BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

1907 Blagdon Birds List


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This list is as compiled by Blagdon Lake Keeper, Donald Carr, and published as 21st April 1907, shortly after the completion and filling of the reservoir in 1903. He lived at Ubley Mill House. His work was titled 'List of Birds Found in the Neighbourhood of Blagdon Lake. Including both visitors and residents.' I have included his notes. You can see that the list is a good deal shorter than today's, with many surprising omissions e.g. Blackcap and Reed Bunting, but he adds to it in subsequent reports up to the year 1934, by which time the list has grown fairly substantially. It gives a fascinating insight into the changes that have occurred in the intervening period.

 
  English Name Scientific Name Status given by Carr in 1907
1 (Greater) White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons Six seen this Winter
2 Greylag Goose Anser anser Nine seen this Winter on the lake
3 (Common) Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Nested here once
4 (Eurasian) Wigeon Anas penelope Visists the lake in large numbers during Winter
5 (Eurasian) Teal Anas crecca In large numbers during Winter, and nests here.
6 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Common here and nests
7 Garganey Anas querquedula As visitors only
8 (Northern) Shoveler Anas clypeata Resident and nests here
9 (Common) Pochard Aythya ferina Common in Winter
10 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Common in Winter, nested in 1906.
11 (Greater) Scaup Aythya marila Occasional visitor
12 Common Scoter Melanitta nigra Seen here once
13 (Common) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Winter visitor only
14 Smew Mergellus albellus Several pairs visited the lake this Winter
15 Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Occasionally found
16 Grey Partridge Perdix perdix Fairly common
17 (Great) Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Two were shot on BL in 1903, and four seen on lake in 1907.
18 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Seen at all seasons of the year
19 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Common here, and nests.
20 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Occasional visitor
21 Red Kite Milvus milvus (vulgaris) One seen during winter 1907
22 (Eurasian) Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Common here
23 (Common) Buzzard Buteo buteo One shot at BL, 1905, by Mr H.H. Wills
24 (Common) Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common here
25 Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Nest here
26 Corncrake Crex crex Summer visitor, nests here.
27 (Common) Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Common
28 (Common) Coot Fulica atra Very common
29 (Eurasian) Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Occasionally seen here
30 (Common) Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Visits here in various seasons
31 (European) Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria Visits here in Spring and Autumn
32 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Autumn visitor
33 (Northern) Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Very common and nests here
34 Dunlin Calidris alpina Autumn visitor
35 Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus Winter visitor
36 (Common) Snipe Gallinago gallinago Common in Autumn and Winter. (His Full Snipe)
37 (Eurasian) Woodcock Scolopax rusticola Saw two on 3rd inst.
38 Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Could have shot three last week
39 (Eurasian) Curlew Numenius arquata In flocks, Spring and Autumn.
40 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Nests here
41 Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus Autumn visitor
42 Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Found one killed by a hawk, 1905.
43 (Common) Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus Visits here all seasons
44 Common (Mew) Gull Larus canus Pays occasional visits
45 Herring Gull Larus argentatus Occasional visitor
46 Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Occasional visitor
47 Black Tern Chlidonias niger Spring and Autumn visitor
48 Common Tern Sterna hirundo Spring and Summer visitor
49 Stock Dove Columba oenas One pair seen this year
50 (Common) Woodpigeon Columba palumbus Common
51 (European) Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur Occasional visitor
52 (Common) Cuckoo Cuculus canorus Visits the district in large numbers
53 Barn Owl Tyto alba Fairly numerous
54 Tawny Owl Strix aluco Fairly numerous
55 Long-eared Owl Asio otus Saw one last summer at Holtwood
56 (Common) Swift Apus apus Visits in large numbers
57 (Common) Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Fairly numerous
58 (European) Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Common here
59 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major To be seen occasionally
60 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor Seen occasionally
61 Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio Summer visitor, nests here.
62 (Eurasian) Magpie Pica pica To be seen in most parts of the district
63 (Eurasian) Jay Garrulus glandarius Several pairs nest in the district
64 (Western) Jackdaw Corvus monedula Fairly numerous
65 Rook Corvus frugilegus Several rookeries in neighbourhood
66 Carrion Crow Corvus corone Nests here annually, resident.
67 Goldcrest Regulus regulus Resident
68 Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Common resident
69 Great Tit Parus major Common resident
70 Woodlark Lullula arborea Found nest at Butcombe, 1905.
71 Skylark Alauda arvensis Resident
72 Sand Martin Riparia riparia Summer visitor
73 (Barn) Swallow Hirundo rustica Summer visitor
74 (Common) House Martin Delichon urbicum Summer visitor
75 Purple Martin Progne subis Several pairs seen on Blagdon Lake in 1906!
76 Long-tailed (Bush) Tit Aegithalos caudatus Common resident
77 Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix Regular visitor
78 Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Regular visitor
79 Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus Regular visitor
80 Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca Regular visitor
81 (Common) Whitethroat Sylvia communis Regular visitor
82 (Common) Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia Heard here in summer 1906
83 Sedge Warbler Acro. schoenobaenus Common visitor
84 (Eurasian) Nuthatch Sitta europaea Rather scarce
85 (Eurasian) Treecreeper Certhia familiaris Fairly common
86 (Winter) Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Common resident
87 (Common) Starling Sturnus vulgaris To be seen in large flocks, resident.
88 (White-throated) Dipper Cinclus cinclus Resident, nest at Rickford. (His Water Ouzel)
89 (Common) Blackbird Turdus merula Common resident
90 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Winter visitor
91 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Common resident
92 Redwing Turdus iliacus Winter visitor
93 Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Resident
94 Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata Summer visitor, nests here.
95 (European) Robin Erithacus rubecula Common resident
96 (Common) Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Regular visitor and nests here
97 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra Regular visitor and nests here
98 (Eurasian) Stonechat Saxicola torquata Resident
99 (Northern) Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Regular visitor
100 Dunnock (Hedge Accentor) Prunella modularis Common resident
101 House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common pest
102 (Eurasian) Tree Sparrow Passer monatus Nests here in old hollow trees
103 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima Summer visitor arrived 15th inst. (His Ray's Wagtail)
104 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea Resident
105 White Wagtail Motacilla alba  
  - White Wagtail M.a. alba Plentiful in autumn 1906
  - Pied Wagtail M.a. yarrellii Common resident
106 Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis Found nest in 1906
107 Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Resident
108 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common resident
109 (European) Greenfinch Chloris chloris Common resident
110 (European) Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Becoming numerous here
111 (Common) Linnet Carduelis cannabina Common resident
112 (Eurasian) Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula Resident
113 Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis Seen on 14th Nov., 1906.
114 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella Resident
115 Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus Found nest here in 1906

