BRENT BIRDERS is a loose description used when reporting sightings by groups of regular birders at Brent Reservoir (commonly known as the “Welsh Harp”). When only one or two birders are involved they are normally named individually.
Regular Brent Birders in recent times have included The Three Andrews (Andrew Self, Andrew Verrall and Andrew Haynes) and (in alphabetical order) Magnus Andersson, Leo Batten, Roy Beddard, Steve Blake, John Colmans, John Gravatt, Dave Haddican, Patrick Hagglund, Bob Husband and Pete Lowman. [Please add your own name if you feel you have been unfairly left out of this list — especially if your surname is in the overlooked second half of the alphabet.]
Brent Birders are mainly members of the Welsh Harp Conservation Group, which is currently (2016) chaired by Roy Beddard. The group was formed in 1972 to help preserve the status of the reservoir and its surroundings as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as an important breeding site for wildfowl. The WHCG works closely with the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways), which owns the reservoir, and the London Boroughs of Brent and Barnet, which own the surrounding open spaces.
All London birders are welcome to join the group. For a small fee, they can obtain keys to the two main hides, which unfortunately have to be kept locked because of vandalism. (A third, and relatively vandal-proof, hide can be found next to the northern arm of the reservoir and is open at all times but is likely to be littered with empty beer cans and other debris).
During the winter months, Brent Birders arrange work parties, usually on the second Saturday of the month, to carry out maintenance work such as clearing overgrown paths, removing oak saplings from the gorse patch and tidying up the reservoir's rafts — although the silting up of the East Marsh means that it is now difficult to reach the rafts to carry out this work. In early summer, work parties may be organised to uproot or chop down stands of the invasive Himalayan Balsam. In late summer, once nesting has finished, volunteers cut down the reeds in front of the hides to restore the view. All birder are welcome to join in this essential work.
The WHCG holds twice-yearly bird counts, attempting to find as many species as possible in one day from pre-dawn to post-dusk. The spring count usually takes place on the last Saturday in April or the first Saturday in May; the autumn count is usually on the last Saturday in August or the first Saturday in September.
The dates of these events are always posted up in good time within the main hide and — if we remember — are also promoted on this wiki. Over the years some fascinating birds have been found on these intensive days of observation. All London birders are welcome to join us and help us find some even more exciting birds.
In association with the North-West London RSPB Group, the WHCG hosts regular bird walks, which usually start at Cool Oak Lane bridge at 10am on the second or third Sunday of the month.
Wildlife walks are also held in association with other organisations, such as The Wildlife Trusts, and in recent years the WHCG has also annually arranged at least one bat walk on a late summer evening.