Hertfordshire

Great Tit Parus major ©Sean McMenemy Website

The recording area of Hertfordshire (area 20 in the Watsonian system) is co-terminus with the ceremonial county of the same name. Hertfordshire (abbreviation Herts) is a county in southern England (one of the so-called ‘Home’ counties), bordered by Bedfordshire to the north, Cambridgeshire to the northeast, Essex to the east, Buckinghamshire to the west and Greater London to the south. The county has an area of c. 1,600 km2  (600 square miles) and a population of around 1,200,000 people. The largest settlement is Watford, followed by Hemel Hempstead, Stevanage and St Albans, and the county town is Hertford.

Elevations are high for the region in the north and west. These reach over 240m in the western projection around Tring and along The Ridgeway, which is in the Chilterns, a long-distance national path on the Bucks border. The county’s borders are approximately the watersheds of the Colne and Lea; both flowing to the south; each accompanied by a canal. There are chalk streams some with old watercress beds and some pits from gravel or chalk extraction. Hertfordshire’s undeveloped land is mainly agricultural and much is protected by green belt. It is least populated in the east with mostly arable farming. Beech woodland is most often at the higher elevations.

Verulamium Park, St Albans © Sean McMenemy

Birding Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire is a relatively under-watched county and over the years has shown that it can turn up rare birds just like any other county – Paddyfield Warbler, Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Falcated Duck, Yellow-browed Warbler and Solitary Sandpiper are just a few examples.

Among the most popular birding sites are the reservoirs near Tring in the west of the county. Many of Hertfordshire’s most exciting birds have been found there. The reservoirs are famous for the first British record of breeding Little Ringed Plovers back in 1938 and other ornithological highlights include Britain’s first Marsh Sandpiper in 1887 and England’s first breeding record of Black-necked Grebe in 1918.

In the east of the county is the Lea Valley, (shared with Essex) where some more top sites are located, such as Amwell and Rye House Marsh/Rye Meads. Another site well-deserving of a mention is Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits near St Albans which has, in recent years, proven itself as a place to watch. The county has several RSPB Members Groups, some of which have an online presence.

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Top Sites
  • Amwell Gravel Pits

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    Amwell underwent extensive restoration following the ending of gravel extraction (still going on nearby) and the plans continue. The restoration has produced an excellent quality site for wildlife, not just birds. Otters have been introduced into the area with some success. The site, being part of the Lea Valley, is noted for its wintering wildfowl (including Smew and Goldeneye) but there is also a diversity of breeding species, both waders and passerines included. (Grid reference is for the entrance at the north of the site).
  • Tring Reservoirs

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    Tring Reservoirs were the site of England's first breeding Black-necked Grebes (1918) and the UK's first breeding Little Ringed Plovers (1938). They still form one of Hertfordshire's foremost birding sites. They are most noted for good numbers of wintering wildfowl. Recent rarities include Caspian Tern, White-winged Black Tern and Alpine Swift. (Grid reference is for the car park at Wilstone Reservoir)
  • Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits

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    Tyttenhanger is another site undergoing restoration following gravel extraction. Recently it has become the county's foremost wader site with Redshank, Lapwing, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover all breeding. Unfortunately there is work going on to flood the area used by these breeding waders and make the area a large fishing lake. However, consideration is being given to wildlife and it is hoped that the site doesn't lose too much of its value. Yellow Wagtails also breed. Nearby fields host good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover in winter. This site played host to a drake Lesser Scaup in 1997.
Contributors
  • Gareth Watkins

    | limey73@yahoo.com

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 316

    County Bird - Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Checklist

Useful Reading

  • Birds of Hertfordshire

    by Ken W Smith, Chris W Dee, Jack D Fearnside & Mike Ilett | Hertfordshire Natural History Society | 2015 | Hardback | 293 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780993121708 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Breeding Birds of Hertfordshire

    by KW Smith, CW Dee, JD Fearnside, EW Fletcher, RN Smith & AJ Harris | Hertfordshire Bird Club | 1993 | Hardcover| 320 pages, 100 line illus, 200 two-colour maps | ISBN: 9780952168508 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & Oxfordshire

    by Brian Clews, Andrew Herget & Paul Trodd | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 320 pages, 69 maps, 30 line drawings | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713640021 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Museums & Universities
  • Ornithology at The Natural History Museum

