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Waders, Chew Valley Lake

Curlew Sandpiper

Not an immediate association but water levels are such that a strip of mud in front of the Stratford Hide hosted a common sandpiper, lapwings, a snipe, greenshanks and a curlew sandpiper – a small number of birds but a nice variety.

In fact a flock of curlew sandpipers had flown over Heron’s Green on my way in. I was rather proud of identifying them. They were calling and I binned them (I’m phasing that in rather than endlessly repeating, ‘got them in the binoculars’ or some such variation) but could only say they were dunlin-like. Somewhat too clean for dunlin though, which are also less probable at this season. A match of the flock’s calls with the description in my Collins clinched it – definitely trilling curlew sands.

Heron’s Green Bay also boasted two little egrets and three whinchats, for my second 2010 sighting of the chats. This makes it a great year for them – nay, the best: I’ve never managed a year with two records.

Black terns as well. Did I mention them? Only the reason for going to Chew in the first place, half-a-dozen were easy to separate from black-headed gulls way out in the middle of the Lake. Thoroughly sated, I adjourned to the friendly Crown in West Harptree for a quick sandwich and a very fine coffee before heading to the Bernard King Hide on the eastern shore.

A solitary ruff was meagre reward but another wader tick. I had thought pickings would be better but the extensive mud round the hide is probably unworkable for waders. The lake is not tidal, so its margins bake hard. I need some bird-crazy inventor to come up with a tide machine for our reservoirs!

Wood Sandpiper

I wasn’t done with shorebirds yet. BirdGuides had a wood sandpiper at Blagdon the previous evening, so I negotiated the Somerset lanes to Butcombe Bay and there was the little beauty. There too were another dozen or so greenshanks and common sandpipers and, as a grand finale, one spotted flycatcher hawking in the shoreline willows.

That’s all done my Somerset list a power of good – 5 new species to take it up to 139. Not a mega-county yet but getting there. And we’re definitely into autumn migration. Goodbye to the summer doldrums, although not to the weather, which was perfect today – just like the birding.

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