Wednesday 25th October – Waterford Heath

11 members met up at the Vicarage Lane car park on an overcast morning for a walk around Waterford Heath and Marsh.

From the car park we followed the track through the conifer woodland. A small party of birds could be seen flitting around in the tree canopy above our heads; primarily Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, although a Nuthatch was also spotted briefly with the flock. A little further along the track it was again found, this time hacking for all it was worth on a nut wedged in a broken tree trunk some 20 yards from the path; it was so engrossed in this task that we all had excellent views as it hammered away at its prize.

Our route then exited the wood before dropping down to the heath and passing under the railway bridge on the outskirts of Waterford village. A slow amble beside the picturesque River Beane produced a fly over Little Egret and a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets. Crossing the field, the walk now took us towards Great Mole Wood where a roosting Common Buzzard was seen perched in a tree and a Mistle Thrush on the overhead wires above the railway line.

We ascended the hill through the wood to the viewpoint overlooking the former sand and gravel quarry of Waterford Heath. The panoramic view across the reserve allowed us to pick out a Red Kite and several Common Buzzards, along with a couple of Jays.

The sun was beginning to break through the clouds as we walked back towards the car park and we noticed several species of fungi on the woodland floor and decaying logs next to the path. Damp autumn mornings are synonymous with the sudden appearance of mushrooms and toadstools, as anyone with a beautifully manicured lawn will tell you.

It had been a pleasant stroll around the heath, located just a short distance north of Hertford. It is hard to believe that not long ago we would have been looking over a decimated landscape, with lorries trundling through the site and heavy machinery gouging aggregates from the quarry but sympathetic restoration, with the help of Mother Nature, has transformed this into one of Hertfordshire’s loveliest nature reserves.

Bird list:

Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallard, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Ring-necked Parakeet, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Jay, Starling, Goldfinch – Total 25.

Other wildlife: Grey Squirrel. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies.