BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

April 2016 News


Friday 1st April [Overcast and mild'ish]

No sign of the Black-necked Grebe (or the Common Cranes from Chew Valley Lake) today. However, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm fields again (behind Green Lawn), and this evening there were c. 150 Sand Martins Riparia riparia with c. 200 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica swarming over Top End. Also noted were 16 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus in fields nearby, and on the way back to the Lodge I saw quite a few small bats at Bell's Bush barrier, Hellfire Corner and around the car park, no doubt encouraged to come out and feed at the higher temperature of 11 Celsius at dusk.

Saturday 2nd April [Sunny and mild]

The first Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla of the year was singing behind Top End hide this morning, and I heard 4 Willow Warlers Phylloscopus trochilus and 7 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita singing between the Lodge and Top End. Other sightings included the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 18 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, an adult Greylag Anser anser, 3 ♀♀ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 2 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and a ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina.

Trees noted in leaf during the last week include Pedunculate Oak Quercus rober, Norway Maple Acer platanoides and Elder Sambucus nigra.

Sunday 3rd April [Overcast but mild]

I tried a change of tack and went down to the lake for the afternoon hoping for some passing raptors. There have also been several Common Redstarts seen around the area in the last day or two, so I thought I'd also have a search to see if there was one by the lake. No luck with the Redstart, but it's a rare bird anyway. However, apart from seeing the 5 (adult ♂ and 4 ♀♀) Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula that have been present since my return from Trinidad, a second Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla was about the best I could manage! I stopped to chat to Clive (a near-neighbour and angler) at Green Lawn on my way back to the Lodge and we chatted about Ospreys Pandion haliaetus. He said he'd seen them on three continents, but never at Blagdon. Well, I told him to watch for the next few days as they are migrating through at present, and with that one appeared in front of us with two corvids harassing it! It flew past to the east and we watched as Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls joined the chase over Rugmoor. It didn't seem too bothered. After a brief chat about such an amazing coincidence, I headed off along Long Bay. I saw the Osprey again hovering over Holt Bay and over the Lodge as I arrived back at my car, before it appeared to leave to the west, albeit very low over the tree-tops. I timed it's visit between 1712 and 1728 hrs. It certainly brightened-up an otherwise dull day!

Monday 4th April [Sunshine and showers]

I had a very pleasant stroll along the south side of the lake this afternoon. I even managed to add two new species to the site year list. A ♀ Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe was at Wood/Holt Bays along the roadside hedgerow and c. 30 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina were on Holt Farm fields. Also counted were, 12 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 3 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, several Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus, a ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina and 31 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, in addition to all the resident species. Alan Herring told me he'd seen a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly past him at Bell's Bush when fishing there on 1st April, a species I've yet to catch up with this year.

At 2000 hrs on ITV Robson Green pays a visit to Kielder Water to see some Osprey chicks being ringed - I think I'm right in saying they were the offspring of White YAs brother, Yellow 37, although YA had a brief dalliance with 'Mrs 37' before he arrived back in 2015! I had a look at Joanna Dailey's blog and learned that Yellow 37 arrived back at Kielder Water in 2016 a couple of weeks ago on 24th March, and White YA arrived back on 26th March. Great news! Incidentally, three anglers have told me they thought they saw an Osprey at Top End around that time, but it's a record that will have to remain a 'probable', rather than definite, sighting.

Tuesday 5th April [Mainly sunny with a cool breeze]

There was nothing new to add to the year list today during my four hour visit. However, migrant songsters included 21 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 10 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 4 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. There were 3 singing Eurasian Nuthatches Sitta europaea. Other counts of note were 220 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus, 12 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, 34 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 22 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 5 Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata, a pair of Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flying through to the west and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I met a couple in All Saints meadow who were photographing a couple of Comma Polygonia c-album butterflies which were nectaring on a willow tree that was in flower. I also saw a 'white' briefly, but couldn't pin it to species on the view I had. A couple of days ago I was very worried for our pair of nesting Grey Herons Ardea cinerea because the nest appeared deserted, but today I saw an adult back on the platform and think I saw (it was a long way away) juveniles with their heads up begging for food. Fingers crossed for them.

Wednesday 6th April [A strong breeze blew up in the afternoon. Cool.]

