New WeBS site in Gloucestershire

Alney Island (photo: Andrew Jayne)

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is a nationwide survey, administered by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which aims to make monthly counts of water birds at as many wetlands as possible, in order to assess numbers of birds, and to pinpoint the principal sites important for them. (Similar surveys are carried out all over Europe and Africa, so this is part of an international effort).

Many Gloucestershire sites are already covered – on the Severn estuary, in the Severn and Avon Vales, at pools and reservoirs, along Cotswold rivers and at the Cotswold Water Park. The counts are carried out by a large group of volunteer observers, many of then GNS members, whose results contribute to the national picture, with an annual report produced by BTO; (new volunteers always welcome!).

The latest addition to the county list of WeBS sites is Alney Island, an area of low floodable meadow alongside the Severn, very close to the centre of Gloucester, part of which is a reserve managed by Gloucester City Council. In times like the present, with extensive flooding, the site holds a variety of surface-feeding ducks such as Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler, as well as birds that frequent thicker vegetation like Water Rail and Coot; in addition the site is a winter home to Reed Buntings which roost in the Typha bed at Port Ham, and rarer birds like Yellow-browed Warbler or Siberian Chiffchaff.