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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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In Association with Birding Top 500 Counter

   JANUARY 2010

A Smew and the male Red-breasted Merganser were off Nunnery Point this morning, and an adult Mediterranean Gull was at Picnic site No.1 this evening. At Herriott's Bridge, at least five Water Rails were seen/heard, and a Bittern was reported in flight over Stratford Bay.

Little to report today, other than a female Smew in Heron's Green/Villice Bays, the male Red-breasted Merganser still, and a second-winter Mediterranean Gull in the roost.

Still quiet, in fact a fairly typical mid-winter's day (birdwise) now that the level is up. Two Smew (Villice and Heron's Green Bays), 14 Goosander, one Red-breasted Merganser, one Snipe, one adult Mediterranean Gull and one adult Yellow-legged Gull.

An Otter was seen on the north shore of Villice Bay this afternoon.

Three Smew were in Heron's Green Bay today (in the 'toe' of the bay, to the right); also a Green Sandpiper there. The male Red-breasted Merganser was on the main lake, as usual, with a female Goosander. An adult Mediterranean Gull was seen in Stratford Bay, and two Barn Owls were over the main reedbed, watched from Herriott's Bridge this evening.

An Otter was seen again to the left of Stratford hide.

Two redhead Smew were still in Villice Bay this morning, whilst at Herriott's Bridge this evening, a most unusual sight - two Woodcocks chasing each other about (at 17:20).

Two Smew, 34 Goosander and the male Red-breasted Merganser.

A Smew was seen briefly at Stratford today, and the male Red-breasted Merganser has now returned to the lake as well. The gull roost produced an adult Ring-billed Gull and a Mediterranean Gull again. Potentially the rarest Chew bird was an Asio owl seen flying south at the back of Herriott's Pool at dusk.

Still two Smew seen at various locations on the lake during the course of the day; also a very respectable (by recent standards) 36 Goosander, 20 Barnacle Geese, five Ravens, and one Water Rail still showing well on the causeway at Herriott's Bridge.

Another fine winters day, and the lake was again teeming with punters. Inevitably, a lot of good birds were seen: three redhead Smew, with two in Heron's Green/Villice Bays and one at Stratford, one male Greater Scaup (Stratford), two Marsh Tits (Bittern Trail), Water Rail (Herriott's), two Woodcocks (Twycross, and Herriott's Bridge at 16:50), at least two Bitterns (showed well in reeds to the left of Stratford hide, with one in flight from there to the main reedbed), an adult Mediterranean Gull (Herriott's Pool), and probably in the region of 25 Goosander.

A Mink was seen from Stratford hide.

An adult male Smew was on No.2 tank today.

It's not often that we get a nice close-up look at a Mediterranean Gull at Herriott's Pool.

With temperatures almost into double figures for a second day, it's hard to imagine that two days ago the lake was under a blanket of snow and ice; today most of the ice on the main lake has melted and you'd be hard pressed to find a flake of snow anywhere. The thaw should see the lake water level rise significantly over the next few days.

Birds are now starting to find their way back, and a couple of good ones to get the yearlist padded out were two redhead Smew (one each at Moreton Point and Herriott's Pool), and an adult Ring-billed Gull on the ice at Herriott's End this afternoon. Two Bitterns were seen in flight at Herriott's over the main reedbed. Other birds included 16 Lapwing , one Little Egret (roosted at Herriott's), five Great Crested Grebes and 19 Goosander.

An unexpected highlight at Herriott's Bridge late this afternoon was a Mole which suddenly appeared in the middle of the A368. It showed an unfeasible turn of speed as it shot back and forth across the road, before the traffic was stopped and it was eventually rounded up and released further down the road on the grass verge. A surprising number of people present said that it was the first live Mole they'd ever seen.

Bittern at Stratford (Jim Parry)

With temperatures now well above freezing the snow is rapidly melting, although there remains some thick ice across the lake. There were three Bitterns at Herriott's Pool this afternoon; one on the ice in the NW corner, and two flew over the road into the main reedbed at 16:50. Water Rails are still showing well at the bridge, with six seen today (one from Wednesday in the snow here). Also there were the two Skylarks still, and a second-winter Mediterranean Gull.

The two Skylarks were still at Herriott's Bridge today, as were 18 Barnacle Geese and a Green Sandpiper. A Snipe was seen at Heron's Green Pool (where there was also a Brown Hare), but again no sign of the Bittern or Jack Snipe.

A Slavonian Grebe was present on No.3 this morning; it was first seen yesterday.

Another load of snow overnight. The Bittern at Heron's Green Bay was looked for a few times today without success. Six Skylarks flew west there, and two more were feeding around Herriott's Bridge all day - an unusual sight to see as they are usually only seen in flight over Chew. At one point they were even running around on the frozen lake. Otherwise, passerines were notable by their absence, even the thrushes were few and far between today. A few Water Rails and Reed Buntings continue to be seen at seed on Herriott's Bridge. Two Lapwings were at Heron's Green Pool, a Snipe and two Bullfinches were seen in the overspill by the dam; the latter seem to be particularly easy to come by in recent weeks.

