Tuesday, 24 May 2016

New Forest Woodlarks

Arriving back on the mainland at Lymington on Saturday 21st May and we headed off to the nearby Beaulieu Motor Museum. It was a little early so we stopped off along the way at Hatchett Pond, apparently the largest body of fresh water in the New Forest National Park, and I had a quick walk around while David read the paper. A willow warbler was heard singing and meadow pipits and skylarks were seen songflighting. 2 oystercatchers were asleep on a grassy bank and 2 mute swans were tending to 2 cygnets. Best find was a common tern roosting on a wooden post before flying up and down the pond on the hunt for breakfast.

Common Tern

Beaulieu was interesting but I didn't enjoy the motor museum as much as I enjoyed the Haynes motor museum but at least I also had a stately home, a ruined abbey, a monorail , free Wi-Fi in the cafĂ© and a walled garden to keep me occupied.

After visiting Beaulieu we headed off to a hotel near Beaulieu Road station which was very nice and wonderfully isolated in the middle of heathland, bogs and woods despite being on a main road and a busy railway line. The weather had been warm and pleasant at the motor museum but it was cool and cloudy by the time we reached the hotel. After a quick pint I headed off out for a look around but only saw stonechats, meadow pipits and siskins for my troubles but heading back to the hotel and swallows and house martins were having a hissy fit overhead, giving away the presence of a nice hobby casually circling around before drifting off out of sight, a juvenile bird with little red feathering in the thigh area.

After dinner I headed out again as dusk was falling but it was cold and windy with spits of rain at times. I heard a distant cuckoo calling in the woods and curlews giving their bubbling calls in the bogs but the best was a nightjar churring on the heath, distant and infrequent and difficult to hear at times with noise from the road, the trains and the wedding disco music from the hotel.

The following day and the forecast was dreadful - wet, cold and windy - but there appeared to be a brief drier window early in the morning and so I was up and out at 6am. It was cold with mizzle and drizzle and occasional light rain but I headed off anyway, not expecting to see much at all.

Heading off over the heath and a surprise was a brief churr from a nightjar in the area I had heard one the previous night, most odd in the early morning daylight. Stonechats and meadow pipits were flitting about and a common buzzard flew over. A cuckoo was heard calling and I had a brief view as it flew off from cover in a tree,

Reaching the woodland edge and I disturbed 2 birds feeding in the grass, noting their short tails as they flew off. Fortunately they landed nearby and I was delighted to see they were woodlarks, a well developed fledgling bird with an adult. The adult had distinct pale supercillia which met at the back of the nape and a small black and white mark at the bend of the wing. I had some nice views as they moved through the grass and I was very pleased to find them despite the weather, being my second sighting ever since my first in Suffolk in 1989(!).


Fledgling Woodlark




The adult bird then stopped feeding and crouched down, giving a quiet song before flying up and being joined by the fledgling. They chased after a 3rd bird that I hadn't noticed feeding nearby and all 3 birds flew off calling and giving brief snatches of song before disappearing from view. Later I heard the distant singing of a bird from the direction they had flown off but I never saw them again.

I came across a large pool surrounded by sedges where a little egret and grey heron were feeding along with mallards while 2 lapwings noisily displayed overhead at times. Along the woodland edge I saw a pair of redstarts and then a second male bird with a third male bird heard only. A cuckoo continued to call and was joined briefly by a second bird but I never caught a sight of them.

Female Redstart

A badger ran across the footpath right in front of me - it scared the shit out of me and at first I thought it was a dog as it looked quite black, probably due to the wet weather, but I caught a good view of its black and white face before it disappeared -  my first badger sighting other than dead ones by the roadside.

I heard curlews calling over the bogs and had a distant flight view of 1 bird and I also saw at least 3 distant snipe in drumming display flight but I couldn't hear them in the wind. A reed bunting was singing away and I found some pretty flowers in the bog amongst the cotton grass, on checking my guide book they were bogbean, a new plant for me.


Back at the hotel and a nice male yellowhammer was feeding in the field from the bedroom window but the weather had worsened and it was now raining heavily. After breakfast we headed off to Kingston Lacey in Dorset, a National Trust house we visited last year but where we had been unable to see all the rooms on that visit - this time we saw all the rooms open to the public and had a wet walk around the gardens and allotments before heading back to Plymouth.

Male Yellowhammer

And so it had been a great trip away, some amazing wildlife sightings and pleasantly exhausting - sometimes I am a really lucky guy.

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