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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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Raven (Corvus corax)

Where: Most often seen (or heard) aloft over woods, heaths and wetlands
When: Throughout the year
How many: Very small numbers
A raven - a huge member of the crow family
A raven - a huge member of the crow family

When visiting the New Forest, look out in winter and early spring for the raven’s tumbling, acrobatic display flights high up in the sky, and always pay attention to the sound of mobbing carrion crows for these might reveal a raven’s presence.

Majestic birds and the largest member of the crow family, ravens can be distinguished from both carrion crows and rooks by their huge size, tremendously heavy bill, shaggy throat feathers, wedge-shaped tail and distinctive, deep croaking calls.

Ravens were once widespread in the New Forest, but by the mid-19th century, after prolonged persecution by gamekeepers and egg collectors, and a fashion for keeping the young as pets, ravens were almost extinct here and elsewhere in lowland Britain.

John Wise in The New Forest: Its History and Scenery, published in 1862, described at length the raven’s demise: ‘In February, the raven will build, or rather used to, in the old woods round Burley. In 1858 the two last nests were taken, the eggs being somewhat smaller than those which I have received from the Orkneys. Another of its breeding stations was in Puckpits, where, however, it has not built for the last four seasons. Formerly the bird was common enough, as the different Ravensnest Woods still show; and old men in the New Forest have told me, in direct opposition, however, to what Yarrell says, that when, as boys, taking its eggs, they were obliged to arm themselves with stones and sticks to drive off the parent birds, who fiercely defended their nests with their claws and bills. Now it is nearly extinct, though a pair may sometimes be seen wherever there is a dead horse or cow in the district.’

In fact, the last recorded 19th century Hampshire raven's nest was found in 1887.

But following reduced gamekeeping activities in the first half of the 20th century, raven range expansion and increased abundance were noted in many parts of Britain, although Hampshire’s first successful breeding ravens were not recorded until 2003, at a site near Cholderton in the Bourne Valley, close to the Hampshire-Wiltshire border.

Now the raven is increasingly seen in the New Forest, and in 2006 the Hampshire Bird Report noted that within the county, pairs of ravens were recorded on territory during February to April in at least eighteen places. Six nests were located, at least four of which were successful.

And so continues to unfold what seems to be a welcome wildlife success story.

References:
Collins Bird Guide: Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterstrom and Peter J.Grant
The Historical Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland, 1875-1900: Simon Holloway
Hampshire Bird Reports: Hampshire Ornithological Society
The New Forest: Its History and Scenery: John R. Wise

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).
** Always take care when driving **
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley