BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

July 2015 News


Wednesday 1st July [Hot and sunny]

I didn't visit today, as I was out with Somerset Invertebrates Group at Apex Ponds Burnham-on-Sea by day, and with visitor Antonio Moreno and YACWAG and Avon Bat Group member Chris Barrington this evening, watching bats.

Thursday 2nd July

I spent the day dipping Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham Harbour in West Sussex today (1230-1800 hrs). Ho-hum! Steve Hale reported the following Blagdon Lake news on Avon Birds: "Evening sightings, 108 Canada Goose (north shore), 200+ Tufted Duck (our patience ran out), 8 Common Sandpiper (Green Lawn), 7 Grey Wagtail (dam)."

Friday 3rd July [Sunny and warm]

Red Letter Day at Ubley School: Sarah Lambert emailed from Ubley "just to let you know there was a Red Kite over Ubley school at 8.30 - 9.30 am. Took the reception and year one class out to look at it, which prompted a mornings discussion and investigation into Red Kites! " Thanks Sarah. What an unexpected thrill and learning opportunity for the children.

Today, I saw 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, my first juvenile Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (2 on the dam), 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 27 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and a new brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos (female and 8 juveniles).

Saturday 4th July [Sunny spells and warm]

Starting at the dam, I saw 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 17+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm and 5 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa wheeling around over Top End and Rugmoor Point (I don't know if they landed). Then I spotted an Aythya duck with a grey back asleep off Wood Bay Point. I didn't think too much of it when I couldn't see any barring on the back, but the more I looked the more I got interested. A huge flock of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula joined those already present and I lost it in the melee. Then they started to fly off. I didn't see it. 45 minutes later I spotted it off Rugmoor Point and after watching it for 25 minutes I decided to go over to try and get closer. I watched it then until 2200 hrs when it flapped twice. Too dark to be sure! However, on structure alone, it looks like an adult ♂ Lesser Scaup. The time of arrival would match last years moulting bird too. While watching the duck I heard a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia in flight.

Tom Mattick, angler and RSPB volunteer at Ham Wall, saw 3 Common Sandpipers and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus during the evening while I was chasing around trying to get decent views of the duck.

Sunday 5th July [Sunny spells and warm]

I watched the probable Lesser Scaup for another 3 hours this morning in challenging viewing conditions - the bird remains distant, obscured by marginal vegetation and I was looking through a heat haze, so not at all easy. It fed close in along the the Burmah Road bank mainly on its own, which is another behaviour that is consistent with Lesser Scaup at Blagdon in my experience. But, I haven't been able to rule out a hybrid yet, and left it asleep at Hellfire Corner at 1130 hrs. The ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus sang sporadically at Top End, and I saw 20 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm, although there may have been more that were obscured by the rise in the ground.

I eventually found the Aythya this evening after an hour of searching, and watched it for over an hour asleep at about 150 metres range. I don't think it's a Lesser Scaup after all, the bill pattern doesn't seem to show a clearly defined black nail, but I still haven't seen the wing pattern properly.

Monday 6th July

I was away all day working at Wytham Wood near Oxford with Dr. Dani Linton and Denise Foster doing bat box checks. I ringed 2 ♂ Daubenton's Bats Myotis daubentonii and we looked at &/or processed upwards of a 100 during a very long day. Consequently, I didn't get down to the lake.

Avon Birds reports "2 Egyptian Goose (Cheddar Water), 8 Grey Heron, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Redshank of note."

Tuesday 7th July [Sunny spells and breezy]

Who should I meet at Green Lawn but Keith Vinicombe who'd come over to have a look at the ♂Aythya. It was in Wood Bay so we had good close views for the first time. The grey back feathers actually have fine vermiculations and the wing pattern didn't look quite right when it flew in a circuit around the bay. So, we've concluded it's just another of those annoying Aythya look-alike hybrids, probably a Tufted x Pochard that shows mainly Tufted features.

There was a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia at Rugmoor, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus on the dam and a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo (probable 2nd year) from Rainbow Point.

Wednesday 8th July [Cloudy morning with a mainly sunny afternoon.]

