Conservationists in Somerset are celebrating the news that the Avalon Marshes has had its best year ever for rare breeding herons.
Following the first British nesting Great Egrets last year in the marshes, this summer has seen two pairs successzfully raise young; one pair again at Natural England’s (NE) Shapwick NNR (producing two fledglings) and a second pair within the boundary of the RSPB’s Ham Wall nature reserve (producing three). The Avalon Marshes is a huge wetland recreation site to the west of Glastonbury, managed jointly by NE, Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT), Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) and RSPB.
Ham Wall RSPB has also been hosting a nesting pair of Little Bitterns. This is the only known British breeding location for these remarkably shy and diminutive herons, and this year two chicks fledged. In addition to this, Bittern itself has had yet another amazing year across the marshes, with as many as 33 booming males being heard. The area is now one of Britian’s hotspots for this rare and remarkable bird.
Alongside the bitterns and egrets, the area has also provided a home for four pairs of Marsh Harrier, which produced 13 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 herons and harriers is a fantastic seal of approval for the work we’ve done, and really demonstrates the quality of the site for wildlife."
Mark Blake, Reserve Manager for SWT, 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 for HOT 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 while on a footpath with a Kingfisher hovering less than 3 metres from me.”