BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

January 2012 News


Sunday 1st January 2012 [Mild, dull and drizzly] New Year's Day

I walked home from Ubley Hatchery with Alan Bone this morning birding as we went. I clocked up a total of 65 species at the lake in the 4 hours we were there, including the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis between Holt Bay and Ash Tree, the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Rugmoor Bay, 8 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii which flew in to Bell's Bush while we were at Top End hide, 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on the east side of Holt Farm, 3 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge where there were also 6 Dunlins Calidris alpina, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis at Cheddar Water. A single Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret along Park Lane was welcome, but then, as usual on listing days, it's the birds you don't see that provide the biggest surpise and this year included Magpie, Song Thrush, Treecreeper, Green Woodpecker, Goosander and the dapper little ♂ American blue-billed duck that shall remain nameless!

I received an email from Alex Rhodes late yesterday afternoon telling me he had seen a small Canada Goose with about 30 Greater Canada Geese on Holt Farm by Green Lawn, but there was no sign of it today. I was emailing Bruce Taylor about the Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus at Torr Reservoir at the time I received Alex's mail and he confirmed the Richardson's Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii was still there, so I can't hazard a guess as to what Alex actually saw. The other intruiging news was from John Smythe in Station Road who told me he'd seen a large 'white gull' several times recently both at the lake and on the field behind his house. I haven't seen anything that might fit the bill.

Monday 2nd January [Wintery showers and sunshine. Cooler than of late.]

I made a visit early afternoon and met M. Chown and H. Jones at the dam who had just found an adult ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator consorting with an adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser by the dam (there was another adult ♀ in Pipe Bay). I eventually spotted them off Butcombe Bank near the Spillway. I found an adult ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina in Home Bay that is new in, the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis off Rainbow Point as usual, the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Rugmoor Bay, the family party of 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on Holt Farm, 10 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge, but no sign of any Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii.

I also managed to add Green Woodpecker Picus viridis, in flight in the pines at Long Bay, and the dapper little ♂ American stiff-tailed duck that shall remain nameless, to the lake year list as well.

It seems to be worth repeating advice to visiting year-listers looking for the Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck. The best vantage point is Rugmoor gate (to the north shore - remember there is no access along this side in the winter) at ST524595. The Slav has been favouring the bay and shore in front of the gate (looking towards the dam) and the Long-tail is usually somewhere around Rainbow Point (the one opposite with the Poplar trees on it) or slightly to the right in Holt Bay (the one with the wooden pilings along the bank). This would save a lengthy walk from either end of the lake and the need to obtain a permit.

Tuesday 3rd January [Windy and wet with localised flooding]

I made a very brief visit in terrible conditions this morning. I saw the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on Holt Farm, 5 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge where there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and adult (probable ♀) Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. I didn't see either the ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator or ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. I didn't bother to look for the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis.

According to the Bristol Water website, Blagdon Lake rose 5% to 63% full (52% Jan 2010) since just after Christmas, the Mendip rainfall total for December was 108.2 mm (102% of the average).

Wednesday 4th January

Sorry, no news to report today.

Thursday 5th January

An email from Paul Williams today: A half hour lunchtime visit to Butcombe Bay with binoculars found the adult ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator with an adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser. Also, a single ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 2 Goldcrests Regulus regulus.

Belated news from Christine Billinghurst of sightings of a Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola in front of the Lodge, the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis and adult ♂ Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis.

Friday 6th January

An email today from Chris Vines: Richard Pooley and I walked in from the Lodge gateway this morning as far as Holt Bay. No sign of the adult ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina but the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was in Holt Bay and the dapper little American Oxyura jamaicensis was off the Lodge. The 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were in Long Bay giving super close views. Large numbers of Common Gulls Larus canus but no sign of any Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis.

Text message from Chris Craig as follows: Blagdon today (6th). The adult ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator was in Butcombe Bay at 08:40 hrs. It would appear it is your own bird the Chew bird was present there today. It was disappearing up the Western channel for periods. Also Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay and 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis in Holt Bay, both from Rugmoor.

Saturday 7th January

Sean Davies sent me the following: Blagdon this morning 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis at Holt Bay, Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis off Rugmoor, adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus at The Lodge, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis at the dam, 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser, 7 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Wood Bay, 1 Dunlin Calidris alpina, circa 200 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, 11 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula but no sign of the Pinkfeet.

