BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

July 2012 News


Site Updates; I have just posted a small selection of photos taken during my recent trip to Alaska on my other website Nigel Milbourne Photography for those of you who asked to see some. They provide just a taster of some of the amazing wildlife I saw. I hope you enjoy them.

I've updated the Moths List with the English names given in the National Biodiversity Network Database, though I've not heard too many of them being used by moth-ers!

I have added a new Gallery that I've called Guests Photo Gallery for a selection of pictures taken at the lake that have been sent to me by other photographers.

The Birds List has been updated to include more information about conservation status, including red and amber list designations.

Updated 29 July, 2012


Sunday 1st July [Torrential rain this morning and sunny spells this afternoon]

I found a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos clinging to a near vertical mud bank at Rainbow Point this evening before it was disturbed by 82+ Canada Geese Branta canadensis. An adult Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo fed over Holt Bay briefly before it flew off around Rainbow Point and I saw our resident adult ♂ Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis in Home Bay. I also saw an adult summer Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus hawking insects. There were 3 Badgers Meles meles out and about, two of which came hurtling along the road towards me before 'hitting the brakes' 5 metres away. The one that was doing the chasing, ran into the back of the one that had hit the brakes, bit its bottom and they both took their noisy squabble off into the undergrowth, leaving me chuckling at their boisterous behaviour.

Monday 2nd July [A thoroughly miserable and wet day]

There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall this evening when I eventually ventured forth out of the house! The 88 Canada Geese Branta canadensis appear to be entering their flightless moult period and haven't been visiting the adjacent fields. I was having a brief chat with Fisheries Staff when the rain started again so I had a quick drive around and came home with nothing else to add.

An email from Daniel Hargreaves (BatDan) told me he'd managed just the one bat trapping session while I was away, due to the appalling weather, during which he caught a single Nathusius' Pipistrellus nathuisii and loads of Soprano Pipistrelles P. pygmaeus. There'll be no more trapping until the juveniles are flying at the end of July, though we will be setting up the continuous monitoring equipment in the meantime and putting a bat conservation proposal to BW. Daniel will be giving me a bit of training to read sonograms so we can quantify habitat use at the lake as well.

The south winds ought to have brought a few migrant moths in (I had Sahara dust deposited on the car overnight last week) but with the continuous rain I'm not minded to run the traps at the moment. However, as soon as we get a dry spell I will get them running and try and make something of this dismal mothing year.

Tuesday 3rd July [Monsoon]

The lake is full and overflowing into the surrounding low lying areas. There were more Mallards Anas platyrhynchos than Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus feeding on the lawns by the Fishing Lodge this evening and those Rabbits that were there had their wellies on! I saw nothing of particular note during my brief visit.

With the rain pouring each day I must admit to finding it hard to motivate myself to get out there after the excesses of my Alaskan trip. Sea watching on Gambell watching tens of thousands of alcids flying past or standing on the tundra polygons surrounded by breeding shorebirds seem a million miles away!

Wednesday 4th July [More rain with some brief sunny spells]

There was a ♂ Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum sunning itself on the concrete cill in front of the Lodge this afternoon and what looked like a ♂ Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator hawking over the weed bed in front of the cill. Lots of teneral damselflies were flying away from the water and a ♂ Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs was using the Lodge roof as a launching pad to intercept them. I also saw a couple of Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina butterflies on the wing before the drizzle set in again.

There was no sign of any new birds. I noted just a single juvenile on the back of the Great Crested Grebe at Wood Bay along with at least 3 Common Coot Fulica atra broods, though there are undoubtedly many more in the flooded marginal vegetation.

Thursday 5th July [Dry and warm with some sunshine]

I had a very pleasant evening beside the lake without seeing too much on the bird front. It was flat calm at dusk and there were obviously flies hatching as even the young Common Coots Fulica atra were encouraged out onto the lake to feed by their parents. There were Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus singing, perhaps trying for a second brood? July should see a start to the return shorebird migration, though it seems likely we won't see many at the lake this autumn. In some ways it would be nice if the water level stayed up, so the second nesting attempts of water birds have a chance to succeed this year.

