BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

February 2016 News


Monday 1st February [Moderately breezy and dry]

This afternoon the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis came quite close in to Wood Bay Point when I went to check with Brian Thompson. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos put in an appearance on the dam too. I went through the gull roost twice, but I couldn't find anything unusual despite yesterday's storm bringing in some sea birds to the estuary.

Tuesday 2nd February [Mainly sunny]

The 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were just off Wood Bay Point late this afternoon with the sleeping Common Pochard Aythya ferina flock.

Thursday 4th February [Cool and mainly sunny]

A busy day, but I did visit the lake this afternoon and saw the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay. There was just a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis among the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock, but nothing unusual in the gull roost.

Ken Anstey and I carried out a voluntary bat roost visit at St. Leonards Church, Shipham, this morning, then moved on to Chew Valley Lake to do some bat work with this afternoon, before I came back to Blagdon to fill the bird feeders and have a look around. We still have a Brambling visiting the garden on a daily basis, which adds a splash of colour at this time of year.

Friday 5th February [Mainly grey and overcast with drizzly rain on and off]

I've spent the last two days adding last years records to my BL database and writing a report about the trial use of motor boats for angling on the lake over the last two years, so I apologise for not putting out any news yesterday.

This afternoon the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were in Wood Bay but, intriguingly, there was no sign of Thursday's lone Barnacle Goose with the Canada Goose flock. I didn't pick out any new waterfowl on the lake and, although exceptionally large, there was nothing to quicken the pulse in the gull roost either.

Saturday 6th February [Nice weather for ducks!]

Incessant rain again today, and I saw 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis just behind Wood Bay Point at Burmah Road (thanks to Gary Thoburn who took the trouble to come back and tell me). I couldn't find the third bird in the nasty conditions. The only other birds of note were 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn.

Sunday 7th February [Bright start, wet finish!]

The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were reprrted earlier today by Rare Bird Alert off Rugmoor Point, and I saw them late this afternoon off Wood Bay Point without the third bird (I'll have a proper look for it tomorrow). Gulls were spread well down the lake at dusk and I didn't have the light, or inclination, to go through them in the cold rain. I did see over 20 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at dusk, and 28 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope on Green Lawn while having a last check round.

Monday 8th February [Storm Imogen: Gales and rain.]

Paul Williams and I both saw 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis today, as expected. They were in Wood Bay when I saw them. Not a great deal else to report other than two large trees (Grey Poplars?) have been blown over by the Top End feeder stream - a shame.

Tuesday 9th February [Mainly sunny]

I saw but one Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis today in Wood Bay. I also saw a transitional (winter to summer) Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus off Bell's Bush in a raft of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus this afternoon.

We're still getting at least 2 Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla coming into the garden daily to feed on sunflower hearts put on the ground for finches.

Wednesday 10th February [Sunny and warmer than of late]

Having felt unwell overnight, I decided to go for a walk in the sunshine this afternoon along the south side of the lake to Bell's Bush and back from the Lodge. The 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were feeding around a diving Common Coot Fulica atra just off Wood Bay Point. Walking on towards Top End I decided to have a scan from Bell's Bush and spotted a Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris sunning itself on the opposite bank (Indian Country, opposite Top End hide) at about 1400 hrs. I wonder if it's the same bird I saw on the 6th November? If it is, it has certainly kept it's head down! The sunshine encouraged a couple of ♂ Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs into song, and I saw Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus at Hellfire Corner. A ditch alongside Home Bay had lots of Primroses Primula vulgaris out in flower, and it felt like Spring was just around the corner. The evenings are noticeably drawing out too.

At 1700 hrs I could see gulls streaming in over the dam from our lounge window, so I went down to have a look through the roost. Unfortunatley they were spread all over the place in the light breeze, and many appeared to be feeding on hatching midges. They were mainly right over against the North Shore, so not easy to identify from the dam. However, I counted 26 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and saw 6 adult (4♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser that I hadn't seen earlier in the day (perhaps they'd flown in to roost as well).

Thursday 11th February [Sunny but cool]

There was no sign of the Eurasian Bittern around lunchtime, but the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were all still in Wood Bay, where I got these shots from my car. Hopefully they'll give you an idea of their respective plumages. The top two were swimming around as a pair, while the bottom bird was on its own (sorry it's swimming downhill).

