June fieldwork update
As a not-for-profit organisation Wild New Forest is committed to a diverse mix of fieldwork in the New Forest. So, as we near the end of the busy spring field season, here’s a brief update on fieldwork over the past couple of months.
Anybody that knows me (Marcus) knows that I am mildly obsessed with Hawfinch. This season we have been focussing on the ongoing BTO RAS survey (Ringing Adults for Survival) at our main study site. In addition, we have been looking for and monitoring breeding success across the New Forest as a whole. We have also been working alongside researchers from the RSPB looking at trichomoniasis in Hawfinch. This involves taking blood and saliva samples from birds caught at our main study site to look into the potential spread of the disease in Hawfinch. We will have to wait for results from the RSPB but in general it has been a fairly good season for Hawfinch in the New Forest, after a late start. Overall, we ringed nearly 50 new birds at our main study site and picked up over 300 records of individuals ringed in previous years, though we are still working through trail camera footage. A good number of young Hawfinch were observed at widespread locations across the Forest including confirmation of breeding at two new locations (though we suspect they have bred there in the past). Looking ahead, the next couple of months should be fairly quiet as Hawfinch go low-profile while they go through their main post breeding moult. It is early days, but it looks as though we are in for a healthy beech mast crop which should help sustain our youngsters through the winter season ahead.
A significant amount of time is devoted to Pine Marten fieldwork through the main spring/summer season. This year we have been focusing on the central New Forest area. As I write this, we have just finished installing 30 trail cameras (under license from FE) into the fourth study area of the year. A significant volume of data is generated during the course of the survey. At this stage we are focused on fieldwork and ensuring good records are kept of all mammal and avian species picked up on the cameras which involves a fairly even mix of time in the field and behind the computer screen watching hours of footage.
So far Pine Marten has been recorded in each area surveyed. However only three of the four areas had activity that suggested resident Pine Marten, the fourth area was visited by a male Pine Marten which are known to roam widely at this time of year.
The data collected will be fully analysed through the quieter autumn period, so it is to soon to say much more than I have above. In addition to Pine Marten we have recorded Otter in two of the four areas and Polecat & Stoat in one of the areas covered. It is fascinating how each area holds a different mix of species, watch this space for further details later this year.
Images from the top, juvenile Hawfinch and Pine Marten ©Wild New Forest
As a bird ringer I get involved in a fascinating mix of fieldwork. This year we have ringed Peregrine Falcon chicks at three locations in the south of the New Forest which will hopefully go on to provide an insight into their lives. We are also in the third year of a project looking at breeding success of Terns in the western Solent; this year we have managed to colour-ring around 35 Sandwich Tern chicks, 19 Little Tern chicks and 19 Common Tern chicks. The colour-ringing helps us generate data such as fledging survival, breeding site fidelity and will help highlight any changes in migration and wintering sites as a result of climate change. We get some great data from colour-ringed seabirds that informs understanding of their evolving ecology. However, it isn’t all working with glamorous species - we also run a CES (Constant Effort Study) at Keyhaven which is part of a nationwide survey that helps develop an understanding of the status of common breeding species. The CES sees us out at Keyhaven once every 10 days between April and September. Here consistency is the key so nets are placed in the same place for the same period of time over each visit which builds a pattern when repeated over successive year that identifies fluctuations in breeding success.
Russ has been busy this spring monitoring three areas of heathland restoration where non-native conifers have been felled and removed. Each has been felled in the past year but is at a different stage of recovery, Russ is surveying each location to assess the how the differing management and stages of restoration impact or benefit the recovery of wildlife, focussing on invertebrates, avifauna, mammals and fungi.
Other fieldwork has included supporting the HOS (Hampshire Ornithological Society) Marsh Tit Survey, and the BTO’s BBS and WeBS surveys (Breeding Bird Survey & Wetland Bird Survey). Additionally, both Russ and I undertake a series of survey work on private land in and around the New Forest working with a number of organisations. These surveys look at a range of species and habitats, a large part of which is a baseline survey followed by ongoing fieldwork monitoring changes in biodiversity in response to habitat management.
