Local patch: Titchfield Haven

For those who aren’t local to the area, I suppose I should begin by putting it all into context. My patch is about half way between Portsmouth and Southampton (Hampshire) and stretches from Titchfield village to Hill Head down on the coast. Being in the Solent, the coast means admiring the Isle of Wight, which is great asides from the lack of seabirds (although that’s not always the case!).

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My patch

Technically speaking, my patch is more than just Titchfield Haven. It incorporates the ‘official’ reserve, Meonshore chalets, the seafront and some farmland visible from the canal path, with my boundaries being Bridge Street to the north, Brownwich cliffs to the west, and the sailing club/sea wall to the east.

Since taking an interest in birding, I’ve been visiting the reserve on and off, although my younger self was far more interested in music than wildlife so for many years it became a distant second, and little time was dedicated to it. That all changed when I headed off to uni, with birding going from a distant second to a “something I try to do most days”. With The Haven being the nearest reserve to me, it seemed like the place to go (although as uni was in Southampton I did also spent much time at sites there too) and so in 2014 I gave in and called it my patch.

To begin with, almost all my time on patch was spent either wandering around the main reserve or ringing (something I no longer do), ’til I realised it was time to stop neglecting the sea and start exploring the rest of my patch! Meeting other locals has helped too, especially in terms of starting to become a better birder and knowing where to look and what to expect.

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Red-throated Diver, Hill Head

In a good winter, the sea could yield red-throated and great northern divers, common scoter, eider, guillemot, razorbill and great crested grebes. Other sea birds such as velvet scoter, red-breasted mergansers, black-throated diver, and the various other grebes are a possibility but much less likely. Indeed, black-throated diver isn’t usually annual here. On the beach, ringed plover, dunlin, sanderling, grey plover and turnstones are usually found alongside the ‘common’ gull species, oystercatchers and curlew at low tide. The brent geese often  join in too, switching between the beach and the fields around Brownwich. Meanwhile, the reserve plays host to wintering ducks – wigeon, teal, pochard, tufted ducks… and redshank and black-tailed godwits, stonechats, to name but a few. Oh, and our barnacle geese, that migrate between here and Portsmouth, and hang out with the Canada geese

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Velvet Scoter, Hill Head

When spring arrives, there’s the hope that passage is good, and sea watching brings arctic skuas, kittiwake, gannets and more if lucky! At some point there’s usually little gulls and great skua, and in really good years pomarine skuas, and maybe, just maybe something like a fulmar… (A species I’m yet to see on patch!). Spring is also when the wintering species disappear, and garganey, willow warblers, wheatear, whinchat, redstarts and more pass through. The terns also return – all five can be seen during spring, but only sandwich and common tend to linger throughout the summer.

Summer is often a quieter time, I guess because everything that is here, is busy breeding, but the summering species including swifts, hirundines and various warblers, are all back in force, and it’s a good time to mention our resident species – cetti’s warbler and marsh harrier are two we’re lucky enough to have. This is also the best time to see the avocets who often breed here, along with common terns, black-headed gulls and sometimes Mediterranean gulls.

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Adult Mediterranean Gull, 16th January 2016

Then Autumn, yay! Perhaps when the greatest variety is there to be found, with numerous passage waders (little stint, curlew sandpipers, green sandpipers, knot etc…..), and the passerines including spotted flycatchers, garden warbler, wheatear, redstart, whinchat and so much more. Most years wood sandpiper make an appearance, and in good years, species like pied flycatchers do too. Another one to look out for is osprey! As autumn moves on, finches and other species pass through often including siskin and lesser redpolls, perhaps brambling as well, and November is the time for black redstarts to make their annual appearance around the chalets.

Expected species aside, there’s always the hope of a rarity or two, and since 2014 there’s been plenty! In the three years I’ve been patch birding, we’ve had black-winged stilt, lesser yellowlegs, greater yellowlegs, semipalmated sandpiper, Siberian stonechat, pallas’s grasshopper warblerpenduline titCaspian stonechat, as well as barred warbler, Radde’s warbler, aquatic warbler and buff-breasted sandpiper which I missed. Scarcer species (nationally, rare for here!) over the past three years include stone curlew, yellow-browed warbler, cattle egret, great white egret, wood warbler and great grey shrike…and shag, I do believe they are genuinely rare here too!

This is by no means a complete list of all that can be seen and enjoyed from the Haven, but it gives you a good taster.

