Best Ever Year for Britain's Herons
Bird On! News
31st October 1996
For the third successive year the annual census during 1995 of Britain's Grey Heron breeding colonies showed the highest figure ever. The estimate for the total numbers breeding in England and Wales was 7,137. The counts are done in the spring by members of the British Trust for Ornithology.
The figures for 1996 are likely to show a decrease because of the cold start to the year when freezing weather will have iced over many of the places where these birds feed. The Grey Heron is, apart from the Mute Swan, the biggest bird that most people are likely to see in the wild. They have a wing span of 170 cm (more than five feet) and weigh up to two kg (over four lbs). They usually nest ion traditional sites in colonies in trees but there are some colonies on the ground in reed beds.
The biggest increase was in Southeast England where the 35 colonies counted held 855 nests compared with 718 in 1994 - up 19.1%. In Southwest England the heronries are smaller and the 59 counted held 586 nests in 1995 (an increase of 69 - 13.4% - on 1994). Other regions increased by between 1.3% and 3.5% and Wales went up by 12.0%. Overall the increase in England and Wales was 7.7%.
By far and away the biggest colony is at Northward Hill in Kent with 227 pairs nesting and this is more than twice as large as the next biggest - at Walthamstow Reservoirs in Greater London with 111 nests. It is thought that the recent increase have resulted from the run of mild winters and the increases are bound to be halted in 1996. More help is needed with counting Herons in all areas. Please contact John Marchant at the BTO in case the colony is already being monitored. It is bad practice to have several people counting the same colony and subjecting it to extra disturbance.