April 2010 News

Thursday 1st April [S to SW breeze with bright sunny periods]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were still at the south end of the dam at Cheddar Water today, while there was still a sizeable flock of hirundines feeding between the aerators and Butcombe Shore.

I hope the weather is sufficiently kind this weekend for me to do a migrant walk around the lake - it'll give me a chance to see how this late Spring has delayed the arrival of summer migrants e.g. Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla and how the winter has knocked back some of the residents such as Wren Troglodytes troglodytes in comparison with surveys carried out in the last decade.

Here's a list of earliest dates of April migrants yet to arrive this year - if you see or hear any of the them before me please let me know.

Species Scientific Name
Early Date
Late Date
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
27th March 2003
27th September 1969
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
29th March 1953
15th October 2005
(Eurasian) Hobby Falco subbuteo
8th April 1997
8th October 2001
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
9th April 1989 & 1995
28th September 2008
(Common) Swift Apus apus
18th April 2004 & 2006
14th September 1935
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
20th April 2008 & 2009
19th September 1988
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
22nd April 2000 & 2006
27th August 2001

Friday 2nd April [Sharp wintery showers on a SW breeze]

There were still 4 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and a flock of hirundines off Butcombe shore and the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were just off the dam this afternoon. I heard and saw 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 3 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 13 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. Otherwise, there wasn't much to get excited about apart from a breathtaking fly-by of a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Holt Bay.

Saturday 3rd April [The wind swung from SW through SE to NE, with showers, during the day]

Well, the first Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos turned up on the dam wall today. There was a flock of Swallows Hirundo rustica feeding downwind of the aerators, and the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were still present. There were 43 Canada Geese Branta canadensis feeding on the Holt Farm fields and I noted Cowslips Primula vera in flower on the north shore. The weather should start to look up tomorrow and I hope to do my early morning migrant walk.

Sunday 4th April [Sunny intervals with a stiff westerly breeze getting up] Easter Day

I did my migrant count this morning, as planned, and was astonished at the number of singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus around the lake. I have never seen or heard so many on a single visit. Likewise, there were large numbers of Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the more sheltered areas as well. I only count those birds I hear singing in my totals, but there were obviously many more birds of both species present. To give you some impression of the exceptional count I have copied them into the table below for comparison. (Note: F&M was the year of foot & mouth when there was no access around the lake during April).

10 Apr
7 Apr
6 Apr
5 Apr
3 Apr
2 Apr
1 Apr
1 Apr
6 Apr
5 Apr
4 Apr
Willow Warbler

There has been a lot of discussion in birding circles, that has spilled over into the general media, about the crash in numbers of small birds this winter. We had a much harder winter than usual in this area but the numbers of small birds locally does not seem to have been badly affected, in my opinion. I have drawn Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes numbers from my survey data to support this assertion. Whilst last years April count appeared to be low, it wasn't when counted again in May, and this year appears to be very much in line with the norm. I heard several Goldcrests Regulus regulus and saw 6 pairs of Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus on my transect too.

6 Apr
5 Apr
3 Apr
2 Apr
1 Apr
1 Apr
6 Apr
5 Apr
4 Apr

Although there were good numbers of leaf warblers around the lake, I didn't see any other more unusual migrants unfortunately. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, or another, was on the dam this evening and there was only a modest flock of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, a handful of Sand Martins Riparia riparia and one, or two, House Martins Delichon urbicum feeding over the dam by the spillway this morning. I heard a male Tawny Owl Strix aluco sing briefly at about 0830 hrs along the Butcombe Shore and eventually located it roosting, and well hidden, in a tree above the public footpath. The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were both still present off Butcombe Shore. A Snipe Gallinago gallinago sprang up out of the marginal vegetation in Rugmoor Bay and a male Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sang from the hedge at the Top End entrance. 34 Canada Geese Branta canadensis fed on the fields and 7 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope fed around the aerators picking items from the surface film.

