December 2016 News

Thursday 1st December [Very cold (-5 Celsius) overnight & foggy at the lake all day]

It was a beautiful sunny morning up the hill at our house, but at the lake I couldn't see more than 50 metres in the dense fog and it was like it all day, as the photo below shows. It was a wonderful example of a temperature inversion - quite extraordinary. Birding was all but a waste of time, although I did see 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta close to the road and aside from a ♂ Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus that was it for the birds.

St. Andrew's Blagdon at dusk, with fog in the Yeo Valley & sunshine on Nempnett Thrubwell © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I took my camera to photograph Shoreweed Littorella uniflora hoping it hadn't been reclaimed by the rising water. It was beginning to go over thanks to the recent frosts, but I got this record shot. Hopefully, I'll get it in flower next time the water goes down. Blagdon is the only local site for it in our area, so far as I know.

Shoreweed, Littorella uniflora, Butcombe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Friday 2nd December [Not quite so cold & the fog's drifted away.]

I've had a busy day, but managed a quick whizz around late afternoon and saw just 12 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 7 (3 adult ♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 14 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 25 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Disappointingly, the marginal vegetation was being brush cut, and the lone ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata was looking a bit flummoxed at Long Bay, where the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was feeding in exactly the same place I saw it two days ago. There seems to have been a large movement of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca away from the lake because there's ice in areas of shallow water. I quickly scanned the diving ducks but didn't see anything to write about. Hopefully, it's going to warm up a bit over the weekend.

Saturday 3rd December [A bit milder again, but overcast.]

There are clearly lots of little fish (mainly European Perch Perca fluviatilis) in the lake because the Egrets are still being attracted, as are, small, but increasing numbers of Goosanders. Anyway, to today's news. There were 15 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 22 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta while I was there this morning, plus 15 (6 adult ♂, 1 1st-w ♂ & 8 ♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser. Although By-Brook, Keynell & their young have gone, we had 12 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and 7 (4♂ & 3♀) Northern Pintails Anas acuta of note at Top End, and the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was in Holt Bay. I also noted at least 6 Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula around Home Bay and there seemed to be lots of Robins Erithacus rubecula along the road - perhaps an influx?

The Lodge entrance gate was locked today, but I didn't check Top End (although I'd expect that one to be locked anyway).

Sunday 4th December [Sunny and bright, but cold.]

Not a great deal to tell you from my late afternoon visit. There were 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 23 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 12 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and 16 (7♂ & 9♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

Mark Hynam sent me the following news of a visit made in the morning that I missed by not looking at my emails: 9 Great White Egrets, 13 Little Egrets, 12 Bewick's Swans, 7 (6♂ & 1♀) Goosanders, the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, one each of Peregrine Falco Peregrinus and Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, plus 2 Northern Ravens Corvus corax and 5 Goldcrests Regulus regulus. Thanks Mark.

Another email from Nick Wilcox-Brown to tell me there was a lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca at Top End too. Thanks for getting in touch.

Monday 5th December [Misty, damp & cold.]

Viewing wasn't great at the lake today, but I managed to pick out 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 12 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 12 (5♂ & 7♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 10 (8♂ & 2♀) Northern Pintails and heard a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. Wildfowl numbers are right down and it will be really interesting to see what the December WeBS totals are when we do it around the weekend 17/18th. Last year, for example, we had 1062 Tufted Ducks in November and 543 in December - there's but a fraction of those numbers this year.

Tuesday 6th December [Damp, misty and warmer than of late.]

Not so very different to the last few days, with 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 19 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 12 (2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 12 (9♂ & 3♀) Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 6 (3♂ & 3♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser noted mid-afternoon. Nothing special in the gull roost either - the birding is as gloomy as the weather! The water level has remained steady for the last few days.

Wednesday 7th December

I did not visit the lake today. Avon Birds is carrying the following news, from Geoff Daniels: 2 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 1 Goosander Mergus merganser,Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. Thanks Geoff and Michael Davis.

Thursday 8th December

Due to feeling unwell, I didn't get to the lake again today, but hopefully I've turned the corner and will be able to bring you some news tomorrow.

Friday 9th December

After a bad night last night, I decided to stay in today. So, once again, I have no news.

Saturday 10th December [Rain & mist]

I finally felt well enough to get up this morning, and thought I ought to get lakeside for a quick look around ahead of tomorrows visit by Bristol Ornithological Club. I didn't spend long going through all the wildfowl, we can do that on the day, but I did see 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 24 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, a Dunlin Calidris alpina, an adult Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, a (large) Peregrine Falco peregrinus and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser. There aren't huge numbers of birds, but there is variety, which should make for an interesting walk - provided the early fog that's forecast lifts!

