BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

February 2017 News


Wednesday 1st February [Overcast and mild. Drizzle.]

Not a fat lot to report today. I didn't spot anything unusual among the gulls early afternoon, but the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm again. There were circa 20 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina at Holt Bay, 4 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus in the Alders at Hellfire Corner, the Peregrine Falco peregrinus hunting over Top End spooked 20 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus into the air, and I counted 5 (3♂) Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula and 36 Gadwall Anas strepera. As I walked back towards Long Bay, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew over.

The water level is on the move, thanks to the recent rain, though not by much. By my reckoning it is about 65% at present.

Thursday 2nd February [Windy and changeable]

I see that there were 2 Yellow-legged Gulls at Chew yesterday. I had been puzzling as to why I hadn't seen one at Blagdon so far this year as they have become regular in recent years during the winter months. Likewise, here we are in February, and I've yet to see a Kestrel, Stock Dove or Green Woodpecker on my patch, all birds that I'd consider to be resident. It's a funny old game patch birding!

The Patchwork Challenge guys have just published last years 'Inland South' minileague results (have a look at the blog), and I managed to come top of the points league, thanks to my wonderful December; Blyth's Pipit, Jack Snipe and Bearded Reedlings. As usual, Tom Raven was right up there in second place at Ham Wall/Shapwick, and Tim Farr also had a great year at Sutton Bingham coming 4th in the points league and winning the comparative section (the Spotted Sandpiper was a great find). Richard Scantlebury came third on his Fishponds, Bristol, patch in the comparative section. Thank goodness none of the regulars at Chew have taken up the challenge! It's a bit of fun, and a great incentive to get out and bird 'your patch' on those days when you'd otherwise be sitting on the sofa. So, with that thought, I suppose it's time to get the boots on...

I was at the lakeside from 1430-1700 hrs and aside from a quick drive to Top End and back, I spent my time watching the gulls come and go. I reckon I scrutinized over 2000 gulls in that time, including large numbers of Common Gulls Larus canus with a high proportion of 1st-winters. Among them was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 'Black B:G'. I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus over Top End and 18 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina on Tiny's Shallow.

Friday 3rd February [Changeable]

Not an especially nice day for birding, so I only paid a short visit at lunchtime. The point (Tiny's Shallow) in front of the Lodge is being flooded, and there's now an an island for birds to loaf on. I saw 4 adult Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna feeding on the shore, an uncommon site at Blagdon, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm as usual. There seemed to be some Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope new in with a flock feeding at Green Lawn as well as some others scattered about.

Saturday 4th February [Mainly sunny]

No news from the lake today.

Sunday 5th February [Mainly sunny]

I presume the 5 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii that were asleep on Rugmoor Point were By-Brook, Keynell and their family of 3 juveniles. Pike fishing is underway again at Chew, and I guess the swans have decided to get out of the way. There were also 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Long Bay, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, and I saw circa 120 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus wheeling around over the lake while I was there. I counted 13 (4♂) Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, heard my first Green Woodpecker Picus viridis of the year, and saw some Feral Pigeons Columba livia fly over. Two new species on the patch list!

Monday 6th February [Wet and windy]

I decided to visit the lake mid-afternoon and had no sooner arrived when Paul Williams rolled up. So we decided to bird to Top End and back together. We saw the usual suspects, 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Long Bay, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and the 5 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. However, we also spotted a couple of Stock Doves Columba oenas and I picked out a grey-backed Aythya that I thought might be a hybrid off North Shore. When we got back to the cars, we drove along to Green Lawn in the driving rain to scope the Aythya(s), which turned out to be not one but 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila - perhaps the two 1st-winters that had been moving between the lakes last autumn? Could we have the Common Scoter and Black-necked Grebes next please?

Tuesday 7th February [Changeable after a bright start]

My second dowsing in as many days! I got as far as Rainbow Point, saw my first patch Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus of the year, a ♀, over Holt Bay, then down it came. I'd already seen 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in flight west, the 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Home Bay, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. The 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were also feeding between Green Lawn and North Shore, but I didn't spot the Bewick's Swans at Top End, although they may have been present along Burmah Road out of sight (but I suspect not). I turned around and legged it back to the Lodge before I got too wet.

Wednesday 8th February [Mainly dry]

I was busy replacing broken strings in our 3 harp traps (for catching bats) with Ken Anstey today, but got down to the lake just after 1600 hrs. Contrary to yesterdays news, all 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were back at Top End this afternoon, and I just sat in the hide for a few minutes listening to their haunting 'bugle' calls - pure magic! Also new in were a group of Mute Swans Cygnus olor, which caused a little excitement for the two wintering pairs! I made it 11 Mute Swans in all. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm as usual, the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were feeding between Green Lawn and North Shore again, and when I went to check the gull roost from the Lodge at 1700 hrs there was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta there, 4 (1♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus in the gull roost, plus a few more Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus starting to appear.

