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New Forest birds - an introduction

Spotted flycatchers are spring and summer visitors to the New Forest
Spotted flycatchers are spring and
summer visitors to the New Forest

The New Forest is a wonderful place to see birds. The wide variety of habitats, many of which are rare or scarce elsewhere in Britain, and relatively mild climate provide a home for a great many species. And of course, much of this ancient landscape has not been affected by modern agricultural methods or other trappings of 21st century life.

Here throughout the year buzzards can be seen soaring on the thermals, whilst the rare honey buzzard is a regular late-spring and summer visitor. Goshawks in recent years have made an impressive return to the area and so have ravens, birds whose croaking calls alert of presence high above.

Hen harriers patrol the winter heaths, repeatedly quartering the ground in search of small mammals or unwary birds on which to feast. Merlins - quite small, often inconspicuous falcons - use dashing, low level flights to catch their prey unawares, whilst great grey shrikes utilise gorse, birch and sometimes overhead cables for perches as they wait to strike at passing insects, small birds, mice and voles.

The New Forest wetlands in spring witness the warning cries of displaying lapwings, the sound of drumming snipe and the mournful calls of curlews. Redshanks, too, the yelpers of the marsh, use agitated alarm cries whenever a real or imaginary threat appears in the distance.

Hobbys hawk above bogs and mires, searching for flying insects on which to feast, whilst swallows, house martins, swifts and occasional sand martins likewise seek out prey in the skies above the Forest.

Dartford warblers frequent the heaths, and so, too, do stonechats, woodlarks, meadow pipits, skylarks and breeding linnets. Nightjars, mysterious crepuscular creatures, can also be found on heathland, and in areas of woodland clear-fell, too.

Great spotted, lesser spotted and green woodpeckers, nuthatches, treecreepers, crossbills and hawfinches are year-round residents, whilst the ancient, unenclosed woodlands also attract breeding redstarts and wood warblers.

Kingfishers and grey wagtails enliven the streams, particularly during the breeding season, sometimes in company with Mandarin ducks and Little Egrets.

Help safeguard New Forest birds. From March to July, a range of very vulnerable heathland and wetland birds nest on the ground in the New Forest. Please stay on the main paths at this time, and ensure that dogs do also. Here's more information: Avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds.

In all, the New Forest is home to around 100 species of breeding birds, whilst a further 20 or so, can be seen as regular winter visitors or passage migrants.

This really is a great place to watch birds.

Find out more about New Forest birds

Getting started

Some notable New Forest birds

Birds of the New Forest coast - an introduction to the birds of Keyhaven, Pennington, Normandy and Hurst
Buzzard - a welcome wildlife success story
Common crossbill - distinctive finches, more often heard than seen
Curlew - a vociferous spring and summer visitor
Dartford warbler - a tiny heathland denizen
Fieldfare - an autumn and winter visitor
Great grey shrike - fierce predators that visit in autumn and winter
Grey wagtail - a distinctive bird of rivers and streams
Hawfinch - stocky finches with distinctive bills
Hen harrier - a long-winged bird of prey present in autumn and winter
Hobby - master of the skies
Kingfisher - a brightly coloured but elusive resident
Lapwing - also known as the peewit and green plover
Mandarin duck - extravagantly plumaged wildfowl
Nightjar - elusive, wide-gaped creatures of the night
Nuthatch - vociferous birds of broad-leaved woodland
Raven - another huge wildlife success story
Redshank - the yelper of the marsh
Redstart - colourful males and duller females
Redwing - an attractive autumnal and winter visitor
Short-eared owl - rarely seen but well worth waiting for
Snipe - year round wetland residents
Stonechat - restless birds of the New Forest heaths
Tawny owl - surprisingly numerous hunters of the night
Wood warbler - secretive creatures of the broad-leaved woodlands
Woodcock - elusive woodland dwellers
Woodlark - marvellous heathland songsters
Woodpeckers - two relatively common species and one much less so

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** New Forest ponies **
New Forest ponies in the road
Ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during the first six months of 2018, 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads, compared with 26 in the same period in 2017, a shocking rise of 38%. And in the full year, 63 animals were killed on the roads compared to 56 in 2017.
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest seasonal highlights
July
Silver-washed fritillary butterflies brighten many woodland rides.
Bird song subsides as the annual moult begins, old worn feathers are cast off and new replacements grown.
Wild gladiolus plants bloom. (In the UK, this species is found only in the New Forest).
Dragonflies and Damselflies take to the wing in ever increasing numbers.

August
Heather blossom produces huge swathes of heathland colour, adding to the pinks and purples of earlier flowering cross-leaved heath and bell heather.
Fallow, red and sika deer antlers, when fully grown, are cleaned of velvet in preparation for the autumn rut.
New Forest pony drifts - the annual round-ups begin.
Painted Lady butterflies have arrived in some parts of the UK in large numbers, having travelled all the way from Africa. Look out for them throughout the New Forest.
New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
July 2019
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 4th, 5th and 6th - Burley Village Hall, Burley Players' summer production.
Friday, 12th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Film night, Wild Rose (15), 7.00pm - 10.30pm.
Wednesday, 24th - New Forest Reptile Centre, Wild Wednesday, 10.30am - 3.30pm.

August 2019
Sunday, 4th to Sunday, 11th - Lyndhurst Community Centre, New Forest Art Society Exhibition, 10.00am - 5.00pm.
Saturday and Sunday, 17th and 18th - New Park, Brockenhurst, Polo in the heart of the New Forest - watch, learn and enjoy.
Saturday, 31st - Burley Village Hall, Craft Fayre, 10.30am to 5.00pm.

For further details, view the full New Forest What's on programme.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley