14 August 2018

2018 / 50

Overcast with sunny bright spells. Cloud building from the west. Warm 17°C

07:30 – 09:45

There is less Willow Warbler song this morning, and apparently less bird activity on the east facing edge at the top. 15 minutes surveying this front indicate what was further evidenced later – an explosion of Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests in particular. The former today in especially high numbers and very active.
Three Willow Warblers here – one singing – and a handful of Chiffchaffs with one Blackcap nearby. Nice view of a Treecreeper. Three Swallows chattering overhead, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes.

Two Ravens went east to west, and then returned, gently calling to one another as I watched them go over from Upper Velmore.

It was when I returned to the path here and headed down towards the small bridge that I met the first of the Willow Warbler flocks – at least a dozen birds fluttering around in an ash tree. Lovely to watch as they spiral down, like leaves, then flit their way along in vegetation only a couple of feet from the ground. More Coal Tits higher up, with Goldcrests again. Nuthatches and Blue Tits also very noisy and noticeable. And among them, larger and relatively clumsy, brief views of the back of the season’s first Spotted Flycatcher. Always among my favourites, though this initial view was disappointing. Difficult in fact t get on most of the birds today, such was the frenzied feeding and general activity. Nothing sat still for more than a second.

Bullfinch calling, a Buzzard up behind me. Two Stock Doves and three incongruous Feral Pigeons, including one completely white bird.

There has been some bracken cutting in the first Quarter, and after heavy rain a lot of it is flattened. By 08:35 I have turned into Upper Velmore from the track, seeking out the sunny spot where this crosses the Passage. Speckled Wood butterflies here – probably at least 20 on the wing this morning – as well as Robins, Dunnock, Bullfinch and more tits. Long-tailed, Coal and Blue. Constant calling, whirring, flickering and whistles. Nuthatches tapping and calling all round too – very vocal today. Jay and Jackdaw calling too -first Jay for a while? There he is, moving towards me from up near the fallen oak.

And more Warblers – ten birds, mixed Chiff and Willow. Singing birds of both species. Up in an alder, out in the open – another Spotted Flycatcher! Much better, prolonged views this time of a relatively inactive bird. Looked heavy and tired, hunched on an exposed twig. Lost among the leaves, but not before I found a satisfying smile. Nice to watch this bird and an adjacent Treecreeper – a resident of the wood that is so secretive and generally hard to see. There’s a family of them here I think, that’s my best guess at the thin hissing call that I am not familiar with.

There is a heavy front of cloud approaching from the west, intensifying the crisp sunlight that now falls on the right hand side of the track just west of the crossing. I am aware of the work that has been done to open this up. A butterfly reminds me, and there are many more birds flitting around. Another flock of Blue Tits, Long-tails, Goldcrest and Nuthatch. Six or eight more Willow Warblers, chasing one another. It’s impossible to say whether the Spotted Flycatcher that went across right to left was one of the other two? Possibly, but I am going to count three just because… There’s a cacophony of calls, contacts and generally bird audio in a very small area – but the song of a male Firecrest at close range cuts through it all. he has a family, zitting and flickering. There he is again, surely right beside me. Ten steps back to the sunny side of the bush, and behold – great views. It’s like waving to a friend. the Wood is on fine form this morning…

I note that the Kestrels are not active on the clearing, but there are Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush here again. A ‘pinking’ Chaffinch. Shall I walk to scan the farmland? I am undecided. Two Pied Wagtails call to each other as they pass high over the cleared area. very unusual record. It is quite grey now, and the cloud is going opt be around for awhile – I will come in from Woodside later in the week and do the farmland then.

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Weather front arriving from the west (looking west towards the sun)

Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. A couple more Swallows. And there’s a Kestrel, perched within the wood causing a disturbance to yet more tits and Goldcrests.
But that’s enough – it’s grey and dull now, so I head back.

At the top, about 9:20, I come upon the largest flock of Tits I think I have ever encountered in the wood. 30-40 birds and I am right among them.  Blue Tits mostly, (lots of young) Great Tits, Long-tailed and Coal Tits. They are so busy and the light is poor so it’s impossible to get much on them. But there are Nuthatches and Warblers too.

