As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Record breaking summer for Somerset’s wetland birds - via Tony Whitehead

Media release

Issued jointly by Natural England, Somerset Wildlife Trust and RSPB


Record breaking summer for Somerset’s wetland birds
Celebrations as one of the West Country’s premiere wetlands produces a bumper crop of rare birds.
Conservationists in Somerset are celebrating this week with the news that the Avalon Marshes has had its best year ever for breeding birds.
The Avalon Marshes is a huge wetland recreation site to the west of Glastonbury managed by Natural England (NE), Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT), Hawk and Owl Trust and RSPB.
Following the first UK nesting great white egrets last year in the marshes, this summer has seen two pairs nest; one again at Natural England’s Shapwick National Nature Reserve (producing two youngsters) and a new pair within the boundary of the RSPB’s Ham Wall nature reserve (producing three young)
The RSPB reserve at Ham Wall has also been host to a nesting pair of little bitterns. This is the only known UK breeding location for these remarkably shy and diminutive members of the heron family and this year two young birds successfully fledged.
And, to add to the totals, great bitterns have had yet another amazing year across the Avalon Marshes. On RSPB, NE and SWT land, as many as 33 “booming” males have been heard across the wetlands. This makes the area now one of the UK’s hotspots for this rare and remarkable bird.
Alongside the nesting bitterns and egrets, the wetlands have also provided a home for marsh harriers, with four nests producing thirteen young. 
Ray Summers, RSPB warden for Ham Wall said; “We are all absolutely delighted. Since we took on the land at Ham Wall back in the mid 1990s we’ve been working hard to recreate a pristine wetland. To have all these nesting egrets, bitterns and harriers is a fantastic seal of approval for the work we’ve done, it really demonstrates the quality of the site for wildlife”
“We are also enormously grateful for the team of dedicated volunteers who have worked hard this summer to protect the birds and keep them safe from disturbance.”
Simon Clarke, Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager for Shapwick Heath and the Somerset NNRs, said: “This year’s breeding success at Avalon Marshes is a great example of how strong partnership working can genuinely benefit threatened and vulnerable wildlife species.  The partner organisations have all worked closely together to develop this habitat on a landscape scale. And the result is a safe, abundant and well-managed environment that is providing feeding and nesting opportunities for a startling range of wildlife – especially those we’ve seen at Shapwick."
Mark Blake, Reserve Manager for Somerset Wildlife Trust said: ”It has been an exciting year on the Avalon Marshes and we are delighted to see marsh harrier breeding at Westhay Moor for the second year. The habitat creation and management being carried out by the partners is going from strength to strength and we look forward to further breeding success in future.”
Chris Sperring MBE, Conservation Officer Hawk and Owl Trust, said; “The Avalon Marshes just get better every year. The success is down to a wonderfully balanced and organised partnership, particularly heartening when we see so many new species establishing, and some old friends like the marsh harrier on the rise as well.  The careful management also creates a very human experience, as I found out recently whilst on a footpath with a kingfisher hovering less than 3 metres from me.”
Tony Whitehead speaking for RSPB in the southwest said; “Having all these birds breeding successfully in the Avalon Marshes demonstrates the power of landscape scale nature conservation. If you get the conditions right, the birds will turn up.”
“Wetlands are under pressure the world over, not least, from climate change. To be able to recreate this landscape in Somerset is of huge significance. We know that large, well-managed wetlands can act as centres of establishment for colonising species such as little bittern and be crucial in helping them adapt to our changing climate as is being demonstrated in the Avalon Marshes."


For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer, 01392 453754, 07872 414365
Michelle Hawkins, Natural England Press Officer  0300 060 1109, 07775 585 935
Beth Jerrett, Communications & PR Manager, Somerset Wildlife Trust 01823 652413
The attached image of the great white egret family at RSPB Ham Wall is free to use with this story, and other, higher res images are available on request. Please credit “”

Notes to editors:

Little Bittern
The first confirmed breed of little bittern in the UK was in 1984 in Yorkshire when a pair raised four young. 
Although there are no confirmed records, it is suspected that little bittern may have bred in East Anglia in the 19th Century and in Kent in the 1930s and 40s.
Great White Egret
Great Bittern
Marsh Harrier
Reserves information
For more information on RSPB Ham Wall visit
For more information on Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, visit
The Avalon Marshes is to feature on the new BBC Series “Britain’s Wildlife Revival” on Sunday 29th September 2013 at 5:35pm

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