All the Blagdon Lake site lists are being revised and updated currently, starting with Birds. You will find that I have simplified the way to find information. Just go to the Wildlife link and select the group you are interested in and you will find a button/link to the relevant site list. When I have completed them (Birds are closest so far), a hot link from the species name will take you to its own page with more information, and record details where relevant, in a Blagdon context. For example, if you wish to find out more about Bitterns at Blagdon, then click on Wildlife>Birds>Site List>Eurasian Bittern and you will find what you need, I hope. If it's Pyramidal Orchid you'd rather know more about, then click Wildlife>Plants>Site List>Pyramidal Orchid. Most site lists do not have species pages set up yet, but I'm working on it. It's a slow process that may take several years!

Sunday 11th December [Sunny and mild]

I had a walk with 8 members of BOC this morning, and although we didn't see any birds I didn't expect, we had a good time and racked up 63 spp. in the four hours. We also saw a Peacock Aglais io butterfly in the sunshine, presumably woken up by the warmth. Notable birds included 7+ Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 'teens' of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, the Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, several Goosanders Mergus merganser, a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a small flock of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata and we heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus.

Monday 12th December [Wet and horrible]

I'm still feeling under the weather so didn't visit the lake today given the prevailing conditions - so, no news. We have the annual Lake Users and Wardens meeting tonight.

Tuesday 13th December [Breezy & changeable though continuing mild]

The weather wasn't especially bright but it was really mild, so I spent an hour by the lake around lunchtime. Yesterday's rain has made very little difference to the water level but we're down to 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii now. However, the piscivorous birds are building in number with 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 16 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, probably in excess of 150 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo (although I didn't count them), and I'm fairly sure there were 21 (9♂ & 12♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser. We have way above normal numbers of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus for the time of year too. The shoals of small Perch Perca fluviatilis fry must be being hammered this autumn! Also of note was a 1st-winter Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, and 4 (3♂ & 1♀) Northern Pintails Anas acuta.

But, I'm saving the best to last - I actually got a Blagdon tick today! I was walking back to my car from the Top End hide and could hear a number of birds calling softly to one another with a quiet 'wit' or 'wit-wit' call, but I just could not see them in the trees near the car. So, I walked past it and realised the birds were further back in the big Willow Salix sp. to the right of the hide. As I twigged this, about 6-8 birds flew out of the Willow towards another bird that gave a couple of classic 'ping' calls nearer to the hide. Despite walking back along the road towards Bell's Bush I couldn't hear or see them again. What were they? My first Bearded Tits (Reedlings) Panurus biarmicus at Blagdon, no less. Yay! There could have been as many as 10 birds altogether. Unfortunately, I couldn't spend more time looking for them, as I had to go and pick my dear old mum up and take her Christmas shopping... I was an hour late getting there. Tomorrow, I'll take the camera down to the lake, but as I don't think there is any suitable habitat over water at the moment, I feel sure they will probably have moved on by then. But, fingers crossed.

Wednesday 14th December [Sunny, breezy & mild]

Headline news is 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, c.20 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 186 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo and 6 (3♂ & 3♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser (Andy saw another at Top End too). Now, read on...

I started my search for the Bearded Tits (Reedlings) at the Lodge around 1000 hrs this morning after filling the feeders. No sign of them in Pipe Bay reed bed, so I drove along to Home Bay and spent some time there, but again, no sight or sound. I thought I'd go up to the hide and sit there for a while, but while driving along I spotted a very distinctive-looking Pipit sp. So I reversed up and got my scope out to have a closer look. There was very little chest streaking and no flank streaking. It looked 'leggy' and almost wheatear like in stance. I grabbed half a dozen distant images and dived back into the car to consult my guides. Well, I'm not going any further than that, because when I got back out, hoping it'd come closer in the meantime, I couldn't find it! So, I decided to continue to drive to Top End and met Andy Davis walking the other way. He'd spent some time in the hide, but there'd been no sign of the Beardies there either. So having shown him my dismal photos, we decided to go back and see if we could find the Pipit. No luck, I'm afraid! But, I did flush a Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus which we both saw very well during its short flight. I didn't bother it again, but amazingly, that was my second Blagdon tick in 2 days! What are the chances of that after 24 years of fairly intensive birding there? Christmas has come early.