I found a numbered Silver Birch beside the passage at the top of Q2. It’s the only one I have found so far adorned with a new tag:

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There is a white-form Greater Willowherb coming into flower beside the track at the top, and some Violets are starting to appear on the track

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And to conclude, a Lesser Black-backed Gull flies north overhead.
An excellent morning circuit. 350 birds of 35 species

 

 

 

 

 

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11 August 2018

2018 / 49

Much cooler morning, early temperature not much above 10°C in the shade.
Moderate dew – grass and bracken damp. Sunny and clear with a light westerly breeze.

07:45 – 10:00

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Return passage has begun early. Flycatchers and warblers arrived across the county yesterday and the seasonal migration seems to be under way already.

The east clearing at Hut Wood is alive with birds, flickering in the morning light which falls first on the west facing edge. Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldcrests. At least 10 Long-tailed Tits. But it’s the WILLOW WARBLERS that completely captivate me.
I first heard one or two singing at the top end of Larpers where I cut into this clearing to work the edge, but it’s immediately clear there are a lot of birds here today. In one bush there are three. Four – no six! The air is full of their calls – less di-syllabic than the chiffchaff and thinner. More coming through – and by the time i got excited at counting double figures I quickly realised there were 20 or more. Over 15 minutes I counted 30 birds – something of a ‘fall’ and unprecedented in my experience. Many were juveniles, bright yellow. Even their orange legs were reflecting the bright sun.

Watching closely – for Flycatchers – I picked up a Blackcap (3 in all) and at least two Treecreepers.

And heather. Walking here I noticed for the first time a new plant for the wood – an oversight on my part and hopefully a sign that I am getting more tuned in:

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Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris)

The Knapweed is more prolific than I realised too, but contained almost exclusively to the north side of the wood

Moving down Q1 to the track, the birdlife gradually thinned out. Goldfinches in the pine tops. Stock Dove and Buzzard overhead. Q2 is overgrown and thick with wet bracken, but I decided to push on through today. Achieved little really other than getting soaked. Speckled Woods, a handful of Gatekeeper. Meadow Brown and Small White.
Bullfinch calling. A young Dunnock in the grass and more Long-tailed tits.

Walking down to the central area and along the perimeter track it becomes very still and quiet. A different cast. Low key. Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch and noisy Kestrels.
It’s more breezy on this south side. Traffic noise drifting in.

To conclude, I walked back up to scan the eastern clearing and all the warblers had gone through. Unless they were hiding from the Sparrowhawk circling overhead. And then there were two. This is a first – they must have nested somewhere locally, but not here. Both birds circling low together, interacting and drifting west dow the northern belt.

8 August 2018

2018 / 48

A change in the weather. Wind increasing from the west. Overcast with threat of rain. Prolonged sunny spells – 22°C

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Met at 2pm with the Forestry Commission’s Beat Officer and new Wildlife Ranger, onsite litter-picking as I arrived. We talked FC history, ongoing work, conservation strategy and woodland management, recreation, wildlife etc. I learned a lot in an hour and a half, explained my reasons behind wanting to work more closely with them and be allowed to retain a presence in the wood. It was respectful, encouraging and generally very positive.

I learned of targeted spraying and the complexities of appropriate windows of opportunity in a hot dry summer, trees struggling to establish themselves due to deer and rodent predation, Nightjar breeding seasons. Contracts, budgets, development strategy etc. My naive questions about the reasons for some practises and strategies were answered with detail and patience, and my information on Ravens, Firecrests and butterflies in particular well received. They appreciated my ‘work’ and my presence, and I appreciated their candour and flexibility.

Both officers were keen to stress there in NO PUBLIC ACCESS to the wood, and I witnessed them talking to a dog-walker as she left and two cyclists trying to get in. They mean it now, and will be patrolling / working on site more regularly. By restricting access, clearly forestry operations can continue without consideration of and provision for public safety; but also some of the ride management and wildlife surveys / management initiatives can proceed here where the subjects will be less disturbed. University reptile mats for example don’t become frisbees or barbecue fuel. Pioneer plant species have a chance to return and establish etc.

It was interesting to have the ride management programme explained as we walked around. Making the track wider enables more light into the wood, and the edges provide nectar plants for butterflies and insects. There is evidence of this already – Knapweed is gaining a foothold and managing to even appear among the dense bracken, a favourite among pollinating insects, being a source of good quality nectar. And as well as supporting bees, butterflies and beetles its seeds provide food for many birds. It’s an encouraging development.

