The second weekly blog of the year covering another busy week with some lovely, if a little chilly weather. It has been an absolute pleasure to be out and about in the Forest this week with some really enjoyable trips supported by great guests and rewarding (if at times a little challenging) fieldwork.
Our first walk of the week out to Harvest Slade Bottom had to be re-scheduled due to the poor weather conditions, with a repeat planned for tomorrow morning (Sat 15th Jan).
One of the highlights of the week for me was a trial wildlife-watching boat trip up the Beaulieu River with chartered boat operator Lazy Daze out of Bucklers Hard. We had a wonderful trip in glorious weather seeing a great mix of bird species including 14 Spoonbill, two each of White-tailed Eagle and Goshawk, and a fly-over Marsh Harrier along with an array of wader and wildfowl species, all seen at a safe and respectful distance from the river. We are now working towards getting a few dates in the diary for future boat trips so watch this space for further details.
Four of fourteen Spoonbill loafing along the Beaulieu River
A mid-week Hawfinch roost walk was productive with good views of both male and female Hawfinch gathering to roost along with a couple of Crossbill and a few Siskin. I always relish the opportunity to talk about Hawfinch and our fieldwork over the past ten years to anyone who is prepared to listen, so I am in my element on these walks!
Hawfinch in flight in the north of the Forest, Thur 13th Jan
The week ended with a pleasant walk at Wilverley enjoying a gloriously sunny afternoon enlivened with my first Red Admiral of the year and a showy male Dartford Warbler, blended with some of the loveliest views in the south of the Forest (I know I say that on every walk, but we are spoilt!).
Fieldwork this week was dominated by Hawfinch, with five roosts counted at dawn accounting for 74 Hawfinch in addition to about 425 Brambling counted at the roosts.
The undoubted fieldwork highlight was pinning down a new Hawfinch roost in the south of the Forest, initially identified by Andrew Colenutt and Helen Schneider while doing some Hawfinch fieldwork. We need to do a little more work over the coming months to confirm this as a new roost. If this is a permanent roost it, will be our 44th, and fills a nice gap in our understanding of Hawfinch distribution in the south of the Forest.
10 Hawfinch gathered post roost, Friday 14th Jan. Hawfinch typically gather post roost, often a short distance from the roost site for around 20-30 mins, after leaving the roost. The gathering can be quite vocal and involve a lot preening at this time of year - as we get closer to the breeding season they can get quite agitated with a lot of posturing between the males and chasing of females!
We attempted another Hawfinch ringing session mid-week in the north of the Forest but were unsuccessful, largely thanks to the attentions of Sparrowhawk, Goshawk and a Buzzard pushing the birds around. It was, however, nice to spend a morning just watching the Hawfinch go about their business and trying to work out and better understand some of their movements in this part of the Forest.
Upcoming walks & talks
Our schedule for the coming week as follows:
Sat 15th Jan – Harvest Slade Bottom Explorer Walk (9.30am)
Sat 15th Jan – Oxey Marsh Dusk Explorer Walk (2.30pm)
Tue 18th Jan – Lyndhurst Discovery Walk (10am)
Wed 19th Jan - A nature photographer's first year in the Forest - Steve Laycock (7pm, zoom talk)
Thur 20th Jan – Lymington Discovery Walk (10am)
Fri 21th Jan – Welcome to the New Forest (Wilverley) (1pm)
Fallow bucks seen just after dawn this week while on a long walk back from a Hawfinch roost site