Redstart – Acres Down, New Forest

With the first Redstarts and Tree Pipits arriving in the New Forest I decided to head to Acres Down for an early start.

Having recently spent three hours in Denny Wood looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and not hearing a single bird drumming (although I did see a calling female) I was surprised to hear a male drumming within a few minutes of leaving the Acres Down car park. The drumming was clearly longer than one second and less confident than that of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I followed the drumming and as I got closer I started to hear tapping feeding noises and soon I had good views of a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the tree tops.

My first year list target was Redstart. They often prefer to sing from high up in the trees and so they can be difficult to find. You usually need the bird to move for you to see them and so your first sighting is often as it flies away! However, if you’re patient and give yourself enough time you’ll be rewarded with good views and there were enough Redstarts singing to increase my chances. 

I managed to find several singing birds high in the tree tops and having an angled telescope certainly helped with viewing and sketching at this angle. I also got good views of several males flitting around much lower down and occasionally coming down to feed on the ground and around the mossy bases of trees. They would also land briefly on lovely exposed perches but not for long, singing birds usually stay still for longer and make easier sketching subjects. All sightings but one were of males. The males are more showy and their singing attracts attention so you’d expect to see more males and this tendency is increased as females tend to arrive back from Africa slightly later than the first males.

While in the main wooded area I also managed to catch up with a Firecrest, a wheezing Brambling, several Crossbills and a pair of Hawfinches.

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