Thursday 15th December [Drizzle]

New in today were 2 1st-w ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila that were asleep off the west end of Green Lawn at lunchtime. The piscivores were having a field day, with 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 33 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, c. 200 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo, and 6 (♂ & 5♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser. Also, noted was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata, 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and a couple of Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula.

So what was the mystery pipit yesterday? Andy and I have looked at the pictures on the computer and think it was just one of those 'odd-looking' Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis. I didn't see it today, so haven't got any decent pictures to post on here.

Friday 16th December [Sunny & dry]

Little Egrets Egretta garzetta are arriving in numbers with the good fishing conditions. I made it 36 during the last hour of daylight (could be a site record, I've lost track). We still have 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 6 (3♂ & 3♀) Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and 5 (2♂ & 3♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser. There was a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling behind the Top End bird hide, but no sign of the Greater Scaup.

Saturday 17th December [Dry]

It was a record count of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta yesterday, but having gone to Rainbow Point and driven directly to check those in Butcombe Bay at lunchtime, I made it 37 today! Amazing! There were 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 17 (3♂ & 14♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser, and the usual ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata present today.

Sunday 18th December [Dry and misty]

The mist took a while to lift this morning so I didn't visit until lunchtime. There were still 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 25 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (fewer in Butcombe Bay probably due to Sunday walkers), 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 13 (4 ad♂, 1 1-w♂ & 8♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 5 (4♂ & 1♀) Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and I had verbal reports of the ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata, and singles of Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. I also saw the 'odd Meadow Pipit' again today. I am going to take camera and filming gear with me when we do the WeBS Count tomorrow morning, just in case we come across it again. It was in exactly the same spot that I saw it at last Wednesday.

Monday 19th December [Misty, with light rain setting in this afternoon.]


Last Wednesday I saw a very distinctive Pipit sp. for a few minutes before it flew off. Andy Davis and I searched for it without luck. Then, yesterday, I saw it again in the same place and convinced myself last night it was a probable Blyth's Pipit, and alerted Andy and Richard Mielcarek, and told them I'd let them know if we saw it again on the WeBS count this morning. Well, Andy found it just before we arrived at the spot and got some shots but it was flushed by a helicopter. However, I found it again later and the WeBS team had a good look at it, during which time Andy and Richard came over from Chew. We were all pretty happy that it was probably a Blyth's, although we still hadn't heard it call, and so alerted John Martin, Chris Craig, Rupert Higgins and Keith Vinicombe to ask for a more informed opinion. Well, Keith got there late this afternoon and watched it for quite a while on his own, and eventually phoned to say that he's happy it's a Blyth's too.

Blyth's Pipit, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I'm sorry the pictures are awful, but I'm having problems with my camera locking mechanism which means the focus is decidely iffy. Also, it was dull, dull, dull today. However, you get the idea I hope? The forecast for tomorrow is sunshine, so photo opportunities ought to be better. I will arrive at the lake around 0800hrs and go and have a look for the bird. If I find it, I will 'Tweet' out the news. Depending on numbers we may have to limit parking to the fishing lodge car park, apart from birders who are not be able to walk to it. It is anticipated that we will be allowing cars in via the fishing lodge gate from Blagdon village, but I will put that information out too. Permits are £4 and may be used at all Bristol Reservoirs on the day. Please follow any onsite instructions because we need to be mindful of Bristol Water operations and not impede their access.

Blyth's Pipit, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Okay, so there's a few shots to stimulate discussion... On with the rest of the news: We had a record 38 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 18 Goosanders Mergus merganser, and 95 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus on the count. See WeBS page for full count details.

Tuesday 20th December [Sunny and bright. Cool wind.]

Hooray! The Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii stuck. I'm so glad lots of other birders had the opportunity to catch up with it today, and it showed so well this morning, until it decided to feed along Burmah Road where views and photo opportunities were rather more distant. I spent most of my 6 hours beside the lake helping get people onto it and liaising with Bristol Water to get better access, but I eventually got too cold and had to go home for a warm drink to calm my cough down. I thought the light for photography was a bit harsh today, and the bird certainly looked more washed-out than it did yesterday in overcast conditions. However, we were lucky enough to hear a single high-pitched, thin, 'see-ooo' call as it flew overhead on one occasion. I also noticed it 'dipping' its back end frequently today, which I hadn't really noticed previously. This afternoon, at Burmah Road there was a Little Stint Calidris minuta, rather controversially suppressed by Mr Vinicombe yesterday! While at the lake I also saw the 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, and 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, together with lots of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flying about. Mark Hynam texted later to say he'd read the rings of two Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo in front of the Fishing Lodge; Red 'AW' (the Dutch bird blogged about on 11th and 28th Nov.), and Green 'SNB' which I'll endeavour to get some info about.