    Museum
    The Bird Group, in the Department of Zoology of The Natural History Museum, is located at Tring, Hertfordshire, on the site of The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, bequeathed to The Natural History Museum in 1937. The bird collections were moved out from London in the early 1970s and are housed in part of the original Rothschild complex and in a purpose-built four-storey building. Probably the biggest collection of bird skins in the world.
Organisations
  • Hertfordshire Natural History Society

    Website
    Hertfordshire Natural History Society was founded in 1879, having previously been called the Watford & District Natural History Society. From that date to the present, there has been a continuous pursuit of natural history study across the County
  • Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust

    Website
    Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is a local charity supported by people who care about protecting wildlife, including over 21,000 members...
  • Herts Bird Club

    Webpage
    Welcome to the Herts Bird Club website. We promote the study and recording of birds in Hertfordshire and encourage a wider interest in natural history including the conservation of wildlife habitats.
  • RSPB Harpenden Local Group

    Webpage
    The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings locally throughout the year and have occasional day-trips to local nature reserves. So, if you would like to have fun and meet like minded people contact us and help make a difference for birds and wildlife…
  • RSPB Hemel Hempstead Local Group

    Webpage
    This is the website of the Hemel Hempstead RSPB Local Group which was formed in 1972. The Group is run by volunteers and aims to publicise the RSPB in our local community, to recruit new members, to raise funds and to engage in our fascinating hobby of bird watching. Money raised by the group is used principally to help the RSPB to help in the vital conservation work that it undertakes…
  • RSPB Hitchin & Letchworth Local Group

    Webpage
    Welcome to the Home Page of the Hitchin & Letchworth Local Members Group. We are a group of RSPB members who meet on a regular basis for talks on a wide range of Natural History subjects and trips to a variety of sites in the south of England in search of Britains birds. We cover the north of Hertfordshire, including the towns of Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Royston, and many of the villages in between. However, anyone is welcome to join us at any of our meetings, and you do not have to be a member of the RSPB to come along…
  • RSPB Pinner & District Local Group

    Webpage
    This is the website of the Pinner & District Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.
  • RSPB Potters Bar & Barnet Local Group

    Webpage
    The Potters Bar and Barnet Group has a membership of approximately 1,800 members who are drawn from the area around Potters Bar, Barnet, Brookmans Park. The Group organises regular events and outings including visits to European sites…
  • RSPB South East Hertfordshire Local Group

    Facebook
    The group covers Waltham Cross, Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Hoddesdon, Ware, Hertford and surrounding areas. Others come along from Bishop's Stortford, The Hadhams, Buntingford and Harlow. In all, the group has annual contact with over 2000 RSPB members…
  • RSPB St Albans Local Group

    Webpage
    This is the website of the St Albans Local Group.
  • RSPB Stevenage Local Group

    Webpage
    The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in the local community and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have regular monthly indoor meetings locally throughout the year and have monthly day-trips to local nature reserves. So, if you would like to have fun and meet like minded people contact us and help make a difference for birds and wildlife…
  • RSPB Stort Valley Local Group

    Webpage
    This is the website of the Stort Valley Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.
  • RSPB Watford Local Group

    Webpage
    The Watford Members Group of the RSPB was formed in 1974, and exists in order to further the RSPB's national objectives within the local community. Their programme enables members to learn more about birds in Britain and abroad and to see birds - in company with fellow enthusiasts - in a wide variety of habitats. They extend a very warm welcome to anyone interested in bird protection, whether keen birders or determined twitchers, or members with more general interests.
  • Rye Meads Ringing Group

    Website
    We are a volunteer group whose mission is to study the birds of Rye Meads, Hertfordshire (United Kingdom), by trapping and ringing them, logging sightings, conducting breeding surveys, and recording all nests found. We have been studying this site since 1960 and have data on more than a quarter of a million birds ringed, and have published many papers based on this data. This website presents a summary of the birds, ringing data and activities of the Group.
  • Tring Ringing Group