Monday 5th April [Slightly milder day with a variable light wind mainly from the SSW]

All the usual suspects again today, with the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid present off Butcombe Shore, quite a few singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 39 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, a couple of Eurasian Treecreepers Certhia familiaris at Hellfire Corner and a flyover Linnet Carduelis cannabina at Bell's Bush, calling as it headed south towards the Mendip Hills.

Coal Tit Parus ater, Lodge Copse © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Coal Tit Parus ater, Lodge Copse © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

It was quite pleasant standing in the copse by the lodge listening to all the bird song and watching them go about their business. This Coal Tit Parus ater gave every indication of prospecting for a nest hole in a crack of an old Silver Birch Betula pendula tree. At Top End I saw plenty of Cuckooflower (aka Lady's Smock or Milk-maids) Cardamine pratense in flower for the first time. It will undoubtedly herald the first male Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines butterflies on the wing in the next few days, if it stays warm. Cuckooflower is one of the main food plants for the caterpillars (larvae) of the butterfly. Large black Chironomid (non-biting) midges are hatching in numbers from the lake (these are the black buzzers of trout fishermen) and are flying in the lee of hedges and trees along the south shore today. Many of the cars in the Lodge car park were covered in them. No doubt the hatch of buzzers yesterday evening was what attracted the few remaining Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope off the bank (where they normally eat grass) to feed with Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata and Mallards Anas platyrhynchos. The midges live most of their short lives as larvae (bloodworm) on the bottom of the lake before they pupate, swim to the surface and struggle out of the pupal skin and hatch as flies. The trout and wildfowl are very quick to seize on the opportunity of feeding on the flies as they hatch, often in synchronized fashion, as dusk falls.

Tuesday 6th April [Milder again with high cloud & a light SSE wind]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were present in Cheddar Water this morning and off Butcombe Shore this evening. When I got out of my car this evening at the Lodge I saw a long line of hirundines flying towards and past me. I counted 273 Sand Martins Riparia riparia and 3 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. There was a drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis displaying to 3 ducks close by, 32 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and a female Tawny Owl Strix aluco calling in Holt Copse. I heard no Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus singing during my brief visit this morning, so presumably most of them must have moved on after Saturday's 'fall'.

Rob Emery visited the lake too and sent me the following report:

"4 Wigeon, 1 Greater Scaup & 1 Aythya hybrid [both drakes], 1 Common Teal Anas crecca, 1 Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni along Butcombe Rd."

I heard several Eurasian Teal this evening and saw at least ten in scattered pairs on Saturday during my migrant walk. Thanks for the information Rob. If anyone else wants to share their sightings please contact me at the email address above.

Wednesday 7th April [Warm, light westerly breeze with occasional showers]

It was warm again today, but I didn't see much of note, either this morning or this evening, except lots of Pipistrelle Bats Pipistrellus sp. and half a dozen or more larger bats that I didn't recognise - possibly Noctule or Serotine? Last night there were quite a few Pipistrelles flying around the Oaks Quercus sp. at Green Lawn. I'd like to think that one of them was a bat we rescued a couple of years ago. I saw it hanging from a fishing line wrapped around a branch (it had taken the dangling fishing fly) on 16th August 2008 while carrying out a WeBS count with Christine Billinghurst. Chris climbed on my car, cut it down, and took it to Secret World in my hat, where Pauline Kidner and her excellent team treated it and got it to Chris for release back at the lake.

At least one of the grey-backed Aythya ducks was still present, but too far off to identify with my binoculars. There were 30 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on the fields and a handful of hirundines this morning only. I didn't hear any new species of passerines, but didn't get to the lake until rather late this evening after popping over to Yatton to photograph a double-headed steam train heading up to Bristol from Plymouth (happy childhood memories of hours spent at Yatton Junction station and in the huge signal box).

Thursday 8th April [Cool early & late but a beautiful warm sunny day]

Both the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were asleep off the dam this evening. There was also a pair of adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis off Green Lawn - perhaps the regular summering bird has brought a mate back this year? It'll be interesting to see. There were also 4 adult Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus feeding in the evening with the wildfowl between the Island and North Shore. The Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock has dwindled to 11 today and there was a drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis with 3 ducks at the Lodge and a lonely drake in Home Bay on its own.

