Monday, 19 April 2010

A morning in the New Forest

The New Forest in the county of Hampshire is just an hours drive south for me.  It's a distinctive mix of Woodland and Heathland which was preserved as a hunting ground for King William 1st back in the 12th Century.  Click on the link for a website about the Forest.  As you can see  from the photo below, deer still roam the Forest.
New Forest ponies have had the run of the New Forest for centuries. The link above tells more about 'Verderer's rights' I think.
There is alot of active management of the forest including burning of the Gorse on the Heathland. It makes for some stark grazing areas for the ponies.
I liked this burnt bark from a large Gorse bush. Hopefully recovery doesn't take too long!
Here are some areas of Gorse and Heather untouched by flame.
The Gorse bush is an extremely prickly affair, but the golden yellow flowers have the most gorgeous scent of coconuts which wafts through the air as your walk amongst it.
The woodland areas have alot of Holly trees in them giving a distinctive dark and evergreen feel to the otherwise deciduous woods.
The only bird photo I managed to take was of this distant male Common Redstart.  It's a stunning bird!  There were plenty about in the Forest, just coming through on migration from the south.
I'll finish with a view over a stretch of Heathland. The path winding up through the middle leads to our parked car way in the distance. 
It was a beautiful spring morning for a walk in this lovely part of the country.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Birds, Bats and Beasties at Rodden Reserve.

At last, a beautiful spring morning to get out and about, when I didn't have other priorities getting in the way! At Rodden Nature Reserve where I help with the management, we have started a systematic small mammal survey with the aid of traps.  The traps are set with grass and food and left overnight around the Reserve.  This morning several of us went early to check the traps.  More about that later.  I decided to get down there 1/2 an hour early to see what else was about.
I had a good start with my first Willow Warbler of the year.  They're not the most exciting looking birds, but hearing their beautiful cascading song was a real treat this morning.
In this last shot below, you can see it's pale legs which is one of the ways to distinguish it from the similar Chiffchaff.  Mind you, there's not problem telling them apart when they're singing as their songs are completely different.
As I walked around I noticed a pair of Canada Geese quietly swimming on the misty lake. It was a beautifully serene scene.
The early morning sun showed up the beauty of the grasses
When the others joined me, we set out to check the traps.  We have 12 at present.  6 of these were occupied.  We had 5 Wood Mice (as seen below). Sorry about the quality of the photo, but they move soooooo quick!
It seemed like we were only going to find Wood Mice this morning, but the last trap had this lovely Short-tailed Field Vole.
Yesterday evening, while resetting the traps, we were lucky to see this early Bat come out to hunt over the lake.  It is more than likely a Daubenton's Bat as they are known to hunt low over water.  It was nearly dusk, so the photos are far from good, in fact, I put this first one in because I thought it looked! (-:
As you can see, it was hunting very close to the water.  As we were watching it, the Bat crashed into the lake and tried a few times to fly up without success (I didn't take any photos unfortunately).  I thought we were going to watch it drown, but with heroic heaves, it started swimming (with butterfly like strokes) towards our floating island.  It did manage to reach the island and disppeared into the foliage to dry off hopefully!
I can only imagine that it had just woken from hibernation and was feeling a bit dopey! I know how it feels! (-:
It was certainly a dramatic end to the evening!