Trip reports

Titchfield Haven

Titchfield Haven
Neil Bew, taken at nearby London WWT at Barnes

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Today was my first as 'outdoor leader' in my second incarnation in this role having given up the post several years ago, ably filled by Frank in that period. I had chosen Titchfield as it is a particular favourite, comprising a nice mix of wader scrapes, reed bed, some deeper water, all surrounded by a bit of scrub and overlooking the Solent.

Eight members joined me for what proved a pleasant day, starting for most of us with time overlooking the Solent with a little mud being exposed allowing oystercatchers and gulls to feed, along with a lone brent goose and enhanced by two mediterranean gulls flying over with a very characteristic call (its sort of beyond me to describe but has a touch of the Frankie Howerd about it).

Walking alongside the harbour towards the reserve centre, there were a few turnstone moving between the beached boats looking stunning as they come into breeding plumage along with some still winter plumaged sanderling looking brilliantly pale, almost silver. Having obtained a group discount at the reserve entrance (much to Mick's disgust who felt he should have sole rights to, shall we say, aged based discounts), we headed towards the west side of the reserve, featuring as it does the wader scrapes.

The first thing that hits you as you approach the first hide is the noise arising from hundreds of black headed gulls; a true cacophony that almost assaults the ears. Looking out over the scrape, we picked out a number of avocet but, as gorgeous as these birds are, the black tailed godwit really caught my eye, coming into that wonderful, almost brick red plumage underneath. Dominating the skies over the scrape were hirundines, most obviously swallow and sand martin but, particularly later in the morning, a few house martin as well. Looking way over the back of the scrapes, Ron picked up a flying cuckoo which then landed right at the top of a tree for a good, if fairly distant view.

Moving along the pathways towards the next hide, we were hearing sedge and reed warblers from the reedbed, a single willow warbler and a blackcap or two from the scrub. The dominant warbler however was clearly cetti's warbler; always heard, never seen it seems but the explosive song followed us around the reserve. Coming back to the scrapes at the second hide, a group of 15 or so dunlin, all in summer dress, added to the days wader tally. At this point, Frank also picked out a water rail doing something of a hide and seek act, appearing on the edge of the reeds and then fading from sight. We did nonetheless obtain some good views of this secretive but very smart member of the rail family. The last hide also allowed us brief views of the occasional bearded tit, zipping along the tops of the reeds before dropping from sight. In between hides, Ron managed to see a water vole, something I haven't seen in a long while but certainly the habitat here looks ideal.

In true NW Surrey style, we then adjourned for lunch back at the cars, adding a few more common terns together with a spiraling buzzard and sparrowhawk combination, before heading for the eastern side of the reserve. I wasn't expecting as much from this side and the next hour proved to be pleasant without adding very much to the days birds. The highlight was perhaps watching a pair of lapwings continually dive bombing a pair of pheasant who were, I assume, too close to a nest. That said, we also had a couple of swifts, the first I've seen this year, arcing through the sky in typical style. It may have been these swifts that elicited the following set of directions from one of our number, 'they are over the tree......the one with the green leaves'!

In all, we saw some sixty species and it felt like a nice, enjoyable morning in a favourite location with a few old friends.

Neil Bew