BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

July 2010 News


Thursday 1st July [Overcast, but warm, with some light rain in the evening]

There were two new Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods this evening, a female with just 1 juvenile at Cheddar Water and a female with 5 juveniles at Rugmoor (13th and 14th broods, 2010) where there was also a juvenile Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, perhaps the same bird noted a couple of days ago? I could only see 13 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rugmoor Point too. A Hornet Vespa crabro was buzzing around the Lodge.

Friday 2nd July [Overcast and warm, with welcome showers]

I walked into the Lodge Copse and heard a familiar call "iss-chuk, iss-chuk-chuk" and located the Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata first seen on 16th June. That was the highlight of the bird action, unfortunately, aside from the continued build up of predominately male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula rafts.

Along with the hundreds of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae butterflies in the meadows, I saw a few Marbled Whites Melanargia galathea and a single Painted Lady Vanessa cardui on the road at Green Lawn. As I got back to the Lodge I spotted the 2 Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs playing beside the road again.

Saturday 3rd July [Warm]

A fisherman reported seeing a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis along the North Shore, one of very few sightings since the lake was frozen up during the winter. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point (a favourite spot for them on their return migration). I saw a family party of Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla at Long Bay and Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis in Long and Holt Bays. There were 6 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus also in Long Bay and 148 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula in a single raft off Rainbow Point.

Sunday 4th July [Warm with a rising westerly and drizzle in the evening]

There was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta feeding along the edge of Long Bay this morning and a scattering of 28 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus from there to Rugmoor Point. Juvenile Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus numbers are rising with at least 9 noted, suggestive of a successful breeding season. I also noted my first Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea of the summer at Hellfire Corner hunting around the trees for flies.

Monday 5th July [Warm and sunny with a WNW breeze]

The regular Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata and Tawny Owl Strix aluco juveniles were calling as usual this evening. On the migrant front there was a Sand Martin Riparia riparia hawking insects in front of the Lodge, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos feeding on the dam and a stunning summer-plumaged adult Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in Holt Bay.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I have been lucky enough to photograph both races likely to occur at the lake on their breeding grounds; L. l. islandica in Iceland and nominate L. l. limosa in Finland. To my eye this would appear to be a male of the race islandica due to the extensive red on the belly and flanks, slightly shorter bill and intense brick red colouration of the head and breast. I have included the shot below that shows the flexible tip to the upper mandible, something that often comes as a surprise to non-birders.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Tuesday 6th July [Warm and sunny with a westerly breeze in the afternoon]

I only had time for a quick visit this evening and found a Common Redshank Tringa totanus in Home Bay and 11 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos in Holt Bay.

I deployed plastic bags over Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum leaves at Blagdon Lake and Somerdale, Keynsham today as part of the www.ourweboflife.org.uk enquiry into the spread of the Horse Chestnut leaf miner and to find out how effective a parasitic Chalcid wasp is at controlling it. It's not too late to take part - take a look at the website and contribute your sightings.

Saturday 10th July

Mervyn Pearce emailed me to say he'd seen 5 Little Egrets Egrett garzetta this evening (2 in Long Bay and 3 Top End).

Sunday 11th July

I received the following email from Shaun Walsh:

"Just thought you might me interested to know that me and my son watched a female roe deer come down to the south east bank for a casual drink at 3.45 pm on Sunday 11th July. "

It must have been thirsty, because they rarely show themselves out in the open during the day like that. Thanks Shaun.

Monday 12th July [Warm, but it looks like we're in for a thunderstorm]

I have just got back from a week in Ireland on a mixture of business and pleasure. Ce and I visited long-time friends Bill and Carolyn Robinson in County Donegal at their house overlooking the Gweebarra Estuary. The scenery was stunning and I was amazed to see and hear Lesser Redpolls Carduelis canabina every day in the fields around their house and see an Otter Lutra lutra from outside their front gate. Simply magic!