Tomorrow, I'll go to the lake in the morning between 0800 and 0900hrs and look for the bird again, then Tweet out news together with access arrangements. I'm not sure what BW will say, but I hope we can allow people to drive in and park at Green Lawn again. Thanks to everyone who came - Steven Smith, the Head of Fisheries and Recreation, said what a lovely bunch you all were, and enjoyed a peek through someone's scope too.

Wednesday 21st December [Overcast with some afternoon rain]

The Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii was a bit more awkward today, spending a good deal of the day east of Holt Copse. It was okay watching it through a telescope and giving good views, but not so good for the photographers, except on a couple of occasions at Wood Bay Point. If it's at Holt Bay just beyond the barrier, or the next bay along, Wood Bay, it's better if people stay on the road to watch it. That way the pipits won't keep being pushed. There are a couple of good spots where photographers can get shots without moving the birds towards the east end of the lake further from the parking and out of range of most camera lenses. Still present today were the Little Stint Calidris minuta, 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and at least 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.

As I understand it, the gate will be open again at the fishing lodge end tomorrow and birders will be able to drive along to the barrier at Green Lawn. Please park on the opposite (hedge) side of the road to the lake, not on the meadow. The fisheries team will come along periodically and issue day tickets at £4, so don't feel you need to purchase one in advance. If you are a blue badge holder and are limited in how far you can walk, please make yourself known to me (I'll have my badge around my neck), or the fisheries team, and we should be able to get you somewhere close to the bird, depending on where it is at the time.

Thursday 22nd December [Mainly sunny until some rain at dusk]

I'm going to start with an appeal: a gentleman who'd travelled quite a long way to see the pipit got part way home and realised he'd left his scope behind on Green Lawn. I haven't been told of one being handed in, so I'm wondering if anyone who came today can let me know what happened to it? I can then put the owner in touch with the finder. I should hate to think that it has been misappropriated.

To the bird news: the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii showed pretty well today, favouring Holt and Wood Bays for much of the time and giving everyone excellent views and pretty good photo opportunities. Thanks for your co-operation, and consideration for people who may be coming to see it after you. I will be back on site again tomorrow at around 0800-0815 hrs to look for it and put out the news. I didn't really look at much else today, although I did notice that the 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still present, and that there were probably up to 8 mobile Great White Egrets Ardea alba on the patch. I don't believe anyone reported the Little Stint, but let me know if you did see it please.

Friday 23rd December [Overcast this morning and rain this afternoon]

The Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii was not really playing ball today, and really gave us the run around along Burmah Road/Bell's Bush first thing this morning - not helped by the gunshot that went off right behind us while watching it! Anyway, I think most people had reasonable views. Also noted this morning, before I had to leave and do the Christmas shopping put off all week, were the Little Stint Calidris minuta, 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.

I will arrive on site at about 0800 hrs tomorrow. I haven't had any communication with BW today, but hope and believe the site will be open tomorrow. I will put out news as soon as I've checked for the bird, for those contemplating travelling, on what are sure to be busy roads. Note sunrise is at 0815 hrs and you'd probably need to have seen the bird by about 1530 hrs before the light fails. The local weather forecast is for it to remain dry and overcast but windy. I will not be visiting the lake on Christmas or Boxing Day this year, and I should imagine the site will be locked up, but will put out news if different. So far, we have no positive news on the missing telescope, but I'm still hopeful we can reunite it with its owner. Thanks to all those who have tweeted the appeal for its return.

Saturday 24th December [Mainly overcast and mild]

Sorry, the gates weren't open first thing this morning, but I hope everyone who came managed the walk okay. I helped a few by giving them a lift, either to the bird or back. The Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii spent most of the morning just past Holt Copse along Burmah Road, but eventually came and fed along Wood Bay giving much better views during the early afternoon. The gates were opened mid-morning and remained open until 1500 hrs, but we lost the bird at 1400 hrs and despite looking up and down the south shore I couldn't find it again. I saw 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and was informed of the presence of 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF' again), 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.

Blyth's Pipit, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I am told that the gates will be open for birders to drive along and park before the barrier at Green Lawn between 1000 and 1400 hrs tomorrow and Boxing Day. Bristol Water wardens will come along and take permit money, so just go in and enjoy the bird, if it's there. I won't be there - I've done my bit during the last week, and need to spend some time with my family!