I met biologist and fisherman Alan Herring, who told me he is looking at the stomach contents of the trout he catches, both from an anglers viewpoint and a scientists curiousity. My interest in the Chironomid midges and our joint fascination with the lake and its freshwater invertebrates provided fertile ground for discussion and we must have chatted for nearly an hour. I really look forward to hearing more about what Alan discovers in due course.

There were lots of moths on the wing in the headlights as I drove back home up the hill, so perhaps I might get a few in the trap. Hopefully the rain will stay away overnight too.

Friday 6th July [A soft, warm morning, rain later]

I went down nice and early this morning to check the moth trap run overnight at Lodge Copse. The water was flat calm and I heard the sound of water going down the Spillway, bird song and young coots all around while I sat quietly checking the contents of the trap on a seat in front of the Fishing Lodge at 0600 hrs.

A quick check for new birds while I was there only revealed 2 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, which flew in and landed on the dam with the moulting wildfowl. There were 23 Mute Swans Cygnus olor and 74 moulting Canada Geese Branta canadensis in feeding flocks at either end of the lake and the Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and Common Pochards Aythya ferina had moved up to Home Bay from Top End to feed overnight.

There wasn't a large catch in the moth trap, unfortunately, but I did get a Bee Moth Aphomia sociella , which will undoubtedly 'delight' local bee-keeper John Smythe. Bee and Wax Moths (Family Pyralidae; sub-family Galleriinae) cause quite bit of damage inside his Honey Bee Apis mellifera hives when their larvae eat the honeycomb.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 12 Celsius) at Lodge Copse and caught:

Saturday 7th July [Rain all day]

The wind has switched around to the north-east and washed out more Common Coot Fulica atra nests but the Mute Swan Cygnus olor pair at Top End has managed to bring a single juvenile off the nest (1st brood at the lake 2012). The conditions were pretty awful today and there were lots of Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake and surrounding trees and a flock of House Martins Delichon urbicum feeding over the roadside hedge at Holt Bay.

There seems to be a marked increase in the number of Aythya ducks today, both Tufted Aythya fuligula and Common Pochard Aythya ferina. I'm not sure if they are displaced birds form Cheddar or, perhaps, the beginning of the post-breeding build up that usually peaks in August.

Sunday 8th July [Warm and mainly dry]

I couldn't see anything new in a brief visit this evening, though there were still good numbers of Aythya ducks present. I shall have more time tomorrow, so will have a close look at them to see if anything is lurking in the flock. Aside from that, the wind has shifted through the north and was blowing quite hard from the WSW this evening.

Monday 9th July [Dry but mainly overcast]

Once again there is not much to report, with little turn-over of birds. While poking around, I found what looked like Tutsan Hypericum androsaemum in one of the copses. I will need to check it tomorrow, as there are three possible species, Tutsan being the most likely. I haven't recorded it at the lake until now, though it's not uncommon locally.

I received a couple of new books in the post today; Field Guide to the Micromoths of GB&I (Sterling & Parsons) which is a long-overdue guide to 1000 of the 1600 or so species. Two key contributors were local naturalists Mike Bailey and Rich Andrews. One of the principal contributors to the other book, British Bat Calls A Guide to Species Identification (Jon Russ), is Dr Sandie Sowler who brings groups of bat ecologists to Chew and Blagdon for training sessions. I'm hoping the guide will help me interpret the data collected by the new SM2+ Song Meter which we'll be using to help explore bat ecology at the lakeside.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 12 Celsius) at The Spinney and caught:

Tuesday 10th July [Overcast with some showers]

I made an early visit this morning to collect the moth trap run overnight at The Spinney (see 9th for catch). I checked through the Aythyas again and found a ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina with a blue nasal saddle at Wood Bay Point which confirms that the recent influx is from France, no doubt borne on the southerly winds that swung through the east. It had an F on the front and possibly PT on the sides, but they are so difficult to read at more than about 100 metres range that I couldn't be sure. If anyone gets a closer look please let me know. The influx is mainly ♂♂ but there are some ♀♀ which are presumably failed or non-breeders. They have almost certainly come to Blagdon to moult, though whether they stay will probably depend on food availability. If food is plentiful they will stay and moult, if not, they will move elsewhere. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall and a brood of 2 or 3 well-grown juvenile Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus at the Lodge (1st brood at the lake 2012).

