Announcement: Your bird sightings

We would be very pleased to hear about your local bird sightings, whether on a YACWAG reserve or not – please email us and/or send us photographs and let us know if you are happy for them to go on the website.

Trevor Riddle would be particularly interested to know if anyone sees a marsh tit on Cadbury Hill or anywhere else locally.

For current bird sightings around Bristol and the old County of Avon visit the Avon Birds blog. For beginners, read Trevor Riddle’s helpful bird identification advice here. The RSPB identification guide can be found here.

Strawberry Line birds – 31st March 2017

The first survey of the twentieth season took place on the 31st March on a breezy mild morning, much warmer than on most first surveys in past years.

Chiffchaffs were everywhere ( well almost); there were 17 singing and several others ( females don’t sing) besides. Five Blackcaps were pouring out their lovely musical warble and two Willow Warblers were singing their descending notes song. Willow Warblers are migrant birds here now: they will move on to breed, probably in the North west of the U.K. Our two regular Cettis Warblers made themselves heard ( as only Cetti’s can).  These birds are resident all year and are the rarest breeding bird species on the YACWAG reserves.

Song Thrush and Reed Bunting were also in song, both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard and seen respectively, a couple of Herons flew over and a Kestrel was on the Congresbury Moor reserve. All the usual suspects were present in good numbers: let’s hope for a warm Spring and Summer so that there will be lots of baby birds this year.


Big Schools Birdwatch at St Andrew’s, Congresbury. 25th January.

The school chose 25th January for their birdwatch, and what a lovely sunny still morning they picked. There was a Green Woodpecker in the paddock between the Church and the School as we unpacked, with a Greenfinch tuning up nearby.

Five classes came ( separately) into the playground to record the birds seen and all morning Rooks were at their nests and in view through the telescope. A Redwing was spotted as well as Chaffinch, Goldfinches, Robin, Blue Tit and Woodpigeon. Black headed gulls and Jackdaws flew over. It was a very enjoyable hour.

After a welcome cuppa in the staff room we checked and cleaned out the nest boxes. As last year all of the boxes in the school grounds had been used, a very satisfying outcome. Whilst we were doing this we heard and then saw a Nuthatch, a species I had not recorded in the village before ( they are resident in Kings Wood and on Cadbury Hill).

Thanks to Sue Lovesey and John Croxton for their help.

Trevor R.

Visit to RSPB West Sedgemoor & Greylake Reserves. Weds 18 January.

Fifteen members and friends set off in Bluey heading south for the sun and it worked; blue sky, no wind and glorious sunshine by the time we reached West Sedgemoor near Curry Rivel.

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

We were met by our guide, long serving RSPB volunteer Nigel Smith ( this reserve can only be visited on organised tours) and he took us to a vantage point overlooking part of the Reserve. Nigel explained the history and management regime whilst clouds of Lapwings and Golden Plover filled the sky – a brilliant sight in the sunny weather. We moved on to the observation hide ( an upstairs in a barn but with hide Windows, seats and tea and biscuits).

Nigel soon picked out a Great White Egret which he said was unusual and then a perched Marsh Harrier that stayed for most of the morning. This was much viewed and photographed through various telescopes. There were lots of Wigeon with lesser numbers of Teal and Shoveler. A second Marsh Harrier gave us a fly past and put up some of the Lapwings, Golden Plover and ducks. Then as we made our way back a pair of Cranes flew in and proceeded to dance – a great end to our visit.

We drove to the Greylake Reserve for lunch, there were great views of Redwings and Reed Buntings from the car park as we arrived. From the hides the ducks were very close and we were soon spotting patrolling Marsh Harriers. There were several Snipe and a Peregrine on a pylon that interacted with a Raven on the next pylon. For good measure there was a Buzzard on another pylon – what did they do before the advent of electricity?

We walked up to the screen hide and I spotted a Merlin which had been harassing ( but not seriously threatening) the Lapwings but it flew just as a queue formed at my telescope to view it – you can’t win them all! A very enjoyable day was had by all.

Trevor R.

YACWAG provides a new home for Tawny Owls – 12 Dec 2016

In May last year visitors to the Strawberry Line found two small Tawny Owl chicks grounded under a box near Congresbury old station. They managed to contact the Hawk and Owl Trust and Chris Sperring, Carrie Riches and her husband attended, repaired the box (the bottom had fallen out) , the chicks were put back and successfully fledged.

The old box was erected under a North Somerset Council scheme but YACWAG offered to provide a replacement box. The splendid new box was made by our member Alan Walker and erected by him and Bob Lowman on the 16thDecember (see picture).

We hope that the local Tawny Owls will like their new home and that the box will produce lots more Owlets in the future.


