BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

January 2015 News


Thursday 1st January [Overcast with rising wind]

I walked the south side from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back, and on the way there spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis right over at Paradise from Rainbow Point. Imagine my surprise then, when I spotted a Black-necked Grebe feeding off Hellfire Corner when I got to the Top End hide on the way back, and then another asleep right in front of the hide! In the end I worked out that the long-staying adult had moved across to Hellfire Corner and the other bird (a probable juvenile) was new in. I left it feeding at the end of one of the ditches at Flower Corner right against the bank. So, there are 2 Black-necked Grebes present today, and there are at least 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscobus collybita between Bell's Bush barrier and Top End, probably 3. The Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea was very co-operative and appeared to order on the Hatchery feeder, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam as I left. 55 spp. recorded. I will add species to the year list as they are seen by me, or reported to me, on the Year List Page. Happy New Year everyone.

Friday 2nd January [Sunny, though a little chilly]

I spent most of the day with Chris Barrington working on the Chew Valley Bat Box Scheme, so didn't get to the lake until late this afternoon. I saw what I presume to be the wintering adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Hellfire Corner in the same place as yesterday (look out of the slat at the left end of the Top End hide - and please close it when you leave). I didn't see the other bird, but it was getting dark by then. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall, and I heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscobus collybita calling from the flooded vegetation in front of Top End hide and saw another in a willow by the Lodge, while checking the gull roost, that might just turn out to be Sibe. I also heard a Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes singing before dusk. I'll be on site tomorrow morning having another go at improving the site year list. Please let me know if you spot anything that I haven't recorded yet.

Saturday 3rd January [Wet and very windy this morning. Benign later.]

It was horrendous at the lakeside early doors, but I did eventually find a single Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Bell's Bush. I really cheered up when I found a flock of 14 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the Birch trees by the Fishing Lodge, because finding any passerines was proving to be a real challenge in the conditions. Then, at that point, I took a call from Iain Hysom who rang to tell me he was on his way over with some bat roost bricks for the underground part of the bat house, so I abandoned my birding at that point.

A late afternoon check of the gull roost didn't turn up anything special, but the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, even though the howling westerlies of this morning had turned into a stiff north-easterly blowing onto the wall.

Sunday 4th January [Overcast and grey]

I spent most of the day at Burrington Combe with a group carrying out a bat hibernation survey led by Nick Tomlinson from Dorset. However, I did manage a quick lake visit late this afternoon and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point where it had been reported earlier in the day. 2 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret were reported at the Lodge as well, but I also had a first hand report of the larger flock in flight. The same birder (sorry I didn't get your name) also saw a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis at Holt Copse.

Monday 5th January [Overcast, still and mild.]

I carried out a voluntary bat roost visit at a house in Chew Magna this morning and on the way home checked the lake. I saw 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus (6th record) at Rainbow Point which promptly flew to Home Bay, and 2 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the birch trees at Lodge Copse and 9 House Sparrows Passer domesticus in the hedge at Holt Bay.

Mid-afternoon the Egyptian Geese were still present, and I managed to add a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus to the site list. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was at Bell's Bush and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the overspill. Oh, and I counted at least 7 Lesser Redpolls this afternoon and the same number of Eurasian Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula together in Lodge Copse. Mike O'Connor saw a flock of 40-50 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus fly over the lake from Butcombe Bay to the Lodge and fly east along the south shore at 1630 hrs.

Tuesday 6th January [Colder, bright and breezy.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Hellfire Corner and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the overspill at lunchtime. I had a text from Paul Williams to say he'd seen an adult ♂ Northern Pintail Anas acuta in front of Top End hide yesterday, which I saw this morning. Other new year birds for me were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea on the dam, a flock of 18 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus west along the lake and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus.

Obvious common species missing from the year list at the mo are Goosander, Little Egret, Water Rail, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch and Reed Bunting.

