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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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  OCTOBER 2009

The weedy bits in front of Stratford hide are still worth a good look, with three Jack Snipe, ten Common Snipe and three Water Pipits there this afternoon, most of which were hidden from view until a Pheasant strolled through and prodded them into the open. By the way, don't just rely on feeding action when identifying the Jack Snipe; be aware that Common Snipe sometimes do that bobbing up and down thing as well (as was the case with one bird this afternoon).

Also present today were a Barn Owl (Herriott's, late afternoon), four Dunlin, a Ruff and two Black-tailed Godwits. Most of the wildfowl were squeezed into Heron's Green and Villice Bays due to disturbance from the Pike boats on the main lake, but it doesn't help when halfwits blatantly disregard the plethora of fluorescent 'No bank fishing beyond this point' signs which are put there to minimise disturbance in other parts of the lake.

A pair of Red-crested Pochards in Stratford Bay was new today; also there were two Water Pipits, one Jack Snipe, two Black-tailed Godwits, a Peregrine and a Dunlin. Another Water Pipit was seen from Moreton hide, and two Greater Scaup were in Heron's Green Bay.

The male Ring-necked Duck was still present today. See for details.

A little more of the same - five Greater Scaup (Stratford), six Little Egrets, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Jack Snipe, four Water Pipits (in front of Stratford hide), one Little Gull, one Peregrine, two Kingfishers, at least 12 Skylarks (over) and a Red Kite reported near Heron's Green Pool.

Still a fine selection of late autumn migrants at the lake. In no particular order: one Bittern (Herriott's Pool 17:00 to 17:10), three Greater Scaup (Heron's Green Bay), up to three Jack Snipe and the male Red-breasted Merganser (Stratford), five Little Egrets, 74 Pintail, the male Ferruginous Duck (Stratford Bay briefly), two Mediterranean Gulls, two Black-tailed Godwits, and singles of Golden Plover, Dunlin, Little Gull, Common Tern, Ruff, Water Pipit and Kingfisher.

The area of lake shore in front of Stratford hide produced four Jack Snipe, 11 Common Snipe and five Water Pipits today, with the Ferruginous Duck and Red-breasted Merganser in the bay, along with up to 50 each of Pintail and Goldeneye. The first-winter Little Gull was still in the middle of the lake, off Nunnery Point.

The male Ferruginous Duck was on the east side of Stratford Bay this afternoon; a Ruff and the Red-breasted Merganser were also seen from the hide there.

The first-winter Little Gull was still on the main lake this morning (seen off Sutton Wick); no sign of yesterday's Gannet, though. At Herriott's Bridge, the channel looking north had four Little Egrets, two Water Rails and a Kingfisher showing well early afternoon. Stratford hide this afternoon produced the eclipse male Red-breasted Merganser, two Water Pipits, up to four Jack Snipe, one Black-tailed Godwit and an adult Peregrine, which caught a Wigeon in front of the hide, but then released it after being clobbered by a pair of crows.

The male Ring-necked Duck was still present this morning, off Rainbow Point.

Jack Snipe
Jack Snipe. There's another picture of it on my photo blog.

One first-winter Little Gull was still present this afternoon, as were two Water Pipits, along with single Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Peregrine (an adult) and Red-breasted Merganser. Two Jack Snipe were again showing well in front of Stratford hide. A juvenile Gannet was seen late this afternoon in the centre of the lake; it was watched from Woodford Lodge in the gull roost as it became dark.

The male Ferruginous Duck was still in Heron's Green Bay today, and the first three Water Pipits of the autumn appeared in front of Stratford hide this afternoon, where up to five Jack Snipe were seen. Other birds seen today were four Little Egrets, three Yellow-legged Gulls, one Ruff, seven Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper, one Ringed Plover, two Peregrines, one late Swallow and a few Siskins.

A first-winter Little Gull was off Nunnery Point and Woodford this afternoon (second day), and the male Red-breasted Merganser was with the aythya flock on the east side of Stratford Bay.

Two Jack Snipe were again in the low vegetation in front of Stratford hide, in a bed of shrivelled-up Amphibious Bistort. Look between the pool in front of the hide and the tump to the right.

A flock of six Crossbills over Hollow Brook this morning was a pretty decent record for Chew - they don't normally hang around, as was the case with these, which couldn't be relocated. The Bittern was seen again this afternoon; first at 15:15, perched in clear view on the reed edge on the east side of Herriott's Pool (just under the first two trees growing near the edge of the reedbed, looking from the road), then again in flight at 17:55. It landed in the top of a tree on the west side of the pool and remained there for 40 minutes.

There were two Jack Snipes in the weed in front of Stratford hide this afternoon. Also around the lake were one Black-tailed Godwit, one Ruff, three Green Sandpipers, two Peregrines, the male Red-breasted Merganser (Stratford) and the male Ferruginous Duck (Heron's Green Bay). Small groups of Siskin and Redwing were seen flying over.

A day of cloud and rain, which produced another Great Skua - the third (or is that second?) of the year. A juvenile bird, first seen harassing gulls along the shore at Woodford Lodge, it then flew out to Little Denny and tried to sneak up on the Coots (by swimming at them - unsurprisingly, to no avail), and even had a go at a Mute Swan at one point!

Elsewhere on the lake, the male Ferruginous Duck was in Heron's Green Bay, and an adult Little Gull was on the main lake. Other oddments as follows: one Siskin, an adult male Red-breasted Merganser, female-type Greater Scaup, 13 Ringed Plover, one Black-tailed Godwit, one Green Sandpiper, one Dunlin, 39-plus Snipe and a few Meadow Pipits.

The first Jack Snipe of the autumn was at Stratford this afternoon; the eclipse male Red-breasted Merganser was also still in the bay.

Bird of the day was a juvenile Gannet, which flew through Heron's Green Bay this morning after having been seen earlier at Barrow Tanks. It then completed the tour by flying past Blagdon and Cheddar. The Ferruginous Duck was seen again, and other sundries included a first-winter male Greater Scaup, two Black-tailed Godwits, one Dunlin, one Ruff, a juvenile Peregrine, a Rock Pipit, a Barn Owl and 29 Goldeneye. Today also saw the return of two regular winter birds - a Bittern, and a male Red-breasted Merganser - this is the 29th winter that a male Merganser has been seen at the lake.

A Rock Pipit was at the main dam today.

Still little in the way of new birds - three Dunlin, two Ruff, four Black-tailed Godwits, one Green Sandpiper, four Water Rails and a Kingfisher were among the birds seen today.

I've added a Chew hoverfly list - thanks to Ian Stapp and Richard Mielcarek.

The Ferruginous Duck was still in Stratford Bay; elsewhere around the lake were nine Little Egrets, eight Dunlin, two Ruff, four Black-tailed Godwits, a Peregrine, at least one late Hobby and a Rock or Water Pipit heard calling at Heron's Green Pool.

A few odds and ends around the lake today - one Curlew, one Mediterranean Gull, five Black-tailed Godwits, six Green Sandpipers, the Red-crested Pochard (Villice), three Goldeneye, two Stonechats and one each of Dunlin and Ruff.

A first-winter Caspian Gull at Herriott's Pool this evening was a nice end to the weekend, but otherwise, little of note other than eight Little Egrets in the 'toe' of Heron's Green Bay, one Knot, two Ruff, two Dunlin, one Mediterranean Gull, one Wheatear and a Kingfisher.

Even after three years of grizzling about the high autumn water levels, it's easy to slip back into the old 'October doldrums' and say there's bugger all at the lake, when in actual fact there are thousands of waterfowl dotted all over the place. That said, despite the acres of weedy margins, the shores remain frustratingly bereft of any passerine migrants, with hardly a Meadow Pipit or Linnet in sight. Still, at least there is some habitat this year, should an errant Lapland Bunting be passing.

