Waterside Natural History Society visit Bolderwood

Bolderwood is a popular part of the New Forest, especially on a Sunday, and the car park was already quite full before the visit.

There are well laid out paths for walking and cycling with several features to attract families with young children.

It is not difficult however to escape the crowds and walking anywhere in the forest is not prohibited.

The society has visited Bolderwood on previous occasions with the object of finding Firecrests which are common in this area.

Most of the visits have proved unsuccessful in this regard and the latest was only a slight improvement.

The problem with identifying Firecrests is that they are very similar to Goldcrests in that they rarely keep still but flit from branch to branch continually in search of food.

Birds that were seen proved to be Goldcrests and others that were glimpsed could have been Firecrests but were not positively identified as such.

It is possible to identify Firecrests by their call but due to the members not having sufficient knowledge or their advanced age this could not be relied upon.

It is not immediately obvious why Firecrests or Goldcrests are so named as they both have a yellowish gold streak on top of their heads but not in the form of a crest.

The reason becomes clear in the spring during the mating season when the male is trying to attract a mate.

As part of the mating ritual the feathers are raised on its head and on catching the sunlight the colours change from white at the base to bright red at the top and look to all intents and purposes as if its head is on fire.

This applies to both the Firecrest and the Goldcrest however and does not serve as a means of separating the two. Identification is mainly by the white streak above the eye of the Firecrest which is not present on the Goldcrest.

The walk started from the car park to the east of Bolderwood Lodge and continued North West over the grassed area before crossing the Ornamental Drive road into the holly trees.

A wood formed from holly trees of such an age is not a common sight especially when the trunks have had to suffer so much damage.

Deer have sharpened their teeth, scraped their antlers, and eaten the young shoots up to head height leaving gnarled bark less trunks with canopies of evergreen leaves.

The holly trees seem to grow regardless and must have done so for over a hundred years.

Even the ivy that grows up the trunks has stems as thick as a man’s wrist and twisted themselves into flaking rope like cords.

It is in these holly trees that a great deal of time was spent trying to spot the Firecrests but with little success.

Eventually the walk went out of the wood and onto the heath on a path leading down to Bratley Water.

Crossing the stream was impossible due to the flow of water so the walk continued southward following the meandering stream.

The walk through Birch trees alongside a gurgling stream was quite pleasant but required some effort to negotiate side channels and boggy areas.

Eventually the boundary of North Oakley inclosure was reached and the cycle path provided a simple return to the car park.

Fallow Deer Stags One of the attractions at Bolderwood is the Fallow Deer.

There is a Deer sanctuary and observation viewpoint but the Deer are wild and able to roam around the local area.

They are not as wild as those in other parts of the forest however which run away at the mere sight of humans but these seem to have grown used to the number of two legged visitors.

It is not unusual to see a stag deer trotting slowly away from a chasing visitor who is holding a camera at arm’s length trying to keep it in frame.

Although it was disappointing not to see Firecrests there was plenty of other sights and things of interest away from the busy cycle paths and visitor trails.

The yellow catkins of Pussy Willow and the unfurling leaves of Horse Chestnut for instance gave hope for a bountiful year ahead.