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Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

There are already Violets coming on the track, whose sandy soil and  flat surface should provide value nutrients and easier access for reptiles and voles. I have been aware of an increase in the number of flowering plants this year over last, and it is set to get better. Trampling by people and especially horses is a major problem. FC are in touch with the farm, but the relationship is ‘difficult’. Fences don’t necessarily last long.
They present a barrier too. As i walked up the footpath on the north side today, there is strong evidence of wildlife runs out of the wood into the fields.

The track edges are being encouraged to provide transition from grass through herbaceous vegetation to trees. Spraying is targeting only the bracken – fritillaries are expected to colonise within the next couple of years. Cock’s foot, bugle and violet all like grass and should be beneficial.
Also explained ot me was the process of cutting bays or ‘scallops’ which I have wondered about. These provide sunspots and shelter, as well as breaking up the edge of the rides to control wind. Some trees are left over hanging or protuding into the rides to have the same effect. Overhanging branches being occasionally allowed to meet provide safe crossing points for small mammals.

Structural diversity. All very encouraging. We talked about the arrival perhaps of Stonechat, Meadow and Tree Pipits, Woodlark. The Kestrels were performing well today in the middle – there is at least one new juvenile. A good sign that there is a strong – if unseen – population of mice and voles.

The Raven came over. We talked about those, and i picked up a Black-tailed Skimmer.

Next scheduled appointment is a detailed wildlife walk where we can discuss the specifics of present and future species on site. I can both share and learn.

But to re-iterate: there is henceforth NO PUBLIC ACCESS to the wood. It remains to be seen what difference that makes in practise… I have clearance to be here, but that comes with some conditions and expectations etc.

I look forward to seeing how things work out here in the next couple of years, and learning more about the flora and fauna of this special place.

5 August 2018

2018 / 47

Still hot and dry. Faintest of breeze from the west.
18°C at 7.30am rising to 26° afternoon

07:45 – 09:30

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Entrance from the main gate, and the east clearing. Plenty of birds around in the early morning – especially Goldcrests, Great and Blue Tits. Nuthatches especially vocal. On the whole circuit, there is always one or two species that characterise each walk. Today it was Nuthatch and Goldcrest. Young families all around. Robins, Wren too and Coal Tits.

One Feral Pigeon went over west to east – not really of interest but these are not seen often here. Otherwise a steady movement of Woodpigeons and at least half a dozen Stock Dove. Moving down to the sun-facing woodland edge, I disturbed a Buzzard, but he didn’t fly very far – just swooped up into a tree just inside the wood. At least one Blackcap calling from the scrub, and a couple of Speckled Woods fluttering around.
Green Woodpecker calling. A Goldfinch on thistle, as if in a painting:

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Then overhead, a gull, glistening in the sunlight. Common Gull. Distinctive buoyant flight, rounded wings. White panels on the black primary tips. Heading slowly south. Only my second record here, and the first over the wood itself.

The clouds are beautiful. Small, individual. Like a shoal of fish in slow motion.
There’s a chacking – Jackdaws. The hollow ‘cronk’ of a Raven, but I can’t see him.
Better views later of presumably the same bird, heading low out over the farmland. Still calling.

In the grass, spider webs full of dust. They have not yet dampened with diamonds of dew, though the bracken is moist. Grasshoppers chirping. A ladybird. Gentle, cool and green. The first blackberries are ripening, but they need some rain to develop fully. There is a sudden flurry of breeze, spinning birch leaves to the ground like golden butterflies. It’s really nice here just watching the wood wake up. Relaxed and peaceful. A young Robin lets me get a bit to o close. Inquisitive little thing. Parent nearby scolding.
I have an eye in the treetops for Pied Flycatchers, but in my head i know it is still rather too early in the season. But paying attention to everything that moves returns the delightful passage of a Chiffchaff family, several Greenfinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. And singing,  to the left – around the court? – a returning Willow Warbler.
There’s another later, at the side of the track. Migration has begun.

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By the time I have walked down Q1 and out on to the track I can feel the sun on my back. In the otherwise cool shade it is pleasant, but intensifies as I head south and once out around the cleared area it becomes unbearably hot again.

