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3rd May 2022 – Chew Valley Lake, North Somerset

I spent the day at Chew Valley Lake which, even though I am now out of my surgical boot, is currently my go-to place for birding as I don’t have to walk any great distance. At least I have ventured out of my garden!

The local birders I met all said that it was a very quiet time at the lake, suggesting that poor weather over the Iberian Peninsula had held up migrants. I did see some house martins but no other hirundines.

In fact, there wasn’t a great variety of birds around but I was so pleased to see a pair of great crested grebes perform the beautiful, highly ritualised moves of their courtship dance, including the weed ceremony.

Other highlights were 3 hobbies and a male gadwall.

Hobby

Gadwall

Slideshow of photos from today

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5th April 2022 – Chew Valley, North Somerset

Having recovered from COVID it’s been good to get out and about these last few days. My Achilles’ tendon injury still limits how far I can walk but I’ve taken the opportunity to see bird activity around Chew Valley and Blagdon lakes without venturing too far from my car.

The most attractive birds have been the great crested grebes which are in breeding plumage; however, I have been disappointed not see their courting displays.

There are always plenty of mute swans which still amaze me in flight.

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebe

Red-legged partridge

How do these huge birds manage to fly (and so gracefully)?

Mute swan

Peregrine falcon quite far out in Chew Valley lake

Pheasant on the walkway at Stratford hide Chew Valley lake

A pair of great spotted woodpeckers could be heard drilling regularly near Stratford hide

Great tits are also very vocal

Chaffinch

I was very pleased to see St Andrew’s Church in Blagdon flying the Ukrainian flag – I was confirmed in this church many many years ago

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21st March 2022 – Bristol

When you’ve been confined to a surgical boot with a torn Achilles’ tendon for 3 months and then you get COVID you have to be thankful that the weather brightens up and that you have a garden to enjoy some of the joys of spring. But then again you have to be thankful it’s a tiny garden.

Goldfinch
Long-tailed tit
Starling
Jackdaw
Chaffinch
Woodpigeon
Blue tit
Greenfinch
Great tit
Blackcap
House sparrow

Slideshow of some of the birds and bees in my garden in the last few days:

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8th March 2022 – Chew Valley Lake, North Somerset

It is well known that time spent in nature is connected to cognitive and mental health benefits, as well as improvements in mood and emotional well-being. Well how I needed a day like today, bird watching in the Chew Valley just south of Bristol!

To some extent the frustration at not being able to get out and about because of my Achilles’ tendon rupture has got to me; but more than anything seeing the atrocities in Ukraine, and the suffering of the poor people there who have done nothing to have such horror inflicted upon them, has affected me considerably.

I wasn’t able to completely forget their plight but I did have a pleasant day without any news broadcasts and without even looking at my phone.

I spent most of the day on my own but I did spend a little while talking to Keith Vinicombe, the author of a local natural history book of this area which I bought before Christmas and which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Keith was in the company of John Rosetti (who compiled and edited the book) and I was very pleased to meet them and congratulate them on their splendid work. I particularly enjoyed the book because I was brought up in this area and, as well as a fantastic reference of the birds of Chew Valley, it relates the history of the lake which was constructed when I was a boy growing up here.

As for the birds I didn’t see as many as I have in recent visits but for much of the day there was good light and I enjoyed my time taking photographs.

I started my day at the Stratford hide

The great crested grebes are looking magnificent

The view from Herriots Bridge

Great crested grebe from Herriots Bridge

A good lunch here

Great white egret on Herriots Pool

Great white egret

Grey wagtail on Herriots Pool

Pied wagtail at the dam

Pied wagtail

A good selection of gulls on Herriots Pool

There were plenty of opportunities to see mute swans in flight from Herriots Bridge

Mute swan

John Rosetti pointed out a kingfisher to me – I had great difficulty in seeing it. Can you see why? If you look very carefully you can just see its back.

Canada goose at Herriots Pool

Why do people not like gulls?

Tufted duck at Herons Green

Tufted ducks everywhere
on the water

.. and in the air

Childhood memories came back with daffodils and primroses along the verges

.. and snowdrops

.. and my first celandine of the year

Slideshow of my photos from today:

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7th February 2022 – Chew Valley Lake, North Somerset

Another very mild day for February. We spent the morning at Chew Valley Lake where, as well as a good cup of coffee at Woodford Lodge, we were able to see birds on the lake from the road and from a hide (Stratford) to which I could drive.

