Sunday, 20 April 2014

PatchChat: Amy Robjohns on Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

3rd in the series, Hampshire birder Amy Robjohns describes how her patch has shaped her birding:

My patch is Titchfield Haven, a nature reserve in Southern Hampshire relatively close to the city of Southampton. Although this is the first year I've had a patch, I have been visiting the main part of the reserve for many years – about 10, I think.  Ok, so I haven’t been a birder for 10 years but my family (and I) do rather like the cafĂ© there!

It’s safe to say, however, that Titchfield Haven is definitely one of the reasons I am now a birder so it seemed like the perfect place to call my patch. My patch also include most of the canal path (nearly all part of the Haven anyway and a bit owned by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust), which starts in Titchfield and follows the river Meon and Titchfield canal to Hill Head (the coast), and finally part of Hill Head as well, which looks out onto the Solent and the Isle of Wight.  Whats more, not only is my home close to my patch, but my university halls of residence aren't too far away either so I can visit whenever I have the time!

Titchfield Haven is an area of wetland so there is a good variety of wading birds and wildfowl, especially in the winter. On a good winter’s day, you can easily see Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese and numerous waders including Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatchers and Black-tailed Godwits. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes see Bar-tailed Godwit too. In Hill Head the Turnstone, Sanderling, Knot and Dunlin shelter by the Sailing Club. Occasionally they’re joined by Ringed Plover which is always a nice sight to see.

You always know it’s the beginning of spring when the first Avocets and Mediterranean Gulls return to Titchfield Haven, and the Black-headed Gulls take over the scrapes - all three species usually breed on the reserve. Many summer migrants come here as well - Common Terns, Swallows, Sand Martins, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Grasshopper Warblers among others. The resident birds breed here too, including Cetti’s Warblers, Lapwing amd Oystercatchers as well as the common garden birds.

Much of the canal path is admittedly unexplored by me so far, but throughout the rest of the year I vow to explore it more as it is proving to be an excellent area and a good substitute for the days when visiting the main reserve is not possible.
My patch list for 2014 is a respectable 75 species so far, including some summer migrants and the wintering waders. That said, I have missed several notable species while away on field trips at Uni. My recent field course in Devon happened to be the week a Nightingale, Osprey, Iceland Gull and Spoonbill chose that week to make a brief appearance, but with a bit of luck I’ll find some even better species in the future. And I have to admit, the field course was brilliant (especially the Glaucous Gull), so perhaps missing a few key species wasn't quite so bad after all…

Wryneck being ringed!

The best bird for 2014, however, has to be a tie between the Little Ringed Plover or the Little Gulls, although I was also very pleased to find a Green Sandpiper a few days ago and the 5 Brent Geese on 31st March! It seems strange to see Brent Geese as uncommon when only 10 miles away you can find c3000 at Farlington Marshes.

Osprey - honest!

I look forward to seeing what other species I’ll see this year on my patch. Last year was a tough act to follow what with an Osprey, Honey Buzzard, Wood Sandpiper, Garganey, Wryneck, Radde’s Warbler*… But they say nothings impossible so you never know!
(*ok, ok, so I didn’t actually see that warbler… maybe my luck will change this year.)

-Amy Robjohns
Amy is a 20 year old Environmental Science student at the University of Southampton who's lived in South Hampshire all her life. She's been birding for about 7 years but has only really started getting into it properly last year when she had more free time. She recently started patch birding and is also a trainee ringer. She would really like to go birding in Scotland, the Farne Islands and Jersey!

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