Located on the south side of Croxley Green beyond the urban sprawl, lies a 100 Acre reserve that provides a habitat rich in birdlife throughout the year.
The Croxley Common Moor is a little gem of a reserve that provides an area of habitat that seems to be hard to find in this part of SW Herts. Well-defined footpaths and the relatively small area allows for a stroll round without placing extra demands on your time. The Moor is a popular haunt for dog walkers, and can be prone to disturbance so choose your visiting time well. Model aircraft enthusiasts still occupy the 'green' area of land situated toward the centre of the Moor, but the local council do regulate flying times that are respectfully adhered to.
In recent years, a habitat management programme co-ordinated by the local council and the Countryside Management Services has been introduced to clear some of the scrub that had been spreading around the moor. A local farmer has also released Cattle to graze on the vegetation, helping to control levels of growth.
There are two main entrances to the moor. From Watford, take the A412 into Croxley Green and keep going until there is a bend in the road with a row of shops to the left. Take the turning on the left and park along Frankland Road. From there, walk down Mill Lane that then brings you adjacent to the Grand Union Canal. Walk along the canal and then cross over the bridge and follow the path down to the metal gate.
From Rickmansworth, pass Croxley Met station on the left, and then take the first right.
The other access is from Tolpits Lane. The entrance to the reserve can be accessed by turning left into Olds Approach if you were arriving from Rickmansworth. The entrance is straight ahead as you cross the Ebury Way.
Birds can be found throughout the year, but do depend on conditions and levels of disturbance. Early mornings is by far the best time to walk round and for the very keen, dawn is definitely worth a treat on those clear mornings at any time during the year.
The Common Moor speciality is the Green Woodpecker. This resident breeder can be seen throughout the year and almost definitely heard with at least two pairs resident on the reserve. Young birds are regularly seen by late summer. A walk along the river will frequently produce a Kingfisher as it flashes its brilliant blue low to the river, and Grey Wagtails are frequently seen. Reed Buntings are resident all year with at least four males holding territory in spring.
Warblers start arriving in mid-March when the first Chiffchaff starts to sing, usually from the woods across the canal, and the first few Blackcaps start moving through. By the beginning of April, the first Willow Warblers can be heard singing, which increase to 20+ singing individuals by the end of April. May and June are by far the best time for warblers. Again, early morning is the best time to visit the reserve, where it is possible to pick up a variety of common warblers. Whitethroats this year were numerous with an estimated seven pairs breeding. Along with these are its masked cousins, the Lesser Whitethroat rattling throughout the summer. A walk along the river will produce Sedge and Reed Warbler amongst the scrub and reed beds further down.
Cuckoos can be seen and heard during May, and the Hobby is a regular sighting. This year, two Grasshopper Warblers were heard reeling for at least a week, and an early morning visit produced a rare glimpse of these elusive birds. Common migrants are also a feature with recent years producing cracking male Whinchats, and Wheatear, four together of the latter being the best record.
Autumn migration attracts many of the common species to the moor. Numbers of titmice and finch species increase and are often accompanied by warblers, and Meadow Pipits. Redstarts have been a regular visitor in previous years, and the odd Whinchat and Wheatear may also be encountered. A Common Sandpiper has been seen feeding along the river. By late September, the last of the warblers have departed, only to be replaced by the first Stonechats of the autumn. As winter draws in, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Redwing, Fieldfares and Goldcrests can all be seen regularly and in good numbers. Other winter visitors include Water Rail where up to three have been seen, along with Snipe, and the regular Green Sandpiper that appears to winter in the local area. A Little Egret has also made it onto the CCM list.
For anyone living in the local area, the Croxley Moor is definitely worth a visit, and it would be great to know that there are others who are regularly observing this really special reserve.
Text supplied by Aftab Nasir