The New Forest, Hampshire

The New Forest has been a very popular place for visiting entomologists and naturalists since Brockenhurst railway station opened in 1847, providing ideal connections from London. Nowadays one could combine a trip to the largely unspoiled, vast National Park with the Isle of Wight (a ferry service runs from Lymington). The site’s location in southern Britain and wide range of habitats makes it one of Britain’s best locations for insects, with an estimated 63% of Britain’s species recorded. This includes 80% of Britain’s butterflies, 72% of macro moths, 71% of dragonflies and damselflies and 87% of grasshoppers and crickets. There is even a 314 page book ‘A photographic guide to Insects of the New Forest and surrounding area’ by Paul D. Brock available as well as books on birds and other natural history topics.

Butterfly watchers visit for Pearl-bordered Fritillary and the wide range of woodland species, also Silver-studded Blue and Grayling on the heathlands. Dragonfly watchers can enjoy seeing Red-veined Darter, Southern Damselfly and the rarer Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. The New Forest Cicada is proving to be elusive but may still exist, like the rarely seen Mole Cricket, with several recorded singing in May 2014 (the only known UK site). Large Marsh Grasshopper is rather more frequent. Other insects are plentiful with beetle and fly specialists recording great rarities, particularly in ancient woodlands. The ‘Forest’, as it is known, is perhaps most famous for moths and rarer resident species include Dark Crimson Underwing, Light Crimson Underwing, Clifden Nonpariel, Festoon, Four-spotted Footman, Scarce Merveille du Jour, Shoulder-striped Clover, Southern Chestnut and Triangle. The crimson underwings can even sometimes be seen by day around Goat Moth infected oak trees. Other rarities are too numerous to mention; these include immigrants depending on the season. Walkers often come across Emperor Moth, Fox Moth and sometimes Goat Moth larvae on heathland tracks. The Hantsmoths website is a useful resource.

Please ensure you obtain a permit to use a moth trap via the Forestry Commission, The Queen’s House, Lyndhurst, Hants, SO43 7NH before you visit and inform them where and when you intend running a trap. Accommodation can be costly in this popular tourist area, where livestock graze freely in many areas. Some entomologists use several campsites dotted around the Forest. Hazards include boggy ground in some areas, plenty of adders and ticks, which can rarely cause Lyme disease.

by Paul D. Brock




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