Coastal Donegal, Republic of Ireland © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Of course, my last post suggested it was all starting to kick-off down at the lake and it appears that I may have missed some visitors in the intervening week (including the Slimbridge White-tailed Plover). Tonight I recorded no less than 5 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus (2 adults and possibly 3 juvs, or, 2 juvs and a 1st-summer), 3 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (adult and 2 juvs), 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Common Redshank Tringa totanus and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. To cap it all there was a young Hare Lepus europaeus feeding on the lawn by the Lodge as I drove home. Unfortunately, I needed more time to go through the very obvious increase in wildfowl before it got dark. They'll have to wait for another day.

Tuesday 13th July [Cloudy with showers on a SE breeze]

Two visits today turned up 5 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (4 adults and a juv) in front of the Lodge, 6 adult Common Terns Sterna hirundo, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End.

Mervyn Pearce emailed to say he'd seen 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End and commented "one funny thing I did see from Top End hide at 1.40 pm out over the water a single bat being pursued by Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. It even touched the water but eventually escaped. Do not know what sort."

Wednesday 14th July [Showers on a rising SSE breeze]

Inevitably, there was no sign of the Common Terns Sterna hirundo today but there were 6 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (4 adults and 2 juvs) in front of the Lodge, so I guess I must have missed one of the juveniles yesterday.

Thursday 15th July [Cloudy with occasional showers on a westerly wind which swung ESE and rose to gale force with heavy rain in the evening]

I could only see 2 adult Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius in front of the Lodge this evening and a Common Redshank Tringa totanus on Wookey Point at Top End.

The gale force winds this evening have caused many Oak Apple Galls to fall from Oak Quercus robur trees at Green Lawn. The galls contain larvae of the wasp Biorhiza pallida.

The lake level is down to just 66% (per Bristol Water website).

Friday 16th July [Showers on a westerly breeze]

There were still 4 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (2 adults and 2 juveniles, unsurprisingly) and a Sand Martin Riparia riparia in front of the Lodge. Long Bay turned up 2 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were dotted about the lake, a Hobby Falco subbuteo hawked insects at Bell's Bush and 2 Teal Anas crecca fed on Wookey Point where the Gadwall Anas strepera numbers have also started to build in earnest.

I haven't heard the young Tawny Owls Strix aluco since coming back from Ireland until this evening when at least one was food-begging back at Holt Copse where they fledged. The 2 Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs were mooching about on the Long Bay shore and appear to be in good health despite the prolonged drought which must be making it hard for their parents to find food, like the Badgers Meles meles, one of which was trotting along the roadside verge at Green Lawn. At Top End there were lots of baby Frogs Rana temporaria on the road, many of which unfortunately ended up as casualties when the fisheries Land Rover went through to close up for the night. Luckily, I moved two adult newts off the road just before the vehicle came through. For the last two years I've noticed young newts migrating away from the lake in August, so perhaps the adults leave earlier?

For completeness, there was a leveret Lepus europaeus in Squire Lane, Ubley when I drove to work this morning, but it did the right thing and jumped through the hedge instead of running down the road in front of the car, like they so often do.

Saturday 17th July [Cloudy early on then sunshine and a brisk WNW breeze whipping up white horses in the afternoon]

Sean Davies paid a visit this morning and sent me the following news:

"There were c60 Sand Martins off the Lodge first thing this morn, though they seemed to soon move on. 3 Common Sands (Home Bay), ad Sanderling (Green Lawn), 2 Little Egrets (Butcombe Bay). Also, what appeared to be a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull flew along the North Shore towards the dam but I couldn't find it thereafter to confirm."

I checked Green Lawn, but didn't see the Sanderling Calidris alba or any Little Egrets Egretta garzetta during the count.

I carried out the WeBS count this afternoon and came across 4 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus on th dam (an adult and 3 juvs), 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (2 in Home Bay and another in Long Bay) and a lone Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius (juv) on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge. Details of the count are on the WeBS Counts page.

I saw a Sand Martin Riparia riparia in front of the Lodge again with lots of House Martins Delichon urbicum and Swifts Apus apus. Also notable today were the many Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus butterflies along the hedges and grasshopper spp. in the meadows (another i.d. job for retirement).

Sunday 18th July [Early drizzle dried up after lunch and the southerly breeze dropped]

Sean Davies emailed with the following report:

"This morn. 2 LRP's (Lodge), 10 Sand Martins (Cheddar Water/Wood Bay), 2 Little Egrets still (Butcombe Bay) and 3 Common Sands (Long Bay)"

I managed a visit this evening and saw 2 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (juvs) on Tiny's Shallow, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the Landing Stage and 10 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Long Bay.

