Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!
Chew Valley Lake is a stunningly beautiful semi-natural reservoir 10 miles south of Bristol and about five minutes from my house. It is the largest artificial lake in the South West, at five square kilometres. It is an internationally important site for birds, with a list of almost 300 species, as well as being one of the best inland sites for waders. Autumn 2011 was a particularly fantastic period, with Sharp-tailed and Semipalmated Sandpipers plus a whole load of other great waders. It is a haven for wildlife and is a SSSI and Special Protected Area.
The lake has loads of things to do and wildlife to see. There is the bird ringing station, which is on a nature reserve, where I go ringing at the weekends. We have a big area for our nets and ring lots of different birds including waterfowl and many species of passerine.
There is a picnic site with a café and playground, which attracts families and older people, who enjoy feeding the birds. The lake is also popular for fishing (it has held the world fly-fishing championships), sailing and dog walking.
There are always lots of ducks, geese and gulls to see but if you go to the trails and hides, you might see special birds and wildlife like Bittern and Otter.
It is great living so close to the lake because I can go there regularly and have fantastic views of the lake from my house, as well as its sister lake, Blagdon. I pass by twice a day, to and from school, when I usually see birds from my coach. Often it’s Mallard, Mute Swans and Coot, sometimes I see Grey Heron and Cormorant and occasionally, I see brilliant birds, like Osprey and Egyptian Geese which are fantastic for a drive-by.
In the winter mornings, often the lake has sunshine and mist across it and looks particularly lovely. When the water is low, you can see traces of the drowned village of Morton below the lake’s surface, which is spooky. Today, I saw a Great White Egret, which is a fantastic bird but not as good as Booted Eagle, which was seen at the lake before I was born, and is annoyingly on our garden list!
You can always find secluded spots, in different habitats like reedbed, woods and meadows. If you are feeling sociable, the lake also has a loyal and serious group of patch birders (including my Dad) who are really friendly, will always stop for a chat and offer the latest bird information. Chew Valley Lake is definitely my home from home and an enviable local patch.