In Wildlife

In the summer months there’s nothing better that getting outside and exploring all the wonders of nature. Summer is a great time to embark on a nature walk and take in some of the sights of newly-born animals or to try and spot some of our National Park’s more elusive residents. Here we take a look at some of the amazing wildlife you might be able to find this summer in the New Forest:

Our New Forest ponies
By simply being in the New Forest it won’t be too long before you come across some of our resident New Forest ponies, an iconic sight of our landscape! Often found in small herds, you may even get the opportunity to spot some of this year’s young too.

Although smaller in numbers than the ponies (around 300 donkeys live in the New Forest, compared to 5,000 ponies), our donkeys are some of the cheekiest residents of the National Park. You can often find them munching on our residents’ hedges and even around some of our pubs! The Foresters Arms at Frogham for example has become known as ‘the donkey pub’ locally due to its regular hooved visitors!

Summer is usually the best time to discover some of the New Forest’s 15-species of orchid. One of the more common type of orchid to be found is the heath-spotted variety, which, as the name suggests, is typically found on heathland. Usually flowering from June to July, the flowers are pinky-purple.

Britain’s smallest wild orchid, the Bog Orchid reaches on average just eight centimetres in height and has a stronghold in the New Forest, whilst being relatively rare in other parts of the British Isles.

Other orchids that you might be able to find during the summer months include: Autumn lady’s tresses, bee orchid, bird’s nest orchid, early marsh orchid, fragrant orchid and the lesser butterfly orchid.

A top tip is to purchase one of the Field Study Council’s orchids ID charts if you are unsure of identification.

During late summer, our heather begins to bloom on the vast heathland turning our landscape into rich purple and pink colours, a great source of nectar for the bees! We have four different types of heather here; Ling, Bell Heather, the Cross-Leaved Heath and Dorset heath. Understandably, it’s a popular time of year for photographers to come and capture the moment.

The New Forest holds all of the heathland species of butterfly that can occur in the south of England. These include the pretty silver-studded blue butterfly which can often be seen on large areas of open heath that have some damper spots, during July and August.

Other species of butterfly that you may be lucky enough to find in the summer months include the more common brimstone, gatekeeper, ringlet, orange-tip, speckled wood, silver-washed fritillary and meadow brown. If you are very lucky then you may also come across the more uncommon white admiral, which tends to be found in woodland areas in the eastern side of the New Forest. The National Park website has some handy tips for how to ID the butterflies mentioned.

Dragonflies and damselflies
Head to one of our bodies of water (including ponds, bogs and streams) and you may witness some of our dragonflies or damselflies flying around. Commonly occurring species of dragonfly include broad bodied chasers, emperor, common darter and the southern hawker. Dragonflies are vital for our ecosystem and provide a food source for the visiting hobby.

Damselflies that you may come across include azure, beautiful, blue-tailed, large red, small red and the rarer southern damselfly.

The New Forest’s heathland lends itself understandably to many species of heathland bird. During the summer, hobby can be spotted circling above the heathland looking for their dragonfly prey, meadow pipits can be found around heathy areas with scattered trees and in the evening nightjars fill the air with their song. Other heathland species you can come across in the summer include: stonechat, tree pipit and the Dartford warbler.

Around the Lymington to Keyhaven area, there is a vast area of marsh land which is a breeding ground for many waders. Species that you may be lucky enough to find here include snipe, curlew, little ringed plover, redshank, ringed plover and woodcock. A lot of these birds nest on the ground so visitors (and their dogs) are asked to stick to the pathways to enable these birds to rear their young successfully.

Lapwing can often be spotted on the fringes of farmland in the summer, again, choosing to nest on the ground.

Snakes and other reptiles
With the warmer temperatures of summer, the reptile species that can be found in the New Forest are more active, having come out of their winter hibernations.

All six species of UK reptile can be found in the New Forest; adder, grass snake, smooth snake, sand lizard, slow worm and smooth lizard.

Reptiles like to bask in warm, dry areas with good surrounding cover so that they can escape if a predator approaches and the New Forest lends itself to this vegetation.

Although often illusive to the general public, pop along to the New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst for your opportunity to learn more about the species that can be found here in the New Forest and have your chance to spot them in the specially-created reptile pits.

Head to some of the New Forest’s ponds and large bodies of water and you may be lucky enough to see some of the resident amphibians during the summer months including the protected great crested newt. Other species include the common frogs and toads, smooth newts and palmate newts.

Tending to be more active at dawn and dusk, the New Forest is home to five different species of deer including the majestic fallow deer.

From April to September, the Forestry Commission Rangers take part in daily feeding of the fallow deer from Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. Time it right and from the viewing platform you can see this take place (it’s usually between 12.30pm-2.30pm daily, depending on the availability of the ranger).

For another opportunity to get close to deer, join in with a New Forest deer safari in Burley. Here, you have the chance to spot the shy red deer from the back of a trailer. There’s no need to pre-book unless you are with a large group.

Want to know more about the flora and fauna of the New Forest?
Take a look at our website for lots of inspiration on what there is to see and do. It’s also well worth checking out some of the guided tours that run in the area as our local experts are a wealth of knowledge on the local wildlife. Plus, keep an eye out for events taking place at some of our nature reserves across the New Forest including Blashford Lakes (near Ringwood), Lepe Country Park and the Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes nature reserve.




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