Sue and I decided to spend a weekend exploring the area on the border of western Hampshire and eastern Dorset. Although I have visited other areas in Hampshire and Dorset, this is an area that I haven’t visited for more than 25 years and so we were keen to see what it had to offer. The area consists of the New Forest and the coastline between Southampton and Bournemouth.
We started our trip at Blashford lakes, a Hampshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) reserve on the northern edge of the New Forest. having driven down from London in the morning we arrived here in time for lunch and took this while watching Ibsley Lake from Tern Hide. there was a large party of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits plus a Grey Wagtail and a Water Pipit on the edge of the lake. On the lake itself, there were Mallard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck together with single Wigeon and Goosander.
After lunch we walked down to the Woodland hide, where amongst a number of woodland birds we were treated to excellent views of Siskin, one of our smallest finches and a woodland specialist.
One interesting sighting here was a Scarlet Elf Cap, a bright red fungi, an uncommon species. It was certainly the first time I had seen one. Although it is not poisonous it is inedible.
On the second day we started at Barton on Sea, where a party of 10 Purple Sandpipers were on the rocky groyne. I was lucky to see them as withing a couple of minutes of me arriving they were flushed by a dog and flew off and did not return whilst I was there. there was quite a bit of movement up and down the coast and as well as the usual gulls, I also saw Mediterranean Gull, Kittiwake and a Peregrine Falcon. We could also see the Isle of Wight across the Solent from here with views of the Needles rocks and Alum Bay.
Our next stop was Hengistbury Head, a headland that forms one side of Christchurch harbour. There were good numbers of gulls including Common and Greater Black-backed Gulls. Shelduck feed on the marsh along with large numbers of Wigeon. Also notable was, despite the cool temperatures and strong winds, my first bumble bee of the year, a queen Buff-tailed bee taking time off from searching out a new nest site to collect pollen from the hedgerow.
On our final day, we started out at Normandy Marsh near Lymington. this turned out to be a real gem of a site. A circular path gives an easy walk around the marsh. waders present included Avocet, Greenshank, Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Lapwing and Godwits. The highlight though was the party of 10 Spoonbills roosting on an island.
Before we started our return journey we stopped at Keyhaven Marsh where the highlight was large numbers of Brent Geese grazing on the marsh and adjacent fields.
A whistle stop visit but one that confirmed the potential of this area for a longer visit. We shall certainly be back to explore this area more.