I was busy working on a bat project today and didn't get down to the lake until late afternoon. I met Steve Hale who reported: 9 Mute Swans, 11 Canada Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese, 1 Common Goldeneye, 4 Great Cormorants, 4 Grey Herons, 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Common Snipe, 5 Black-headed Gulls, 25 Common Woodpigeons, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 125 Sand Martins, 3 Barn Swallows, 2 Blackcaps, 9 Pied Wagtails, 1 Reed Bunting. Thanks Steve.

I saw the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, as well as c. 80 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina on Holt Farm fields (probably more, as there were lots of birds feeding in small groups as well as the large flock), a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis, a few more Barn Swallows and Reed Buntings, as well as a single House Martin Delichon urbicum.

Thursday 7th April [Sunny spells and breezy]

There didn't appear to be any new migrants in today, save perhaps for a few Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3♀ Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, 8 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and c. 80 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina still on Holt Farm fields. The Linnet flock attracted the attention of a ♂ Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. There were some very nervous looking Rooks Corvus frugilegus in the rookery during yesterdays gale, but I counted 61 nests today.

Friday 8th April [Fine, with a cool breeze.]

The cool breeze, which has a northerly component, seems to be suppressing migration in the Yeo valley. I saw my first Peregrine Falco peregrinus of the year at the lake. Aside from that, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were around as usual, and I had a chance to count c. 100 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina on Holt Farm fields before they were flushed. A group of 15 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flew west and there were still a few Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus singing. Tomorrow is WeBS count day, perhaps the front coming through overnight will bring something new?

Saturday 9th April [Sunshine and showers]

Highlight of the WeBS count was the ♂ European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoeuca sotted by Terry Doman over our heads while we were deciding who was going to count which species. It's the first lakeside record since 2006, and only the 10th I have on my Blagdon database. It was in the roadside trees by the entrance to the 'Life for a Life' area at the south end of the dam at 0940 hrs.

The WeBS itself was pretty unremarkable. Top count was 252 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, with other notables including a pair of flyover Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. Full details on the WeBS Page. Note I have amended the previous two counts of Egyptian Geese to 2. Only one was visible, but the other was present and assumed to be sitting on a nest. It seems the breeding attempt failed again.

The Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina flock is still on Holt Farm today (view from Green Lawn roadside), and the hirundine flock of c. 150 Sand Martins Riparia riparia is over Top End with a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. A House Martin Delichon urbicum flew over the dam, again, at the start of the WeBS count.

Sunday 10th April [Windy]

I made a brief 1.5 hour visit during the late afternoon with plans to go back after tea, but the rain put paid to that idea. All fishing boats were cancelled due to the forecast wind and, indeed, it was pretty rough at the dam end in the strong south easterly blow. There was a decent flock of 250+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia feeding hard at Top End, with at least a single House Martin Delichon urbicum among them. Despite looking for Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula again in the evening yesterday after the WeBS count I didn't see any, but there were 2♀♀ also at Top End today. I wondered if the angling disturbance yesterday forced them out of view. Perhaps, it had. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm as usual, and although I spent about half an hour chatting to local bee-keeper John Smythe at the south end of the dam, I didn't spot the Pied Flycatcher. Mind you, the wind had changed around today which may have forced it to move slightly to find insects flying in the lee of sheltering trees.

Monday 11th April [Rain all morning. Pleasant since. With no wind it feels mild.]

I spent the afternoon by the lake and watched an Osprey Pandion haliaetus drift in low from the east over Top End. It quickly disappeared from view due to the intervening trees, but I saw it again at Top End at 1511 hrs. I walked the North Shore and saw my first few Green-winged Orchids Orchis morio in flower, but no new summer migrants among the 49 bird species listed. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were copulating, so perhaps they might try nesting again this year. The ♂ has the darker head and neck of the two, and more black on the pink bill. Remarkably, I spotted a lone Redwing Turdus iliacus in Holt Copse, and 3 (2♂♂) Gadwall Anas strepara at Cheddar Water that must have arrived since the WeBS count on Saturday. Still no Sedge or Reed Warblers though!