All the two's today - 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 2 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

I spent most of the day at the lake with some Somerset Invertebrates Group members in the flower meadows looking for new species. Una Garland was looking for plant galls and we have a number to add to the growing site list. More later.

This evening I went over to Litton Reservoirs to do a bat emergence survey, but while walking around the lower reservoir I noted 2 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula broods of 4 and 7 juveniles, and heard Tawny Owl Strix aluco juveniles calling while doing the survey.

Thursday 9th July [Mainly sunny and warm]

The 2 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus were still on the dam this evening, as were the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. I saw 11 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus spread across Rugmoor Bay and Holt Bay where there was another Egyptian Goose scratching around on the the turned soil.

Oh, and there was the small matter of a return trip to Pagham Harbour where I caught up with the Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus. Yahoo! I was amazed and happy to see two people watching it when I got there - Roger and Jean Staples from Nailsea!

Friday 10th July

Steve Hale has reported the following sightings on Avon Birds "2 Egyptian Goose, 5 Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Buzzard, 2 Hobby, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 7 Grey Wagtail."

Saturday 11th July

Steve Hale has reported the following sightings on Avon Birds "1 Egyptian Goose, 8 Grey Heron, 2 Buzzard, 4 Common Sandpiper, 5 Grey Wagtail."

Sunday 12th July [Overcast with light rain at times]

This evening I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the Overspill and spotted what will probably turn out to be the returning ♂ Lesser Scaup in eclipse plumage. The bill pattern, from what I could see of it at 2030 hrs in the murk and rain, looked okay and there appeared to be a few well patterned feathers on the mantle. I'll take another look tomorrow morning in better light and Tweet out the news if that's what it turns out to be. It's clearly a different bird to the Aythya hybrid I found last week - let's hope it's not another one of them!

Monday 13th July [Overcast with drizzle on and off]

The adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis is back at the lake and NOT the bird that I reported as an Aythya hybrid last week (which may still be present, I didn't look for it this morning). The easiest way to pick the Lesser Scaup out is to look for a drake with pale blotches (breeding plumage) in the mantle feathers among otherwise uniform sooty brown flank and back feathers. If you get a good view of the pale feathers you will be able to see the coarse barring on them. If it's asleep, it is still relatively easy to pick out thanks to the angular rear crown which is unlike the rounded Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula head shape. The head and breast are both black in contrast to the flanks and majority of mantle, flank and closed wing feathers. If it shows the wing, you will see a bright white secondary panel that contrasts with the grey primary panel very clearly. The black nail is isolated on the grey bill which is slightly paler towards the tip. Also noted this morning were, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and at least 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia.

Tuesday 14th July [Overcast, with brief sun and some drizzle.]

This evening it took me an hour to spot the adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis off Peg's Point in the gloom and drizzle. Also noted were a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus and 16 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

I have been going through the records from the visit with a few friends from Somerset Invertebrates Group on the 8th July and we, mainly Una, added a few new site records as follows:

Wednesday 15th July [Overcast then sunny]

I was busy most of the day, but paid a visit early evening when I saw what I feel fairly sure was the adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis miles away in Top End from Rainbow Point, a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Long Bay, where I also saw a family party of 5 or 6 Weasels Mustela nivalis run across the road in front of me, and a single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus on Holt Farm. I saw just one Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam but heard others. Avon Birds reported the following additional birds: 9 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, 1 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, 10 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 5 Common Sandpipers (dam), and 7 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea.

Thursday 16th July [Overcast then sunny]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present at Top End this evening, along with 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta on Rainbow Point and 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus on Holt Farm. The water level continues to drop, though not enough to really attract waders in yet, and there are large areas of Water Crowfoot Ranunculus sp. flowering profusely above the surface.

Friday 17th July [Sunny and breezy]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present at Top End this evening. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I will be carrying out the WeBS Count with Terry Doman and Roy Curber tomorrow.

