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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 contact me.

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  DECEMBER 2010

FRIDAY 31st
A few odds-and-ends about today, but still very few birds around the lake - some of which were: one Little Egret, 27 Goosanders, one Red-breasted Merganser, two Bewick's Swans, 110 Lapwings, one Kingfisher (on the jetty at Woodford), one Peregrine, and two Barn Owls hunting over Heron's Green Pool at dusk.

THURSDAY 30th
Most of the main lake is still iced-up, although Herriott's Pool is now largely ice-free. A few more birds are beginning to filter back; the male Red-breasted Merganser has returned, and there are now large numbers of gulls roosting at the lake. It's odd to see them standing about on the lake rather than floating in it. An adult Mediterranean Gull was present this afternoon. Other birds seen today were one Little Egret, a juvenile Peregrine (very distant on Little Denny - but possibly not the apparent Tundra-type Peregrine seen on 28th), and a couple of Skylarks overhead.

WEDNESDAY 29th
An adult Ring-billed Gull was seen on the ice at Herriott's Pool at lunchtime; it flew off SW with Common Gulls. A Bittern was also seen there; other birds around the (still frozen) lake today were one Little Egret, one Peregrine, 89 Lapwing and 17 Dunlin.

TUESDAY 28th
With temperatures touching 10C today (20 warmer than Sunday morning) the lake is still thawing, with only a few small ice-free patches of open water. Nevertheless, a few more birds were seen today - one Bittern, 155 Wigeon, 75 Shoveler, 25 Goldeneye, three Bewick's Swans, 30 Goosander, 17 Dunlin, six Lapwing, one juvenile Peregrine, 140 Fieldfares, 310 Redwing and one Brambling.


Juvenile Peregrine, Moreton Point. This bird appears to fit the criteria for juvenile Tundra Peregrine tundrius/calidus but could it be within the normal variation of peregrinus? Interestingly, it was originally picked up in flight at about half a mile range when it looked very brown above, very white on the breast and with slimmer looking wings than peregrinus. (Keith Vinicombe)

MONDAY 27th
A rapid thaw overnight has melted most of the snow. The ice, whilst still covering most of the lake, is also melting. The eight Bewick's Swans were the only birds of note seen today.

SUNDAY 26th
Following two successive nights when the temperature almost reached minus ten, most of the small ice holes have now frozen over; even Herriott's Pool now has hardly any open water. The Lapwing from earlier in the week have left, leaving the eight Bewick's Swans, a few hundred Teal and a handful of other dabblers around the Chew inflow at Herriott's End. A Bittern was seen on the ice at Herriott's Pool this afternoon, and a Peregrine was hunting there just before dusk. At least 200 Fieldfares were seen in the orchard by the entrance to Woodford Lodge (looking through the hedge) - there were probably a good deal more present, out of view.

FRIDAY 24th
The eight Bewick's Swans were still on the ice at Moreton, and the male Black Redstart was still at the pumping station sewage works. Nearby at Chew Valley Fruit Farm, an estimated 3000 to 4000 Redwings and Fieldfares were present this afternoon.

TUESDAY 21st
The eight Bewick's Swans and the Greater Scaup remained; an adult Peregrine was at Moreton Point and a Bittern was seen flying over Herriott's Bridge at 16:18. Two grey geese were seen landing on Herriott's Pool briefly with at least 100 Canada Geese this afternoon - unfortunately they were observed with bins at long range from the top of Burledge Hill in very poor conditions and were not present later. They were probably Greylags.


There's a lake in there somewhere....compare this picture with the one here

MONDAY 20th
Overnight lows down to -8.6C again, and with a fresh layer of snow this morning the place was more like an arctic wasteland than a lake. A few ducks remained around the ice holes, as did several hundred Lapwing - goodness knows why they haven't cleared off by now. Five Bewick's Swans and the first-winter male Greater Scaup were still present between Moreton and Stratford, and a Redshank was still in Stratford Bay. Redwings and Fieldfares are in good supply around the gardens and orchards.

SUNDAY 19th
What a difference a day makes. During a bitterly cold night (a low of -8.6C was recorded at Bishop Sutton), almost the entire lake froze, with only five or six small ice-free patches remaining which had been kept open by the ducks that remained on the lake. There are still fair numbers of wildfowl present, amongst which were 77 Goldeneye, one first-winter male Greater Scaup, eight Bewick's Swans (Moreton) and a redhead Smew (Herriott's Pool). A female Pintail was coming to bread with the puddle ducks at Herriott's Bridge, where 17 Barnacle Geese were present this evening. Lapwing numbers were similar to yesterday, as were Teal, although most of the dabbling duck spent the day huddled up next to ice holes looking sorry for themselves, so it was difficult to check to see whether the Green-wing was still present. Four Curlew flew south over CVRS, and a juvenile Peregrine was at East Shore.

SATURDAY 18th
Our heaviest snowfall so far this winter happened overnight - there was a depth of about three inches on the ground this morning, but most of the lake is still ice-free. The most obvious species to have been affected was Lapwing; yesterday there were barely single figures, but 710 were counted this afternoon. Six or seven Snipe and a Dunlin were amongst them. Otherwise, pretty quiet - a Skylark flew over Heron's Green Bay, four Bewick's Swans and the male Red-breasted Merganser were in Stratford Bay, and a Bittern flew from Herriott's Pool into the main reedbed at 16:06. No news on the Green-winged Teal today.

FRIDAY 17th
A fresh sprinkling of snow, and freezing south-westerlies today. The (relatively) high temperatures and strong winds have broken up most of the ice on the lake in the last couple of days. A good find on a rather lean duck count today was a male Green-winged Teal at the southern end of Denny, viewable from Bernard King hide. It's the seventh Chew record, and the first since April 2000. Other birds around the lake today included 13 Dunlin, two Peregrines, a Bittern and a redhead Smew (Herriott's Pool), eight Bewick's Swans and the male Red-breasted Merganser (Stratford Bay) and what would appear to be a female Red-crested Pochard x Mallard on Herriott's Pool.

