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Water Company Help Herons

Heronries Census

The BTO`s longest running survey, the Heronries Census, celebrated its 75th year in 2003, the results of which are currently being analysed by BTO staff. Begun in 1928, this is the longest running breeding season monitoring scheme in the world for any bird species. To help celebrate this landmark, Thames Water has generously donated ?18,000 towards this fascinating project. The company`s reservoirs in Walthamstow are home to London`s oldest and largest heronry. Established in 1916, the reservoirs had 110 nests at the last count. Plans are also under way for the construction of an artificial heronry on the Thames Water nature reserve at Crossness Sewage Treatment Works, which will be built in time for the beginning of the next breeding season in spring 2004.

Dr Peter Spillett, Thames Water`s Head of Environment, Quality and Sustainability, said: Many of our sites are on or near habitats such as streams, rivers and reservoirs and we try, wherever possible, to make them more attractive to encourage a wide range of wildlife.As a top predator in the freshwater environment, Grey Herons are excellent indicators of the environmental health of wetland ecosystems. Breeding colonies are traditional and some areas have been used for centuries. In Britain and Ireland, Grey Herons use a variety of freshwater wetlands, with standing fresh waters heavily used in summer and autumn, while lowland streams, river margins, and estuaries provide year-round habitats.

In 1996, Little Egrets, another member of the Heron family, settled in Britain for the first time since the Middle Ages and have now established colonies as far north as Wales and East Anglia. All known egret nests are in existing colonies of Grey Heron, so it is hoped that in the 2003 survey and future surveys, we can also gather adequate data to gain more detailed knowledge of these populations. Results from past surveys have shown a steady increase in Britain`s Grey Heron population, particularly since the 1980s, but in order to obtain further information, the 2003 Census introduced some new approaches to recording methods. A sample group of observers were asked to make extra counting visits and data inputting now includes not only the overall estimates from each submitted card, but also the dates and counts from each visit. This information should help us form a clearer picture of the accuracy of our population estimates.

Although the 2003 data is still coming in, it is clear that the survey has been a success and we believe it will give us the best-ever indication of the real numbers of nesting Herons in the UK. [Additional financial support for this survey has been provided by Essex and Suffolk Water.]

For further information contact: John Marchant on 01842 750050 or e-mail: john.marchant@bto.org during office hours

4th July 2014