A few snowy snaps from today are at my photo blog.

The Bittern was seen again in the reedbed culvert in the NW corner of Heron's Green Pool.

Two Bitterns again today; one in flight at the back of Herriott's Pool this morning, and the second watched walking along the reedbed on the NW side of Heron's Green Bay. Also single Jack Snipe and Green Sandpiper there.

There have been a few sightings of Foxes on the frozen lake in the last few days, with three at Stratford this morning. An Otter was seen near the 'Bittern' reeds in Heron's Green Bay.

Again, three Bitterns were seen, with two in flight at Herriott's Bridge and the other bird in the channel through the reedbed in the NW corner of Heron's Green Bay (where there was also a Jack Snipe). Two Goosander and a Peregrine were seen sat on the ice on the main lake; up to 17 Reed Buntings and three Water Rails were coming to the seed along the reed-edge on the NW causeway of Herriott's Bridge.

An unusual view of a Bittern at Chew, stood in the open, unmolested by reed stems.

More of the same - more sub-zero temperatures, very pretty scenery and few birds. Nevertheless, the weekend contingent did produce at least three Bitterns today; two were seen in flying east over Herriott's End from the Ringing Station at 11:45, one of which flew back in the direction of Stratford hide some 20 minutes later. One was then seen on Heron's Green Pool; it was watched at very close range in vegetation near the pump. It later moved further back into the rough field on the right, then went under the hedge, walked across the B3114, went under the other hedge and into the reedbed on the north side of Heron's Green Bay. There was a further report of two Bitterns here this evening.

Little else to report, other than a female Pintail and a juvenile Goldeneye which joined the puddle-ducks being fed at Herriott's Bridge this afternoon. A few Water Rails and Reed Buntings were seen at seed on the north side of the bridge along the causeway.

A Woodlark was seen flying over the Lakeside Optics shop and over the dam this afternoon - another species in less than a fortnight with no previous records at the lake. What next?

The freezing weather continues, with most of the lake under a layer of ice and snow, and as such most of the wildfowl have left. A few ice-free pools remain in front of Woodford Bank, the most notable occupants of which were 28 Wigeon - a pretty decent count! Herriott's Pool only has a small ice-free patch by the overspill and at the back where the Chew comes in, containing 18 Barnacle Geese, 37 Mute Swans, 94 Canada Geese, six Gadwall, one Shoveler, 212 Teal, 18 Pintail, four Shelduck and four Little Grebes. A couple of ice-free patches on the main lake held a few Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Pochard. 41 Lapwing were on Heron's Green Pool.

The male Red-breasted Merganser, 16 Goosander, a Greater Scaup, 35 Wigeon and 74 Goldeneye were seen off Woodford Bank (in what little ice-free water there was on the lake today), and 139 Teal, 22 Pintail, a Chiffchaff and a Barn Owl were at Herriott's. There was a report of a Bittern again on the north side of Heron's Green Bay.

An Otter was seen again, this time on Moreton Lane north of the hide.

One from the weekend. A couple more from 1st are at my photo blog.

With thick fog for most of the day, and a largely frozen lake, nine Goosander and a Barn Owl (Herriott's) were the only birds reported.

The Mustelid-fest continues with a Mink at Hollow Brook this morning.

The Cattle Egret was seen in flight past Moreton Bank today (it appeared to head past Herriott's Pool). Ten Goosander were seen in Heron's Green Bay, and a juvenile Peregrine flew north over Herriott's Bridge.

This colour-ringed Pied Wagtail was seen on December 28th, and again this evening at Herriott's Bridge. It was ringed at Slapton (Devon) on 17th October 2008.

The Cattle Egret was seen in the usual field today, but it had gone (along with the cattle) by later this afternoon. Other birds as follows: Long-tailed Duck (BK hide), first-winter Mediterranean Gull and male Red-breasted Merganser (Stratford Bay), 14 Goosanders (Woodford Bank), two Kingfishers, one Water Rail (Herriott's Bridge), Barn Owl and Green Sandpiper (Heron's Green Bay).

A fine, sunny day, and some good coverage as a result. The Cattle Egret appeared in the field south of Heron's Green Pool this morning (earlier, both it and the cattle were absent); a Little Egret was also seen in the ditch in that field, along with a good number of Redwings, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Starlings. The rest was a continuation of 2009; the Long-tailed Duck off BK hide, the Red-breasted Merganser (No.1 Picnic Site), an adult Peregrine (at Herriott's late afternoon for the Starling roost), Kingfisher (Herriott's) and a Bittern - unusually, seen in the NW corner of Heron's Green Bay.

The Great Northern Diver was still present today.

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