Late news: Thanks to Chris Stone and Steve Hale for letting me know that Paul Bowdler saw a ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra in Butcombe Bay this morning. I did see a guy with a camera. I'm shame-faced to say I missed the bird on my several scans of the bay.

Late late news: I got home from a meeting this evening to discuss the new Avon Bird Report, walked up to the back door and heard a Barn Owl Tyto alba calling close by.

Wednesday 7th January [Overcast and mild]

The ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra was feeding close in to The Island (trees jutting into the right side of Butcombe Bay as viewed from the dam) at 0925 hrs and still present an hour later. The bird is best viewed from the public footpath at the north end of the dam. This is a great find and the first record since 2010. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Hellfire Corner again late morning. The gates are open today (permit only), but please don't walk away from your car birding in case they get locked. I got this record shot of the Scoter this morning - it was miles away. Did anyone get anything better when the sun came out?

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, The Island © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

While I was at Butcombe Bay this morning I heard Northern Ravens Corvus corax calling and a Song Thrush Turdus philomelos singing.

Thursday 8th January [Rain then bright and sunny]

I was out for most of the day, but did manage about an hour by the lake late this afternoon. I looked for the Common Scoter from the dam without any luck, and had a quick scan for the Black-necked Grebe with my bins on the way back from filling the Hatchery feeder, again without any luck. While I was on the dam, about 40 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew in from the west.

Although dribbling over the overspill yesterday, the lake reached top level today and was flowing down the spillway with some force. Strangely enough, the lake reached top level on the 9th January last year!

Friday 9th January [Bright and sunny early, wild and windy later.]

I got as far as the Lodge before lunch, and spotted the ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra while I was checking through bathing Common Gulls Larus canus. An adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus was also sitting on the water among them. Late this afternoon, when the weather had really taken a turn for the worse, I spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis well off the bank from Wood Bay and an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on its own in a field on Holt Farm. Then, as it was getting dark, I connected with the Scoter again, feeding over by The Island in the choppy water at about 1615 hrs.

Saturday 10th January [Wild and windy, but brightening up.]

It took ages to find the ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra but I eventually nailed it in Butcombe Bay at 1240 hrs. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos flew onto the overspill while I was there earlier in the morning and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was close to the bank at Wood Bay showing very well. It was a bit of a 'gull fest' today and I spent ages going through them in the hope of finding a Kittiwake or something blown in on last nights storm, but I had no such luck unfortunately.

The Common Scoter was still in Butcombe Bay at 1545 hrs, where I met Mike and Christine O'Connor who told me they'd seen a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly over the bay before I arrived.

Sunday 11th January [Mainly dry, grey and breezy.]

I spent most of the afternoon putting up some new bat boxes and doing a bit of maintenance with Chris and 'Bee' Barrington. However, I did manage a few minutes birding and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay and the ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra right over at Spinney Point (viewed from the dam).

Monday 12th January [Mild and wet,wet, wet.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wood Bay Point early afternoon and the ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra was distantly viewable from the dam, feeding off Spinney Point, but it wasn't a day for spending lots of time outside!

Tuesday 13th January [Wintery showers]

The ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra was still favouring the area between The Island and Spinney Point at lunchtime, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wood Bay Point. At least 64 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were feeding on Holt Farm alongside a large flock of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, Common Larus canus and Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. While I was repositioning a couple of bat boxes, I saw 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus feeding along the edge of Home Bay reeds, and a flock of circa 20 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus at the Lodge. There were Water Rails squealing from Pipe Bay reeds too, and I finally caught up with Green Woodpecker Picus viridis today. It's due to snow later, so I think I'll just get on with updating my Blagdon Lake Birds and Wildlife talk, which I'm due to give to Long Ashton AWT Group on Thursday evening at the Community Centre.

