BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

January 2017 News


Sunday 1st January [Rain] Happy New Year everyone!

I'm rarely happier than when I'm birding my patch, but the 3 hours spent out in the rain this morning were not exactly enjoyable! There were few highlights, the best bird undoubtedly being the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta at the Lodge, and one I'm pleased to get under my belt because they are by no means guaranteed each year. The supporting cast was provided by 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, a handful of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and a lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. I was a little surprised to tot up at least 17 Goosanders Mergus merganser, but couldn't find a Common Goldeneye, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Rook, or even the regular Eurasian Stonechat! I totaled a rather paltry 52 species, but I suppose it leaves a few to look out for tomorrow, when the sun is forecast to shine again.

Monday 2nd January [Sunny & bright]

It was a much more pleasant day today, and I walked the south side and back with Mark Hynam around lunchtime. We added a few new species to the site year list. Sue Caola and Alison Everett were also having a look around. I didn't count any birds today (lazy of me) but saw Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, one each of Common Actitis hypoleucos and Green SandpipersTringa ochropus, the lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna of note. The 3 adult Bewick's Swans have gone over to join By-brook, Keynell and their family at Chew (per Richard Mielcarek) and there was no sign of the Little Stint. Needless to say, I haven't seen the Blyth's Pipit for several days either.

Tuesday 3rd January [Sunny & bright]

The Little Stint Calidris minuta was back in front of the Fishing Lodge with a Dunlin Calidris alpina mid-afternoon, and although there were 26 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around Butcombe Bay, there was just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba when I arrived on site, and that appeared to fly back to Chew. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was in Long Bay and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Green Lawn. There was some ice at Top End, and the remaining 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta had moved to Bell's Bush. One, perhaps two, Peregrines Falco peregrinus were hunting around Top End too.

I'm doing the Patchwork Challenge again this year, and notched up my 70th species today, which is a sobering thought, because it probably means I've seen half of all the bird species I'm likely to see at the lake this year in the first 3 days!

Wednesday 4th January

I made a last minute decision to twitch the Dusky Thrush in the Peak District today. It was well worth the journey as it showed beautifully feeding on the ground along a hedgeline off Pig Lane in Beeley, just north of Matlock. I have seen Dusky Thrushes in China a few years ago, but it was nice to see this one in England.

Swopping roles with me today, ace 'twitcher' Chris Craig stayed at home and birded Blagdon - or did he twitch the Little Stint? Anyway, he sent me a tweet to say he'd seen the Little Stint Calidris minuta and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the Lodge, the Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata that's eluded me for the last 3 days in Long Bay, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 9 Barnacle Geese Branta bernicla at Green Lawn.

Thursday 5th January [Bright & sunny. No wind.]

The Little Stint Calidris minuta was feeding in front of the Lodge again until 1600 hrs at least, with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam earlier in the afternoon. No Great White Egrets this afternoon, but 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were in Butcombe Bay, as were at least 10 Goosanders Mergus merganser. 9 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago were feeding in Pipe Bay, with another at the Lodge, and I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. Looking through the few ducks on the lake produced an Aythya hybrid in Holt Bay that superficially looked like an adult ♂ Common Pochard, but had a dark grey back and yellow eye, 4♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta were at Top End, and I heard 1, probably 2, Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita calling between the hide and Hellfire Corner on the way back to the Lodge. The Eurasian Stonechat continues to elude my gaze!

By my ready reckoner, the water level in the lake is about 62% at present.

Friday 6th January [Light rain in the afternoon]

It was a quiet afternoon visit with just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta of note. The Little Stint Calidris minuta was reported as being present in front of the Lodge at midday (per Rare Bird Alert), but I didn't see it. Selected counts included 4♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 10 Gadwall Anas strepera, just a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser, and 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis (with the sizeable Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock). The number of piscivorous birds has dropped dramatically, with very few Cormorants, Goosanders, Herons and Egrets compared with a month ago. There were a good number (10+) of Eurasian Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula along the hedgerows, which lit up an otherwise dull day, but no new species were added to the year list.

Saturday 7th January

No news from the lake today. I cracked and went to see the Blue Rock Thrush at Stow-on-the-Wold. I'm not entirely sure why because I've seen dozens and dozens of them around the Mediterranean where this one ought to be.

Sunday 8th January [Foggy until lunchtime when it cleared]

Julian Thomas tweeted news of the Little Stint Calidris minuta in front of the Lodge this morning as given above, and he also saw the first reported Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis of the year. My visit this afternoon was, by comparison, relatively quiet. I didn't see the Little Stint either early afternoon or while checking the gull roost late afternoon. My sightings included the previously elusive Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Long Bay, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Holt Bay, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba between Burmah Road and Wookey Point, 3♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End. Dusk back at the Lodge saw no white-winged gulls in the roost, but I heard a couple of Water Rails Rallus aquaticus calling in Pipe Bay reeds, and counted 25 (7♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

Monday 9th January [Steady driving rain until mid-afternoon]

A miserable day, so I only paid a quick visit at lunchtime. I saw the Little Stint Calidris minuta in front of the Lodge and 3♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Burmah Road. That was about the long and the short of it - not an egret in sight anywhere!

