Sunday 21 April – RSPB Franchises Lodge, New Forest Leader: Izzy (RSPB)

Five members made the trip to Franchises Lodge, the only inland RSPB reserve in the New Forest. Izzy, the reserve manager, led us around a large and varied woodland and described the ongoing work to build a mosaic habitat including felling and removal of rhododendron. A Wood Warbler was heard in the car park and it didn’t take long to hear many more and get great sightings as we moved into open birch woodland where we also saw a pair of dancing Marsh Tits, Treecreepers, Nuthatch, Coal Tit and Blackcap, and a recently fledged Song Thrush. Hearing 30+ Firecrests (probably outnumbering the Goldcrests) the group only caught two or three glimpses but this was made up for by some unfamiliar raspberry noises in an overgrown hedgerow leading us to a flock of Siskins with Redpolls amongst them. A pit-stop at a new RSPB residential centre replete with bird, bat and swift boxes gave us a pair of Grey Wagtails that ignored the facilities to nest in a shed roof. Our sunny lunch stop in some open ground filled out the species list with Long-tailed Tit, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch and Goldfinch before a brief sighting of a Redstart on our way to
a large pond with Canada Goose, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe. We also came across a large herd of Fallow Deer complete with a White Harte which we were told is left alone by hunters to make the herds easier to identify. The highlight of the day was seeing a Buzzard overhead chased away by a Goshawk which followed with a brief victory lap. The walk gave us 42 bird species and unusually no gulls, Woodpigeon or Pheasant. Thanks to Mike Jackson for coordinating and to Izzy for leading. Ian Price