Thank you to everyone who took part in the Herts Christmas Bird Count, both out finding and counting birds and sending records to the website. Subject to any late additions or changes, 111 species were recorded from 25th to 31st December 2019, two more than the same period in 2018; a great effort. A full list a species recorded can be viewed here: Christmas Bird Count.

A special thanks to all those who went the 'extra mile' targeting species that, as the period progressed, hadn't yet been recorded. By close of play on 29th Dec the total had reached the same as 2018, 109, and with no additional species recorded on the 30th nor throughout much of the day on the 31st it looked like we were going to end on the same number. But then, at 3.06pm on 31st Dec, a tweet came through from Murray Orchard that he was out looking for one Herts resident species yet to be recorded.....

Read Murray's excellent account of what happened next below....

"As the year was drawing to a close I’d been trying to make the most of opportunities to catch up on a few birds I’d not seen in 2019. This involved a couple of trips to Kent at the expense of more local birding over the festive period, and helping with the Herts Christmas Bird Count. I had tried to add Hen Harrier to the list

with a visit to Therfield on Dec 27th, but failed dismally. Fortunately others did much better there a couple of days later, seeing both Hen Harrier and Merlin!
So, it came to Dec 31st and my last birding of the year. I’d been to Kent the day before so I was determined to stay local and help the Bird Count if I could. I was surprised to see that Woodcock was still needed, a species I’ve seen several times around my home area in Puckeridge, so I made that my target. I had a couple of sites in mind: a small wood at Gatesbury where I’ve flushed Woodcock a couple of times over the years, and a plantation along Hay Lane, near the famous “Rough-legged Buzzard” field, where I’ve had Woodcock flying out at dusk.

I arrived at Gatesbury Wood just after 15.00 and started to criss-cross the ground within, hoping to flush a bird from the leaf litter and low bramble cover. I decided to put out a Tweet referring to “Operation Woodcock” having commenced, as a bit of fun.

No luck at all...and it was 15.30. I had to walk quickly back to the house and drive to Hay Lane. Again, I put out a fun Tweet about being in my final “do or die position” to try and get Woodcock, just to build a little excitement (if anyone was bothering to look at my Tweets at that time on New Years Eve!). Some Twitter chat about getting someone to check Amwell last minute (literally!) added to the tension. I waited in nervous anticipation.

It gradually got darker, and no flighting Woodcock. It was a dull grey evening which didn’t help. If only it was a cold clear sky like the evening before, I’d have a better chance of spotting a bird flying out..

At 16.30 I decided that it wasn’t going to happen, so I started to get my phone out to Tweet the bad news....and then it happened! A Woodcock flew close past me and dropped down to the field edge/hedgerow where I was standing! All other birds had ceased their dusk calling, so this was my final bird of 2019....and after an excited Tweet to announce the sighting, Tom confirmed it had taken the total to 110 and beaten the tally for 2018!.

I’d thoroughly enjoyed my final couple of hours birding in 2019. It was nice to successfully target a tricky species and help the Herts Christmas Bird Count - a great idea by Tom and others and well organised. My thanks to them for adding some fun and purpose to the festive birding."

A record of a Black Redstart at Wilstone Reservoir on 31st Dec was then received later that night pushing the total to 111.

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2020.