THURSDAY 16th
The male Black Redstart previously at Woodford Bank has relocated to the pumping station sewage works (no public access).

TUESDAY 14th
Eight Bewick's Swans were still present at Herriott's End this morning.

MONDAY 13th
Three Bitterns were seen again today, including one in flight over No.1 picnic site (an extreme rarity at this end of the lake!), plus one Redshank and 34 Dunlin.

SUNDAY 12th
At least eight Bewick's Swans at Herriott's End this afternoon were the biggest flock at Chew since December 2005. The male Red-breasted Merganser was also there, and the Black Redstart was seen again briefly at Woodford Bank.

Two Bitterns were seen again at Herriott's Pool this afternoon; one perched in full view, and easily visible in an alder at the back of the pool, and one in flight over the road at dusk. One Water Rail and at least 12 Reed Buntings were seen at close range coming to seed again on the causeway by the bridge.


A shot of yesterday's escaped hybrid aythya at Herriott's Pool.

SATURDAY 11th
Despite the continuing thaw, most of the lake is still under a sheet of ice, with a few clear areas of water holding all the birds still remaining. Two Bitterns were again seen from Herriott's Bridge this afternoon; one flew north over the main reedbed and the other was seen on the ice on the east side of the pool. At least three Water Rails were also seen on the embankment at Herriott's, one showing at very close range. An escaped hybrid aythya wearing a blue plastic ring was watched at close range at Herriott's Bridge this afternoon.

FRIDAY 10th
Three Bitterns were reported today.

THURSDAY 9th
Two Bitterns were again seen at Herriott's Pool, and a first-winter male Smew was also there. Three Bewick's Swans, two Water Pipits and 10 Dunlin were at Herriott's End, a Woodcock was reported on the Parkland and a Greater Scaup off Woodford Bank.

TUESDAY 7th
Still sub-zero with a very thick layer of frosty snowy stuff on everything, making the place look rather picturesque. Most of the lake is still frozen, with the following wildfowl seen on the few patches of open water - the male Smew (Herriott's Pool), male Greater Scaup and Red-breasted Merganser (Woodford Bank), the three Bewick's Swans (Herriott's End - given this species recent Chew record it's a wonder they're still here), and the male Black Redstart was seen again at Woodford Lodge.

MONDAY 6th
The male Black Redstart has reappeared around the boat shed on Woodford Bank, with a Kingfisher nearby. At least 50 Goosander were on a small patch of open water off Whalley Bank.

SUNDAY 5th
Despite the sunshine and (relatively) balmy temperatures today, an overnight freeze meant that much of the lake was again under a sheet of ice, with most of the lake's birds crammed into a few ice-free areas around the shore. There were still a few good birds around, too - the male Ring-necked Duck and Red-breasted Merganser (Moreton), the male Ferruginous Duck (Herriott's End), the male Smew, looking a bit scruffy coming out of eclipse (Moreton and Stratford), at least 45 Goosander, nine Dunlin, one Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpipers, and one each of Peregrine, Water Pipit and Redshank. At least two or three Bitterns were also seen; one at Nunnery Point/Villice Bay, another walking around the SW edge of Herriott's Pool for 45 minutes this morning and two at Herriott's Pool at dusk.

However the bird of the day was a Snow Bunting on the shore at Twycross/Hollow Brook, exactly the same spot as the last one, in October 1992.

A check of all six hides around the lake this weekend for butterflies and moths was surprisingly fruitful - totals of all hibernating insects (only found in four of the hides) as follows: One Small Tortoiseshell, 16 Peacocks, one Herald, two Depressaria daucella, two Agonopterix heracliana/ciliella, five Green Lacewing, 113 Harlequin Ladybirds, one Two-spot Ladybird and 13 wasps; of the wasps, the only one I photographed looked like a German Wasp. More photos just here.

SATURDAY 4th
An overnight thaw, but still quite a bit of ice around. An adult male Smew was seen at the picnic sites/Denny today; a male Ferruginous Duck, a Greater Scaup, the male Red-breasted Merganser and the family of three Bewick's Swans were also still present. Up to 20 Dunlin were seen around the lake, but a real surprise was a Sanderling at Herriott's End. An uncommon Chew bird at the best of times; we would normally expect one or two in May and perhaps again in August or September, but one in December is pretty unusual, if not unprecedented. There were three at Farmoor (Oxfordshire) in the week. A Water Pipit, a Redshank and a Peregrine were seen at Stratford.

***Please note that hotmail is apparently rejecting all incoming emails from my ISP, so you may receive a delayed response if you have been contacting me through a hotmail address. Or possibly none at all. Sorry!***

FRIDAY 3rd
With another calm, sub-zero night, large parts of the lake surface were frozen today. Four Greater Scaup (adult male, two adult females and a first-winter) were thought to be new birds, otherwise just nine Dunlin, a Curlew and a Peregrine were seen. A Woodcock was seen in flight over Herriott's Bridge at dusk.

There have been no reports of any Bitterns since the weekend; as the water level is still low on the main lake, the only reedbeds that are not dry are those on Herriott's Pool, Stratford Pools and possibly around the bund in the main reedbed, all of which have frozen - perhaps all the Bitterns have cleared off?

WEDNESDAY 1st
Three Smew (an adult male and two redheads) were with the male Red-breasted Merganser at Nunnery Point, and two Greater Scaup were nearby in the mouth of Heron's Green Bay. A male Ferruginous Duck and 13 Dunlin were in Stratford Bay.

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