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This page gives you the latest bird and wildlife news from Chew Valley Lake (and sometimes elsewhere if there's something good about). Records are taken from various sources and should be regarded as unconfirmed.

When you visit Chew, please remember that you'll need a permit to enter the lake enclosure or use the hides. You can get one from Woodford Lodge, the Tea Rooms, or by post. See my access page for full details. Seen anything good? Please


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  JANUARY 2009

The Little Egret was at Heron's Green Pool, a Kingfisher was heard at Hollow Brook, and two adult Mediterranean Gulls were seen in the roost.

Up to nine Hawfinches have been seen in and around St Anne's churchyard since Wednesday 28th. Access and parking along California Road; click here for a map.

Mediterranean x Black-headed Gull
A surprise in Heron's Green Bay this afternoon was this apparent adult Mediterranean x Black-headed Gull. Shame it wasn't a bit nearer to the road so that I could've got some proper shots; not even a few stale slices could tempt it closer. It was seen again in the roost off Nunnery Point. (bottom left pic by John Martin)

The Marsh Harrier was once again seen in the Stratford area today; other birds seen were a Water Pipit, four Snipe, four Goosander, a Kingfisher and a Siskin.

The juvenile Marsh Harrier was still present today; six Water Pipits were in the Moreton area and a Stonechat was at Heron's Green Pool.

A Bittern was seen in flight over Herriott's End from the bridge at 15:25, and an adult Mediterranean Gull was seen in the roost. The drake Red-breasted Merganser and a Peregrine were at Nunnery Point late in the afternoon, and the Marsh Harrier was at Moreton.

A Brown Hare was seen on the Parkland late this afternoon.

The Marsh Harrier was still present today, and a Mediterranean Gull was in the gull roost. A Kingfisher was at Stratford hide again. Heavy rain in the week has topped the water level right up. A Ring-billed Gull was reported at Heron's Green this afternoon.

The juvenile Marsh Harrier was still around; this afternoon in the Stratford Bay area. Also seen were: one Little Egret (field near Hollow Brook), the Red-breasted Merganser, two Ravens, five Water Pipits, 77 Lapwing, one Snipe and up to 60 Siskins (Herriott's Pool).

One juvenile Marsh Harrier was again present this afternoon. Also seen today were nine Snipe, a Little Egret, the drake Red-breasted Merganser, a Kingfisher and four Mediterranean Gulls.

The juvenile Marsh Harrier was still present today; seen over the main reedbed and Stratford Islands this afternoon.

Herring Gull legs and BTO metal ring
Things to do at Chew when it's quiet:
You can easily read metal ring numbers from photos of the gulls on the railings at Herriott's.

One of the juvenile Marsh Harriers was seen again today (bird 'one'), also one Water Pipit, two Redpolls and a Peregrine.

Ten Siskins were seen on the Bittern trail, and c.250 Lapwings were also counted.

Both Marsh Harriers were still around the lake today, with most of the duck either on the west side or Herriott's Pool sheltering from the wind - 27 Goosander, 15 Pintail and the Red-breasted Merganser. A Kingfisher was at Stratford, with a Water Rail under the feeders there.

What a difference a day makes. Temperatures of up to nine degrees, a howling south-westerly all day and virtually no ice on the lake. The two Marsh Harriers were still tooling about up and down the lake today, but other than that it was a poor return for those who braved the elements: six Stock Doves, three Ravens, a Peregrine, a Water Pipit, the Red-breasted Merganser and a Woodcock.

Another freezing start, but becoming milder in the afternoon with an eye-watering south-westerly developing. Most of the lake was still covered in ice today, so most of the attention was at Herriott's Bridge, where at least four Water Rails were good value in the absence of the Bittern there today. A Woodcock was seen in flight there, along with 29 Pintail, an agrentatus Herring Gull and the two Marsh Harriers still (earlier they had been hunting over Moreton Bank before drifting off west over the crop fields).

A Bittern was seen in flight from BK hide this afternoon, in what was probably the first documented observation of a Bittern on the Bittern Trail! The other Bittern was flushed from the footpath near where the River Chew flows into the back of Herriott's Pool (by the footbridge). A Water Pipit was seen near Moreton, with another two Water Rails at the feeders behind Stratford hide.

