These are my own personal comments on the Bird Group as it sadly is no longer in existence in the same way as it was 15 or 20 years ago.
The Bird Group was a subgroup within the Society and people who went to their meetings frequently did not come to general meetings. What the Bird Group did was to carry out a whole series of local bird surveys and produced a succession of booklets over the years. These were commonly offered for sale in local booksellers to help cover costs.
Latterly, they had a very successful website run by Mick East which was very well used and was always a very reliable source of information about birdlife in our area. Unfortunately, Mick moved away and there was no one to take on the website which as a consequence disappeared. At the same time many of the key members also left the area for one reason or another and although the Bird Group is still in existence it is a pale shadow of its former self.
They were particularly well known for assembling at 6 AM on a Saturday or Sunday morning in the Railway car park and then heading off to Norfolk to see how many birds they could record during the day which often extended to sunset. Some of the original Bird Group members still follow the original meeting plan which was the first Monday of the month at the Bricklayers Arms where they would originally swap records and plan recording strategies.
History of the Bird Group
The Bird Group was founded in 1973 by Michael Hurford & Tom Lewis when they advertised its formation through the local press for an inaugural meeting in a pub near the station.
They managed to persuade Chris Mead to attend from the British Trust for Ornithology and around twenty participants attended. Tom Lewis agreed to take over as Recorder and Michael Hurford acted as a convener. It was agreed that the group would meet on a monthly basis at the Bricklayer’s Arms in the Hadham Road, the meetings taking place on the first Monday each month, meeting on the second Monday when it coincided with a Bank Holiday.
This arrangement has continued ever since, though numbers are much reduced since the late seventies. This is largely due to the introduction of the computer which replaced the verbal and written reports of the early days.
Following its first meeting, Tom Lewis immediately set up a breeding bird survey in Hatfield Forest and this has been carried out almost continuously ever since. In addition, following Chris Mead’s advice, the group have participated in most of the Trust’s national surveys, including those resulting in a number of significant national publications.
In addition, the group has itself published its own records of birds observed in a ten mile radius of Bishop’s Stortford on a regular basis, with some seven publications in all. Each book not only contains a detailed history of the birds recorded in the area, but also line drawings & photographs by the group’s members. The most recent publication is still available through the Society or via Waterstone’s at £3.50.
Occasional visits to places of ornithological interest are undertaken and at the beginning of each year the group always make a visit to the Norfolk coast.
Since the early days, survey teams have unquestionably diminished, where the attractions of ‘birding’ spots tend to attract people away from our local area. I would stress that survey work is not only rewarding but is also a wonderful way to polish up those bird song skills and the reward comes from the publication of the group’s local results.
Our own collaboration with the Herts. Bird Club has also resulted in a number of notable county publications and there is the satisfaction that our commitment to such surveys means that this vital data will be available to the many generations that follow us. Indeed, the group uncovered a publication of records from the fifties some time ago and many of the species reported then are no longer to be found in the area. Species such as the Red-backed Shrike, Nightingale etc. that are no longer to be seen in or around our town. I wonder what differences will be noted in another sixty years’ time will be noted? The Spotted Flycatcher looks to be one of the lost species by then.
|Old Woman's Weaver|
|Pishiobury Park Bats|
|Forest Bird Watch|
|Breeding birds survey 2015|
|Over the Farm Gate|
|Records & sightings|