Herts Bird Club has a wide ranging programme of birding activities, check out what is on offer below and get involved. Everyone can take part.

Please read BTO information with regard to COVID-19 - BTO and COVID-19

Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows

This national survey is planned.

*Due to the spread of COVID-19 this survey is now cancelled with immediate effect. It may be conducted next year*

 

A repeat of this survey, last performed in 2002, will be carried out this year by BTO/RSPB. The purpose is to assess the importance of both existing and new wet grassland and other breeding wader habitats in England. Volunteers will be required to visit allocated sites on three occasions between mid-April and end of June.

Visits should be at least a week apart and be made between dawn and midday - avoiding cold, wet or windy weather. A map will be provided showing the boundary of your site.

In Herts there are 11 Priority 1 sites (see attached table: Herts Priority 1 Sites), including 7 which were surveyed in 2002. Coverage of these latter sites (highlighted) is essential to be able to compare data with the 2020 survey. There are a further 37 Priority 2 sites, which comprise sites surveyed pre-2002 and Agri-Environment Scheme (AES) fields which comprise Lapwing plots and areas of newly created/improved wet grassland.

For full information and the complete list of sites see the BTO website: -

https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/breeding-waders-wet-meadows

From the website you can zoom in on the map to see the available sites in Herts, then follow the instructions to register for the survey and request a site to cover. Once allocated you will be able to download a map, instructions and recording form from the website and view further information.

Herts Urban Gull Survey 2020 - (JNCC Seabird Count 2015-2020)

This national survey is ongoing.

*Please read statement from JNCC with regard to the COVID-19 situtation including:"We are asking all surveyors to adhere to current government requirements; which mean that any plans you have to survey breeding seabirds should be cancelled" *

2020 is the final year of the national census of urban nesting Gulls, which is part of the 4th UK seabird census (called the Seabird Count) which has been running since 2015. The census has been developed by the Seabird Monitoring Panel (SMP) and is coordinated by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), managed by national organiser Daisy Burnell and a team of county organisers for which I volunteered for Hertfordshire. Full details of the Seabird Count can be found at http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-7413

It is known that these Gulls (Herring and Lesser Black-backed) nest on buildings in several areas of the county including Watford, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and Borehamwood, but there has been expansion into other areas over recent years. A total of 109 1km squares was randomly selected in Herts from all those containing suitable urban buildings on which Gulls might nest. Volunteers were asked to visit these squares to look for breeding Gulls and to count the number of pairs of each species if found. Further details and recording forms are available in volunteer packs (electronic files) which will be mailed to those wishing to help with the survey. A review of the squares revealed 30 in which it is known, or almost certain, that breeding Gulls are not present. These will be given a 0 count. The following are the remaining squares to be covered after the 2019 survey effort – my thanks to Colin Everett who covered 43 squares! It would be great if members could look and see if any squares are near to where they live or work and are able to survey: Herts Squares for 2020 JNCC Urban Gull Survey

If anyone wishes to take part please contact me at murray.orchard@live.co.uk

 

Heronries Census

This national survey is ongoing.

The BTO's Heronries Census has gathered nest counts annually since 1928 at an increasing proportion of the UK's heronries. The aim is to count as many heronries as possible each year and to ensure that newly established sites are quickly discovered and brought into the programme of annual counts.

The main species covered is Grey Heron, but Little Egret is fully included, as are rarer species of colonial water birds such as Cattle Egrets (which nested in the UK for the first time in 2008). Nest counts of Cormorants are also collected, especially where they are nesting alongside herons. Data are shared with county recorders and for rare species with the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. You can download a summary of the 2019 UK season here: https://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/heronries-census-summary-2019.pdf 

The following sites are currently being monitored, some of which are actually in Essex (Lea Valley) but come under the Herts BTO region.

Amwell GP

Nether Hall GP

Holyfield Lake, Lea Valley CP

Waltham Abbey Woods, Perme North

Brocket Park

Stanborough Lakes nr WGC

Verulamium Park

Wilstone Res (Tring Reservoirs)

Stocker's Lake

Frogmore Lakes nr Radlett

Tyttenhanger GPs - main GP

We are already into the 2020 season for these early nesting species. If anyone is aware of Grey Herons, Little Egrets or Cormorants breeding at a site not listed above, and would like to get involved with the Heronries Census, please let me know murray.orchard@live.co.uk

Project Owl

This national survey is ongoing.

Long-eared Owls

This survey is ongoing

As part of Project Owl, BTO are keen to encourage birdwatchers to go out and listen for Long-eared Owls, one of our most poorly known breeding species. The Rare Breeding Bird Panel report for 2017 was able to record details for just 270-338 confirmed breeding pairs for the UK, with none in Herts, but this is almost certainly a significant underestimate. Now is a good time to go out and listen for the species in areas of suitable habitat. Please see https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/project-owl/learn-about-owls/long-eared-owl for information on the species. If you do have the good fortune to locate a Long-eared Owl, please contact the Herts Bird Recorder in the first instance and refrain from putting out news more widely, as this species is easily disturbed. 

 

Tawny Owl Surveys

This survey is now complete

In the autumn of 2018, there was a national Tawny Owl Point Survey TOPS organised by the BTO. Various 10km squares were selected and tetrads (squares of 2km x 2km) identified within them so that results could be compared with unpublished data from Tawny Owl surveys in 1989 and 2005. Nationally it is estimated that about 54% of the tetrads were occupied compared with 63% previously. Within Hertfordshire 47 tetrads were allocated.

The second element of the surveying was a Tawny Owl Calling Survey TOCS . This involved listening regularly from a fixed point (e.g. outside the front door!). This recruited a large number of people new to bird surveying. In Hertfordshire, 174 individual people signed up covering 183 sites. Online data was submitted for 123 sites of which Tawny Owls were heard at least once in 94 of them.

