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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

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
New Forest ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but in 2015, 55 were killed on the roads.
Always take care when driving
New Forest seasonal highlights
March
Lesser celandine blooms illuminate woodlands, and heathland edges.
Fallow deer remain in single sex herds, the bucks at this time always separate from the does.
Curlews return from the coast to breed in and around the New Forest's wetter areas.

Red admiral butterflies are increasingly seen on bright, sunny days.

April
Redstarts are amongst the first returning, long distant migrant birds that arrive in April.
Large red damselflies take to the wing, the first of many such species that will soon be seen in the New Forest.
Bluebells blossom, sometimes in good numbers in ungrazed woodlands.
Badger cubs first appear above ground towards the end of the month.
New Forest 'what's on' - a small
selection of local events and activities
March 2018
Saturday, 3rd - Lyndhurst Community Centre, New Forest Book Fair, 10.00am - 4.00pm.
Sunday, 11th March to Monday, 2nd April - Exbury Gardens, Lachenalia and Orchid Exhibition, 10.00am - 5.30pm (last admission 4.30pm).
Friday, 16th - Brockenhurst Village Hall, Film Night - Goodbye Christopher Robin (PG), 7.00pm - 10.30pm.
Saturday, 17th - Burley Village Hall, Burley Scouts' Quiz.

April 2018
Wednesday 4th and 11th - Wild Wednesday, New Forest Reptile Centre, 10.30am - 4.00pm.
Monday, 9th - Burley Village Hall, Film Night.
Thursday, 12th - Wild About Ponies, Bolton's Bench Car Park, 1.00pm - 2.00pm.
Sunday, 22nd - Exbury Gardens, Devoted to Dogs Day, 10.00am - 5.30pm.
For further details, view the full New Forest What's on programme.
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley