The natural history society walk for March was a visit to Bolderwood in the New Forest.
This event was inspired by a talk from Marcus Ward entitled ‘Woodland Birds of the New Forest’ which he gave to the society early in 2014.
It was during this talk that he mentioned the best time for seeing Firecrest at Bolderwood was in the early spring which proved an irresistible challenge for the Natural History Society.
Bolderwood at the northern end of the Rhinefield Drive is a popular venue for local families in the winter, especially on a Sunday, with people looking for exercise after a heavy pub meal.
The attractive wood lined narrow roads also attract many cyclists.
Most people stick to the way marked paths to walk between the tall trees or look for Deer at the viewpoint over the meadow.
The route followed by our group lay to the north of the car park across the green and into denser vegetation which is an area few families care to visit.
Trees in this area consist mainly of established Holly with a few Yew and Scots Pine.
All these trees are evergreen and maintain a dense canopy throughout the year.
Fortunately the fresh Holly leaves are eaten by Deer so the bottom of the tree canopy is at a uniform level just above head height which enables easy access.
The Holly trees provide an ideal habitat for Firecrests which are not difficult to locate at any time of the year.
Firecrests together with Goldcrests are one of the smallest birds in this country and from their names it is logical to assume that they can be identified solely by the colour of their crests.
Unfortunately this is not the case but they can be told apart by the colour of their back feathers which are lime in the case of the Firecrest and a buff colour for the Goldcrest.
The Firecrest also has a white streak just above the eye and it is this that is most noticeable as the bird moves through the canopy.
The bird appears to spend its whole life flitting from branch to branch in search of food completely oblivious to anything else and can fly inches from your head before realising it is not a source of food.
Both Firecrest and Goldcrest were both seen during the walk. They may have been heard too but they have a rather high pitched monotone call which fell out of the hearing range of most of the group.
Fallow Deer were seen on several occasions in the clearings dotted about the Holly trees.
They appear to have got used to people walking about this area as they don’t run away but rather wander off as people approach. Their coat is a dark grey or black at this time of year but several of the Deer were almost entirely white.
A large group of Stags were an impressive sight in the mist amongst the heather: very reminiscent of a Scottish Glen in many ways.
Fallow Deer can be identified by their black MacDonald’s ‘M’ on a white rump when walking away or by their wide spaced ears and lack of a black moustache when facing you.
The antlers of Fallow Deer stags are also a characteristic flat shape.
Several other bird species were seen during the walk.
Redwing and Pied Wagtail were seen on the grassy field north of the car park. Chaffinches flew between ground and trees and two Bullfinches were spotted in the bushes.
Wrens, Blackbirds and Robins occasionally interrupted the walk. During the afternoon a chattering sound from a flock of Crossbills drew attention to the tops of a group of Larch trees where the birds could be seen feeding on cone seeds.
There was plenty to see and provide interest during the walk round Bolderwood despite the weather being cold and damp.
Fortunately the cold wintry weather gave way to spring on the following day banishing thoughts of the poor weather and leaving only memories of an interesting walk.