Walk Report : Pig Bush - 16th April 2021


Pig Bush

I met up with Richard in the Pig Bush carpark from where we walked through a copse of mainly oak. Coming out, Richard caught sight of a redstart.  Shortly afterwards, he had a hunch that a bird perched on the top of a lone birch was a woodlark. It helped that it stayed perched for a long time and via a magic app, the hunch confirmed. A buzzard was loitering in the distance.


We then crossed a stream and followed a track skirting a semi open area of birch on one side and an area of bog enclosed by wood, on the other. At the end of the bog area, we passed through a small area of oak and holly, where we heard a nuthatch and saw our first song thrush.  


We then came out onto an extensive enclosed grassy area populated with a few scattered oaks and a single scots pine from where we turned across to walk down the wooded edge and then into the spacious feeling wood.  Since none of the leaves were in leaf, mainly oak, a scattering of holly and beech, the sun was able to pour in.  This made it easier to see blue tits, nuthatches, robins and chaffinches and hear the distinctive sound of a stock dove.
Once again we arrived at the edge of the wood and while coming back from looking at two ancient oaks saw a song thrush go to and then sit on it's nest in a low bush. A marsh tit then put in it's appearance.  We then followed a short track through heathland heather in order to get to a small bridge over the train line.  This was in order to see if some rare narrow leaved vetch, found almost exclusively in the New Forest, was alive and well.  It was.
Returning back to the car park over open heathland, saw a single canada goose, some tadpoles and heard the song of a skylark.

Cuckoo Flower / Lady's Smock Cardamine pratensis

The nurdy bit
The first plantation act of 1698 took over 2000 acres and then 200 a year for 20 years totalling 6000.
The fences to be removed after 20 years and new plantations allowed to take their place, effectively giving an additional 6000, confirmed in the1808 act.
Sort of creeping expansion

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21

Bombylius Bee-flies

Many of us will be spotting Bee-flies in the garden and in the Forest at the moment. The commonest of the four native species is  Bombylus major, the Dark-edged or Large Bee-fly, with dark patches on the edge of each wing. It is worth looking closely at the wings as the less common Spotted Bee-fly,  B.discolor, is also found in the Forest. It is very slightly smaller and has spots on its wings.

These odd-looking furry flies are parasites on Andrena mining bees. They adults deposit their eggs by flicking their abdomen, to propel the eggs towards the mouth of the bee’s nest. According to research done in both Russia and Japan they are not particularly accurate! They also have another strategy where they simply lay their eggs on plants visited by the bees which stick to them and are then transferred to the nest.

They are typical flies in as much as they have two wings (bees have four, two pairs) and small, blunt antennae. They have large compound eyes and legs more reminiscent of crane flies.

Bombylius flies have a long, rigid proboscis. which is used for feeding on nectar and pollen. The females eat more pollen than the males as, probably, they need more protein for egg production. They do not pollinate the flowers, they are just ‘nectar thieves.’  It is said that they prefer blue flowers!

Bombylius flies only superficially resemble bees, unlike some of the Hover flies, so are they mimics or just hairy? It has been proposed that they get a measure of protection from predators by being bee-ish, but also that it allows them to approach the host’s nest without being attacked.


Walk Report - Great Newbridge Copse 1st April 2021

We met up with Richard Smith on the entrance to the footpath on the Milford Road . With the cooler morning there were few birds about on the track up to the Copse . However during the walk through the woods we could hear pheasant. It was a couple of weeks too early for the usual display of bluebells there, but just a couple of early flowers were showing. 

Going through the Copse there were few birds to be seen, apart from crows and great tits. We noticed the rust coloured stream , so coloured as there is iron dissolved , and oxygen in the stream, enabling bacteria, such as Thiobacillus feroxydans to produce this effect.

King Alfred's cake (Daldrina concentrica)

We heard a buzzard, and spotted a possible bullfinch at a distance. However when we emerged onto Agarton Lane there were several birds to be seen - long tailed tits, chiffchaff, wren, robin, blue tit, chaffinch, goldfinch and dunnock . We also saw roe deer in the field alongside and several bee hives on the edge of the field.

Roe Buck

Crossing the maize fields on the way back we saw two buzzards, and Richard could make out peregrines in the distance. We heard spotted woodpeckers and saw starling on the telephone wires. Richard also spotted a bee fly, which was very docile.

Dark Edged Bee Fly (Bombylius major)

Plants seen - winter heliotrope , arrowhead, celandine, Marsh marigolds, water iris , periwinkle , dandelions, daisies , dead nettles, campion , primroses.

Returning to the end we did notice a peacock butterfly.  A really enjoyable morning.

