The New Forest covers 144 square miles of Hampshire and Dorset, and includes Britain’s most important area of lowland heathland, as well as mixed forest and boggy hollows which together are home to a rich diversity of plants and animals. While most wildlife enthusiasts choose to visit during the spring and summer, the forest reclaims its wild charm in the winter, when many species such as Hawfinch are more easily seen, and hardy residents including Dartford Warbler remain on the heaths. We’ll search for flocks of finches, geese, waders such as Little Egret, birds of prey and woodpeckers amongst many other birds, from our comfortable base in the pretty New Forest town of Lyndhurst.
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Fri 26th Feb - Sun 28th Feb 2021 - 415€
We stay in the Forest Lodge Hotel near Lyndhurst. All rooms have private facilities.
Breakfast and evening meals are included. Allow around £10/£15 per day for a pub lunch.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
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Jon graduated in Zoology, Botany and Conservation and works as director of rural programmes for The Tree Council. His work takes him all over the UK and occasionally further afield to Europe, the US and Mexico. As part of his job he is also part of the national committees for Orchards and Hedges. Jon has studied the Wild Gladioli, the life of the Small Blue butterfly and has written/co-written eight books on trees. He was also a trustee of Plantlife for over 10 years. Jon is an enthusiastic, all-round naturalist with a particular interest in plants, birds, whales and Lepidoptera. He is always keen to share his wealth of knowledge of natural history, and has travelled widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia. Jon is based on the south coast of Hampshire where he lives with his wife and two children.
Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Meet Forest Lodge Hotel
We will meet at our hotel for an evening meal and subsequent drinks in the bar, providing the chance to get to know everyone. Your tour leader, Jon Stokes, will then give you a short introductory talk on the history and ecology of the New Forest and outline the plan for the weekend.
Following breakfast we will begin our exploration of the New Forest with a short drive to Beaulieu Road. The Bishop's Dyke/Beaulieu Heath complex supports the widest possible variety of New Forest habitats, including wet acidic bog with willow carr, dry heath, woodland borders with grazed forest lawn and broad-leaved woodland. As such, this is one of the prime areas for many of the region’s rare and localised wintering and resident species in particular Hen Harrier and Great Grey Shrike. Small numbers of Great Grey Shrikes return to The Forest every winter and take up residence on the more extensive heaths. Despite their habit of sitting on the tops of bushes and small trees, they can be very mobile and surprisingly tricky to find. Your leader will keep an eye on the local bird news on the run up to the tour, however, so at least we will know the location of recent sightings and the likely spots to scan. Common Buzzards are a more frequent sight circling over nearby Denny Wood, whilst Dartford Warblers are often seen perched in patches of gorse or flying rapidly low over the heather. The New Forest remains the stronghold for the Dartford Warbler and contains half of the UK population, sometimes rising to over 75% if numbers have been knocked back by a harsh winter. We will be keeping our fingers crossed for a calm sunny day, for ‘Dartfords’ are a fair weather species who tend to hide away if conditions are poor. They should, however, be starting to sing and display by late February and so we should keep an ear open for their scratchy song and an eye peeled for their vertical display flights. Commoner heathland species to look out for include Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Common Crossbill, the latter frequently seen perched atop the patches of Scots Pine.
The heaths are ringed by extensive tracts of deciduous and coniferous woodland. The ancient beech and oaks of Denny Wood hold good numbers of wintering woodland birds, including all 3 species of woodpecker (Green, Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted), Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Siskin, Redpoll, Fieldfare, Redwing and if the beech mast crop has been good, large flocks of Chaffinchs. These flocks - which can be hundreds strong on occasion - should be carefully checked for Bramblings. Numbers of these attractive orange finches fluctuate from winter to winter, but if we’re patient in our scanning we should be lucky!
Following lunch in one of the New Forests excellent pubs, we will move a little way north to Acres Down. The open heathlands and woodlands hold a similar selection of species to Beaulieu Road, but our attention here should be overhead for this site has long been renowned as the best vantage point in the New Forest from which to see birds of prey. By sitting and looking over the vast expanse of forest around us we hope to see one of the UK rarest raptors, the Goshawk. This powerful predator hunts within the woodland canopy, dashing between the branches and trees in the hope of surprising a Wood Pigeon, crow or squirrel. In the late winter and early spring, however, they can be often be seen soaring over the more extensive tracts of woodland engaging in their impressive ‘roller-coaster’ display flight. Common Buzzards are also frequently seen here along with Sparrowhawks, whilst Merlin and Hen Harrier are occasionally recorded. The woodlands of Acres Down are another excellent spot to look for finch flocks.
Around mid-afternoon we will make our way to the Blackwater Arboretum along the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and walk a short distance to a small woodland glade. This area regularly holds a winter roost of Hawfinches, so we need to be in position around an hour or so before dark and crane our necks upwards to look at the tree-tops. The Blackwater Arboretum offers one of the best opportunities in the UK to obtain clear, unobstructed, views of this impressive, but shy and secretive species. Crossbill, Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling are also possible. As darkness starts to fall we will make our way back to the hotel.
This morning we will turn our attention away from the woodlands and heaths to enjoy the saltmash and coastal lagoons of the Pennington and Keyhaven nature reserves. The coastline of the Solent around Lymington attracts internationally important numbers of wading birds and waterfowl every winter and offers and interesting contrast to the habitats and wildlife further inland. Large numbers of Brent Geese winter here along with plenty of the commoner duck species such as Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall. Flocks of wheeling Dunlin are a common sight on the intertidal flats and they are joined by Curlew, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Knot and one or two over-wintering Greenshank. Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe, Eider and the occasional diver and Slavonian Grebe - or even Red-necked Grebe - feed offshore. Little Egrets are also a common sight here (who would believe they were such a rarity only a few decades ago!). For those who would like an ‘Egret duo’ you may like to consider dropping in at Mockbegger Lake - on the western side of the New Forest near Ringwood - on your way home; a Great Egret has returned here for the last few winters!
We will take a quick lunch at another local pub before deciding how to spend our remaining few hours. The exact itinerary will be fairly flexible and dependent on what species we have seen and those we have missed. There are additional sites to explore for Dartford Warbler or perhaps we could venture to the north of the Forest to look for Mandarin Ducks on Eyeworth Pond or scan another heath or two for Great Grey Shrike and Hen Harrier. Around mid to late afternoon we will depart for home.