BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

February 2010 News


Monday 1st February [Clear frosty start then cloudy with a penetrating westerly wind]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were feeding off the centre of the dam around the buoys at daybreak today.

Tuesday 2nd February [Milder but wet day with a west wind]

I didn't make it to the lake in time to check through the gulls before they flew off (it was still too dark on a damp cloudy morning), but I did see a 'pack' of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo fishing together in Butcombe Bay. The usual drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrids were not feeding together this morning and took a bit of finding, but I did eventually spot both off the dam among the remaining gulls.

Wednesday 3rd February [Drizzle, grey & dismal but a bit warmer than of late]

I visited at dusk this evening and was amazed at the number of roosting gulls. As they were spread far and wide in front of the dam I was unable to pick out the Greater Scaup Aythya marila or Aythya hybrid in the mass of Larids. However, I did spot an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser with 4 redheads in Butcombe Bay and another pair of adults on the dam roosting with Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, of which there were at least 48 by the dam wall.

On the way to the dentist at 1600 hrs I was amazed to hear the Radio 2 News bulletin tell us that twitchers were flocking to WWT Slimbridge, Glos to see a rare Ring-necked Duck - the fourth (or, was it first) record for Europe!! It's a shame the Beeb don't check their facts before making such errors. Perhaps someone from BOC ought to ring and offer to be a point of contact for verifying local stories such as this?

Friday 5th February [Sunny & warm with a light south-easterly breeze]

I eventually found the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid well out off the dam, so they are still around.

It was quite a pleasant afternoon beside the lake with a hint of Spring as a Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and several Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs sang and I noted Hazel Corylus avellana catkins out at Holt Copse. In a single field I saw 8 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus and 123 Woodpigeons Columba palumbus feeding. On the rest of the walk I noted at least 37 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 37 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus calling at the Top End.

Saturday 6th February [Hazy grey day with a light but chilly north-easterly breeze]

A big surprise in the garden at lunchtime when I popped out and heard a male Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus singing his little heart out. It's the first I've seen for ages - they have been particularly scarce this winter. News from the lake later as I shall be going down to go through the gull roost.

There were a large number (c. 500-1000) of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in the roost, with a handful of Common Gulls Larus canus, 16 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and 5 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus. An adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser was in Butcombe Bay and a brownhead was preening off the North Shore.

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were distantly off the dam feeding closer to the North Shore.

Sunday 7th February [Another grey day very like yesterday]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were still present this afternoon. I counted 57 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula late in the day when they gathered in displaying groups. This high count is close to the record count of 68 I made on the 9th February 2003 - an uncannily similar date. The only group of Goosanders Mergus merganser incuded an adult drake, a 1st-winter drake and 3 redheads (two of which were adult and one was too far away to age). Other than that, there has been very little change at the lake in the last week or more. If the cold weather and snow promised on the East coast this coming week comes to anything, perhaps more Goldeneye might get driven our way.

Monday 8th February [A cloudy grey day with a north-east wind chill of several degrees below freezing point]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were still present today.

Tuesday 9th February [Cold and cloudy with a light NNE breeze]

Sorry, but I didn't have time to make a visit to the lake today.

Wednesday 10th February [Cold with occasional snow flurries]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were off the dam where there appeared to be fewer Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope than in recent days. A number of Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were displaying in Butcombe Bay and along the North Shore.

Friday 12th February [Mostly cloudy with a light NNE breeze]

No sign of the Scaup Aythya marila or his Aythya pal in a careful check this afternoon, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an adult WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE Anser albifrons with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock. However, as I walked towards them along the road the White-front took off and flew away to the west calling. I counted 158 Canada's which continued feeding. Two gun shots spooked the flock out on to the lake, but as I walked back later I saw a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis with the flock that was seemingly rather unsettled and continually calling. I'm sure it had only just flown in and wasn't with the Canada's earlier. Very strange, though it has to be said, there is a feral Barnie that tends to hang out with the Canada flock locally, forsaking the company of the other feral Barnacle Geese.

