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Wild New Forest Guided Walks and Fieldwork (Week 3, 2022)

Marcus writes:

Another busy week blessed with some lovely weather, really enjoyable walks and productive fieldwork.

Guided Walks

Our first walk of the week was a very pleasant one out through the lovely ancient woodland in Berry Wood, along Harvest Slade Bottom to Soarley Beeches, which has to be one of the nicest parts of the Forest. We were treated to a nice mix of wildlife including good views of Red Deer, Brambling, Firecrest and a good mix of winter fungi.

Winter Polypore, Harvestslade Explorer Walk, Sat 15 Jan 2022

It was then straight on to Oxey Marsh for the dusk explorer walk for a nice evening stroll around the marsh. The highlight for me was a Black-necked Grebe seen well on Efford Lake but we were also treated to nice views of four Ruff including a well-travelled colour-ringed bird. It is always a treat to be out on the marsh at dusk, the place has a very calming, settled air with all the wildlife just going about their business.

Thursday saw me out on the regular Lymington Discovery Walk around Normandy and Salterns Marsh, this walk never disappoints with no two trips being the same. It was good to see our resident star, Little Egret ‘NJ’ who currently holds the longevity record at 16 years. It was also nice to spend some time watching waders including Avocet, Golden Plover, Redshank and Greenshank, focussing on ID features. Non-avian highlights included some lovely Golden-eye Lichen and some very chilled Roe Deer.

Golden-eye Lichen (Teloschistes chrysophthalmus), Salterns Marsh, 20 Jan 2022

Friday was the regular short walk at Wilverley where we enjoyed a mixed flock of winter thrushes, mainly Fieldfare and Redwing, and checked out some rather tired-looking Marsh Clubmoss while enjoying the lovely views across Duck Hole Bog.

Mid-week I did a quick recce for the upcoming Holm Hill and Puckpits walk combined with a Hawfinch roost count. A nice total of 26 Hawfinch were seen feeding in with a busy group of Redwing in a holly holm, while being serenaded by a singing Woodlark. Other highlights included Firecest, Crossbill and a nice mixed group of Redpoll and Siskin.


As with previous weeks, fieldwork was dominated by Hawfinch with a good total of 189 Hawfinch counted from five locations, Brambling numbers were lower than previous weeks, with just 150 counted, but I wasn’t in prime habitat this week.

Four Hawfinch in flight, central New Forest, 19 Jan 2022

Another trip to the new Hawfinch roost discovered last week revealed a little more info, but still work to do there. Another ringing session targeting Hawfinch on Friday was unproductive, but we will persevere, Hawfinch really are a challenging species to study!

In addition to the roosts and colour-ringing, we are looking at winter feeding sites to try and build a picture of the favoured food and key locations supporting the overwinter survival of Hawfinch. Food availability at this time of year is key, especially for inexperienced first winter birds and could be one of the causes of the national decline of the species.

Cracked Hornbeam seeds consumed by Hawfinch

Upcoming walks & talks

A quieter week ahead as we take a couple of days to catch up with family. Our schedule for the coming week as follows:

Tue 25th Jan – Lyndhurst Discovery Walk (10am)

Thur 27th Jan – Beaulieu River Boat Trip (fully booked)

Fri 28th Jan – Welcome to the New Forest (Wilverley) (1pm)

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