The thing about patch birding is not giving up. I think that’s what this year in particular has taught me. Even when it seems quiet, day after day. If you give up, what if you miss that one day when something different does happen? If I’d given up on 23rd August 2015 after a fruitless morning, I wouldn’t have stumbled across the 5 wood sandpipers that dropped into North Scrape. It’s a similar story with the great grey shrike, Caspian stonechat (it was extremely foggy that morning!), and so many other species over the years. Perseverance (and chance!) does pay off in the end. Likewise, returning home on morning of 5th April 2016, after a disappointing seawatch followed by fog rolling in, only to return almost immediately on the news of a stone-curlew – who’d have predicted that?! So many memories…

Patch life List

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Barnacle Goose
  5. Dark-bellied Brent Goose (& Pale-bellied Brent Goose)
  6. Shelduck
  7. Wigeon
  8. Gadwall
  9. Teal
  10. Mallard
  11. Pintail
  12. Garganey
  13. Shoveler
  14. Pochard
  15. Tufted Duck
  16. Scaup
  17. Eider
  18. Long-tailed Duck
  19. Common Scoter
  20. Velvet Scoter
  21. Red-breasted Merganser
  22. Goosander
  23. Pheasant
  24. Red-throated Diver
  25. Black-throated Diver
  26. Great Northern Diver
  27. Gannet
  28. Cormorant
  29. Shag
  30. Bittern
  31. Cattle Egret
  32. Little Egret
  33. Great White Egret
  34. Grey Heron
  35. Spoonbill
  36. Little Grebe
  37. Great Crested Grebe
  38. Slavonian Grebe
  39. Black-necked Grebe
  40. Honey-buzzard
  41. Red Kite
  42. Marsh Harrier
  43. Sparrowhawk
  44. Buzzard
  45. Osprey
  46. Water Rail
  47. Moorhen
  48. Coot
  49. Stone-curlew
  50. Black-winged Stilt
  51. Avocet
  52. Oystercatcher
  53. Golden Plover
  54. Grey Plover
  55. Lapwing
  56. Little Ringed Plover
  57. Ringed Plover
  58. Whimbrel
  59. Curlew
  60. Black-tailed Godwit
  61. Bar-tailed Godwit
  62. Turnstone
  63. Knot
  64. Ruff
  65. Curlew Sandpiper
  66. Sanderling
  67. Dunlin
  68. Little Stint
  69. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  70. Common Sandpiper
  71. Green Sandpiper
  72. Spotted Redshank
  73. Greater Yellowlegs
  74. Greenshank
  75. Lesser Yellowlegs
  76. Wood Sandpiper
  77. Redshank
  78. Woodcock
  79. Jack Snipe
  80. Snipe
  81. Pomarine Skua
  82. Arctic Skua
  83. Great Skua
  84. Razorbill
  85. Guillemot
  86. Little Tern
  87. Black Tern
  88. Sandwich Tern
  89. Common Tern
  90. Roseate Tern
  91. Arctic Tern
  92. Kittiwake
  93. Black-headed Gull
  94. Little Gull
  95. Mediterranean Gull
  96. Common Gull
  97. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  98. Herring Gull
  99. Yellow-legged Gull
  100. Iceland Gull
  101. Glaucous Gull
  102. Great Black-backed Gull
  103. Feral Pigeon
  104. Stock Dove
  105. Woodpigeon
  106. Collared Dove
  107. Cuckoo
  108. Barn Owl
  109. Tawny Owl
  110. Short-eared Owl
  111. Swift
  112. Kingfisher
  113. Wryneck
  114. Green Woodpecker
  115. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  116. Kestrel
  117. Merlin
  118. Hobby
  119. Peregrine
  120. Great Grey Shrike
  121. Magpie
  122. Jay
  123. Jackdaw
  124. Rook
  125. Carrion Crow
  126. Raven
  127. Goldcrest
  128. Firecrest
  129. Penduline Tit
  130. Blue Tit
  131. Great Tit
  132. Coal Tit
  133. Bearded Tit
  134. Skylark
  135. Sand Martin
  136. Swallow
  137. House Martin
  138. Cetti’s Warbler
  139. Long-tailed Tit
  140. Yellow-browed Warbler
  141. Wood Warbler
  142. Chiffchaff (& Siberian Chiffchaff)
  143. Willow Warbler
  144. Blackcap
  145. Garden Warbler
  146. Lesser Whitethroat
  147. Whitethroat
  148. Dartford Warbler
  149. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler
  150. Grasshopper Warbler
  151. Sedge Warbler
  152. Reed Warbler
  153. Nuthatch
  154. Treecreeper
  155. Wren
  156. Starling
  157. Blackbird
  158. Fieldfare
  159. Song Thrush
  160. Redwing
  161. Mistle Thrush
  162. Spotted Flycatcher
  163. Robin
  164. Black Redstart
  165. Redstart
  166. Whinchat
  167. Stonechat
  168. Siberian Stonechat (& Caspian Stonechat)
  169. Wheatear
  170. Pied Flycatcher
  171. Dunnock
  172. House Sparrow
  173. Tree Sparrow
  174. Yellow Wagtail
  175. Grey Wagtail
  176. Pied Wagtail
  177. Tree Pipit
  178. Meadow Pipit
  179. Rock Pipit
  180. Water Pipit
  181. Brambling
  182. Chaffinch
  183. Bullfinch
  184. Greenfinch
  185. Linnet
  186. Redpoll
  187. Goldfinch
  188. Siskin
  189. Snow Bunting
  190. Reed Bunting