BLAGON LAKE BIRDS

February 2018 News


Thursday 1st February [Sunny spells most of the day, with an odd shower.]

The February edition of British Birds popped into the inbox the other day and carries news of the addition of Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans to the British list (now up to 615 species). It was found at Dawlish Warren in May 2002 by Paul Marshall, if memory serves. There's also a report on the addition of Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus as a new breeding species to Great Britain. On the down side, (Black-legged) Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla has been added to the IUCN Red List because it's now considered to be at risk of extinction, and the Greenfinch Chloris chloris decline is now reckoned to be 59% in the last 10 years, so will likely be added to the Red List next time it's revised too.

Friday 2nd February [Sunny with a chilly wind by the lake]

I went down to the lake around midday and heard the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos call at the boat quay by the Lodge while I was refilling the bird feeders. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was with 25 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields and there were 54 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn. I only managed to find 1 Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, in Wood Bay, with the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid, and an adult ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid off Rugmoor Point, but saw no sign of the Scaup in Butcombe Bay, only a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser of note.

The adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla was still visiting the garden.

Sunday 4th February [A chilly day with sunny spells]

I spent about an hour and a half at the lake this afternoon and met up with Mark Hynam. We saw 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis from Wood Bay Point, at least 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada's, circa 50 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser off the Spinney/Island, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca with 25 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields, and decided it was too nippy around the gills to wait for the gulls to come in to roost, so we called it a day. I scanned Butcombe Bay from the dam for the Scaup but didn't spot them.

Monday 5th February [Cold & mainly sunny]

I went down to the lake to have a look through the gull roost at 1650 hrs. The roost is getting smaller, and I didn't see either of the Mediterranean Gulls I saw last week, or anything else of interest for that matter. However, one of the ♂ Scaup Aythya marila was feeding off The Island, and I saw 2♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser nearby, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds. I didn't look for the grebes today.

Tuesday 6th February [Cold & mainly sunny]

I went for a look at the lake just after lunch and saw 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis from Wood Bay Point, and both Aythya hybrids; the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid and an adult ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid. There were 67 Wigeon Mareca penelope visible from the same spot, comfortably more than totted up on the last WeBS count. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was with the 26 strong herd of Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, and there were 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada's Branta canadensis also on the farm fields. I couldn't spot the Scaup from the dam today.

Thursday 8th February [Drizzle much of the day]

Ken Anstey and I were supposed to be at the lake most of the day today cleaning bat boxes, ready for the new season, but I injured a calf muscle on Tuesday, so what with that and the precipitation most of the day, we stayed in and replaced the broken and stretched strings in the harp traps ready for the new season. I hope to be mobile enough to venture down to the lake tomorrow.

We saw the wintering adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla in the garden again today.

Friday 9th February [Sunny with a chilly wind]

I spent an hour checking the lake, mainly from my car this afternoon. The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were still visible, distantly, from Wood Bay Point, and a single ♂ Scaup Aythya marila was feeding off The Island where there were also 7 (3♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser displaying. One of the grebes is beginning to darken now, making it even more difficult to spot than usual! I counted 63 Wigeon Mareca penelope and 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis in addition to the aforementioned winter visitors.

A ♂ Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla was in the hedge outside the back door this afternoon too.

Saturday 10th February [Rain all day]

I didn't visit the lake today - 'twas too miserable!

Sunday 11th February [Sunshine with a cold wind]

I didn't get down to the lake today, but Chris Patch kindly sent me the following notes (many thanks):

Just thought I would pass on my viewings this pm having not been down by the lake for a while. I had a lovely hour around the public footpath before a young lady inflated a kayak and took a trip over to The Island and moved everything on. Before that I had Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Teal Anas crecca, Pochard Aythya ferina, Wigeon Mareca penelope, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a Scaup Aythya marila, a flock of 12+ Shovelers Spatula clypeata that flew in, and a couple of pairs of Goosanders Mergus merganser. A Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos were on the Spillway.

Monday 12th February [A pleasant sunny day]

The ♂ Scaup Aythya marila was asleep off Spinney Point this afternoon, and the regular winter-plumaged Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was feeding in Wood Bay, with the other, transitional plumage bird, feeding at Paradise on the north side of the lake. There was lots of Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs song in the patches of woodland, and I saw my first Kestrel Falco tinnunculus of the year, a ♀, at Rugmoor. Other noteworthy sightings included the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck in Wood Bay, the wintering flock of c. 200 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris on Holt Farm with lots of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, as well as a bevy of 29 Mute Swans Cygnus olor out on the grass - did you know another name for a group of swans is a game? In flight, a group is referred to as a wedge.

My leg is still giving me grief, although I managed a painful mile on foot today. Apologies for the resulting intermittent news. Our adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla is still coming into the gardens though, which brightens up the day somewhat.

Thursday 15th February [A sunny day]

After yesterdays downpour, when I didn't get back from a day out in time to check out the lake, I spent most of the day with Ken Anstey cleaning and checking the bat boxes, and surprisingly didn't see any hibernating bats. While we were there, we saw the 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis together off Paradise. 29 Mute Swans Cygnus olor were together on Holt Farm again, as was the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. Other news included a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus feeding out in the open on Home Bay Point beside the flooded reed bed, and a Peacock Inachis io butterfly flying in the sunshine along the Lodge entrance drive.