English Farm Woodland Bird Survey 2019 (BTO)

This national survey is complete.

Thanks to those who participated in this survey which completed last summer.  This survey aimed to cover many of the 46 farm woodland sites previously surveyed in 1999, as well as up to 2000 other farm woods which hadn’t been surveyed at all. The survey was only intended to run one year. Thanks to those who took part or who volunteered but were not granted farmer access.   Have a look at the BTO website: https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/english-farm-woodland-birdsurvey for more details but please note that this survey is now closed. Hopefully a summary of results will be available at some point in the future.

English Winter Bird Survey

This national survey is complete.

This survey finished in March 2019. It was based on existing BBS squares especially those within farmland. The online data entry was via BBS Online. The BTO are seeking funding to make this an ongoing, regular survey.

Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)

This national survey is ongoing. Survey website

The BBS is the main source of population trend information about the UK’s widespread breeding birds – an important indicator of the health of the countryside. The survey is organised nationally by the BTO in conjunction with RSPB and JNCC. Hertfordshire is well represented with over 70 volunteers participating covering at least 100 plots in 2019. The Hertfordshire results are published every year in the Hertfordshire Bird Report.

We would like more volunteers - taking part is easy – just visit a local square twice during the breeding season, and record all birds you see or hear using standard methods. If you would like to find out more or take on a BBS square check the BBS website or contact Martin Ketcher.

Because of the high level of coverage in Hertfordshire, we are already able to monitor 30 species locally. With your support to increase the coverage, we could do more.

Wetlands Bird Survey (WeBS)

This national survey is ongoing. Survey website

If you are interested in wildfowl, this one is for you. Organised nationally by the BTO, in conjunction with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB and JNCC, Herts birders have been participating for many years building up a clear picture of population changes over time. Wildfowl are counted at the major wetland sites once a month throughout the year.

Hertfordshire WeBS results are now published in full on our website, for the years 20182017, 2016, 201520142013, 2012, 20112010 & 2009. Results for previous years were published in the Herts Bird Report each year.

Check the WeBS website for more information. We are looking for more volunteers to help with the surveys, so please contact Cath Patrick (Lee Valley sites) or Jim Terry if you would like to take part.

Garden BirdWatch

This national survey is ongoing. Survey website

Keep a note of the birds seen in your garden. Garden BirdWatch organised by the British Trust for Ornithology monitors the changing fortunes of birds and other garden wildlife through its network of 'citizen scientists'. Observations collected by Garden BirdWatchers are analysed by BTO researchers and published in leading journals. BTO Garden BirdWatchers have charted the decline of the House Sparrow, the rise of the Woodpigeon, have discovered that urban birds get up later than their rural counterparts and have alerted conservationists to the impact of an emerging disease in Greenfinches. You can take part - find out more about the project here.

Nest Record Scheme

This national survey is ongoing. Survey website

The Nest Record Scheme is one of the longest running monitoring programmes of the BTO. Hertfordshire birders take part and we want to encourage more of you to submit nest records. First started in 1939, the scheme has collected well over 1.25 million records during its 70 years of existence. Although often receiving a lower profile than other national monitoring schemes, nest record data have been vital in diagnosing the causes of declines of some species and it was nest record data that were first used to demonstrate the shift to earlier nesting by many species linked to the recent warm springs. Nest recording is one of the simplest BTO projects to take part in, so it is accessible to everyone. It provides an ideal opportunity for you to participate in the conservation of Britain’s birds. So, whether you can monitor a single garden nestbox or are carrying out a larger study, please submit your records to BTO. The 2008 Hertfordshire Bird Report has the latest summary of nest records in Herts.

Bird Ringing

This national survey is ongoing. Survey website

Nationally the ringing scheme is overseen by the BTO. There are three active ringing groups operating in Hertfordshire:

In 2015 over 19000 birds were ringed in the county. Details are published yearly in the Hertfordshire Bird Report. If you would like to take part or train as a ringer, please contact the BTO.

Projects on Biodiversity Action Plan species - Tree Sparrows

This local survey is ongoing.

The Herts Bird Club leads the action Tree Sparrows to protect their breeding sites in the county.

The last remaining Tree Sparrow breeding colony in Hertfordshire nests in boxes in the Tyttenhanger area. The main breeding site is on private land and the nest boxes are monitored closely by Herts Bird Club members (see photo below).

?Herts Bird Club provides supplementary feeding for the birds all year round at two sites. There is public access to the feeder at Tyttenhanger Farm, it is located in an enclosure to the east of Lawson's builders merchants yard. You can get good views of the Tree Sparrows in the hedge and on the feeder from the public footpath and field margin.

After several difficult years this strategy seems to be paying off and the numbers of birds has stabilised.

All the Tree Sparrow pulli are ringed every year and some have been fitted with electronic monitoring tags. You can see the PIT tag fitted to the sparrow's leg in the photo. So we are starting to understand more about these lovely birds and their needs.
Reports from the Tree Sparrow Project Team are available for 2010 and  2009 and a paper was published in July 2014 the Hertfordshire Bird Report 2012.

Hertfordshire House Martin Survey 2015

This local survey is complete.

The recent Birds of Hertfordshire states: “The House Martin is still a widespread breeding species but the 2008-12 atlas results suggest a significant decrease in numbers and distribution with many former colonies now abandoned”. Herts Bird Club carried out a local survey in 2015.

The results have been published here.

Hertfordshire Rookery Census 2015

This local survey is complete. Survey website

Fieldwork for this survey is complete and results were published int he 2015 Hertfordshire Bird Report. Thank you to everyone who took part.

The results have been published here.