BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

A blog of sightings and up-to-date news from the lakeside


Friday 1st December [Sunny & cold]

I met up with Paul Williams and his wife, and Mark Hynam at the lake this afternoon and between us we found a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta (Mark), a Dunlin Calidris alpina, a Common Redshank Tringa totanus (Paul), a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, a probable 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup, a ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid, a pair of Northern Pintails Anas acuta, at least 5 Common Goldeneyes Bucephalus clangula, and several (c. 10) Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. All in all, it made for quite an exciting start to the month.

Saturday 2nd December [Cold]

No news from the lake today.

Sunday 3rd December [Mainly overcast & milder than of late]

I met up with Mark Hynam this afternoon and we birded our way along as far as Rainbow Point in the couple of hours before dark. There were 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and an adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus from the Lodge, with a mobile Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and the adult ♂ and 3 adult ♀♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila from Rainbow Point. I expect the 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup was still present, but I didn't spot it in the throng. I counted 6 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula between the dam and Rainbow Point, and saw circa 50 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, plus an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in the small gull roost. Mark was looking through the gulls on Tiny's Shallow as I arrived and picked out:

Monday 4th December [Sunny and mild]

There was no sign of the 4 Greater Scaup, seen by Mark Hynam and I yesterday, when I went for a look around this afternoon. The 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus were still present, in Home Bay, and I saw 4 more Black-tailed Godwits at Burmah Road. Also present, were the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, Great White Egret Ardea alba, Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, and I counted 53 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 24 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 17 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula. The water level is slowly rising and it will only be a couple of days before Tiny's Shallow is inundated. I reckon the level to be about 66% at present.

Tuesday 5th December [Overcast & mild, with some drizzle.]

At 1445 hrs I spotted an adult Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus in Wood Bay as I was walking back from Top End (9th site record, and first for 5 years). I don't understand why I hadn't seen it earlier, but perhaps it arrived while I was at Top End. In front of the Lodge there were 8 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and the adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus, together with most of the 60 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus I counted today. Surprisingly, after looking for a long time yesterday and failing to see it, I spotted the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off Rainbow Point, where I also spotted the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck, in Wood Bay. At Top End there was a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and I spotted another Aythya hybrid, an adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck off Burmah Road. The first of the Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids in Wood Bay had a loose tuft of feathers on the back of the head and dark grey back, while the one off Burmah Road was more like a giant (Pochard-sized) Lesser Scaup with a neat tuft at the back of the head. It also had a 'dipped-in-ink' tip to its bill. Ducks, don't you just love 'em! As I walked back along Green Lawn, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus made a low hunting pass. Perhaps it had it's eye on the large flock of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, Redwings Turdus iliacus and Fieldfares Turdus pilaris feeding on Holt Farm.

A puzzle: Yesterday, as I walked along the road past Home Bay Point, I heard a bird calling continuously as it approached me in the hedgeline. I wrote it down as a clipped 'seu-it', not unlike that of a Pied Wagtail. As it came past, within a few feet, I noted its brown colouration and buffy supercilium. Sadly, while concentrating on plumage tones, I neglected to note leg colour. I initially thought it must be an unusual Chiffchaff call, but having spent some time in the last 24 hours thinking about it and listening to recordings, I can only conclude that it must have been a Willow Warbler. Xeno-canto has a recording of Phylloscopus trochilus acredula, the so-called Northern Willow Warbler, that sounds just like the one I heard yesterday XC201505. The calls I heard resembled those heard in the middle of the recording, rather than the first one. I know Northern Willow Warblers come through the country in Autumn, but am not sure if any have been noted as late in the year as this. I had hoped to hear it again this afternoon, and would have photographed it and recorded the calls had I done so, but there was not a peep! Hopefully, I'll come across it again in the next day or two.

Mark Hynam has sent me information about the two ringed gulls we saw on Sunday - see 3rd December.

Wednesday 6th December [Overcast]

I had a quick look for the Whooper Swan this morning, but it seems to have moved on. I saw the regular Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 9 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at the Lodge, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End during my visit and I'm just about to go back for a more thorough look around late afternoon.

This afternoon there were 15 Black-tailed Godwits present at the Lodge, the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila was off North Shore, and I saw the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck in Wood Bay.

Pale phase Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, Polish Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Thursday 7th December [Wet this morning & sunny this afternoon. Cold.]

I didn't see any Black-tailed Godwits today, but the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila and adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck were both still present and viewed from Rainbow Point. We will be carrying out the WeBS count on Monday, and it will be interesting to know just how many Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus are present. There seemed to be quite a few gathering together late afternoon. Also, there's a good number of Common Pochards Aythya ferina on the lake. At 1615hrs I watched a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting along the bank at Wood Bay, before I left.

Friday 8th December [Sunny & cold]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news..... 11 hrs of decorating!

Saturday 9th December [Sunny & cold]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news..... more decorating!