I was the first person to drive along the North Shore this morning and came a cross a ♀ Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus with 2 young and a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus. I saw the 2 young deer last night and wondered where mum was.

Wednesday 11th July [Dry, until we had an early evening downpour. Windy since lunchtime.]

It was pretty wild this evening with white horses running along the lake surface. The ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina with a blue nasal saddle was still off Wood Bay Point but I haven't been able to read it yet. I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus on the dam wall with lots of Common Swifts Apus apus over the water, but little else new.

However, I did find another Deer Tick Ixodes sp. on my leg! This must be a particularly bad year. I walked about 100 metres to The Spinney from the North Shore Car Park to place and retrieve my Moth Trap and blow me I get another one! One of the anglers told me he'd picked one up too. Perhaps I'll have to start using some of the DEET I didn't use in Alaska when I'm surveying on the North Shore - I've got gallons of the stuff!

Thursday 12th July [The miserable weather continues]

This evening I found an adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca in front of The Lodge almost a year to the day I found one (it) last year. I think its fair to assume its the same bird. It was with a small group of Common Pochards Aythya ferina that included the ♂ Pochard I first saw on 10th July with the blue nasal saddle. I was able to read the details as 'F' on the front with 'V1' on the sides (a bit different to PT). I will send the details to Dr Alain Caizergues in France, who will let me know the birds history I'm sure.

Also present were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus on the dam.

Friday 13th July [Showery]

When I checked the first time, I couldn't find the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca, but later on it was back in front of the Fishing Lodge having flown in with a group of Common Pochards Aythya ferina. There were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 9 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (8 adults and a juvenile) on the dam.

I spent all morning with Daniel Hargreaves being 'trained' to use and interpret AnaLook W sonograms and discussing what bat monitoring we are going to do this autumn. Daniel's plan is to concentrate on Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii again. He'll be trapping and I'll run the constant effort monitoring equipment as we look at activity levels, lekking behaviour and try to find the elusive females. It should be a busy few months.

Saturday 14th July [Grey, wet and miserable again]

Sean Davies reports that the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was in front of the Lodge at 0830 hrs but flew off with Common Pochards Aythya ferina towards Butcombe Bay, presumably due to angling disturbance. However, it was back in front of the Lodge this evening when I went down. A Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata flew through to the west at 2000 hrs and there were 4 (pers. comm. Warwick White) Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam still.

The ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina with a blue nasal saddle 'F V1' was still with the Ferruginous Duck and there was a pair of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus with 2 tiny juveniles (2nd brood at the lake 2012) in front of the Lodge too. I saw an adult obviously carrying young there yesterday, but they must only just be out of the nest. There were also 4 juvenile Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus running around by the Lodge which I'm assuming are all part of the same 1st brood noted on the 10th July.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 11 Celsius) at The Spillway and caught:

Sunday 15th July [Sunny spells and warm]

The adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was in front of the Lodge at 0800 hrs (per Chris Stone) and subsequently relocated to Wood Bay Point when the fishing boats went out. If you are coming to see it, I'd recommend looking in front of the Lodge before 0900 hrs and after 1930 hrs when the fishing boats are back in. It seems to be the preferred feeding area for the bird, but is subject to disturbance because this area is also being heavily fished by boat anglers at present. Outside those hours, it'll probably be in Top End and best searched for by scope from Rainbow Point because Top End viewing is very difficult at present. It was back at the Lodge this evening around 2000 hrs. I found the hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri on the side of the Lodge as well.

There were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam mid-afternoon (per Mervyn Pearce).