Wednesday 14th January [Sunny]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis had moved back along the south shore to Bell's Bush today. I saw 8 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the birch trees at Lodge Copse, heard my first Blackbird Turdus merula of the year singing and added Feral Pigeon Columba livia to the year list. Paul Williams reported good views of a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus. I didn't have time to look for the Common Scoter because I got called home to take delivery of the outstanding Chew Valley Lake bat boxes. For those of you who enjoy their bats, I've posted pictures of the two new designs of bat box delivered today - the 3FN and 3FF.

Thursday 15th January [Mainly sunny with a stiff breeze]

The ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra was feeding off Spinney Point late this afternoon, and the adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wood Bay Point, where I also saw the ♂ Tufted x Pochard (or should that be Pochard x Tufted) hybrid. The ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard was also there yesterday. I had a good look through the large gull roost, but as usual there was nothing of note (but you don't find the rarity if you don't look). While I was checking the gulls, Water Rails Rallus aquaticus were squealing in Pipe Bay reeds, and I kept the year list moving along when a ♂ Tawny Owl Strix aluco sang as he woke up (this is a regular occurrence and he's usually answered immediately by his mate).

Friday 16th January [Sunny and relatively mild]

The ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra was feeding about 200 metres off the dam and Butcombe Bank today, though subject to disturbance. The adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was back along the south side towards Bell's Bush. I noted 53 spp. with nothing special, though a fly-through Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus was nice and I heard a couple of European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis singing.

Saturday 17th January [Wintery showers and cold]

There was no sign of the adult ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra that I could see early this afternoon (perhaps yesterdays fishing disturbance made it decide to move on), although the adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Bell's Bush still. There were 2 or 3 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the birch trees at Lodge Copse and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. I forgot to mention that 3 adult Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flew through to the west and that the Goosanders and a pair of Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula were noted copulating - roll on spring!

Sunday 18th January [Sunny]

Again, no sign of the ♀ Common Scoter Melanitta nigra but the adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was giving nice views off Bell's Bush in the sunshine. I also saw 6 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the birch trees and a high-flying Little Egret Egretta garzetta going over to the west (another addition to the site yearlist).

Monday 19th January [Sunny]

The usual team carried out the WeBS count today, and were joined by Linda Lee for the first time. Wintering birds are starting to drift away already, with Common Coot Fulica atra numbers half of what they were last month. We had the bonus of an adult ♀ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina at Wood Bay Point and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Bell's Bush, where it seems to have settled for now. There were 3 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were back and appeared to be prospecting for a suitable nest site. A pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser were displaying and copulating in Butcombe Bay and several pairs of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus were starting their dances with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Full count details are on the WeBS Counts Page, plus Warwick White reported a group of 30 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in an area of the lake we don't routinely include on the count transect.

Being especially interested in bats and birds, I found the this article 'A Race Against Extinction' pointed out to me by Dr Alan Herring a bit of an eye-opener. I knew quite a bit about White-nose Syndrome affecting North American bats beforehand, but I didn't realise how badly West Nile Virus was affecting wild North American birds, much less the spread of the amphibian virus.

Tuesday 20th January [Overcast with some drizzle]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis remains off Bell's Bush, and the 4 (2♂, 2♀) adult Goosanders Mergus merganser were in Butcombe Bay, but I couldn't find the ♀ Red-crested Pochard this afternoon. The 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were also present, as were the ♂ Tufted x Pochard, and ♂♀ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrids. On the Patchwork Challenge front, I managed to bag a Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus at the Hatchery and a Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus at the Inspection House for the site year list too.

Yesterday, during the WeBS count we missed the wintering Mute Swans (2 adults and a juvenile), only recording a pair of adults flying west over the dam. So, assuming they were just missed because they were feeding out in a field adjacent to the lake, I'm assuming the 2 adults flying over were different birds and have, accordingly, changed the count to 5.

Wednesday 21st January [Nice, until rain came in at dusk.]

I spent most of the day surveying tunnels belonging to Bristol Water with Sophie Edwards and Ken Anstey for hibernating bats, but I did manage to get down to the lake before dark for an hour. Of note were the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Bell's Bush, the adult ♂ Tufted x Pochard at Wood Bay Point and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay.

