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.

English Farm Woodland Bird Survey – a new BTO survey

This national survey is planned.

Since 1988, over 22,000 farm woods have been planted in England.  The woods are mostly small, between 1 and 5 hectares in size, which will make survey coverage quite quick and straightforward.  These farm woods were planted in a wide variety of settings, ranging from complete isolation through to alongside existing established woodland. This provides a very interesting natural experiment to assess how well birds have colonised these new woodlands on farmland.

A new survey for 2019 plans to provide data on how birds have colonised woods planted in farmland.

What is required?

This survey will cover many of the 69 farm woodland sites previously surveyed in 1999, as well as up to 2000 other farm woods, which haven’t been surveyed at all.

The sites are small, so it should be possible to cover a number of woodland plots in a morning; each plot should take around 20 to 30 minutes to survey, depending on size!

Four morning visits are required between 15th March 2019 and 15th July 2019, to record all in and around the farm wood plot.  Registrations will be recorded on site maps, using Common Bird Census species and activity codes, mainly to accurately plot all individuals and help avoid double counting.  A summary of the number of territories detected will then be determined from each survey visits.

Some basic, but essential, habitat recording will be required for farm wood, to record the features such as tree species, boundary type and mammal activity.

Please go to BTO Survey Methods Page for further survey details.

How to sign-up for the survey

From mid-January it will be possible to register for the survey. You will be able to view an interactive map of farm woodland locations, summarised by 1-km squares, from which you can select the sites you would like to survey.

Some squares may only have single farm woods, whereas others will have many, so we would encourage you to pick squares with multiple farm woods if possible.

Once a location has been selected, we will then need to contact the landowner to request permission to survey the site, which isn’t guaranteed, and then provide contact and visit details to the surveyor.

Further information

More detailed survey information, including instructions and recording is in preparation and will be available in early 2019.

You can contact the survey organisers Daria Dadam and Greg Conway via farmwoodbirds@bto.org

English Winter Bird Survey (EWBS) – A new BTO Survey

This national survey is ongoing.

A new survey is being launched this winter which aims to evaluate how food resources in winter affect birds in lowland farmland, organised in partnership with Natural England and Defra. The structure and methodology of the survey closely follows that of the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and is to be conducted in the same squares. The survey differs from the BBS in that it includes Brown Hare as well as birds and requires habitat details to be recorded on each visit. A maximum of four visits are required, one per month, from December 2018 – March 2019. It is possible to do just two visits which should be between January and March. Although the main focus of the survey is lowland farmland in England, the BTO welcome volunteers to take up squares that contain all other habitats.

Full details of the survey including links to survey instructions, recording forms etc. can be found on the BTO website at English Winter Bird Survey.

Please note that although it is required that results are entered online, through BBS-online, the data entry system will not be available until after mid February. Participants should keep their field recording sheets safe until the online data entry becomes active.

For Herts this survey will be administered by the BTO Regional Representative Martin Ketcher (martinketcher@gmail.com) on behalf of the EWBS organisers: David Norfolk and Greg Conway (winterbirds@bto.org).     

JNCC Seabird Count 2015-19 – calling all Larophiles!

This national survey is planned.

In 2019 there will be a national census of urban nesting Gulls. This follows last year’s census of natural nesting seabirds as part of the 4th UK seabird census (called the Seabird Count) which has been running since 2015 but only fully funded and nationally coordinated since 2018. 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 can be found at Seabird Count.

Last year in Hertfordshire we achieved good coverage of our regular “naturally” nesting seabirds which comprise Cormorant, Common Tern and Black-headed Gull. Results have been collated and are being entered on the JNCC national database. It is hoped that the data from the 2018 and 2019 fieldwork will be presented in a future article in the Herts Bird Report.

It’s now time to prepare for the final year of the Seabird Count which will be of our urban nesting Gulls, which comprise Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. This will be no mean feat as the presence of breeding Gulls on buildings may not always be realised, especially in industrial estates, and not all locations are known.

Although details of the methodology have not yet been rolled out, it is important that we know where all our urban nesting Gulls are located. The results of the Herts Breeding Bird Atlas will be used but it is likely that birds may have spread since. I would therefore appreciate if anyone knowing of nesting Gulls on buildings in Hertfordshire could let me know of the location. I’m aware that Watford has a population of urban Gulls and birds were reported to be breeding in Hoddesdon this year, but there are probably several other towns and locations that have breeding birds.

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

BTO Tawny Owl Survey

This national survey is ongoing.

BTO Tawny Owl Point and Calling Surveys – still time to participate 

The above surveys form part of  the BTO Project Owl and are on-line surveys, although paper recording forms can be downloaded or requested.


The Point Survey 
It was originally intended that this survey would be repeated in February – March 2019, however, the BTO have decided against this due to the practicality of conducting visits at the required times at this time of year. It has also been decided that there will be no repeat of the survey in autumn 2019. Preliminary results are available which indicate some decline in this, our most common owl species, although more will be reported later.


The Calling Survey
This survey is ongoing and the BTO are hoping to enlist 10,000 volunteers. So far over 7,500 people have taken part. The survey requires volunteers to listen for Tawny Owls from their garden (or other easily accessed location) on one occasion each week from September 30th 2018 to March 31st 2019 for 20 minutes between sunset and midnight, or as many weeks as you are able to listen. This survey can be joined at any time so there is still time to participate.

Full details of the survey can be found on the BTO website at Tawny Owl Calling Survey.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 2017, 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.

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 90 plots in 2016. 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.

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.