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Child with binoculars

A perfect place to start.

Last winter a member of the public spoke to one of our rangers and told her he had just brought some binoculars ready for his birdwatching adventure to begin. He asked her where he should go first and how he could improve his bird identification skills quickly, so she suggested going to a bird hide. She realised that, for people who are new to bird watching, finding the locations of all your local bird hides isn’t that easy. She had a great idea; people needed a map showing all the hides in the Solent area so they can find out where to go. So, we created one – here.

Bird Hides are a great place to get up close to birds and other wildlife without them knowing you are there. One of the reasons I like going to bird hides is to watch natural behaviour which you don’t see from animals who know they are being watched. Hides are also a great place to meet fellow nature lovers, share your birding experiences and get help with bird identification from a local expert. Most hides have a sightings book for keeping records of the birds that people have seen there, it’s a great way to know what you should be looking out for and whether any rare species have been spotted in recent days. Interpretation boards often show you pictures of the birds you might spot on your visit, making bird hides a great place for a new birder to build their spotting skills. I find that time flies by while you’re sat soaking up the views and clasping your binoculars ready for action. Plus, on a rainy day, it’s a good way to stay dry while still feeling like you are out in the wild!

I recently headed out on a walk with Hampshire Ornithological Society to ask some local Solent birdwatchers what they look for in their perfect bird hide, here’s what they said:

“A hide needs a good all-round view with windows at the perfect height for a telescope”
“You want lots of room and a peaceful atmosphere”
“I like hides that are looking out over water, they make for the best birdwatching”
“Comfy chairs and friendly people!!”

And what were their favourite spots whilst hidden away:

“I once saw a grass snake swimming from a hide, it was the first time I had ever seen one in the water”
“A squacco heron and two great white egrets sitting in a tree from the Spurgin Hide at Titchfield Haven”
“The Black Terns from a hide at Blashford Lakes”

One story that I really loved and proved that bird hides are not always your typical wooden box, was from a birder’s childhood:

“My uncle’s caravan was the best bird hide. It was in Snettisham (Norfolk) before there was a nature reserve there. One morning, I pulled back the curtains to see a group of waxwings. That’s one I won’t forget”

And the award for the most “luxurious hides” our birders had visited went to Slimbridge Wetland Centre up in Gloucester, so if you are looking for a 5* birding experience you better get ready for a long journey!

A massive thank you to all the different groups who provide and maintain the hides around the Solent for us all to enjoy. Bird hides are more than just a place to spot birds, they are a social hub where magical wildlife moments happen.

Check out your local bird hide using our map and make sure you let us know how you get on. We want to know if you are new to birdwatching and need some tips or if you are an experienced birder with some knowledge to share. Send your comments and questions for our rangers using our contact page.

Don’t hide away from birdwatching.

Ranger Lizzie