St Albans tops charts in Great Herts Garden Bird Count competition

John Pritchard, winner of the first Great Herts Garden Bird Count, in his garden at Shafford Farm, j

John Pritchard, winner of the first Great Herts Garden Bird Count, in his garden at Shafford Farm, just outside St Albans. - Credit: Archant

The first Great Herts Garden Bird Count proved a huge success - with the winning gardens all coming from the St Albans area.

The Herts Bird Club encouraged birdwatchers to stay at home and record what birds they encountered from their gardens during April.

This time of year usually sees the peak of bird migration between wintering and breeding grounds, with birdwatchers out and about looking for migrants and perhaps hoping for a rarity. Lockdown put an end to all that and so the Herts Bird Club turned the focus on to our gardens instead.

The rules were simple – any bird seen or heard from your house or garden in Herts counted. For some that meant setting up a telescope to scan distant skies or training their binoculars on the tops of trees in nearby parkland. For others, it was an excuse to sit comfortably in their favourite chair with a nice cup of tea and simply watch which birds came and went in their gardens.

The results were astonishing with 123 different species recorded across the county’s gardens. Over 110 gardens submitted over 4,200 records with some unusual records of birds heard migrating over gardens at night.

The top three gardens, all recording over 70 species, were all in St Albans – two of them suburban gardens. The winner – John Pritchard from Shafford Farm – recorded a staggering 77 different species, benefiting from his close proximity to the River Ver’s rich habitat.

John said: “I was delighted to end the month with the top score in this friendly competition. The river definitely helped provide a few extra species, like kingfisher and snipe, to give me the edge over some other very accomplished birdwatchers in the county.”

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He receives a state-of-the art bird box camera kit from Green Feathers.

The runners up were Rupert Evershed and Chris Ruis, with 72 and 71 different species respectively recorded from their St Albans gardens.

Rupert, who is also the club chairman, added: “This has been a fantastic competition in what are difficult times for everybody. The focus on our most local of patches – our gardens – has given many people a fresh connection with nature on their doorstep and often surprised them with what can actually be seen from their gardens.”

See www.hnhs/herts-bird-club for more competitions.