Tuesday 10th January [Overcast & mild]

I received the following news from Michael Davis today: 13+ Goosanders Mergus merganser spread between Butcombe Bay and the dam, the Little Stint Calidris minuta and 13 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis along the little stream at the end of Long Bay, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis along the shore of Long Bay. 6 Eurasian Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula in the wooded area between Home and Long Bay, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.

Wednesday 11th January [Windy & mainly sunny]

Back on 'My Patch' this afternoon I saw 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Green SandpiperTringa ochropus, Peregrine Falco peregrinus, Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 9 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor and 2 pairs of Goosanders Mergus merganser of note. I stayed on to do the gull roost at dusk from the Lodge (no sign of the Little Stint) but didn't find anything out of the ordinary in the throng. Perhaps the change in weather conditions that are forecast will liven the birding up a little?

Thursday 12th January [Wet and miserable]

Not surprisingly, I couldn't bring myself to go birding today. It was horrible!

Friday 13th January [Sunny spells & windy]

After December's birding bounty, January has provided very lean pickings! For example, I've yet to see/hear a Green Woodpecker, Stock Dove, Collared Dove or Kestrel at the lake. Anyway, todays fare included the elusive Little Stint Calidris minuta back in front of the Lodge at 1445hrs and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay. Apart from the waders, I counted 27 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, and recorded a Mute Swan Cygnus olor with a darvic ring on its right tarsus Yellow 'BJB'. There's a regular flock of circa 150-200 Redwings Turdus iliacus on Holt Farm by Home/Long Bays and probably over 1000 (Western) Jackdaws Corvus monedula coming in to roost in the evenings among the corvids, providing a noisy and spectacular sight. The gull roost hasn't contained many medium/large gulls, although there can be upwards of 500 Common Gulls Larus canus bathing during the afternoon, before they fly to Chew to roost, leaving over 1000 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in the Blagdon roost. So far, no white-wingers of any description, despite checking them regularly... and so it proved this evening. Aside from the B-h gulls, there were a handful of Great Black-backed Larus marinus and a few more Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, but no Common or Lesser Black-backeds at all. I also saw 7 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula (my highest count this winter), 8 Goosanders Mergus merganser at the head of Butcombe Bay and 17 Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus in a raft near the dam before I left at 1645 hrs.

I first recorded Mute Swan Yellow 'BJB' on 2nd November 2013 at Blagdon, and have the following in my database: Chris Perrins replied at the time to say Yellow 'BJB' (BTO ZY5592) was ringed at Abbotsbury, Dorset 06/10/11 as a first winter female (not hatched at Abbotsbury).

After yesterday's rain, I thought I'd check the water level, but there has been very little change since 5th January when I reckoned the lake to be around 62% full.

Saturday 14th January [Mainly sunny with a bitter wind]

Sorry for posting the news so late, I had to rush out. I managed an hour late morning but didn't spot the Little Stint during that time. That's not to say it isn't still present, it is just not visible for much of the time - I think it feeds below the drop-off at the water's edge on Tiny's Shallow (in front of the Lodge) at least some of the time when you can't see it from the Lodge. There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Butcombe Bay, a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in front of the Lodge, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Canada Branta canadensis and Barnacle Geese B. leucopsis. There seemed to be a goodly number of Common Pochards Aythya ferina on the lake today and there were still 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End.

Sunday 15th January [Mainly overcast & mild]

Again, no sign of the Little Stint or the Barnacle Geese today. In fact, there was not a lot to report at all. The (presumed) pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, and the only waders I saw were 2 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End. After checking the gull roost, I counted 13 Goosanders Mergus merganser, and 18 Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus. It's WeBS count day tomorrow - that shouldn't take long!

Monday 16th January [Overcast with drizzle in the morning and mist later]

We carried out the WeBS count today between 1000-1400 hrs. Of note, we had a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus, 13 (2♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, just the 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta briefly, and Terry counted 1343 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca. Full count details are on the WeBS Page. During the count I managed to add 3 new species to my year list. We also heard (and saw) a Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus singing, and heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major drumming (although I heard one during December as well).

Tuesday 17th January [Overcast with drizzle in the morning and mist later]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news.

Wednesday 18th January [Sunny and reasonably mild]

Two visits today, early morning and late afternoon that sandwiched a bat hibernation visit in Wiltshire. There was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Butcombe Bay, a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus calling at Pipe Bay, 11 (3♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser at the dam end this evening, 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 20 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm and 22 Gadwall Anas strepara on Rugmoor Point. Nothing to report from the gull roost other than the usual suspects.

