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Wild New Forest Spring 2024 Wildlife Camp

This spring our Young Persons Wildlife Camp was again a wonderful weekend. This years spring camp was held at the Countryside Education Trust (CET) (Beaulieu) But as always everyone enjoyed the weekend. We had a great group of youngsters and some really memorable wildlife experiences.

At the end of our time together myself and Marcus asked the youngsters if anyone would like to write a about their time with us. We have enjoyed reading each and every one, so thought we would share their writings here, hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

A Weekend of Phenomenal Wildlife- By Freddie Emms

At the very end of March 2024, over the Easter weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to kick off my Easter break before upcoming summer exams by spending a weekend in the

beautiful New Forest with the Young Persons Wildlife Camp. It was the second camp I have had the privilege of attending - and a privilege it undoubtedly is, because on both occasions these camps have brought me a disproportionate amount of stunning wildlife firsts, all packed into a busy but exciting weekend. My very first views of avocets, spoonbill, shelducks, jack snipe, hawfinches, goshawks, and still more were among the most memorable parts.

Taking a break from revision to immerse myself in nature is always a vital and restorative part of the run-up to exams, and with A levels looming in the summer, the camp offered the opportunity to take this one step further, allowing me to experience the species of a landscape other than that of my regular patch, the Chilterns. Immersing myself in the wildlife of the New Forest with like-minded friends old and new for a much-needed weekend away was ultimately a tonic and a refuge like no other.


For me, the biggest highlight was what turned out to be the best bird-ringing session I’ve ever experienced, and for which I will be forever grateful. I couldn’t have enjoyed more the experience of getting to see in the hand a phenomenal array of birds, including the vibrant kingfisher, the impressive hawfinch, the elusive nuthatch and treecreeper, and the brilliant brambling, blackcap and grey wagtail. I even had the opportunity to personally ring my first ever bird, a slightly fidgety but fantastic blackbird. It was an honour I am still reeling from as I write this a couple of weeks after the camp. In my view, it doesn’t get much better than that.


Having been on three separate bird ringing sessions now, two of which were with the Wildlife Camp, never does the experience diminish in its breathtaking and astounding nature. Seeing an exciting new bird species up close in the hand for the very first time, birds that perhaps you’ve previously seen only in books or on screens, is an entirely unreal experience. It’s an incredibly special thing to encounter the real-life and palpable bird there just inches in front of you, whilst being able to take in with your own eyes the intricacies and the glints of their feathers that are only truly discernable up close. It’s almost like the experience of meeting a celebrity for the first time in person, and being, in every sense of the word, starstruck.


Moth trapping is always another highlight of these camps. I love its simplicity - putting the

trap out at night and checking it in the morning, the sense of anticipation is always high by the time we go to reveal the contents. Moths are by no means my area of expertise, yet in many ways this only serves to bolster my excitement at finding even the commonest of moths inside the trap. Whilst finding a rarer moth is of course even more thrilling, for me, the beauty of all the moths that we find in our traps after a night outside lies in the fact that they are so underappreciated, with their intricate and beautiful ornate patterns tragically going too often unnoticed to the unobservant or uninterested eye. Getting to experience their intricacies up close on these camps reminds me that they are every bit as beautiful as butterflies, and they, too, are colorful in other ways, including in their phenomenal diversity.


My most novel experience on this camp was the opportunity to experience the process of late-night lamping, which brought me, alongside feelings of unbridled clandestine excitement at getting to see the Forest by night, my first-ever views of the highly elusive jack snipe.


The final day of the camp brought with it a group Bioblitx challenge, another relatively new discovery for me but a highly enjoyable one. There’s something innately satisfying about going out in groups as part of a competitive activity to record as many species of living things as possible, a satisfaction that was undoubtedly upheld by the privilege of being part of the winning group, with over 100 species found (though I can by no means say that the majority of that was down to me!). I don’t mind being a bit of jack-of-all-trades when it comes to wildlife - I don’t have extraordinary strengths in any one group, certainly not to rival some of my incredibly knowledgeable peers, but the thrill of constantly learning more about all sorts of taxa and gaining knowledge of the various species groups is a never-ending one. And it is activities such as this Bioblitz that really drum home the fact that so much remains to be known, for me personally as well as for science as a whole, and rather than sparking a fear of the unknown, for me that’s a joy beyond words.


