Goshawks Galore!

Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th June

Another successful trip to the New Forest with fellow Next Generation Birders. The majority of our time was spent at Acres Down, sat on the hill which give you great views of the surrounding area – perfect for raptor watching!

Within minutes of arriving on Saturday, we saw the first of many Goshawks. Some of the Goshawks flew rather close, which was lovely. When I visited Acres Down 6 weeks ago, the views were much more distant so it was great to get close up views.

After only 10 minutes or so, someone shouted “raptor” behind us, so we all turned around expecting to see another, even closer, Goshawk. To our joy we had fantastic views of a Honey Buzzard instead! Very grateful to the birder who remembered to look behind!

Hours later, feeling very satisfied, we set about exploring the woodland around Acres Down. As well as the common garden birds – Robins, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Wrens and Tit species – there were a number of Redstarts and also a Wood Warbler.

We then headed off to Denny Wood and Shatterford, the area around Beaulieu Road station for a change of scene. The Short-toed Eagle which has been hanging around the south of England had been reported several times on Friday close to Denny Wood so we were hoping it was still around but after hours of wondering around we had no luck. We did however, see one of the pale Buzzards which has been mistaken for the Eagle a few times!

Despite not seeing this Eagle, we had a lovely (but rather long) walk. One of the birds we’d been hoping to see most was the Dartford Warbler and we weren’t disappointed. As well as great views of the Warblers, we also saw a lot of Redstarts. The males in particular look stunning! – it’s a shame I don’t have a photo to illustrate my point…

That evening, my fellow Uni birders and I headed down to Soberton Heath for a Nightjar Walk organised by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. It was a very successful walk with Nightjars flying, wing clapping and landing in a tree close to the path all in (just about) daylight. As it got darker, we saw and heard more Nightjars as well as Bats and Tawny Owls.

On Sunday, after very few hours sleep, we madly returned to the New Forest at dawn. This time we started at Denny Wood and wandered around the woodland and heathland for a few hours. The Dartford Warblers put on another good display for us which was lovely. A Cuckoo could also be heard calling from a distant tree.

It was then back to Acres Down for more raptor watching. We started by walking through a section of woodland close to the campsite and car park. We could hear Blackbird alarm calls which led us to some Tawny Owls. A nice sight, especially in broad daylight! There was also a Firecrest, who was unhappy with the owls’ presence.

No Honey Buzzards from the hill on Sunday, or at least not while we were there, but there were plenty of Goshawks, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks. As well as the birds of prey, there were some Jays and Hawfinches.

The weekend ended with a leisurely stroll through the woodland at Acres Down. We had lovely views of a Spotted Flycatcher – my first of the year, and the Wood Warbler again. It’s a shame these species aren’t very common anymore.

The NGB weekend was definitely a success, and one that should be repeated. It was great fun and nice to go birding with people my own age!

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