Two horseriders approach, escorted by 4 Chihuahuas. Cute, but why must they yap so?? And why the hi-vis tabards. Just to make sure all the wildlife for miles around has time to run away and hide?
I do not wish to be disrespectful or unnecessarily grumpy, but I do get rather annoyed by the extras, the chatter and the forging of new paths through the northern belt. I wonder what arrangements are in place for equestrian access to and passage within the wood?
Which turns my mind to the appointment I have onsite with the Forestry Commission on Wednesday afternoon next week. Solent ‘Beat Forester’ Ben Phelan has agreed to meet with me for a look around the site to discuss the FC’s work. I am looking forward to it, and encouraged by his positive response.
What do I want from the meeting?
Four points to talk about really:

  • Work and projects going on currently in the wood, and longer term plans
    including the impact of this on breeding birds
  • Briefing him on what is in the wood. Birds, wildlife etc
  • How can my presence and monitoring be of the best use to FC?
  • Equestrian access from Velmore, points of entry etc

Should be an interesting walk. I will also like to ask if there are plans to re-instate the firebreak / Passage. It is impassable now, and I feel my circuits are compromised. Not that this is a consideration, but I think the wood will benefit from more grass and more light.

The Mistle Thrushes are noisy today – there are at least four. Siskins overhead too, calling persistently. That’s 29 species, including a few of more interest than of late.

3 Speckled Woods
1 Comma
2 Gatekeeper
1 Common Blue and a Black-tailed Skimmer

26 July 2018

2018 / 46

The heatwave continues. 18°C by 9.30am, and forecast to be 28-30° again by evening.
Bright, clear blue sky. Light cloud drifting from south

07:30 – 09:30am

Entrance via the lay-by

Lots of Chiffchaffs – seems to have been a successful year. There is an increase too in the number of Dunnock families on last year, and finches also seem to have done reasonably well. Greenfinch and Goldfinch overhead and in treetops.
Goldfinch especially always turn out to be fewer in number than their presence suggests.

Coal Tits too, and a tapping Nuthatch. Long-tailed Tits, Blue and Great Tits. Wren.
Along the track, Robins, Blackbirds, Wrens and Dunnocks all popping down and across to feed on flies.  A Meadow Brown, dizzy and drunken, following me along.
Several Small Whites and two Common Blue. Other sound from Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crow and clattering pigeons.
Where the Passage crosses the track there is much activity on a pool of bright sunshine – young, drab and comical Blue Tits. Great Tits, Wrens and a Song Thrush. Two noisy woodpeckers spiralling round an oak…

I have come here this morning looking for something to lift my mood. Disconnected and vague. My legs are tired and my feet are heavy. It’s a an effort to put one in front of the other and I find myself just standing. I am not seeing the individual trees and the sky is just ‘the sky’. I bear an overwhelming weariness and melancholy.

“A tree seen against other trees is a mere dark mass, but against the sky it has parts, has symmetry and expression.” (Henry David Thoreau)
Meadow Thistle flowers all around, and bees on the last few bramble flowers.

Two BH Gulls go east overhead. There are Stock Doves and Jackdaws. The Kestrels are noisy. There are tiny invisible flies everywhere – they irritate and tickle. And it is already sweat-making hot…

At the cleared area, scanning across. Somewhere out there is a Nightjar, sitting on eggs.
I wonder if that patrolling Crow knows where she is? A Pheasant shrieks, unseen.

It feels a long way to circumnavigate the clearing and the sun is high, but I am equally loathe to turn back. There are a couple of Gatekeepers flitting around now, and at least one more Common Blue. Two equestrians wave a friendly greeting through the dust kicked up by the hooves of their dogged mounts. Friendly spaniel.

Three Herring Gulls and one Lesser Black-back. A distant Buzzard.

I first heard the tractor as I walked up towards the viewpoint, and saw it lumbering towards the line of birches across the clearing. Point of entry clear enough, tearing through the bracken. Really?? At this time of year??
Crash, smash, roar.
Mistle Thrushes take evasive action – six of them. The vehicle is beyond shouting distance and moving away from me, right in the middle. No nearer by the time I reached the south side, and he was going up the slope away from me into the middle when a bird flew out. Directly towards me, disturbed by the invasive machinery. A Nightjar!! A male – quite a ragged individual with a couple of flight feathers missing on his right side. On seeing me, he fluttered, banked and turned towards the yew trees up by the seat thus affording the best ever views and my first day time experience of their intricate camouflaged plumage washed in morning sunshine.

Shocking that he should be so threatened and disturbed! I have reported the incident to the Forestry Commission and await their response. Nightjar is listed under Section 41(S41) of the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act and public bodies have a responsible to protect them.

 

17 July 2018

2018 / 45

07:15 – 10:00

Bright clear and sunny, becoming overcast by 10:00.
Light W breeze

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Work at the Wood continues, following my first observations of activity two weeks ago.
I have yet to be onsite while the contractors are there doing anything, but there is now significant evidence of new work.
First signs earlier in the year were the chemical spraying in the cleared areas, which was followed by some small tree-felling and marginal pruning at the sides of the track. On 5th July I noticed the track had been scraped and ‘levelled’ in many areas.
I came upon the machinery this morning as I walked back up to the entrance, along the south side:

Most work though is at this top end. Banks have been built up beside the gate which have to be negotiated – and the surface inside the Wood here has been raised and improved.
Tons of aggregate has been set down in both directions along this eastern ‘top’ edge, which includes a new ‘turning area’ in the southern corner:

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Feels rather ‘municipal’, and the track’s character is compromised. This is all to improve access for Forestry vehicles I imagine, suggesting perhaps there is more work to come. Which would furthermore explain the new sign installed at the top of this post. I suspect access has not changed and that such notice should always have been displayed – its installation re-asserst the FC’s right to harvest timber (reserved in its lease agreement with the Fleming estate) and a disclaimer that pubic welfare is not paramount.

There is no public right of way through the wood. It has only ever been permissive.
I worry that the improvements to the track will invite more extensive MotoX bikes – or does the reinforcing beside the gates deter that? I doubt it will…


But it’s just after 7.00am, on a beautiful bright day. The oppressive heat and relentless sun wane their grip at dawn, and the wood breathes and stretches. The trees will rise above the invasive work. Appreciate the elements to their advantage, accommodate the rest. There is the mildest hint of moisture on the bracken fronds. Invisible and cooling.
At the top of the Passage, where the sun in the east now lights the bushes and grass, there is much activity. Families of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds. Drab, washed out looking babies whose true colours have yet to separate fully one from the other. Chiffchaffs with untidy, spiked feathers and all manner of new sounds. Nuthatches on fir tree trunks, and Goldcrests among the needles, picking at the cones. Coal Tits above them. Long-tailed Tits moving through.
A different place to the stifled ampitheatre prevalent in the afternoons.

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Emerging at Q2 to cross the track, there is a family of Blackcaps feeding on berries. Again rather grey, drab youngsters with big eyes and clumsy manner. Great Spotted Woodpecker calling form within the wood. Goldfinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinch have all woken up to feed their own young too. The wood, at least briefly, is a live. There is a new tenderness about the alders in this soft light. They are relaxed, embracing the sun rather than standing defiant against it. That must be tiring. A couple of Siskins have flown into the canopy – two families this year?

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There seem to be less butterflies around, but today the Gatekeepers are up early and in good numbers. It’s another couple of hours before I see a Ringlet though, and then only two.

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It’s quieter walking down the track from the Crossing to the cleared area, and the sun is warming the back of my neck. It’s pleasant, and I understand the alder’s attitude. BIrds are calling, but not singing, except that Wren. There are Bullfinches, and in the distance I can hear a cow calling low and long. Another birch leaf spins to the floor, like a yellow coin. Like a butterfly. Somewhere beside me to the right there is a deer. I can hear him in the vegetation, and I sense him watching me but he stays out of sight. Squirrels alarm too, and I can here pigeon wingclaps. There are Jackdaws overhead, and in the northern belt, the young Buzzard’s “squeaky gate”cries fill the air. Two more Siskins.

I enjoy half an hour fiddling with the camera my son has recently acquired, taking full advantage of the sun on the east facing western plantation. Gatekeepers are waking up all along here. There is a Chaffinch pinking, and a single adult Herring Gull drifts over.

