Birds at Charlecote Park – Spring 2013

Following last year’s wet summer, another bad winter and an exceptionally cold spring, the Park’s birds have generally been having a hard time. The persistent, cold easterly winds held back the departure of winter visitors. On April 9th there were still 64 wigeon on the river waiting to head off to Siberia and over 60 redwings anxious to leave for Scandinavia. Some of the latter were in song, suggesting they were trying to save time by pairing up before moving north.

The poor weather also delayed early nesters. The first grey herons normally lay in February, so by mid-April we can usually show visitors well-grown youngsters in the nests, but this year only one pair had reached this stage. Indeed, most appear to be still incubating, or brooding chicks too small to be visible in the nest. Numbers are also down this year, with only nine nests compared to 16 last year and a long-term average around 20. Of the other iconic birds, Kingfishers were almost certainly flooded out last summer and we have no reports of any sightings so far this year. Nor have we received any reports of Barn Owls, which we know suffered widespread mortality nationally in March.

So far birdsong has been sporadic, with mistle thrushes (at least six pairs) and green woodpeckers (two or three pairs) most vocal. Great spotted woodpeckers have also been drumming intermittently, but there seem to be fewer nuthatches this year.  Given the weather, it would be surprising if many migrants had returned from Africa, but two or three intrepid swallows did appear about the 11th or 12th April.

The unexpected is always exciting and this spring there were two oystercatchers on April 16and two shelducks and a superb male pied flycatcher two days later. These were all passing through, presumably on the way to their breeding grounds.

We would welcome details of any interesting sightings that you might have – please add a comment below or tweet us!

 Heronry Walks
These walks have proved very popular, with over 300 visitors coming to see the herons this year. Reactions include “Wow! How cool is that!”, from a special needs teenager, and “the highlight of my day”, from an elderly gentleman. Here is a photograph we took during one of our visits…

Herons - by G Harrison.2013

Graham and Janet Harrison, Charlecote volunteers


Bird boxes: What is in there?

We’ve had Richard Morris and his team on site checking al the bird boxes and nests on-site and thought we’d share some of his photographs. Richard is a trained specialist with licences to handle birds. He regularly visits Charlecote so hopefully we’ll be sharing more of his great photos in the coming months…


Checking for kingfishers

Tawny owl chick




Birds at Charlecote

We are supported in our work by a whole host of wonderful volunteers. Each year Graham and Janet come along to monitor our bird life at the Park and produce a report. Here they share some information of what might be seen and where. May be you can come along and spot some of these lovely birds too? 

Graham and Janet will be giving some talks and showing people where the herons nest through April on:

2nd / 4th / 5th / 11th / 12th & 13th at 1.30pm and 10th at 11am*

* Please note this is weather dependant! If you call us on 01789 470 277 on the day you wish to visit, we’ll be able to let you know if these are definately going ahead.

The Charismatic Birds

Charlecote’s most iconic bird is the Grey Heron. The adults return to their tree-top nests in February and remain in or around the heronry until June. During this time they can regularly be seen flying in with food or leaving to fish. In July the young disperse, followed by the adults in August and September. Providing there isn’t a prolonged freeze, however, a few birds will remain in the area throughout the winter. With 18-20 nesting pairs, Charlecote is the third largest heronry in Warwickshire.

 Another bird that always excites those visitors lucky enough to see it is the Kingfisher. At least one pair usually nests somewhere in the riverbanks of the Avon or Dene, their presence most often revealed by a blue flash darting purposely just above the water. Search carefully and you might glimpse one perched on an overhanging branch, watching for fish. They may be present  throughout the year, but are most often seen in spring and summer. Equally exciting is the Barn Owl, but this largely nocturnal bird is unlikely to be seen, except in winter when it sometimes emerges to hunt at dusk. These are the star birds, but there is a strong supporting cast, which is best considered by habitat.

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