Black-necked Grebes, Wood Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Also noted were at least one pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, although there was probably a second pair at Top End (per Robert Hargreaves), and there was a Greylag Anser anser with part of the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock at Holt Bay. Paul Williams and I saw an Otter Lutra lutra swim past the Top End hide while looking for the Bittern, and I inadvertently disturbed a Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album sunning itself on the path to the hide.

Friday 12th February [Sunny and cool]

I think I saw all 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis today. I saw one on its own in Wood Bay this morning and two together off Wood Bay Point this afternoon. There were 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Top End and I counted 203 Canada Geese Branta canadensis when they flew in to Wood Bay this afternoon. Aside from that, there isn't a whole lot to report I'm afraid. I haven't seen any Reed Buntings yet this year, but it should be any time soon. My first sighting last year was 23rd February. Then it's a short wait until the first Spring migrants return.

Saturday 13th February [Cold and wet]

The 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were still present early this afternoon, 2 in Wood Bay and 1 over at Peg's Point. New in were 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock, and a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna on Green Lawn briefly, before it flew off east.

Sunday 14th February [Cold]

I only had time for the briefest of visits today, in order to fill the lodge feeders and check the gull roost, although I did have a look for the grebes too. Unusually, I only saw 2 of the Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis and they weren't associating with each other. By the time I got back to check the gull roost it was getting a bit dark for a thorough scan with the birds all over against the North Shore, but I did pick out a near summer-plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus.

Oh, and we've still got 3 Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla coming to the garden feed.

Monday 15th February [Sunny with a chilly north wind]

I enjoyed a fine walk with Yorkshire birder Mike, from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back this afternoon. We saw a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus on the Lodge feeders, and found just the one Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wood Bay Point (it was the bird in transitional plumage shown below). The 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were at Top End again, and if you don't see them on the lake, check out the field next to the Ubley entrance gate which the public footpath is signposted through. I didn't get a chance to look through the gull roost because I got called away to carry out an emergency bat roost visit near Bridgwater (a Brown Long-eared uncovered by roofing works and a Lesser Horseshoe hibernating elsewhere on the property).

Tuesday 16th February [Sunny and still on the chilly side]

There's still not a lot going on just yet, although I think one of the grebes may have gone. I found 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis this afternoon, one off Wood Bay Point (in the most advanced plumage) and one of the other, what I assume to be 1st-winters judged by their plumage when they arrived in the autumn, was off Hellfire Corner. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were still camped out in the field next to Top End gate and I heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling nearby too.

There are quite a few Cuckoo-flowers (or Milkmaids, or Lady's Smock, if you'd prefer) Cardamine pratensis out now, along with the Primroses Primula vulgaris. They're a bit ahead of the Cuckoo's this year though!

Wednesday 17th February [Wet - a day to stay indoors!]

Given the horrible forecast, and subsequent rain for most of the day, I took the chance to catch up with some paperwork. I did venture forth and go down to the lake late in the afternoon, when the rain had eased, and saw the 2 remaining Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis together off Wood Bay Point. There wasn't much else to write about, other than the arrival of 14 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis in the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock. I didn't spot anything unusual in the large gull roost, which included an increased number of large gulls this evening.

Thursday 18th February [Sunny and spring-like]

Our 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were together off Wood Bay Point again this afternoon, but the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm fields next to Green Lawn rather than at Top End. New in were 14 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn. I note that 2 Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla were reported by Allan Chard per Avon Birds (thanks Steve). I don't know if they were at the Lodge feeders or not, but I filled them again this evening, so hopefully they may come back, if that's where they were seen (I know some local birders have been coming to try and see them for their year lists).

Tomorrow morning, at least, Ken Anstey and I will be checking the bat boxes and ensuring they're all tip-top, ready for the coming season, then on Saturday I'll be leading Bristol Naturalists Society (Ornithology Section) for a walk at the lake, and the WeBS team meet on Monday for the monthly count.

Friday 19th February [A sunny morning then overcast - but dry!]

