My last post was on the 5th March... This basically means that since then I have been at work... I seem to remember seeing some Fieldfare and a Raven in Kent on a trundle round on Sunday 20th but other than that I think it was just the reserve that held my attention. We are only one week into the Easter break (although it feels like two already) and so with today booked off it was a day to make the most off.
Up even earlier than normal (0430) to beat the M25 and M3 traffic to make a dash for the New Forest. The weather looked good all day and the journey was fine and as is the norm now was accompanied by a Red Kite near Basingstoke not long after sun up.
There was only one other car at Acres Down at 0730 and a walk down the main drive was in order to give those Goshawks a chance to wake up. Although it was not especially warm it was a joy to be out and in the still conditions there was bird song all around. I counted at least eight singing Firecrests in the Firs and Holly and one or two showed incredibly well with stripy faces and fluffed out blazing crowns.
Siskins displayed overhead and the soft ticking of Hawfinches came from the Beech tops and several flight views were had while two pair of Common Crossbills balanced on the topmost spindly pine bough they could find. Lesser Redpolls and a pair of bud munching Bullfinches added to the finch list while Green Woodpeckers yaffled and both Great and Lesser Spotted drummed. Having heard the Cely Woods Lesser Spots recently I am still drawn to the fact that the drumming sounds remarkably like a distant Baillon’s Crake... oh well... Interestingly I did not see one of any species!
There were Chiffchaffs, Nuthatches and Treecreepers as well as all the usual Tits and Goldcrest and Song Thrushes and Robins were in song in every direction. Stock Doves ‘whoo-a-whoop’ed and I found one peering from a nest cavity but it was the singing male Redstart that proclaimed his newly acquired territory from the top of a mighty Beech tree that told me that we were into April and no longer in March as his shivered his fiery tail for all to see.
Sadly there was not one butterfly to be seen and the only thing that caught my eye was a curious little yellow club fungus growing amongst the moss in the pathside ditch.
|Bog Beacons Mitrula paludosa - I called it
Fiddler Crab Eye Stalk Fungus
Back to the car and then up onto the top as the sunshine threatened to properly break through. It really struggled but my patience was rewarded with a fine female Goshawk in the distance as well as several Buzzards and a Raven. A Hawfinch flew across the valley and at least four Brambling headed north along with my only Swallow of the day.
|And I had to take a selfie to send to my work collegues who were slightly dubious about whether I had actually taken a day off or was just secretly lurking somewhere on the reserve...
Four male Stonechats reedily sang from the gorse clumps and snatches of Woodlark song reached me. I could also hear at least one more Redstart and then a Dartford Warbler started up and displayed energetically from the top of some scraggly Holly trees. I ambled back to where Andrea was at the car passing two more Firecrests and an obliging Coal Tit on the way.
It was 10am and in a short couple of hours I had encountered nearly everything you could hope for in a full day in the forest... wonderful stuff.
|New Forest Ponies
I then looped round through the eastern Boulderwood road with the windows down, passing several more Firecrests on the way and a brief comfort stop resulted in a young male Goshawk flying low through the canopy with his breakfast dangling in his talons. Roadside Dartford Warblers and a Curlew followed as I cut through towards Fritham and the delightful Eyeworth Pond. Rather sadly I was after Mandarin for a year tick and two pair duly obliged upon arrival along with a duo of dinky Donkeys and a at least four more Firecrests and the first Marsh Tits of the day.
|He was a little too inquisitive...
|Lovely Lesser celendines on the way out from Eyeworth
Some Highland Cattle were a nice distraction near Godshill but Blashford Lakes only provided me with a load of Black-headed Gulls and a distant Red Kite. There was not even one hirundines!
Lunch was taken in Brockenhurst and then a drive up Rhinefield to Blackwater Arboretum with the intention of another walk. The forest had been pretty empty all day but it was now half one and the car park was bogging with dogs and families and BBQs so with clouds looming I decided to head out and homewards (passing at least five more singing Firecrests on the way up to the A35!). This was a smart move as they heavens soon opened and we were chased home cross country on the A272 by the most appalling rain I have seen in a long time.
So all in all a great few hours spent in the New Forest and a reminder of what a joy an English woodland can be in early springtime...