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This page gives you the latest bird and wildlife news from Chew Valley Lake (and sometimes elsewhere if there's anything 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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  APRIL 2013

TUESDAY 30th
The female Woodchat Shrike was still at Widcombe Common and the first-summer male Long-tailed Duck was seen again early this morning at long range off Sutton Wick. Three Arctic Terns were still over the lake, and a female Marsh Harrier was at Moreton this afternoon; also single Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Egyptian Goose and two Greater Scaup.

MONDAY 29th
The female Woodchat Shrike was still in position behind Herriott's Pool, and the first-summer male Long-tailed Duck was for most of the day off Sutton Wick.

Other birds around the lake today were three Arctic Terns, six Common Sandpipers, a male Greater Scaup, one Wheatear, a Hobby and 300 Swifts.


The first-summer male Long-tailed Duck off Wick Green Point.(Keith Vinicombe).

SUNDAY 28th
No sign of the Bonaparte's Gull today unfortunately. A first-summer male Long-tailed Duck was a new arrival in Stratford Bay; unusually for the species at Chew it spent a lot of time picking flies from the lake surface. Elsewhere around the lake were six Common Sandpipers, one Whimbrel, one Green Sandpiper, one Whinchat (Parkland), two Arctic Terns and a pair of Greater Scaup. The female Woodchat Shrike was still at Widcombe Common.

Two Brown Hares were seen this afternoon; one on the Parkland, another by Heron's Green Pool.

SATURDAY 27th
The purple patch continues with a long overdue, but nevertheless superb find this afternoon in the form of a summer-plumage adult Bonaparte's Gull feeding with the Black-headed Gulls in the middle of the lake. This is a first for both Chew and the Avon recording area, and makes me wonder why we spend hours in the freezing winter evenings watching the world's most distant gull roost, when the best gulls seem to appear here during the daytime in spring. It spent most of the afternoon and evening swimming about on a very choppy lake surface, occasionally flying around for short periods, but unfortunately views were not particularly luxurious.

Speaking of luxurious views, the first-summer female Woodchat Shrike was again at Widcombe Common today. Please keep a sensible distance from the bird; if you are own your own then it can allow a close approach, and may even approach you, but when a few people start to gather round it can keep the bird from feeding, and may push it back into the next field along, which is more difficult to view.

Otherwise, more of the same on the lake, with five Whimbrels, 13 Common Sandpipers, two Greater Scaup, two Common Terns, two Arctic Terns, three Wheatear, one Peregrine, two Dunlin and a female Pied Flycatcher at the far end of the Bittern Trail.


It really was that distant - the adult summer Bonaparte's Gull off Moreton hide. (Keith Vinicombe, left, and John Martin, right four).

FRIDAY 26th
No sign of the Whiskered Tern today, but the female Woodchat Shrike remained. A Black Tern, two Common Terns and three Arctic Terns were present, but there was no sign of the Whiskered.

A very high spring total of at least 27 Common Sandpipers was particularly noteworthy (the second-highest ever spring count); there was a single flock of 22 at Nunnery Point. Other birds seen around the lake were two Hobbies, two Wheatears, one Yellow Wagtail, 500+ Swifts and three Greater Scaups.


A great shot of three species of tern on the fish cages yesterday. Arctic, Common and Whiskered. No more clues. (Chris Stone).

THURSDAY 25th
The female Woodchat Shrike was still at Widcombe Common all day, but a surprise was the (re)appearance of a Whiskered Tern, this evening showing well with one Black Tern, two Arctic Terns and two Common Terns. At least two Whimbrels (seems to be quite a few moving overhead), a Hobby, three Greater Scaup, two Yellow Wagtails, one White Wagtail, one Little Ringed Plover, one Wheatear, 10 Common Sandpipers, two Whitethroats and a Wood Warbler were also seen today. Good numbers of Swallows, too.


What a difference a bit of light makes. The left two were taken on Tuesday, the right two this evening at the same time from the same place. The sun on Tuesday has burnt out the pale areas of plumage making it difficult to evaluate the true extent of the pale grey feathering on the breast and throat. Conversely, today's murky conditions have exaggerated the blacks and greys, making objective comparisons very difficult. What about the primary pattern?

WEDNESDAY 24th
No sign of the Whiskered Tern today, but the female Woodchat Shrike remained.

