Summer wildlife in the New Forest

A pair of nightjars at the New Forest Northern Commons

A summer evening in the New Forest offers a wildlife fiesta. Our magnificent heathland landscapes are home to swooping bats, rare and beautiful moths, plus a magnificent dusk chorus, including the elusive churring nightjar.

The European nightjar can be heard across the commons as evening falls – find an open, secluded spot on the heathlands and listen out for their unique chirring call. These birds give fantastic aerobic displays as the males court the females and defend their territories.

Listen out for roding woodcock around wooded areas during the evenings as well, 3 - 5 short and low burping sounds followed by a sharp squeak. These birds are in decline overall in the UK, the New Forest becoming a stronghold for the species.

During summer, the New Forest is also buzzing with the sounds of insects. Dragonflies and damselflies are hovering above our bogs and pools, while hobbies swoop down to clutch them in their talons. The Forest is a UK strong hold for the rare southern damselfly, the grazing livestock are able to keep the wetlands and ponds free of vegetation, allowing this species to thrive.

Moths are also prolific this time of year, with day and night flying moths filling the air. Evening moth trapping can find such incredible species as the elephant hawk moth and the dingy mocha.

The New Forest Northern Commons are a feast for the eyes in summer
Sways of heather at Robin Hood Clump, Ibsley Common, New Forest, Hampshire
The New Forest Northern Commons are a feast for the eyes in summer

Our wet heaths and mires are glistening with sundews, and later on the sunny yellow of bog asphodels. Sundews are bright green/red wetland plant, and are carniverous. They are covered in hair-like tenrils that are tipped with sticky dew that traps any insects that land, before closing up and slowly digesting them!

Glorious expanses of lilac-purple heather and bright yellow gorse appear in high summer. In July, silver-studded blue butterflies form fluttering clouds amongst the heather, and graylings can be seen sunning themselves on gravel pathways.

Small fleabane

A close-up view of small fleabane in the New Forest, Hampshire

Small fleabane in the New Forest 

At the end of August, a rare and peculiar little plant emerges across the National Trust commons at Bramshaw: small fleabane. We are very lucky to have this protected plant residing on our New Forest commons.

Visit the New Forest safely

We encourage everyone to observe social distancing measures while they visit. Please stay local if possible to avoid creating hotspots. If a car park is full, please come back another time. Help protect the New Forest by not parking on the verges.