Review of 2022
First of all, Russ and Marcus would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and express our gratitude for your ongoing support.
2022 has been another busy year with many highlights, too many to mention in this short piece so Marcus will mention just some of his special moments that he has experienced while leading walks or doing fieldwork in the New Forest.
I can’t reel off my highlights without mentioning Hawfinch, a species I have studied for over 10 years in the New Forest. The highlights this year have been many and varied from finding two new communal roosts to monitoring nesting attempts and one excellent morning bird ringing with attendees from the young person’s wildlife camp in May when nine new Hawfinch were colour-ringed. One highlight occurred while watching a Hawfinch roost in the south of the Forest, standing quietly waiting for the first birds to exit the roost, two Badgers popped up in front of Rob Farnworth and I and proceeded to mate right in front of us. A noisy and uncomfortable affair to watch but breath-taking none the less, it goes to show that amazing experiences can happen at any time in the New Forest.
Adult male Hawfinch
The Beaulieu River Boat Trip was a new venture for 2022 and we have loved every trip, I could reel of a list of glamorous highlights including close views of White-tailed Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Goshawk or the many encounters with the endearing Grey and Common Seals but the moment that caps it all occurred in September. Taking the obligatory tea break at the mouth of the Beaulieu River the boat suddenly became surrounded by 100’s of Gull and Terns partaking in a feeding frenzy. Mainly Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull and Sandwich Tern we soon picked out Black Tern, Arctic Tern and Gannet joining the throng of feeding seabirds. The feeding frenzy only lasted around 10 minutes, but it was a magical, visceral experience that I will remember for a long time.
Black Tern, Beaulieu River
Another highlight was an amazing experience with a Pine Marten while doing some fieldwork on a lovely June morning at 0530. Alerted to alarm calling Blackbirds, a tell-tale sign that a day roosting Tawny Owl had been spotted, I stopped to take a look when a Pine Marten burst out of the vegetation right in front of me. We locked eyes for what felt like minutes but was only a mere few seconds before the Marten motored off across the path trailing a gaggle of alarm calling Blackbirds, Song Thrush, and Great Tit. Over in seconds but an experience that will stay with me for some time!
I have always loved Nightjar so each and every one of our summer Nightjar walks is a memorable event, we have been fortunate enough to have many memorable moments watching Nightjar displaying, Woodcock roding and Snipe displaying with the occasional Glow Worm, Noctule or Pipistrelle for company. I just love the warm summer evenings out on heath watching the sun set with a backdrop of crickets and churring Nightjar.
Finally, a big highlight be me this year has been the fungi walks, helped by having some amazing fungi to show guests and some great company on the walks, each walk has offered a different mix of species. I especially enjoyed the photographic master class with Steve Laycock, I for one learnt an awful lot, we were lucky on the day to have some great subjects to photograph. I can’t wait to repeat the event this autumn! As mentioned in the previous newsletter we even managed to discover a species new to Great Britain on one of the first fungi walks of the year, in September.
Many thanks to everyone that attended a walk, talk or boat trip this year, I can genuinely say I have enjoyed every trip and that is largely thanks to our guests making every trip a friendly, relaxing, fun, and rewarding event.
December walk highlights
We were again challenged with a run of wet windy weather which meant several trips had to be cancelled and rescheduled. December is one of our quietest months for walks with just one boat trip a small number of scheduled walks and one bespoke walk. Much of the focus at this time of year is on birdlife, highlights included a rather glorious morning around Bolderwood where several Hawfinch were seen and heard along with Crossbill, winter thrushes and some impressive Fallow bucks. A couple of walks at the coast produced a nice mix of species with Spoonbill seen on every trip (including the boat trip) and some cold weather movements of Lapwing along the coast. Spotted Redshank showed especially well for one group while we also had the rare opportunity to scrutinise Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser together.
As with the walks, December is a quiet time for fieldwork, however the monthly WeBS count at the coast is always a busy affair at the time of year. At his Normandy/Salterns WeBS count area, Marcus counted 44 wetland bird species totalling 3289 individuals, this is the 15th full year Marcus has competed the monthly count of wildfowl and waders at Normandy Marsh for the BTO WeBS survey.
Another highlight was reviewing some trail camera footage from a private site recorded up to the end of November and finding a nice run of movements of Otter along a private streamway in the south of the New Forest. In addition, the monitoring of Hawfinch roosts continued though the roosts were very quiet, possibly a reflection of the poor mast and holly crop in the New Forest this year, increasing competition for food forcing some Hawfinch to forage further afield.
Otter, south of the New Forest
Other fieldwork included forward planning for next year’s Pine Marten survey, surveying habitat and plotting potential trail camera locations along with some contracted ecological fieldwork on private land, both in the New Forest and further afield.
We have added several Beaulieu River Boat Trips to take us through to the end of March, in addition we have added a new two Hampton Ridge Explorer walk that will run weekly on a Tuesday afternoon. We have also added an Oxey Marsh Dusk Explorer and a Hawfinch Roost walk to the diary for January, we will add further walks for Feb and March shortly.
We have also scheduled a free Zoom based talk detailing our work with Pine Marten and other mammals of New Forest woodland. The talk will take place on Weds 25 Jan at 1930, click here to register your place at the talk.
January is a quiet time for fieldwork, mainly focussed on preparation for forthcoming surveys and fieldwork planned for the spring-summer period. Towards the end of the month focus will turn to Hawfinch roost monitoring as we do the annual check of known roosts. We have mapped 49 across the New Forest, monitoring three monthly year-round and check on the rest in rotation at least once in cycle of three years.
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
Young Persons Wildlife Adventure
Most exciting for us is a new series of walks aimed at youngsters, these walks will run monthly on the third Saturday of the month and are aimed at 8-16 year olds. Marcus’s son Jamie has pulled together the activities, focussing on a different topic/taxa each month. Jeff, the skipper for our boat trips has kindly agreed to run a subsidised boat trip in February for young people as part of the schedule of trips. Each walk/boat trip will be priced at £10 per child and will last two hours. See our website here for full details.
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
Although quieter with a total of 272 posts and 1835 comments the Facebook remained vibrant and stimulating through December. The most popular post, and topic was rather unsurprisingly the unprecedented occurrence of a Walrus at Calshot Spit on Dec 11. Many members of our Facebook community managed to see the Walrus during his short stay and fed back that the scene was well managed with many enjoying the spectacle without causing any undue disturbance while ‘Thor’ rested up.
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)
25 Jan 2023: WNF Zoom talk (The New Forest Pine Marten Project) click here to register
15 Feb 2023: Sarum U3A (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
16 Feb 2023: Ringwood WI (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)