At the Cadbury's site at Somerdale, Keynsham we had 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia flying around the nest holes yesterday and 2 male Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe on the sports fields around the crumbling stone wall (they had gone today). Today there were lots of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Peacock Inachis io and a single Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni flying and basking around the sports fields at lunchtime.

At home, Ce and I watched a Badger Meles meles feeding less than 5 feet away outside the back door for 10-15 minutes last night seemingly at complete ease. They keep coming back for the peanuts, sunflower hearts and raisins - its costing a fortune! It's 2105 hrs as I write this and I've just looked out the window to see one arrive for its supper tonight, completely unfazed by the outside lights being on.

Friday 9th April [A beautiful sunny day]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila with the drake Aythya hybrid at Cheddar Water this afternoon. 2 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope were feeding over the aerators. I had a look into the water at the landing stage and saw lots and lots of Corixa sp. I met up with Mervyn Pearce for a walk along the south side and saw 2 Bee-flies Bombylius major, 8+ Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, a Peacock Inachis io and just 2 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica at Bell's Bush. Mervyn had already seen a Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni and 4 Northern Ravens Corvus corax before meeting me.

Saturday 10th April [Another warm sunny day]

Another early morning walk around the lake today and as predicted the Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus count was very different with just 8 singing birds heard compared with last weeks 36. The count of Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita was down a little but I still counted 21 of them and 19 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla. The Tawny Owl Strix aluco was roosting in the same tree as last week.

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were eventually noted off the dam mid-morning.

Alan Bone and I went looking for Orange Underwing Archiearis parthenias this afternoon around the Silver Birch Betula pendula trees above Burrington Combe, but failed to find any. However, we did come across a couple of Common Redpolls Carduelis sp., a Siskin Carduelis spinus and at least one Marsh Tit Parus palustris feeding in the trees. I checked out nectar sources such as Primroses Primula vulgaris, Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca and Sallows Salix sp. without success for the moths but did see at least 5 Bee-flies Bombylius major.

I ran 2 Robinson Moth traps in the garden last night and caught 93 moths of 9 spp. including a Streamer Anticlea derivata, a first generation Early Thorn Selenia dentaria, 2 Twin-spotted Quakers Orthosia munda, a Mottled Grey Colostygia multistrigaria and an Early Grey Xylocampa areola among the more usual suspects.

Sunday 11th April [Dry but cloudy with a stiff breeze that blew up from the NE]

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, Pumping Station © Sean Davies, 2010

News from Sean Davies this morning as follows: "A pair of Peregrine Falco peregrinus seen from the dam came from the west. They separated and the male landed on the vistor centre roof while the female perched very briefly on one of the pines nearest the dam. Pic attached as it called. It is a local colour-ringed bird. I think maybe "AG", but when I've got more time I'll try to sharpen up one of the photos to see if I can tell for sure."

It's a cracking shot Sean and thanks for sending it. I hope you manage to trace the ring data. I'll keep an eye open for it myself and check some of my photos taken at the lake to see if I've photographed it as well. This evening there was a stiff NE breeze but I saw the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid feeding together at Cheddar Water.

Monday 12th April [Dry and cloudy with a stiff, cool NE breeze until the sun came out late afternoon]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were at Cheddar Water, but there was very little else to set the pulse racing. I walked the length of the south side and back early in the afternoon but heard no new migrant species singing I'm afraid.

Counts of other selected bird species were as follows: Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 5-10 early morning only, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 75, Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2, Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 4, Canada Goose Branta canadensis 17 and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1. There was no sign of the Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis that has gone missing from Chew Valley Lake.

I spent quite a lot of the afternoon on the BTO Rookery Survey in my Mendip squares and saw my first flowering Bluebells Hyacynthoides non-scripta at The Avenue, Winterhead, but sadly no Rook Corvus frugilegus nests at all there. Indeed, most of the rookeries I've checked so far are smaller, or missing altogether, compared with 5 years ago. Are farmers shooting them?

