|Bittern by Ron Marshall|
Titchfield Haven is a lovely wetland reserve on the coast of Hampshire half way between Portsmouth and Southampton, stretching from the coast (Hill Head) almost up to Titchfield village, 4 miles inland. It’s the place I and a number of other local birders call our patch, and almost feels like a second home! And of course I have so many good memories – seeing my first Spoonbill; walking into a hide just in time for Mark to say “Quick, look through my ‘scope, the Bitterns’ showing!”…seconds later it disappeared back into the reedbed…the one and only time I’ve seen a Bittern on the reserve.
|Greater Yellowlegs by Amy Robjohns|
It’s not all about the rare birds, of course. There’s the scarcer species which may be common elsewhere, but feel so special on patch and the everyday species we probably take for granted. Rare birds aside, it’s these birds that make most patch visits worth it, even if at the time we moan about how quiet it is. Admittedly, much of the summer was spent thinking exactly that. Without the quiet days though, how can you enjoy those crazy or awesome moments?
|Short-eared Owl by Amy Lewis|
|Ringed Plover by Edmund Fellowes|
Having a local patch is a great thing to do if you don’t already. Firstly, having a place close to home you can visit give you a focus – an aim of seeing as much as you can at this site, and beating previous years’ totals. It’s interesting to gradually get to know what’s common, what’s “patch gold” and so on, and over time you’ll notice changes and trends. I’ve found it interesting chatting to other birders, who’ve been visiting the area for decades – they certainly have many tales to tell.
A local patch is also great for developing skills as a birder. Spending many hours mostly watching commoner species helps to get a good grounding, so when that something else turns up you’ll be ready to pick it out. Who knows, it could be you who finds the next mega on patch! It’s certainly helped me improve, especially as the locals are welcoming and encouraging!
I’m not sure there will be a repeat of these past 2 years, in terms of rare birds at least. That won’t stop me trying and living in hope though. Asides from becoming a birder, patch birding is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as the years go by. Titchfield Haven well and truly has a place in my heart.
Where’s your local patch?
Amy Robjohns (@Amythebirder)