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This page brings you the latest bird and wildlife sightings from Chew Valley Lake (and occasionally elsewhere). Most updates will be on a weekly basis, although they will probably be more frequent at busy times. Records are taken from various sources and should be regarded as unconfirmed.
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on 20.09.2005
September 2005
An excellent end to the month in the shape of a Great Skua today; only the ninth record of what is another surprisingly rare seabird at Chew. Unfortunately, it circled up and disappeared into the clouds at 15:35 and wasn't seen again. Also today (presumably dumped by the same grotty weather) were two Sandwich Terns and ten Common Terns - the latter have had a particularly awful autumn at Chew this year. Other birds were eight Little Egrets, 15 Dunlin, two Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper and the Water Rail again in the channel at Herriott's Bridge.
The female Ferruginous Duck was along the shore in front of Stratford hide this evening; also in the bay were two each of Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint (amongst a flock of 50-plus Dunlin and Ringed Plover), six Ruff, one Black-tailed Godwit, one Black-necked Grebe and one Little Egret. Another Little Egret was in Heron's Green Bay, with two Yellow Wagtails and two White Wagtails.
Evidently a few incoming birds today, as there are now at least eight Little Egrets, most of which were in Heron's Green Bay. The female Ferruginous Duck, along with the Ferruginous Duck x Pochard and the female Red-crested Pochard x Pochard were still in Stratford Bay, and the 'real' Red-crested Pochard was still in Heron's Green Bay.

Other birds as follows: two Black-necked Grebes, two Garganey, one Hobby, one Redshank, one Greenshank, six Ruff, six Black-tailed Godwits, 20-plus Ringed Plover and Dunlin, three Little Stints two Curlew Sandpipers, two Common Sandpipers, four Wheatears, one Yellow Wagtail and three White Wagtails.

Rarity of the day though, was a Mink, which was watched in the sluice in the road under Herriott's Bridge this afternoon. Thankfully, there are hardly any recent records of this species at Chew.
A little less excitement today - birds much the same as yesterday, only without the rarities: two Redshank, one Greenshank, three Ruff, two Black-necked Grebes, two Little Egrets, one Garganey and the small wader flock were all still in Stratford Bay. There were still at least two each of Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint amongst the Dunlin and Ringed Plover, but they were very difficult to view again, due to the distance and haze. In addition, one Little Egret was at Hollow Brook this morning. A total of six Wheatears was probably the event of the day, with other passerine highlights being two Skylarks, 22 Meadow Pipits, a Raven and a few Siskins. The latter seem to be present in small numbers at several locations around the lake.
Bird of the year (so far) appeared in front of one lucky birder this morning - a Yellow-browed Warbler. Sadly, it promptly vanished and could not be relocated, despite many subsequent hours spent looking for it. This is the third record of YBW at Chew, the previous ones being in November 1986 and October 1988.

A Grasshopper Warbler was also found nearby; although not as rare as the previous species, this is still a real scarcity at Chew. The female Ferruginous Duck was still on hand in Stratford Bay, as were the apparent Ferruginous Duck x Pochard, two Black-necked Grebes, and the mobile wader flock, which, although tricky to view from Herriott's Bridge, was briefly present on Nunnery Point this afternoon, and was found to contain 30 Dunlin, 33 Ringed Plover, four Little Stints, three Curlew Sandpipiers, one Knot and one Sanderling (see home page). Other birds included a juvenile Red-crested Pochard in Heron's Green Bay (a pure bird, not the hybrid which may also still be present), a juvenile Hobby (main reeds), 25 Siskins (Herriott's area), four Wheatear (Stratford and Nunnery Point), two Kingfishers (Herriott's area), five Little Egrets (Moreton Bank and Herriott's End), two Green Sandpipers (Herriott's Pool), one Common Sandpiper (Herriott's overspill) and one Golden Plover (heard calling).

There were plenty of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters on the wing in this mornings sunshine, along with several Red Admirals and Vapourer moths.
Pretty much no change again today, with most of the best birds being in Stratford Bay: two Redshank, four Ruff, one Knot, 34 Dunlin, 31 Ringed Plover, four Little Stints, three Curlew Sandpipers, three Little Egrets, 13 Snipe, two Garganey, two Black-necked Grebes, nine Great Black-backed Gulls, eight Meadow Pipits, and a 'flock' of four Wheatear - possibly a record count!
More of the same again today; all of the following were in the Herriott's/Stratford Bay area: three Curlew Sandpipers, three Little Stints, 30 Dunlin, 23 Ringed Plover, two Little Egrets, five Ruff, three Redshank, one Greenshank, three Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper, one Garganey, two Black-necked Grebes and two Wheatears. The highlight however, was a Nuthatch which flew west over the main reedbed at Herriott's Bridge this afternoon - normally a very scarce bird at Chew (although they bred near CVRS a couple of years ago).