I was disappointed to find a dead Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus beside the south side road at Home Bay that appeared to have suffered a broken neck. I guess it was killed by a vehicle.

Other selected counts included 48 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 32 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 28 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, 5 Goosander Mergus merganser and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Top End.

Saturday 13th February [Mainly cloudy with a cold NNE wind]

I visited Cheddar Reservoir this afternoon with Robin Williams hoping to photograph the 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis but only had distant views due to the continual disturbance from sailing, dogs (off the lead) and fishermen - it was hopeless!

Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, Cheddar Reservoir © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I also noted a single drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Goosander Mergus merganser among the Common Coots Fulica atra and Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus as they flew back and forth. A pair of Northern Ravens Corvus corax flew over the reservoir towards the Mendips while we were there.

Winter Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Back on my own patch I went down to check the gull roost which was almost entirely comprised of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. I did, however, see the missing drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid today, well out from the dam. Unusually, given the high water level, there were about 10 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca close in under the bank at The Island.

Sunday 14th February [A lovely mild Spring day]

Chinese New Year - the Year of the Tiger - and St. Valentine's Day

Bengal Tiger Panthera tigris, Ranthambhore, & Laughing Doves Stigmatopelia senegalensis, Bharatpur, India © Nigel Milbourne, 2008

At Blagdon, Sean Davies texted this morning to say that the adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons was back with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock. He also saw, c40 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 53 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 1 Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis and the Peregrine Falco peregrinus pair. He said "I inadvertantly flushed the female from the ground at Green Lawn as I came round the corner. She was carrying an item of prey and flew off north with the male."

The goose was still present at Rainbow Point when I visited at lunchtime and I grabbed a distant shot. For anyone without a permit, or, who doesn't want to walk, you might get to see it from Rugmoor Gate entrance. A Water Rail Rallus aquaticus called from the Home Bay reeds and all of a sudden the first shoots of Lord's-&-Ladies (Cuckoo Pint, if you prefer) Arum maculatum have popped up in the woods to hail the sunshine. Both Sean and I saw the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid and 5 Goosanders Mergus merganser today.

Adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons, Rainbow Point © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Monday 15th February [Cool & cloudy with a light SW breeze]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were both still present this morning feeding separately but much closer to the dam than of late. I couldn't see anything unusual in the gull roost before they dispersed and didn't have time to check out the geese. However, Richard Mielcarek posted a note on Bristol Wildlife e-group to say he saw the adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons at BL before it relocated to Parkland at Chew, around lunchtime. I understand it flew back towards BL later. There was a note in the Top End hide from someone who didn't leave their name to say they had seen 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser (2 drakes), 16+ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti.

This evening I enjoyed an excellent talk by Oliver Smart to an open meeting of Timsbury Nats. It brought back many happy memories of a birding and photographic trip to Lesvos last Spring.

Tuesday 16th February [Cool & cloudy with a SW breeze]

No news from the lake today I'm afraid.

My wife told me she saw a male Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus on one of our garden feeders again today and I saw a male (boar) Badger Meles meles outside the back door under the feeders last night.

Wednesday 17th February [Rain with sleet, a miserable cold grey day]

I went down to the dam early in the morning but there was hardly a bird to be seen despite the flat calm. If there were any gulls they had all left for the fields and I couldn't see the Greater Scaup Aythya marila.

Thursday 18th February [Cold and miserable with rain turning to occasional sleet and snow]

Not a lot to say today other than I saw the drake Aythya hybrid with some Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula close to the dam this morning.

Friday 19th February [A cool day with westerly breeze getting up at dusk]

A very pleasant late afternoon with a mirror-like surface quickly turned colder as the sun went down and sleet showers fell. I was extremely surprised to find the Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons feeding in a field with a pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor on the east side of Holt / Lag Farm while the 23 remaining Canada Geese Branta canadensis fed in another field closer to the lake. Otherwise, it was very quiet on the duck front. There was a Northern Pintail Anas acuta swimming through the gulls while I was checking them which was a first of the year. I started to count the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus but they suddenly started to fly from the back to the front of the roost so I gave up. But I reckon there were over 2000, with a few Herring Larus argentatus, Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus and Common Gulls Larus canus as well. A pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser were asleep at the Top End and another drake flew east towards Top End as I walked past Rainbow Point. It should be a fairly quick affair doing the WeBS count tomorrow!

