White-winged Tern, Chew

Portbury Wharf

Portbury Wharf View

Another Friday evening dash from work to Chew Valley Lake to catch a bird that might move on any time. This one was on its way from Southern Russia to East Africa, so a little off course but not so far that I haven’t seen the species twice before. The first was at East Chevington in Northumberland in 2003; the second, Dun’s Dish, near Brechin, in 2005.

That long ago, I can’t recall if either bird was easy to spot but this year’s, although distant from Herriotts Bridge, hove into binocular view as soon as I started looking. I didn’t know immediately but just followed an obvious tern-like shape, until it passed a bigger common tern. Then it banked and the dark saddle was also clear. That sounds anticlimactic but the thrill of the chase isn’t always guaranteed.

This is becoming an excellent year for gulls and terns – twelve of the former, as already noted, and now seven species of tern.

The total 2014 list then stood at 193 and both Somerset and Avon reached 195. 193 didn’t stand long as, the day after, a little stint at Northwick Warth pushed the number on and was a first for Gloucestershire.

Wednesday’s mega-tide had deposited a patina of mud over the saltmarsh, much to the liking of pied wagtails and a latish yellow wagtail. Pilning Wetland was quiet but interesting enough to add pintail and stonechat to my patch list.

Since expanding north from the original location at Severn Beach (which still counts, especially in gales), a whole raft of species has opened up. I’m still a bit hazy on where the patch ends and Aust Warth begins though – probably where the short-eared owls stop.

Portbury Wharf

Portbury Wharf Damage

A hunt for barn owl at Portbury Wharf this evening merely persuaded me that the reserve has gone far, far downhill in the last two years. The picture here shows some of the further damage to one hide. Note that the door is not open; it actually doesn’t exist. This is what you get when the zombies become neighbours, as they have done in Port Marine. The first picture is not Chew but the obscured vista from Portbury’s vandalised hide to contrast with one from a while back. OK, we’re at the end of the growing season and not in the depths of winter but the viewing experience is now about non-existent.

This is not a reserve I’ll be dashing to again, either after work or any time.

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