No sign of the Ferruginous Duck today, although to be fair, the vast Tufted Duck flock is usually pretty distant, and this morning was over a quarter of a mile long!
No real change again today - still loads of birds at the lake, but most are difficult to see well! The wader flock is still present, commuting between Little Denny and Herriott's End, today containing at least 18 Dunlin three Curlew Sandpipers, 20 Ringed Plover, and one Little Stint. Other birds were three Ruff, one Sanderling, three Redshank, two Common Sandpipers, two Black-necked Grebes, ten Great Black-backed Gulls, one Yellow-legged Gull, three Little Egrets, 80 Wigeon, one Greylag , one Hobby, one Peregrine and two Garganey. The first Redpoll of the autumn was seen today, with a scattering of Siskins and Meadow Pipits, two Whinchats (briefly on the fence at Herriott's Bridge), plus two Stonechats (Stratford hide).

Record of the day, however, was a count of 85 Pintail - the highest number since at least 1980 (almost double the total counted on last weeks wildfowl count).

The contents of a moth trap left overnight had a distinctly autumnal feel this morning; species included Brindled Green, The Sallow, Pink-barred Sallow, Large Wainscot, Frosted Orange and Brown-spot Pinion. The latter would appear to be the first for Chew. There are hundreds of Phyllonorycter esperella (quinnata) mines on the hornbeams at Sutton Wick - they seem particularly abundant this year. Otherwise, one Clouded Yellow was seen at Herriott's Bridge this morning, and male Vapourer moths were also on the wing in the sunshine today.
Another good haul of common passage migrants today, in no particular order: One adult Mediterranean Gull, two Common Gulls, one Curlew, one Yellow Wagtail, one Ferruginous Duck (female), one Hobby, five Green Sandpipers, four Little Stints, three Curlew Sandpipers, three Redshank, two Black-necked Grebes, 26 Ringed Plover, 22 Dunlin, three Ruff, one Wheatear, three Little Egrets, and the first Stonechat of the autumn.
No sign of the Sabine's Gull today, but other than that one notable exception, birds were largely unchanged from the weekend. A female Ferruginous Duck was at Sutton Wick/Stratford Bay first thing; otherwise the lists reads as follows: two Black-necked Grebes, 25 Ringed Plover, 17 Dunlin, three Curlew Sandpipers, three Little Stints, three Redshank, three Ruff, 30 Pintail, five Little Egrets, a Wheatear, and several Meadow Pipits overhead this morning. Finally, a Tawny Owl gave excellent views by torchlight at dusk on Sutton Wick Lane this evening.

Although some species have, frankly, had a woeful autumn at Chew (Little Gull, all terns, Ruff etc...), at least some have appeared in very good numbers. This was reflected in even the common species on this months duck count. Amongst an impressive total of almost 9000 waterfowl on the lake last week were 3050 Teal, 1250 Tufted Ducks, 1195 Mallard and 2082 Coot, but only 85 Pochard, 52 Moorhen and 160 Great Crested Grebes. Unfortunately the majority of the wildfowl are on the east side of the lake between Twycross and Herriott's End, and most are impossible to view properly due to distance and heat-haze. There could be a really exciting hybrid duck in there and nobody would know.

Just down the road from Chew (except it takes about three hours to get there), the adult Great White Egret was still showing well today.

The thumbnails lead to a larger image:
Great White Egret
Copyright Rich Andrews
Great White Egret
Curlew Sandpiper
Copyright Rich Andrews
Curlew Sandpiper
Little Stint
Copyright Rich Andrews
Little Stint
Little Stint
Copyright Rich Andrews
Little Stint
Copyright Rich Andrews
Once again, the juvenile Sabine's Gull was the highlight, today visiting the top end of the lake as well as it's more favored area in Stratford Bay. The duck flocks in Stratford Bay held a hybrid Pochard x Red-crested Pochard, one-and-a-half Ferruginous Ducks (an adult, and a juvenile Pochard x Ferruginous Duck), a Goldeneye and the two Black-necked Grebes still. Both Ferruginous Ducks are likely to be present in the Aythya flocks at the south end of the lake; Sutton Wick and Stratford hide are usually best, but birds are often at long range and difficult to see. Be careful when approaching the shoreline at Sutton Wick, as there are often Teal and Mallard just around the corner that will put half the bay up if you get too close.