He included the following, but as they are not likely to have occurred at the lake (rather, in 'the neighbourhood'), I haven't included them in his list for that reason.

Spotted Crake - shot near Burrington, 8th Nov., 1903 (young bird).

Nightjar - nests in the district

Black Grouse - found the young on Blackdown in 1906

Common (Red) Crossbill - seen this winter at Burrington Combe

He comments at the bottom as follows: "A considerable amount of doubt has been expressed as to the existence of the Purple Martin (Hirundo purpurea) in the neighbourhood, but I have no doubt of the identity of this rare species with the specimens seen on the lake."

I subsequently checked my 1915 copy of the BOU List of British Birds in which the committee comment thus on Purple Martin: "An example was reported near Kingstown, co. Dublin, in 1840, and another at Colne Bridge, near Huddersfield, 1854. The Purple Martin breeds from Alberta and Nova Scotia south to Florida and the Vera Cruz in Mexica. It winters in Brazil."

Philip Palmer in his First for Britain and Ireland 1600-1999 gives the first British record as "Two American Purple Martins were said to have been shot by John Calvert of Paddington near the Brent Reservoir, Middlesex, in September 1842. One of the birds, a juvenile male, was added to the collection of Frederick Bond and examined by Yarrell who figured it in his work." Unfortunatley, I only have three of the four volumes of Yarrells work and am missing, in this case, the all-important second volume. Palmer continues "The second specimen retained by Calvert but also examined by Yarrell was a glossy adult male." Bond's cased specimen is now on public display at Brighton Museum. Montagu and Yarrell were among numerous authorities who accepted the record, but Harting subsequently suggested some fraudulent behaviour may have taken place because Calvert had bought American skins. Palmer (p. 316) also cites Purple Martin among a list of additional 'at sea records' with a more detailed account given in British Birds 65: 428-442.

The British Birds article referred to was by Alan L. Durand and titled Landbirds over North Atlantic 1961-65 in which he recorded thus: "9th June 1963; A Purple Martin flew for two hours round RMS Mauretania one day eastbound out of New York."