Thursday 22nd January [Still and mainly overcast]

Today's report has a familiar ring about it, with the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay, 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End and 3+ (2♂, 1♀) adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. However, new in were 4 (3♂, 1♀) adult Northern Pintails Anas acuta off Rugmoor Point. I counted 279 Canada Geese Branta canadensis with an additional Greylag x Canada hybrid amongst them still, and spotted the wintering adult ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid in Wood Bay. I was surprised to see 4 Eurasian Jays Garrulus glandarius together under the Lodge feeders, with another on the Hatchery nut feeder.

Please note I will be unable to visit the lake again until Monday, so if anyone visits and has news please email or tweet me and I'll post it. Thanks.

Friday 23rd January

I received the following news from Steve Hale today: 250+ Canada Geese Branta canadensis (Green Lawn then fields), 2 Common Buzzards Buteo buteo, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 1 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea and a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus of note.

Saturday 24th January

This from Sean Davies today: 2 Skylarks Alauda arvensis over (new for the year), Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Bell's Bush, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser and Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Butcombe Bay. Finally, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the oversill. Thanks Sean (today) and Steve (yesterday) for the updates.

Sunday 25th January

No news today

Monday 26th January [Sunny spells]

An afternoon visit brought an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Bell's Bush, 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End and 19 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope off Rugmoor Point.

Tuesday 27th January [Dull and dry]

This afternoon the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Bell's Bush as usual, and the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were at Top End. I counted 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with 73 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Wood Bay before I took a walk from the Lodge across the dam, along Butcombe Bank to Butcombe village and back along the road. On the way, I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos pottering around in the water between the overflow and the road bridge over the spillway, and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser at the head of Butcombe Bay (although I think there was another drake there earlier as well).

Wednesday 28th January [Wet and windy early on, then sunny.]

I spent the whole day beside the lake with Ken Anstey working on the bat boxes - rehanging, moving and putting up a couple of new ones. When we'd finished, I had a quick look around with my binoculars and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Wood Bay Point and the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End. There was no sign of the goose flock, just a pair of Canadas Branta canadensis at Green Lawn and a possible juvenile / ♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila that I'll check tomorrow with my telescope.

Thursday 29th January [Wintery showers. Cold.]

I went to Chew Valley Lake this morning with Dave Cottle to do some work in a building that's home to a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros maternity roost. Although I got back home around lunchtime, I wasn't able to get to the lake during the afternoon unfortunately. Sorry folks.

Friday 30th January [Mainly sunny]

I re-found the Scaup-like bird again today, and after a long time 'grilling' it, I've decided it isn't one, although I can't work out it's hybrid parentage, either! The usual ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid was feeding in Wood Bay, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wood Bay Point and has clearly started its moult into summer plumage. The 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were at Top End still, feeding in the field next to the entrance gate.

I also took a trip over to the Chew Valley Ringing Station to see a putative Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus that had been caught there. The ringers told me a couple of feathers had been removed under licence for DNA analysis because this is such an extraordinary find at this time of year. Amazing!

Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus, Chew Valley Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

A couple of weeks ago a Birch Betula sp. tree came down in Lodge Copse and I was really surprised to find Cramp Balls (aka King Arthur's Cakes) Daldinia concentrica growing on the trunk. I thought this was a fungus that only grew on Ash Fraxinus excelsior, but after doing a bit of research I've discovered that it's been found on Beech and Birch as well.

Saturday 31st January [Sunny and cold]

I spent about an hour by the lake today (it was bloomin' perishing) during which time I saw the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End and eventually found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point. The gull roost was quite large but I didn't spot anything out of the ordinary. I didn't look at the north end of the dam or Butcombe Bay for the Common Sandpiper, but will probably have more time tomorrow. It's the end of the first month already, but I've done quite well having seen 79 species of the 81 recorded at the lake so far. I think it's going to tough to add many in February, then I go away to India for a month at the beginning of March - just as the migrants start arriving!