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Cherry Plum or Blackthorn?

Cherry Plum and Blackthorn are both flowering at the moment, but the white bushes/shrubs we see around us are often dismissed as being merely Blackthorn.

Cherry Plum is the first to flower and the leaves appear at the beginning of flowering or soon after.  Its flowers are slightly larger than those of Blackthorn and the stamens are shorter than the petals. It does not have spines.

Blackthorn starts flowering 2-3 weeks later and its twigs are more densely packed with its smaller white flowers.  The stamens are longer than the petals giving a flowering spray a slightly fuzzy appearance.  The branches also have spines, hence the name.



Everywhere seems to be ablaze with yellow and gold at the moment.  We have gorse blooming on the heathland, primroses in the hedgerows, lesser celandine and marsh marigolds in damp areas and of course the ubiquitous cultivated daffodil. 

Another yellow flower to look out for at this time of year is Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), one of the fleabanes. It is a common plant throughout the British Isles and can be found on hard, bare places - waste ground, roadsides, gravel, dunes, low sea cliffs or river banks.  This particular, rather battered looking specimen was recently photographed on the exposed shingle of Hurst Spit.  Good clumps can be seen on the left hand verge of the road to Efford Recycling Tip.

Coltsfoot is a low-lying plant which flowers from February to April.  For the moment, only the flowers can be seen - the broadly heart shaped leaves, which are downy underneath, will appear much later.

The stems of Coltsfoot are stout and have many overlapping fleshy scales which can be purplish and woolly.  Like the dandelion it has both disc and ray florets.

Coltsfoot has a stout underground rhizome, so benefits from a store of food laid down the previous summer. This enables it to appear early and in harsh, inhospitable places.

Coltsfoot was valued in the past as a medicinal plant, useful for treating coughs and other chest complaints.  Its common name comes, perhaps, from the leaf shape.


Walk report : Culverley 12th March 2021

We set out in the car in absolutely torrential rain, and right on cue, it cleared, and the sun came out when we arrived in the car park. We set off down the track which didn’t seem too muddy at first and immediately were accompanied by a lovely chorus of bird song. We spotted Redwing, Chaffinch, Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. We also started to notice little bits of red on the ground, mixed among the leaf litter. On closer inspection we saw that they were acorns that had split open and started to germinate. 

Their flesh was turning a rich magenta red. (Having never noticed this before we researched on getting home but could find nothing to explain this except to report that acorns are rich in tannins which may account for the colour. We wonder if the germination process causes them to be released like this and they become oxidised on exposure to the air?) Then we started to find the going difficult with deep mud. Stopping to look with binoculars or to take photos resulted in being glued to the ground. We persisted and found Nuthatch, Treecreeper and more and more mud and eventually had to abandon the route we were intending, turn around and retrace our steps. On the way back we found even more mud. Or, to be more precise, Glynis found more mud. Just as I was about to say “I wouldn’t step there”, she stepped there and went down into the liquid mud up to her knees. 

I pulled her out, took the photo that had to be taken and made our way back. A final reward for our efforts was seeing a Firescrest flitting in the holly shortly before we got back to the car. Then we managed to bring a very muddy Lymnater back home to be hosed off in the garden! Just to confirm that this walk is not advised at present, not least because of the conditions but also because of newly fallen trees over the path in several places. Glynis and Robert Payne 

23 March Talk: The Knepp Wilding Project

Our next Zoom speaker will be JILL BUTLER whose subject will be ‘The Knepp Wilding Project.: Is it Good for Wildlife?’

The Knepp Estate in West Sussex has been wilding for about 15 years - the transition has been from intensive milk production to extensive pastoralist.  

Jill Butler is a specialist in ancient wood pasture and she will talk in particular about the wilding of trees and shrubs and the soil.  She will be showing how this has turned some aspects of ecology upside down, indicating a better way to regenerate biodiversity for the future. It promises to be a fascinating talk.

A Sunday Walk on the Marshes

To mark what should have been the last Sunday birding walk of the Lymnats' 2020/21 winter programme here is a "snapshot" of Lymington - Keyhaven seen on a frosty March morning by a solitary walker - a total of over 60 species:

Mute Swan; Canada Goose; Dark-bellied Brent Goose; Shelduck; Wigeon; Gadwall; Mallard; Pintail; Shoveler; Teal; Tufted Duck; Red-breasted Merganser; Pheasant; Little Grebe; Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Spoonbill; Little Egret (including JN, still on Normandy); Grey Heron; Marsh Harrier; Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Avocet; Ringed Plover; Grey Plover; Lapwing; Dunlin; Snipe; Black-tailed Godwit; Turnstone; Curlew; Common Redshank; Spotted Redshank; Greenshank; Black-headed Gull; Herring Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Mediterranean Gull; Woodpigeon; Pied Wagtail; Meadow Pipit; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Stonechat; Blackbird; Song Thrush; Dartford Warbler; Great Tit; Blue Tit; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Starling; House Sparrow; Goldfinch; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Linnet; Bullfinch; Reed Bunting. Heard only: Cetti's Warbler.