News from Duncan McLaughlin who sent Steve Hale (Avon Birding) sightings of the Slavonian Grebe, 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus, 2 Bewick's Swans and a (presumed) Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in full song.

John Martin also emailed the following: Slavonian Grebe, adult Mediterranean Gull, adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, female Goosander and adult ♂ Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis.

Sunday 8th January

An email has landed in my inbox courtesy of Prof. Gareth Jones as follows: I saw the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis in Holt Bay this afternoon, and the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were at Holt Farm. Also an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on the island opposite the Lodge and a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus in the fields opposite Home Bay. I had a Slavonian Grebe at Chew earlier, but someone in Stratford hide said they'd seen yours today also, though from their description it sounded that it was in Holt Bay.

Monday 9th January [Overcast and windy]

I started my look around today at the dam and saw a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis on the south end, 4 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis in Holt Bay and the smart adult (winter-plumaged) Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay with a small flock of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula that it seems to associate with. There was no sign of the Pinkfeet or any Bewick's Swans. I heard Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus calling at the Lodge and Ubley Hatchery.

Tuesday 10th January [Grey and overcast but reasonably mild]

Well, having spent a bit more time at the lake today, I can confirm that all the usual suspects were present. Starting at the dam, both Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were on the south end of the wall, the 4 Dunlins Calidris alpina remain at the Lodge with the loafing gulls and Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was between Green Lawn and North Shore (owl box field), the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were at Holt Farm feeding beside the cow sheds on their own and not with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis, the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in Wood Bay and 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were feeding at Flower Corner. I couldn't get a good look at the Bewick's without causing disturbance, so their identity will have to remain a mystery for now. A single adult Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna flew through east to west, I'm assuming on its way to the coast, and stopped off briefly at the Lodge. I have just upgraded its abundance from 'scarce' to 'uncommon' as it is still only seen in small numbers each year at the lake, despite being regular at Chew and along the Severn Estuary.

A curious feeding frenzy was going on in Wood Bay involving the Slavonian Grebe, about 5 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and 10 or more Common Coots Fulica atra. They were feeding intensely in a very restricted area for several hours and this attracted a couple of Common Gulls Larus canus over to the commotion. I looked through the scope at them for a while but couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

It was nice to see some familiar faces out at the lake birding today, especially Dave Paull (up from North Devon), Steve Curtis, Roger Barnes and Julian Thomas, who I haven't seen in a while. I got a bit of a shock at the Lodge while checking the gulls with Roger and Jean Staples when a gull with a yellow eye and black bill band stuck its head above the crowd. For a few exciting moments I thought we had a Ring-billed Gull until taking stock and realising the size was altogether too large. It turned out to be the classic identity pitfall of a 3rd-winter Herring Gull Larus argentatus with no red whatsoever on its bill. None of us, to my knowledge, connected with a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis today and I'm still looking for my first Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus of the year at the lake. I popped over to Woodford Lodge at Chew afterwards, to see the adult Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis but didn't take any food, so it didn't come over to see me and perform for the camera unfortunately, though it was standing around on the left pontoon giving excellent year-tick views!

Blagdon Lake rose 5% to 68% full (56% Jan 2011) during the last week.

Wednesday 11th January [The sun finally broke through this afternoon]

Not a great deal of change, with the only new bird of note being a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus along the Burmah Road bank (viewable from the Top End hide). Two Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were feeding along the dam wall, 5 Dunlins Calidris alpina were in front of the Lodge, where an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis dropped in this afternoon, the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was between Green Lawn and North Shore, though closer to the North Shore today, the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were at Holt Farm feeding beside the cow sheds this afternoon and the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in Wood Bay feeding in the tight bunch of Common Coots Fulica atra and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula again.

In an interesting development for the future of local birding, plans for the new reservoir that I discussed in November were brought a stage closer in a statement made by Bristol Water the day before yesterday. "A site for a major new reservoir in Somerset has been chosen – very close to the existing Cheddar Reservoir. In November, potential sites near Banwell, Axbridge and Clewer were ruled out following geological investigations over the summer. Further investigations were then carried out concerning the remaining two of the original short-listed sites -- near Cheddar and Wookey. The Cheddar site has emerged as the firm favourite on economic, environmental and geological grounds. The Company and its consultants will now concentrate on planning for this site." You can see an artists impression attached to the statement but BW stress this should not be taken as a representation of the exact position.

