Three exceptional  Hertfordshire naturalists were presented with HNHS awards at the Society's 2023 Autumn Meeting and AGM held on Saturday 7 October.

Specialist owl ringer Peter Wilkinson was given the Trevor James Award for an outstanding Herfordshire naturalist, butterfly expert Liz Goodyear received the 1875 Award for an outstanding contribution to natural history in the county and the Society presented its Long-Service Award to former Chairman, Peter Delaloye.

The ceremonies took place as part of a meeting that included inspiring talks on wildlife conservation and recording. These ranged through street-level community action in St Albans, habitat maintenance by anglers in Rickmansworth and a survey seeking out Water Voles along the River Lea. Links to videos of the talks and annual award presentations can be found below.

More than 40 members and friends who attended the conference at Affinity Water's offices in Hatfield heard an impressive account of Peter Wilkinson's volunteer bird-ringing activities extending back to the 1970s.

Peter Wilkinson receiving his award from Tim Hill © David Utting

He and professional ecologist Colin Shawyer have ringed around 22,000 Barn Owls, amounting to a tenth of all the Barn Owl chicks ringed in the oast 110 years. Peter's personal tally runs to 4,000. 

Liz Goodyear is celebrated for her discovery, with the London-based naturalist Andrew Middleton, of Purple Emperor  colonies across Hertfordshire and extending north across East Anglia.

Liz Goodyear with her award © David Utting

Having established that this large and beautiful butterfly is not as rare as once thought, they performed a similar service for the White-letter Hairstreak, confirming its continued presence where saplings of its foodplant – Elm – still survive. She has been the Secretary of the Herts. and Middlesex branch of Butterfly Conservation for more than 20 years.

A video of the presentations can be viewed on the HNHS YouTube site. More detailed accounts of the contributions made by Peter and Liz can be found on the HNHS Annual Awards page.

Peter Delaloye's Long-Service Award was prompted by his recent retirement after 25 years of service from the Herts Bird Club Committee. He chaired the commitee from 2000 to 2005 before becoming HNHS Chairman from 2005 to 2009.

Peter Delaloye after receiving his Long-Service Award from David Utting © Tim Hill

He received the 1875 Award in 2014 to acknowledge his lifetime work as a bird ringer and trainer as work overseeing publishing and website projects that helped revitalise the Society. Making the presentation, as part of the Annual General Meeting, David Utting described Peter as "an HNHS legend".

The Autumn Meeting's programme of talks began with Nadia Bishara, founder of St Albans Wilderhood Watch who described how a project for creating 'green corridors' between gardens that has burgeoned to cover more than 40 streets. Fifteen separate activities include 'Hedgehog Streets' to give Hedgehogs access across gardens away from roads, advice on creating garden ponds and mini-wildlife meadows and events where gardeners can 'swap' high pollen-providing plants

Tony Booker, Chair of the Colne Valley Fisheries Consultancy and Anthony Johns, the Fisheries Manager at Sabey's Pool, Rickmansworth described their collaboration with Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust to create opportunities to promote biodiversity that benefit both anglers and conservation efforts.

The conference speakers (l. to r.) Anthony Johns, Martin Ketcher, Tony Booker & Nadia Bishara © Tim Hill

The steps taken include the creation of an AQA accredited course in Angling and Nature Conservation. At Sabey's Pool it has also led to three years of sustained habitat management removing shading trees tond create grassy banks that are attractive to Water Voles and Kingfishers.

The concluding keynote talk was given by Martin Ketcher, presenting the results of detailed survey he and Amanda Proud undertook earlier this year looking for evidence of Water Voles in the Lea Valley between Ware and the Olympic Park in East London. Droppings, ban holes. ground nests and feeding evidence were found as far south as Walthamstow. River and canal banks produced more 'positives', lakes and ditches more' negatives.

The conference also received updates from Roy Woodward on promising results from the first two seasons of the six-year Hertfordshire Dragonfly and Damselfly Atlas survey and from Chantal Helm on the Mammals, Amphibians and Reptiles Atlas (Herts. MARA) survey, now extended to ten years. She urged everyone to continue submitting records before the end of 2024 when the survey will finish. There will be particular emphasis duriung the final year on checking tetrads (2km squares) where common species have not yet been reported, and on conducting small mammal trapping in selected areas.

Thanks, once again, go to Affinity Water for hosting the event and to their Catchment and Biodiversity Manager, Alister Leggatt, who introduced the conference with an overview of the current state of Hertfordshire's water resources.