Late news (see 13th April) that an Osprey Pandion haliaetus arrived at the lake in the evening and roosted overnight at Butcombe Bay. Mike Gillett told me later that he saw what he thought might have been an Osprey in a dead tree across Butcome Bay (The Island?) at 1415 hrs.

Tuesday 13th April [Warm with a light NNE breeze]

Mervyn Pearce rang me this afternoon and drew my attention to the following news on the Portland Bird Observatory website today:

"Also, thanks to Roy Dennis for getting in touch to draw our attention to the fact that Nimrod, one of his Ospreys fitted with a satellite transmitter, passed close to us yesterday: having started its Channel crossing from Cap de la Hague in the morning, the bird was at sea level some 19km south of the Bill at midday; unfortunately no more GPS locations were transmitted until it was found at roost at Blagdon Lake, Somerset, in the evening. Bearing in mind the stiff north-easterly blowing at the time, we suspect he may have come ashore to the west of Portland but either way we didn't see him here!"

It is worth having a look at Roys website and following the link to Ospreys and Nimrod in particular where you will find a history of sightings and his migration since he was ringed in the nest in 2001 near Rothes in North Scotland. He winters in Guinea Bissau, West Africa over 3000 miles to the south of the site he nested at near Forres last year. He crossed from Morroco to Spain on 1st April and I commend you to have a look through this fascinating commentary on some of his remarkable flights to and from Scotland to Africa.

Roy has just updated todays flight. Nimrod flew through central Wales to roost on the Conway estuary in north Wales this evening, having left Blagdon early in the morning and reached Usk by 0900 hrs. He has also emailed me and asked if anyone saw or photographed Nimrod today or yesterday. How about you local dog walkers or fishermen? Thanks to all those of you who alerted me by about this news, I'm very grateful.

There was a large congregation of wildfowl, including diving ducks, over the aerators this evening feeding on hatching flies. It was like standing in a blizzard beside the dam wall as midges hit me in the face! The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were at Cheddar Water this evening and I watched the regular pair of Common Buzzards Buteo buteo at Home Bay copulating. There was quite a lot of noise being made by food-begging chicks in the Home Bay rookery and an ever increasing number of Coot Fulica atra nests are being built along the lake margins. I was disappointed to hear from one of the Fishery Wardens this evening that he had found a dead Common Buzzard a few days ago in a public meadow at Butcombe Bay and a can nearby that had been peppered with air pellets. Let me add that he wasn't sure the Buzzard had been shot, but if you see suspicious activity at the lake please report it.

Also noted were 4 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (3 drakes), 11 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 3 Gadwall Anas strepera and 3 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca.

Wednesday 14th April [Slightly cooler & cloudier today with barely the breath of a NE breeze]

No news on Nimrod yet today, but an interesting posting on the Somerset Ornithological Society website message board of the sighting of another Osprey Pandion haliaetus yesterday at 1245 hrs, thought originally to be Nimrod, but clearly wasn't. I await more details. I spoke to a few anglers around the lake but have yet to find anyone who saw either Nimrod or the second bird.

Ed Drewitt contacted me because he thinks that the Peregrine Falco peregrinus that Sean Davies photographed so nicely on Sunday at Blagdon was one that he ringed locally. They have yet to determine which bird it is, but will hopefully work it out and Ed has promised to send me details to share with you, dear reader, if they do.

Today there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 5 Gadwall Anas strepera feeding over the aerators, 19 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, at least one pair of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid.

Thursday 15th April [Cool and overcast before lunch time then the sun came out, but it remained cool]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were both still present at the lake today.

I have been in email dialogue with Ed Drewitt and Sean Davies about the Peregrine Falco peregrinus that Sean photographed and we seem to be in agreement that it is likely to be AG at this stage.

No news yet about Nimrod the Osprey Pandion haliaetus on Roys website since he touched down for the night in North Wales.