Thursday 9th February [Cold, overcast & dry.]

Happy day - another patch tick for the year with 3 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret feeding in the Birch trees at Lodge Copse, where Colin Hunt saw them just before Christmas and again on 13th January. I was actually on the track of a presumed Chiffchaff sp. at the time. It kept calling with a flat 'sweep', with an upward inflection, but I just could not eyeball it. I picked it up at Home Bay and last heard it moving around in Lodge Copse, once giving a call right beside me...

Also noted today were the 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii asleep on Wookey Point at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila between Green Lawn and North Shore, 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Long Bay and a single ♂ Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in front of the Lodge.

Friday 10th February [Mainly overcast & cold]

I had a look around between 1500-1700 hrs this afternoon, but didn't see much that was new. There are still 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila between Green Lawn and North Shore, 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Long Bay, 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and 14 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, that included a new family party of 2 adults and 4 juveniles. There is clearly quite a lot of Mute Swan movement going on at present as breeding season approaches.

The feeders at the Lodge are being well used, and there is a queue of Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus and Common Pheasants Phasianus colchicus standing underneath them waiting for spilt sunflower hearts! Jays are also regular - I think they are collecting seed to stash it for a rainy day.

Saturday 11th February [Snow flurries]

A visit late morning after the snow flurries had eased saw 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila and an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser between Green Lawn and North Shore, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End.

The adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 'Black B:G' noted on 2nd February was rung by Peter Rock in Bristol in 2006 as a male. It was seen by me on 31st October 2013 at Blagdon, and once since then at Barrow Res.

Sunday 12th February [Overcast, slightly milder.]

Almost a case of cut and paste today. Early this afternoon, I saw the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Long Bay, and 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End. Aside from the Hazels already bearing catkins, I saw my first wild flower of the year, a Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria, appropriately enough at Flower Corner. Tomorrow, the WeBS team will be carrying out the monthly count.

Monday 13th February [Hazy sun & breezy]

The team took 3 hours to carry out the WeBS count between 0930-1230 hrs this morning. Highlights were the birds I've been reporting for the last few days viz. 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Long Bay, and 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End. However, in addition, there was also an adult Greylag Anser anser at Green Lawn with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock today. Top two species counts were 369 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and 341 Common Coots Fulica atra, and it was nice to still have 102 Common Pochards Aythya ferina on the lake. Full count details on the WeBS Page.

Tuesday 14th February [Overcast & dismal with drizzle late afternoon.]

I counted the Canada Geese Branta canadensis again late this afternoon, and made it 202, because there was a thought we might have missed some yesterday. But no, the tally was spot on. There was no sign of the Greylag, but the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm as usual, and the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still feeding between Green Lawn and North Shore. At Top End the 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were tucked in, feeding close to the shore at Flower Corner and not easy to see. I didn't wait for the full gull roost to form, because the drizzle became rain and it was difficult to make out the birds in the murk.

Wednesday 15th February [Sunny spells and showers]

Having cleaned a few Mendip Dormouse boxes with Dan and Georgie this morning, in the rain, I arrived at the lake at the same time as Mike O'Connor, so we birded our way to Top End hide and back together during the afternoon. We saw a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Home Bay, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off North Shore, and 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii on the little island that was Wookey Point. Then, at Lodge Copse on our return we had the briefest of views of 6 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the Birch trees in Lodge Copse before they flew off. I stayed on to go through the, reduced, gull roost after 1700 hrs but didn't spot anything unusual. I would say the water level was about 72% today.

Thursday 16th February [Cloudy & mild]

The 8 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans have finally moved on, as Tweeted earlier, no doubt due to the rising water level at the lakes. It won't be long before they head off on their long journey to Siberia, but will no doubt spend a couple of weeks at WWT Slimbridge topping-up their fat reserve ready to fuel the impending flight. It was nice to see a ♂ (Eurasian) Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Top End this afternoon, and the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila remain off the North Shore. There were 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Home Bay, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm.

Friday 17th February [Still. Mild with sunny spells.]

I enjoyed a very pleasant walk late afternoon, having carried out a voluntary bat roost visit earlier in the day. The 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus were in Home Bay, with a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser asleep on the bank over at The Spinney. The 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were off the North Shore still, and nearby was a small mixed group of Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and 7 (5♂) Northern Pintails Anas acuta - a real treat in their breeding finery. Of course, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm as usual.

Saturday 18th February [A beautiful warm & sunny day]

Not much to report bird-wise today. The 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still present as were the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. Common Buzzards Buteo buteo were up displaying at Top End and I watched a pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor doing their synchronised 'dance' at the Lodge just before I left. Is Spring around the corner?

Sunday 19th February

I didn't visit the lake today.

