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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 buy 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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  NOVEMBER 2009

MONDAY 30th
The immature Pomarine Skua was still present a first light this morning, remaining until at least 15:30, ranging widely on the main lake, from Denny to Stratford Bay. The previous records at Chew have all been of brief fly-throughs seen only by one observer, so this one was rather well received!

The Red-throated Diver was still present at picnic site No.1, the two Black-necked Grebes were still off Nunnery Point, and the male Red-breasted Merganser was seen at Denny today.

SUNDAY 29th
The Red-throated Diver was still present at the dam end today. It can be elusive at times, however. Just a week after Chew's second Pomarine Skua, an immature bird was seen at long range in the gull roost this evening, feeding on a Common Gull which it had earlier killed. It was still present at dusk.

Why not have a look at my photo blog for some pics of the adult bird just over the estuary at Beachley Point today.

SATURDAY 28th
The Shag and Red-throated Diver were both seen again from No.1 picnic site today. Two Black-necked Grebes and the male Red-breasted Merganser were both off Nunnery Point this afternoon, a Water Pipit, a Kingfisher, two Stonechats and a Water Rail were at Moreton, and three Mediterranean Gulls were seen in the gull roost. The nasty weather in the week has not surprisingly pushed the water level up noticeably.

FRIDAY 27th
The Red-throated Diver was again at the dam end today.

SEVERN BEACH:
Pacific Diver. When will it ever end?

THURSDAY 26th
Some good coverage today, and a pretty good haul was reported as a result, although it all seems a little piffling after yesterday! The Red-throated Diver and Shag were seen briefly at the dam end (from No.1 picnic site) but both later disappeared. The rest of the list has a familiar look to it: Ferruginous Duck, two Black-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Merganser, 12 Water Pipits (Moreton), Smew (Stratford Pool, partially visible from Herriott's Bridge), eight Water Pipits and the adult male Ring-necked Duck (Stratford Bay). Also the Bittern at Herriott's Pool (seen in flight at 15:15 and 16:15), two Water Rails, two Green Sandpipers and one Kingfisher.

WEDNESDAY 25th
A Red-throated Diver was seen off Moreton hide early this morning.

SEVERN BEACH:
I normally mention unusual birds seen at the other local patches, but even though the report below is now unlikely to be news to anyone, it would be churlish not to.

An astonishing first for Britain (and probably Europe as well) was seen at Severn Beach today. What was either a White-bellied or Black-bellied Storm Petrel was found on the incoming tide this morning, by John Martin and some people from the north who erroneously believed that Severn Beach is in the Midlands. A good find, no?

MONDAY 23rd
The continuing overnight gales produced a couple of expected seabirds today - a Great Northern Diver and a Shag. Small numbers of the latter (much the rarer of the two at Chew) have been seen around the estuary in recent days, so an appearance at Chew was definitely on the cards. It was only seen briefly this morning though. Otherwise, up to three Black-necked Grebes (Nunnery), seven Bewick's Swans (Denny), one Greater Scaup, two Ruff and a Dunlin were the pick of the other birds seen today.

SUNDAY 22nd
Another bout of wind and rain, only this time delivering a good bird - a sub-adult Pomarine Skua. Sadly it only lingered for a few minutes late this morning; perhaps it was the bird seen this afternoon at Slimbridge? There is only one accepted Chew record.

The little Goosander flock is slowly increasing in size, with at least half a dozen around the channel at Herriott's End (with the male Red-breasted Merganser there today). Now that the level is creeping up, there is a little more interest in the various inflows around the lake as fish-eating birds gather for some easy pickings - there were ten Little Egrets and a couple more Goosander at the 'toe' of Heron's Green this afternoon by the road. The Long-tailed Duck was seen again briefly off Sutton Wick, and a few of the other regulars were also still around: seven Bewick's Swans and three juvenile Greater Scaup at Denny, one Dunlin, two Ruff, a Bar-tailed Godwit, two Water Pipits and a Mediterranean Gull at/from Stratford hide, and two Brambling at the Parkland.

SATURDAY 21st
No sign of the phalarope, but with another day of wind and rain, it was a case of birding in hope rather than expectation (which isn't unusual in itself) and only a few of the regular birds were found: a Black-necked Grebe (Woodford/Nunnery), the male Red-breasted Merganser (Moreton and Villice - now in more or less full plumage); a Smew (in flight at Stratford Bay), two Water Pipits, 28 Snipe, a Ruff and a Dunlin (Stratford).

