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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Monday, 1 December 2014

A jaunt down the M4

Bev's son, Darryl, lives in Bath and, due to the fact it was his Birthday and the remarkable coincidence that the City of Bath was also holding its' annual Christmas Market - off we went. We didn't leave until midday Saturday, seeing a few Common Buzzards and a single Red Kite (Nr Theale, Berks) en route.
Arriving just in time to see the footie results appearing; I have to admit to being amazed by the QPR result - we had just conceded an equaliser as I parked the car outside Darryl's house!. We spent the evening enjoying a meal in The Hop Pole, in Weston (I believe) - all very pleasant and highly recommended.
Smoke on the Water!
Looking out, across Chew Valley,  from between the two picnic areas - just before noon
Sunday dawned quite bright yet, very quickly the landscape became enshrouded in a thick blanket of fog. Bev and Darryl headed off for the delights of Bath City centre, whilst I took a drive - "sat nav" dictated - through some of the most ridiculously narrow lanes I've ever negotiated before arriving at Chew Valley Lake Visitors Centre. I've been to this site on several previous occasions and always enjoyed the experience - as there is nothing like it, habitat wise, in my part of the world. However, the morning fog was very slow to clear, it being around 12.00 hrs before it was possible to see across to the opposite bank. Despite the conditions, I did my usual thing and walked the route to The Bittern Trail following it until you can go no further - there is an elevated viewing area under construction and a singing male Cetti's Warbler in the adjacent reed/scrub.
The birding was OK, although I failed to see anything particularly unusual, I did discover a couple of Chiffchaffs amongst a large mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits which also had a few Goldcrests tagging along. Winter thrushes were all but absent - I saw four Redwing and a scattering of Blackbirds, despite the hedgerows being heavily laden with berries. A pair of Bullfinches, feeding high up, provided a nice distraction - their soft whistling contact call being a sound of which I'll never tire.
That was about it, in all honesty. A few Goldeneye amidst the regular Tufties and Pochards; a pair of Egyptian Geese along the shoreline between the two picnic areas - Mallards and Teal, Great Crested Grebes and plenty of Cormorants and mixed gulls - so always something to look at.
Looking along the dam wall, the famous tower in the foreground, with
the Visitor Centre complex on the far bank
On my return, I took a walk along the dam, just to be able to get a shot of the aeration tower. There were a couple of Little Grebes working the dam wall and a small flock of Pied Wagtails were on the freshly disturbed ground right in front of the Cafe building. With the sun now shining brightly, I scanned across the surrounding countryside looking for raptors - none seen! This was not a wasted effort, as I was able to watch a pair of Rooks engaged in some courtship display - the male (?) cawing loudly as he bowed and fanned his tail; not what I'd expect at the end of November, but Rooks aren't a species with which I've spent much time. An adult Black-headed Gull, on the car park fencing, was also showing signs of Spring with the full breeding hood already apparent.
There's something not quite right when an adult Block-head (not a spelling mistake; Thanet slang!)
can acquire its' breeding plumage in November. Are the birds as confused as some plants by these conditions?
I do have a couple of issues with the facilities - the superbly constructed (from a building point of view) new viewing facility (I refuse to call it a hide) which has replaced the Bernard King hide is an opportunity wasted. The material used for the windows is completely unsuited to the purpose - it is optically flawed and thus impossible to use binoculars/scopes/cameras through it. There were two C-R Cormorants and a C-R Lesser Black-back on view, just in front of the hide - I might just as well have been using lemonade bottles - the optical clarity through this material is hopeless. And whilst I was in there, the poster, depicting an American Coot (a photo!) as an aid to beginner bird identification is another indicator of how far removed from reality these PLC bods are. Still, if that's all I could find to moan about - there's not too much wrong?
What about my views as a Pike angler? As aware, as I am, as to the history and potential of this fishery to produce a pike of mammoth size - it doesn't do it for me. It's not the size of the venue, it would fit into Loch Awe or Loch Lomond without anyone noticing the difference, so yes it's big, but not massive. I don't find myself enthused by the prospect of short, fat, unhealthy pike, whatever they might weigh. If pounds and ounces are the key factor, then Chew Valley Lake every time - for me it is about so much more, thus I seek my challenges in different arenas - thirty years ago it would not have been so and I would have been as keen to fish Chew as I was Llandegfedd, Rutland and Grafham - weird how time can change a man?

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