Monday 20th February [Misty all day]

A busy day today, so apologies for the late report. I spent most of the day at the lake cleaning and clearing bat boxes, but did spot the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in flight while I was there. We found 5 Pipistrelles in 4 of the boxes (left in situ), but we cleaned out all the others, most of which had been used by roosting birds. We also found a badgers 'day bed' in a bird hide and saw a few Primroses Primula vulgaris out in flower.

This evening we had the Avon Ornithological Group AGM to discuss the 2015 Bird Report and preparation of the 2016 ABR. At the meeting I was given a copy of a lovely new publication 'Birding in the Bristol Region: A Celebration', 50 years of the Bristol Ornithological Club. Congratulations to Editor William Earp for a great job pulling it together, and to the BOC on their 50th Anniversary.

Tuesday 21st February [Rain for much of the day]

I didn't fancy walking at the lake in the rain today, so after waiting for it to stop until late afternoon I finally went for a look around in my car! I saw the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off North Shore, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm near the head of Long Bay, and counted 13 (Common) Linnets Carduelis cannabina at Green Lawn. I also saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam for the first time for quite a while.

Wednesday 22nd February [A grey, windy day, with occasional showers.]

Lots of gulls were on the lake this morning riding out the gale, but I didn't find anything unusual among them. The subsequent walk to Top End and back produced just the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

The water level is approx 75% now as it continues to rise slowly.

I mentioned 'Birding in the Bristol Region: A Celebration' (edited by William Earp) a couple of days ago. It is published by Bristol Ornithological Club and is available from William at 4 Pitchcombe Gardens, Coombe Dingle, Bristol, BS9 2RH, william@wearp.wanadoo.co.uk, or, through bristolornithologicalclub.co.uk at a price of £12 (inc P&P). Go on, treat yourself!

Running late, as ever, I have just about completed the input of all last years bird records (over 2500) ready to send off to Richard Mielcarek. He told us at the meeting on Monday evening that he's already received around 135,000 for the annual report. I suspect there's massive duplication thanks to the inclusion of social media records, but nevertheless, it's up significantly on the 5,000 or so received in the early 1990s, and the 70,000 received as recently as 2014.

Thursday 23rd February [A wild, windy, day.]

A second day of strong winds saw white horses racing along the lake, and most of the wildfowl were sheltering in quieter bays, but I eventually spotted the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila in the usual spot between Green Lawn and North Shore riding the waves. A pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser were sleeping in Butcombe Bay and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm.

Friday 24th February [A fine sunny day]

There were lots of gulls sitting on the water late morning when I arrived, and I found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus when looking for a 'Herring Gull' type that I'd seen earlier. The mystery gull showed some characters consistent with it being an adult Caspian Gull e.g. a small dark eye, so Andy Davis and Richard Mielcarek came over to have a look with me, but it disappeared while they were on their way. I saw the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off North Shore, but just one Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm today.

Saturday 25th February [Overcast then wet later]

I did not visit the lake today and have no news.

Sunday 26th February [Overcast with some rain in the afternoon]

I made a quick visit at lunchtime and couldn't see the Scaup off Green Lawn, but they are sometimes difficult to pin down, so I may have just missed them. There were just singles of Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm again today. With a cold week forecast, followed by warmer southerly air the following week (Countryfile forecast) we might, perhaps, expect the first spring migrants then, although I've already heard of sightings of Northern Wheatear, Osprey and Sand Martin on the south coast in the last few days. I will have a decent look around tomorrow morning.

This afternoon we had a really interesting meeting of the Bristol & District Moth Group at Bristol Museum at which we were told about some research at Bristol University into sounds produced by moths, also how some aspects of their anatomy may have evolved to reduce noise production in order to avoid detection by foraging bats.

Monday 27th February [Wintery showers]

I saw the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off North Shore mid-morning, so they are still present after all, and surprisingly the ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata was back at Long Bay - it's been quite a while since I last saw her. The lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm with a small group of Canada Geese Branta canadensis just over the hedge beside Long Bay. There were very few gulls around during my visit, but small groups of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula were widespread, especially at the dam end.

Tuesday 28th February [Windy with wintery showers]

The top line is we still had the 2♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off North Shore when I went down to look through the gull roost late this afternoon, and I saw the lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. There were circa 35 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope feeding at Green Lawn as well, but it was the gull roost that provided the most interesting birding. There was a very obvious increase in the number of large gulls, the majority of which were 489 Lesser Black-backeds Larus fuscus. I also counted 81 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis (my first of the year) and a single 1st-winter Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus. Having gone through the large gulls I just had some daylight left to go through the small gulls quickly, and found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus among the 1000+ Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (which I didn't have time to count) and handful of Common Gulls Larus canus. Given that the majority of large gulls were Lesser Black-backs, I think it signifies the start of the Spring gull passage. If it had been just the result of storm conditions bringing the gulls inland, I think I'd have expected a bigger proportion of Herring Gulls.