Thursday 12th January [Drizzly showers]

There was another new arrival, an adult Western Greylag Goose Anser anser anser, that was with the main Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock whose numbers were up to 154 today. The 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were at Holt Farm feeding beside the east side of the green cow sheds again in the small field (view from the exit out of Holt Copse at the opposite end from the barrier) and appeared very relaxed on their own. Otherwise, it was business as usual with the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus still along the Burmah Road bank (viewable from the Top End hide), 2 1st-winter Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis feeding on the point at Cheddar Water, 8 Dunlins Calidris alpina were in front of the Lodge, the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was at the entrance to Holt Bay and the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in Wood Bay feeding in the tight bunch of Common Coots Fulica atra and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula again. The only other point worthy of note was the behaviour of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major at the Lodge feeders. She was straight onto the sunflower heart feeder, when I refilled it, and was removing a seed at a time jumping onto the oak tree trunk and wedging them in a crack so that she could open the seed and eat the kernel, completely ignoring the peanut feeder!

Friday 13th January [Sunshine after a cold start]

The only news from the lake today was from Roger Barnes who saw the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on Holt Farm from Green Lawn, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay and 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, though he missed the Long-tailed Duck and Common Sandpipers.

I went to Devon today to have a look around Exminster Marshes and Dawlish with Alan Bone. We saw the Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus and a Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta at Exminster Marshes before we went to Dawlish and saw the drake American Wigeon Anas americana and female Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata. News came through that the Red-breasted Goose was back on the marsh so we went back there, saw a Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus but no sign of the goose. All in all, it was a lovely sunny day with some good birds.

Adult Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, RSPB Exminster Marshes, Devon © Nigel Milbourne, 2012

Saturday 14th January [Bitterly cold and dry]

The high pressure that has the brought cold nights has finally signalled time for the 'goodies' to move on by the looks of it. Paul Williams and I have spent many hours between us at the lake today and neither of us, or, anyone else to my knowledge, has seen the Slavonian Grebe or Long-tailed Duck. I was down at the lake mid-morning and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly in over the dam and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser at the head of Butcombe Bay before I went back home briefly.

I filled the feeders at Ubley Hatchery and then birded my way back along from Top End. I saw 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Flower Corner (probably 'Jonitor' and 'Willows', though I couldn't get a clear view of either from the hide), the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on Holt Farm with the circa 190 Canada Geese Branta canadensis before they were disturbed and flew onto the lake, 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna in Pipe Bay and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis in flight onto the dam. At Long Bay I saw a white Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus and male Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus doing an exocet missile impression.

Sunday 15th January [A beautiful sunny day with a crisp edge to the wind]

Phil and Lucy Delve and I did the WeBS Count this morning. We had 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii ('Jonitor' and 'Willows') fly into Wood Bay, after being chased off by some Mute Swans Cygnus olor from Top End, the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were on Holt Farm with 205 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina remain at the Lodge, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna were off Wookey Point and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were on the dam. Three adult Goosanders Mergus merganser (one drake) were at the the head of Butcombe Bay early on, but the pair flew to Top End later. Most surprising bird find was the orange-coloured female Garganey Anas querquedula along Indian Country bank that had previously been at Chew before Christmas in front of Stratford Hide. Then, while I was watching the Garganey, Lucy, who was scanning the Top End trees for Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus, spotted an Otter Lutra lutra that we watched, for about half an hour between 1230 and 1300 hrs, fishing from Top End to Wookey Point in front of the hide. What a fantastic way to finish the count! Full count details on the WeBS Counts page. We counted 2366 birds of 32 species.

Ian White emailed to say he'd spent a couple of hours photographing birds at the Lodge feeders today and saw Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula and Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus visiting as well as the more regular Titmice Parus spp. and European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis.

Monday 16th January [Another cloudless sky and wall-to-wall sunshine, but the temp remained just above freezing]

It was a very quiet afternoon at the lake with the only notable birds being the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock (210 today). I didn't see any of the other birds I mentioned yesterday, although there were 3 Northern Pintails Anas acuta (one drake) feeding at Indian Country where we saw the Garganey Anas querquedula. There was a thin margin of ice in some of the sheltered spots. Later, I heard the Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis calling on the dam at dusk while I was checking the gull roost.