Thursday 19th January [Sunny and cool]

I spent most of the day walking along the Cotswold Way with friends, but did have a quick look around at the lake when I got back. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, the 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta were still at Top End, and I spotted 7 (4♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam when checking the gull roost this evening. I reckon over 1000 (Western) Jackdaws Corvus monedula flew out of Home Bay Point rookery and over the lake to All Saint's Wood at dusk too.

Friday 20th January [Sunny with a cool easterly breeze]

I was surprised to find 5 adult Western Greylags Anser anser anser at Hellfire Corner this lunchtime, not a common visitor by any means. Aside from them there were 4♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus feeding in a field on the north side, and 4♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser roosting on The Island.

Late afternoon, I went back to the lake to check the gull roost and saw 6 (2♂) Goosanders fly in, circa 60 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying up and down the lake before spiraling upwards and leaving site to the SW, and I heard a ♂ Tawny Owl Strix aluco call at Cheddar Water before I left.

You may be interested to learn that the British Ornithologists Union have announced that as of 1st January 2018 they will adopt the International Ornithological Congress World Bird List and revise the British List accordingly. This means that the following changes will be adopted: Taiga Bean Goose and Tundra Bean Goose will be treated as separate species, as are Fea’s Petrel  and Desertas Petrel, Isabelline Shrike and Red-tailed Shrike. Full species status is given to Least Tern, Thayer’s Gull, Two-barred Warbler, Stejneger’s Stonechat and Eastern Yellow Wagtail. However, we will lose Hudsonian Whimbrel, which be treated as a subspecies of Whimbrel, and Lesser Redpoll will revert to a subspecies of Common Redpoll again. See announcement.

Saturday 21st January [Foggy early then sunny. Cold.]

There was no point in going down to the lake early this morning, everything was blanketed in fog. I made something of a major decision and traded in my faithful, and much loved, Zeiss Dialyt 7x42 binoculars that I've birded all over the world with for the last 22 years, and bought a pair of the new Zeiss Victory SF Black 10x42s. Ageing eyes, although still pretty damned good, need the benefit of the improved magnification and optics available these days. I loved the feel of my old bins in the hand, the balance was perfect, so the new ones have a lot to live up to! I had to go out this afternoon, and although the mist had cleared by the time I had to leave, I didn't have time to pop down to the lake. I do, however, look forward to using the new tools of 'my trade' in the field tomorrow...

Sunday 22nd January [Sunny and milder]

I was going to spend the afternoon at the lake birding, but I got a phone call from Mark Hynam just as I was getting ready, to tell me he'd spotted a live Carrion Crow Corvus corone dangling from a tree by one leg on fishing line. We spent the afternoon rescuing said Crow and got it down alive. It took some water and ate a couple of worms after we'd freed its leg of the offending line, but its in a very sorry state and I suspect it won't pull through. I have it in care at the moment.

I did manage to catch up with 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Home Bay while I was there, but don't have much else to report.

Monday 23rd January [Sunny and cool]

A busy day with an early morning bat roost visit with Georgie Hayworth, followed by a visit in the afternoon to Secret World with the rescued Carrion Crow Corvus corone so that it could be assessed. One leg is damaged (the one it was hanging by), but it perked up during the day and, after we'd been giving it regular fluids, it started to feed itself on dog food/scrambled egg.

I eventually got to the lake at 1640 hrs, rather too late for a proper look around, but I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on The Island, 10 (5♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus sqealing in Pipe Bay reeds, counted 4 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, spotted the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and saw 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada B. canadensis flock. The new bins were awesome in the low light - perhaps I'll get a decent chance to use them tomorrow...

Tuesday 24th January [Hazy sun and mild]

It was almost spring-like today during my visit from late morning to early afternoon. I found what I think was probably a 1st-winter Ring-billed Gull Larus delarwarensis on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge at around 1400 hrs. It had pink legs, heavy breast markings that extended along the flanks, some dark marks on its mantle, but I couldn't be sure the mantle was notably paler than the accompanying Common Gulls Larus canus in the bright light. The bill was marginally heavier than the Common Gulls but with a bright pink base and extensive glossy black tip (very contrasty). It turned to face me before I could take note of the covert markings, though I did see narrow white fringing on the tertials when it was preening. Then, it just took off and flew over Home Bay Point with a Common Gull towards Holt Farm and out of view before I could get my scope on it in flight. This left me a bit frustrated because I hadn't noted the covert markings, pale upper wing panel or the tail band while it was on the ground. I'm fairly sure it was a 1st-winter Ringer, but won't submit it on this evidence. It is the second time I've seen the bird, but last time it was almost completely hidden in the throng, so I got very little on it then either. Funnily enough, while I was watching the putative Ringer, an adult near-summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus landed nearby. It had nearly moulted in its black hood. I left at 1410 hrs with it still present. During my walk I saw a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Home Bay, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, two groups of 3 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus (at Lodge Copse and Hellfire Corner), my first Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus of the year and counted 55 Northern Shovelers Anas clypeatus, whose numbers appear to be rising over the last few days.

