Our woodlands come alive in May as fresh leaf cover bursts into life on our deciduous trees across the New Forest, looking especially succulent on our Beech and Oak. At the same time the Forest floor is alive with Wolf Spiders and Wood Cricket nymphs while lines of foraging Wood Ants march to and fro looking for food and materials to add to their nests. Woodland birds, be it exotic migrants from far afield or our humble Song Thrush and Goldcrest fill the air with song as they vie for territory at every turn.
Although heavily grazed our woodland rides have Bugle and Dog Violet adding a splash of colour amongst the Wood Spurge and Wood Anemone, along the streamways and embankments ferns are emerging, some, such as the Scaly Male fern announcing their appearance almost in a display of defiance as they appear to burst forth. Despite being the ‘off season’ fungi can also be plentiful, whether it is the skeletal remains of Chicken of the Woods from last year or fresher damp woodland specialists such as Bog Beacon giving a splash of colour as they work hard breaking down the leaf litter from last autumn. Mosses are looking succulent along with plentiful lichens, while epileptic ferns such as the wonderfully named Polypody give the feel of a tropical rain forest here in our busy little
corner of Hampshire. Mammals are also busy by day and night, be it a dozy group of Fallow in a woodland clearing or busy Bank Vole and Wood Mouse caught out in daylight as they have to keep going to compensate for the shorter May nights.
I can’t think of a better place to be in spring than a lovely New Forest woodland, we are fortunate to have some beautiful sections of ancient woodland on our doorstep that at this time of year are full
of life. Of course, there will be those
amongst us that rightfully point out that
our woodlands are not a picture of perfect health, what with our burgeoning population of deer, recreational disturbance, encroaching urban environments and the ongoing climate change crisis, there is a lot that to be concerned about. However, if you are looking for somewhere to feel the heartbeat of the world around you can’t beat spending some quality time in a quiet corner of any woodland habitat. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about seeking out those rare a-list species, much more rewarding so sit quietly in a secluded corner and let the wild world come to you.
This year I have been treated to mating Badgers at dawn, nest building Crossbill, a momentous battle between neighbouring Wood Ants, a Minotaur Beetle rolling horse dung
and solitary bee busily digging a nest hole. I have especially enjoyed the watching the season change
this year, thanks to a cold April it has been a slow change this making those special moments all the more rewarding.
Images from the top, Frame Wood & Wolf Spider ©Wild New Forest
What to look for in May
May is an exciting month to be out in the New Forest, with the warmer weather bringing more invertebrate activity, April has been fairly cold which has stalled some species. I always enjoy seeing Pearl-bordered Fritillary which, although we have been seeing butterflies for a couple of months now, feels to me like the start of the butterfly season. We should start seeing more day-flying moths both on the open heath and along sunny woodland rides, dragonflies and damselflies should also become more apparent. I always get excited
when seeing my first Stag Beetle of the year not to mention hearing my first screaming Swifts of the year, a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. In the wetter areas keep an eye out for some of our more striking and interesting flora such as Round-leaved Sundew and Bog Bean, we might see our first Toadlets of the year towards the end of the month sometimes swarming from standing water.
April walk highlights
April was another busy month with eight walks, three boat trips and five bespoke walks through the month in generally good weather.
Highlights for me included a very memorable Beaulieu River Boat trip that started with an Osprey straight over the boat as we departed Bucklers Hard and culminated with a tremendous display of two White-tailed Eagle circling low over the boat while being harassed by the local Peregrine.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker along with Hawfinch were again a regular feature on walks throughout the month while, as
expected a number of passage migrants were recorded including scarcer species such as Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow Wagtail and Curlew Sandpiper. Our first bird song masterclass based out of the Bell Inn, Brook was very enjoyable with a good mix of species seen and heard along with a rather fine cooked breakfast.
Hawfinch fieldwork is well underway with most of the focus this month on the BTO RAS (Ringing Adults for Survival) survey at our main study site. We are already seeing some old favourites that have been in the area since we started the RAS seven years ago, it is always a relief when we see the regulars back.
Pine Marten fieldwork continues with the cameras moved into the second survey area of the season this month, so far this year we have picked up around 40 records of Pine Marten along with good records of other species using our New Forest woodlands. Sadly, a roadkill Pine Marten was picked-up mid-month, while sad to see this is the first for a few years and provides an opportunity to get some data. An autopsy was performed, and samples taken for DNA analysis, the individual was a young male that appeared fit and healthy having recently eaten a small mammal (either vole or mouse).
Survey work at a number of private sites continued through the month, the surveys mainly focus on generating base line data by monitoring a broad range of taxa over a period of time to enable trends to be established. Both Russ and I cover a number of sites across the New Forest, in addition Russ continues to monitor three heathland restoration areas monitoring the response of fauna and fungi to the recent removal of non-native conifers.
Images from the top, Pearl-bordered Fritillary & White-tailed Eagle and Peregrine©Wild New Forest
A number of new dates for the Beaulieu River boat trip have been added to the itinerary spanning the period May to August which are now available to be booked on the website.
Our summer series of dusk walks start later this month looking for crepuscular species such as Nightjar and Woodcock. The monthly young person’s walk continues to be popular as we focus on different topics each month, May will be looking at heathland bird song and wildlife.
We are pulling together new walks looking at tree identification, bird photography and woodland butterflies which will get advertised via the website and Facebook. We are also looking at running a couple of extended boat trips across to Newtown Harbour through the summer
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
Based on popular demand we are currently working together with local suppliers to develop a small range Wild New Forest branded clothing following three popular themes that we are probably best know for, Pine Marten, Hawfinch and fungi. A sneak pre-view of the work in progress designs below, watch this space for further details.
Wild New Forest Facebook highlights
A slight increase in traffic on the Facebook in April with 402/2534 posts and comments respectively. April’s most popular post was the excellent images of White-tailed Eagle on the Beaulieu River posted by Tim Hubble early in the month. As always, a diverse range of topics were discussed throughout the month. We continue to work hard to ensure it is a safe and friendly environment for all. With over 10K followers it is busy page, admins monitor the page through the day but please do raise any concerns.
Wild New Forest Newsletter
You can now sign-up for the monthly Wild New Forest Newsletter via the website to get a copy delivered each month direct to your in-box via the link below: