BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

August 2015 News


Saturday 1st August [Warm with an occasional shower]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present over lunchtime, asleep at Burmah Road. I also spotted the adult ♂ Aythya hybrid there too. There were 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos around the dam end and the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was on Home Bay Point. Two mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta seemed to be favouring the Holt Bay area.

Sunday 2nd August [Pretty warm and sunny]

I was at the lake from 1000 to 1745 hrs today, but was checking bat boxes. Roger and Jean Staples and a couple of other birders told me they'd see 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, and I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

We checked the bat boxes today, mainly with a view to removing the old bird nests. In the evening Chris Barrington and I ran the National Nathusius Project harp traps at Litton Lower reservoir, a new venue. I will post a full report on the Bat News Page in the next couple of days.

Monday 3rd August [Mainly cloudy, and cooler than yesterday.]

I walked the Cotswold Way from Horton to Wooton-under-Edge during the day, and checked the lake this evening. I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe and the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis.

Tuesday 4th August [Overcast with some light rain]

It was really nice to meet Roger Treeby today, it's been a long time! Anyway, the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis and ♂ Aythya hybrid were both still present late this afternoon, as were a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, the usual 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the juvenile Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe and a singing Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus.

The island in front of the Fishing Lodge (part of Tiny's Shallow) is just showing as of today - so we ought to see a few waders starting to use it if it continues to emerge. Rugmoor and Wookey Points could also attract migrants, so are worth checking carefully, and with several narrow marginal areas backed by emergent vegetation, we have ideal conditions for a Spotted Crake to drop in. The only records were of two in 1996.

Wednesday 5th August [Mainly overcast]

I took a look at the lake this morning during which time I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and the juvenile Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. Try as hard as I might, I couldn't pin the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis down, but this evening I did see it while I was watching what I think was a juvenile Mediterranean Gull bathing. I drove around Holt Bay for a closer look off Rainbow Point and couldn't find either bird again! Paul Williams saw 4 Green Sandpipers at Long Bay during his lunch break, when 3 flew in to join the one I saw earlier. I saw 2 this evening.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Thursday 6th August [Bright, sunny and breezy.]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present off Indian Country this afternoon (see notes below for description), as was the adult ♂ Aythya Lesser Scaup look-alike, and an adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila. All best viewed from Bell's Bush, but stick to the track through the grass created by the fishermen please. Also noted during my 3 hours at the lakeside were, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, the moulting Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and on Holt Farm plough a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, and two gulls with rings as follows:

Now then, in a bid to help visiting birders with the Lesser Scaup, I thought I'd give you an update on its plumage and characteristics. It has a black head (with purple gloss in bright sun). The bill is PALE grey with an even paler tip and BLACK NAIL. The breast, mantle, flanks and tail are BROWN. Today, I saw two pale patches of breeding plumage feathers coming through on each side of the mantle while it was preening. The undertail is looking paler than when it arrived and the belly is white. You need to see all of these characters in combination. Note, the bird with the GREY BACK is the Aythya hybrid, despite the head shape looking superficially correct at distance! To give you an idea, I spent over an hour looking for the Lesser Scaup this morning, and I know what I'm looking for... It is only subtly different from the Tufties.

The Lesser Scaup and a Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes were reported by a visitor this morning, just before I arrived (another patch tick gets away)! I picked the news up from Rare Bird Alert rather than first hand, so would appreciate a name for the finder of the Hawfinch - it's the first for a long time (possibly only the second record) and a really scarce local bird. Thanks.

Friday 7th August [Bright, sunny and warm.]

Friends Pete and Pauline rang this morning to say they were coming to see the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis today, so we arranged to meet at 1100 hrs to look for it together. It took 3 hours to find it! Also present was the ♂Aythya hybrid and ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila. Other birds picked out included 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 14 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a juvenile Common Redshank Tringa totanus.

Late news from Jon Mattick: "Late info and not Blagdon, but might interest you - yesterday I was fishing at Chew, from about 10 until 1230 ish there was a very active flock of circa 16 Common Terns working all parts of the Lake.  At 1800 ish three Whimbrel flew in from the north and went down at the West end of Villice and a few minutes later a flyover Osprey seen heading in Blagdon direction. I guess the Terns and the Osprey moved on and are probably off the coast of France by now, but the Whimbrels might turn up at Blagdon." Thanks Jon.

Saturday 8th August [Bright and sunny]

During a quick visit early afternoon I saw 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus on Green Lawn and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Long Bay. At tea time there was an aadditional Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Rugmoor Bay.

There were 2 Common Swifts Apus apus over the village during the morning, but most have gone.

Sunday 9th August [Overcast and warm]

I had a look around for 2 hours at lunchtime and was not able to find either ♂ Scaup spp. or the Aythya hybrid. I'll look again when they start feeding this evening and moving out of Top End. There wasn't a great deal around today, just a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and I heard a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus calling, but didn't see it. I spent another 1.5 hours this evening by the lake but have nothing to add to the sightings, and feel it's quite possible the Lesser Scaup has gone - to Chew perhaps?

Monday 10th August [Rain early, brightening up later.]

I heard at least 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus calling this evening after dark while we were bat trapping at the Lodge. In addition, Avon Birds reported a Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

I was away all day at Wytham Wood, Oxon., working with Dani Linton, Kate Sharma, Ken Anstey and Georgie Hayworth. It was wet, but we found a group of Natterer's Bats, a couple of Brown Long-eared and some Soprano Pipistrelles. Thanks again Dani for sharing your special knowledge of the bats in what must surely be the most intensively studied patch of woodland anywhere in the world. Then, this evening I joined Jim Mulholland with Joe McSorley and AWT volunteers for a short 3 hour trapping session at Blagdon Lake by the Fishing Lodge. It was a spectacular success - see Bat News for some REALLY exciting news.

Tuesday 11th August [Sunny and warm]

In perfect conditions for gazing at moulting Aythya ducks this afternoon, and with renewed enthusiasm, I spent an hour and a half looking for, and finding, the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. It still has virtually no primaries, and is essentially brown apart from the head. The bill seems to have darkened a little and the head shape was not quite so characteristic compared with last week. The adult ♂ Aythya hybrid with the grey back is still present as well. Other birds included 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo that was ranging widely over the lake.

A Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus was reported by Mark Parsons (per Avon Birds).

Wednesday 12th August [Sunny and warm]

Todays easterly breeze brought in the first significant flush of autumn shorebirds. This afternoon I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 3 Common Redshank Tringa totanus, 3 (2 adults and a juvenile) Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula and 3 adult Dunlin Calidris alpina. Also noted were a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta and the adult ♂ Aythya hybrid. This evening I saw 6 Common Sandpipers and Mark Hynam 'top-trumped' me with 7. A Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus was noted on the dam again by Steve Hale (per Avon Birds). Mike O'Connor emailed to say he'd seen the 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus by the dam at 1700 hrs too.

Late news of 2 Common Cranes Grus grus flying north over the lake at approx. 1400 hrs on Friday 7th August, reported by George Stacey. If accepted, that would be the 2nd record, although there was another reported to Rare Bird Alert flying over during the 1990s, that was seen in Devon later, but not submitted to the Avon bird recorder so far as I know.

Thursday 13th August [Overcast, muggy, and warm.]

So much for the bad weather warnings! The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was showing rather nicely in Orchard Bay this afternoon, and I could see the bold vermiculated mantle feathers coming through the thin veneer of brown eclipse feathers at about 100 metres range. The wing feathering looks like it's growing apace and the bird will surely be able to fly soon. The adult ♂ Aythya hybrid was at Top End. There were very few waders, just 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus.

I made an exciting find in a bat box this evening - see Bat News.

Friday 14th August [Persistent light rain]

Another pulse of shorebirds arrived today, with 9 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula in front of the Lodge, 7 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius at Green Lawn and 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina. I saw a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus at the Lodge car park and the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was along North Shore but mobile. I understand there will be a boat angling competition all weekend on both Chew and Blagdon, so the wildfowl are likely to remain mobile.

Saturday 15th August [Mainly sunny]

I met Mark Hynam this evening. He'd had a look around this morning and noted 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 4 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, and 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus. This evening we saw the adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, a juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina, a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, adult Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and 2 Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus, a 1st-summer and juvenile.

Sunday 16th August [Overcast and warm, brightening later.]

I saw Steve Hale birding late morning (I was checking bat boxes at the time) and he reported "24 Grey Heron (most Top End), 6 Common Sandpiper, 1 juv Mediterranean Gull (dam)." I can add 1+ Little Egret Egretta garzetta, but I couldn't spot the Lesser Scaup along the North Shore. We're doing the WeBS count from 1100 hrs tomorrow so should be able to give a full update afterwards. I'll Tweet out the Lesser Scaups whereabouts when (if) we find it.

Ken Anstey and I ran an interesting bat trapping session on Butcombe Bank in the evening - see Bat News.

Monday 17th August [Warm and sunny]

We carried out the WeBS count today between 1100 and 1500 hrs, but during that time didn't see the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, so I stayed on until 1645 hrs before I eventually found it off Indian Country from Bell's Bush. I also spotted 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End that Mike Jenkins came over to age as juveniles, presumably from Chew Valley Lake. There was a large count, 143, of Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus and a flock of 15+ Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus around the Lodge car park. A Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia and Purple Hairstreak Neozephyrus quercus were also noted during the count. The rest of the count details are on the WeBS Page.

Tuesday 18th August [Warm and mainly sunny]

I didn't have much time to spend looking for the Lesser Scaup today, and didn't see it at Top End, so it was probably with the large group at Rugmoor Bay in the afternoon. The ♂Aythya hybrid was in Top End off Indian Country. Update on plumages: The hybrid looks grey-backed and has grey flanks too. The head shape also looks pretty good for the real thing, but the body appears too pale when seen from a distance. The real deal, however, is beginning to look more like a ♂ Tufted Duck with brownish flanks, black head that no longer looks so much like a Lesser Scaup, and the back is brown on the mantle with just the area behind head on the front of the mantle appearing to be taking on a greyer hue. When asleep, the head shape is no longer a feature to rely on for the time being. It is still VERY DIFFICULT to pick out of the crowd unless you get a good view of it, or, have lots and lots of spare time! Also noted during my visit were a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus. Pete Taylor saw a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus.

Wednesday 19th August [Overcast with rain for much of the day]

Early this evening I saw 12 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula and an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, and there was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Rugmoor Bay. Avon Birds additionally reported 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

Thursday 20th August [Mainly cloudy and warm]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis and ♂Aythya hybrid were both in the Top End of the lake at lunchtime, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos were on the dam, a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus was on Tiny's Shallow, in front of the Lodge, and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was at Wookey Point. Sue Caola told me she'd seen 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus in flight and 16 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus over Holt Farm later in the day.

We're checking the Chew Valley Lake bat boxes for the first time tomorrow - it'll be interesting to see if there's been any uptake.

Friday 21st August [Warm]

I had a quick look at the Lodge on my way to Chew Valley Lake this morning, met Steve Hale and Mrs Trellis, and saw a sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow. Steve had more time for a leisurely look around and additionally reported: "1 Little Egret, 16 Grey Heron, 2 Common Sandpiper, 9 GBB Gull inc green ring/white letters L42, 9 Grey Wagtail."

I had a full-on day at Chew doing the bat box checks with Chris Barrington and Ken Anstey, before going over to Wiltshire on a swarming survey with Jim Mulholland into the wee small hours. See Bat News.

Saturday 22nd August [Warm and sunny, with thundery showers later on.]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was off Rugmoor Point this evening, and the ♂Aythya hybrid at Top End. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 (sub-adult and juvenile) Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis from the Lodge, and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Top End.

Sunday 23rd August [Warm, wet in the morning, drying out later.]

