For many people one of the best things about the Avalon Marshes is the variety of birdlife. Many birds are here all year including ducks, herons, egrets and swans. Many others migrate here to spend the summer or winter months in the marshes and others stop off to rest and eat before they continue their journey north or south.
Numerous insect-eating birds such as swallows and warblers arrive in spring, travelling from Africa to feast and breed in the marshes, flying back in autumn with their young. Starlings, redwings and fieldfares come here for winter to escape the bitter cold of Siberia and Scandinavia. For them our winters are mild and warm, a perfect bit of winter sun!
Here are a few of our seasonal highlights:
Ducks such as wigeon and teal fly down from their northern European breeding areas to spend the winter in the sheltered lakes at the Avalon Marshes. Listen out for their distinctive whistling and ‘yipping’ calls.
The Avalon Marshes is famous for its spectacular swirling groups or murmurations of starlings. They swoop in huge flocks each evening at dusk during the winter to roost in the reedbeds, often attracting the attention of birds of prey. Find out more about the Starling Spectacular.
Bitterns are a fantastic success story for the Avalon Marshes where they breed in the reedbeds; they are one of our “Big Three”. In April and May listen for the males booming to attract their mates.
Reed warblers fly in from Africa for the summer. They’re brilliant at gripping onto reed stems to search for insects to eat. You’ll hear their rhythmic ‘chattery’ song mostly at dusk and dawn. It’s also when we host dozens of hobbies, a small agile falcon, migrating above our reserves.
Water voles eat grasses and waterside plants and often leave piles of nibbled grasses beside the entrance to their burrows on the banks of ditches and rhynes.
The feathery flowers of the common reed ‘swoosh’ gently in the breeze. Many birds nest and feed in the reedbeds, including reed warblers, water rail, marsh harriers, bitterns and bearded reedlings/tits.
The emperor dragonfly is Britain’s largest and bulkiest dragonfly. They’re brilliant skillful fast flyers. You’ll see their brightly coloured blue and green bodies darting over the water, hunting for insects, along with many other species of dragonflies and damselflies being hunted by hobbies.
Autumn is a season of transition: look out for bearded tits/reedlings in October as they change their diet from insects to seeds and they become more visible over the reedbeds, and, as our summer warblers depart for Africa, they are replaced by wintering ducks, thrushes and starlings. Also keep an eye out for a passing osprey which sometimes stop over for a few days to fish in our larger lakes on their long journey south.