The green sandpipers of Lemsford Springs

On Sunday afternoon, with only a couple of hours sunlight left in the short winter’s day, I headed for Lemford Springs near Welwyn Garden City. Lemsford Springs is a gem of a little nature reserve under the stewardship of HMWT and of Barry Trevis, reserve warden in particular. 
I have visited before, but as part of a working party, so this was my first chance to see the famed Green Sandpipers that are so associated with Lemsford Springs. The reserve is situated just to the west of the A1 and takes in a former watercress farm. This particular habitat of shallow freshwater beds seems extremely attractive to the sandpipers and since 1982 they have been the subject of a long term study by Barry and Ken Smith of the RSPB. Their 1991 paper, ‘Habitat use and site fidelity of Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus wintering in Southern England‘ provides fascinating insights into green sandpipers and their behaviour in the locality. The Herts Birds website also tells us that one bird in particular shows great regularity in it’s use of the site having been present each winter since being ringed as a juvenile since 2008. 
As chance would have it, this was the bird that graced the watercress beds in front of the hide as I watched on Sunday afternoon. It picked it’s way through the submerged vegetation and gave plenty of opportunity to note it’s ring pattern as it hopped onto some stonework -a blue ring on the left tibia, white over red on the right, with an additional metal ring on the right tarsus.

Further off, one to each side of me, a pair of Little Egrets hunted in the last golden light of the day whilst moorhen fussed over weeds and splashed through the shallows.

Light fading, I departed quietly and wandered along the path back to the entrance, locking the gate on a patch of hidden tranquility that provides and protects natural beauty, an important and valuable habitat and the opportunity for scientific enquiry as we seek to understand the complexities of the natural world or just be free from the hubbub of humanity for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

Reserve information

Lemsford Village
Get directions
Public transport
Opening Times
Open at all times
Access Permit required
Access to the reserve is by permit only. 
Contact the warden Barry Trevis, who lives next door to the reserve, on 01707 335517.
Reserve manager
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01727 858901

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