St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare

A settled jetstream. The dog days of summer.
Can we really expect no rain until the end of August?

15 July 2018

2018 / 44

Still unpleasantly hot. 27°C and largely overcast, with some sunny spells.
Light W breeze. 1.30 – 4.00pm

Access via Woodside

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Rosebay Willowherb Chamaenerion angustifolium

Visits to the wood are getting quieter each time now as the summer recess begins.
There is no birdsong, instead only the calling of young, a few contact calls and the agitated warnings of anxious parents. There are predatory Magpies on the prowl.
Blue Tits, Robins and Blackbirds are the bravest and most numerous. Jays too are active, looking to feed their own hungry chicks:

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Jay (tertial feather) Garrulus glandarius

Butterfly numbers are also beginning to decline, and most things on the wing now are various flies and bees. There is a Southern Hawker zipping around, and I had the briefest glimpse of a female Broad-bodied Chaser. There are Skippers and Meadow Browns on the bridleway, and in the wood, a single Brimstone in Marshalls Row. No White Admirals today, and Speckled Wood down to just a single figures.
Here a single Chiffchaff calls persistently – and was still doing so an hour and a half later!
The birds that have nested in the wood this year – maybe six pairs? – have despatched their young to the relative safety of the bracken and I pass quite a few calling around the edge of the track.

Most of the bird action this afternoon was overhead, and a watch form the seat was surprisingly busy. I was prompted to watch by the passage of gulls, which to my mind was almost unprecedented this afternoon: 40+ Black-headed, at least 10 Herring and 4 Lesser-black-backs, and all heading in a south easterly direction; at least 20 Stock Doves, all going north; 3 Buzzards (including one juvenile bird), one Kestrel and a distant, high Sparrowhawk

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Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

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It really is sweltering hot, and I am actually perspiring in a T-shirt.
The only bird singing with any conviction is a Blackcap and the occasional Wren.
Cooler among the trees, where the afternoon sunlight is more relaxed.

There are spiderwebs forming in the grass, and leaves crunching underfoot.
Mostly holly – a premature moult caused by this long, hot spell.
It has not rained locally since the end of May. The track is dusty and hard.

 

 

9 July 2018

2018 / 43

Still hot and dry. 29°C until late into the evening.
Light cloud building on a gentle SW

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I have come this evening on a specific mission – to try and catch up with the Hobby that has been seen now by three different evening visitors. Two missions in fact – one or two other birders have suggested there might be a third male Nightjar around, on the north side…?

I have come without my notebook. I wonder where that has gone.
The wood is quite and rich green, but the light is different tonight. Sort of hazy. I have decided to work along the south side of the track, to give myself the best views over the northern side where the Hobby has been seen. In the top corner, I startle a young Roe Deer that has ventured out onto the sandy track. Beautiful rich rust-coloured coat – and silly skippy pronking away. Makes me smile.
There are a couple of others out in the cleared area when I get there too, but they seem more content to stare at me and slip quietly back into cover. Usual birds – including a couple of very vocal Song Thrushes – and a couple of Swifts overhead. Nice. I don’t see many here.
Once passed the Crossing, I begin to hear Tawny Owls. At least two young birds, which must have dispersed from the nest site now and stated exploring. Mixed vocalisations – mostly squeaks, wheezes and ‘kwik’s The female is about too. More familiar – somewhere down between the track and Firecrest Alley this evening.

It’s nearly 45 minutes until the Nightjars start tonight, and I spend most of that time scanning the treeline and the sky for invisible raptors with no luck. Steady movement of crows and pigeons both east and west, and one noisy gang of 50-odd Jackdaws. No sign of the Kestrel either.
As the light fades, it bathes the wood in a gentle orange and gold – highlighting those bracken fonds that have already adopted the late summer shades. They are more plentiful now – a sign that seasonal change never quite stops.

 

From the seat, I can see on the north side at the track’s edge a group of three or four birch trees that are really quite brown already. They look beautiful, but it’s too dark for a picture now. There are leaves falling when the breeze stirs. Just the odd one – birch and delicate. At this time of year they are just as butterflies. Golden Green.
I get the briefest glimpse of an owl swooping over the track in the distance.