Water Rail and Keith's manky old jam sandwich
The Water Rails at Herriott's Bridge were clearly hungry after the cold snap, living up to their omnivorous reputation by consuming everything that was thrown at them - jam sandwiches, bird seed, peanuts, and a dead Pied Wagtail. Click here for some sensible photos.

Two Marsh Harriers and a Bittern continue to perform; the latter for at least an hour on the reed-edge from Herriott's Bridge today. Also braving the freeze were 35 Wigeon, a few Water Rails, three Water Pipits, and single Red-breasted Merganser, Snipe and Green Sandpiper.

Both Marsh Harriers were seen again today, and a Bittern was watched flying from Herriott's Pool to the main reedbed at 14:30. A Black-tailed Godwit was seen in flight over Herriott's, and a Dunlin was again present. With nearly all of the lake frozen, wildfowl were predictably scarce, with no sign of yesterdays RCPs.

On a part-frozen lake with rather little in the way of open water, a record seven Red-crested Pochards were found between Denny Island and No.1 picnic site this morning; later they were seen again from Woodford Lodge. Presumably these are birds forced in by the cold - there were 277 at the Cotswold Water Park last month; many of the lakes there are now frozen. Also still present were two Marsh Harriers, three Water Pipits, a Dunlin, a female Greater Scaup and 260 Shoveler (good numbers for the time of year).

More of the same. The adult Ring-billed Gull was seen again at Herriott's Pool this afternoon; nearby a Bittern was seen in flight over the main reedbed at 14:00, and the two Marsh Harriers were still present (at one point mobbed by a Peregrine). Other birds were three Lesser Redpolls (Stratford) and the escaped male Pintail at Heron's Green Bay. No sign again of the Siberian Chiffchaff.

Five Red-crested Pochards were in Home Bay/Long Bay today.

More coldness, but without the sunshine today. An hour-long wait in BK hide this afternoon produced a couple of ice-staking Chiffchaffs, but not the Sibe. Events at Herriott's Bridge were a carbon copy of yesterday afternoon, except there were more Bitterns: The two Marsh Harriers were seen occasionally in flight, a Water Rail was again seen in the frozen channel north of the bridge, and the adult Ring-billed Gull reappeared on the pool before flying into the roost. A Bittern was seen briefly in flight, then perched in reeds on the north-east side of the bridge as the light began to fade, then a second bird flew up from the reedbed a few metres from the causeway.

The remains of the Dartford Warbler were found this morning, after evidently being taken by a bird of prey.

A properly cold day today - it was minus six at dawn this morning, and much of Herriott's Pool, the north end of the lake and a few other quiet spots were frozen. The Siberian Chiffchaff was still present at BK hide, in the sunshine preferring the tree tops rather than the shoreline in front of the hide today. Herriott's Bridge this afternoon proved to be good value, with a Bittern (reported at the reed-edge at the end of the channel that leads into the main lake), Water Rail, both Marsh Harriers, and an adult Ring-billed Gull seen briefly on the pool. The Redshank was again at the overspill early in the morning, and a Peregrine was watched chasing Common Gulls.

A Dartford Warbler found yesterday in a private area adjacent to the reservoirs showed well again this morning; it is the first site record of a bird which has to be the most likely next addition to the Chew list.

Dartford Warbler
First-winter male Dartford Warbler, Barrow Tanks. Click here for some more photos.

The Siberian Chiffchaff was still present at Bernard King hide today. It would appear to be closest to a tristis/fulvescens type; it certainly showed a strong reaction to a recording of a tristis call today. A Redshank was again at the overspill on Herriott's Pool this morning, a Lesser Redpoll was at Stratford, and a Marsh Harrier was still present.

Eastern Chiffchaff
Siberian Chiffchaff (Gary Thoburn)

THURSDAY 1st Happy New Year!
Another cold, grey day. Four Chiffchaffs were present at Bernard King hide this afternoon, including the 'Eastern' bird again. Also there were 238 Shoveler and the male Red-breasted Merganser. An adult Mediterranean Gull was seen in the rather distant roost.

Marsh Harrier
Juvenile Marsh Harrier.

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