Lee G.R. Evans (1994) also gives more details in his Rare Birds in Britain 1800-1992 and includes the Irish, Brent Reservoir and Colne Bridge records as well as another from Colchester, Essex, dated 26th September 1878. He also says "Harting (1866) hinted at fraud in connection with at least two of the records."

It is interesting that no further mention was made of the Blagdon record, and you have to wonder what it was that Carr was looking at if, indeed, it wasn't Purple Martins. On the other hand, he is unlikely to have had any experience of Purple Martin in the field, as it is a Nearctic species.

The first acceptable record of Purple Martin Progne subis on the British List, was of a juvenile at the Butt of Lewis, 5-6th September, 2004. This was also the first accepted record for the Western Palearctic, with the second occurring on the Azores the day the Scottish bird departed (Report on rare birds in Great Britain in 2004, British Birds 98: 12, 665-666.).

Noteworthy records made by Carr in addition to his two lists (but not published in Somerset Birds) were as follows:

1908

Great Grey Shrike "seen here end of May, 1907." This would appear to be a late date for a Great Grey Shrike and may, perhaps, refer to a Lesser Grey Shrike?

Hooded Crow said to have been "shot here." It's not clear if this was at the lake or just in the neighbourhood.

Bean Goose listed as a "visitor." Bean Geese were said to be more common on the west coast of Britain than the east at the time (A List of British Birds. 2nd & revised ed. BOU, 1915.) and Smith (The Birds of Somersetshire, 1869) wrote "The Bean Goose is the most numerous of all our Grey Geese." Carr was probably familiar with the species given his background, but Pink-footed Goose was, nevertheless, a possible candidate for misidentification. No specific records were listed and unless shooting records come to light, this early addition is probably best treated with a little caution.

1909

Slavonian Grebe "male bird seen May 2nd to 6th." It is surprising that Carr was able to identify the bird as a male, unless it was subsequently shot, of course!

1910

Golden Oriole "male seen at Ubley Mill Orchard 28th May, 1910." A typical passage migrant date.

Hawk Owl "A bird was observed near Butcombe about the size of a Magpie. Colour-black or dark brown; tail not quite so long as that of the Magpie. Note-A sort of whistle. It was mobbed by small birds, and was doubtless a bird of prey. (? Hawk Owl.)" Whilst this is an interesting, and rather speculative observation, it would not be considered acceptable by modern-day criteria for such a rare species in the UK.

1913

Guillemot (Common Murre) "Caught on Blagdon Lake, June, 19th, 1913." If considered acceptable, this record would be the first, and only, record for the lake. I seem to recall reading that there was a glass case in the Inspection House many years ago that may have contained a Guillemot. Perhaps it was this bird?

Storm Petrel "Found exhausted." This seems to be entirely plausible to me, but it would have been nice to know if it occurred at the same time as the Guillemot. Possibly after a summer storm?

Black Redstart "Found near Lake Nov. 27th, 1913." A likely sort of date for this species to occur.

Black-throated Diver "Blagdon Lake, Dec., 1913." A likely sort of date for this species to occur.

Golden Eagle "In December I saw two Eagles over the Lake, but at such a height that I could not identify them, presumably they were a pair of Golden Eagles." Even if these were Golden Eagles, the sighting was not good enough to be acceptable.

1914

Arctic Skua "Richardson's Skua observed on Blagdon Lake, September 2nd, travelling from east to west, towards the Bristol Channel." The date and detail of this record seem to be acceptable to me.

Little Tern "Lesser Tern, a flock visited the Lake on September 2nd, and remained for several days." One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

Greater Scaup "and a male... Scaup, were also shot."

1916

Great Northern Diver "Shot December 16th at Blagdon." "A pair of Northern Divers arrived on the Lake at the beginning of November, and after one was shot the other disappeared." One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

Little Bittern "Observed repeatedly November and December." A strange date for a summer migrant, but this occurrence seems to have been widely accepted at the time.

1917

Spotted Crake "The spotted crake previously reported as taken on Mendip some years ago was seen at Blagdon in September." A typical date for a migrant.

Eurasian Bittern "Shot near Blagdon, Dec. 25th, 1917." Part of a wider movement of Bitterns, no doubt weather induced, because Carr also records an influx of Smew around the same time. I see no reason to doubt this record.

1918

Canada Goose "Five visited the lake on September 16th, three appeared to be birds of the year". Palmer and Ballance do not list this record, but given that Canada Geese bred locally at the turn of the century, this occurrence of an unmistakable species seems to me to be acceptable.

