Saturday, 18 February 2017

18th February - Acres Down & Holmhill Inclosure, New Forest, Hampshire

What a difference a week has made, last week the temperature hardly got above freezing, accompanied by a fresh easterly wind.  This weekend after a misty start the sun broke through and it felt positively balmy.

Helen and I decided to spend some time in the New Forest, and pulled into the Acres Down car park with a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming high above us.  The walk along the main path did not turn up that much, singing Song Thrushes and Robins in the trees and bushes on either side, and the calls of Siskins high in the trees.

When we arrived at Highland Water there was a group of four dogs so there was little about.  A Grey Wagtail flew off calling and another Song Thrush appeared in the tree beside the path.



We followed the path with little else about.  As the path took us through the Holmhill Inclosure a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called several times, and also drummed.  Unfortunately we were not able to locate it, and it then went quiet as it seems they always do.

With the sun now out and the sky was a lovely blue.  Where the sun filtered through the Spruce trees it would catch the needles and they reflected like silver.



We had remarked it might be possible for a butterfly today, and then there in front of us was a Red Admiral.  It settled on one of the many dried leaves in the sunshine.



The path looped around and we ended up back at the stream once again, faced with the wonderful dead tree on the corner.



We made our way back to the car park.  In one of the marshy areas buy the side of the path Helen found a large amount of recent Frog Spawn, two indicators of spring.



We then found ourselves stopping to be frustrated by a small flock of Lesser Redpolls, they just kept moving making the opportunity to photograph them impossible.  Then when a bird did settle on  one of the high branches it turned out to be a male Chaffinch.



Back at the car we decided to take lunch up to the Acres Down view point.  As I laid the ground sheet I noticed a distant bird circling high in the sky.  A Goshawk, and while it gave some great views in the binoculars it was just still too distant for the camera.



I watched as it looked like it was going to come closer, but again as always it turned and headed into the tall pines on the ridge to the north.

A Small Tortoiseshell flew past and disappeared into the gorse, and as we sat having lunch we could hear the buzzing of bees taking advantage of the flowering gorse.

We decided to walk along the lower trail back to the car, and this proved to be a good choice as we flushed a group of four Woodlark from the heather.  One stayed close.



And then flew up into the nearby Pine tree.



Unlike the Skylark the Woodlark will readily perch in trees, but they feed on the ground



They are much smaller than a Skylark, and appear quite stocky, with a small crest that is not really visible here.  The tail is short and has white tips, while there is a black and white wing patch, just visible here.  the most distinctive feature though is the prominent whitish supercilia, which when seen from behind, meet on the nape in a "V"



A little further on we came across the third Red Admiral of the day, sunning itself on the drying mud in one of the tyre tracks.



We then drove around to Mark Ash Wood, and went off to search for the Tawny Owl, but it was not to be seen.  We then spent some time on both sides of the drive, looking and hoping for a sign of the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, but there was nothing.  Al we came across was a lot of singing Robins, a single Wren in a dead tree, and the calls of Stock Dove.  The Stock Doves sound very much like Monkeys, and they could be seen in the tops of the trees.

We then decided on an ice cream before heading home.  The sunshine was very pleasant and welcome, but it would seem that the doldrums that do occure at this time of year have started.

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