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The rivers in spring

Posted: Thursday 21st April 2016 by Living Rivers

Great crested news (c) David JohnsonGreat crested news (c) David Johnson

The Trust's Living Rivers Officer, David Johnson, makes his Radio Verlam debut, goes on the hunt for great crested newts with the Herts Natural History Society and finds an unexpected visitor in Waterford Marsh.

In the Rivers

It has been an interesting couple of months since my last blog and I am again back out visiting the rivers of Hertfordshire as they begin to show signs of spring. On a recent visit to the River Stort I saw my first kingfishers of the year as well as new signs of otter using the river. Bullhead are breeding in the River Mimram laying their eggs under rocks (see picture below) and in the Lea I’m finding plenty of stone loach in my samples which also have an abundance of olive mayfly nymphs and caseless caddisfly larvae. Even when chained to the desk, lunchtime walks by the River Ver in Verulamium Park fail to disappoint as I unexpectedly see more and more brown trout holding feeding stations in the silty concrete channel. The highlight of this spring however has to be to brook lampreys I found in the River Beane at Waterford Marsh just minutes after telling pupils from Bengeo Primary we wouldn’t find them.

Bullhead eggs (c) David Johnson


Riverfly Day in February was a huge success, the talks ranging from the ecology of stoneflies to the role of Riverflies in the restoration of urban rivers were well received with guests also being treated to some astounding Riverfly photography by wildlife photographer Neil Phillips.

In March I assisted Forrest School Officer Becky Shenton to deliver two River School sessions with Bengeo Primary School at Waterford Marsh, a day enjoyed by all which turned up my brook lamprey wildlife find of the year. Also in March I gave my very first Living Rivers community talk to the Welwyn Natural History Society – Chalk Rivers: What Lies Beneath – with a fantastic turn out and only minor microphone issues!


I led my first Riverfly Monitor Workshop in March qualifying as a tutor and training ten new monitors in the process. Some of those new monitors are members of Amwell Magna Fishery, the oldest angling club in Britain who will be monitoring the improvement of their stretch of the Lea now that they have more water in the river.

The Environment Agency provided some funding to enable me to organise a training workshop at Affinity Water’s Hatfield office to allow delivery partners within the Catchment Partnership to manage the online management plan. This means that the website is now kept more up to date with what is going on in the catchment.

In other news

Easter weekend I had my first visit to Heartwood Forest near Sandridge, well worth a visit to anyone especially in the coming weeks as the carpet of bluebells were just coming into flower whilst I was there. If you’re a resident of West Herts you may have heard me on Radio Verulam’s show Environment Matters talking about pond conservation and how to encourage frogs into your garden.

I’ve also been helping HNHS with surveys for their atlas of mammals, amphibians and reptiles in Hertfordshire. In early April our first amphibian survey of the year took us to the Trust’s very own Hertford Heath nature reserve where we found great crested newts, smooth newts and plenty of frog spawn, as well as some bat records using a detector as we walked between ponds.

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