Russ and Marcus write:
April was mostly a dry and settled month, with high pressure in control and a dominance of southerly and easterly winds. It was the fifth warmest April on record in England, with warm sunny days and cool clear nights. It was also the sunniest April on record, with sunshine values typically around 150% of the average. However, a brief period of heavy rainfall at the end of the month brought rainfall levels to just above the long-term average in Hampshire.
As a consequence of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, casual fieldwork continued to be restricted to daily exercise sessions on foot or bike from the house, as well as an increased focus on moth trapping and nocturnal safaris in the back garden with the kids!
This Red Kite passed low over Russ' back garden on 02 April
The WNF ‘2020 in 2020’ challenge (an attempt to find 2020 species in the New Forest National Park in 2020) continued during April, with attention switching to flora and insects in gardens and along footpaths and lanes close to home. Roadside verges and public footpaths proved to be particularly productive, especially as most remained unmown during lockdown. By the end of April, Russ and Marcus had accumulated a combined total of 696 species, which saw them nose ahead of the target total of 668 species for the first time since January.
Staying close to home in Woodlands certainly paid dividends for Russ, with a migrating Bittern heard croaking in the darkness as it flew over his garden at night on 1st. The following night a flock of Common Scoter were also heard as they passed overhead on their passage north; both species were widely recorded by other ‘noc-mig’ enthusiasts across the UK during this period. However, these were eclipsed by the colourful sight of a migrant Hoopoe that was seen from a public footpath a couple of hundred metres from his house on 6th-7th (further details and more images to follow shortly in a separate blog). The same footpath also held a small colony of day-flying Small Yellow Underwing moths, which are rarely encountered within the New Forest, while a pair of Curlews were regularly seen and heard feeding in the adjacent meadows and paddocks, having commuted from their nearby territories on the open heath. Another back-garden highlight was a rare New Forest record of the diminutive bright green spider Nigma walckenaeri. Finally, the discovery of a small colony of flowering Narrow-leaved Lungworts, encountered near the Ashurst to Brockenhurst railway line while walking out from the house, was the wildflower highlight of April.
Small Yellow Underwing nectaring on Greater Stitchwort
Marcus is fortunate to live within close walking distance of the Lymington-Keyhaven Marshes, which proved to be a productive destination for his daily walks throughout the lockdown period. April is a great month to enjoy both incoming and outgoing migrants at the coast, with the mix of birds changing on an almost daily basis, for example he was able to watch the wintering Spotted Redshank slowly moult into its summer finery before departing for its breeding grounds in the last week of April. Other highlights including outgoing Spoonbills and a passing Osprey, but it is hard to beat the pleasure of seeing the first returning Little Terns on 9th (which for the first 48 hours appeared to spend most of their time sleeping, no doubt recovering from their long journey from west Africa!). It was also good to watch the local waders settle down to breed at the start of what was to become a successful season, with six wader species producing young on Normandy Lagoon. Non-avian highlights included Raft Spider and Emperor Moth on nearby heathland, while walks around the leafy lanes surrounding Lymington highlighted the great variety of roadside flora, that in turn supports a broad range of invertebrates including 11 species of butterfly and numerous bee and hoverfly species.
Little Tern hunting at Oxey Marsh
Lapwing chick on Normandy lagoon
Raft Spider and Bog Pondweed
WNF continued to receive useful Raven sightings from observers’ gardens and neighbourhoods, contributing to the first year of survey work and firming up initial indications of 15-20 breeding pairs. One of the birds from a breeding pair close to Russ’ house was seen to have a broken leg and was regularly seen feeding and commuting to feeding sites up to 3 km from the nest site.
Russ' regularly encountered this breeding Raven over and around this house
WNF are committed to minimising car-based travel when undertaking fieldwork and other relevant activities in the New Forest and will normally publish a monthly statement for those Directors undertaking WNF activities on a full-time basis. However, due to the exceptional circumstances associated with COVID-19 restrictions, and the undertaking of two commissioned reports that are yet to be published, data for the April-June period will be released later in the year.