30 Days Wild – Day 23

A day off so went out for a couple of short walks. The first was on the coast at an ex industrial site now long since colonised by nature and lots of it. There were meadow brown, marbled white and my fist small skipper of the year flying over a flowery grassland interspersed with belts of magnificent scrub. I failed to get any pictures of the butterflies but did manage this which is probably a heath sand wasp.

heath sand wasp

Later in the day I went out on the Forest walking round Shatterford area. Lots of stonechat, singing woodlark, one of my favourites, melodic and melancholy, and what may be my last cuckoo of the year. Coming back to the car as the sun was going down the cotton grass was looking very fine indeed.

cotton grass

Although it can get very busy at times the New Forest is a magnificent area, it is not so much that it gets too many visitors, that is a hard judgement to make, but it gets too many who perhaps don’t see it for the wonder it is. There are lots of competing claims of the Forest resources and everyone feels entitled to “Their share”. However I think this is to look at things the wrong way, the Forest is not something to portion out and consume, we should not be using it up. Everyone who uses the Forest has an impact upon it, we all need recognise this and try to make it as small as possible, ideally so small it cannot be noticed, access with responsibility. Obviously the same goes for all our countryside and in fact everywhere we share, but somehow these issues become more obvious in a National Park setting.


A Lull

The last few days have been quiet, we are in an interim period, almost all the summer visitors and migrants have gone, but as yet, most of the wintering birds have yet to arrive. This reflected in this week’s sightings, a few chiffchaff remain, especially around the main car park. A juvenile ruff dropped into Ibsley Water for a day, but there are still only a few tens of wigeon around.

This does not mean there has been nothing to see though. Opening up Tern hide this week I have twice seen an adult peregrine perched on the small shingle island near the hide.


adult peregrine

peregrine stretch

peregrine, stretching before heading off

During the day on Friday the two New Forest National Park apprentices paid us a visit, they will be working at Blashford for three months from November. As it was their first visit we took a look around the reserve to see some of the areas they will be working in. The sun was out and it was remarkably warm, along the way we saw lots of butterflies, at one spot on the Dockens Water path we could see 4 red admiral, 5 speckled wood and a comma and we saw many more elsewhere along with a single peacock. There were also a few reptiles, including this very small adder, proof that they have bred successfully on the reserve again this year.

young adder


Our best sighting though was when we visited the Tern hide, there was very little to see as all there attested and the lake looked at best sparsely dotted with birds. However I glanced at the shingle just in front of the hide and realised that with the couple of meadow pipit strolling around was a woodlark, my best views ever of this species.

I will end with a plea, at this time of year rats will be spreading out looking for a good place to winter, something we do not want them to do on the reserve if we can avoid it. To this end we try not to have food lying on the ground during the autumn, we only ground feed in the late winter. Recently I have found a number of piles of bird food on logs and seats, or just on the ground as I have been going to lock up at the end of the day. This shows that the birds are not eating it, so it will be consumed by rodents overnight, potentially by rats. If any rats find enough food for them to decide to settle with us we will be unable to ground feed in the late winter when the finches are at their best. So my plea is for visitors to please not leave bird food around the reserve where rats and rodents can get to it.


Larking About and Boxed Up

Bird News: Ibsley Water goosander 23+, black-necked grebe 1, redshank 3, chiffchaff 2. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1, brambling 1. Woodlandwoodlark 1.

A foggy start meant I could see nothing of Ibsley Water first thing and rather little of Ivy Lake either. A black-necked grebe was reported from Iblsey Water later in the day and as I locked up I saw 3 redshank and a modest collection of goosander sitting on the spit to the east of the Tern hide.

It was Thursday so the weather quickly cleared so the volunteers could work in pleasantly warm, conditions. Today we were constructing a compost heap especially for grass snakes to breed in, or at least that is the hope.

volunteers building the snake heap

We also sorted out most of the remaining damaged nest boxes and put many of the back up as well as GPS locating them so I might just be able to find them again! The bird highlight of the day was most unexpected and happened just after I took the picture, my phone rang and then above the sound of hammering and the talking in my ear I caught the liquid notes of a singing woodlark drifting about somewhere high above us. It is one of the most evocative of songs and would have been wonderful if I could have got all the other noises to stop. I have seen the occasional woodlark on the reserve before, but never in March and never singing.

Other birds today included the or a male brambling, I am still not sure there is more than one, in the trees near the Ivy South hide and 2 chiffchaff between the Goosander and Lapwing hides.

Fog permitting, I will be doing a waterfowl count tomorrow so I should at least have a good look around and so something more to report.