Sunday 10th December [Cold with snow]

Mark Hynam went to the lake today and sent me the following news: 22 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and a Dunlin Calidris alpina at the Lodge, then Holt & Wood Bays. He also recorded 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus with a European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis flock, Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris, Tawny Owl Strix aluco, Redwings Turdus iliacus, Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina.

Monday 11th December [Cold & sunny]

Despite the weather conditions, the team came from Bath and Wiltshire to do the WeBS count, so good on you guys. Thanks for the help again. I did my first WeBS count with the team 20 years ago in December 1997, but Phil and Terry have been doing them for at least 10 years more than me! Sadly, Roy Curber who has been doing counts since the late 1940s, fell earlier this month and broke his pelvis and is still in RUH Bath. We wish him a speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing him out at Blagdon in 2018.

There was a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Butcombe Bay when we arrived, but as usual it only took one dog walker and an out of control dog to move it off the lake! We didn't spot the ♂ Greater Scaup, but there were 25 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in front of the Lodge. Neither did we see the Common or Green Sandpipers that have been around during the last week or so, but perhaps the weather has moved them on. Top count was 1547 Common Coots Fulica atra, 1272 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 460 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and 276 Common Pochards Aythya ferina. I also picked out the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and 2 adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Ducks described last week. Full count details on the Webs Count Page.

Tuesday 12th December [Continuing cold & sunny]

A late afternoon visit produced a couple of sleeping redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, and the flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were still hanging in there in front of the Lodge, but rapidly running out of feeding space as the water continues to rise. I think there were 20 present, but it was difficult to be sure because I had to view from Green Lawn in order to avoid spooking them. I saw one of the adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted hybrids in a brief trawl through the Aythya flocks further up the lake. There were quite a lot of winter thrushes flying around and steady streams of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris flying in to roost in the reeds.

Wednesday 13th December [Rain in the morning, & still cold.]

I've been feeling under the weather for the last 24 hours, but I managed to spend an hour at the lake this afternoon (mainly birding from the car). The Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa seem to have reduced to just 2 birds in front of the Lodge, but there may have been others there unseen. A flock of c. 40 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew east down the lake and there were 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis back with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

Thursday 14th December

Unwell, and didn't visit the lake today. I did get up in the afternoon and, thanks to the bird food put out by neighbours Jenny and Alastair, I spotted a Brambling Fringilla montifringilla among the garden visitors.

Friday 15th December

Still unwell, but improving slightly. No visit to the lake today.

Mark Hynam found a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay at 1413 hrs.

Saturday 16th December [Frosty morning with an icy wind]

Mark Hynam texted me to say there were 2 (possibly 3) Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay this morning, and a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting at Top End. Mark also reported singles of Great White Egret Ardea alba and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 4 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula and 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus targeting the flock of 3-500 Redwings Turdus iliacus and Fieldfares Turdus pilaris on Holt Farm.

Tomorrow morning I am leading a group of Bath Naturalist Society members on a guided bird walk at the lake.

Sunday 17th December [Mainly wet & miserable]

A lovely group turned up from Bath to join Mark Hynam and I at the lake this morning. We had a look through the waterfowl from the Lodge and moved off swiftly before the forecast rain arrived. As we moved along Green Lawn admiring the large flock of winter thrushes and Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris on Holt Farm, I spotted a Common Redshank Tringa totanus flying along the shoreline. It went around the corner into Holt Bay where there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba quietly stalking prey. As we arrived at Rainbow Point the rain arrived on cue and Mark spotted a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis way off in the gloom. Frankly, it was disappointingly distant for the punters who'd come to see it. Most of the Aythya flock was way down the lake towards Top End too, but with the rain falling steadily we decided to call it a day. Perhaps, the sunshine forecast for tomorrow will allow me to have a closer look through them.

Monday 18th December [Sunny but chilly]

It was a beautiful afternoon by the lake, everything bathed in golden light until the sun went behind the hill at 1515 hrs. Then it started to get chilly and I didn't stay on too long after that - although much better, I'm still not feeling brilliant. Anyway, enough of my woes, I managed to find 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, one in Rugmoor Bay and the other in Top End, and also saw a (presumed) Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata through my telescope over at Rugmoor working its way along the marginal vegetation. The only other bird worth mentioning was an adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck feeding with the main group of Aythyas between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points. I was starting to get too cold to stay on and check the gull roost, but hopefully I'll feel up to it in a couple more days.

I was saddened to learn of the sudden death of Tim Cleeves, who died at the weekend. We shared a few stories and yarns in various places in the UK, e.g standing in a near birdless Kergord Plantation on the Shetland mainland, and on the Scillonian III on the way to twitch the Cream-coloured Courser. He was always full of laughs and quite self-deprecating, but was, nevertheless, a top birder whom I feel privileged to have known. RIP Tim.

While I was ill in bed at the end of last week I prepared an update to the site bird list that I will link to on New Years Day 2018. It has been revised to reflect the published revision to the British List prepared by the British Ornithologists' Union (British Ornithologists’ Union. 2017. The British List: A Checklist of Birds of Britain (9th edition). Ibis 160: 190-240.), which in itself reflects the International Ornithological Union's World Bird List (Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.7.3.).

