Trip reports

New Forest, Hampshire, on Saturday, 7 June, 2014

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The first three hours or so of our visit to the New Forest National Park were to be taken up with a circular walk across open, and often boggy, heathland to reach and explore ancient woodland in Denny Inclosure, before returning by a different route across the heath. As we kitted up for the walk, Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, Coal Tit and Siskin were located in trees and hedges around the car park and then out on the heath, the first of many Stonechats were spotted, followed by Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. Once in the forest, nesting Stock Doves, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and calling Cuckoo were soon added to our tally, but it was another speciality of this ancient woodland habitat, Common Redstart, that attracted most attention, with more than 20 individuals encountered in at least 6 or 7 family parties, numbers unprecedented hereabouts - or, indeed, anywhere else - in our experience. Our return route passed a particular damp area at the edge of the heath where four Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Teal, and at least two Curlews were found. The last new birds during this morning session were a pair of Dartford Warblers, noticed carrying food to a nest in the heather - a very welcome sighting indeed as this heathland specialist is still struggling to recover numbers after cold weather losses during winters two and three years ago.
After lunch in the dappled shade of scots pines, we drove a few miles west to Acres Down where an exposed ridge gives extensive views across more heathland and mixed forest over an arc from southeast round to northwest, making it an excellent watch-point for raptors. During an hour and a half's scanning, many confirmed and a few probable Common Buzzards were seen at various distances and elevations, and our hopes for something rather rarer were eventually fulfilled when a Goshawk hurtled by at eye level and within comfortable binocular viewing range. Knowing we were unlikely to better that, we called an end to the watch; a Tree Pipit sang and performed a display flight as we left the viewpoint and, for those who took the valley route back to the car park, a pair of Woodlarks showed well. One final New Forest speciality - a Wood Warbler singing nearby as we loaded into the vehicles - brought the day-list for our 11 participants up to 55 species.
John Parish