First Nightjar to start churring is the male that occupies the south east corner of the clearing, and within a few seconds there are simultaneous flight calls from the female. She come sup overhead, calling and flying purposefully – not a display flight – over my head and along the treeline. Beautiful views. That she is still on the wing would suggest that she has no eggs yet – incubation usually starts when the first egg is laid, and I believe they like to lay during the two weeks prior to a full moon? That was last on 28th June, so I expect they have missed that and it will be a ‘single-brood’. 19 July will be the beginning of the next favourable aspect – which will explain why the New Forest survey completes on 16th July this year. I have three of my five transects completed.
I would so love to monitor breeding and be around when the young are independent, but didn’t manage it at all last year.

Half an hour after this first flight, the female repeated the circuit and showed even better – while both males were churring.
Woodcock – a surprise! Not roding, but just flying low over the clearing into the stand of threes in the middle. And then two birds later as I left that also flew low into the trees.

So, about this third male? While still in reasonable light and with both males churring as I walked off, I headed down the Crossing to the junction with Velmore. 22:30 and there IS a bird churring quite loudly ahead. He’s reasonably close, but the sound is slightly to the left. I wonder for a moment if it might be the regular male I watched last week who likes to perch up right beside the track just a few metres from the conduit. But no – the direction is wrong for that, even allowing for the breeze. A non-breeding male?

There were no further encounters. I half hoped to findo ne ont he northern clearing, but I am convinced it is too noisy for them there and a little exposed. Certainly the traffic is much louder that side. There was a bat circling round though – quite large. A Noctule?

 

5 July 2018

2018 / 42

Very hot, dry and humid. 24°C on arrival, up to 29°C two hours later.
Patchy occasional cloud, light breath of westerly breeze.

13:30 – 15:30

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Following the driest June for many years (it has not rained for four weeks now) the main thoroughfare has become a dust track, at odds with the verdant and rich green swathing the trees. My first impression of the track today was one of shock at what appeared at first glance to be a destructive session of work by the Forestry Commission.
The track has been levelled (planed, or scraped) and all the ruts removed, as well as all the residual grass in between the tyre tracks. The removed dust, dirt and vegetation  is piled along the side in low banks and scattered ‘mess’:

 

It looks ‘bad’ and I panicked at first, but on closer, calmer inspection the grass remains. I feared it had been ripped up with all the bracken, but most of the grass is lying flat underneath the debris and has been dried, bleach and rendered lifeless temporary by the work and the blazing sun. A bit of rain and it will recover and -hopefully – improve the woodland edge for flowers and butterflies.

Today is a good day for butterflies anyway, and on the circuit this afternoon I encountered fourteen species. Lots of Skippers and Whites, both Large and Small and what I can only describe as ‘plenty’ of Meadow Browns. The Ringlet population has exploded (over 25 individuals) and the Gatekeepers are now on the wing too and very active. They especially seem to like the sunny corner where the Passage joins the track, and a similar patch at the top of The Crossing.
A couple of each Green-veined White, Marbled White, Comma and Speckled Wood and – frustratingly brief – two Holly Blue together in Q2 on the way back up passed the fallen tree. There is a lot of insect activity in this area today, and the first indications that we are now entering a change of season.
Some of the bracken is starting to turn yellow. Golden Green. A new style:

 

Acorns are forming on the pedunculate oak here and I pause for shade under its boughs.
Like the acorns, green blackberry fruits are bullet hard.
Long-tailed Tits are busy, and there are three Chiffchaff still singing. Nuthatch, Goldcrest. Greenfinches overhead. At least two Blackcap. Came upon a singing male with at least one young in the corner of the cleared area, where the tracks join. Shabby looking young, but not nearly as untidy and scruffy looking as the young Dunnocks I met later. Three of four pairs seem to have had some success this year.
Looking back into the sun while resting in the shade of the young oak, I was struck again by the glittering beauty of sunlight filtering through its bright leaves:

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Not only a good butterfly day, but also one of my best camera days.
I am no photographer, and prefer experiencing the Wood more than taking pictures from it, but as I get accustomed to my new irritating and invasive Smartphone I feel I should use it to my advantage instead of getting angry with it all the time. I feel it won’t last long as an accessory and already I seek disconnection. The Wood is a good place for that too…

But today, why not. Learn and enjoy.
This happened. I met a White Admiral at the end of the Crossing, and accompanied it down the track. Twice it grounded next to me, and circled my body a few times too, checking me out. I did think the blue-checked shirt may have been a little bright.
It settled on the bracken and was very confiding. A female. Browner than the male, and with the distinct ‘skull’ marks on the trailing edge of the hindwing.
Absolutely beautiful, and I am delighted with the pictures:

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This is a species that has benefitted form the lack of coppicing and other work in Hut Wood. It requires Honeysuckle growing in shady woodland for the successful development of its larvae, and that’s in full bloom now throughout the wooded areas.