I took the opportunity to check some of the Kent bat boxes as well today and found a single bat in one of the 10 boxes - probably a Pipistrelle sp. I also gathered a pinnule of Polypody fern at the Hatchery to identify it. It was growing from a fallen tree trunk. The round sori without paraphyses suggested it was either Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare or, more likely, Intermediate Polypody Polypodium interjectum.

Wednesday 25th January [Wall to wall sunshine]

I made a mid-morning visit but the only birds to report were a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Long Bay and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. I did, however, catch up with another species for the patch year list - there were a couple of Greenfinches Chloris chloris singing at Cheddar Water / Inspection House. I also heard my first Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs singing this year in the warm sunshine. I spent a couple of hours from 1500 hrs to 1700 hrs this afternoon watching the gulls but there were hardly any medium or large gulls at all. A complete contrast to yesterday. The Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus turned up at around 1600 hrs and was still there in the roost when I left. Earlier I'd spotted an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus with a darvic Dark Blue 'JBB', which I saw previously on 21st Oct. 2013 at Blagdon. Peter Stewart of Severn Estuary Gull Group ringed the bird on 30th Jan. 2010 at Stoke Orchard, Glos. A Peregrine Falco peregrinus was flying around the Lodge area on and off for much of the time I was there - perhaps it had it's eye on one of the Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus in Pipe Bay? Colin Hunt joined me for about an hour while I was checking the gulls, and told me he'd seen Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in the Birch trees in Lodge Copse on 13th January.

Thursday 26th January [A cold easterly wind]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news I'm afraid. I was walking from Dursley to Kings Stanley along the Cotswold Way with friends. It was chilly up on Cam Long Down, but most of the walk was in the shelter of the Cotswold edge beech woods and very pleasant.

Friday 27th January [Overcast and fairly mild with rain due later]

At the Lodge there were 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Long Bay, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a handful of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus in the Alders at Hellfire Corner and 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. On the way back I saw a Peregrine Falco peregrinus in one of the trees on Rugmoor Point and counted just 4 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor on the lake. I thought the wind was going to turn south this afternoon when the rain arrived, but it was still blowing from the east when I went down to the dam to look at the gull roost, and as a result they were all back end on. So, I can only add a ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser to the earlier news.

On a sad note, the Carrion Crow rescued last Sunday was euthanized at Secret World yesterday, after assessment by a vet. I was told it had no brain motor functions, so it must have deteriorated badly given that I had it feeding itself 24 hours after rescue. It even fluttered off vet friend Heidi's lap onto the coffee table when she examined it a few hours after the rescue too. A sad end, and another casualty due to nylon fishing line.

Saturday 28th January

I had a very brief look around late this morning but have nothing to report, I didn't even see the Egyptian Geese!

Sunday 29th January [Rain all day]

Another brief visit again today I'm afraid. I saw a Green SandpiperTringa ochropus in Long Bay, and that was about it. Hopefully, I'll have time to get back to checking gulls and passerines again tomorrow. It looks like February is going to be a tough months birding while we wait for the spring migrants to arrive.

Monday 30th January [Overcast, mist and drizzle]

I walked the south shore to Top End and back over lunchtime and noted 2 Green SandpipersTringa ochropus in Pipe Bay, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Holt Bay, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and at Top End 21 Gadwall Anas strepera, 2♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta and an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus on Wookey Point - a different bird to that seen recently at the Lodge, this one has an ostensibly white head with black coming through on the crown. On the way back to the Lodge I saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.

The mist descended early this afternoon, and I could see barely 200m from the lounge windows, but it suddenly cleared again just before 1600 hrs so I went down and spent an hour checking the gull roost until drizzle set in again obscuring the view. Lots of gulls dropped in and then flew out towards Chew after bathing, but there were still lots left to go through and I found a another adult Mediterranean Gull, this time in full winter garb, so different again from this mornings individual and the near-summer bird seen last week. The 1st-winter Herring Gull Larus argentatus that was pictured on Avon Birds on 24th January, with the long bill that is hooked at the end, spent most of the day on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge.

Tuesday 31st January [Overcast and drizzle/rain]

I got to the lake just before 1600 hrs today and had a look at Top End before settling down to check through the gull roost. I saw 77 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, a ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser, a (probable adult) ♀ Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus briefly in the roost (probably flew off to Chew). There was no sign of the Egyptian Geese again, and no Canada Goose flock.