Amongst the flowers seen were Colt's Foot, Red Deadnettle and Gorse. Those of the Willow were particularly attractive to the Bullfinches. The head of a Seal (presumably a Common Seal) broke surface twice very briefly). Three separate groups of Roe Deer nearly totalled double figures.


9 March Talk: New Forest Rivers

The speaker at our next meeting will be Naomi Ewald, the National Co-ordinator of the Freshwater Trust. Naomi will be giving an illustrated talk showing the hidden gems of our local rivers. All our indoor meetings are currently being held online via Zoom. Talks start at 7.15 pm and are about an hour long, followed by the opportunity to ask questions.

Spring is coming

With the latest lockdown exceeding 50 days we can look forward to Spring and the awakening of the countryside and our gardens.  The Brent Geese on the coast will be leaving anytime soon for Arctic Russia and those overwintering Blackcaps will return to their breeding grounds in central Europe only to be replaced with our breeding Blackcaps returning from a winter in the sun.

Lesser Celandine


Already frog spawn has been seen in ponds and ditches.
Spring flowers are starting to appear with the yellows of Lesser Celandines, Primroses, Marsh Marigolds and Coltsfoot to the fore.

Wood Anemone

These will be followed by the blues of Violets, Bluebells and Ground Ivy and the whites of Cow Parsley, Wood Anemone and Wood-Sorrel.  

Green-veined Orchid

Then there will be the early orchids – Early Purple and Green-veined before the floodgates of variety open and with it the urge to wander further afield. 


There will come that day when one sees the first Brimstone butterfly, the first Wheatear, the first Swallow or first hears the Cuckoo or perhaps see an Adder basking in the warmth of the morning sun.

Northern Wheatear

However dark the days of this last winter have been, Spring’s return lifts the spirits and is out there to experience and enjoy.


Common Adder

All photos © Richard Comber

Ground Nesting Birds - Car Park Closures

The New Forest National Park is a Special Protection Area for birds and every year a small number of car parks are closed from 1 March – July 31, establishing quiet zones for the protection of ground-nesting birds.  The locations are chosen based on survey work from the previous breeding season, together with ongoing analysis of the prime locations for different species of bird.  

Ground nesting birds such as the lapwing, nightjar and curlew are at risk of completely disappearing from the UK as their numbers dwindle due to loss of habitat and disturbance. The New Forest is one of the last places in the UK where these birds can still be found and helping them to breed successfully is now critical to their survival in the UK.

                                            lapwing                             CR                                                            

                                                                                                  curlew                                  CR  

Ground nesting birds can be very difficult to spot when walking across the Forest and most of us would simply be unaware that they are here. In fact, the nests are so well camouflaged that to the untrained eye it is very hard to see them before you are so close that damage has already been done. Limiting activity helps reduce the likelihood of birds abandoning nests or else exposing them to predators – often other larger birds, such as crows. These often wait patiently nearby in the hope that a bird rising into the air when disturbed by a passing human or dog will reveal the site of a nest containing eggs or chicks which can then provide an easy meal.

The first national lockdown occurred at the start of the last breeding season. Birds took advantage of normally busy areas such as car parks to nest or feed and reduced footfall meant that birds were generally able to breed more successfully across the Forest. This success has meant that some new car parks have been added to the closure list this year.

The car parks closed from Monday 1 March will be - Crockford, Crockford Clump, Yewtree Heath, Clayhill, Hinchelsea, Shatterford, Hinchelsea Moor and Ocknell Pond.

The most sensitive breeding areas are signed and everyone out on the Forest can help our birds by avoiding these and other breeding sites and respecting all signed instructions.  Most importantly not to walk, cycle or ride across open heathland or mires, to stay on main tracks and to keep dogs on leads and not permit them to run across open land, even when it looks empty!

Other car parks which have been closed for normal winter maintenance will re-open on 26 March.  Details of all closures can be found on the Forestry England website here: Car Park Closures

More information regarding support for ground nesting birds can be found on the NPA website here: New Forest NPA

Stop Press - New Talks Programme 2021-22

We are delighted to announce that our new Speaker Programme has been completed and is now available for viewing via the link below or on our Indoor Meetings page.  This new series of illustrated talks promises to be both fascinating and flexible.  It will run from September 2021 to March 2022 and can be delivered via Zoom or Room, depending on prevailing circumstances.

