Monday, 20 December 2021

Herons and Egrets at the Avalon Marshes in Somerset
Great Egret

Herons and Egrets at the Avalon Marshes in Somerset

The Avalon Marshes is an extensive area of reedbed and other habitats within the Somerset Levels, managed by a group of conservation organisations and supported by a network of staff and volunteers. The fourth annual report of the New Colonists Monitoring Group (AMNCMG), which helps to monitor and protect the six wetland bird species that are increasingly making the Marshes their home, has been released recently.

Great Egret: First nested in 2012. 2021 was a record year, with 37 breeding pairs and 50 fledged young - a huge increase over the 12-15 pairs recorded in each of the previous five years.

Cattle Egrets: First nested in 2017 but not thought to have nested on the Avalon Marshes since, including this year. Birds were regularly sighted throughout the year, with a flock of about 80 adults and juveniles present on farmland near Westhay in October.

Little Bittern: Suspected to have bred in 2019 (easy to hear but notoriously hard to see!). Again present on RSPB Ham Wall this summer, with seven reports of 'barking' males in May and June. No evidence of breeding - but this species is difficult to monitor due to its secretive habits.

Night Heron: A single pair nested in 2017 but none since. Four birds seen or heard between April and June, from RSPB Ham Wall, NE Shapwick Heath and SWT Westhay Moor. Not known to have bred.

Purple heron: First seen in 2020 and remains a potential colonising species; single birds were reported from RSPB Ham Wall, Tadham Moor and The SWT Catcott Complex during September.

Glossy Ibis: Glossy Ibis continues to be an annual visitor to Somerset. Another potential colonist, with three birds reported from the Somerset coast, and a juvenile present on the SWT Catcott Complex in September.

The group of conservation organisations: RSPB at Ham Wall, Natural England at Shapwick Heath, and Somerset Wildlife Trust at Westhay Moor and Catcott Complex.

The Avalon Marshes New Colonist Monitoring Group was established in 2016 to protect and monitor the breeding attempts of newly colonising bird species. Volunteers work alongside reserve staff to carry out surveys of breeding species, record nesting activity, gather data by drone and assist with the colour ringing project. The AMNCMG Coordinator is Alison Morgan and the Project Manager is Ali Blaney, Warden of RSPB Ham Wall.

The full, fascinating and informative report can be seen in the PDF included in this news report - download the file.

Congratulations to all involved!

Download file