Waders were again in reasonable supply, with Stratford Bay holding four Redshank, one Knot, one Ruff, 29 Ringed Plover, 14 Dunlin and two each of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. Unfortunately the waders are on the water's edge at Herriott's End, which means they are a long way from either Stratford hide or Herriott's Bridge, and viewing is very poor. Other birds included up to six Little Egrets (three each in Stratford and Heron's Green Bays), eleven Great Black-backed Gulls (Little Denny), one Common Gull (roost), one Kingfisher (Nunnery breakwater), a Redstart (behind Heron's Green Pool), two or three Ravens (Moreton Point and Spring Bay), and one adult Peregrine (over the A368, then Stratford Bay).

Thanks to Paul Bowyer for the image.

Sabine's Gull
Copyright Paul Bowyer
Juvenile Sabine's Gull, main lake.
The juvenile Sabine's Gull was seen again in Stratford Bay today - it showed well, albeit distantly all afternoon from Herriott's Bridge. A good selection of passage waders were also visible from there, including two Little Stints, one Curlew Sandpiper, 23 Ringed Plover, 16 Dunlin, one Common Sandpiper, one Ruff, five Redshank, and that Chew rarity, a single Spotted Redshank. Also in Stratford Bay were two Black-necked Grebes, three Little Egrets, a Garganey and one of the Ferruginous Ducks.
A juvenile Sabine's Gull was a nice surprise this afternoon - it showed well off Nunnery Point/Moreton, and was still present early this evening. Also two Black-necked Grebes still, one Little Stint at Moreton and two juvenile Arctic Terns off there.
The female Ferruginous Duck was again in front of Stratford hide this morning (until flushed), and one Black-necked Grebe was still present. Wader numbers continue to decline, just one Greenshank, four Dunlin, three Redshank and three Ringed Plover were reported. Birds of the day would therefore be the first Whinchats of the autumn (another bird long overdue this year) - singles on Moreton Bank and in front of Stratford hide.
Still two Black-necked Grebes today - one each in Stratford Bay and Heron's Green Bay. A first-winter Little Gull was also a good find, but it appeared to fly off west and it (or another) was later seen over Pagan's Hill with Black-headed Gulls flying in the direction of Barrow Tanks.

Miscellaneous other sightings as follows: Two Greenshanks, four Common Sandpipers, five Redshank, four Dunlin, four Ringed Plover, one Little Stint, four Little Egrets, one Garganey,one Common Tern and a drake Tufted Duck x Pochard.
The drake Ferruginous Duck was off Moreton Point this evening - also there were two Common Sandpipers, two Hobbies and the two Ravens still. Stratford Bay held the two Black-necked Grebes, eight Knot, three Redshanks, two Black-tailed Godwits and five Little Egrets.
Evidently a lot of the smaller waders have moved on, with only single Dunlin, Ruff, Sanderling and Greenshank seen today, with four Redshank, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Common Sandpipers, four Ringed Plover and 37 Snipe propping up the totals. The two Black-necked Grebes reappeared amongst the Tufted Duck flock in Stratford Bay this afternoon, along with a drake Tufted Duck x Pochard. Two drake Common Scoters were seen off Spring Bay late this morning - there was a lot of disturbance at the time, so they may well have moved on as there were no other sightings of them. Other birds were three Hobbies, five Common Terns, two Little Egrets, and one each of Raven and Garganey.
Still some new birds arriving at the lake; new in today were two Black-necked Grebes (at last!), seven Redshank and up to 16 Knot. One notable departure though was the Pectoral Sandpiper - no sign of it today. Other birds still present included the Osprey this morning, two Little Egrets, six Garganey, the female Ferruginous Duck, three Greenshank, one Black-tailed Godwit, two Ruff, one Wood Sandpiper, ten Dunlin, nine Ringed Plover, two each of Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper, 35 Snipe, eight Pintail, 32 Wigeon, and single Hobby, Peregrine, Raven, Yellow Wagtail and Water Rail. The first Siskins of the autumn were also seen today - a flock of 14.

However, the highlight of the day was without doubt a world record count of Great Black-backed Gulls this morning: 18.