Last night Warwick White and I both spotted 2 adult Common Coots Fulica atra on the Spillway beneath the cill. Birds often get swept over, especially young ones, and can't get back up to the lake because they won't go under the road bridge. We went down this evening and caught the one that was still trapped there and returned it onto the lake. If anyone spots birds apparently stuck like this, please let me know and we'll go and try and release them back onto the lake.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 13 Celsius) at Home Bay Point and caught:

Monday 16th July [Raining most of the day]

When I went down to collect the moth trap this morning at 0900 hrs I had a brief look for the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca in front of the Lodge, where there were lots of Aythyas, but I couldn't see it among them, or, off Wood Bay Point. However, this evening I did manage to find it again off Wood Bay Point. The ♂ Common Pochard Aythya ferina with a blue nasal saddle 'F V1' was feeding in front of the Lodge in the morning and there were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 15 Celsius) at Lodge Copse and caught:

Tuesday 17th July [Another grey day for the most part]

I spent the day with Somerset Invertebrates Group in Dorset today, so didn't bird the lake other than to peek in front of the Lodge when I collected the Moth Trap before I went. I didn't see the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca, but it was reported on Rare Bird Alert during the day, though I don't know by whom.

Wednesday 18th July [A miserable wet day]

The adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was feeding along Burmah Road in the lee of Holt Copse this evening and there were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Hilary Raeburn emailed to say she'd met a couple who'd seen a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo today.

Thursday 19th July [Breezy, but mainly dry and sunny]

I only had time for a quick visit at tea time and although I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, I didn't spot the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca for sure. There were a few boats along Wood Bay, Wood Bay Point and Burmah Road so the duck may have gone over to Indian Country where it would have been almost impossible to spot in the waves blowing down the lake. It was reported on Rare Bird Alert again but I don't know who saw it.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 11 Celsius) at the Spillway and only caught:

Friday 20th July [Hooray! Warm and mainly sunny]

The adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was proving difficult to find this afternoon, probably due to the large number of fishing boats around the lake. However, Steve Preddy texted me to say he'd found it at 1740 hrs along Burmah Road, just east of Holt Copse. Neither Mervyn Pearce or I saw any Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam today, but there was a Common Redshank Tringa totanus there this afternoon. The meadows were alive with Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina butterflies.

Saturday 21st July [Warm and fairly sunny]

I carried out the WeBS Count today and although I didn't see the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca Mervyn Pearce saw it briefly this evening at Burmah Road before 2 hot air balloons flew low over the lake causing the usual chaos among the wildfowl. Mervyn and I also had great views of a Tawny Owl Strix aluco sitting on a low branch. There wasn't anything else of note bird-wise other than a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. WeBS counts are on the WeBS Page.

I was really pleased to see lots of Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum at Bell's Bush along with a single mature Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum.

Daniel 'BatDan' Hargreaves, the YACWAG team and I ran 2 harp traps with lures and 2 mist nets at the Pumping Station from just after sunset until about 0045 hrs and caught:

In addition detectors picked up:

Also seen were

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 13 Celsius) at the Spillway by a hazel coppice and caught:

Sunday 22nd July [Hot and sunny]

When I picked up the moth trap this morning there were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (one each at the dam and Green Lawn) and a Common Redshank Tringa totanus also on the dam. The adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca came out from Burmah Road at about 2015 hrs this evening to feed with 40 (cf. 10 on the WeBS yesterday) Common Pochards Aythya ferina that were sleeping in cover during the day. The usual place for the 'Fudger' during the day must be around the flooded Willows at Wood Bay Point (by Holt Copse barrier) or close in along Burmah Road to Hellfire Corner but it is proving very elusive, especially when the boat anglers are fishing nearby. I've found the best place to view from is Rainbow Point in the evening (its too bright in the morning).

Monday 23rd July [Hot and sunny]

The adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was showing beautifully in the evening sun just off Wood Bay Point this evening and there were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos feeding on the dam. Whilst looking for the Fudger I've been checking the Common Pochards Aythya ferina and haven't seen the one with the blue nasal saddle for a few days, so perhaps it's moved on again. Gull numbers are building and there were quite a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus today.

Tuesday 24th July [Very hot and sunny]

Thanks to a combination of an away-day and late trains, I wasn't able to visit the lake today. However, for those interested in the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca, it was reported as being in Wood Bay at 1610 hrs by Rare Bird Alert.