Great Northern Diver "Northern diver: Four arrived on the lake, September 24th, two left about a fortnight later and the other pair remained. One was shot on December 14th." One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

1919

Great Northern Diver listed as a "visitor" during the autumn. One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

Little Tern said to have visited the lake. One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

1920

Red-throated Diver "the Redthroated Diver was with us, and remained most of the winter. This bird allowed me to approach to within 10 yards whilst it was sitting on the bank." I had a similar experience with a Red-throated Diver on the Isles of Scilly, and given Carrs proximity to the bird, I can't see why this record shouldn't be deemed acceptable. He had experience of the other likely species. It was not listed by B.W. Tucker at the time for some reason.

Little Tern "We had a visit... and Little Tern." One of a number of records of this species that was probably more common at the time.

Wryneck "Several pairs of Wryneck nested in the orchards." Given that the annual report was headed "Bird Report Blagdon Reservoir 1920", this is probably the first acceptable record that is specifically at the lakeside and probably refers to Ubley Mill Orchard among others."

1921 (a year of drought)

Black-legged Kittywake "More than usual in number were... the Blackhead Gull and Kittywake." This was the latest in a number of years that Carr reported Kittywakes at the lake. It is very rare today and I'm curious, and not a little suspicious, about his records. The obvious omission from his list, and subsequent additions, is Little Gull Larus minutus, and I wonder if he misidentified them?

Red-necked Phalarope "By far the most interesting and rare bird discovered was the Rednecked Phalarope; there were two different lots which hunted in different parts of the water. It was very interesting to watch the little fellows, who seemed to have no fear of man or boat gliding over the surface of the water, dash through the waves and dive after some object from time to time; they would come to within a yard or less of a boat. One was obtained on an adjacent pond and is preserved and now in my possession." The bird that was obtained was recorded previously, but it is apparent from Carrs description of events that more than one bird was involved.

Bar-tailed Godwit "Near the same pond a pair of Bartailed Goldnit [sic] were seen; these are rather rare visitors in this neighbourhood, this being the second record in 19 years." This record and the comments would apply equally well today.

1922

Stone-curlew "Waders were in evidence during spring and autumn migration. I noticed... Stone Curlew."

Great Northern Diver "Divers - Only a few visited the Lake. The Great Northern..."

Red-throated Diver "Divers - Only a few visited the Lake. The... Red Throated."

Northern Goshawk "I saw a Goshawk in September. It remained about a week and tried very hard to catch some Teal on the Lake." Another plausible record.

1923

Mystery bird "At the end of September I saw a bird about the size of a Goosander, general colour that of an immature gull, short bill, somewhat like a goose, but it did not resemble that species in any other particular." Any ideas?

1924

Northern Gannet "On August 8th we saw a Solan Goose pass over the Lake; it appeared to be in very fine plumage." This seems to refer to an adult Gannet; an unmistakable species.

1926

Grey Phalarope "A single Grey Phalarope was with us over a week in September." This is a good date for a migrant.

Black Redstart "A pair of Black Redstarts came along in December and remained with us for several weeks. They were as tame as Robins in winter, their tactics being very much the same. They would perch on the fence or any tall reed and as the men were planting trees turned over a sod they would fly down, pick some insect from the newly turned soil, and then return to their perch."

1928

Red-throated Diver "I noticed the Red Throated Diver in December, but left owing, no doubt, to the hard winter and the Lake being frozen."

1930

Egyptian Goose "One Egyptian Goose came to the Lake in May and remained till late in September."

Velvet Scoter "I noticed, early in the Winter, a pair of Velvety Black Ducks. From their flight and general appearance they very much resembled the Velvet Scoter."

Grey Phalarope "but the Grey Phalarope paid a visit on his homeward journey."

1931

Red-necked Phalarope "The Red Necked Phalarope, a jolly little fellow, paid us a visit in the fall."

1933 (On December 31st, 1933 the Lake was below 17ft. 3ins., which means that the Lake was deficient of 1,350 million gallons).

Leach's (Storm) Petrel "The following is a list of Birds that were observed: Forktailed Storm Petrol [sic] (rare)..."

Bar-tailed Godwit "The following is a list of Birds that were observed: Bartailed Godwit..."

1934

Stone-curlew "List of Waders - ... Stone Curlew."

Storm Petrel "List of Waders - ... Stormpetrel."

Phalarope sp. "List of Waders - ... Phalerope [sic]."

Black-tailed Godwit "Black Tailed Godwit (very rare in Somerset.)"


Updated 14 June, 2013