Given that just about every puddle in the country has been visited by an Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides in the last week or two, I continue to check the roost regularly in hope! Last Thursday, Birdguides reported "a conservative estimate of an astonishing 550 Iceland Gulls ...for reported birds during the week... and although a much lower figure, a conservative estimate of 220 Glaucous Gulls Larus hyperboreus." Either would be very welcome with only one record of each on my database; Iceland Gull in 1967 and Glaucous Gull in 1995. We're long-overdue for another.

The light was beautiful for photography today and I got a nice image of a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.

I went down to do the gull roost at 1630 hrs and was struck by the number of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus (mainly adults) there were in the roost, so I counted them and got a total of 154 which is very unusual for this time of year. I also thought I'd found a white-winger when I spotted a large, Herring Gull-sized, 1st-winter gull that was very pale. Sadly, it appeared that the primaries were brownish. It had a pink bill with a distal black tip very reminiscent of a Glaucous Gull, so I think this probably rules out a leucistic Herring Gull or pale Northern / Scandanavian Herring Gull L. a. argentatus. Perhaps it was a Herring x Glaucous hybrid?

Tuesday 17th January [Cloudy morning and sunny afternoon, remaining cold]

I went down to the Lodge to refill the feeders early this morning then went to WWT Slimbridge with Robin Williams. I had a quick look out for last nights pale gull but they'd already gone out onto the fields.

We had a good time at Slimbridge and I caught up with an 'old friend', a female Common Pochard Aythya ferina that had been fitted with a nasal saddle bearing the letters 'F NP', at Rushy Pen. I last saw and photographed this bird, that Alain Caizergues emailed to say was ringed on 20th May 2011 at Saint-Philbert-De-Grand-Lieu in France, on the 18th November at Rainbow Point, Blagdon Lake. What an amazing co-incidence!

Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Rushy Pen, WWT Slimbridge © Nigel Milbourne, 2012

Paul Williams visited the lake during his lunch break and reported seeing 4 adult and 4 juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis and a pair of Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, but no sign of any Goosanders Mergus merganser (he saw 2 pairs on Saturday).

Wednesday 18th January [Mizzle much of the day]

BLAGDON LAKE ALGAE WARNING

Dog walkers at Blagdon Lake are being warned about the presence of a blue-green algal bloom in the raw, untreated, water. Signs are being posted advising dog walkers and others to avoid prolonged contact with water and to prevent their pets drinking or swimming. Dogs should not be inside the reservoir enclosure anyway. This is purely a precautionary measure. The formation of the algae is a natural phenomenon and will not last long. Prolonged contact with water containing high levels of the algae can, in some circumstances, cause skin irritation or stomach upsets. There is no fishing at Blagdon at present, so anglers are unaffected.

I found the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis again off Ash Tree this afternoon, which begs the question where has it been since the 13th? The 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were on the water's edge at Green Lawn and then flew onto Holt Farm to feed, while at the Lodge I saw 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina, 2 (adult winter and 1st-winter) Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus and an adult Ring-billed Gull Larus delarwarensis briefly at 1500 hrs. I've looked at my picture of the Chew Ring-billed Gull that has been showing in front of Woodford Lodge and can confirm that this was a different bird and having sent some pictures to Keith Vinicombe, he thinks it's probably the same bird he saw at Chew Valley Lake on 12th December 2011 in the roost.

I got some pictures which weren't great, but as far as the Ring-billed Gull goes, you can just about make out the yellow eye in the top picture and see that the streaking is confined to the the rear of the neck. The bill band was partly obscured on the left side by an item poking out the side of the beak. On the lower picture you can see the mantle is paler than the accompanying 1st-winter Common Gulls Larus canus and similar to the adult winter Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus that is sitting on the water at the same angle (note the Black-headed Gull immediately left of the Ring-billed Gull appears darker and is a good illustration of the care required when judging mantle colour of gulls). I watched it in my scope for about 30 seconds, took some pictures with the camera I had over my shoulder, stepped back behind the building to ring Richard Mielcarek and lost it! Despite checking all the gulls for a further 45 minutes or more, it appears to have washed and flown either back onto the fields, or, off to the Chew roost.

Oh, and an additional highpoint was connecting with the Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus behind Stratford Hide thanks to another call from Rich Mielcarek. Nice one mate!

