Avon Fishing Association report of sightings of fish-eating birds on the river for one year beginning in August 2009.

Avon Fishing Association report of sightings of fish-eating birds on the river for one year beginning in August 2009.

Here are the results:

Reported by Date & time LocationCormorants   Mergansers   Goosanders   Behaviour:

Chris Peach   2/8/2009
   1/2 mile above Gara Bridge1     flying  

John Roberts 19/11/2009
8:30 am
 The Flats, Loddiswell2 1      

Denis Dawes n/a Gara Bridge water , upstream of Curtisknowle Weir  4      

Brian Dent 19/11/09 Just below Gara Bridge    8    

Dave Farnworth 30/11/09 11:15am The Flats1     feeding  

Dave Farnworth 28/11/09 2:15pm 200 yards below The Flats  1   feeding  

D Dawes 30/11/09 11am Curtisknowle weir  1   feeding  

D. Martin 1/1/2010
 200 yards upstream of Curtisknowle weir    7 feeding  

D Dawes 4/1/10
 200 yards downstream of Loddiswell main road bridge    6 feeding  

D Dawes 15/1/10
 Hatch Meadow below Loddiswell main road bridge    4 feeding  

D Dawes 19/1/10
3.30 pm 
 Silveridge Weir    5    

D Dawes 25/1/10
12:15 pm
 400 yds above Loddiswell Station in fast water    1 feeding  

D Dawes 25/1/10
 30 yards above Silveridge Weir    1 feeding  

D. Pakes 25/1/2010 11:00 AM above Silveridge Weir    6 feeding
All adult birds – 4 male 2 female hunting in unison

D Dawes 4/2/10
4:30 pm
 Wall pool above Curtisknowle Weir    2 (female) feeding  

D Dawes 8/2/2010 4:50 PM Between Lockes pool and The Beach-lower water    1 feeding  

D Dawes 12/02/10 at 1600 Beach Pool    2 feeding  

D Dawes 5/4/10 at 1800 Bramble Pool, Loddiswell    1 feeding  

Reported by Date & time LocationCormorants   Mergansers   Goosanders   Behaviour:


Comments on survey findings from Nigel Mortimer (Estuaries Officer – South Devon AONB Unit) 

“As a paid conservationist I am well versed to controlling and killing things – particularly when the perceived natural community is impacted by alien invasive species but as you’ll know, when native species A start to have a perceived impact on other local species B populations, firstly we need to ask why species B has declined? If it’s because species A has grown out of balance, then a cull might be considered but if it’s because of anthropomorphic impacts maybe we need to consider those?

From my own work on the river Avon with schools, the diversity of insects in the riffles is very rich, so water quality seems to be good – other impacts might be the health of the gravels, from siltation, and over-fishing – predation, angling and fishing. Predation at the level of birds that you suggest is unlikely (unless the fish population is critical … in which case the birds will quickly learn this and move elsewhere) – and if so few birds are worrying people, fish numbers must be very low – and very low numbers can be, by definition, very easily impacted quite catastrophically by very small events. Angling – I dare not comment – tongue in cheek! Fishing at sea – likely to be a significant factor!

What can be done? I see that you are already involved with the WCRT, so you can discuss the gravel bed issue with them and work on siltation through the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative. You would need to try fish refuge type techniques before applying for a shooting license I believe anyway, and be able to show that shooting would have a positive impact for your desired outcome? As we have discussed before, plenty of natural riparian cover is good for fish (although not always perceived good for fly fishing). Commercial fishing, we have to hope that the new Marine Act will make a difference but less that your members can do.

Going back to the birds, discussing that number of birds sighted with colleagues, that really doesn’t seem like an awful lot and remember that these birds will be taking a whole range of fish, most of them slower moving and easier to catch than salmon or trout! I could be convinced that cormorants may have a significant impact in some instances but when we start looking at goosanders and mergansers … it’d be a very short hop onto osprey, kingfishers and otters if a cull on the ‘ansers/anders’ didn’t give the desired result!

I have read that one of the best deterrents for these birds is the presence of anglers but they too will be having an impact! Hope that this will help your case.”

Survey revision history

  • 28/8/09 Survey launched
  • 25/11/09 Goosanders added to question #3
  • 25/11/09 Question #6 “Behaviour” added to provide evidence needed to complete Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Licence Application Form Section #10 “Evidence of Serious Damage”
  • 6/2/10 Instruction on how to deal with IP blocking of multiple data entries added to survey.shtml
  • 12/9/10 Added comments on survey findings from Nigel Mortimer (Estuaries Officer – South Devon AONB Unit) 
  • 13/9/10 Data collection suspended


  • Advice and legislation relating to the management and control of fish-eating birds from Natural England, available here
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