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

New Year’s Day bird walk

Eleven hardy members assembled on a mercifully dry morning and set out along the Strawberry Line. It was quiet to start but a male bullfinch provided some welcome colour on a dull morning. A cormorant roosting on the ground looked a little incongruous but it flew off strongly allaying our concerns that it was sick. Nearby 300 Black headed gulls were feeding on a wet field with a few herring gulls and a single lesser black backed gull which should be in Southern Europe by rights at this time of year.

The highlight for me was a song thrush, incredibly the first that I have seen locally for several months and this was soon followed by a burst of song from a concealed Cetti’s warbler. A pause to look over the Congresbury Moor reserve produced a buzzard and a bit further on we encountered a ‘flock’ of four bullfinches. A visit to 10 Acres field revealed 14 snipe and 3 meadow pipits with a pair of stock doves rounding off the morning.


Tree Dressing Day – 5 December 2015

YACWAG members & Congresbury Beaver & Cub Scouts have decorated trees in Yatton & Congresbury to remind us that trees are good for us & for the many birds, animals & insects which depend on them. We need to cherish & care for them.



Know the Yeo update

A very pleasant afternoon in the sunshine at Yatton Horticultural Show, during which Robert Anson of Wessex Water presented YACWAG’s Chairman Tony Moulin with a cheque for £270 which was awarded to help fund the Know the Yeo – our living river event on 5th July.

Libby Symon of the Conservation Foundation said the project was the best value £270 could possibly buy!


Know The Yeo – Sunday 5th July 2015

Know the Yeo – our living river – was organised jointly by Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group (YACWAG) and Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART). The event aimed to increase awareness and share knowledge about the river and its associated wildlife. Michelle Walker of BART had been working with St Andrews School, Congresbury to enable pupils at the school to grow on about 30 elvers (the big group of people on the fishing platform are releasing the elvers – baby eels – into the river). The eels will live in the river until they are about 15 years old, when they will make a long and hazardous journey to the Sargasso Sea to mate. St Andrews School also made flags on a water wildlife theme which were strung up across the site and can now be seen within the school.
Bristol Naturalists Society members supported the event by helping people to dip a net in a tributary of the Yeo and take a close look at the wildlife they could find there. Gill Brown of YACWAG Otter Group and Mary Trump from Natural England led nature detective walks along the river bank. Other games, displays and activities were provided by Congresbury Residents Action Group (CRAG) who highlighted the wildlife that would be lost if development goes ahead on fields near the river, Mendip Outdoor Pursuits, who also donated the winning prize for the mini-raft race, Bristol Region Environmental Records Centre (BRERC), who brought a map on which residents could plot their wildlife sightings, Brian Bessant, demonstrating angling,and numerous games and displays, including one by the North Somerset Internal Drainage Board. Chris Sperring MBE, of the Hawk and Owl Trust,  attended with his barn owl Beau, and was able to talk to people about the needs of owls to be able to hunt for small mammals in long grass. YACWAG and Hawk and Owl Trust volunteers helped people have a go at dissecting owl pellets in order to find out what local wild barn owls had been eating.
A very heavy shower of rain stopped play about one o’clock and visitors and organisers all crammed into gazebos and tents to shelter. The rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of children who had made mini-rafts for the raft race, and in spite of a sluggish slow-moving river and steady rain, the race was a great success, thanks to Mendip Outdoor Pursuits, who judged the rafts and organised the race.

Yatton Station work parties July 21st & 28th, 2015

There are two gardening sessions planned for the Yatton Railway Station garden on Tuesdays 21st and 28th July between 10am – 12pm.  Please bring a green recycle bag and your own tools along if possible. Any queries, please contact Hilary on 834889.

YACWAG AGM 14 May 2015

The meeting was well attended.  The Annual Accounts were presented, the Chairman, Tony Moulin gave his annual report (click here to see a copy) on the year’s activities and the Executive Committee was re-elected.  Many thanks to Pete Dawson for hosting the event and for his interesting talk about butterflies and the possibility of introduction or re-introduction of species in the local area where the conditions are favourable.


Tree Dressing Day 6 December 2014

Tree Dressing Day is based on customs from all over the world. It was created in 1990 because trees are taken for granted all the time, but  we all need trees. YACWAG cares about trees and cares for trees. To highlight this several keen knitters produced colourful scarves which were wrapped round trees in Claverham, Congresbury and Yatton (21 in total).  Thanks to everybody who helped with this project.


We hope that people will be inspired to think about trees which provide food, shelter, shade, paper, energy, warmth, medicine and even the air we breath. Each tree is a wildlife habitat. Trees make boring places interesting and ugly places beautiful.

More photos click  flickr photos

Barn owl visit 14 August 2014

YACWAG members organised a session all about owls for the Congresbury Youth Partnership.  Chris Sperring MBE from the Hawk and Owl Trust brought along his barn owl, Beau, and explained how special these birds are.

Earlier Chris had ringed a second brood of five barn owlets on the Congresbury Moor reserve. The total of nine this year is a record for YACWAG and takes the total number of chicks raised to 41.

Chris Sperring and his barn owl Beau


Afterwards the young people spent an hour dissecting owl pellets retrieved from the owl boxes on YACWAG’s Congresbury Moor reserve. Owls eat their prey whole and regurgitate what they can’t digest (e.g. fur, bones) in the form of a pellet.  The young people were surprised to find lots of bones and skulls in the pellets and they were proud to display these – see the photo below.   Signs of shrews, field voles and a frog were found.

Owl pellet dissection





Bones and skulls found in owl pellets


Owl pellet dissection

Barn Owl Watch – 2 JULY 2014

Perfect weather for waiting for the barn owls and watching the sun set.  As on the previous watch we were rewarded with 1 barn owl peeping out of the box and 3 more arriving around 9.15.  They all flew round or perched on trees near the box.  We had excellent close-up views through telescopes.