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Thursday, 10 August 2017

New Forest Holiday - 14th to 21st July, 2017

Lindsay and I had booked a return visit to Japonica Cottage in Bank, near Lyndhurst in The New Forest, Hampshire, taking our daughter and granddaughter with us. We'd had a 4-night stay in June, 2016 and had a splendid time, so were really looking forward to our return.

Whilst this was a 'family' holiday' I did manage some worthwhile wildlife experiences, and this post will concentrate on those aspects.

Friday 14th July

We took the scenic route to our destination, leaving at around 10h15 and arriving at around 16h15. We did, however, stop for an excellent lunch at the White Hart in Ashton Keynes which is virtually at the source of the River Thames. Here the river is only about 2 metres wide and you could wade across without getting your knees wet! Melanie and Georgie took the motorway route,  leaving at about 11h30 and arriving at 15h00 having had a picnic lunch. 

That night we had an enjoyable dinner at the Swan Inn on the road into Lyndhurst.

Saturday 15th July

The day got off to a good start when I wandered, stark-naked and bleary-eyed, into the bathroom at around 06h00 and found the bathroom full of wasps. I spent the next hour battering the things with a shoe -  I could think of no other solution and, fortunately, the things were somewhat dopey. Some escaped through the window before I cleared a path so that I could close it, but in the finish I counted 88 corpses!

bathroom windowsill  - Japonica Cottage on 15th July
We were thankful that the wasps hadn't come in through our open bedroom window which was only a couple of metres away from the bathroom window. 

The wasps gave us a late start as we had to wait until the letting agent's offices opened at 10h00, so that we could report the matter and get it fixed.

Georgie was desperately keen to go crabbing in Mudeford, so the girls headed off there, leaving me to my own devices. The weather was not good, with some rain forecast, so I decided birding was the best option, rather than hunting for dragonflies, and headed off to Keyhaven, near which I'd seen Little Tern in June 2016.

As I arrived, light drizzle turned into heavy rain so I sat in the car park and waited. I found I could get an internet connection there (there was no wi-fi at the cottage, and virtually no phone signal) so started replying to some blog comments, using my phone. I gave that up when I accidentally hit the 'delete', rather than 'publish', button on the small phone screen for one comment I'd been sent.

Eventually the rain stopped and I set off in the direction of the lagoons which border The Solent.

It was quite windy, and still dull, so I was quite surprised when I started seeing Gatekeeper, and Small Skipper butterflies. The small birds were keeping their heads down, out of the wind, however.

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) (male) - near Keyhaven
I took some record shots of a distant Little Egret and at the first lagoon there were some very distant Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits (better images to come later).

At the far end of the first lagoon a Black-headed Gull was lurking close to the path. I couldn't resist some shots of this extremely common bird as it was clearly exhibiting how badly named the species is!

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - near Keyhaven
At the second lagoon there were more Avocets and Blackwits, and these were somewhat closer.

Black-tailed Godwits and an Avocet - near Keyhaven
As you can see in the above image, the Blackwits had juveniles with them. In the second image, below, you can also see a pair of juvenile Avocet on the bank.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta) - near Keyhaven
Some of the Blackwits were busy feeding, others were resting, and numbers were steadily increasing as others flew in.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) - near Keyhaven
There were a few Little Egret around.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - near Keyhaven

I had a look for the juvenile Bearded Tits that a couple of people said that they had seen earlier in the day, but had no luck. I was also told that, sadly, the Little Terns that I'd been delighted to see the previous year had had their nests washed out in a storm earlier this year, and had moved to another location.

I'd decided to take the 5 km circular route that, after the second lagoon, would take me back via somewhat different habitat, and would be a little more sheltered from the wind. Soon I was seeing lots more butterflies, but only of two species - many more Gatekeepers and a few Red Admirals.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - near Keyhaven
At one point there was a family of Whitethroat with young, and I spent some time photographing these delightful birds.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) - near Keyhaven
Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (juvenile) - near Keyhaven
For me, the real excitement came when I was about nine tenths of the way round the circuit. I suddenly noticed a Golden-ringed Dragonfly perched on a bush beside the path. I managed to grab a few shots before a couple of walkers arrived. They very kindly stopped when they saw I was taking photos, but I waved them on, knowing that Golden-ringed can be quite confiding - this one wasn't, and flew as they approached! 

