Nature at its very best
The Tyttenhanger area is well known for its wildlife and in particular is one of the county’s premier sites for birdwatching. Over 70 different species can be recorded on any single day of the year and over 200 different bird species have been recorded over the years. Much of the focus tends to be around the old gravel pits where a large population of wetland and wading birds thrive, including Cormorants, Grebes, Swans, Coots and Herons. Walking along the Timberland Trail next to the river Colne or taking a detour south through Garden Wood will give you the chance to spot Mallard Ducks, Wood Pigeons, Wrens, Blue Tits and Goldcrests, or if you’re lucky maybe a Green Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Kingfisher or a Hobby. On the open farmland you’ll regularly see Magpies, Crows and Jackdaws. At various times of the year, the gravel pits also become another focus, as crowds gather early evening to watch the Starling population perform their amazing murmurations before diving into the reeds to find a bed for the night!
Tyttenhanger’s Endangered Tree Sparrows
The birdlife is well-documented in the annual Tyttenhanger Bird Report, but the real star of the show is the breeding colony of Tree Sparrows – the rarer cousin of the more familiar House Sparrows. The colony at Tyttenhanger is the last one in Hertfordshire and very likely to be the last one in the Southeast of England, which makes Tyttenhanger an incredibly important site for these beleaguered birds.
Thankfully, they have been supported over the last 30 years by volunteers from the Herts Bird Club through a monitoring program of feeding, ringing and nest-box recording. This project has recently been expanded in the hope that the population can be saved and encouraged to breed. Currently there are six nesting and feeding sites in various sites around Tyttenhanger.
The biggest threat to the Tree Sparrows continued home at Tyttenhanger is Bowmans Cross. It is highly unlikely that the colony would survive should the development go ahead in its current format.
A safe and shared home
Many other birds, including nearly 50 species listed as ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ use the site, many of them breeding. A colony of Sand Martins uses the sandy banks to nest and these are currently safeguarded by Tarmac Ltd during their quarrying works. The river, lakes and varied habitats mean the whole site is very attractive to migrating and wintering birds too, providing a wealth of insect life and varied biodiversity – to date 29 species of butterfly and at least 19 species of dragonfly have been recorded, not to mention a wide range of other insects.
It’s not just birds which make up the wildlife of the site with eleven species of mammal recorded, including protected Badgers and the endangered Brown Hare and Hedgehog. The wetland habitats are important for Common Toads too – another conservation ‘priority species’ and Garden Wood plays home to a whole variety of rich wildlife including Muntjac deer.
The Bowmans Cross development in its current guise, would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on all the wildlife at Tyttenhanger. A number of species would not remain or survive.
A full list of the wildlife found at the site can be found on the Friends of Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits website https://friendsofthgp.wixsite.com/ornithology
Useful links for further reading:
The Friends of Tyttenhanger GP: https://friendsofthgp.wixsite.com/ornithology
Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/tyttenhangergps
The Herts Tree Sparrow Project (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/hertstreesparrowproject
The Herts Bird Club: https://www.hnhs.org/herts-bird-club/home
The Herts Natural History Society: https://www.hnhs.org
What can you do?
Comment on Hertsmere Borough Council’s Draft Local Plan, sign the petition and spread the word. We must fight to demand that residents are properly consulted on all aspects of the development if we are to stop it in its current form.