Recently, I returned from my Silver Duke of Edinburgh Assessed Expedition, following up from my practice earlier this year. This time, it was in the New Forest, and while the terrain was much flatter for walking, the weather was not on our side at all: the first day was boiling hot – far too hot to walk, on the second, there was constant heavy rain, and on the last, the weather was nice, but there were a lot of very muddy bogs due to the previous day’s rain. However, this did not stop the wildlife from coming out, and so once again, it was a great trip for seeing nature, especially birds. Of course though, there are no photos due to the risk of breaking my camera.
On the first day, very little wildlife was around because of the heat, although I did notice a huge number of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes foraging among the leaves in the shade from the trees. Often, we would walk along a path through the forest, and several of these birds would suddenly fly up, having not been seen by us before as they were well camouflaged.
Also, that day, I came across several families of Nuthatches high up in the trees, and also a Tree Pipit singing from the top of a small shrub. The latter being a much rarer bird than it used to, now gaining itself and IUCN Red list status, due to its recent decline. That same day, all three species of Woodpecker regularly found in the UK also made an appearance – Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted and Green.
The next morning, I woke up and looked out of the tent to see a herd of deer running across the far side of the field. I don’t really know my deer too well, but I think that they were Fallow Deer. Whilst on the expedition, I also saw Muntjac, and possibly some Red Deer, but I can’t be sure.
That day, as we were more heading through the heathland part of the New Forest, I came across common heathland birds such as Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Hobby, Skylark (unfortunately not its rarer cousin though – the Woodlark), and also my first Dartford Warbler, which I was very pleased about. I really needed some binoculars or even a scope though, as often the birds were very far away and hard to identify.
The next day, at lunch by a lake, as we were well ahead of time, I decided to see what wildlife I could see by doing a little bit more exploring around the lake. I came across several large families of Mandarin Ducks, however, in all cases, it was just the female with lots of juveniles – no males. I am not entirely sure why this is – there are various possibilities, but if anybody knows, I would love to know myself. Also, next to the lake was a part of the path where some seed or something had been thrown down to attract birds. There were Chaffinches, Robins, a pair of Moorhens feeding several young chicks, lots of Great Tits and Blue Tits (there was also a Marsh Tit among them!), and many House Sparrows, with a few Tree Sparrows as well.
As we walked along the last stretch to the finish, a Spotted Flycatcher was singing up above on a branch.
However, after the expedition, I noticed that I had come across some rather less welcome members of the wildlife community – ticks!
Also whilst on my expedition, I hugely improved my lichen identification skills, due to our aim – because lichen is an indicator species, one can tell by which species are present on trees, whether or not the area has good or bad air quality. Overall, the New Forest tended to be an area with low Nitrogen levels in the air – this is good and shows that the air quality round there is healthy. If you want to take part in the survey, then you can do so via the OPAL Air Survey – there are instructions on this website: https://www.opalexplorenature.org/airsurvey
Overall, on my expedition, I saw 49 species of bird, a few species of deer, lots of butterflies and other insects, and much more. Once again, it was an expedition full of wildlife.