None would settle for a photograph, but I came upon at least a half dozen Brimstone as well this afternoon. New season’s young emerging? Seems rather early.

Very little bird action in the clearing today, and even less overhead. Woodpigeons and the occasional Crow as I walked the circuit. And a single presumably non-breeding adult Herring Gull that went over west to east.
Big sky, huge and blue. No raptors up, though the resident Kestrels were noisy

 

One Firecrest. In the same place as the last couple of times I’ve walked past. Among the dark yews on the south side, right next to the track.
None of the others seem quite as active or noisy. I must take some time checking out breeding success at the other locations.

Thistles and grass.

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By the time I arrived back at the gate, the ambient temperature was 29°C. Coming up from the Passage it was Unbearably Hot, and well over 30 in the car.

Too hot for Bertie, though he enjoyed a snuffle in the cooler woodland and had a paddle in the stream. First time he’s been out in the afternoon for a couple of weeks.
Like me, he is not at his best in July

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26 June 2018

2018 / 41

Hot and sunny. 26°C

Walking down from Woodside there’s a Dunnock singing loudly and a more distant Chiffchaff. A Jay, a Robin and a Blackbird. Ones and twos. It’s the beginning of a long hot summer and everything is settling down for the seasonal moult or busy feeding growing young. A few Woodpigeons clatter from the trees around the last bench, and it is pleasantly cool under the laurel behind the garden at the end by the sheds.

The grass in the top field is higher than I recall seeing it before, and along the path ferns, nettles, grass and brambles grow 4ft tall. There are countless buzzing insects zipping around, and quite literally clouds of Meadow Brown butterflies rising up as I walk past. From halfway along the bridleway and down to the wood entry at Marshall’s Row I counted over 150. Very encouraging.

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Birdwise quiet, and walking down the footpath to Velmore Farm I noted there is very littl emoving. No Swallows or Starlings around the barns. Three House Martins high overhead. Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker and a female Kestrel. One of the pair that breed inside the wood. A couple of hours later, she was hunting half-heartedly on the cleared area, moving from one yew to the next.
Mistle Thrush with food, and a single Muntjac at the bottom gate where the surfaced track starts. It ran for cover as I approached of course, and I couldn’t relocate. 20-odd Jackdaws, a couple of crows. And a Comma. Just the one. Among the Meadow Browns now are one or two Ringlets, freshly emerged and looking velvety and gorgeous.

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I do love this northern belt in summer sunshine. The green-ness glows and the silence is profound and comforting. Similar to that in a large church or cathedral. Tangible and present.

The first White Admiral came past, and behind me – just for a moment – the loud song of a male Firecrest. Stand to listen, but not repeated. Only six White Admirals today? I was expecting considerably more. Have they dispersed through the wood? There were none at all down Larpers or on The Crossing…
Four pairs of Blackcap I think, and 7 – 8 Chiffchaffs.

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Beautiful Demoiselle – another female – shining all copper, on holly up the grassy track at Lower Velmore. Makes a pleasant change to walk the opposite direction here. Similarly up Q2 and Q1, shimmying through the high bracken and bramble. Gorse popping.
Speckled Wood – a dozen or so; more Ringlets; Large White and several Large Skippers.
Bullfinch calling.

Up on the western clearing, in the grass, I had an eye open for Small Skipper and Marbled White, picking up both quite easily over the stream. The Foxgloves are almost over. Just a single Marbled White – how have they been affected by the recent spraying.
That’s 17 butterfly species now for 2018 – Common Blue and Gatekeeper remaining and due in the next week or three. And glistening in the high sunshine at rest on a dead twig – a female Broad-bodied Chaser.