Thursday 19th January [Cloudy and mild]

A very similar cast was on show today, with the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay, 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus feeding close to the cattle sheds on the east side of Holt Farm on their own again, a single Dunlin Calidris alpina at the Lodge, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were pottering about at Cheddar Water and I eventually spotted a winter-plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus in the gull roost.

The report of the North Somerset & Bristol Fungus Group made on the 6th November 2011 has been published on their revamped website and makes interesting reading. The very rare fungus Cortinarius urbicus was found at The Spinney and they say it has been recorded less than six times in the UK.

Friday 20th January [Wild, white horses, but mercifully dry]

I should have got out of bed much earlier and gone down for a look at first light, with the gale we had last night, but now I'm retired....

Anyway, I did manage to find the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus feeding close to the cattle sheds on the east side of Holt Farm on their own (view from the south end of Holt Copse), the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis off Rainbow Point, 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii ('Jonitor' and 'Willows') upending in Long Bay and there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge at lunchtime. I counted 80 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge and 190 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Holt Bay.

The gull roost was a bit disappointing (I'm used to it), with just 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls worthy of mention.

Saturday 21st January [Still wild and windy]

There are an impressive number of gulls on the lake during the stormy weather and late morning I found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus well out on the water towards North Shore, while on what's left of the spit in front of the Lodge there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis among the throng as well as a lone Dunlin Calidris alpina feeding among the Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the 2 remaining Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were feeding in Home Bay with half the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock and the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were out on Holt Farm fields on their own. The adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in the entrance to Holt Bay and a pair of Northern Pintails Anas acuta were on Rugmoor Point (there were 5 yesterday). I saw a female Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus on the Lodge feeders with the regulars, presumably the same bird noted by Ian White last Sunday, although there are a few around.

I checked the gull roost but didn't see anything unusual. There were probably 2000+ Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a few larger gulls, though nearly all the Common Gulls Larus canus had flown off to the Chew Valley Lake roost. However, the large, very pale, gull that I saw on 16th January was in the roost again. So, I drove over to Butcombe Bank for a closer look, but some annoying person with a shot gun started firing behind the Pumping Station and put the whole roost up. The gull flew off, presumably to Chew. I really would like to get some photos of it. Perhaps tomorrow? A pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser were off the Spillway when I left, having probably just flown in to roost.

I ran the 15W Heath Trap overnight (7 Celsius, 1700 - 0730 hrs) in Lodge Copse as it has been fairly mild lately:

Hebrew Character generally flies in a single generation during March and April but there have been a number of local records this month and I think there was even a record in December. This is most unusual and is probably a reflection of the mild weather. The English name of the moth refers to the mark on the wing that resembles the Hebrew character Nun (N).

Sunday 22nd January [Mild and windy]

I collected my moth trap early this morning (see 21st for details), so took the opportunity to have a quick whizz around looking for anything new plus the usual suspects. Starting at the dam end, I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis at Cheddar Water, 3 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge, 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii flew past me at Green Lawn heading for Home Bay, the adult Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in the mouth of Holt Bay again and the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were on the east side of Holt Farm.

The gull roost produced an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, which promptly flew off to Chew, also an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis that stayed, but no sign of the large pale gull that is probably a 1st-winter Herring Gull Larus argentatus. I counted the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus on the clicker and got just shy of 600 as the roost started to build, so by the time I left at 1645 hrs there were over 1000, but clearly far fewer than last night, now that the wind has abated.

Monday 23rd January [Sunny spells. Mainly dry.]

I left it until mid-afternoon to go down to the lake today and found the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on the east side of Holt Farm, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis feeding with a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula in Holt Bay, in a tight feeding group as usual (this is often the best way to find it). Ten feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis joined the Canadas Branta canadensis elsewhere on Holt Farm today. 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were upending close to the overhanging trees at Holt Copse (best viewed from Top End hide) and there were but 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge with approx 120 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I stayed on to do the gulls coming in from the fields to wash and roost but only found 2 Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis (adult and 1st-winter) among the usual throng of, mainly, Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus.

While carrying out some survey work for the upcoming Somerset Atlas around Charterhouse, I came upon a good-sized, mixed, flock of Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs and Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla feeding on Beech Fagus sylvatica mast which brightened up the day.