I saw the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis close off Rainbow Point this morning, though it was moved later by a fishing boat. The ♂Aythya hybrid was in Top End as well. Sean Davies found 31 Black Terns Chlidonias niger and a Common Tern Sterna hirundo before 0800 hrs, and saw two flocks of Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula (22 and 25). The Black Terns and 2 more Ringed Plovers were still present at 1300 hrs and were joined late morning by 12 Ruff Philomachus pugnax. Other regular birds included 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, the sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, the first Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope of the autumn, and lots of hirundines, including at least one Sand Martin Riparia riparia. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 'green L42', ringed as a juvenile in Low Normandy, is still hanging around at the lake. All bar one of the Ruff flew off south at 1915 hrs and shortly after the Black Terns headed out south-west. Anglers Steve Usma and Jeff Hurst told me they'd see a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus fly through west; presumably a bird that was at Chew this morning. It's been an interesting day - more of the same tomorrow please.

Monday 24th August [Rain all day]

Well, it was nowhere near as dramatic bird-wise, despite the rain, today. On the plus side, Mark Hynam and I found a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra at Green Lawn while looking (unsuccessfully) for the Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe found by Steve Hale and Mrs Trellis this morning. There were 10+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia in front of the Lodge and large numbers of House Martins Delichon urbicum at Top End. I also spotted 3 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope off Indian Country and the adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis off Rainbow Point. It is beginning to be easier to spot now, and although I didn't see the hybrid this evening, beware the pitfall. The Lodge/dam area hosts 4 mobile Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and Steve Hale reported a Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

 

In respect of the number of Black Terns yesterday, I have several pictures of the flock as they were wheeling around deciding if they were going to leave, and I've now revised the count back to 31 again.

Flock of 31 Black Terns Chlidonias niger © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Pete Rock sent me details of the ringed gulls reported on 6th August as follows:

Tuesday 25th August [Showers and breezy]

A Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus was in front of the Lodge this afternoon, along with 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and the sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. The adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was along the North Shore and the ♂Aythya hybrid was at the east end of the lake between Wood Bay Point and Rugmoor Point. I spotted 7 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta as well as more Sand Martins Riparia riparia, but no sign of yesterday's Whinchat.

Two new birds in at dusk, on Tiny's Shallow, were an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina and a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta.

Wednesday 26th August [Breezy with sunny spells]

The adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis is still present and, of note, I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 (adult and juvenile) Dunlin Calidris alpina and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta. The water level has come up a bit, which is hardly surprising given the amount of rain we've had since Sunday, and I think the number of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula has dropped as a result. Interestingly, I've been chatting to some anglers who've been commenting on the fact that they're not seeing Lesser Water Boatmen Corixa sp. in the fish stomachs this autumn, which will probably explain the low number of Tufties, as they form a large part of their diet as well.

We carried out a bat trapping session this evening, during which a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was heard calling. We caught 2 Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii (one recapture) and a good selection of other bats - see Bat News.

Thursday 27th August [Sunshine and showers]

At the Lodge there was a juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina and 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, the ♂ Aythya hybrid was close off Bell's Bush and I saw a Barn Owl Tyto alba along North Shore and (following a call from angler Alan Herring) a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo over Ash Tree.

Friday 28th August [Sunny intervals and drizzle]

The ♂ Aythya hybrid was close off Bell's Bush again this evening, but I haven't seen the Lesser Scaup either of the last evenings, though I'm not saying it's gone. I will have a closer look around tomorrow morning. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax in front of the Fishing Lodge this evening. Paul Williams rang me early this afternoon to tell me he was watching an Otter Lutra lutra at Top End. It showed well for 17 minutes.

Saturday 29th August

I think the Lesser Scaup has moved on after all, and Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula numbers are down very significantly too. Just 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos when I checked today.

Sunday 30th August

Not much to report today with a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 2 (an adult and juvenile) Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Tiny's Shallow running around in the huge flock of 407 Canada Geese Branta canadensis.

Monday 31st August [Sunshine and showers]

This morning there were 9 Common Terns Sterna hirundo and a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Fishing Lodge. There were also 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. This evening I saw a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Burmah Road, where there were 33 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis in addition to the 9 in Long Bay.