000 murmurating Dunlin on Normandy Marsh. We also saw a good selection of scarcer species on the marsh including White-fronted Goose and Red-throated Diver.
Murmurating Dunlin over Normandy Lagoon, 01 Jan 2022
It was back to an old favourite on Tuesday, with the Lyndhurst Discovery Walk from Bolton’s Bench. We had to relocate from here for a while due to work taking place in Pondhead Inclosure, so it was nice to be back. The walk started off a little damp but soon cleared, a nice selection of fungi was seen along the route, and it was great to discuss all the special aspects of the Forest.
A private bespoke walk around Keyhaven and Pennington on a lovely crisp and cold morning on Wednesday was enjoyable. The group were lucky enough to get some great views of a stunning adult male Sparrowhawk perched and on the lookout for unwary prey, as well as a showy Water Rail who got a little upset with a passing Moorhen! In addition, we worked through the various waders and wildfowl and spent time watching Snipe, Ruff, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwit while discussing behaviour, migration patterns, and survey techniques. We also had a look at the ID features of more cryptic species such as Knot and Reed Bunting.
Though Jan, Feb and March I set about the task of surveying all the known communal Hawfinch sites in the Forest - with 43 to get through it takes a while, but I have made a good start surveying five roosts through the week accounting for a total of 105 roosting Hawfinch.
Hawfinch gathering to leave a roost on the morning of 04 Jan 2022
Other fieldwork completed this week included the monthly BTO WeBS count at Normandy and Salterns Marsh and a day spent out of the Forest doing fieldwork elsewhere in Hampshire. Other Hawfinch fieldwork included a chilly ringing session in the north of the Forest on Thursday where one new Hawfinch was colour-ringed, but even more exciting was a Chaffinch bearing a Danish ring; we look forward to hearing where he came from. I also switched memory cards in a trail camera monitoring feeding Hawfinch - I am yet to go through the 6000 images generated by the camera, but look forward to seeing if any of our colour-ringed birds have been visiting the site.
Second-year male Hawfinch ringed in the north of the New Forest, 06 Jan 2022
Finally, yesterday I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with a colleague in the field looking at a Pine Marten location. We found a number of scats, collecting some of the fresher examples. Examining scats helps us better understand their diet and the extent of their territories - still a lot of work to do with Pine Marten, but we are learning more about these fascinating animals with each visit!
Fresh Pine Marten scat in the north of the New Forest, poo becomes a bit of an obsession when surveying mammals. This scat had a musty and sweet odour typical of Pine Marten.
Due to the forecast inclement weather tomorrow, we have rescheduled our Harvest Slade Explorer walk to Sat 15 Jan. This walk was sold out, but not all guests can switch, so we do have limited places available. Our Hawfinch roost walk is now sold out, but we will add more soon, our schedule for the coming week as follows:
Tue 11th Jan – Lyndhurst Discovery Walk (10am)
Wed 12th Jan – Hawfinch Roost Walk (sold out)
Thur 13th Jan – Lymington Discovery Walk (10am)
Fri 14th Jan – Welcome to the New Forest (Wilverley) (1pm)
Sat 15th Jan – Harvest Slade Bottom Explorer Walk (9.30am)
Sat 15th Jan – Oxey Marsh Dusk Explorer Walk (2.30pm)