©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21
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.
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.
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.
©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
However dark the days of this last winter have been, Spring’s return lifts the spirits and is out there to experience and enjoy.
The New Forest National Park is a Special Protection Area for birds and
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
|©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21|
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.
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!
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.
|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.