On our last day in the New Forest, we took a long walk through the deepest, darkest parts of the Forest proper, away from the ramblers and tourists.
The ancient New Forest (a lot of which was planted and or conserved by William The Conqueror as a hunting estate) is a magical place.
Wild New Forest Ponies (see later post) roam free, as do Wild Boar and farmed sheep and cows.
The huge area of mixed woodland, both deciduous and coniferous, provides an amazing habitat for all kinds of flora and fauna including Badgers, Hobbies and the elusive Honey Buzzard (a bird I still would dearly love to catch a glimpse of).
The Forest is interspersed also with huge areas of ancient, heathery moorland, if thats your bag.
Anna and I both prefer the "fairy-tale" woodland though. We must have spent a good few hours and covered 10 miles or so, walking through dark forest, with a thick moss carpet and the sounds of birds and squirrels around us.
I was just explaining to Anna (who heard the bird first I should add!) how one can tell that the bird on a tree in front of us was a Nuthatch just by looking at its movement rather than its size, shape or plumage, when a sight that I don't suppose we'll see again in a hurry, confronted us.
The Nuthatch you see, always walks DOWN a tree, unlike most Woodpeckers and the Treecreeper - which walks UP the trunk.
The New Forest, I suppose, is just the type of place where you'll see a Nuthatch travelling down a trunk, passing a Treecreeper travelling up the same trunk - and thats exactly what we saw! Great!
Some parts of the Forest are carefully managed, it is a National Park after all, and it was really nice to see the stumps of felled trees acting as tables (quite obviously) for Squirrels. We lost count of the number of stumps with Sweet Chesnut husks on them - broken open by the Squirrels, all in a sea of thick, furry, bouncy moss.
The New Forest is also exactly the type of place you'll find the sight I photographed in the first post above, and investigated.
Something had obviously taken a Woodpigeon, deep in the forest.
You are almost certainly looking at a Fox or a Hawk here (either Sparrowhawk or even possibly a Goshawk in this part of the world).
You can tell by looking at the quills of the plucked feathers. Hawks pluck their prey, leaving the quills intact, whereas your staaandard Fox will rip the feathers away, breaking many quills.
The Pigeon kill above had many of its quills snapped - Fox then.
NB. Very often a Hawk will eat a bird the size of a Woodpigeon on the spot. Even for a large female Hawk (which would probably be the only sex to try and catch a Woodpigeon), this is a large bird to kill and then carry away. The Hawks also will just tend to eat the breast and back muscles of the bird in question too - a bit of a giveaway that.
(I've written about this here, so you can enlarge the picture I took above, if you like).
At this time of year, wander off the beaten tracks, (like we did) and you'll find (if you look) a huge array of Fungi, some of which are edible, some of which are so toxic that they'll make short work of you.
I think we found 20 or so species , that is to say, Anna found most of them and whilst I was photographing them - she'd find some more - (what a lucky boy I am!) - I'll post about them above (or at least the more interesting ones that my pals on the WAB site have tried to identify for me, or the ones that Anna and I have identified using our new Field guide) but limit the description to one sentence.
A wonderful walk in a fantastic place.