The view from the Stratford hide
The view from Herriots Bridge with great white egret, a grey heron and cormorants on the far bank

The sun shone briefly to give us some nice views of the lake. Most of the wildfowl were in the middle of the lake but we could make out large flocks of tufted ducks, pochard and lapwings.

Canada geese and lapwings from the Stratford hide. I think the carcass may well have been a Canada goose by the size of it.
Pochard at the back with tufted ducks in front of this large flock of wildfowl

There was also one small group of tufted ducks which were combined with goldeneye.

Lapwings in flight
Tufted ducks
A male goldeneye on the left at the back with females in front and mixed in with the tufted ducks

Slideshow of this morning’s photos:

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4th February 2022 – WWT Slimbridge

I have to concede that the injury to my Achilles’ tendon (which is now booted 24/7) is causing me great frustration, especially as I have been unable to get out and savour the joys of nature on which I have become more and more reliant.

In January and the beginning of February, in this part of the country, we have had a number of sunny and relatively mild days . Thankfully, yesterday I managed to enjoy one of them at one of the UK’s finest wetland centres, WWT Slimbridge. I only managed to get to the first two hides but I saw enough there to alleviate my frustrations.

This week it was World Wetlands Day, “which is celebrated annually on 2 February and aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and planet. A call to take action for wetlands is the focus of this years’ campaign. It’s an appeal to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded. 2 February 2022 is the first year that World Wetlands Day will be observed as a United Nations international day” – (extract from the linked website which is well worth having a look at.)

The wetlands teeming with wildfowl and waders

The first bird we saw on the Rushy lake was an avocet, the iconic emblem of the RSPB. In fact this was the only one we saw on our visit.

Avocet

From this first hide you get really good close-ups of the birds and is generally a good place to get photos of birds in flight or on the water.

Lapwing
Common teal
Shelduck
Wigeon
Bewick swan
Mute swan

From the next hide you have good views over the wetlands which are pretty spectacular when all the birds are feeding but amazing when something spooks them and the large flocks take to the air.

Golden plover
Wigeon taking to the air with lapwing in the foreground and a common crane behind
Mixed flock
Mainly wigeon in the middle of the image
Swans, shelduck, two common cranes and greylag geese at the back
Mainly golden plover in the air
Northern pintail – definitely one of my favourites
I just couldn’t get this northern shoveler to face me

The first signs of spring were most evident too.

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18th January 2022 – Chew Valley, North Somerset

Sitting in a damp, cold hide in the middle of January is not quite my idea of heaven but it was certainly better than sitting on the sofa at home. “Nature is good for your mental health” I have read so often of late and I would certainly concur from my experience today.

Snipe on ice
A wisp (the collective noun, I gather) of 5 snipe

It was not a day for great photos but the snipe in front of the Stratford hide at Chew Valley lake were more obliging than usual; and the sight of a flock of teal being spooked by a peregrine at close quarters and a marsh harrier overhead were a blessing for me (but maybe not for the teal). Golden eyes are very cute too.

I wonder how many snipe were hiding in the reeds?
Goldeneye
Teal chased by a peregrine
Peregrine
Marsh harrier

A pheasant at Blagdon Lake (which was teaming with ducks) on the way back was the most colourful of the day and a kestrel near Banwell was a bonus.

Pheasant at Blagdon Lake
Kestrel near Banwell

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16th January 2022 – Forest of Dean

I had read that the best way to see hawfinches in the Forest of Dean was to stay in your car and, as that is the sort of birding I am restricted to at the moment, I saw an opportunity. In fact, I did have to get out of the car at Parkend but did manage to see three hawfinches. However, they were very high up and almost impossible to photograph.

A very distant hawfinch
Hawfinch almost as distant

At Cannop Ponds we stopped near a feeder and the best I managed to photo was a marsh tit, a nut hatch and a little grebe on the pond.

Marsh tit
Nuthatch
Nuthatch
Marsh tit
Little grebe
These wigeon made quite a din
Nuthatch very nervous of the larger blackbird
… but looking much more aggressive here
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12th January 2022 – Llanelli Beach and The Gower

A planned visit to the Llanelli Wetlands Centre proved not to be feasible due to my Achilles injury but it’s amazing what can be achieved by not venturing too far from a car (and the help of a long lens). Our accommodation on Llanelli beach (with its amazing sunsets) and a trip to Llanrhidian Marsh and Weobly Castle on The Gower proved a more than adequate late substitution.