Monday 19th July [Hot with a steady SSW breeze]

Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge was host to 2 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus (2 adults) and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, while 11 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were still in Long Bay. I was on site too late to see anything else at Top End.

Tuesday 20th July [Warm with a variable breeze and rain during the night and evening]

Just the one Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this morning and no waders on Tiny's Shallow with the host of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. I didn't get any news from anyone and didn't manage to get back down myself this evening after getting soaked whilst out for a 32 mile spin on my bike after tea!

The Bristol Water website says that the lake is down to 63% and comments "official figures show that January to June had average rainfall of 356.8mm, making this period the second driest for 100 years. The current dry period is within the top 5% of all dry periods since 1910 and has the lowest rainfall since 1976, which was the second year of a severe two-year drought."

Wednesday 21st July [Warm with a light WSW breeze and occasional shower]

There were 3 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (an adult and 2 juvs) in front of the Lodge and 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point. Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis are starting to gather in Long Bay with 5 birds present this evening. A Hobby Falco subbuteo hunted at Bell's Bush and I'm pleased to be able to report that the juvenile Tawny Owls Strix aluco are both still alive and food-begging (at Hellfire Corner this evening). We ringed them on 7th May and I heard one food-begging on 25th May. According to BWPi young may be dependent on their parents for up to 3 months after fledging, so perhaps they may be present in the territory for up to another month before being driven out.

I can't believe I forgot to mention the female Wigeon Anas penelope that was asleep on the dam - where has it been? It's not as if I haven't been looking for it.

Thursday 22nd July [Warm, sunny intervals, little wind and some rain early evening]

The female Wigeon Anas penelope was still on the dam this morning and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew west over the dam as I arrived. An adult Common Redshank Tringa totanus was at Tiny's Shallow. I didn't get back down to the lake this evening.

Friday 23rd July [Cloudy to start but sunny and warm later]

I have just posted some information about the lack of rainfall issued by Bristol Water on 20th July (see below).

Mervyn Pearce texted me to say he'd seen 1+ Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata at Hellfire Corner this afternoon.

It was a beautiful evening by the lake and the steady passage of waders continues with 2 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (juvs) in front of the Lodge, a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay where there were also 6 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis. At the far end of the lake I could hear Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus calling but they were difficult to see on Wookey Point. They eventually flew up and I was able to count 4 as they circled around the Top End making a racket!

Today, I checked two bags that I deployed as part of the national Conker Tree Science experiment, one at work at Somerdale, Keynsham and one at the lake. At work I counted 26 moths and no wasps and at the lake there were 4 moths and no wasps. This probably reflects the degree of infestation at the two sites. However, I was surprised I found no parasitic wasps, especially at Somerdale.

Saturday 24th July [Cloudy, warm and still]

I paid an early afternoon visit to photograph a rather beautiful fungus and saw the 2 Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius (juvs) in front of the Lodge and 3 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus on Tiny's Shallow. Later there were17 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in Long Bay along with 10 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis. A Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam this evening and I heard a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus along Burmah Road (a favourite place for them to drop in at the current water level, but also where they are very difficult to see). The 2 juvenile Tawny Owls Strix aluco were still calling at Hellfire Corner.

Sulphur Polypore aka Chicken-of-the-Woods Laetiporus sulphureus, Holt Copse © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Sulphur Polypore is said to be bright orange at first (ref. Marcel Bon) before fading to a cream-ochraceous.

Sunday 25th July [Pretty warm with sunny intervals and a steady westerly breeze]

The full moon this evening provides ideal conditions for wildfowl to get on the move and sure enough there were 11 Common Scoters Melanitta nigra (4 drakes and 7 ducks) in front of the Lodge where the 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius were still out on the wide mud margin. I counted the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus on Tiny's Shallow and made the total 178, of which 33 were juveniles (18.5%). There were 18 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Long Bay and many of the Canada Geese Branta canadensis have obviously grown their new wing feathers and are out on the farmland again. I counted a total of 78 on Holt Farm and Wookey Point, Top End.