Speaker Programme Sep 2021 - Mar 2022

In the meantime, don’t miss the terrific last 3 Zoom talks in our current season – The next talk is on Heathland which will be followed by one on New Forest Rivers and finally a talk about the Knepp Rewilding Project in West Sussex.  More details can be found on the indoor meeting page.

23 February Talk: Heathland - More than just heather

Lymington Naturalists are very pleased to be able to invite non-members to our next Zoom talk by Clive Chatters, free of charge.  This opportunity is the result of our participation in the current online ‘Forest Awakening’ festival being run by the New Forest National Park Authority.  More details of the festival and details of how non-members can sign up for this talk can be found by following this link:

The Forest Awakening Programme

The talk should be of great local interest.  Clive Chatters is a local naturalist and conservationist and is Company Secretary of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. He has published books on the flora of the New Forest and on salt marshes and has recently completed a new book on heathlands.  He will be exploring the diversity of heathland and its constituent habitats, with particular reference to the New Forest.

The French Connection

On 27/01/21 we spotted a colour-ringed Avocet off the sea-wall at Maiden Dock. The tide was very low which meant that this bird and its companions were quite close to the shore, so it was possible to get an ID shot of its rings. These turned out to be YWx/GB (GB as in Green/blue not Great Britain!)

I asked on Hampshire Birding Group Facebook page and Nick Goldsmith kindly sent me a link to a French site where he had found the bird’s records.

It seems to have been first ringed (and recorded) on 08/06/17 in The Breugny, near Mesquer in Brittany. It then moved down the road to Batz-sur-Mer, thence over to Normandy Marsh on 12/02/17. It seems to have stayed with us until 27/06/18, then moved to Titchfield Haven (26/06/18), back to France (Sene 21/04/19), then back to us again this year (27/01/21).

I posted the sighting on the Brittany Avocet recording site. There are gaps, of course, but 4 years of records shows how important ringing can be in tracing the movement of some birds.


9 Feb Talk: Fisheries Conservation - What can we do?

Our next members’ Zoom talk will be given by Stephen Akester.  Stephen is a fisheries management specialist who has travelled widely to develop projects that encourage sustainable aquatic ecosystems.

The 'New Forest Awakening' Festival - all through February

As the Forest begins to awaken for Spring, Lymington Naturalists’ Society are delighted to announce that, together with other community groups, we will be partnering with the NFNPA (New Forest National Park Authority) for their upcoming ‘New Forest Awakening’ festival which will be taking place online throughout February

Starting Monday 1st February, there will be a varied programme of virtual tours, podcasts, soundscapes, talks and films to enable people to discover why the New Forest is so special and its role in the climate and nature emergencies as well as explaining what people are already doing to protect the Forest and how everyone can help.

More information about this festival and a programme of online events can be seen by following this link:

New Forest Awakening 

Walk Reports

You will notice fewer of our popular ‘ghost’ walk reports on the blog in the coming weeks as we all endeavour to comply with current lockdown regulations by staying local and staying safe.  Members are continuing to post their lockdown photos and sightings on our Members only Facebook page.

Hurst Spit to Lymington Project

Our local coastline, beginning from Milford-on-Sea, encompassing Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes and extending up the Lymington River, is designated as part of the New Forest National Park. It faces significant challenges now and in the future from flooding and from erosion

The Environment Agency is investigating the challenges and is exploring ways in which a sustainable future for this fragile landscape might be ensured and funded.  To find out more about the challenges and possibilities or to sign up for updates on this project or to have your say on it, go to their information webpage:

Hurst Spit to Lymington Project

26 January Talk - Christchurch Harbour and the Lower Avon Valley

Our next members’ Zoom talk will be given by Chris Chapleo, the chair of the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG).  Chris will be showing us some of the rich variety of bird life that is to be found in the harbour and the lower Avon Valley.

Walk report : Lucy Hill 6th January 2021

The walk started well down a wide grassy fire break through mixed woods and then Richard Smith and I were then confronted with an extensive waterlogged and well trodden section  While circumnavigating the section, a song thrush was glimpsed and a little later a redwing.

