The last coach trip of the current Marylebone Birdwatching Society season was Saturday 3rd June to the New Forest National Park. Like last year’s June trip to Thursley Common, our destination wasn’t an RSPB-style reserve with Visitor Centre, shop, cafe, hides and clear trails to follow within the confines of the site.
We seem to have spent more time in the coach travelling down narrow country lanes and along motorways and congested London streets than out walking in the open air but the Hampshire scenery was lovely especially in the sunshine.
Our coachload of 43 birders arrived at Acres Down a little before 11.30am. We made our way to this vantage point to look out for raptors. I’m not going to say I saw what was eventually thought to be a Goshawk – to me it was just a blob on a distant tree even through a telescope. I also sadly missed a couple of Bullfinch but did see a Hobby. It was also lovely to hear the persistent song of a Willow Warbler.
The bulk of the group then had a “wander” into the woodland. The highlight for me was a Spotted Flycatcher. Failed to pick out the Redstart or Firecrest others saw. And only a lucky few, who’d stayed behind at the view point, saw a Honey Buzzard displaying.
We’d been told to get back to the coach for 1pm but our leader didn’t get us there til 20 past! And then the coach driver’s satnav didn’t find the most direct route to our next stop “just down the road”. At Acres Down, some had commented that there weren’t many people around – apart from our lot – considering it was a sunny day at the end of half-term holidays. When we came up to Bolderwood Car Park we found the crowds! We struggled to drive through the packed car park and turn onto the road (the one we should have arrived on) to park alongside a ditch! We didn’t recall having this difficulty on previous visits. We usually spent most of the day elsewhere – Acres Down or Beaulieu Road – stopping at Bolderwood just for an hour or so for the facilities and ice cream van and a quick look for rarely seen Crossbills or Firecrests before we got the coach home.
This time the plan was to get to Bolderwood for lunch. When the coach finally stopped its manoeuvres, I was quick to find THE bench on which to sit to eat my packed lunch at nearly 2pm. Twenty minutes later, the bulk of the group set off with Andrew skirting woodland along the Lyndhurst/Linwood Road. Our leader soon heard Wood Warbler which is usually to be found in open deciduous woodland. We needed to look beyond the conifers that were the other side of the fence. Eventually we found our way round and into the woodland where some had glimpses of the bird. I was content I’d heard it well!
When we’d got back on the path after the Wood Warblers, anxious about the time – wanting an ice cream before getting back on the coach – I turned to retrace my steps when I saw the group was continuing further along the path. Had a mild panic when the road didn’t appear as soon as I’d expected but I was reassured when I saw the log pile where I’d nearly taken a photo of Dennis sitting by the sign saying “Keep off the log pile” – he got up before I got my camera out! I emerged onto the road – and saw ahead of me a large group of people… the path the group were on had led them back to the road nearer to the Car Park. As a result they’d seen Wood Larks which I missed!
I left them hoping for further sightings of the Wood Lark and made my way back to the ice cream van. Cone in hand, I wandered off towards the deer viewing area. As I walked back through the woodland I noticed the bark of a particular tree.
We set off in the coach just after 4pm. I was busier than usual on this trip ticking people off the passenger list, analysing it for members/non-members & payment method, collecting outstanding coach fees, circulating the bag of Fairtrade snacks, dealing with the raffle and inviting people to address an envelope or list their email address for the new season’s programme. But I did get a bit of time to catch up on some “wild” reading: London Natural History Society newsletters from May 2017 & November 2016 and London Wildlife Trust’s Wild London from winter 2011!