When the Woodland Trust acquired the land for the Heartwood project it was almost all being farmed commercially growing arable crops such as wheat and oilseed rape. There were four small areas of existing woodland. Each year the tree planting programme has converted a proportion of the land into grassland with saplings. These changes give new opportunities for birds attracting a different range of species. Monitoring of breeding birds has been carried out each year since 2009.
Heartwood Birds Checklist
A list of species of birds seen at Heartwood, since 2008 compiled from records submitted to the Herts Bird Club. A total of 87 species have been noted so far.
Please submit your records of birds at Heartwood through the Herts Bird Club website here.
Short-eared Owls have wintered at Heartwood, up to three were seen in 2011/12.
Breeding Birds Survey
A baseline breeding bird survey was carried out over the whole area owned by the Woodland Trust in spring 2009, before any tree planting, and has been repeated each year since by Ken and Linda Smith. Standard BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) methods were used that will be repeatable in future years as the habitats are created and develop and providing the potential to compare the results with those from other similar areas of land in due course. See a description of the survey methods and the full results.
The total number of species recorded in the transect surveys has increased over the six years from 35 in 2009 to 64 in 2014 representing an increase in diversity. At present birds that are open ground/farmland specialists are favoured.
From the start Barn Owls have been seen hunting over the areas planted with saplings, particularly near the railway line. These grassy areas are good habitat for mice and voles.
In spring 2012 a Barn Owl nesting box was placed in a mature tree in a hedgerow in a newly planted area. Birds nested in the box in summer 2012 raising six chicks which were ringed in September. This success was against the trend, due to poor weather conditions Barn Owl chick survival was low elsewhere in the area. More nest boxes were added in 2013 designed to encourage Tawny Owls and Kestrels as well as Barn Owls. In 2014 there were three Barn Owl broods and ten chicks were ringed by local expert Colin Shawyer.
Hertfordshire Bird Atlas: results for Heartwood
The Hertfordshire Bird Atlas project ran from 2007-11 and volunteers surveyed every part of the county for both wintering and breeding birds as part of a national project. The survey areas were tetrads areas of land 2km x 2km. Heartwood is situated mainly in tetrad TL11Q. You can see the results here:
New Winter Atlas results for Heartwood and Sandridge, TL11Q
New Breeding season results for Heartwood and Sandridge, TL11Q
Other bird studies
In winter 2013-14, Ken and Linda Smith started systematic monitoring of wintering birds at Heartwood. From November to March they made a monthly visit and walked the same route round Heartwood, noting down all the birds and mammals seen. The results are currently being compiled and will be posted soon.
In 2016, Rupert Evershed surveyed birds monthly between May and December recording in total 68 species. The results can be found here.