Congresbury Moor


The reserve began with the purchase of one ten acre field in 1999. There are now six fields – 10 Acre, New Croft, Meakers, Phippens, Nortons and Footmead – on Congresbury Moor, which is part of Biddle Street Site of Special Scientific Interest, adjacent to the Strawberry Line and managed by YACWAG as a refuge for wildlife.

This area was once known as the Northmarsh and it is still damp enough to harbour wetland plants and animals.  The fields are managed as “rough grassland” with a non-intensive level of cutting and grazing. There are some wetland wild flowers like fleabane and cuckoo flower,  moorland birds like snipe and stonechat and, because of the high numbers of small mammals, kestrels and barn owls have bred here. Roe deer and brown hares can sometimes be seen from the Strawberry Line, which gives a good view over the Ten Acre field.

One of the fields, New Croft, is managed as traditional hay meadow, and has typical flowers such as knapweed and pepper saxifrage and clouds of grassland butterflies. The fields are left undisturbed for nature but members can visit by appointment (email us) or on our organised guided walks.

flickr photos of this reserve

News bulletins for Congresbury Moor are listed below.

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.


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

New homes for YACWAG Owls.

A group of Yacwag volunteers led by Alan Walker have now replaced two life expired pole boxes. These boxes do suffer from the vagaries of the British weather but the scheme has been very successful with 35 barn owlets having fledged from our boxes on Congresbury Moor since 2004 as well as 11 more from other Yacwag reserves.


Many thanks to everyone involved – hopefully the barn owls will appreciate their new homes and with luck we could see our 50th Yacwag barn owlet next year.

Trevor.Pictures by Sue Lovesey

Barn Owl Watch (+ info re Red Kites) 10 June 2015

It was a lovely ( and less windy) evening when 14 members and visitors met to look over Congresbury Moor reserve. Just as I was setting up a soaring buzzard suddenly stooped like a peregrine at a stock dove with obvious intent but no success.

Patience was the order of the evening but eventually a barn owl appeared over the reserve at 9.40pm and a few minutes later delivered a small mammal to one of the boxes. It continued to hunt over 10 Acres field before moving away and we decided to call time.  We will arrange another watch in a couple of weeks and hope that the owls emerge a bit earlier.

As an addendum, there have been a number of Red Kite sightings recently and one of our barn owl watchers had seen two over his house in Clevedon. They have been seen at Yatton, Claverham, Chelvey and Nailsea this week so keep an eye upwards and do let us know if you spot one. These are non breeding birds, probably from the Chilterns, that have been ‘on tour’. 186 (!) were reported in West Cornwall so there are likely to be a few more passing through.

Trevor Riddle

Scything on Congresbury Moor 26 July 2014

The scything day organised by Juley Conrad-Howard at Nortons field was very successful. Mark Britten demonstrated correct techniques and helped train many new comers to this traditional rural craft. A lot of interest was shown by passing cyclists and walkers who were impressed by what was achieved on a very hot day. Tony and Faith Moulin led two insect walks in our neighbouring fields with interesting sightings.



Barn Owl Success on Congresbury Moor, 16 June 2014

After a complete blank last year, and an almost certainly unproductive season in 2012 (remember the rain!) ‘YACWAG’s’ barn owls are back in business with four healthy youngsters.

Breeding behaviour was observed, but there was no sign of any young – normally they peer out of the box when they grow – so it wasn’t until Trevor and John checked the box (under licence) that the well grown owlets were seen.

Chris Sperring MBE, from the Hawk and Owl Trust was away, so due to the urgency (the older youngsters would soon fledge) Ed Drewitt, a professional Naturalist and licensed ringer, kindly visited on 16 June, and duly ringed the four chicks.  That takes YACWAG’s cumulative total of barn owl chicks to 36.  We are very grateful to Ed for coming to do this for us at short notice.

Trevor hopes to organise a watch, with telescope, perhaps next week – watch the calendar on this website.

As a matter of interest, Ed Drewitt has just published a book –  ‘Urban Peregrines’  –  the first of its kind detailing how to spot Peregrines (a species that 50 years ago almost disappeared from the UK),

finding out what they eat, how fast they really fly, how they hunt at night, and how to study them in more detail. The book is full of beautiful photographs by photographers all across Bristol, with particular contributions by Sam Hobson, Hamish Smith and Dave Pearce.   For more details visit

It seems as if ‘our’ kestrels have moved to the Millennium Green in Congresbury.  The Hawk & Owl Trust ringed three chicks in a box there last week.

Trevor Riddle

Tawny Owls on Congresbury Moor 19 May 2014

A pair of tawny owls nested in one of our barn owl boxes on Congresbury Moor for the third year running. Chris Sperring of the Hawk and Owl Trust, who holds a BTO licence, came to ring the chicks on 19th May. A numbered ring is attached to the leg of a ringed bird, enabling its identification in the future. Most rings are not recovered, but sometimes they provide useful information about the circumstances of the bird’s demise, or where it has travelled. (For example, we know that one of the barn owls which was ringed as a chick on YACWAG’s Congresbury Moor reserve, died in Westonzoyland. The ring was recovered from its leg, sent to the BTO and the information returned to Chris Sperring who had ringed it.)

Chris explained that it was expected that one day satellite tracking would take the place of leg rings, providing much more information more easily.

Congresbury Moor Tawny Owl with Trevor






Tawny owl chicks are normally reared in trees and when strong enough they leave their nest and sit on the branches of the tree. This instinctive behaviour, called ‘branching’, is impossible for the chicks reared in a pole box and their attempts to move away from the nest result in a fall to the ground, where they are easy prey. Trevor and his birding team will be putting up a tawny owl box in one of the trees in our Nortons field and hope to monitor the situation with the owlets to ensure they can stroll about its branches in safety before they start hunting for themselves.

Nortons field work – March 2014

In our little field Nortons on Congresbury Moor, a willow had collapsed over the fence and broken it. Thanks to Green Mantle the problem was soon solved to make the field stock-proof again, with the willow being cut back and a new fence put up.’Dead hedges’ make excellent temporary habitat for small mammals, invertebrates and birds, so Viv, Bob Y, Tony and Faith set to work to turn the piles of willow into a lovely new habitat on the edge of the field. The new fence has been completely camouflaged!

The photos show the new fence and, two days later,  the new dead hedge.



Small Mammal Survey 10 Acres, Congresbury Moor 17-18 August 2013

We used 40 longworth traps  and our 10 new tube traps around the edge of the east section of 10 acres starting close to the gate and going around the field in a clockwise direction. Next to every fourth longworth we put a tube trap in the hope that we could start to make some comparisons of their effectiveness. We checked the traps 4 times over 2 days.
Unfortunately we only caught 3 mammals. On Saturday morning we caught a Common Shrew and a Harvest Mouse.  The lack of Voles is probably still a result of the weather over the last 18 months but also a result of the level of grazing in that field last summer.









Also I used the trail camera in Footmead over 2 nights. I now have some videos of Voles trying to access the bait station designed to attract harvest mice and at least 1 clear video of a harvest mouse. I am still working on getting the best out of the camera and have started to wonder how best to share the videos. I have seen that some people/groups open a channel on youtube so that anyone can access.  We are looking into this.  Richard Croucher