Spring

The days lengthen and the sunlight warms the ground and water. 
















A new wader scrape (above) was created in the summer of 2015 and it is expected to draw in good numbers of water birds as it develops and the invertebrate population increases.  A raised bird viewing screen has been erected to help in checking out what is out there!

Plants

Reeds are the obvious plant associated with the wetland but there are so many more plants when you look, 223 species have been recorded to date. 
 
Soft and Hard Rush, with their dark green spikes and tufts of tiny flowers shoot up over the spring and summer amidst the mass of Common Reeds.  The Yellow Flags (Irises) and Marsh Marigold brighten the early spring with their sunny glow.  Across the meadows the brilliant yellow of Meadow and Creeping Buttercups lend colour to the scene across spring and summer.

Birds

Avon Meadows is a haven for our feathered friends.  Regular weekly bird counts have identified 117 species of birds either resident or visiting the wetlands over the last few years. 
 
Some of our year-round residents include Mallard, Coot and Moorhen and impressive colonies of House Sparrows and Starlings, two species which are in steep decline across the country due to loss of their habitat.  Wood Pigeons fly frequently across the river.
 
Grey Herons are often seen standing statue-like in the pools, waiting for their chance to snatch a small fish or perhaps a frog.  Occasionally we get some of their cousins visiting too; Little Egrets and rarely Great White Egrets have all visited the wetlands. 
 
Kingfishers are another bird that makes the most of the fish in the pools, but often the only thing you see is a flash of electric blue as it darts away to cover.
 
Reed Buntings begin to sing from the reed tops and mid-April sees the arrival Sedge and Reed Warblers to raise their young in the thick wetland vegetation.  Cuckoos arrive and are heard calling across the meadows. Listen for the odd bubbling call of the female.
 
Buzzards can be heard mewing over the meadows and Kestrels are regular visitors, hunting small mammals in the tussocky grass. Occasionally a Red Kite is spotted, circling high above the meadows, while Sparrowhawks put in an occasional appearance and Hobby pass through searching for prey.
 
Our hedgerows and mature trees attract Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper (rare), while the Green Woodpecker can be heard laughing in the distance. Flocks of chattering Goldfinch crowd the hedgerows and garden favourites like Blackbird, Wren and Dunnock can be seen around the meadows.
 
April is the month when most of our summer visitors arrive.  Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins are soon wheeling across the sky or skimming the surface of the pools, snatching insects on the wing in a display of aerial acrobatics, soon followed by Swifts, the last to arrive and the first to leave. 
 
These aerobatic species accompany the smaller warblers and Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat are usually easy to find.

Butterflies

24 species of butterfly have been recorded on the meadows.  Garden favourites like Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and the zesty yellow Brimstone are often seen along the paths. 
 
These early butterflies are often adults that have hibernated over the winter.  These are soon followed by the easy to spot Orange-tip butterfly and Holly Blue.   White butterflies fly too and Large, Small and Green-veined Whites are common.

Amphibians and Reptiles

Spring also brings the first signs of our amphibian friends, with frogspawn and toadspawn appearing in the still water of the wetland.  Tadpoles begin to emerge and their bodies can seem to turn the water into a writhing black mass in their abundance. 
 
Their transformation into tiny froglets and toadlets seems sudden, often after a spell of rain the ground can seem alive with hundreds of tiny bodies hopping and walking along paths as they try to find a new pond to call home.
 
Newts are less at home here, because of the regular flooding that takes place.  They prefer somewhere warm and dry to hide, under a log or rock, but we still find the occasional Smooth Newt.  
 
Slow Worms enjoy basking on the patches of higher ground, well away from the water, as do grass snakes.  Strategically positioned sheets of corrugated metal give cold blooded snakes and reptiles somewhere warm to shelter and give volunteers a chance to keep an eye on the number of these elusive creatures.  

Mammals 

Foxes are perhaps the most seen mammal on the wetlands, despite being nocturnal creatures.  With plenty of food both on the wetlands and around town, they can happily raise cubs in safety, but often at the expense of young waterfowl.


Photographs © Richard Stott






                            
The Friends of Avon Meadows CIO is a Registered Charity, registered number 1174083

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