    Website
    We are a group of volunteer bird-ringers operating as part of the national ringing scheme that is run by the British Trust for Ornithology. Our aim is to record and monitor the birds in our area through ringing and nest recording. We also undertake conservation work to maintain the habitat for the benefit of wildlife. Tring Ringing Group operate at a number of different sites around Tring Reservoirs, Wendover and Aylesbury.
  • Ver Valley Society

    Website
    The Ver must not be allowed to dwindle away as it nearly did in the early 1990s.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • *H&MWT Nature Reserves

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    Listings
  • LNR Amwell

    WebpageSatellite View
    Visit the viewpoint overlooking Great Hardmead Lake and see what you can spot. The viewpoint is seldomly short of birdwatchers, most of whom will be happy to share their observations. Wintering gulls provide quite a spectacle as they come to roost on the lake in large numbers every evening, screeching, crying and cawing. These are mostly black-headed and lesser black-backed gulls with the occasional, more unusual, Caspian and yellow-legged gulls being spotted by visitors. Many come to Amwell to see not only gadwall and shovelers but also the smew, a rare winter visitor.
  • LNR Cassiobury Park

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    To gain a Green Flag Award a park or green space must be welcoming, safe and well maintained, with a strong involvement from the local community.
  • LNR Hilfield Park Reservoir

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    This large expanse of water is a valuable refuge for waterfowl, including blacknecked grebe. An important site for large numbers of wintering ducks, particularly mallard, shoveler, teal, wigeon and goldeneye. The area is of national importance for its summer populations of pochard, tufted duck and common tern. The marginal vegetation supports many breeding bird species such as reed bunting and sedge warbler.
  • LNR Lemsford Springs

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    Lemsford Springs is a small nature reserve and contains an old watercress bed which is a valuable habitat - particularly for waterbirds, as it does not freeze in cold winter weather. Water rail, snipe, and the green sandpiper may be seen from the hides. The green sandpiper feeds on the shrimps which are abundant in the freshwater lagoons. The lagoons also support fifty species of water snail.
  • LNR Maple Lodge Nature Reserve

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    Maple Lodge Nature Reserve comprises 40 acres of mixed habitat based around disused gravel workings.
  • LNR Oughtonhead

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    The reserve is an important habitat for birds such as kingfisher, water rail and woodcock, whilst mammals such as the water shrew may be seen.
  • LNR Purwell Ninesprings

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    The open water at this reserve attracts moorhen, mallard and, in winter, teal. The reedbed is home to reed warblers, as well as water rails. The wet ground condition encourages tussock sedge, yellow iris and water forget-me-not. In winter, buntings roost among the reeds, snipe feed in the meadow and siskins feed on alder seeds. Winter for Redpoll, siskin, woodcock.
  • LNR Springwell Reedbed

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    Springwell Reedbed is the largest reedbed in the London area. The wetland provides an important undisturbed refuge for wildlife in this built-up part of the Colne Valley.
  • LNR Stockers Lake

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    Stockers Lake is a nature reserve formed from old flooded gravel pits. Entrance is free. Use the Aqua-drome car park-follow signs to Aqua-drome on south approach to Rickmansworth. The lake forming the Aqua-drome water sports and sailing centre is Bury Lake, which does attract large numbers of birds but most are there to take advantage of food provided by the public. Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Coots form the bulk of the birdlife.
  • LNR Tewinbury

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    A diverse reserve lying in the Mimram Valley which contains a variety of habitats including wet meadow, tall fen and swamp, alder carr, willow scrub, willow pollards and chalk stream. The tall fen/swamp occurs around a lagoon and along adjacent channels, and has a mixture of common reed, reed sweet-grass and common reed-mace. Water voles can be seen swimming in the reedbed channels. The surrounding banks support great horsetail, butterbur and town hall clock. Greater tussock sedge grows here, a species now uncommon in Hertfordshire.
  • LNR Thorley Wash

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    The morning sun’s bright rays begin to clear the mist from the meadow, a sedge warbler is singing and a kestrel lazily drifts overhead – Thorley Wash waking up is a sight not to be missed. Formerly known as Thorley Flood Pound, Thorley Wash is a beautiful wetland reserve nestled between the River Stort navigation and the Stort backwater, the original route of the river, south of Bishop’s Stortford near the village of Spellbrook.
  • LNR Ver Valley

