Martin Down NNR (Hampshire)

Eight of us had a very successful and enjoyable outing to Martin Down, with a good selection of birds and flora found, but surprisingly fewer butterflies and insects than usually expected. Starting from the car park at the end of Sillens Lane we first walked across to where a Turtle Dove had been heard purring earlier. Eventually we heard one a little further up the track but couldn’t see it within the trees and bushes. There were the usual large numbers of corvids around, numerous singing Skylarks, a Whitethroat plus a Buzzard and a Red Kite passing overhead. Some Minionette, Horseshoe Vetch and Hoary Plantain were found just off the track and whilst these were being examined by the keen botanists amongst us, three Turtle Doves flew past and we saw a Yellowhammer and a Corn Bunting, the latter giving great views as it sat singing on the top of a bush. Quite a purple patch. We then made our way gradually uphill towards Bokerley Dyke but couldn’t find any Burnt-tip Orchids although many other orchids were in evidence including Common spotted, Fragrant and Greater Butterfly. At the top there was a welcome bench from which some of us admired the wonderful views across the downs while others continued to search for wildflowers. Field Fleawort and Pasqueflower were amongst the less common ones found. We also saw a Tree Pipit flying up from a distant tree. Making our way downhill towards the car park and lunch, we heard a Song Thrush and Lesser Whitethroat. We spotted some distant Swifts, two Red Kites, a pair of Chiffchaffs and at least one Turtle Dove flew past.

After lunch we drove round to the car park on the A354 and walked around the northern part of the reserve, covering the old rifle range and the dyke. We heard a Blackcap, saw a Mistle Thrush and added Common Gromwell to the plant list.

As previously mentioned, there were fewer butterflies seen during the day, just Common, Small and Adonis Blue, Brimstone and Small Heath plus a couple of Six-spot Burnets and a Cinnabar moth.

Weather-wise, it remained dry throughout the day, starting off a bit cool with a fresh breeze but it became quite hot in the afternoon. 22 bird species were seen or heard and a good list of wildflowers and orchids recorded, much helped by the knowledgeable plant enthusiasts amongst us. (And note that no mention has been made of the bushy-tailed stoat – you had to be there to understand!)