FRIDAY 20th
A Grey Phalarope was a nice find at the main dam this afternoon (in just the same spot as one in October 2005).

There was a female Brambling with Chaffinches at Moreton Cottage, and two Black-necked Grebes were seen. The Long-tailed Duck (Spring Bay) and a Kittiwake were also seen today.


First-winter Grey Phalarope (Gary Thoburn)

THURSDAY 19th
Another very windy day. No wind-blown waifs to report though. Ferruginous Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Black-necked Grebe (Moreton), seven Bewick's Swans (Hollow Brook), eight Little Egrets (Heron's Green Bay), one Peregrine (Nunnery), two Ruff and two Dunlin (Herriott's End).

WEDNESDAY 18th
A Bar-tailed Godwit was an unusual Chew bird at Stratford this lunchtime; otherwise it was more of the same - Smew (Heron's Green Bay), Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked Grebe and six Water Pipits (Moreton).

TUESDAY 17th
The Ferruginous Duck was again in front of Moreton hide today; also there were the Red-breasted Merganser and a Peregrine. The seven Bewick's Swans and three Greater Scaup were again at Denny, viewable from BK hide, with a familiar-looking list for the other birds seen today: Black-necked Grebe (Nunnery), three Dunlin, one Black-tailed Godwit, a first-winter Little Gull, one Jack Snipe (Stratford), five Green Sandpipers, two Ruff and the redhead Smew (Heron's Green Bay).

MONDAY 16th
The seven Bewick's Swans were at Denny today, along with three female/juvenile Greater Scaup; a Dunlin and at least five Water Pipits were at Stratford. The male Ferruginous Duck reappeared at Moreton today. Of more significance to the Chew lister was two Red-legged Partridges seen in the second elephant grass field behind Moreton hide, along the water-filled hedgerow.

SUNDAY 15th
A complete contrast to yesterday (despite what the weather forecast said) - almost wall-to-wall sunshine. No sign of the scoters or Little Gulls today, with the leftovers from previous days/weeks still in evidence: seven Bewick's Swans (three Heron's Green Bay, four Denny), eight Goosander, one Smew (Moreton/Heron's Green Bay), one Black-necked Grebe (Moreton), ten Water Pipits, at least four Mediterranean Gulls (Nunnery Point) and singles of Jack Snipe (Stratford), Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Peregrine.

SATURDAY 14th
A day of strong wind and rain; a stiff south-easterly this morning turning to near gale force south-westerlies by early afternoon. Nine Common Scoters and two Little Gulls were new arrivals overnight, with the Black-necked Grebe off Woodford Bank, seven Bewick's Swans at Denny (in the sheltered NE side), the Red-breasted Merganser at Moreton this morning, five Goosanders, one Dunlin, the Long-tailed Duck at Bernard King hide again, and a Smew.

FRIDAY 13th
The Long-tailed Duck reappeared this afternoon at Bernard King hide, after having spent the entire week submerged. The seven Bewick's Swans were back at Twycross, with a few other odds and ends as follows: six Goosander, one Red-breasted Merganser, two Ruff, one Black-tailed Godwit, two Green Sandpipers, two Water Rails and a Kingfisher.

At the moment (Friday night) there is heavy rain and S winds gusting to 40mph, due to turn SW in the morning; conditions like this last November produced Great Northern Diver, a phalarope and a flock of Ring-necked Ducks. Might it be worth having a look at Chew or Barrow tomorrow?

THURSDAY 12th
The family party of three Bewick's Swans was still in Heron's Green Bay this morning, with three Snipe and a Green Sandpiper over the road on the pool. Up to 11 Water Pipits (five at Moreton and six at Stratford) were present, as were some of the regulars - four Goosanders, one Red-breasted Merganser, two Ruff and a Black-tailed Godwit.

WEDNESDAY 11th
Seven Bewick's Swans were present in Heron's Green Bay today; the four adults being joined by a family party of three. The Black-necked Grebe was still off Nunnery/Woodford; also present were four Goosanders, one Red-breasted Merganser, two Ruff, two Black-tailed Godwits and two Redshank.

TUESDAY 10th
A murky morning produced a few surprises today, with a brief Dark-bellied Brent Goose for 15 minutes in Heron's Green Bay, 57 Dunlin (flocks of 45 and 12), three Redshank and a Golden Plover. Normally, the estuary would be clearly visible to a bird in flight over Chew; presumably the mist obscured the view and caused them to drop in.

