Friday, 5 May 2017

Little Milford Wood

Three visits in quick succession to the National Trust's Little Milford Wood to see how the breeding bird population has changed in recent years. This wood has seen a spectacular transformation following the clear-felling of much of the conifer in the last decade. The conifers were planted following the clearance of ancient woodland after the war by the previous owner. Pockets of old oak woodland survived, and while there was  some replanting of broadleaves in the recently clear-felled areas to keep the FC happy the bulk of the recovery is down to natural regeneration, dominated by birch, oak and hazel - well worth a ramble round the well-kept footpaths. I recommend starting from the NT car park on the north (Little Milford) side, although there is also a small car park on the Freystrop side. There is also a rewarding loop of footpath on the north side of the road opposite the car park.

Lots of willow warbler song in the young birch regen straight up the path from the car park. Blackcaps are ubiquitous in the wood but I found three garden warblers in areas of low birch regeneration. 30 species counted in the wood so far. I still haven't seen a sparrowhawk (seen on previous visits to LM) but had one of my best ever daytime encounters with a tawny owl, disturbed at its roost by blackbirds - and attacked by a crow which it saw off in short order. Buzzard nest on the west side.

The steep slopes down to the shore above Stumpy Corner, once dense conifer, are now low scrub with linnets and goldfinches. Down on the river I saw the usual shelduck, cormorant and little egret, etc., with (on May 1) 12 whimbrel and (today) 4 ringed plover.

Altogether, a major transformation from a boring conifer plantation to a rewarding mosaic of broadleaf woodland habitats.