Tuesday 12th April [Pleasantly mild and sunny after early mist]

I thought I'd try the 'Mike Jenkins Chew Valley Lake' approach today, so I took a seat and parked myself on Rainbow Point and watched from 0930 hrs, as the mist began to burn off, until 1500 hrs when I'd seen nothing new for some time. I amassed a list of 45 spp. including what I assume to have been the Osprey Pandion haliaetus I saw yesterday, which roosted overnight at Chew. It came in from the east at 1047 hrs and departed north at 1107 hrs, after two circuits of the lake and one unsuccessful dive. Of course, I'd barely been home for an hour when Mike texted to say there was a Marsh Harrier heading Blagdon way - another hour on the dam without a sniff of the harrier (although I did see my first hirundines of the day)! And, when he texted again while I was eating my tea to say there might be a Red Kite heading my way... I stamped on my phone!! Mark Hynam texted me later still (I didn't really stamp on my phone) to say there was a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe at Top End. Thanks for the heads-up guys.

My list included the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, 5 Gadwall Anas strepara, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis (first of the year), and several each of Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus and Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina. I also looked at more Common Buzzards Buteo buteo in one day at Blagdon than ever before, although many were probably the same ones over and over, and as the mist lifted it was lovely to see a ♂ Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus draped over the top of a hedge with its wings out and tail spread catching some rays.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Wednesday 13th April [Warm and mainly sunny]

I spent most of the day working on some bat stuff (see Bat News) with Ken Anstey, but I did have a look around in the evening. I didn't see the Egyptian Geese, but Jeff Hirst told me he saw them on the Barn Owl box at Top End peering inside! No hope of their nesting in there though. I saw a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 6 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, but that was about it on the bird front. By far the most exciting sighting was an adult ♀ Otter Lutra lutra with 2 well-grown pups, that I watched for 10 minutes fishing (adult) and playing (the pups) in and out of the water - I left without disturbing them.

Thursday 14th April [Warm and mainly sunny]

It was a good day at the lake today for me, as I managed to add 3 new species to my 'Patchwork Challenge' list, with the most noteworthy being the arrival of the first Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus of the year in both Home Bay and Pipe Bay reeds. I listed 51 species for the day, including 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Common Coots Fulica atra are starting to nest, with several platforms noted, but although the spring is advancing, there were still 14 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago to be found. There hasn't been any sign of the Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina flock for several days, although there have been odd pairs flying around. However, today I came across a decent-sized flock in the trees over the gate to the Lodge, so I hope some at least stay on to breed locally. Of the other wildlife, I saw my first Green-veined White Pieris napi of the year, and a Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus at Holt Copse that didn't seem to be very well.

Friday 15th April [Overcast with showers]

I only had time for a relatively brief visit this evening and saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 4 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca of note, although a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis coming out of a hole and almost flying into me was a bit of a surprise for us both! Avon Birds reported 3 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, none of which I saw.

Update to the Osprey news for 3rd April: I met Clive again yesterday, and he told me the Osprey hung around longer than I thought. He saw it dive in and catch a fish, then flew to a meadow on the North Shore with it. Unfortunately, someone else in a short wheelbase Land Rover also saw it, and drove along the North Shore apparently chasing it, whereupon the Osprey flushed without its catch!

Saturday 16th April [Cold, with a bitter wind, until the sun came out around midday.]

The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were at Wood Bay, and there were c. 250 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and c 40 Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina on Holt Farm fields. There was a mixed flock of hirundines over the Top End that included all three common species.

Sunday 17th April [Sunny and warm]

This morning I had a fruitless search for my 100th bird species on the patch this year, but I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and 2 (probably a pair of) Greylag Geese Anser anser. I had a look along Butcombe Bank, bay and stream this evening, but there's nothing else to report, I'm afraid, even though I walked 7 miles around various parts of the patch today!

Monday 18th April [Grey and overcast with sunny spells. A cool wind.]

I walked the south side of the lake and recorded a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus in Lodge Copse, a ♂ Northern Shoveler Anas clypeatus at Top End and the first Common Swifts Apus apus of the year, my 100th species at the lake. I think there were just 4 of them among the mixed hirundines (more House Martins Delichon urbicum today), but it was difficult to be sure.

I met Ubley residents Neil Downer and his wife in the Top End bird hide, and he showed me some lovely pictures, taken yesterday, of a European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoeuca in Holt Copse and an adult Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo. Thanks for sharing your records Neil.