Wednesday 25th July [Very hot and sunny]

The moulting adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was nowhere to be seen when I arrived at the lake at about 1945 hrs, and it was 2050 hrs before it came steaming out from behind Wood Bay Point (viewed from Rainbow Point) with 2 ♂ Common Pochards Aythya ferina to join all the other Aythya ducks feeding along the south shore from Wood Bay Point to Bell's Bush. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the ♂ Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis was off Cheddar Water, an area it has been favouring lately.

The 15W Heath Trap was run overnight (min. temp. 15 Celsius) at Home Bay Point and caught:

There were thousands of flies in the trap as well, including the caddis fly Mystacides azurea.

Thursday 26th July [Very hot and sunny]

I have to apologise, I didn't get to the lake until far too late again this evening. I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and then spotted a gull over by the North Shore which took a bit of sorting out. It turned out to be a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus feeding among a lot of Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus gulls. There was a report of a couple of 'commic' terns that I didn't see and neither did I see the moulting adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca from Rainbow Point.

Friday 27th July [A bit cooler and sunny]

I spotted the moulting adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca in the lee of Holt Copse along Burmah Road at 1700 hrs. Park at the pull in by the entrance barrier to Holt Copse and walk through the wood and view the near bank from the road. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam again.

I saw the Nationally Notable Soldier Fly aka the Flecked General Stratiomys singularior at Wood Bay on Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium and took some pictures this evening. I also found the Horsefly Band-eyed Brown Horsefly Tabanus bromius inside the Fishing Lodge! Pictures of both are in the Recent Images Gallery.

Saturday 28th July [Cooler, breezy and sunny]

I did not see the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca this evening despite looking quite carefully east of Rainbow Point. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam and 6 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis (3 adults and 3 sizeable juveniles) at Long Bay.

The barley has been harvested on Holt Farm and the stubble already ploughed in, which has attracted good numbers of gulls that are probably worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday 29th July [Mainly sunny and cool]

The moulting adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was in the usual place in the lee of Holt Copse close to the Burmah Road bank at 2055 hrs but it took me an hour to find it. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and although I checked through the gulls, I couldn't see any locally-ringed urban breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus on the ploughed field.

Daniel Hargreaves and I picked up the passive bat monitoring equipment to download and analyse the data recorded over the last week. We were excited to find a call produced by a Greater Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum at 0234 hrs on the first night of deployment, 23rd, the 3rd lake record that we know about, and there were other records at 0158 hrs on 25th and 0236 hrs on 27th July. It's interesting to see the times of the records were so similar, albeit on different nights. The Song Meter recorded about 3500 calls, the vast majority of which appear to be Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus calls, but it will take a few days to go through the files to see what else we've got. We know there are quite a few Myotis sp. calls to analyse, for sure.

Monday 30th July [Breezy with sunny spells]

I bumped into Andy Davis at Heron's Green, Chew, this morning and he told me he'd been over to Blagdon and seen the adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca in the lee of Holt Copse. He also saw a very unseasonal juvenile Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis on the road at Wood Bay which flew over the hedge onto Holt Farm and a few Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake. Andy also saw a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus in flight.

I didn't see the 'Fudger' this evening but there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam still. Daniel Hargreaves and I also checked some bat boxes in Pipe Bay wood and found 8 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus including 2 juveniles in one of the boxes. The other news I can reveal is that a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula nested at Wood Bay and this evening I saw 8 juveniles with mum at Wood Bay Point. I hope the little ones avoid the depredations of gulls which wiped out the young of the last known breeding attempt in 2009.

Tuesday 31st July [Rain this morning but warm and drier this afternoon]

The moulting adult ♂ FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca was still present at Burmah Road this afternoon and there was an adult Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo flying around between Top End and Hellfire Corner with lots of calling, so possibly with a second unseen bird present. A pair of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus were tending a single juvenile at Top End (3rd brood at the lake, 2012) and I saw a couple of new Common Coot Fulica atra broods (1 and 2 juveniles respectively) in Long Bay today.

I took a camera to the lake with the express intention of trying to get some pictures of Odonata but saw plenty of other insects, especially on Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium flowers (see Recent Images Gallery).