Saturday 20th February [Cool, but a beautiful sunny day morning]

It was an interesting start to our WeBS count this morning when Phil Delve spotted a redhead Smew Mergellus albellus (the first since 2007) in Butcombe Bay which his wife Lucy and Chris Billinghurst also both watched preening. Despite our being within 50 metres of the others, it somehow managed to elude Alan Bone and I during a search for another hour! Luckily we eventually caught up with it after the count had finished, still in Butcombe Bay where there were also 10 Goosanders Mergus merganser (it was still there at dusk). There was also a huge feeding raft of 154 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo in the middle of the lake. We didn't count any others because we couldn't be sure they were new birds, but the total was close to the record count at the lake of 172 made on 3 February 1996. The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and his drake Aythya hybrid pal were together off the dam before going their separate ways and the other good bird still present was the Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons in Wood Bay before it swam over to Peg's Point at Rugmoor with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock. There was a lot of noise at Top End when an adult Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus flew over and upset the two near-resident adults. Eurasian Nuthatches Sitta europeaea were heard along Butcombe shore and at Ubley Hatchery where I have put out nuts for them. For details of the WeBS count click the link above.

Sunday 21st February [Warmer sunny day with a light south-westerly breeze]

A disappointing day with the camera today. I had planned to photograph two species but didn't even get a chance to press the shutter! That's the way it goes sometimes....

There was no sign of the Smew Mergellus albellus this morning in Butcombe Bay but 5 Goosanders Mergus merganser were sleeping close in until the dog walkers moved them further out. I didn't look for the Greater Scaup Aythya marila and there was no sign of the Eurasian White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons, probably because most of the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock were missing too.

I counted 40 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at dusk, without going to Butcombe Bay, and saw one impressive flock of 29 birds in the middle of the lake displaying wildly to one another. A Common Buzzard Buteo buteo sprang out of the Oak trees at Green Lawn and was immediately set upon by a pair of Peregrines Falco peregrinus as it flew across the lake regularly rolling over onto its back to protect itself from the aerial assault.

Tuesday 23rd February [Wet, wet, wet on a light SE breeze]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the drake Aythya hybrid were together at Cheddar Water this morning. The Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope flock were at the other end of the dam by the spillway.

Wednesday 24th February [Mainly dry and cool with lots of sunshine]

Nothing to add to the usual sighting of the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid, over at the entrance to Butcombe Bay this morning.

Thursday 25th February [Cloudy with a variable wind and rain late on]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were off the dam this morning. I have no more news other than that I saw some Common Frogs Rana temporaria heading for the lake across the local roads this evening.

Friday 26th February [Mainly sunny but a strong westerly wind during the afternoon]

I didn't see the Greater Scaup Aythya marila today, though it was probably present. There was a drake Goosander Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay and I inadvertently disturbed a Peregrine Falco peregrinus from a tree at Green Lawn at dusk. There were clearly lots of Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula still around the lake, but rather surprisingly not a single goose to be seen anywhere. Another regular pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor has arrived back at the lake and settled down in a field beside Park Lane where they also fed last Spring. I saw at least 7 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus dotted around this afternoon and most seem to have paired up, lying close to one another in the lengthening grass.

Saturday 27th February [Showers on a milder day]

I picked my brother up at the airport at 0030 hrs and was amazed to hear a Common Blackbird Turdus merula singing somewhere near the pick-up point. I guess that's light pollution for you!

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the drake Aythya hybrid were way out off the dam at lunchtime and there was an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus feeding with Common Gulls Larus canus in a field by Park Lane. I also saw an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. There were at least 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus showing early stages of display, facing up and head shaking followed by preening. A Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sang by the Top End hide.