Beds, Herts & Bucks

Chance to watch grey herons nesting at St Albans park

Grey heron: photo by Hiran Fernando
Image caption Grey herons nest on an island in a lake at Verulamium Park

Visitors to a Hertfordshire park will get the chance to watch grey herons nesting again this spring.

The Date With Nature event at Verulamium Park in St Albans will give people the chance to use telescopes and binoculars to view the birds up close.

The RSPB will be on hand to provide information about the creatures and the work of their organisation.

The grey herons return to nest on an island in one of the park's lakes each year.

They first nested in 1990 and the heronry now averages between 16 and 20 occupied nests.

Many of the fledglings are fitted with a metal leg ring as part of the British Trust for Ornithology's bird ringing scheme.

The St Albans herons have been found as far afield as Suffolk and Northamptonshire, the furthest being some 50 miles away, but return to the island each spring.

RSPB volunteer project coordinator Murray Brown said: "It's wonderful that grey herons return to the island year after year.

"Having volunteered on this project for the last three years, I feel like we will be welcoming back old friends.

"Being well-protected on the island, this colony is unusually easy to observe so we would love to see as many people visiting as possible."

Children are welcome at the event and many families return several times during the season to check on the progress of the chicks, which are fully grown within two months.

Although the herons are the stars of the show, RSPB staff and volunteers will be available with information about other wildlife in the park.

In 2010, 64 bird species were recorded at the park, including nesting great crested grebes and five species of birds of prey.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, St Albans District Council's portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said: "Thanks go to the RSPB and their local volunteers for providing this opportunity for residents to enjoy spectacular close-up views of the grey herons nesting on the island in the middle of the lake."

The Date With Nature event is now in its fourth year and will be running from 19 February to 24 April 2011, every Wednesday to Sunday, 1000 GMT to 1600 GMT.

The RSPB will be located at the south end of the lake near the Fighting Cocks public house.

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