This dragonfly was one of the target species that I had given Paul Ritchie to find for me when I had my day out with him a few days later. In the event, with Paul we only found males of the species. I was, therefore, delighted that this one was a female. The females of this species have exceptionally long ovipositors, but these often get damaged when ovipositing into gravelly stream beds. It appears that this one had suffered in this way, as can be seen in the second image, below.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) (female) - near Keyhaven
Back at my car I had a late picnic lunch before setting off for another place that I'd found productive in 2016. This was the small pond at Hatchet Moor.

It was quite windy when I arrived and I was not expecting to find much. This did, indeed, prove to be the case. 

The water lilies were in bloom and looked delightful.

Water lilies - pond at Hatchet Moor
At one point I found a Common Blue Damselfly with an unusual marking on segment 2 of the abdomen - an isolated transverse line, rather than a connected 'blob'.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male with odd segment 2 mark) - Hatchet Moor
 This next one has the usual marking on segment 2.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (male) - Hatchet Moor
Most exciting for me, however, was the finding of a couple of male Small Red Damselflies. This was another target species that I'd given Paul Ritchie to find for me, and which I pre-empted. I had great difficulty with this species as my autofocus just didn't want to work on them unless I was less than a foot (30 cm) away!

Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) (male) - Hatchet Moor
That evening we had fish and chips from the chippie in Lyndhurst - and very good they were too!

Sunday 16th July

This was a 'family day' and we all went to enjoy Lymington Carnival for the day.

On the way back to the cottage we found a pair of donkeys wandering along the road by Hatchet Moor, with a pair of youngsters. We stopped, largely for the benefit of our granddaughter, but we were all charmed by them. I only had an old pocket camera with me.

Donkeys - by Hatchet Moor
That evening, we snacked at the cottage as we'd eaten well during the day at the carnival.

Monday 17th July

This was my day out with Paul Ritchie which I wrote about in a previous post -  which you can find here.

On the way to meet Paul, I stopped at Hatchet Moor to drain the tanks, but the only thing I saw to photograph was an immature Common Blue Damselfly.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) (immature male) - Hatchet Moor
I returned after my day out with Paul to find that our daughter had bought the wherewithal for a barbecue dinner. I didn't feel the need to do the man-thing and insist on presiding over the cooking, but was happy to sit back and let our daughter do a real fine job of it - thank you, Melanie.

Whilst we were having our splendid dinner, a cricket nymph came to join us at the table. I have no idea what species this was. I've since been told that this was a male Oak Bush-cricket - Thank you "Conehead54"

Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum) (male) - Bank
Tuesday 18th July

The weather forecast was not too bad for the day and it was decided that, after breakfast, we would all set off for The New Forest Wildlife Park, as this is where our granddaughter, Georgie, was very keen to go.

We went in two cars as I suspected that I'd want less time there than the rest of them. This proved to be the case and so I left them just after we'd had a picnic lunch there.

I wanted to return to both the sites that Paul had shown me the previous day, particularly the one that had the Black Darters.

Having parked up, I headed out across the heather. On the way I stopped for Silver-studded Blue. I'm continuing to use the site designations from my previous post on these sites, in order to protect Paul's interests.

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) (female) - Site B

Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus) (male) - Site B
In the heather, I found a mature female Keeled Skimmer which was a little tatty, but I'm quite pleased with the images. There were also males of the species down by the water (not so pleased with the images!).

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (female) - Site B

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (male) - Site B
Once more, I didn't take much notice of the Emerald Damselflies as they are relatively common at home. In some ways, though, I regret overlooking them as they are splendid creatures - I might have got one with the tail-end in focus if I'd paid more attention to them!.

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) (male) - Site B
The real target for this place, however, was the Black Darters. I was extremely fortunate in finding a very obliging male specimen, and I'm very happy with the results.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) (male) - Site B
When I'd visited the previous day with Paul, we'd only seen males, including an immature which we'd initially thought was a female. I was, therefore, highly delighted to find first an immature female (note the white pterostigma), and then a mature female, out in the heather.

Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) (immature female) - Site B
Black Darter (Sympetrum danae) (female) - Site B
It was getting windier, and the forecast was for rain later, so I headed back to the car, but decided to take a quick look at the first site that Paul had taken me to the previous day.

I quickly found a Golden-ringed Dragonfly, but this soon went and wasn't seen again.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) (male) -Site A
After this, only Keeled Skimmer (males) and Beautiful Demoiselle (males) were seen as it got steadily windier and more dull. There are some advantages if one is able to take photos of odonata in conditions without sunshine, although I'm not sure these apply when photographing demoiselles!

Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) (male) - Site A

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) (male) - Site A
I sensed that it was time to be leaving, and the rain started as I reached my car.

That night we had a very acceptable Chinese take-away from the China Chef in Brockenhurst.

Wednesday 19th July

Georgie wanted to go crabbing in Mudeford again, so I was left to my own devices. Sadly, the weather forecast was not good - correctly so!

I started by going to the nearby New Forest Reptile Centre - primarily to see if a delightful couple who we had met at The Grant Arms in Scotland the previous year, and who were volunteers at the Reptile Centre, were on duty - they weren't. I did have a quick look round, and did see Adder, Smooth Snake and Slow-worm, but the photos, in dull weather, were all through netting and so will not appear here.

After this I set off for a location that features on Paul Ritchie's website, and this was Eyeworth Pond. I didn't have any expectations whatsoever of seeing any dragonflies, but I did read that Mandarin Duck can sometimes be seen here. Anyway, I considered it worth checking out for future reference. 

I spent some time exploring, but not seeing much, although a Kingfisher flashing through had me searching (unsuccessfully) for a while. I then returned to my car for my picnic lunch. I arrived to find a gentleman with a bike chatting to a couple of other gentlemen who were with their parked vans. All three were nature lovers, and the one with the bike told me that he was, on average, there every second day, and came to see and feed the birds. This he did whilst I was there. I was intrigued to see Canada Geese taking food from his hand! He also succeeded in attracting some Mandarins. The other two reckoned that these were juveniles and the adults had departed, but I'm not so sure that some of these weren't eclipse males.

The two gentlemen with the vans had what must be one of the worst jobs on the planet  ;-}. Their prime remit was to visit all the countryside car parks in The New Forest and check them out for fly-tipping and collect rubbish. Once in a while they'd arrange to meet up and sort out what they'd collected so that they could take things to the appropriate depository. This usually forced them to park in some place with a delightful view of the wildlife and then have to sit and eat their lunch there. Their hours added to the hardship as they started at some ridiculously early hour when there was no one else around (imagine having to be in a wildlife-rich car park on your own!) and were finished by early afternoon. If I wasn't too old, I'd have offered to share their burden with them.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) - Eyeworth Pond
Shortly after finishing my lunch, it started to rain, so I departed. The girls had got cold, and then been rained off from their crabbing and returned to the cottage, and I joined them.

Fortunately, it brightened up a bit later in the afternoon and I sat in the doorway overlooking the garden with my camera on my knees. When packing for the holiday, I'd taken some bird food and a couple of feeders with me. These had been ignored  by the birds at first, but having left them full on the Sunday morning, we found them empty by the time we returned on the Sunday afternoon! The Great Spotted Woodpeckers were frequent visitors. As well as male and female adults, we were seeing at least two juveniles.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (juvenile No.1) - Japonica Cottage
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (juvenile No.2) - Japonica Cottage
At one point, a Siskin turned up. This is a bird that we only see in winter at home.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - Japonica Cottage
That evening, we returned to The Swan, just outside Lyndhurst, for dinner.

Thursday 20th July

This day had been designated a 'family day' from the word go, as Lindsay wanted to celebrate her birthday early while we were all together.

We had a relatively late start to the day, and then set off late morning for Eyeworth Pond as Georgie fancied seeing the ducks. I took some bird seed with us. It occurred to me to lace the top of a nearby gate with seed, and I was quite surprised when a juvenile Moorhen went up to take some.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (juvenile) - Eyeworth Pond
Even more delightful were the Moorhen chicks which appeared. It seems they'd had a second brood - here's one of them.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) (chick) - Eyeworth Pond
I went to the water's edge with some seed and the Canada Geese and Mallards soon came to me. At one point I had three Canada Geese eating out of my hand at the same time. They were very gentle.