What to look for in July.
July is a great month to be out and about and personally I always enjoy searching for flora and summer invertebrates across the Forest. It is always a joy to find a secluded patch of wildflowers that are buzzing with flying insects and where Grasshopper and Crickets abound. I also get a lot of pleasure out of watching flowering patches of bramble in a sunny woodland glades, you never know what might turn up to the nectar.
I love to be out in the field at dawn and dusk when the Forest feels almost magical on calm settled mornings and evenings, now that the peak of the bird song season has passed the quiet feels almost eerie. Bird song is replaced by the churr of the crickets and hum of flying insects while there is always the chance that a Glow Worm will be spotted nestled in the heath or along a woodland ride. Warm summer evenings can be great for mothing, you don’t have to have lots of equipment, simply leave a light on and the window open and by morning you will have a small number of moths to identify,
some of which can be quite spectacular. Once checked and identified, either leave them safely in situ or pop them in a pot in your fridge and let them safely go at dusk. A good starting point for identification is the excellent Hants Moths website https://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php
Images from the top, juvenile Peregrine and Lunar Hornet Moth ©Wild New Forest
June walk highlights
Settled weather throughout the month enabled most planned trips to go ahead. Overall, we ran seven scheduled walks, six Beaulieu River boat trips, three bespoke walks and one Solent Wildlife Cruise.
Our first Solent Wildlife Cruise was a real pleasure visiting wildlife hotspots such as the Beaulieu River, Newtown Harbour, Lymington Marshes and the auk colonies on the Isle of Wight. Great views of a mix of species were seen, we will run similar events in 2024.
Our monthly Young Persons Walk remains a highlight, the June walk saw us out on the heath looking at dragonflies, butterflies and flora, the best find going to one of our young guests that found the exuvia of a Keeled Skimmer.
Amongst the highlights for me this month was the discovery of a Beewolf colony on one of our regular walks which contains a healthy mix of other species and a nice flurry of summer fungi on some of our woodland walks. Especially enjoyable was the first of our tree identification walks from the Bell Inn which covered a mix of habitats and included some good bird records!
We have recently added a new Wader Identification Master Class based out of Lymington on Sat 26th August. This 5 hour trip will include an illustrated talk over a cooked breakfast followed by a few hours in the field putting what we have learnt into practise. We will cover all aspects of wader ID including family groups, plumage variations, behaviour and vocalisations with hints and tips on wader observation.
Also new in the diary is an extended boat trip along the Beaulieu River to Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight. After a tour of the harbour, we will dock at Newtown where guests can either join Marcus on a wildlife walk or retire to the information centre for coffee and cake!
We have also added our first series of autumn fungi walks from four locations, we will add further dates for photographic trips that will be made up of smaller groups at a slower pace to allow time to linger and photograph species as we go.
Our Young Persons Walks, Wildlife Wander, Dusk Walks and focussed Butterfly and Tree walks continue throughout the month along with a full schedule of Beaulieu River Boat Trips.
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
Images from the top, Common Guillemot on Spring Wildlife Cruise ©Wild New Forest
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
We now have over 11000 followers on the Facebook Page which continues to be a hub of information, I personally love hearing tales and seeing images of members outings in the Forest. This month we saw a further increase in activity with 513/2705 posts and comments (c/f 402/2534 in May). The most popular posts this month were the rather comical note from Lucy Angill Hopkins who was rather rudely awoken by a juvenile Blackbird perching on her in bed, and the superb image of a Hobby targeting a Four-spotted Chaser by Jeremy McClements on 14th June.
New Forest Show
We will be exhibiting at the New Forest show this year (25th-27th July), based in the Heart of the Forest marquee, so do come and say hello if you are at the show. We might well have some of our home made cakes for anyone that wants to stop by for a chat and we will be showcasing some new T-shirt designs that will be available to order.
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