Still some good numbers of birds today, although it still seems like we're heading into that quiet part of the autumn between the summer migrants having left, and the winter birds still to arrive. The water level has now dropped to reveal the first tree stumps on Little Denny, and Heron's Green Pool has now been pumped back up to a sensible level. Most of today's birds were a continuation of last week - seven Dunlin, two Ruff, four Black-tailed Godwits, one Common Sandpiper, five Green Sandpipers, at least six Little Egrets still, a Siskin and a few fly-over Skylarks.

There are still a few Migrant and Southern Hawkers on the wing, and a number of Hornets around CVRS this morning.

The male Ring-necked Duck reappeared today, after having spent the week at Cheddar Res. Also a male Scaup-type hybrid there today. Ducks quite often switch between the two sites when there is weekend sailing disturbance at Cheddar.

One Rock Pipit was still at Heron's Green Bay this afternoon, showing well on the lake side of the road. A Siskin was at Stratford.

The monthly WeBS count took place today, with totals of 2000 Coot, 1400 Teal, 1400 Tufted Duck, 600 Pochard, 410 Shoveler and 1000 Mallard.

Rock Pipit
Rock Pipit at Heron's Green (Rob Laughton)

The usual suspects: Black-necked Grebe (Heron's Green Bay), Ferruginous Duck (Stratford), six Black-tailed Godwits, one Ruff, one Dunlin, 13 Green Sandpipers, one Water Rail, three Kingfishers, two Garganey (Stratford), one Barn Owl, a small flock of Siskin, one Swallow, one Skylark and one Common Sandpiper. As predicted by me, Rock Pipit was seen on some rocks today (two of them, at Heron's Green).

A few of the regulars before the rain set in: ten Little Egrets, a Ruff, two Ringed Plover, three Dunlin, six Black-tailed Godwits and the juvenile Red-crested Pochard.

Twelve Green Sandpipers were in Heron's Green Bay, with 11 Little Egrets between there and Herriott's Bridge. Also six Black-tailed Godwits, one Dunlin, one Common Sandpiper, the Ferruginous Duck and some late hirundines - 150-plus Swallows and 25-plus House Martins (good counts for October).

One Ringed Plover was the only wader of note. One Sand Martin, one House Martin and c.50 Swallows were the pick of a poor bunch today.

Two Muntjac were seen from the road at Woodford Lodge today. See here.

Another small trickle of autumn migrants today - seven Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits, two Swallows, one Blackcap, two Stonechats and an Arctic Tern, in addition to the 'usuals': Black-necked Grebe (Heron's Green Bay), Red-crested Pochard (Villice Bay), six Black-tailed Godwits, one Dunlin, one Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper and seven Water Rails. The first wave of Common Gulls is beginning to appear in the gull roost now; an adult Mediterranean Gull was with them this evening.

A male Ring-necked Duck was seen between Bell's Bush and Holt Copse this evening.

A morning at the southern end of the lake produced no sign of the Long-billed Dowitcher, but five Black-tailed Godwits, one Dunlin, one Ringed Plover, four Green Sandpipers, one Garganey, the Red-crested Pochard, a dozen or so Swallows and the juvenile Peregrine again.

The Long-billed Dowitcher was again at Herriott's End today, and the Ferruginous Duck was at Heron's Green Bay. The rest as follows - Black-necked Grebe (Heron's Green Bay), four Goldeneye, one Red-crested Pochard, six Black-tailed Godwits, one Ruff (unusually, a moulting adult), one Dunlin, one Ringed Plover, seven Green Sandpipers, one Common Sandpiper, 14-plus Snipe, one Arctic Tern, seven Little Egrets, two Kingfishers, two Wheatears, one Stonechat, 51 Wigeon, one Barn Owl and a Peregrine.

A few new birds today amongst the regulars - ten (possibly up to 12) Little Egrets, 77 Wigeon, one Red-crested Pochard (Herriott's End), two Goldeneye, six Black-tailed Godwits, nine Green Sandpipers, three Water Rails, four Meadow Pipits, two Ravens and one each of Golden Plover (the first of the autumn), Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Whinchat and Kingfisher. The Long-billed Dowitcher was again on the muddy spit looking north from Herriott's Bridge, and the Ferruginous Duck was seen from both there and Heron's Green Bay today.

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