March 2023 Newsletter
We all have those classic signs of spring that we look out for, whether it is the lengthening days, the first singing Chiffchaff of the year or Violets popping up along a county lane.
Spring started early for me this year as I watched an adult male Crossbill building a nest in the centre of the Forest in mid-January, though real spring still seemed a long way off it was a delight to see signs of new life. Most naturalists look forward to spring, heralding the end of winter and the start of the new season, for me I feel like spring is properly underway when I hear my first drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, see my first Brimstone and start seeing common spring flora along hedgerows and bridleways.
However, for me the real joy is birdsong, I am normally up and out before first light but on those rare occasions I am still in bed as the sun rises,
I just love hearing common birdsong from the garden. You can almost track the progress of the morning as different species join in, my favorite spring songsters have to be the tuneful Dunnock making up for its rather drab appearance and the Blackbird doing its best to sound like the milkman whistling! A nice surprise this week has been the addition of a singing Blackcap, a bird we haven’t actually seen in the garden but nice to hear one each morning for the past few days. Though my favourite has to be the steady procession of Mediterranean Gulls that we get over the southern New Forest from early March making their presence known with their very posh ‘Yaaaa’ calls as they pass overhead.
This spring we will be running a series of bird song walks including a masterclass based out of the Bell Inn, Brook. For me bird song really brings my time in the field alive, whether it is doing a survey, simply just birding or popping down the shops, there is always something to hear. Once you tune in to bird song it becomes sub-conscious with occasional surprises such as hearing Green Sandpiper flying high over a busy high street or Crossbill on migration over Lymington market!
The same can be said for tracking the other signs of spring, whether it is noting the emergence of wild spring flora, watching early pollinators on the wing (I always get a thrill when I see my first Hoverfly of the year) or seeing a once dormant Wood Ants nest come to life in a sunny hollow. Here’s to many more such encounters over the next few weeks!
Images: Common Fumitory and a calling Mediterranean Gull over Lymington Marshes © Wild New Forest
Young Conservationist Mentoring Scheme update
A brief update on the mentoring scheme, we had a great take-up with almost double the number of applications for places available and the quality of application was very high making it a very tough job for Russ and me to narrow down the applications, we have now selected 10 that we look forward to working with through the coming year. We will post regular updates both here in the Newsletter and via social media.
February walk highlights
The weather through February was much kinder with some good periods of settled, albeit cold and grey weather. Through the month we ran seven scheduled walks and three boat trips.
This month’s trips included our second young persons adventure with a lovely boat trip up the Beaulieu River with highlights including Spoonbill’s and Avocet’s amongst the regular diverse mix of species seen on the river.
Some personal highlights included another rather memorable, if a little cold trip on the Beaulieu River where we were treated to two tussling Goshawk as a male and female from opposite sides of the river had a little territorial skirmish over the boat. Bird life was somewhat quieter in the Forest but still produced a nice mix of species through the month, particular highlights included seeing a nice mix of butterflies on some of the milder days and an increase in invertebrate activity.
February is still a quiet time of year for fieldwork, but we make the most of the time getting prepared for the busy season ahead. This month we established our main Hawfinch study sites ahead of the busy breeding season. The regular Hawfinch roost monitoring continued but the roosts continued to be very quiet, though one highlight was a roost outside the Forest, at Farley Mount that normally holds between 5 & 10 Hawfinch had an impressive count of 53, demonstrating where some of our New Forest Hawfinch might be getting to!
Pine Marten fieldwork mainly involved surveying the planned study areas ahead of camera placement in March and getting the cameras ready for deployment, not as straight forward as it might seem with 30 cameras to service and prepare.
We make good use of the quiet periods to catch up on report writing, we will publish details of 2022 fieldwork through a series of blogs over the next few weeks. The first was published by Russ this week summarising our woodland bird survey, details can be found here.
Other fieldwork included some contracted ecological fieldwork on private land, both in the New Forest and further afield.
Images: Goshawk over the Beaulieu River and Hawfinch coming out of roost © Wild New Forest
We still have limited places available this months Beaulieu River Boat Trips and Spring Bird Song Walk, we are developing a number of new events for later in the spring and summer including a Bird Song Masterclass, a 6-hour boat trip exploring the seabird colonies of the western Solent, a Woodland Butterfly Explorer and a couple of moth trapping/nocturnal wildlife events. In addition, we are looking at organising another photographic masterclass, this time looking at birds in flight and we are in the early stages of planning this year’s young person’s wildlife camp which will take place in the summer holidays. Keep an eye on our website and social media for further details.
In addition, we have recently added a series of dusk explorer walks that will look for those crepuscular species such as Nightjar, Woodock, Bats and other specialist invertebrates. Working with the Bell Inn, Brook we have established a series of monthly walks starting from Brook looking at a different subject each month, we have also added our popular Junior Wildlife Explorer Walks for the summer holidays.
We, in partnership with the National Park we will be doing a free online talk updating the ongoing Pine Marten survey in the New Forest on 21st March at 1930. Click here to register.
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
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
Our social media platforms continue to be vibrant with a whole range of topics covered,popular topics this month included the long staying Shorelark at Hurst Spit and the ever entertaining Spoonbills, also at the coast. Claire Sheppard created the months most popular post with her stunning set of images from a frosty sunrise at Godshill.
As always, we work hard behind the scenes to ensure the site remains informative, educational and above all friendly. Please take the time to review the posting guidelines and remember this is a family friendly environment so please remain respectful of those with opposing views.
Forthcoming illustrated talks
15 Mar 2023: RBBP (Hawfinch in the New Forest)
17 Mar 2023: Amersham RSPB (A New Forest Wildlife Year)
18 Mar 2023: Cafe Scientifique Highcliffe (Wildlife in the New Forest)
21 Mar 2023: WNF (The New Forest Pine Marten Project - free Zoom talk)
6 Apr 2023: NF HAG (New Forest projects and surveys update)
12 Apr 2023: Milford on Sea WI (Wildlife in the New Forest)
17 Apr 2023: SNHS (The New Forest Pine Marten Project)
18 Apr 2023: The Forest Rambling Club (The New Forest Year)