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  • Writer's pictureRussell Wynn

New Forest Biodiversity News - April 2024

This report aims to summarise some of the notable wildlife sightings and conservation news in the New Forest National Park in April 2024. To contribute to future editions, please contact the New Forest Biodiversity Forum Chair (russ@wildnewforest.co.uk).

 

Notable wildlife sightings

April was much wetter and slightly warmer than average, but it was very much a month of two halves, and the latter two weeks were rather cold with a biting northerly wind that supressed invertebrate activity, although there were notable sightings of the nationally scarce Purseweb Spider Atypus affinis on 13 Apr and Wasp-banded Comb-horn cranefly Ctenophora flaveolata on 21 Apr.

 

Wasp-banded Comb-horn cranefly on 21 Apr 2024 (photo: Neil Sanderson)

 

A popular Marsh Sandpiper on Normandy Lagoon from 19-24 Apr was only the third for the New Forest and the fifth for Hampshire. Other notable bird sightings in the Lymington-Hurst area include Cattle Egret on 07 Apr, Whooper Swan on 10-11 Apr, singing Grasshopper Warbler on 12 and 21 Apr, Wood Sandpiper on 24 Apr, and Pomarine Skua on 30 Apr, while Scaup, Garganey, Bar-headed Goose, Great White Egret, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Water Pipit, up to four Spoonbills, five Little Gulls and 74 Avocets were regularly reported there. An exceptionally early record of Gilthead Bream came from a local angler on 16 Apr. There were a couple of sightings of White-tailed Eagle and White Stork in the New Forest during the month, presumably from recent reintroduction schemes, and the first reports of migrant Honey Buzzards at the coast on 19-20 Apr. A Great White Egret was at Beaulieu Mill Pond on 21 Apr, while in the forest interior notable spring migrants included two Ring Ouzels at Ashley Walk on 07 Apr and a Pied Flycatcher at Pig Bush on 21 Apr.

 

Marsh Sandpiper at the New Forest coast, present from 19-24 April 2024 (photo: Jeremy McClements)

 

April is not the most productive month for fungi, although a good candidate for the nationally scarce Spring Funnel Bonomyces sinopicus (six previous New Forest records) was found on a bracken-covered burn site in ancient woodland on 11 Apr, together with the nationally uncommon Toothed Cup Tarzetta cupularis (three previous New Forest records).

 

Spring Funnel and Toothed Cup fungus on 11 Apr 2024 (photo: Holly Fitzgerald).

 

Wildlife and conservation news

The £1.3M Defra-funded Species Survival Fund in the New Forest was announced in March here and here, and the kick-off meeting on 22 Apr saw over 20 target sites identified across the New Forest, with survey work due to commence in May. The New Forest Biodiversity Forum is providing match-funding for the project, which will be delivered by a partnership including New Forest National Park Authority, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Wild New Forest, and New Forest Commoners Defence Association.

 

There are encouraging signs that local authorities are increasingly moving towards a more relaxed management regime for grass verges and other public open spaces, including New Forest District Council who launched their ‘Let it Bee’ campaign on 08 Apr here. Further support for the biodiversity benefits of allowing grass to grow long came from Butterfly Conservation research here, showing that the abundance and diversity of butterflies is much higher in gardens with long grass, especially in urban and agricultural environments.

 

Another positive story relates to a £400,000 funding award to the New Forest National Park Authority from the National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative, which has been used for landscape, access, and biodiversity improvements (see here).

 

Finally, the Campaign for National Parks released a ‘National Parks Health Check Report’ on 10 Apr (download available here and media coverage here) that claims to be the “first full assessment of how well the National Parks of England are supporting nature recovery”. The report contains a variety of maps and statistics, including the fact that the New Forest has the highest proportion of land (47.4%) in public ownership, the highest proportion of protected area (57%), and the highest amount of woodland cover (36.8%) of any National Park, but with particular issues around water quality (primarily agricultural and sewage discharges) and habitat loss and drainage due to past forestry operations (which are being addressed in some areas through ongoing wetland and heathland restoration work). However, the report also identified a lack of robust contemporary data to assess key measures such as peatland extent and condition (particularly deep peat) and species abundance and trends, although the former is now being investigated by Natural England in the New Forest and the latter is being discussed as a potential future project for the New Forest Biodiversity Forum. 

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