Friday 16th April [A lovely sunny day with an ENE breeze]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the drake Aythya hybrid were both off the dam this evening. There wasn't much else for me to get overly excited about. It's WeBS count day tomorrow.

Nimrod the Osprey Pandion haliaetus is still wending his way home north through Lancashire. Unfortunately for him, his rival of last year has already settled with his mate at last years nest, so he may be going rather too slowly. It'll be fascinating to see what he does when he gets back to Forres.

Sunset, Rugmoor Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Mike Gillett reported seeing the Greater Scaup and Aythya hybrid, 4 Wigeon Anas penelope and the first brood of the year; a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with nine ducklings at Home Bay.

Saturday 17th April [A stunningly warm & sunny day]

The WeBS Count wasn't very exciting after all. Even the Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid appear to have gone. We saw a couple of male Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines butterflies in the sunshine and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at each end of the lake. I also heard 5 or so singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and lots of Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. I saw just the one Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica over Bell's Bush and feel that there has only been a trickle of migrants coming through since the 'fall' of warblers on the 4th April.

Sunday 18th April [A fabulous warm & sunny day]

There were 7 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were at Cheddar Water this evening. I saw Mike Gillets Mallard Anas platyrhynchos brood in Long Bay and the duck is still caring for 9 ducklings. There were 9 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on the fields and, despite not seeing any yesterday, I saw 3 Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis in front of the Lodge.

Alan Bone and I walked 11 miles across Black Down this afternoon. We saw a few Grey Mining Bees Andrena cineraria above Lower Ellick Wood along the perimeter path, a Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria as we crossed the East Twin Brook, at least 2 male Tree Pipits Anthus trivialis singing above Burrington Combe near Bos Swallet, but no Orange Underwings Archiearis parthenias despite extensive searching. Later we walked over Beacon Batch and were shocked by the virtual silence on the top. We saw lots (probably 50+) male Emperor Moths Saturnia pavonia flying rapidly over the heather and gorse, as well as a Viviparous Lizard Lacerta vivipara sunning itself beside the path. We strolled on over Rains Batch to Blackmoor at Charterhouse where found a Slow-worm Anguis fragilis and heard a male Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus singing in Nether Wood. We followed the footpath to Ubley Drove and turned back along Leaze Lane where we heard our only singing Skylark Alauda arvensis and then dropped down across the fields to Blagdon. As we crossed the last couple of fields we saw 2 Common Swifts Apus apus above the village.

I ran 2 Robinson Traps in the garden last night and caught 36 moths of 7 spp. including a Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria, a poor return compared to last weekend.

Monday 19th April [Another lovely warm day]

There were still 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on th dam and a female Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope picking insects off the surface by the aerators. The adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were in Pipe Bay this evening (they may have been resting in the edge of the reeds out of sight yesterday when we did the WeBS count). I also spotted 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a drake off North Shore car park and a duck in Rugmoor Bay, 5 pairs of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and 9 Canada Geese Branta canadensis. There was a lovely red sun at dusk this evening, but whether it was due to the Icelandic volcanic ash in the atmosphere is open to conjecture. Still, red sky at night, shepherds delight!

There was a pair of Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe at Somerdale today. I think I've seen at least 5 on a short stretch of broken down dry stone wall already this spring and none whatsoever at Blagdon Lake!

According to Roy Dennis's website, Nimrod reached his nest site earlier today and Roy is going to pay a visit to see if he has won his mate back or been chased off by the incumbent male. If you want to follow the saga and find out what happens, please visit Roy's website.

And finally, some news from Ed Drewitt on Peregrine 'AG' (see Sunday 11th April):

"He was ringed as a newly fledged juvenile on the 19th June 2008, after experiencing an overnight stay with RSPCA West Hatch after being found grounded in Leigh Woods. His BTO ring number is GC46006. He was one of a brood of five chicks, quite a small male, and flew off to greet them on release. That was the last we heard. To see him now, in full adult plumage, and down at Blagdon is brilliant. 2010 would be his first proper year of possible breeding, although I expect he may not actually breed until next year. Sounds like he's found a mate though and may have a possible nest site in mind. On the 11th April I would have expected his mate to be on eggs rather than flying around with him, so it suggests they are non-breeding.
Here are some images of him......"

