Now a raft of experts will be available to help nature enthusiasts of all ages discover its secrets with the New Forest Bioblitz – a series of free events over 24 hours to record as much wildlife as possible.
The New Forest is a unique mosaic of habitats which combine to make one of the best places for wildlife in Britain. Much of the landscape is lowland heath – a habitat which is rarer than rainforest - and it also contains the greatest concentration of ‘veteran’ trees in western Europe. The National Park is home to 90 out of the remaining 120 extremely rare boggy valley mires left in Europe which are vital for insects such as dragonflies and breeding wading birds.
Among the rarities which can be found in the New Forest are the nail fungus which grows on pony dung; the New Forest Cicada – the UK’s only cicada – found in the pasture woodlands; the UK’s largest breeding population of the rare Dartford warbler; the extremely rare smooth snake; and the New Forest is the most important place in Britain for the rare Southern Damselfly with 30 colonies.
Jim Mitchell, Interpretation Officer at The New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘The Forest's rich variety of habitats has been created by a unique grazing system of ponies, donkeys, cattle and pigs stretching back a thousand years. There really is no other place quite like it.
‘People head off to Africa on safari to experience glorious wildlife and landscapes. We have it here in the New Forest in abundance, but just on a miniature scale. The trick is knowing how and where to look for it.’
The National Park Authority is inviting people to join in its annual Bioblitz on May 25 and 26 which attracts some of the top wildlife experts in the region and beyond. Events are free (although some must be booked) and include a seashore safari, dawn chorus experience, moth and bat walk.
Jim said: ‘Having the experts with us to share their passion and expertise really brings the wildlife and the secrets of the New Forest alive. We might even find some of the rarities which the New Forest is renowned for. An added incentive is that this year we are part of the Cultural Olympiad event called ‘Meet the Species’. Our results are going towards the aim of finding over 2,012 different species- it would be great to have some New Forest specialities in there.’
As well as a fun day out, there is a serious purpose behind the Bioblitz.
Ian Barker, the New Forest National Park Authority’s Ecologist, said: ‘Bioblitz helps us find out about and look after our wildlife. All the records are carefully recorded and go to the Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre - providing a baseline to help the National Park Authority and its partners like the Forestry Commission and Hampshire County Council manage this iconic landscape.’
Find out more at http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk.
New Forest Wildlife Facts
• The New Forest is the only place in Britain where the wild gladiolus grows
• Thirteen of the 17 native species of bats in Britain have been recorded in the New Forest
• Sand lizards were extinct in the New Forest in 1970, but they were successfully re-introduced in 1998
• All three species of British newt are found in the New Forest: smooth, palmate and great-crested
• The silver-studded blue butterfly is a heathland specialty and the New Forest is one of its strongholds
Friday 25 May
• 6pm: Shoresearch beach safari, Lepe Country Park. Just turn up
• 8.30pm - 11pm: Bat and moth night-time wander, New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst. Booking essential - call 023 8028 3141
Saturday 26 May
• 6.30am - 8.30am: Early morning birdsong walk, New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst. Booking essential - call 023 8028 3141
• 10.30am – 4pm: Bioblitz Activity Day - Join forays to nearby woods, heath and streams with a team of naturalists specialising in trees, flowers, birds, bugs, freshwater creatures, fungi and much more. New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst. Just turn up
Notes to Editor:
About the New Forest National Park Authority
Protect - Enjoy - Prosper
The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:
Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.
We also have a duty to:
• Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.
The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.
Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.
Hilary Makin, Communications Manager, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646608