Sunday 25th December




Blyth's Pipit, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Monday 26th December [Bright and sunny]

I did not visit the lake today, but understand that the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were all still present. A reminder to photographers not to venture beyond the edge of the grass when trying to photograph the pipit - even if you do have a permit!

Tuesday 27th December [Bright & sunny]

Richard Mielcarek, who spent the morning wardening, saw the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii at 0945 hrs along Burmah Road together with a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and Little Stint Calidris minuta, while the 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still at Top End. 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba were reported on Rare Bird Alert together with a message to say the Blyth's Pipit was present until 1130 hrs and then flew south.

Mike O'Connor emailed to say he saw a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flying in to Butcombe Bay this morning as well.

Wednesday 28th December [Bright & sunny]

I went walking with friends this morning, but this afternoon I had prolonged and great views of the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii in Holt Bay (where the blue car parking barrier is across the road). I managed some video of it at last too. Also present was the Little Stint Calidris minuta at the Lodge, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Long Bay, 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, and at least 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba ranging around (although I didn't specifically set out to count them). I was also told that at least one Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus was around earlier too.

The fishing lodge gate will be opened again tomorrow at around 1000 hrs, I think. I will be on site earlier to see if the pipit is present, and will tweet out news.

Thursday 29th December [Bright & sunny. Cold.]

I arrived on site at 0830 hrs to a hard frost. It took until 1015 hrs to see the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii, and then only for a minute or so before it flew off. Richard Mielcarek and some other birders arrived shortly afterward, and despite searching diligently, we didn't see it again until 1250hrs when it appeared in its favourite spot in Holt Bay. It fed for about half an hour in front of a small gathering of birders before suddenly taking off and apparently heading north over the lake with a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis. Having been on site for 5 hours by this time, I decided to call it a day at that point. The Little Stint Calidris minuta was ranging around along the south shore, the 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii remain at Top End, and there were at least 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba on view at various times, although there may have been more towards the dam end. At Top End I counted 7 (1♂ & 6♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser, and also saw another 5 (4 adult ♂, and another that may have been the 1st-winter ♂ or another ♀) fly out of Butcombe Bay towards the dam. But, best of all, I spotted a Merlin Falco columbarius at Holt Bay (which might explain the late show by the Blyth's Pipit) when I arrived with Hugh Wright, and Richard Mielcarek told me someone else saw it again later near Wood Bay Point. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus also buzzed the birds along the Burmah Road shore later.

The Lodge gate will be opened again tomorrow morning for birders at around 1000 hrs. Since the hard overnight frosts set in, the Blyth's Pipit has become much less predictable. If I had to recommend a time to visit, I would say early afternoon seems to give punters the best opportunity to catch up with it at present. Accordingly, I doubt if I will rush down first thing tomorrow to look for it, as the forecast is for another cold night tonight.

Friday 30th December [Mainly dry & sunny. Warmer than of late.]

I left site at 1430 hrs, by which point there had been no sightings of the Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii. Coincidentally, there were very few Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis around today either. The 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still at Top End, as were 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a number of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I also saw, but didn't count, some Northern Pintails Anas acuta and Goosanders Mergus merganser at Top End, and saw a couple of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge.

Late update: I don't believe there were any sightings of the Blyth's Pipit today. As I went to bed I found a couple of tweets on my phone from Kevin Shales the essence of which said: Andy and I had a brief view of the Blyth's at 1510 hrs when it flew into Holt Bay from the fields behind (Holt Farm). It went to the water's edge then quickly headed off towards Wood Bay. Thanks for the news Kevin.

Saturday 31st December [Overcast & drizzly]

December has been the month that just keeps giving! Whilst I didn't see the Blyth's Pipit this morning, I did find a Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta at Top End from the hide. This was only the third time I've seen one at the lake, which is remarkable given that they're annual at Chew. Also noted were, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 10+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and singles of Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata, Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. Andy Davis who came over to see the Water Pipit (and sadly dipped), reported a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling behind the hide.

Mark Hynam sent me some news about the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Green 'SNB' that he saw in front of the Fishing Lodge on 20th Dec. as follows: Ringed by the Goldcliffe Ringing Group as a nestling, sex unknown, on 7th June 2015, on Denny Island in the Bristol Channel.

The gates were locked today, and are likely to remain so over the holiday period. Should the Blyth's Pipit put in another appearance I'll discuss options with BW when they're back at work on the 3rd January.