Moth-trapping overnight produced a good number of moths for the time of year, including Pinion-streaked Snout, Large Wainscot, The Engrailed and, surprisingly, a male Vapourer - normally a day-flying species.

The juvenile White-winged Black Tern was still there - and showing down to a few feet with a juvenile Black Tern. Click on the thumbnails below:
White-winged Black Tern
Copyright Rich Andrews White-winged Black Tern
Copyright Rich Andrews White-winged Black Tern
Copyright Rich Andrews White-winged Black Tern
Copyright Rich Andrews
A Wryneck was found this morning, just past the trig. point in a cleared area on the southern slope. There were also two Dartford Warblers in the same area.

The long-staying drake Ring-necked Duck was still present on the square incinerator pool today.
Another good day at the lake; the female Ferruginous Duck was joined by a male in Stratford Bay this morning. These are the two birds seen irregularly here over the past few autumns; some years either one of them are seen on a few days, but rarely both together or for any length of time. The Pectoral Sandpiper was again in front of Stratford hide all day, and the Osprey was frequently seen around the lake for most of the day. It has been seen on more than one occasion on the pylon in the field behind Stratford hide.

Best of the rest had to be the belated appearance of the first Little Gull of the autumn early this morning, otherwise the remaining migrants were of similar quality and quantity to the rest of the week: 18 Black Terns, one Common Tern, two Wood Sandpipers, two Greenshank, one Turnstone (continuing the excellent autumn for this species), two Ruff, one Knot, twelve Snipe, two Common Sandpipers, one Green Sandpiper and three Garganey. Other birds included single Peregrine, Raven and Water Rail.

The juvenile White-winged Black Tern was still present today.
The Pectoral Sandpiper was still present in front of Stratford hide today. Also on view here were three Little Egrets, one Goldeneye, 10-plus Pintail, two Wood Sandpipers, three Ruff, three Greenshank, two Common Sandpipers , a Wheatear and the first Meadow Pipit of the autumn. The Osprey again put in an appearance at 18:30 for five minutes or so, before heading off in the direction of Blagdon.

The juvenile White-winged Black Tern was present all day on the UV pools.
The juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper was again in front of Stratford hide, with an unconfirmed report of the Osprey again in the tree in front of Moreton hide until 09:00.

Remaining highlights as follows: 21 Snipe, five Little Egrets, two Greenshank, two Wood Sandpipers, 27 Pintail, two Garganey, two Ruff, one Goldeneye, two Wheatears, six Ringed Plover, two Black-tailed Godwits, eleven Dunlin, one Curlew Sandpiper, two Common Sandpipers, one Common Tern, one Knot, and one Yellow Wagtail.

A juvenile White-winged Black Tern was found this afternoon at the Axe Estuary, and was later relocated with a Black Tern on the UV pools at the sewage works. It showed for most of the afternoon and evening.
White-winged Black Tern
Copyright Rich Andrews
Juvenile White-winged Black Tern, Weston-super-Mare SW
Yesterday's Osprey reappeared at 09:50, flew around for a bit and headed off to Blagdon where it caught a fish - it was still present there at the dam end at 13:50. Back at Chew, the Pectoral Sandpiper seemed to have disappeared, but was relocated in front of Stratford hide at lunchtime, although rarity-wise it was shortly upstaged by the discovery of a female Ferruginous Duck with the Tufted Duck flock there. Presumably one of the birds from previous years returning, but nevertheless a nice find.

A good selection of common passage migrants was again on hand, arguably the highlight of which was (finally) the first Ruff of the autumn. Others included six Little Egrets (all at Herriott's End at 07:30; two flew south shortly after), 20-plus Snipe, the juvenile Wood Sandpiper, five Common Sandpipers, one Green Sandpiper, three Greenshank, 17 Ringed Plover, one Turnstone, two Redshanks, two juvenile Curlew Sandpipers, one Black-tailed Godwit, 28 Dunlin, four Garganey, one Black Tern, one Wheatear, one Yellow Wagtail, three Peregrines, one Hobby, a Water Rail, and the Kingfisher again on the railings at Woodford Lodge this evening.

I've uploaded a Spotted Crake photo at the bottom of this page.
The Pectoral Sandpiper remained at Stratford hide all day, whilst an Osprey this evening was a welcome visitor. The two Wood Sandpipers were on Moreton Point, whilst other birds were one Wheatear, a small group of Ringed Plover and Dunlin on Little Denny, and two each of Greenshank, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Black Tern and Garganey.

