Curlews on the Severn Ham field meeting (2nd July)

We chose a (fairly) early start time of 7am for the Tewkesbury Goes Wild search for Curlews on the Severn Ham, in conjunction with Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s Severn and Avon Vales Curlew project has been monitoring Curlews on the Ham since February and has found two pairs of Curlews on the Ham this year. We hoped that there might still be Curlews present in early July but failed to find any today; it looks as though they have not succeeded in producing young there this year, and have already left for their wintering grounds, probably on the Severn estuary or the Bristol Channel. They nest on the ground in the long grass, and are very sensitive to disturbance, so it is very important for visitors to keep to the footpaths, and for dogs to be kept on leads.

However, we found plenty of other birds on the Ham: a family of recently fledged young Swallows, just able to fly, sitting on the Abbey Mill; fair numbers of Swifts and House Martins (which nest in old buildings in the town) hawking insects over the uncut grassland; lots of Skylarks (which also nest on the ground) singing their hearts out; several Reed Buntings singing from song posts on tall plants; and round the edges of the Ham, in the denser vegetation, a variety of warblers which have come all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to nest during our insect-rich summer: Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff. Perhaps the highlight was an elegant Common Tern fishing over the weir on the Severn, probably one of those that nests on former gravel pits along the Severn and Avon.

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