Friday 16th February [Another sunny day]

I couldn't spot the ♂ Scaup today, but there was a ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser off The Island mid-afternoon. Holt Farm was host to 30 Mute Swans Cygnus olor feeding on the grass, with the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on its own in the next field. The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were off Peg's Point and keeping company with one another - one is looking very dapper as it's summer plumage comes through. Shame it's so far away. At Top End there were Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus, Goldcrests Regulus regulus and 2+ Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita hawking little groups of midges aerially from the hedges and bushes where it was sheltered from the breeze. Some of the ditches have Primroses Primula vulgaris flowering along their edges bringing a splash of colour to the meadows, at last.

Saturday 17th February [Mainly sunny]

Due to family commitments I didn't visit the lake, but Mark Hynam saw both Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis again today apparently showing some elements of display.

Sunday 18th February [Dry and overcast]

The ♂ Scaup Aythya marila was off Spinney Point asleep before swimming out in to the middle of the lake at dusk while Mark and I were looking through the rather depleted gull roost. We spotted 14 (7♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flew past us at the Lodge towards dusk. Curiously, I also picked up a bat over the lake feeding off the water's surface that I presume to have been a Daubenton's Myotis daubentonii out early. The Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus were certainly picking away at food items on the water's surface, so there may have been a hatch of insects that were also providing sustenance for the bat. Mark had been watching the 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis again before I arrived, so I didn't go to look for them. The WeBS team will be carrying out the monthly count tomorrow.

Earlier in the day, Ken Anstey, Chris Barrington and I, together with a couple of trainees, searched a couple of Mendip caves (with permission) for hibernating bats (see Bat News).

Monday 19th February [A misty start with sunny spells later. Mild.]

Terry Doman, Phillip Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I carried out the WeBS Count this morning. The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were present off Rugmoor, but I couldn't find the ♂ Scaup for love nor money! Top counts were 506 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 502 Common Coots Fulica atra, and 98 Pochard Aythya ferina. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos continues to winter and a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus flew through to the west calling without reply as it went over. The rest of the count is on the WeBS Page.

I saw a Greenfinch Chloris chloris at the Inspection House, my first by the lake this year, and heard a Coal Tit Periparus ater singing for the first time.

Thursday 22nd February [It turned much colder today, but stayed sunny.]

It's been very slow at the lake lately, so I've got on with a few other things that needed doing. However, this afternoon I just had to get down there for a look around...

I saw the 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis off Peg's Point, together and showing elements of display, and 10 (5♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, also displaying. There were plenty of Fieldfares Turdus pilaris on Holt Farm, but the gull roost has certainly diminished, and diving duck numbers continue to fall as they move away to breeding areas. One could be forgiven for thinking Spring is just around the corner, but the promised 'polar vortex' is going to change all thoughts of that over the next few days. It'll be interesting to see how the birds react to the cold, which is due to last well into March according to the forecasters. The first wave of Spring migrants are going to be held up this year, and early nesters like Grey Herons are going to have a rough time of it if we get significant snowfall. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Tomorrow evening I'm giving a talk 'The Birds & Wildlife of Blagdon Lake' to Portishead AWT Group, 1930 hrs, at the Folk Hall, 95 High Street, BS20 6PR.

Saturday 24th February [Cold, but a beautiful sunny winter day.]

I had a look around this morning and found 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis feeding together off Peg's Point. The summer-plumaged bird and two winter-plumaged birds. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm, and I saw 3 (2♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, but it was bloomin' perishing in the wind.

Mark Hynam visited during the afternoon and saw the 3 Black-necked Grebes still together, and a ♂ Stonechat Saxicola torquata and 4 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End.

Sunday 25th February [Windy, cold & sunny.]

Mark Hynam has just texted me to say he's seen the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 12+ Linnets Linaria cannabina this morning. Mike Moxon reported a Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Rugmoor Bay.

Monday 26th February [Windy & cold]

Nowt different to report, so just the usual 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 32 Mute Swans Cynus olor (30 on Holt Farm again) today. Oh, and a moderately big Pike Esox lucius dead on the bank.

Tuesday 27th February [Snow flurries. Cold.]

Mike Moxon had a look for the grebes this morning without luck, but was entertained by displaying Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula and Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus. Late this afternoon I had a look for the grebes too, but couldn't find them in the usual area at all. So, just before dark I went to the Lodge to look through the decent-sized gull roost and lo and behold, there were the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis in the middle of the lake, two to three hundred metres away. I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, but had really left it too late to go through the gulls one by one. Maybe tomorrow, weather permitting!

Wednesday 28th February [Very cold & windy]

I met Mike Moxon early this afternoon to look for the Black-necked Grebes but, unfortunately for him, there was no sign of them. Perhaps, they were getting ready to leave last night when I found them at the dam end, ahead of the bad weather that's on its way? I saw a couple of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in flight, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, but that was about all I have to report.