Worth a look at the moment, as No.2 has been drained; present today were two Little Ringed Plovers, three Common Sandpipers, a Garganey, two Hobbies and a juvenile Spotted Redshank.
The Spotted Crake showed briefly on two or three occasions this morning, but was otherwise not seen all day, despite some fairly good coverage. Heron's Green Pool also produced an excellent total of 14 Yellow Wagtails this afternoon, at least three Water Rails, nine Snipe, and two juvenile Hobbies which gave superb views again late this evening, down to a few feet on occasions, hawking insects (and almost a bat!)

The rest of the lake, as usual, was most productive down the east side, although birds were always distant, and the heat-haze made it almost impossible to check them properly, from either BK hide, Wick Green Point or Herriott's Bridge. Other birds around the lake this morning were at least five Garganey (including four from Herriott's Bridge), twelve Pintail, 16 Wigeon, five Black-tailed Godwits, eleven Greenshank, one White Wagtail, four Little Egrets, two Curlew, a juvenile Peregrine, at least one Raven, five Common Terns, one Common Sandpiper, a Wheatear and a few more Snipe. The latter species seems to have become a little more noticeable in the last day or two.

Discovery of the day, however, was a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper on the shore in front of Stratford hide this afternoon. It favored the same area as the last one in 2003, along the stony shoreline just beyond the weedy tump to the right of the hide. Also this afternoon in front of Stratford hide were two Wood Sandpipers and a Garganey. The combination of distance, haze and direction of sun made it next to impossible to check Little Denny and Denny this morning; this was done late this evening and produced 13 Dunlin, 15 Ringed Plover, one Curlew Sandpiper, one (presumed!) Little Stint, one Turnstone and six Great Black-backed Gulls. A Kingfisher showed very well on the pontoons below Woodford Lodge, and the Pied Wagtail roost at the Lodge tonight held at least one Yellow Wagtail and two White Wagtails.
East Shore and Spring Bay
Copyright Rich Andrews
East Shore and Spring Bay
After water levels on Heron's Green Pool rose sharply a few weeks ago, the chances of any rails or crakes there looked pretty slim, but levels have just dropped again, and hey presto, a Spotted Crake appeared, right in front of 'mystic' Ken Hall this morning! It was around both sides of the channel at the north-east corner of the island at 09:45. It showed again this evening, along with two juvenile Hobbies, which gave superb views hawking over the pool until dusk. Crake-watchers should beware that the lookey-likey juvenile Water Rail is still present at the north end of the pool.

Thanks to Ken Hall for the photo.
Spotted Crake
Copyright Ken Hall
Spotted Crake, Heron's Green pool
Other birds around the lake this morning included one Common Sandpiper in Heron's Green Bay, one Greenshank, one Wheatear at Stratford hide, four Little Egrets (two HGB, two Stratford), and four Black Terns being chased by a Peregrine over the centre of the lake, and five Snipe.

This evening, a check from Woodford Lodge again proved that Little Denny is the place where all the birds are. Amongst the masses of roosting gulls, Cormorants and Coot were at least 22 Ringed Plover, 34 Dunlin, four Knot, one Greenshank and a Curlew Sandpiper. As they were so difficult to see, let alone count, this is likely to be a fairly conservative total. The Pied Wagtail flock at Woodford included at least one Yellow Wagtail and one White Wagtail - they were attempting to roost in the guelder rose by the bike shed, although there was a fair bit of disturbance. Elsewhere, there were only three Black Terns remaining on the lake this evening, along with three Common Terns off Moreton Point. Four Greenshanks were in Stratford Bay.
Still a few birds about, but evidently wader totals have decreased from mid-week. Eight Black-tailed Godwits, two Ringed Plover and four Greenshank were in Stratford Bay, with three Common Sandpipers and two Yellow Wagtails in Herons Green Bay. Up to four Little Egrets were also still present between Heron's Green Bay and Herriott's End.
Still one Shag on Little Denny this morning. Elsewhere, there were a few comings and goings amongst the waders from yesterday, with totals of 16 Black-tailed Godwits, three Sanderling, four Redshank, nine Curlew (eight of which were briefly on Little Denny before flying off), one Turnstone, 21 Dunlin, 18 Ringed Plover and five Greenshank. Two Black Terns, three Yellow Wagtails, four Little Egrets and four Garganey were the remaining highlights.
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