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Explore the beautiful rolling countryside of the Ver Valley through a new series of eight circular walks and the linear trail.
  • NNR Broxbourne Woods

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    Broxbourne Woods is Hertfordshire's only National Nature Reserve and is also recognised as a Special Area of Conservation of European importance. It's made up of 4 woods: Bencroft, Broxbourne, Hoddesdonpark and Wormley
  • RNP Lee Valley Park

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    Covering a thousand acres on either side of the River Lee between Waltham Abbey (Essex) and Broxbourne (Herts) River Lee Country Park is a unique patchwork of lakes, waterways, green open spaces and countryside areas all linked together by paths, walkways and cycle tracks. The River Lee Country Park abounds with wildlife throughout the year and is the perfect venue for informal, outdoor recreation.
  • RSPB Rye Meads

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    Rye Meads is a favourite with walkers, birdwatchers and photographers too. There are wheelchair-friendly trails, and 8 hides (come just to see the amazing murals!) look out over the reedbeds, wet meadows, open water and artificial sandbanks, which are a great place to spot the blue flash of a kingfisher.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Bishop's Stortford Bird Group

    Mailing Group
    Mailing Group & Sightings
  • Maple Lodge F

    Forum
Blogs
  • Ian Bennell - Ian Bennell's Birding Blog

    BLOG
    Born and bred in Watford,Herts, I started birding when I was just 8 years old because the old next door neighbours garden was very overgrown and attracted birds to his and our gardens! I first went to the Watford RSPB group at 15 and then I joined the Herts Bird Club in the same year. I was on the Herts Bird Club committee for 3 years.
  • Jim Anderson - Jim's Birding Blog

    BLOG
    A diary of birds and birding trips…
  • Jono Forgham - Little Hadham Birding

    BLOG
    A record of the wildlife in and around Hadham Ford as from January 2008. Please feel free to leave any comments or email me with details of interesting bird, mammal, butterfly, moth and dragonfly sightings…
  • Paul Ward - Diary of a part-time twitcher

    BLOG
    This is going to be a part-time diary of an increasingly full-time twitcher. Based in Rickmansworth, my local patch covers the Colne Valley but I get out as much as work allows. Normally this means up to 3 hours away covering Norfolk, Kent and Dorset.
  • Phil Bishop - Phil Bishop's Birding Blog

    BLOG
    These days I enjoy photographing birds, butterflies, dragonflies and landscapes with my Nikon D2x and lenses including a 300mm vr and 500 F4P. I now (April 2011) have a Nikon D3s, and I am also partial to Zeiss lenses, owning a 35mm F2 and a 100mm F2 macro.
  • Royston Wildlife Blog

    BLOG
    Welcome to Royston Wildlife, a web site set up to provide a personal view of the natural history associated with the town of Royston (North Herts) and its environs. On the face of it, Royston would seem unlikely to have a diverse and interesting natural history. For a start it is not situated either by or near a river or lake. Secondly, the land surrounding Royston is intensively farmed. Nevertheless, there is plenty of interest here for the naturalist.
  • The Grumpy Ecologist

    BLOG
    A grizzled old ecologist/birder, usually to be found roaming around the Lee Valley and occasionally further afield. Fortunate to be involved in the management of some of the UK's finest nature reserves and always looking for ways of improving them for birds…
Photographers & Artists
  • Artist - Ernest Leahy

    Twitter
    I am a self taught artist and have painted wildlife for over 30 years. All my paintings are original works of art - I do not sell prints. I normally paint in watercolours but occasionally use acrylics, pastels, and ink for illustrations. most of my work is based on field studies and many of the paintings are started on site…
  • Photographer - David Plant

    Gallery
    This website is dedicated to my photography. I first got interested in nature when I lived in South Africa. My first passion was birds, something I have indulged in all over the world. Then this moved onto nature and wildlife in all their various forms
  • Photographer - Ephraim Perfect

    Gallery
    Hi, I'm Ephraim! I am a passionate photographer and shoot a wide range of wildlife photography.

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