What must not go unmentioned in an account of the fantastic camp experience are the most simple, and yet arguably the most enjoyable activities that we get involved in - the classic wildlife walks. I love these because we are not searching for anything in particular, but instead simply wandering wherever the moment takes us, exploring the incredible variety of species that call the Forest home, and being able to take it all in. Though often limited in mileage, due to the frequent stops to examine an exciting new species and take some photographs, in quality of wildlife these walks are entirely disproportionate, and are undoubtedly also among the best parts of the camp.


Ultimately, an amazing place where the blooming heather stretches over vast expanses of heathland and morphs into the oak and ash and thorn of the forest, where the majestic wild ponies roam free, and whereby night, just as by day, hours could be spent underneath the stars watching planets, bats and moths or lamping until morning, the New Forest is a beautifully wild vastness truly under nature’s law. It is a place like no other, and I am very grateful to all the fantastic people who made this weekend happen, for allowing us to explore even more of it, and to discover more of the incredible species that call the Forest home.

Reflecting back on a brilliant weekend…-By Rosie Johnson

Having made the short journey over The Solent to attend my third WNF Camp, I return home to the Isle of Wight having had a wonderful weekend exploring new places, spending time with fellow nature-lovers and having seen some exciting wildlife.

On Friday, I felt nervous to meet everyone and quite tired after a busy term of school but it was brilliant to see so many faces I recognised from previous years and I settled in quickly, catching up with everyone. My tiredness soon disappeared when we went out for a nocturnal wildlife walk - it always feels exciting to be outside at night time. We watched the sky for any bat activity and looked down to the ground for sight of interesting insects and lichens on the heath. It was rainy and muddy but we had fun either way and returned to CET ready to begin a busy weekend.

Saturday morning arrived and I got up extremely early alongside a couple of others to go out bird ringing. We left CET at 4:30 am and headed towards the forest where we set the mist-nets and prepared our ringing station for everyone to arrive. The challenge of waking up so early was totally outweighed by the birds we caught that morning. Some ringing firsts

for me included Bramblings, Grey Wagtail and Nuthatch. It felt rewarding to be able to share with other young people how bird ringing is done and everyone got to get a good look at a wide range of species found in this area. 4 individual Kingfishers being the highlight for most! My highlight from Sunday was visiting Lymington Marshes, somewhere I hadn’t been for many years. We walked around Normandy Marsh with our binoculars and scopes at the ready and there was so much to see. Lots of waders including Ringed Plover, Curlew, Lapwing, Avocet, Redshank and Spotted Redshank. We also got a really good view of a Spoonbill flying in and landing in the reeds which was a new bird for many people. Overall we saw 50+ species that morning - a success in my opinion!

I think that events like these prove the lasting impact that spending time outdoors has on our mental health. Having arrived feeling slightly anxious, I left with a smile on my face and a reignited love for birding, wildlife and just being outside. Being surrounded by like-minded others left me feeling positive and definitely not alone when it comes to having a love for nature. I’m extremely grateful to have these residential camps close to home and I hope to continue to get involved with events like these in the future…. Some of my highlights not mentioned above:

★ Hearing a Tawny Owl on Friday night - from bed!

★ Seeing a tiny Palmate Newt when out doing the Bioblitz.

★ My first Eiders off-shore from Normandy Marsh.

★ Spotting the Golden-eye Lichen on the final day.

My weekend – by Poppy Pennington

My Name is Poppy Pennington, I am 12 years old. This was my experience of the New Forest Wildlife camp camping trip.

Before I went I was super anxious as my anxiety had not let me do a sleepover for years. The wildlife camp completely changed that! It was definitely the best experience of my life so far.

I enjoyed it so much and also I learnt lots of new things.

My favourite part was the bird ringing, I never seen so many birds so close up before. It has made me really interested in becoming a bird ringing and I would love to learn more.

I would not have had as much fun as I did if it wasn’t for Emily and Marcus.

I loved every minute so much.

Thank you.

We thank every one of them for joining us on a wonderful weekend with many memorable wildlife experiences for us all.

Many thanks to The Cameron Bespolka Trust for supporting the weekend and the volunteers, Andrew Colenutt, Jane Pownall and Tara Squire and Tommy Sanders. Also thank you to our mentors, Max Cantrell, Georgie England and Dimitri Moore without whom the weekend wouldn't have been possible.

We have announced the dates for next Autumn camp via our social media networks.

Information can be found under out young explorer tap.

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