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  • Writer's pictureRussell Wynn

New Forest Biodiversity News - February 2024

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

 

Notable wildlife sightings

The mild weather in the middle of the month saw many common bird species commence breeding, and there were regular reports of singing Woodlarks, displaying Goshawks, drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, and nesting Ravens. Three Swallows moving north over Keyhaven Marshes on 14 Feb were part of an exceptionally early arrival of summer migrants in southern England - perhaps even more remarkable was a report of five of our six native reptile species (Grass Snake was the only omission) seen by a local reptile enthusiast at a New Forest site on 18 Feb!


Goshawk on 23 Feb 2024 (photo: Steve Laycock)


Smooth Snake on 18 Feb 2024 (photo: Keith Mantle)


An adult Red-breasted Goose, associating with Brent Geese in the Lymington-Hurst area from 07-18 Feb, was the rarest bird seen during the month. The long-staying drake Scaup was also regularly reported there, and there were peak counts of 25 Avocet, 14 Spoonbill, and five Slavonian Grebe, while nocturnal surveys indicated the presence of 164 Snipe and a couple of Jack Snipe. A Puffin found dead at Lepe on 09 Feb was a rare winter record, and at least two White-tailed Eagles were regularly reported from the New Forest coast - an inspiring video update from Forestry England about the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction project is available here.

 

Red-breasted Goose on 11 Feb 2024 (photo: Jeremy McClements)


Jack Snipe on 20 Feb 2024 (photo: Marcus Ward / New Forest Ringing Group)


Last month we reported on a species of fibrecap fungus called Inocybe turfae that is a possible first for Britain. A second DNA sequence was produced by Hampshire Fungus Recording Group (HFRG) in February that appears to provide greater confidence in the identification, so it is now being submitted for consideration as a potential first for Britain to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

 

The latest batch of DNA results from HFRG also confirm the fleshy bracket fungus, Trametopsis cervina, as new to Hampshire and the New Forest, following its discovery on a decaying Beech tree last autumn; this is a nationally rare species with the handful of UK records coming from just five other locations. Other notable species confirmed by DNA include the Pouch Cup Peziza saccardona from the HFRG survey at Exbury Gardens on 25 Nov 2023, which has just 12 previous UK records, and Tricholoma batschii on the same survey, which has one previous New Forest record from the same site in Nov 2021. Records of apparent Silvery Amanita Amanita argentea from Pondhead Inclosure on 17 Sep 2023 (three previous Hants / NF records), and Tylospora fibrillosa from Godshill Inclosure on 14 Oct 2023 (one previous Hants / NF record) are also notable.

 

Trametopsis cervina on 03 Nov 2023, recently confirmed as new to Hampshire and the New Forest

(photo: Russell Wynn)


The final set of DNA results relate to fleshy white polypores, including Serried Porecrust Antrodia serialis at a private site near Bramshaw in autumn 2023 (three previous New Forest records). Five samples of the internationally rare Aurantiporus alborubescens and Aurantiporus fissilis were selected from nearly 30 specimens of both species found over the last two autumns, and DNA results confirmed initial field-based identifications - these form part of an internationally important Beech saprotroph assemblage in the New Forest that will be the subject of further survey work in 2024, complementing work on the Green Forest Hoverfly Caliprobola speciosa that is targeting many of the same dead and decaying Beech trees!

 

Wildlife and conservation news

The New Forest Biodiversity Forum was officially launched at the New Forest Biodiversity Conference on 06-07 Feb 2024. An overview of the conference will be provided on the Hub soon. The Small Grant programme has already approved four projects for funding: DNA analysis of New Forest fungi samples in 2024-26 (Hampshire Fungus Recording Group); combined radio and GPS tracking of juvenile Hawfinch (New Forest Ringing Group); Green Forest Hoverfly 2024 survey (Andy Murdock/Maploom), and Field Gentian surveys and translocation trials (Species Recovery Trust). Further details on these projects and the application process are available here.

 

The incessantly mild and wet weather in February made the headlines, with Met Office data indicating it was the warmest and wettest February in southern England since records began. In our region, the mean temperature for the month was more than 3.0oC above the long-term average. The Met Office update, available here, also provides an overview of winter 2023/24 and some long-term climate trends, highlighting the progressive shift towards a warmer, wetter climate.



UK winter temperature and rainfall data from 1836-2024, showing the recent trend towards warmer and wetter winters (images: Met Office)


In addition to being the hosting partner of the New Forest Biodiversity Forum, Wild New Forest also deliver ecological surveys on public and private land across the New Forest. One of the survey sites is Green Hill Farm (Landford), where an area of 11 ha (equivalent to one-third of the site) is being managed to deliver Biodiversity Net Gain to offset development elsewhere on the site. The long-term management plan aims to return some of this area to low-intensity grazing land, while also allowing development of a rough grassland and scrub mosaic to support priority species. The 2023 Biodiversity Report for the site is now available here, with highlights in the conservation fields including Barn Owl, Nightjar, Stonechat, Grass Snake, Common Lizard, Common Toad, Hornet Robberfly, and three species of nationally scarce micro-moth.   

 

A pilot project co-ordinated by Wild New Forest and Freshwater Habitats Trust made headlines in February, as it revealed that harmful chemicals associated with some popular flea treatments used on dogs are getting into New Forest ponds and valley mires. The story was featured on BBC News online here and was also covered by BBC Radio Solent, BBC South Today, and various other local and regional media outlets. The pilot project was sponsored by Friends of the New Forest and news dissemination is being supported by New Forest Dog Owners Group.

 

The annual messaging around ground-nesting birds was also released at the end of the month, with features by Forestry England and New Forest National Park Authority available here and here. The key message is “stay on track to support New Forest wildlife this spring” and pay attention to orange and red signs in the most sensitive areas.

 

The news of the successful breeding of Grey Seal on the Beaulieu River, reported here last month, was also featured in mainstream media following a news release by Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour, including ITV News here. A couple of relevant news items from further afield include a consultation about Pine Marten reintroduction in southeast England here, the use of leaky dams to rewet mires on the Purbeck Heaths here, and the listing of the River Avon at Fordingbridge as a proposed new bathing site here.

 

The excellent Hantsmoths website has recently had an overhaul - this is a vital resource for anyone involved in moth recording in Hampshire, with up-to-date species accounts and a handy ‘Flying Tonight’ feature that lists the most likely species to be found in any given week.

 

Finally, the annual New Forest Awakening Festival is running through March, allowing people to participate in a wide variety of activities with a focus on nature and climate change - further details and the events programme are available here.

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