Tuesday 24th January [Grey, misty and damp]

Not too much to report today. The 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus remain faithful to the field immediately east of the Holt Farm cow sheds, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was showing really well in Holt Bay again and the 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were in Home Bay while I was checking the gull roost late afternoon. There was nothing in the roost to get excited about, apart from a near summer-plumaged Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus that didn't have any black primaries projecting beyond the tertials resulting in my thinking I'd found a Mediterranean Gull at first glance - but I'm not so easily fooled. Most of the time! There were more than the usual number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus (mainly adults) in the roost. Colin Hunt told me he'd seen a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis on the dam this morning while he was working at the Valve Tower.

I ran my 15W Heath Trap overnight (8 Celsius) at Hellfire Corner and caught:

Blagdon Lake has risen to 70% full (75%, Jan 2011) according to Bristol Water.

Wednesday 25th January [Cloudy and mild]

It's a patch worker's life! I was just counting and going through a large flock of mixed gulls containing 750 Common Gulls Larus canus when Keith Vinicombe texted me to say he'd just received a call to say there was an Iceland Gull at Heron's Green, Chew Valley Lake not 3 miles away. Doh!

The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was showing well in Holt Bay again this morning, the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were feeding with the Canada and Barnacle Goose flock on the east side of Holt Farm (later seen to fly towards the dam before circling back towards the farm - exercising perhaps?) but I didn't see 'Jonitor' or 'Willows' the 2 Bewick's Swans. Barry and Jenny Bowler emailed to say they saw the 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Blagdon briefly this morning before they flew off to Chew, where Barry and Jenny saw them again at Heron's Green later.

BLAGDON LAKE ALGAE WARNING LIFTED

The warning about the level of blue-green algae in the raw, untreated, water at Blagdon Lake has been lifted. Tests have shown that the level of algae has dropped below the point where an alert is required. Signs had been posted advising visitors to avoid prolonged contact with water and to prevent their pets drinking or swimming. This was purely a precautionary measure. The formation of the algae is a natural phenomenon and does not last long. Prolonged contact with water containing high levels of the algae can cause skin irritation or stomach upsets.

Other birds included singles of Dunlin Calidris alpina on Wookey Point and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis at the Spillway, 21 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula (5 adult drakes), 5 Goosanders Mergus merganser (2 adult drakes), pairs each of Northern Raven Corvus corax over Green Lawn, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis in Long Bay and Northern Pintail Anas acuta at Rugmoor and an estimated 270 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Thursday 26th January [Cooler with squally showers]

Very quiet this morning, with just the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus on the east side of Holt Farm and the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis showing well again in Holt Bay. Many Eurasian Teal Anas crecca seem to have moved on as the water level continues to rise, and despite looking hard I haven't been able to refind the wintering Garganey Anas querquedula that I found on the WeBS Count - perhaps its flown back over to Chew. On the 24th January Blagdon was 70% full (75%, Jan 2011) and had only come up 2% since the previous check on 10th January, but that 2% has significantly reduced the available margin for dabbling ducks. There are hardly any Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata or Northern Pintail Anas acuta and just a handful of Gadwall Anas strepera lingering on.

Well, well well, I've cracked it! Tonight the evening gull roost contained a large white-winged gull right over at Spinney Point against the bank on its own and invariably head-on. I was watching from the south corner of the dam and put a visiting group of birders from Leicester RSPB Group onto it. I initially thought it was probably an adult Glaucous Gull due to its apparent large size. Having called a few local birders that I thought might just get down while there was enough daylight to see it, I decided to relocate to the north end of the dam where it was much closer. The bill appeared to be uniformly greenish and I was beginning to doubt my initial identification. Richard Mielcarek arrived and his first thought was that it was probably an Iceland Gull. It was showing well, side-on, from the new viewing point alongside Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus and Herrring Gulls Larus argentatus which appeared about the same size. The primary projection was longish, consistent with it being an Iceland Gull as well. I felt reasonably happy that it was an adult, but Rich thought he could see some brown flecking in the mantle (the light was terrible, I was frozen and shivering uncontrollably and it was raining at the time), but we both agreed there was flecking onto the shoulder though the head was not 'hooded' with dense brown streaks and spots like a winter Glaucous Gull. The head was also rounded rather than angular and fierce-looking. The sunlight showed through for a few minutes, brightening the scene, during which time we came to the conclusion, aided and abetted by Chris Craig and Dave Nevitt, that it was an adult Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides, the second record for Blagdon and the first since 1967. It was in the roost for about 45 minutes and apparently settled, but then just took off and made its way east along the lake gaining height and seemingly headed for Mr Vinicombe at Chew. I guess, therefore, that it's probably the same bird seen at Chew yesterday.

