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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 27.07.2006
July 2006
Still quiet; best birds today were a juvenile Redshank and a Common Sandpiper (Heron's Green Bay), a Green Sandpiper (Stratford Bay), and on Herriott's Pool, four each of Yellow-legged Gull and Great Black-backed Gull.
At the moment, water levels are high, with little prospect of any significant muddy shoreline appearing any time soon. The small patch of mud in the middle of Herriott's Pool was evidently the only place to be if you were a wader today, with single Greenshank, Sanderling and Whimbrel all seen there this afternoon.

I've also added an update on those helleborines (23/7) below.
There were still twelve Black Terns and one Common Tern present today, and a Little Egret on Herriott's Pool was another new arrival.

At least one Lesser Emperor was at Stratford again today.
Some actual birds arrived today - at least 19 Black Terns and two Common Terns.

The Lesser Emperor count has evidently increased; a total of at least three males and one female were reported in front of Stratford hide, with oviposition observed again.
Lesser Emperors
Copyright Rich Andrews
Male and female Lesser Emperors Anax parthenope
A long-awaited and wholly predictable first for Chew occurred this morning - Lesser Emperor. A male was found at the same location as the last 'probable' individual in 2003 - in front of Stratford hide. Early this afternoon, another male was seen briefly, then this evening, a tandem pair were watched ovipositing in the Amphibious Persicaria in front of the hide. Also present were female Emperor and Southern Hawker, ovipositing in the same area. Unlike imperator, female Lessers normally oviposit in tandem - a useful ID pointer! Unfortunately I was only able to get a digiscoped shot of them due to the distance (left).

A proper look at the helleborine site this evening produced a total of 19 plants, most of which were undoubtedly Broad-leaved Helleborine. Other than a single stand of 'normal' greenish-flowered helleborine, most other flowering spikes had some sort of pinkish hue (which is not unusual), but none were close to the appearance or colouration of the two plants illustrated below.

Two Common Sandpipers and a Common Tern were seen this morning.
A Common Sandpiper was on the main dam, and three adult Black-tailed Godwits were on Herriott's Pool this morning.

A surprise addition to the Chew list today came in the form of some sort of Helleborine - four plants were found in a beechwood this morning. At first I thought they were Violet Helleborines - two plants were very moth-eaten and in poor condition, but the other two were quite stunning, with the flowers and stems a striking reddish-pink, quite unlike the usual colouration of Violet, or any of the other 'likely' helleborines. The leaf colour, and the early flowering period would also suggest something other than Violet. Click on the thumbnails for bigger images.

Update 27th July: Thanks to Darrel Watts for identifying these as a rare form of Broad-leaved Helleborine; var. purpurea.
E. helleborine var. purpurea
Copyright Rich Andrews E. helleborine var. purpurea
Copyright Rich Andrews E. helleborine var. purpurea
Copyright Rich Andrews
Single adult Greenshank and Redshank on Herriott's Pool this morning were the only birds of note today.
A Red Kite was seen early this evening over the roundabout (by a birder on his way to Blagdon - see below):

Two male Lesser Emperors were present today in front of the fishing lodge.
A male Lesser Emperor was found this evening in front of the fishing lodge.
A Clouded Yellow was on the wing by the B3114 at Nunnery, and at least three Purple Hairstreaks were flying in the usual spot nearby.
A few odds and ends are beginning to appear - there were three Common Sandpipers, one Green Sandpiper, a male Wigeon and two Sand Martins seen today, along with a Grass Snake being eaten by a Raven! Up to four Pochard broods have now emerged.
Two Common Sandpipers, a Common Tern and two Yellow-legged Gulls were all that was seen today.

A Purple Hairstreak was seen in the Ash tree behind Stratford car park - a new site.
A summer plumage Mediterranean Gull was on Heron's Green Pool this afternoon. A brood of Ruddy Ducks on Herriott's Pool was the only other sighting of note.
Two Common Sandpipers were on Herriott's Pool this morning.

At least four Purple Hairstreaks were on the wing this morning in the old Nunnery/Parkland car park just off the B3114 at ST 555597.
Still two Common Terns this morning, along with the first returning Green Sandpiper of the 'autumn' and c.100 Lapwings.
A good Chew bird in the shape of a Nuthatch was seen today in the big Ash by the Nunnery Point car park at the ungodly hour of 06:30. Six Common Terns were on the main lake shortly after. At least 500 Swallows were at Herriott's End prior to roosting this evening, with a few Sand Martins amongst them.

Four moths new to Chew were found last night/today - the tortrix Agapeta zoegana (feeds on knapweed, but surprisingly infrequent locally); Cochylida rupicola booted/disturbed by day from it's foodplant, Hemp Agrimony; Triaxomera parasitella - a locally uncommon thing that feeds on bracket fungus as a larva, and Lunar Hornet Moth. There's hardly any records of the latter for the Avon area, despite it flying during the day, being an inch long and looking like a wasp. It's not a species that you would normally just bump into; the larvae live for two years inside tree trunks, and the adult moths are normally only found at the base of mature sallows during mornings in July. Unlike the other clearwings, the adults don't respond to pheremone lures, so the best way to establish whether the species is present is to look for the larval exit-holes on sallow trees. A concerted effort to find the species was made this morning, and although I was only able to find one apparent exit hole on a live tree, a group of felled sallows in the nature reserve produced at least 50 larval workings in the sawn-off stumps. The adult below was found on a sallow nearby.
Larval workings
Copyright Rich Andrews
Larval workings in sallow trunk
Lunar Hornet Moth
Copyright Rich Andrews
Female Lunar Hornet Moth Sesia bembeciformis
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