I spent the day beside the lake with Ken Anstey checking and cleaning the bat boxes - see Bat News. During our time, we saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Top End, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in the grounds of the Pumping Station, a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and after we'd finished, remarkably, 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis together off Wood Bay Point.

Saturday 20th February [Mainly wet]

We didn't do too much walking when Bristol Naturalists came for a visit this morning, because the forecast was for heavy rain. In the event it wasn't too bad until we'd almost finished our look around. There were still 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis (two off Wood Bay Point and one at Hellfire Corner), 2 pairs of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and only one of the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Top End. Other than that we saw a good selection of residents and winter visitors in what were quite challenging conditions as the wind got up.

Monday 22nd February [Early rain then a rather fine sunny day]

We carried out the WeBS count this morning, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis off Wood Bay Point, and a single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca at Top End. Numbers of other waterfowl were down on last month, as birds move off to their breeding sites elsewhere - see WeBS Counts. There was no sign of any Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla at the lakeside feeders, although Roy saw a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus, so the team came for a cup of tea after the count, and saw at least one from our back door!

Tuesday 23rd February [Mainly sunny]

The 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were together off the south side of Rugmoor Point this afternoon and the single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Lag Farm fields, probably moved from Top End by hedge flailing activities around the field it has usually been frequenting. I finally managed to see a Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus at Rugmoor Point from the Top End hide, and then just like buses I saw another at Burmah Road which briefly burst into 'song' in the sunshine. Also on Lag Farm fields were 11 adult and 1 juvenile Mute Swans Cygnus olor, numbers of which are increasing as birds arrive to set up breeding territories, although 5 pairs would probably be the maximum that the lake could sustain.

Wednesday 24th February [A lovely sunny day, but cool]

Terry Grant (thanks) sent me a text to say he'd seen the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis together between Wood Bay and Bell's Bush (aka Burmah Road), 5 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the Top End hide and had a spectacular flypast of 11 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I spent the day at Chew Valley Lake checking the bat boxes with Ken Anstey (see Bat News), but on the way home I had a quick look at the lake and can add a roosting Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca at Top End, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and more Mute Swans Cygnus olor than yesterday (13 adults and the juvenile) to Terry's sightings.

Thursday 25th February [Another mainly sunny day, although it clouded over during the afternoon.]

There were still 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis hanging out together at Burmah Road this morning, with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a pair of Egyptian Geese Alophochen aegyptiaca (in flight) along North Shore this evening. I carried out a gull roost count (see WeBS Page for numbers) and also saw 32 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula from the Lodge this evening.

Friday 26th February [Dry, sunny and cold.]

I didn't visit the lake today, I was busy with the Mendip Osprey Project. I did see a message put out by Rare Bird Alert reporting 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis.

Saturday 27th February [Dry, with some sun and a bitterly cold ENE wind.]

I saw 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis at Burmah Road, including the near summer-plumaged bird, but couldn't spot the third. There were 28 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope on Green Lawn, 17 (16 adults and a juvenile) Mute Swans Cygnus olor, and a single Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca at Top End.

We've had a visit from some morons in a 4-wheel drive vehicle during the week, who have torn up a number of the Top End wet meadows, causing a lot of damage.

Sunday 28th February [Dry with a chilly wind]

One Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was feeding off Rugmoor Point this afternoon, while the other 2 (a pair?) were swimming around off Indian Country - so we still have all 3 present. A lone Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca flew west past me at Holt Bay, a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser were in Butcombe Bay, and the Mute Swan Cygnus olor count has gone up again today to 19 adults and a juvenile. Oh, and I got a site year tick, there were 4 European Greenfinches Chloris chloris in the trees at Top End!

Monday 29th February [Dry and mainly sunny]

I enjoyed a few hours beside the lake today amassing a day-list of 54 species, which included the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis off Rugmoor Point, 2 pairs of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in the Spillway, the lone Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca at Top End, and singles of Fieldfare Turdus pilaris and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. I spotted five clumps of frog spawn in a puddle beside the road that was drying out, so I popped them into the lakeside margin and on Butcombe Bank there were a couple of Common Hazel Corylus avellana bushes that were already in leaf. On this, the last day of February, Spring is upon us...