Location 6: New Forest (Britain)
"Forest and heathland with deer and woodland birds; Dragonflies and butterflies in summer."
I recommend the Forest Explorer (premium link) activity.
My favourite site is probably Acres Down (premium link) where I have seen a wide variety of birds and enjoyed a range of different length walks. I also particularly like visiting Crockford Bridge (premium link) for damselflies in the summer and Hawkhill (premium link) for a general wildlife watching experience.
This large area of forest in southern Hampshire, west of Southampton, was named the New Forest in the 11th century when it was created. Depending on your perspective, this is not necessarily new any more. This national park is mainly woodland and heathland with some sections of river, bog and farmland.
The New Forest has large numbers of deer active in the morning and evening, birds are particularly active on woodland edges, butterflies http://www.purple-emperor.co.uk can be seen in all habitats and dragonflies and damselflies are mainly in marshy areas by rivers. Rarer wildlife that people look out for include glowworms http://www.glowworms.org.uk/ visible at night in the summer, Nightjars churring from early to mid summer at dusk and you might be lucky and hear cicadas calling loudly from the trees.
Wildlife of the New Forest
Deer (including Roe Deer, Fallow Deer and Red Deer) are relatively common and I mostly see them early in the morning or late in the evening. From mid-September to mid-October the Fallow Deer and Red Deer are rutting (males fighting with their antlers and also roaring) and this can be seen all over the forest, particularly in and around Blackwater which is accessed from Rhinefield road.
Nightjars visit the New Forest in the summer and in the evenings they make their characteristic "churring" noise: they can be heard, and sometimes seen, almost everywhere. They nest on the ground which is one of the reasons visitors are encouraged to stay on footpaths from late spring to the middle of summer. They are often seen on land that has bracken with occasional trees and bushes for perches. Mid-July is a good time to come and look for Nightjars.
Glowworms are found all around Britain with the New Forest relatively good: my experience is that a late evening walk of 3 or 4 kilometres in the summer gives maybe a 50% chance of seeing a glowworm.
I have personally heard cicadas in the New Forest, as have other people. Bryan Pinchen and Lena Ward (writing in pages 258-266 of the April 2002 issue of British Wildlife) described the results of their and other people's research. They found adults to be usually flying (and so singing) between late May and mid July. They have been found in many different species of tree. The courtship song can last many minutes and their contact song can just last a couple of seconds. If you are over 40 you may not be able to hear them due to the high frequency. New Forest Cicada (a race of the wide-spread species called Cicadetta montana Scopoli) have been found in successional habitats between open heath and new woodland: the relative rareness of this habitat is a suggested reason for the rareness of the cicada in the New Forest.
There is controversy about whether the New Forest is overgrazed or not. In many places the grass is very short due to being grazed by so many horses. These horses are generally owned by someone who has "commons rights". This short grass is seen by many as the traditional "look" of the New Forest and it is true that certain species of flower benefit from it. The counterargument is that this is very different to most other forests and that the types and numbers of wildlife seen in the New Forest are different to other forests in north-west Europe. The counterargument continues that the New Forest is so large it could support a more "natural" forest similar to that being recreated, for example, in Flevoland in the Netherlands.
Here is a list of the butterflies that I saw in 3 days in the New Forest in the summer, whilst mainly looking at other wildlife:- (Lots of white and brown butterflies went unidentified.) Gatekeeper 17x2 (m3); Silver-washed Fritillary 6x2 (m5); Speckled Wood 4x1 9(m1); Grayling 3x1 (m1); Meadow Brown 3x1 (m1); Small Tortoiseshell 2x1 (m1); Small Copper 1x1 (m1); Small Heath 1x1 (m1); Large Skipper 1x1 (m1); Red Admiral 1x1 (m1).
On a 3 day summer visit I saw 56 species of bird with an average of 28 different species per day. My most commonly-seen birds were:- Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 25x2 (m6), Blackbird (Turdus merula) 14x2 (m2), Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 10x2 (m2), Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 9x4 (m18), Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 9x2 (m3), Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 6x4 (m10), Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus) 6x2 (m2), Common Buzzard/Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 5x2 (m2), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 5x4 (m12), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 4x3 (m6), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 4x8 (m13), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 4x1 (m1), House Martin (Delichon urbicum) 4x4 (m6), White Wagtail/Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 4x2 (m3), Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4x2 (m3), Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 4x6 (m20), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 3x1 (m1), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 3x3 (m3), Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 3x2 (m3), Curlew (Numenius arquata) 3x2 (m2), Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 3x1 (m1), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) 3x2 (m2), Rook (Corvus frugilegus) 3x6 (m10), House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 3x3 (m4).
On a 3 day summer visit I saw 19 species of dragonfly and damselfly. My most commonly seen were:- Keeled Skimmer 13x3 (m9); Banded Demoiselle 9x1 (m1); Common Darter 6x2 (m3); Southern Damselfly 6x1 (m1); Small Red Damselfly 5x1 (m1); Beautiful Demoiselle 4x4 (m6); Emperor Dragonfly 4x1 (m1); Blue-tailed Damselfly 3x4 (m7).
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on October 19th 2018.
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