Every year in mid February we fire up a live TV camera that is positioned over one of the biggest grey heron’s nests in the important heronry that is on our doorstep.
Here we log progress as and when it happens in the spring and early summer. During late summer, autumn and winter the heronry is empty as birds then live out on the local marshes and estuaries.
Every spring we show live TV footage from the most established nest in the Avon Wildlife Trust heronry that is on our doorstep.
From egg laying in February to leaving the nest in early summer, you can watch these beautiful large birds in our Wildlife section of our 240 year old barn shop.
Access to the AWT Heronry is prohibited. However, with our funding, technical assistance from the late Keith Hall and The Bristol Branch Tree Surgeons, we provide this rare insight into one of our largest British birds nest. There are between 40 nests in the heronry.
This is a very well established heronry and was previously situated in the next parish in Brockley Park in 1829!
Feb 22nd – The camera is in place and all is ready. However, the nest on which we have the camera focussed has been destroyed by winds or prehaps by other herons stealing nest materials [sticks]! As access is very difficult we are unable to move the camera to another nest – there are plenty of other ones. We’ll just have to be patient this year and hope that a pair of herons will rebuild in front of the camera.
Early April – still no nest in front of the camera! Are the herons beiong coy or did the late hard winter reduce numbers of adults?
April 6th – 1st BTO nest survey carried out and 26 nests occupied [34 in 2017, 38 in 2016].
April 20th – 2nd BTO survey shows 32 nests occupied [39 in 2017]
May 2nd – 3rd and last BTO survey recorded 35 active nests – a slight drop on previous years and almost certainly due to the cold early spring.
Still no signs of a nest being rebuilt in front of our Heroncam.
Once again, the herons are slow out of the blocks this year with very little activity until Feb 8th when more birds were heard in the heronry at night and more seen travelling from the Levels to the heronry.
Feb 25th – The HeronCam is now live and shows a pair of adults in full dramatic breeding plumage.
Feb 28th – 1st egg laid
March 2nd -2nd egg laid
March 4th – 3rd egg laid
March 6th – 4th egg laid
Now incubating and eggs should hatch late March.
End of March – Not sure what has happened – the adults seemed to lose interest, stopped incubating and the camera has moved so that a clear view of the eggs is no longer possible.
Early April – eggs seen again and adults witnessed mating on the nest so perhaps a new brood has been started?
April 5th – 1st BTO survey records 34 nests occupied so far [38 total in 2016]. Young chicks can be heard in the heronry “clacking” their beaks to beg for food.
May 2nd – final BTO survey records 39 nests occupied demonstrating that the heronry at Cleeve is very stable.
Birds were later in getting going this year but already [late Feb] we have seen around 35 herons in the air at once! This is quite an amazing sight and is usual triggered by a pair of buzzards spooking them off their nests.
Feb 29th The on-screen nest has four eggs being incubated.
March 21st- First chick hatched.
March 22nd- Second chick hatched
March 23rd- Third chick hatched
March 31st- It looks as if the fourth egg has disappeared
April-May – Sadly only the strongest of the three chicks survived and fledged at the end of May.
B.T.O. count showed a total of 38 nests which is 3 less than the 2015. However, this continues to be the largest heronry by far in the old county of Avon. The next biggest is on Chew Lake.
March 11th – after some teething problems [had an adult stood on the camera?] we now have a good image of 4 eggs being incubated.
March 31st – first egg hatched
April 1st – second egg hatched
April 2nd third egg hatched
April 7th – first B.T.O. nest survey shows 34 nests occupied so far but a bird has landed on the camera moving the image off centre!
April 22nd – second B.T.O. nest survey shows 39 nests occupied.
May 7th B.T.O. nest survey shows 41 nests occupied so that’s 2 less than 2014.
May 7th – CCTV Camera up and running again showing 2 chicks on nest.
Late June – Chicks left the nest.
Late Jan – First birds return to Heronry
Early Feb – Camera adjusted by the Bristol Branch Tree Surgeons to new nest as previous blow away in winter storms. Nest rebuilt.
Feb 24th – 1st egg laid
Feb 26th – 2nd egg laid
Feb 28th – 3rd egg laid
March 2nd – 4th egg laid and started incubation
March 30th – 1st egg hatched
April 2nd – 2nd egg hatched
April 3rd – 3rd egg hatched
April 5th – 4th egg hatched
1st BTO nest count records 40 nests in use.
Apr 20th Sadly we appear to be down to 2 chicks now. Both very strong. Perhaps not enough food for four?
Little activity until the end of January due to cold weather.
Feb 1st – First heron sighting on the nest.
Feb 2nd-10th – Much nest repair and building seen on screen. Adults displaying to each other and going through the rituals of pair bonding, of which the bringing of sticks to the nest forms an important part.
Feb 11th – A pair of adults, resplendent in breeding plumage, seen on nest and looking very loved up!
Feb 18th – First egg laid?
Feb 20th – 2 eggs seen on nest [not yet incubating].
Feb 22nd – 3rd egg laid and birds now incubating.
Feb 23rd – incubation started.
Mar 18th – 1st chick hatches
Mar 21st – 2nd chick hatches
March – second coldest on record results in both chicks dying and 1st nest count falling from 39 of last year to just 21 in 2013.
April 10th – Courtship display by pair on nest gives hope for a second attempt at breeding this year.
April 20th – egg laid
April 22nd – second egg laid
April 23rd – second B.T.O. nest survey shows 31 nest occupied.
April 24th – third egg laid and incubation started.
May 7th – third B.T.O. nest survey conducted shows 36 nests now occupied.
May 19th – first chick hatched
May 21st – second chick hatched
[Third egg fails to hatch]
Last BTO nest survey records 37 occupied nests [5 less than 2012].
End of July ~ Well the two chicks have finally left the nest for the big wide world!
Four eggs laid at 2 day intervals from Feb 29th.
A youngster [last year’s chick?] turned up and wrecked this year’s eggs so the birds have had to re-lay! Sitting on eggs now but due to the shape of the nest [bowl shaped] we can not see how many. These eggs may hatch over the Easter weekend but since the incubation periods is 30 days for herons, it may be a few days later.
The second clutch of [probably] 3 eggs hatched around April 20th and at least 3 healthy chicks can now be seen. They have a voracious appetite and gobble down regurgitated food that the parents bring them.
The first British Trust for Ornithology [B.T.O] nest count has been done and there are 36 occupied nests [down from 41 last year] so the recent cold winters are taking a toll. However, they can bounce back quite quickly and get back up to close to the all time high of 50 nests.
One of the first chicks to leave the nest is rescued by us as it wanders towards the busy main road.
Late in the third week of April the second brood of 3 chicks hatch.
April 24th ~ Alan Down assists B.T.O. recorder Robin Prytherch with the second count of nests occupied and the total rises to 39 nests.
May 8th ~ Final B.T.O. count shows a further 4 new nests bringing the total to 43
June 5th ~ three well grown chicks fully feathered and almost full grown spend time in the nest and surrounding branches being fed by parents.
June 25th ~ the 3 fully fledged and fully grown chicks finally leave the nest and surrounding branches for the big wide world. These seemed very reluctant to go [‘boomerang babes’?] and the heronry has now become very quiet since most nests are now empty.
We would welcome sponsorship to stream live footage form our Heroncam to the internet.