Saturday 18th July [Sunny and warm]

We carried out the WeBS count this morning and, sure enough, the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present, as was the adult ♂ Aythya hybrid with the grey back (Tufted x Pochard). Note that the Lesser Scaup has a brown back in eclipse with just a few barred mantle feathers showing through if you get a good enough view. The head shape is the other thing to look for when trying to pick it out from the crowd. And, believe me, it's quite a crowd - I counted 654 Tufteds Aythya fuligula, and Terry counted 818 Common Coots Fulica atra, as birds arrive to moult at the lake. Other birds of note were a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius at Green Lawn, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo and our first Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis on a WeBS count for a very long time (Nov. 2013). Full count details are on the WeBS Page.

We started the count as usual at Butcombe Bay and saw half a dozen or more pristine Silver-washed Fritillaries Argynnis paphia nectaring at Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. flowers along the public footpath. They seem to be getting more common at the lakeside these days.

Sunday 19th July [Blue skies and sunshine]

I had a look around this evening and saw the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis distantly off Rugmoor as the flock spread out to feed from Top End. The juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was still at Green Lawn, 17 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were on Holt Farm, and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos were on the dam. I also noted 1+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus and a family party of at least 4 Green Woodpeckers Picus viridis (including juveniles) at Long Bay. Steve Hale additionally reported: "2 Little Egret, 9 Grey Heron, 4 Common Sandpiper, 3 Grey Wagtail." on Avon Birds.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Monday 20th July [Warm with showers]

Paul Williams texted to say there was an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina on the dam at lunchtime, which I saw with 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. Cheers mate. There was also a Little Egret Egretta garzetta poking around at Cheddar Water.

This evening I only had time for a quick look around before being called out to pick up a rescued bat (juvenile Common Pipistrelle) Which I took to carer Kiri Green. I didn't have time to find the Lesser Scaup in the mass of waterfowl at Top End, but did see the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius at Green Lawn again.

Tuesday 21st July [Mainly cloudy, but still warm and dry.]

Mark Hynam and I spotted the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis and the ♂ Aythya hybrid off Rugmoor Point again this evening, as the birds spread out to feed. There were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 adult Dunlin Calidris alpina on the dam with a 3rd at Green Lawn, where the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was still present. I also noted 8+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Long Bay plus a few Common Swifts Apus apus feeding over the lake.

Earlier in the day I walked the 2nd leg of the Cotswold Way (11.8 miles heading north) with friends from Cold Ashton to Horton and was well pleased to see quite a few Yellowhammers along the field margins, a species that, sadly, no longer occurs at the lake.

Wednesday 22nd July [Mainly dry]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was asleep at Wood Bay Point this evening and must surely be here to stay for its wing moult. Many Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula are in full wing moult at present. There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Wood Bay Point, the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius at Green Lawn, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a single Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus at Long Bay. What was really disappointing to see this evening was two unsupervised lads on Holt Farm driving around with guns which they have been firing regularly over the last few days (school holidays). I suspect they're targetting corvids (you wonder why), but the other birds that have been flocking to the turned ground such as Lapwings, Pied Wagtails, gulls etc. have all gone, and the waterfowl at the lake are all pretty skittish. It also seems a bit odd to be doing this in fields which a public footpath runs through. Not a great advert for organic farming values Yeo Valley!

Avon Birds reported the following additional info: "2 Egyptian Goose, 3 Little Egret, 4 Grey Heron, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 11 Lapwing, 4 Common Sandpiper, 31 Swift, 22 Sand Martin, 24 Pied Wagtail (influx), 4 Grey Wagtail." I'd take issue with there being an influx of Pied Wagtails though, there have been lots around since the young were born.

Thursday 23rd July [Cloudy and warm]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was at Top End at lunchtime, and the 4 adult (3♂ & a ♀) Common Scoters Melanitta nigra found by Michael Davis were off Ash Tree. I also saw the adult ♂ Aythya hybrid at Burmah Road, 5+ Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, while Michael also saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo and 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. Mark Hynam spotted what sounded like a Common Tern Sterna hirundo from his description, though I didn't see it.

Tonight we had another National Nathusius' Project bat trapping session. We caught 50 (recount) bats of 6 spp. see more information on the Bat News Page.

Friday 24th July [Wet and windy all day]

4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos noted this evening and lots of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula along the North Shore in the windy conditions. I briefly thought about checking through them this evening until I realised how many there were still in Top End, and decided there weren't enough daylight hours...