TUESDAY 23rd
One of those splendid days that doesn't happen very often, when not one, but two really good birds are seen at the lake. The female Woodchat Shrike remained at her chosen hedge by the pond at Widcombe Common, then an adult Whiskered Tern was found with up to 17 Arctic Terns off Woodford Bank. The presence of a couple of them at Shapwick Heath on Sunday made this less of a surprise than it otherwise would have been, but nevertheless a very welcome visitor. That's the fourth record (fifth bird) of Whiskered Tern at Chew.

Other birds seen today were two Lesser Whitethroats (behind Herriott's), three Greater Scaup and seven Whimbrel.


Adult summer Whiskered Tern (middle) and two Arctic Terns on the fish cages off Woodford Bank. Although never close, the light this evening was perfect for scope views as it perched with the Arctic Terns.

MONDAY 22nd
The first-summer female Woodchat Shrike remained in her chosen hedge by the pond, murdering bumble bees and giving superb views all day. On the lake, ten Arctic Terns, 25 Swifts and six Common Sandpipers were seen.

SUNDAY 21st
What was already looking like a pretty decent month became easily the best month for nearly a year with the discovery of a Woodchat Shrike at North Widcombe late this morning. It was re-found early this afternoon and stayed faithful to a 30m section of hedge next to the pond, catching bees all afternoon, remaining constantly on view. Click here for a map.

At the lake, the male Ring-necked Duck remained (Stratford hide), with a nice selection of migrants still about - a big arrival of Sedge Warblers over the weekend, a Lesser Whitethroat, three Wheatears, a female Redstart, two Whinchats, one White Wagtail, two Yellow Wagtails, four Common Sandpipers, one Green Sandpiper, one male Greater Scaup, a male Tufted Duck x Pochard, nine Whimbrel (four over in the morning and five over the shrike this evening), eight Arctic Terns and one Common Tern.


Female Woodchat Shrike - Widcombe Common. About time we had some excitement. Initially we thought that this was an adult female, but a photo of a wing-stretch shows a clear moult contrast on the primaries and primary coverts, indicating a first-summer. In fact you can even just about make it out in the picture above. Thanks to Martin Cade for giving it the once-over.

SATURDAY 20th
A Nightingale trapped and ringed this morning was a real Chew rarity; the last was in 2006. A male Ring-necked Duck was found in Heron's Green Bay, two Grasshopper Warblers were heard singing, eight White Wagtails and the first Cuckoo of the year was heard singing.


This morning's Nightingale at CVRS. (Chris Craig).

FRIDAY 19th
Still 66 Arctic Terns (and one Common Tern) off Woodford today; also three Little Ringed Plovers at Heron's Green Pool.

THURSDAY 18th
Continuing strong westerly winds, gusting to 30mph this afternoon produced the biggest flock of Arctic Terns to be recorded at the lake. Many counts made during the course of the afternoon and evening gave an average of about 130 birds; nearly twice the previous maximum count.

Also around the lake, a Red Kite over the Parkland at midday, the first Hobby of the year, seven White Wagtails, one Yellow Wagtail, three Common Sandpipers, one Green Sandpiper, one Little Ringed Plover, one Wheatear and three Greater Scaup.

White Wagtails continue to have an excellent spring. Has anyone checked the bare field at Perry Farm?


It was difficult to get a shot that gives much of an impression of what a flock of 130 Arctic Terns looks like swirling around Chew. As you can see. Chew's size is a bit of a double-edged sword; on the one hand it pulls in the best seabirds and tern flocks, but on the other, the birds are always bloody miles away...

WEDNESDAY 17th
A male Pied Flycatcher was at Moreton Cottage today - a good bird to find at Chew. Three Greater Scaup and eight Common Terns remained. Also seen were three redpolls, including one which may have been a Mealy.

Thanks to Chris Stone for passing on the details of a colour-ringed White Wagtail he saw on the dam on April 13th. It was a female, ringed at Slapton Lay (Devon) on 15th September 2012.

TUESDAY 16th
A juvenile Great Northern Diver was an unexpected find today; Common Terns were still present throughout the day, with numbers increasing to 88 in the evening. A good spring count. Sedge Warblers were heard singing at Nunnery Point and the Grebe Trail.