Monday 26th July [Hot, with a westerly breeze]

A brief early morning visit turned up a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in flight at Cheddar Water.

Mike Gillett spotted an adult and 2 juvenile Common Terns Sterna hirundo in front of the Lodge later in the day and kindly sent me the digiscoped picture below.

Common Terns Sterna hirundo, Lodge © Mike Gillet, 2010

Tuesday 27th July [Warm, with a westerly breeze that strengthened as the day wore on]

There was a late brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos in front of the Lodge (A duck and 5 juveniles, 15th brood at the lake this year). I heard a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Long Bay but as usual I didn't see it. There were just 8 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis in the bay and 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus asleep in the marginal vegetation. I found 2 small dabbling ducks on Wood Bay Point but as I was only carrying my binoculars I just couldn't decide if they were Teal Anas crecca or Garganey Anas querquedula. Then I got diverted by a Roe Capreolus capreolus buck that was grazing Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus leaves less than 10 metres away. He was shedding velvet from his 2-pointed antlers and the summer coat was being moulted, giving him a rather tatty appearance. I stood still and watched as he started to walk towards me, paying me no attention, so I started to gently tut-tut and warn him I was there. He stopped, sniffed and walked into the wood without any hint of panic! A lovely moment.

Wednesday 28th July [Warm, with a steady westerly breeze during the daylight hours]

There was high drama down at the lake this evening. I watched with sadness as one of the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos brood was picked off by an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus in Long Bay. It dived and picked the little guy up by the neck and shook it vigorously as it flew off, presumably to break the ducklings neck. The gull landed in front of me and swallowed the hapless bird head first. The brood was down to just two ducklings after this and with the water level being so low, the brood have nowhere to hide while feeding, so I guess the other two will be facing a severe threat to their survival tomorrow.

I was also saddened to see a dead Badger Meles meles at Hellfire Corner. I guess it was likely to have been the result of a RTA caused by one of the drivers who go through too fast. Within a few metres another individual from the same sett came out to collect bedding and drag it, backwards, to the sleeping chamber. This is easier for them this week because the hay cut is underway in the meadows. On the subject of Badgers, we had a record six visit the back door together this evening.

On the wader front, there were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and an adult summer-plumaged Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Shallow. A Little Egret Egretta garzetta fed along the edge of Long Bay.

Thursday 29th July [Warm, with a westerly breeze during the afternoon]

John Thorogood sent me an email, after a visit this morning, as follows: "and a picture of one of the two Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata that I saw at, I guess, Bell's Bush.  It isn't great but they stayed well back in the bushes while I was there." I think it's a very nice shot John and thanks for sending it. I suppose it's likely to be one of the birds Mervyn Pearce reported on 23rd and that I've heard on a number of occasions since.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, probably at Hellfire Corner / Bell's Bush © John Thorogood, 2010

The Little Egret Egretta garzetta was feeding in Long Bay again this evening and there were 9 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis asleep in a little group. There were 89 Canada Geese Branta canadensis before most of them flew off back to Chew to roost. I heard a juvenile Tawny Owl Strix aluco food-begging again at Hellfire Corner and a couple of Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs were prowling around both at Long Bay and Top End.

Friday 30th July [Warm, with a south-westerly breeze during the day]

Either the same or 2 new juvenile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius in front of the Lodge at Polish Water this morning and a juvenile Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a white darvic ring inscribed "2N24" which I will be interested to hear more about. I think it is one that was ringed by the Cotswold Water Park Ringing Group

This evening I heard one, or more likely, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus calling at Top End and Bell's Bush as it got dark. I saw one of the juvenile Tawny Owls Strix aluco in silhouette and I think the brood of Barn Owls Tyto alba have probably fledged in the last day or two.

Saturday 31st July [Changeable and cooler than of late with a westerly breeze]

I didn't visit until late and couldn't find anything unusual. Alan Bone and I ran a couple of Robinson Moth Traps from 2145 - 0050 hrs in Lodge Copse and Home Bay and caught and identified about 50 species. Among the nicer moths were Black Arches Lymantria monacha and Bulrush Wainscot Nonagria typhae but I will post a list of all the new species for the site in due course.