Saturday 25th July [Sunny and breezy]

Avon Birds reported the following at the lake today: "4 Little Egret, 8 Grey Heron, 4 Buzzard, 4 Lapwing, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 juv Mediterranean Gull, 1 Green Woodpecker, 4 Raven, 1 Goldcrest, 4 Coal Tit, 3 Chiffchaff, 6+ Treecreeper, 2 Nuthatch, 15+ Siskin, 7 Grey Wagtail." Roger Staples photographed a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a darvic 'White 21S3'. It was ringed at Hosehill Lake, West Berks. Sean Davies also sent me the following: "Ruddy Duck (first sighting this year - NRM)... male at Top End today. Also a juvenile Med Gull on the dam."

I didn't visit the lake today, but did help run a bat trapping session at Sutton Wick, Chew Valley Lake, this evening with Chris Barrington. Catch details on the Bat News Page. Back on my own patch birding tomorrow!

Sunday 26th July [Mainly wet]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present, as was the adult ♂ Aythya hybrid, and I saw a 'commic tern' briefly over in Rugmoor Bay, but couldn't identify it in the driving mizzle. There were 2 (later 4) Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 13 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, lots of Common Swifts Apus apus, and a few Sand Martins Riparia riparia. There were a few Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus around the Lodge - present since the WeBS count on 18th July. Oh, and I finally saw the Red Fox Vulpes vulpes without a tail that has been reported to me a few times over the last few weeks.

Monday 27th July

Robin Prytherch and I went to Rutland Water to meet Tim Mackrill and John Wright of the Osprey Project Team. It was a really interesting day that, on a positive note, meant we came away with lots of helpful pointers to help us move our own project forward, but on the negative side, has forced us to have a rethink about the siting of nest poles. Their project is on a lowland eutrophic reservoir, like ours surrounded by farmland, and we particularly wanted to know more about how the Ospreys use this type of landscape, which is very different to the typical Scottish model. As I was away from 0700 to 2115 hrs, I didn't have time to visit the lake today.

Tuesday 28th July [Sunny and warm with a stiff breeze]

I made an early visit this morning to look for birds that might have been blown in from the estuary overnight, but I didn't see anything unusual at all. In fact, I didn't see any waders either. However, the eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was showing very well (asleep) in Wood Bay until at least 0830 hrs when I left. It appears to have lost a couple more of the very few barred feathers on the mantle, and is now almost completely brown-black. At 1330 hrs it was asleep off Bell's Bush, and I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Additional sightings reported by Avon Birds "3 Egyptian Goose, 1 Little Egret, 7 Grey Heron, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 7 Lapwing, 7 Common Sandpiper (6 at dam), 11 Grey Wagtail (dam)."

Wednesday 29th July

I was at Wytham Wood, Oxford, today working with Dani Linton, Denise Foster and three others on the bat box scheme. Dani sent this synopsis: "210 boxes checked, 4 roosts and 58 bats (3 species, inc 2 Natterer's social groups / maternity colonies) ^._.^" I got back at 2045 hrs, so just had time for a quick look at the lake. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and several large rafts of densely packed Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula which made finding the Lesser Scaup all but impossible in the failing daylight. The Canada Geese Branta canadensis seem to have finished their moult and are flying again.

Thursday 30th July [Sunny, cool and breezy.]

The eclipse adult ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present this evening. There was also a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Long Bay, and at least 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos around the lake. The evening sky was clear with a beautiful waxing gibbous moon, which looked amazing through the birding scope as it rose above the horizon. Full (blue) moon tomorrow night.

Avon Birds reported: "2 Little Egret, 10 Grey Heron, 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 9 Grey Wagtail."

Friday 31st July [Sunny]

This evening I only had time for a very brief visit after spending the evening checking bat boxes at Barrow Reservoirs with Chris Barrington (no bats in the boxes, but one sad individual hanging dead from a fishing line with flies left hanging from a tree). I saw the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, but was too late to find the Lesser Scaup in a huge raft of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula over 100 metres long off Green Lawn. However, I'm planning an earlier visit in the morning.

Dead bat caught on fishing line, Barrow Reservoirs © Chris Barrington, 2015