Tuesday 19th April [Mainly sunny and warm]

Despite the sunny afternoon, it remains pretty quiet on the migrant front. Just 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and a pair each of Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca to report from my visit.

Wednesday 20th April [Sunny and warm]

I saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus drift south over Wrington Hill (ST4764) mid-afternoon while out walking with friends Ann and Colin.

This evening at the lake I heard my first Garden Warbler Sylvia borin of the year, at Spinney Copse, and saw a Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus probably sitting on a nest (hard to see, so couldn't be sure). There were 26 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and the usual pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca still on Holt Farm. A stiff easterly breeze was blowing waves up the dam, so I was hardly surprised there were no waders on it.

Thursday 21st April [A cold ENE breeze]

The cold grey morning with a stiff breeze seemed to suppress bird song while I carried out my April survey around the lake. However, numbers seem to be quite bouyant. I didn't hear any Reed Warblers today, but I did hear my first Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis as the summer migrants continue to arrive. Here are some of the counts made this morning: 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, 32 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 5 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, and 14 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Of the singing summer migrants I got 27 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 22 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, and a single Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. Selected resident counts included 53 singing Winter Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 25 European Robins Erithacus rubecula, and 7 each of Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and Song Thrush Turdus philomelos. I also saw my first flowering Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula of the spring.

Friday 22nd April [Drizzly rain all day]

I spent all afternoon with Ken Anstey doing more conservation work at the lakeside, so didn't do much birding. I kept an eye open for Black Terns, but sadly none appeared. I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and hundreds, probably thousands, of hirundines over the lake, with at least 8 Common Swifts Apus apus over the bat house at tea time. I also met Mark Hynam who was birding late this afternoon and he sent me the following report: 3 Common Swifts above the Lodge, 11 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (Dam, Holt Bay, Hellfire Corner), 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna (Green Lawn), 2 Egyptian Geese (field behind Holt Bay) and the flock of Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina along the hedge in Holt Bay.

Saturday 23rd April [Mainly sunny]

I did not visit the lake today and have no news to pass on.

Sunday 24th April [Mainly sunny]

I visited the lake this evening, preferring not to go during the day because of an angling competition. I don't have much news to pass on, other than that I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a pair of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca at Top End, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam, and 3 (2 adults and a 1st-summer) Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying west.

Monday 25th April [Mainly overcast and breezy with some rain]

Today's visit was during the late morning into early afternoon. I saw 7 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 7♂ Common Pochards Aythya ferina, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a pair of Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, 11 Common Swifts Apus apus among the hirundines, a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, 26 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 16 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 9 singing Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 4 singing Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, and 2 each of Garden Warbler Sylvia borin, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, and Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis.

The cob of one of the nesting Mute Swan Cygnus olor pairs is pale green 'PZ9', the bird rescued from Cosmeston Lakes in January 2008 and after rehabilitation with the RSPCA released at Chew Valley Lake in February 2008. It was noted at Chew in 2010, but by 2011 had come to Blagdon where it seems to have paired up and can frequently be seen around the Dam/Overspill/Butcombe Bank area.

Steve Hale sent me news of a Common Tern Sterna hirundo this afternoon. Thanks Steve.

Tuesday 26th April [Mainly sunny and cool with some sleet]

Birds of note this morning included my first Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo of the year, an adult, and a singing Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, both along the north side, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the south shore. There were hundreds of hirundines over the water mid-morning with a large influx of Sand Martins Riparia riparia.

Wednesday 27th April

The Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was reportedly seen again. Sorry for the lack of news, I've had to go north to visit family.

Thursday 28th April

I didn't get home from Northumberland in time to check around the lake.

Friday 29th April [Changeable with a cold wind]

There were an amazing 15 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 5 summer-plumaged Dunlins Calidris alpina on the dam early this evening. The Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca pairs were still present, as was a pair of Gadwall Anas strepara in the feeder stream at Long Bay. There were hundreds of hirundines, with a few Common Swifts Apus apus over the water too.

Saturday 30th April [Mainly sunny with a cool wind]

This evening there were 8 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 5 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hawking insects over Top End. On the way back to the Lodge at dusk I saw what may have been a sixth Hobby come out of trees at Green Lawn. Also noted were the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and 23 Canada Geese Branta canadensis.