Great White Egret on Kenn Moor – 11th September 2016

A Great White Egret was present on Kenn Moor on 11th September and Higgy was on hand to capture these shots (taken at very long distance). This constitutes the first record for the Yacwag area and it would be a ‘mega’ for birdwatchers in other parts of the country. 2016 is only the third year that Great White Egrets have nested in the UK and all nests are in the Somerset Levels. Indications are that their numbers will increase ( perhaps not to the levels attained by Little Egrets) and this beautiful White heron will become a regular feature of our local wetlands. Many thanks, Higgy.

Trevor Riddle

click on pictures to enlarge in a new window ….


Barn Owl watch – Wed 27 July 2016

A nice bright evening attracted a dozen members including two junior owl watchers. Initially three young owls emerged and sat around, then an adult flew in and at one point there were five owls in the air. There was plenty of action but eventually the darkness defeated us and we closed at 9.30.

Trevor Riddle

Visit to Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserves – Thursday 23 June.

Nine members set off in Bluey ( the Congresbury Community Transport minibus) on the day after gridlock on the roads due to fans trying to reach the Glastonbury Festival. Happily, with Graham driving us we encountered no problems and met our tenth attendee in the RSPB car park. After making use of the new ‘comfort’ facilities we headed out to Ham Wall hearing a few warblers still singing on the way. A viewpoint gave some a glimpse of a Glossy Ibis, with a much better view of a Great White Egret. Ham Wall and adjacent Shapwick Heath reserves are the only site in the UK where this large white Heron breeds.

Avalon marshesWe made our way to the Avalon hide, with its individual chairs, which has a panoramic view of the extensive reed beds. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were nesting in front of the hide and provided plenty of good viewing. Marsh Harriers also had a nest in the area and we were treated to almost non stop action, particularly from the resident male. He was hunting almost continuously and eventually captured a small mammal but his young didn’t seem to want it! Eventually, with much calling one of his ‘wives’ (he has two – harriers are often polygamous) flew in and took it from him. Two (of his) recently fledged juveniles put in an appearance as did his second ‘wife’ and another male from another pair. All of this was explained to us by Sandy who has been monitoring the marsh harriers for many years.

All too soon it was time to return to Bluey for our picnic lunch after which we set off in the opposite direction to Shapwick Heath. There were lots of feeding Swifts here, more Great White Egrets and then a Hobby hawking dragonflies showed us it’s breathtaking flying skills. After that a rest in Meare Heath hide provided more Harriers including a perched female and a last a steady fly past from a Bittern. Bitterns were down to a dozen pairs in the 1980’s; now there are 40 pairs on the Somerset Levels. In 1971 there was just a single pair of Marsh Harriers nesting in England; now there are 400 with about eight in Somerset. Both species have been saved as breeding birds in the UK by major conservation programmes.

Our thanks to Congresbury Community Transport for allowing us to use Bluey and to Graham for driving us so comfortably.

Trevor Riddle

Spring has sprung – 7th May 2016

After a slow start to spring for our incoming migrant birds, the sudden warm weather and southerly winds has brought a rush of summer visitors. Swallows were late arriving but now seem to be here in good numbers and by 5 May the Swifts were tearing up the skies overhead. I haven’t spotted many House Martins yet though. Alex Ballard reported a Cuckoo calling at Congresbury and Brian Wilson heard one at Goblin Combe. Please do let us know if you hear or see one.

The Strawberry line bird count produced 17 singing Blackcaps in early April, a record count. By early May just eleven were heard but as they progress with their nesting cycle song is reduced and many of the quiet ones aren’t detected. The early May count did reveal 22 singing Reed Warblers, our second best count ever since the survey started in 1999. In general warbler species seem to be in good number this year. As do Wrens, they are everywhere, in fact most of our passerines ( small birds) seem to be doing well. We have BlueTits, Great Tits, Robins and Wrens nesting in adjacent gardens with a Goldcrest singing nearby.

There are three Tawny Owlet broods on and near to YACWAG Reserves and whilst we were checking one of these in Yatton, a Hobby flew over, rising up to capture a small insect.

Trevor Riddle


Early morning warbler walk – 2nd May

Seven hardy members enjoyed a pleasant stroll along the Strawberry Line in rather overcast and at times showery conditions. Six warbler species were heard singing with Chiffchaff, Blackcap,and Whitethroat seen, Cettis Warbler and Sedge Warbler glimpsed whilst the Reed Warblers sang but remained hidden. A male Bullfinch was a popular bird, there were any number of Wrens singing and lots of Blue Tit activity.

A male Sparrowhawk shot low over the rhyne bordering 10 Acres field but the resident Kestrels seemed to be still in bed. Just a few Swallows flew past – they seem to be late arriving this year.

Trevor Riddle