Other birds included the Black-necked Grebe (Nunnery), two Black-tailed Godwits, two Ruff, 55 Snipe, seven Water Pipits (four Moreton, three Stratford), 100 Redwing, 50 Fieldfares and four Siskins around Stratford car park. A female Sparrowhawk was at Stratford; not usually mentioned in these reports, but unusually, this one was sat in full view on the post 10m in front of Stratford hide for five minutes this morning.

MONDAY 9th
The four adult Bewick's Swans were still present this morning at Twycross, but later flew west towards Blagdon at 13:10. The rest as follows: ten Little Egrets, three Goosander, one Red-breasted Merganser, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Ruff, one Dunlin, three Green Sandpipers, seven Water Pipits (Stratford) and the Black-necked Grebe, reported at Woodford still.

SUNDAY 8th
The Black-necked Grebe was seen off Nunnery Point again today (a different bird has spent the last few days at Barrow No.3 - see here for a few pics).

SATURDAY 7th
The Long-tailed Duck was still present in the Moreton/Stratford area, but was typically elusive. A Smew was reported on Herriott's Pool as well. Other odds and ends around the lake included a Peregrine, two Black-tailed Godwits, four Bewick's Swans, 46 Pintail, the male Red-breasted Merganser, a Mediterranean Gull, and a Firecrest, with Long-tailed Tits along Moreton Lane.

FRIDAY 6th
A female/juvenile Long-tailed Duck off Moreton was another decent new arrival today. Late autumn/early winter last year was good for wildfowl; perhaps we'll have a run of quality quackers this year as well? An Eider would be nice. The four Bewick's Swans were still around (seen in flight at 15:00), and the Black-necked Grebe was still off Nunnery Point. Additional news was of two Ruff, the adult male Red-breasted Merganser, a Mediterranean Gull, one Water Pipit, 40 Snipe, seven Little Egrets, five Green Sandpipers, one Dunlin, one Redpoll and three Siskins. The recent rain has filled the big puddle in front of Stratford hide, with the result that no Jack Snipe have been seen there for a few days now.

By the way, further to those Muntjacs at Villice last month, I accidentally found a picture of one, taken on October 5th. Just here.

THURSDAY 5th
Some new birds again today, with four adult Bewick's Swans the highlight late this afternoon. Formerly a regular fixture late autumn, the last few years have barely produced any, so it's nice to see a few on the lake. A Black-necked Grebe at Moreton was another new arrival; ten years ago it would have been the grebe that was the bird of note, and the swans the also-rans!

The male Ring-necked Duck, male Red-breasted Merganser, two Goosander and adult Kittiwake were all still present, and the female-type Merlin was seen again at the Starling roost in Stratford Bay at 16:30 (another barely annual bird at Chew). Other birds seen today were eight Little Egrets, two Dunlin, two Ruff, a Water Rail, a Water Pipit and a late Swallow .

WEDNESDAY 4th
A Merlin was a good bird for Chew today (surprisingly rare here), and an adult Kittiwake was also new-in. Otherwise, a familiar list: two Little Egrets, two Goosander (Herriott's End), two Ruff, two Green Sandpipers, the Red-breasted Merganser and eight Water Pipits (two at Stratford, six at Moreton). At least 200 Redwing and ten Fieldfare were on the Parkland.

MONDAY 2nd
The Smew was on Herriott's Pool today, with the male Red-breasted Merganser at Moreton, and the first two Goosanders of the autumn unexpectedly completing the sawbill set. A Jack Snipe was at Stratford, a juvenile Red-crested Pochard was in Villice, three Black-tailed Godwits and a Ruff were at Herriott's End.

SUNDAY 1st
An adult male Ring-necked Duck was found in Stratford Bay this morning; presumably the bird from Blagdon moving across. It would have been bird of the day if it wasn't for the redhead Smew which appeared there this afternoon. This was the first Smew to be seen at the lake since March 2007, since when there have been nine Ring-necked Ducks!

I've often used these pages to lament the curious decline of the Smew at Chew, a species which always used to be a permanent winter fixture at the end of Heron's Green Bay, but in recent years, numbers have declined to bugger all. Some say it's disturbance, some say they can't be bothered to fly here anymore, others say they've all been shot for being Ruddy Ducks. Who knows?

Nevertheless, an autumn Smew is very unusual; will it remain or will it be just a one-day wonder? Six Dunlin and at least two Mediterranean Gulls were seen from Nunnery Point late this afternoon.


Water Pipit at Stratford hide.

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