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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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  MAY 2011

A Common Tern and two Arctic Terns were new in today; we often get Arctics during a spell of strong westerlies. Not in December though.

Two late Ringed Plover were on Stratford Islands this afternoon, and several thousand Swifts were again over the lake in the miserable weather.

A Marsh Harrier was seen over Woodford Lodge at 13:00 today; otherwise a Little Egret at Stratford and several thousand Swifts in the continuing cold windy weather were the highlights.

A windy day produced three Common Terns and an Arctic Tern this afternoon; three Ringed Plover also flew through.

A Hobby was seen over Stratford Bay this afternoon, and the odd Chiffchaff was heard singing again there.

The odd Chiffchaff was still singing in the Stratford hide/car park area today.

An unusual Chiffchaff was seen and heard singing today in the area of Stratford car park. Appearing a little brighter, and with a more strongly-marked supercilium than would be expected, it also gave an unusual song, consisting of a single repeated 'chip' note. Not quite the correct song for Iberian Chiffchaff though. A similar bird was present last year in the Moreton area.

The two Garganey were still on Herriott's Pool today; also seen were a Spotted Flycatcher at Hollow Brook and the female Goldeneye at BK hide.

A pair of Garganey was seen on Herriott's Pool early this morning.

An Oystercatcher was at the dam and a Cuckoo was again in the Moreton/Stratford area today. Two Little Ringed Plovers were seen briefly at Stratford hide, and two House Sparrows were at Herriott's Bridge. A brood of nine Shelducks has emerged on Herriott's Pool.

There is still at least some migration going on, as there were 15 Dunlin and at least two Ringed Plover new-in today. A female Goldeneye again looks set to oversummer; the other day she was on Heron's Green Pool, and this afternoon she was lounging about on a post in Stratford Bay. Two Cuckoos were seen/heard today.

A number of Brown Argus were on the wing at Nunnery Point this afternoon, and plenty of Burnet Companions were about as well.

Some of the Dunlin flock at the overspill. The count of 15 today was a good one for spring passage at Chew; as May counts go, it's been bettered or equalled only twice since 1977 - 45 in May 1998 and 15 in May 2006. One short-billed bird (left) was unusually grey with no strong rufous tones on the mantle and scapulars despite being in full summer plumage. What does arctica look like?

When Chew is at full capacity, this post in Stratford Bay is submerged. At the moment we appear to be about seven Goldeneye below top level (1.1m), which is pretty low for the middle of May. You can see from the pale band just over half way down the height to which top level rose over the winter; the drawdown since the level started falling again in the second week of April can be seen as about 30cm.

A Common Sandpiper was seen at the dam, and a Cuckoo was still signing in the Moreton/Stratford area.

The Marsh Harrier was seen at several sites around the lake today; a Cuckoo was calling at Moreton again.

The Sanderling and Ring-necked Duck were both still present, and a female/first-year Marsh Harrier was seen around the southern end of the lake.

The male Ring-necked Duck was on Herriott's Pool this morning; also around the lake were one Little Ringed Plover (Stratford), a Sanderling (Heron's Green causeway) and a Barn Owl (Heron's Green Pool).

However the prize for find of the month goes to a Marsh Fritillary seen along the roadside verge at Herriott's Bridge this afternoon. Previously unrecorded at Chew, the closest colony in recent years was at Folly Farm, which became extinct in 1993, although there was a subsequent failed reintroduction attempt. Historically they occurred at Blagdon (last documented in 1965), and encouragingly a caterpillar was found there on April 5th this year. They still persist on the Mendips; perhaps it wouldn't be too rash to think that these could one day colonize the old meadows around the Parkland which are stiff with Devil's-bit Scabious...?

Which reminds me, please keep an eye out whilst visiting the meadows around Villice or Heron's Green Bay for Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth. A single moth was recorded at Chew for the first time last year in the meadow at Villice (the L-shaped one with the Barn Owl box). They fly in the sunshine in May and June, but beware the bee-fly which can appear similar if you're not familiar with them.

A male Ring-necked Duck was a surprise find in Heron's Green Bay this morning; two Black Terns were also still present.

Four Black Terns and a Yellow Wagtail were seen from Stratford hide this evening.

An immature Spoonbill was seen at 07:00 this morning - it flew from the island in front of Stratford hide and off over the East shore.

Chew's 14th Spoonbill (Sean Davies)

A flock of 16 Black Terns was present today, as was a first-winter Little Gull, and a Cuckoo at Moreton still.

Sixteen Black Terns by recent standards is a pretty good spring count at Chew - the most recent higher spring count was 24 in 1994. If you've been thinking that Black Tern numbers at Chew have been rather rubbish lately you'd be quite right, as the graph above shows. Peak spring counts (purple line) do tend to fluctuate, but even so we're overdue a good one. Peak autumn counts (blue line) have been similarly lacklustre of late - it's been six years since we had a flock into three figures.

Eight Black Terns were present this evening. Also seen were four first-summer Yellow-legged Gulls, two Common Sandpipers, one Snipe, nine Black-tailed Godwits, a Yellow Wagtail and a Goldeneye. Nice to see a pair of Lapwing displaying on the islands in front of Stratford hide.

Sadly the Black Terns today are only a glimmer of the tern and wader passage going on in the upper estuary at the moment.

A late Snipe was the only bird of note reported so far today.

Barnacle Goose at Herriott's Pool (Lauren Tucker)

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