AG being measured

View of the the ring AG

AG with wing out

AG being released back in Avon Gorge

AG sitting back on home ledge

All photos of Peregrine Falco peregrinus © Ed Drewitt, 2008

Tuesday 20th April [Warm & sunny]

I noted 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this morning. I only visited briefly again this evening and saw the adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid at Cheddar Water.

There was still a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe at Somerdale, Keynsham around midday.

Early in the evening I visited Max Mills at Winscombe and Banwell to count Rook Corvus frugilegus nests.

Wednesday 21st April [Cooler, but tranquil & sunny]

A Brown Hare Lepus europaeus ran across the bottom of the hill that is Station Road, on the way down to the lake, and I saw another 3 on Holt Farm as well as 8 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus.

There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and another at Holt Bay this evening, whilst the adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were close to the Butcombe Bank.

Thursday 22nd April [A lovely day with wall to wall sunshine]

As we have had mill pond conditions in the last few days you can see that the lake has changed a great deal; it appears to be fermenting, and in a way it is. The bottom is breaking up, I assume due to the combination of clear, shallow water and long hours of sunshine.

It's like living in Brown Hare City round yer! A young'ish Brown Hare Lepus europaeus ran across the road in front of my car this morning as I went up Park Lane on the way to work after visiting the lake. It was a good job I was going slowly - it lived to tell the tale.

There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening, a pair of Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis in Home Bay and 6 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on the fields. I also saw 10 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus grazing on the south side of the lake. The Greater Scaup Aythya marila and his pal seem to have gone on another awayday.

Chris Klee contacted me to say we have a pair of Tawny Owls Strix aluco with two youngsters in a nest at the lake - great news!

Friday 23rd April [A fabulous sunny day with a light SSW breeze] St George's Day

I heard my first Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus at Pipe Bay reeds and saw a fly-over Common Swift Apus apus at the Lodge entrance this evening. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (2 on the dam and one at Holt Bay) still hanging around, presumably finding lots of food to fatten up on before they continue north. There was a Tawny Owl Strix aluco sitting quietly in a wood as well.

3 Common Swifts appeared briefly over the house this afternoon and the Blue Tits Parus caeruleus are still going in and out of the nest box in the garden.

Saturday 24th April [Warm day with hazy sunshine]

There was a Shore Lark Eremophila alpestris at Barrow No.3 reservoir this morning and I have posted a couple of record shots below. This species has never been recorded at Blagdon and is a great find inland. There were 3 mobile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos that I didn't see.

Shore Lark, Barrow No.3, North Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Back at Blagdon I had two new birds for the year list at Top End; a singing Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis that flew up the feeder stream into the grounds of Ubley Hatchery. At least one of the Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos was still on the dam and I found a fruiting body of the fungus Morchella esculenta in one of the woods during the last week. The Green-winged Orchids Orchis morio are just beginning to start flowering behind the dam and I think that there will be a good display next Sunday for those visiting the Pumping Station over May Bank Holiday. The Blagdon Visitor Centre open days run between 1400 and 1700 hrs every Sunday through until 8th August.

The Common Coot Fulica atra nests are being predated by Carrion Crows Corvus corone and I've already found two broken eggs and 'Swan Wars' have broken out as the pairs battle it out for territories. None appear to have built nests yet. On the plus side, it was a beautiful evening and the scent of Blackthorn and Cherry Prunus spp. blossom hung in the still air.

Sunday 25th April [Cooler, with much needed showers on a SW breeze]

I wondered where all the House Martins Delichon urbicum had got to, having not seen any for a couple of weeks, but today brought a few with some more Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake but there were still probably no more than fifty birds in total. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam again this afternoon and I managed to add another new species to the year list, when I found a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing in the hedge along Park Lane with another two near the fishing Lodge, but that was about the extent of the birdy excitement for my 3 hours at the lakeside today.