From 1st January 2018 I will revert to using the English bird names in my blog, because they can be cross-referenced in the new Site List, if necessary, by birders from abroad. In any case, I will retain the use of scientific names in my daily news to avoid any confusion.

For those of you that know my love for wildfowl you won't be surprised if I pick out changes to some generic names e.g. Garganey and Shoveler are now in the genus Spatula, while Gadwall and Wigeon are now in genus Mareca, all having been split from the genus Anas. And, just as you've gotten used to the new order, having been familiar with the Voous order in the 1980s, and subsequent changes, there have been more changes in the order of families, and species within those families just to keep us on our toes e.g. warblers. What is more, we have actually gained a new species or two with splits e.g. Bean Goose, now officially Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese, sandwiching Pink-footed Goose in the new order, in what was a difficult complex. Meanwhile we have retained the Common and Lesser Redpolls, despite rumours that they were going to be 'lumped' again.

Tuesday 19th December

I didn't visit the lake today.

Wednesday 20th December [Grey, foggy and pretty dismal. Mild.]

I drove down to the lake late on this afternoon. It had been shrouded in fog for most of the day, which made scanning the waters difficult. I was unable to find either of the Black-necked Grebes that I'd seen on Monday, and the only bird I have to report was the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid I'm afraid.

The Brambling Fringilla montifringilla was still visiting our local gardens with the Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs flock today.

Thursday 21st December [Overcast & very mild] Winter Solstice

Mid-morning there were still 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis on the lake, one each at Rugmoor Bay and Top End. The Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata was also over at Rugmoor Bank, and I saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I was amazed to see 2 flowering Lesser Celandines Ranunculus ficaria just inside the Lodge entrance. It's the earliest date I've seen them in flower at the lake (previously 25th Dec. 2011), but I have seen them in flower on 18th Dec. 2004 in our garden.

Saturday 23rd December [Overcast & misty]

I had a look around the lake with Mark Hynam at lunchtime, and we saw both Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis between Peg's Point and Rugmoor Bay, where the ♂ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata was still feeding in the marginal vegetation. We also saw 10 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid, and one of the adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted hybrids (too far away to tell which).

The Brambling Fringilla montifringilla was still visiting local gardens today.

Wednesday 27th December [Sunny & cold, with some overnight snow on the hillsides.]

A big surprise this afternoon, was the presence of 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba working their way through the marginal vegetation at Indian Country. The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were still present, with one off Rugmoor and one off Wood Bay Point, and the prolonged debate about the Aythyas at Chew Valley Lake categorically does not involve any of the hybrids that have been at Blagdon recently, because I found all three this afternoon; the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck in Wood Bay, and both adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Ducks off Rugmoor Point. I also noted 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

Snow Bunting © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Thursday 28th December [Sunny & a bit milder than yesterday]

I birded with Mark Hynam for a few hours today, and saw just the single Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, and a pair of Northern Pintail Anas acuta of note. Mark, who'd arrived a couple of hours before me, also saw a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting early morning, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. He also spotted the ♂ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata while I was scanning for the Pochard x Tufted Aythya hybrids. Neither of us was able to spot either of them today, so I have to retract yesterdays statement and concede that it is possible that they are moving back and forth between Chew and Blagdon causing a degree of confusion.

Friday 29th December [Mainly sunny & mild, but windy at the lake.]

I didn't spend too long at the lake, and the conditions were quite wild this afternoon. I saw one of the Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay, and the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck asleep at Burmah Road in the lee of Holt Copse. I went through the gull roost, and the only bird of note that I saw was a single putative Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis riding the waves, although I couldn't rule out a Herring x Black-headed Gull hybrid given the conditions.

There was belated news from Mike Noel-Smith who photographed and videod an Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta on the Butcombe Bank about 400 metres from the Spillway this morning at 1028 hrs.

Saturday 30th December [Overcast]

Mark Hynam sent me belated news of one each of Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and Great White Egret Ardea alba today.

I didn't have time to visit the lake, though I hope to get down to have a look around early tomorrow morning, and the same on New Years Day before my family visitors get up!

Sunday 31st December [Overcast & mild]

My morning visit turned up the usual suspects, with 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis (Wood Bay & Rugmoor), a Great White Egret Ardea alba, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (on the dam wall) and 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock. There was also a (Eurasian) Nuthatch Sitta europaea singing near the Fishing Lodge.

It's been a quiet year's birding at Blagdon, with no rarities seen, another poor wildfowl breeding season, and a somewhat lacklustre autumn wader passage. I've seen just 130 species at the lake, way down on the 144 last year, and have only heard of two others, a Red-crested Pochard seen by Mark Hynam and the Pied Avocet seeen by Mike Noel-Smith two days ago, that I missed. I think 2017 was one to forget, so roll on 2018, and let's hope for better.

yeargraph