Titchfield Haven NNR, managed by Hampshire County Council, covers 369 acres of the Meon Valley with a range of natural habitat including river, reedbeds, meadow and fen. A good variety of birds can be seen here at relatively close quarters in a compact area.
A day spent on the reserve at any time of the year will reward the keen birder with a good list of birds. Dark-bellied Brent Geese winter in the area with the occasional Light-bellied bird present in the flock. Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Northern Shoveler and Tufted Duck are common and Pintail can sometimes be seen on the river with small numbers of wintering Pochard. Garganey is annual in spring. Offshore, look for Common Scoter and Common Eider. Great Northern, Red-throated and Black-throated Divers are all possible in the winter months. Great Crested and Little Grebe are resident, as are Cormorant, Grey Heron and Little Egret.
In terms of raptors, Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk should be seen and Marsh Harrier now breeds here, although this could be jeopardised by the proposed large housing development on adjacent fields. Hobbies pass through in late spring and Red Kite is becoming more common.
A good range of waders is present on the scrapes including Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing and Dunlin. At high tide small flocks of Turnstone and Sanderling roost on the spit behind the Sailing Club. Avocet breed here, Common, Green and the occasional Wood Sandpiper stop off on autumn migration and flocks of Golden Plover are regular as is Greenshank. Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Spotted Redshank are annual.
Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls breed on the scrapes and Herring, Common, Lesser-Black backed and Great Black-backed Gulls are also present. Common, Sandwich and Little Terns arrive in the Summer. A former speciality, Roseate Tern, is much less frequent these days.
In spring the bird life is boosted by the arrival of migrants, particularly Reed and Sedge Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. Grasshopper Warbler is frequently ringed but seldom seen.
The site also has a number of specialities. Bearded Tit is resident but with numbers declining. It is best looked – and listened for – on a calm, sunny winter’s morning by the western entrance. Cetti’s Warblers are thriving and with patience, Water Rail and the iconic Kingfisher may be glimpsed from the Suffern Hide.
The address is Cliff Road, Hill Head, Fareham PO14 3JT and the reserve and visitor centre are open daily from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm in the summer and 4.00 pm in the winter. Entry is by permit which currently costs £4.25 per adult with concessions available. Annual membership may also be obtained. There is a café attached to the visitor centre. Parking is available across the road in the Hove To car park or along the seafront. There are eight hides, all accessible to wheelchair users or pushchairs. The visitor centre is situated at SU534023 by the eastern entrance and the western entrance is located at SU532024, accessed from the seafront.
A map of the reserve can be viewed here
Hampshire County Council – Titchfield Haven NNR
Latest sightings – Titchfield Haven Twitter
Words by David Wallace