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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New Forest Break - 30th March to 1st April, 2011

Our daughter very kindly treated my wife and I to a Champagne Break at the Forest Park Hotel, on the edge of Brockenhurst, in the New Forest. This was not a birding break, and also the weather was very grey, often wet, and always windy, during our stay, so the wildlife photography was a bit thin on the ground.

We arrived in the mid afternoon of the Wednesday and, having checked in, decided to have a bit of an explore locally. We got to our car to find a pair of Willow Tits flitting around in the woodland in front of us.

Willow Tit
Not far down the road is the rather scenic Hatchet Pond - the largest expanse of fresh water in The New Forest. Here there were a couple of donkeys, various ducks and waders, and a number of Black-headed Gulls in the car park which spent most of their time shouting at each other!

Black-headed Gull

Just up the road is Hatchet Moor, where there are a couple of smaller ponds. Here, as well as a few Black-headed Gulls and numerous Chaffinches, was a lone Willow Warbler. It was getting late by now, and the light was awful!

Willow Warbler

Black-headed Gull

I was feeling rather fragile the following day, having been up half the night following a Chinese meal which disagreed with me. We started off gently with a return visit to Hatchet Pond. There was little in the vicinity of the car park, but in the distance was a Little Egret. I didn't manage to get very close - it was over rather a large expanse of water - and the light was awful again, so I didn't get any good images. A couple of New Forest ponies passed by me whilst I was photographing the Egret. I was also amazed at the size of the fresh-water mussels that were littering the banks of the pond - you can see one in the first Egret image below.

Little Egret
New Forest Ponies

Fancying a gentle drive, rather than walking, we set off for Hengistbury Head, over the border and into Dorset. Because of the weather, we had the place virtually to ourselves, although the car park indicated that, in high season the place is probably crawling with thousands of people. Here, however, I plucked up courage and we set off for the Head - what a great place this is! Blowing a gale, little in the way of bird life was around, but there was a pair of Stonechat obliging in the brambles. Photos were pretty poor - the only one I got of the female being unpublishable,

Stonechat (male)

After an excellent lunch in the café in the Hengistbury Head car park, we headed back towards base, stopping off at Keyhaven  - hoping to get the ferry to Hurst Castle. We arrived to find that the ferry was not running, due to the weather, but in the estuary were several Black-tailed Godwit in varying stages of plumage, and a Redshank (no images of the Redshank).

Black-tailed Godwit

From Keyhaven we took a scenic ride inland, passing through the centre of the New Forest. A few Stonechat were seen, plus Green Woodpecker, but little else of wildlife interest. As dusk approached, as we were getting near our hotel, we saw our first deer of the break - a lone young Fallow buck, with antlers still covered in velvet.

Fallow Deer
That night I was sufficiently well recovered from my Chinese to risk a 'kill or cure' curry in the local Indian restaurant - it was excellent, and had no adverse effects!

Thank you, Melanie, for your generosity, and a really great time!!!

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