The Mandarins took a little longer to arrive, but Georgie was able to pick them out from the others - which was great, because they were being bullied by the Mallards but Georgie managed to aim some treats directly at the Mandarins that hovered in the background.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) - Eyeworth Pond
It was great to see, in the distance, a couple of Mandarin clambering onto branches that were overhanging the water - their natural environment.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) - Eyeworth Pond
Just as we were about to leave, a Nuthatch explored the gate area, looking for food.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Eyeworth Pond
We didn't stay long at Eyeworth Pond as we'd promised Georgie a picnic with a paddling session in the Lymington River at Balmer Lawn. The girls had found Demoiselles at this location a few days before, but there were none there this day, presumably because of the windy weather.

After the session here, we went into Lyndhurst for the last ice creams of the holiday, and then headed back to the cottage.

That night we had dinner at the Walhampton Arms, just outside Lymington, after which we returned to the cottage, and did a bit of preliminary packing as we had to be gone by 10h00 the following morning.

Friday 21st July

After breakfast we finished packing, and were ready to go when I noticed what, at first, looked like a leaf stuck to the window frame outside the kitchen of the cottage. It turned out to be a Pale Prominent - such a splendid little moth!

Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina) - Japonica Cottage
The weather on the way home was not good for most of the time, but the rain had stopped when we arrived at the White Hart in Ashton Keynes for lunch, once again. We were a little early for opening and so had a short stroll beside the River Thames. As previously mentioned, it is not very wide here!

Lindsay looking pensively at the River Thames - Ashton Keynes!
We arrived home in the late afternoon, after a splendid time in Hampshire. We hadn't had the best of weather, which had moderated my own plans somewhat, but I didn't do too badly from it!

Thank you for dropping by. I'll try and make my next post a shorter one - partly for my own sanity.


  1. Oh how wonderful observations!! Fortunately, the wasp does not inject you. Best regards

    1. Thank you, Anne. I'm glad I had my eyes open when I walked into the bathroom or I would probably have stood on some and got stung - I was lucky that they were sleepier than I was!

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  2. A great diary of events and it looks like you had a great time by the brilliant photos you have taken. Sorry about the wasps, but glad you did not get stung! The donkey foals are very cute and it seems the gatekeepers and red admirals are all over at present. Love all your photos though. Well done.
    Keep well Diane

    1. Thank you for those very kind words, Diane. The donkey foals were, indeed, extremely cute, and seemed to walk on tip-toes. We saw a lot more donkeys this visit than I've seen previously seen roaming around on the heaths. There were plenty of ponies and cattle too.

      Have a great weekend and take good care - - - Richard

  3. Wonderful photos a great trip. Your bush-cricket isn't a nymph as it's fully winged so is adult + is a male Oak Bush-cricket- often attracted to lights at night.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, and the information - I now see where your 'handle' comes from!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Hmm, the image of you stumbling around the bathroom, stark naked, swatting wasps with a shoe, is not one I wish to conjure up!! Sounds like a great trip, Richard, despite not having the best of weather, and you certainly did well with dragonflies. Those baby donkeys are too cute for words!

    1. I guess I shouldn't have frightened my readers with that mental image, David.

      You really had to be there to appreciate just how cute the donkey foals were as it was the way they walked down the road so delicately, seemingly on tip-toes, that had us all captivated.

      My love to you both - - - Richard

  5. Hi Richard and I was about to have the same start to my comment as David. You certainly had afar better time than we expected due to the weather. Some super images of such a variety and then the young donkeys. Great post. See you soon hopefully. John

    1. Very sorry we missed our trip out yesterday, John. I was really looking forward to have a good natter. Pleased to hear that Maddy is recovering, however.

      Take good care - hope to see you soon - - - Richard

  6. Well, beautiful images of the natures, I love the Donkeys, and all, but you, wasp murderer, ha ha ha.

    1. Thank you, Bob. That wasn't murder, but execution for crimes against humanity! ;-}

      Best wishes - - - Richard


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