MONDAY 15th
Four White Wagtails and two Common Sandpiperswere still in Heron's Green Bay today, and 19 Common Terns arrived at midday.

SUNDAY 14th
What turned out to be a rainy, breezy day also turned out to be a good day for migrants, with a couple of decent counts made around the lake. Eleven Common Sandpipers and ten White Wagtails were notable, but there were also singles of Yellow Wagtail (Heron's Green Bay), Wheatear (Moreton Bank field), Little Ringed Plover, (Heron's Green), a Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper (Heron's Green Bay), a Merlin (flew NW over Moreton Lane - a good CVL record) and a small number of Willow Warblers and House Martins. There were plenty of Swallows and Sand Martins over the lake, and the female Greater Scaup (Stratford Bay) as well. The Egyptian Goose pair were at the main dam.

A Little Grebe was heard trilling in the trapping area. This species has not bred successfully at Chew since 2009; perhaps this year they'll have better luck?

An Otter was seen briefly in front of Stratford hide in the afternoon; it swam out of view into the bay towards Moreton Bank.

SATURDAY 13th
Two Egyptian Geese again today - could our first breeding record of this Cat C species be on the cards? Three Greater Scaup (two males and a female) remained, as did one Little Gull. The first Sedge Warbler of the year was seen today, and there were good numbers of Sand Martins and Swallows over the lake in the rain, but no sign of the Ring-billed Gull in the roost this evening.

The water level has drawn down a few centimeters over the last week or two; the first time since last May that the lake has not been full to capacity. Very likely to be the longest it's ever been continuously full.

FRIDAY 12th
A pleasant surprise in the shape of four first-winter Velvet Scoters this morning off Sutton Wick - two males and two females. There have been six previous records, all but one of small flocks. They were still present this evening, very distantly off Nunnery Point, where at times they shared a field-of-view with a second-summer Ring-billed Gull in the roost. Two Common Terns, two Little Gulls (an adult and a first-winter), a Greater Scaup and a Curlew were also seen. Decent numbers of hirundines today, too, and a male Redstart at the bottom of Stratford Lane.

WEDNESDAY 10th
A weak trickle of migrants still arriving in spite of the un-springlike weather. A small fall of Willow Warblers, three Blackcaps, three White Wagtails, a Yellow Wagtail, a Common Sandpiper, a Sandwich Tern, a Common Tern and five House Martins. Also a Little Gull, male Greater Scaup and a Woodcock, seen at Moreton Cottage.

TUESDAY 9th
BARROW TANKS
Two Slavonian Grebes were seen on Tank 2 this afternoon.

MONDAY 8th
A male Garganey was seen at Stratford and later at Herriott's Pool. The first House Martin of the year also appeared today; still present was the adult Little Gull.

SUNDAY 7th
Four Red-breasted Mergansers this morning was a good-sized flock for Chew; also seen today were an Osprey, three Green Sandpipers, a Little Gull and a Curlew.

SATURDAY 6th
A late Jack Snipe was seen with five Snipe this morning; an Osprey was seen again between Stratford and Moreton.

FRIDAY 5th
Still an Osprey present today, watched at Herriott's Pool this evening. Also 50-plus Sand Martins there. Not surprisingly given the weather, it's been a very slow arrival of these this year.

THURSDAY 4th
At least one Osprey was seen again today; also around were two Redpolls on Herriott's Bridge, 50-plus Redwings, two Fieldfares, two Wheatears and two Little Ringed Plovers.

WEDNESDAY 3rd
An Osprey was seen again today at various locations; another Marsh Harrier, this time a male, flew north up the East shore at 10:25. A selection of other reports around the lake as follows - 40 Sand Martins, three Swallows, 11 Goosanders, five Wigeon, two Little Ringed Plovers, two Wheatear, three Greater Scaup, 20 Chiffchaffs, and one each of Tawny Owl (roosting on the Bittern Trail), Green Sandpiper, Dunlin and Egyptian Goose.

TUESDAY 2nd
Two Ospreys were again present today, showing well on occasions at Herriott's Pool.

MONDAY 1st
Five Swallows were at Herriott's Pool today. On the dam first thing this morning there were two Little Ringed Plovers, two Redshank, two Green Sandpipers and a White Wagtail.

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