As I returned along the south shore I met Mike Gillett who informed me he had seen 4 Common Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius on the dam. I checked again later in the evening and saw the Little Ringed Plover and 3 Common Sandpipers on the dam for myself. Nice one, Mike!

The Cowslip Primula veris meadows are looking a picture and I took the following pictures last night:

Probable Cowslip hybrid with domestic Polyanthus sp. Primula x polyantha? Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

These odd orange-coloured Cowslips have turned up at times around the lake and are suggestive of genes being introduced from gardens, but I haven't been able to find reference to them in Blamey, Rose or the other floras that I've looked at yet. Anyone any ideas? One on Rainbow Point has flowers that are more open and upright than the standard Cowslip and the hybrid illustrated above. However, they don't show the typical hybrid vigour of the usual False Oxlips Primula x polyantha at the lake.

Monday 26th April [A sunny afternoon with a light WNW breeze]

I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 3 along Butcombe Bank this morning but there seem to be far fewer wildfowl on the lake this evening than in recent days. As full moon approaches perhaps many have migrated northward. The Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and her family of 9 juveniles are all still together and the little ones are growing rapidly.

Tuesday 27th April [A sunny day with a strengthening SSW breeze]

I paid a quick visit this morning but there was nothing on the dam that I could see.

This evening we had a Bristol Water 'Lake Users' Meeting to discuss conservation, recreation and associated matters. Of particular interest to me was the report from Avon Bat Group and YACWAG who carried out surveys in 2009 around the lake using bat detectors and bat box checks. Nine species were identified, with the highlight being a male Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii found in one of the bat boxes. Calls have been recorded in the past, but this was the first time the species has been found and positively identified in the hand according to reporter Daniel Hargreaves.

Nathusius' Pipistrelle migrates south west in continental Europe in late autumn and winter, but there is also a small summer breeding population in the UK (known since the 1990s). It was first recorded in Great Britain in 1940 in the Shetland Islands (© Bat Conservation Trust 2010).

Other species recorded at the lake included Noctule Nyctalus noctula and Lesser Horseshoe Bats Rhinolophus hipposideros.

For those interested in bat recording at Blagdon Lake there are a number of events planned during the year, the first of which is on 18th June, meeting at 2130 hrs on the dam wall for a walk with detectors. For more information please contact Daniel Hargreaves on 07786 546800, Avon Bat Group or YACWAG.

Other dates include:

Wednesday 28th April [Sunny and warm with a southerly wind]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening, but very little else to report because I was late on parade. I have been hoping to see a Hobby Falco subbuteo at dusk in the last few days, but no luck so far.

Thursday 29th April [Cloudy with some drizzly rain and a light WNW breeze]

The migration of Common Frogs Rana temporaria away from the lake is most definitely on in the wet conditions this evening. I saw a Common Tern Sterna hirundo sitting on a buoy in the rain, perhaps for the night with the mist down over the hills. At the Top End the Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca was still singing about 200 metres along the south side road from the entrance.

As I set out from the Lodge I counted 8 predated Common Coot Fulica atra eggs on the road in less than half a mile; probably the work of Carrion Crows Corvus corone. It sounded like there are more Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus singing on territories in the reed beds than last weekend.

Friday 30th April [Cloudy with showers and a light westerly breeze]

A few small flocks of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica with the odd House Martin Delichon urbicum or two, but very little else of note sadly. There was a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 5 ducklings at Rainbow Point (2nd brood at the lake, 2010 ).

Having been soaked last night, my hat was still a bit damp when I went out today, however, I was sure glad I decided to wear it because the Rooks Corvus frugilegus, whose aim is usually somewhat wide of the mark, scored a bullseye on aformentioned hat and my right shoulder at Holt Copse this evening. What good fortune will this bring I wonder? A win on the lottery, or, perhaps a first for Blaggers tomorrow?