Turning right, we shortly passed through the gate of the plantation into a mainly open area running along the south side of the plantation, scattered with groups of trees, bushes and the odd flowering gorse.
We then went through a small copse of mainly oak and some holly where we heard the faint sound of a wood pecker (great?) tapping to find food. It was then seen at a distance flying to a perch   Leaving. we passed one of the holly trees showing large teeth marks, surprisingly above head height (ponies?) . 
On the south facing bank of the ditch running along the edge of the plantation were several ant hills, one particularly magnificent.
More evidence of ants, this time a very large concentration of small mounds, the work of meadow ants, surmounted with various grasses.  Not that we looked at the time, but the South East face of the mound is meant to be flatter in order to catch the morning sun.
Meadow Ant hills

In a small holly, another glimpse, an uncooperative goldcrest.
Another change of vegetation, this time an extensive area of clumps of small thorny scrub.
Eventually, we turned up the side of the plantation through a mix of beech one side and very tall pine on the other in order to join a forest track back into the plantation.
Along the track a jay was seen and later a tree creeper, but not for long.  Turning off the track up a series of firebreaks through a variety of groups of trees, I managed to take a wrong turning and ended up having to get round the muddy section again.  Not exactly the planned sylvan walk.
However, there was a reward at the end, one possibly two very cooperative nuthatches in the carpark.


©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21

Walk Report : Keyhaven - 7 January 2021

Diane and I set off from the (newly charging) car park at the Keyhaven end of the sea wall. We were greeted by the Marsh Harrier landing on its preferred bush on Avon Water. On the harbour side of the sea wall the tide was very low, exposing large amounts of mud and seaweed. This was reflected in the numbers of Dunlin and Turnstones feeding just below us.

On the harbour water the Brent geese (40–50) couldn’t seem to make up their minds whether to walk or swim in the shallow water.


As we walked round towards Keyhaven Lagoon there were Curlews both sides of the wall, more Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Redshanks, Little Egrets and Shellducks. On the lagoon itself there were more of the same with added Wigeon, Shovellers, Black-headed gulls, Canada geese, Coots, Teal and Pintails. On the footpath there was an obliging pair of Stonechats.


On Fishtail there were all the forementioned species plus one Snipe!

On Butts there were two ‘rafts’ of Black-headed gulls for no very obvious reason. Each group consisted of 20-30 birds, in close order. The rest of the water was empty! Three Reed Buntings were feeding on seed heads amongst the reeds.

On the mud there were two Ringed plovers and several Grey plovers amongst the other waders.

                               Grey plover
                                                                                                              Ringed plovers

The flooded fields were frozen as we walked down towards the car park at Lower Pennington, the only birds on them was a pair of ice-skating Pied wagtails.

Down the ancient highway we saw mainly Robins (there seem to be more than usual around at the moment), Blackbirds and Canada geese.

Back at the Keyhaven car park we took one last look over Avon water. The Marsh harrier was just where we had left it, but a Kingfisher was present along with a couple of Little grebes.

Home for lunch!


12 January Talk - Lake Kerkini

Spring is on its way.  The days are lengthening, Spring flowers can be seen in sheltered parts of the garden and bird behaviour is already changing around us.

The first illustrated talk in our Spring programme of Zoom meetings will be given at 7.15 on Tuesday 12 January by Louis Rumis and will take us to northern Greece and to Lake Kerkini, one of the most important wetland sites in Europe.  All members are welcome to attend.

Walk Report : Maiden Lane - 3rd January 2021

Shelduck, Grey Plover and Dunlin at Oxey

For the first scheduled walk of 2021 Brian met Richard Smith at Maiden Lane and followed a route that took in 8 Acre Pond, Salterns Marsh, Moses Dock, Oxey Marsh/Lagoon/Lake, Maiden Dock, Normandy Lagoon/Marsh, Pinckney Path and Normandy Lane. The start time was 08.30, sunrise having only been at 08.08, with LT having been at 06.45/0.95m and HT due at 13.31/2.96m. There had been no overnight frost and there was only light cloud with a gentle breeze from the NNE which freshened throughout the morning - but at least it didn't rain! The following list shows the variety of birds that were seen: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Peregrine, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Curlew, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch. And Roe Deer.

Spotted Redshank and Mallard

Selected highlights were: 3 Spotted Redshank on Salterns Lagoon; a "Peregine on a post" offshore; 10 Avocet, 2M + 4F Goldeneye, a "number" of Snipe and a Kingfisher (all on Normandy). Simply trying to count the roosting/resting Avocet, the perpetually diving Goldeneye and the cryptically camouflaged Snipe gave some insight into the difficulty of conducting the WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey). The walk concluded around midday.

Goldeneye (M)

P.S. Brian got to walk further than Richard when he realized that he had parted company with the baseball cap that he had been wearing on top of his balaclava and had to retrace his steps around Oxey Marsh to retrieve it.

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21