The RSPB Group told me they had seen a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus in Pipe Bay, some Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in front of the Lodge and while we were talking the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis showed on the point at Cheddar Water.

Bristol Water have announced the Blagdon Visitor Centre (behind the dam at the Pumping Station) will be open, free, every Sunday afternoon, 2-5 pm, from May 6th to August 26th inclusive. It is well worth a look just for the beautiful beam engines, but there is so much more to see, including a splendid display of Green-winged Orchids Orchis morio behind the dam in May. Put a note in your diary.

Friday 27th January [A lovely sunny day with an occasional shower this afternoon]

I didn't visit the lake until about 1630 hrs when I went down to check the gull roost. No Iceland Gull this evening. However, while trying to get a better angle to view the gulls from the dam end I did spot the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis feeding in Holt Bay. There were 4 Goosanders Mergus merganser (a drake and 3 females, all adults) off the dam and what looked like a Dunlin Calidris alpina sleeping in front of the Lodge at dusk.

Saturday 28th January [Sunny and cold]

A message from Sean Davies who has seen the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay, the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus from Holt Copse, an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus at the Lodge and a drake Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator with a female Goosander Mergus merganser.

I visited this afternoon and saw the Slavonian Grebe in Wood Bay and the Pink-footed Geese at Ash Tree. A Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus flew from Wood Bay Point around the corner towards Burmah Road and the female Garganey Anas querquedula was back opposite Top End hide at Indian Country late afternoon by the looks of it, though I was somewhat distracted at the point it woke up (after watching it for an hour) by a terrier running around completely out of control in front of the hide chasing wildfowl and Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus. I left at that point.

Vic Savery emailed and said he'd seen the Green Sandpiper at Wood Bay Point too, the Red-breasted Merganser / Goosander fly out of Long Bay and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis at Pipe Bay reeds.

I checked the gull roost and saw nothing unusual. There were adult male and female Goosanders Mergus merganser at Butcombe Bay but no sign of the merganser seen by Sean and Vic. I also spotted a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Polish Water.

Sunday 29th January [Cold and murky]

Another early morning visit by Sean Davies resulted in his seeing an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus at the Lodge, which he said was different to the bird he saw yesterday in the same place.

I didn't go down until this afternoon and was pleasantly surpised to see 'Saruni', 'Sarune' and their cygnets, the 6 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, back at Wookey Point. I believe they have been back at WWT Slimbridge since they were last at Blagdon on New Year's Day. The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in Wood Bay again today and the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were on Holt Farm with the Canada Branta canadensis and Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis.

I had a verbal report of a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis at Cheddar Water and saw a adult female Goosander Mergus merganser fishing along Butcombe Bank.

Monday 30th January [Dull with wet snow this morning]

It's quiet at the lake just now with very little change day to day. I saw the 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus at Green Lawn and the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis in Wood Bay as I made my way east along the lake. On the way back, I spotted 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in Long Bay that appeared to be 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' back at the lake again and while I was going through the gulls the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis walked along in front of me at Cheddar Water. I saw the strange pale gull in the roost again, but no white-wingers this evening.

This morning I counted no fewer than 77 European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis in the Ash Fraxinus excelsior tree in the garden waiting for me to fill the feeders and about 40 Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs in the trees by the back door queueing up for sunflower hearts spread on the ground.

Tuesday 31st January [Sunny but bitterly cold]

I didn't spend more than a couple of hours at the lake today and didn't see any new birds. The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was commensal feeding with Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, Common Coots Fulica atra and a Common Gull Larus canus in Wood Bay, as it has been for the last month or more. The 4 Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus were on Holt Farm fields as usual and so ends the first month of the new year. The Pinkfeet will probably begin their migration back to Iceland, or Greenland, towards the end of the month and the gull roost will also diminish as we start looking each morning for the arrival of the first spring migrants. Not only will wildfowl and gulls be on the move, so will passerines be heading north to breed, as the days lengthen.

Blagdon Lake is 72% full (79% Jan 2011) according to the Bristol Water website and the Mendip rainfall total for December was 108.2 mm (102% of the average), whilst rainfall this month was 77.00 mm (82% of the average).