BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

June 2010 News


Tuesday 1st June [Overcast, drizzly & still]

It was an ethereal experience walking down by the lake this evening in the silver light, with cloud and mist hanging over the woods and hills. Birdsong continued well after 2100 hrs with quite a few Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita adding their voices. The other really noticeable thing was that the Sedge-flies Trichoptera spp. were dancing in huge numbers over the marginal vegetation.

A roosting Tawny Owl Strix aluco was being mobbed by several birds along Butcombe Shore. An adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus was hawking insects over the lake and the usual two adult Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus were loafing on the buoys. There were 19 Canada Geese Branta canadensis today and I saw 14 flying towards Chew from Blagdon earlier on the way home.

Wednesday 2nd June [Cloudy to start, then calm, warm & sunny]

Tonight's short walk was in a beautiful golden light. The injured female Wigeon Anas penelope was feeding on emerging insects at the Top End and there were 68 Canada Geese Branta canadensis feeding by the lake.

Thursday 3rd June [Hot, sunny and still]

I spotted a new brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos, a female and 3 ducklings (8th brood at the lake, 2010), off Rainbow Point this evening. The Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock has swollen to 76 and there was also a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis with them.

More surprising were the 2 Hornets Vespa crabro that I saw at Butcombe Bay and a couple of Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata moths further around the lake.

Friday 4th June [Sunny spells, warm and a light breeze]

Ian Stapp rang me early this evening (thanks Ian) to tell me he had seen "hundreds" of Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma najas all along the south shore today. I have seen one specimen of this species at the lake in 2003, so this is a very interesting record that I shall follow up tomorrow.

There were 2 new broods of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos this evening with 6 and 7 ducklings respectively at Holt Bay and Home Bay Point (9th & 10th Broods at the lake, 2010). There were 71 Canada Geese Branta canadensis today.

I spotted and got a photo of Silver-ground Carpet Xanthorhoe montanata montanata, a new species for the lake, at Holt Bay. Having said that, the species is widespread and with a sustained effort moth trapping at the lake I would expect to add it. I am planning to run two Robinson Traps at the lake tomorrow evening, weather permitting, so hope to add quite a few more species to the list.

The other interesting phenomenon this evening was the swarms of Chironomid midges over large trees (e.g. Oak Quercus sp) in fields some distance from the lake, and most remarkably around the church tower of St. Andrew's, Blagdon. I guess the church must have been fully half a mile from where I was standing beside the lake but I could see the swarm from there with the naked eye. It looked like the tower was smouldering. This is a common enough occurrence at the lake but I've not seen it around man-made structures so far from the lake before. Here is a picture of the midges over two trees about 200 metres from where I was standing, there must have been millions of individual midges involved in producing such a large swarm. The time was 2150 hrs.

Saturday 5th June

First, an apology for not updating the website for a few days, I have had too much going on, but I have still been visiting the lake, if only briefly on some days.

Today, I spent a very interesting few hours with Ray Barnett from Bistol City Museum and my mate Alan Bone checking the invertebrate life of the fabulously rich flower meadows. We did see some Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma najas at Bell's Bush, so thanks to Ian for that, but Ray produced a comprehensive list of finds made by sweep-netting and casual observation. The most exciting find was the beetle Cantharis fusca a RDB3 (Red Data Book) species. I shall use some of the data to start lists of other groups in due course and add to those already published - probably while the soccer World Cup (yawn) is on!

Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Alan and I obtained permission to run moth traps in the evening, but due to a failure of my generator after a few minutes, we unfortunately had to abandon the session.

Sunday 6th June

I only managed a quick visit in the evening, but did see my first young Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus of the year with mum at Long Bay. As is to be expected, it is very quiet on the birding front at this time of year.

Monday 7th June

This evening I saw both of the young Tawny Owls Strix aluco, that we ringed (see news 7th May), out on the branch of an Oak Quercus sp. tree away from their nest box begging to be fed. There were 20 Canada Geese Branta canadensis.

Tuesday 8th June

I didn't count the Canada Geese Branta canadensis this evening but there must have been over 100 scattered around in small flocks.

I took a wider walk around the north side of the lake through Nempnett Thrubwell and saw an adult Tawny Owl Strix aluco at Pixie Hole and heard youngsters food begging in a copse between there and West Town.

Wednesday 9th June

No visit to the lake, but I did hear a Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa singing along Ashey Lane, Burrington on my way home.

Thursday 10th June

One of the feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis was with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis today and I saw a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 3 or 4 juveniles (11th brood at the lake, 2010) at Holt Bay. There was also a female Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus with a new born at Top End. I had to whistle at her to draw her attention to my presence so she didn't panic and as she moved away another young deer or possibly a Fox Vulpes vulpes got up out of the grass a few yards away and bounded off after her.

A Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca sang from the fields somewhere in front of Henmarsh Farm, Nempnett Thrubwell.

Friday 11th June [Warm & sunny with a light Northerly breeze]

Presumably the same Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and her brood had moved around to Long Bay this evening and I was able to count 4 young. I also saw a Fox Vulpes vulpes cub at Lodge Copse on the way home.

Saturday 12th June [Sunny, warm with a light NNW breeze]

An interesting afternoon in the sunshine and excitingly I found a new butterfly at the lake, a Wall Lasiommata megera along the south side road at Top End. I managed a record shot before it sprang up and over the hedge.

Wall Lasiommata megera, Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

For the first time in many years I saw a Little Owl Athene noctua inside the reservoir boundary this evening, at Ash Trees. There was also a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca singing at Hellfire Corner.

Sunday 13th June [Changeable, with a cool WNW breeze]

At long last I caught up with a Hobby Falco subbuteo hawking insects at Bell's Bush this evening. A Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna flew in to Top End from the east and there were 3 pairs of Pochard Aythya ferina in Holt Bay with 61 Canada Geese Branta canadensis nearby. A female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with a brood of 4 (12th brood at the lake, 2010) was in front of the Lodge.

Tuesday 15th June

On the train home from Ashford, Kent today I counted 14 Red Kites Milvus milvus in the Reading - Didcot area.

Nothing to report from Blagdon Lake, but I did find 4 churring male Nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus on territories at Stock Hill / Priddy Mineries with females for certain in two of the territories.

Wednesday 16th June [A super summer day]

A fabulous evening walk with young birds fresh out of nests all over the place and to cap it all I found a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Lodge Copse. Chuffed to bits, but little else of note.

Thursday 17th June [Another warm, sunny summers day]

I was slightly concerned this evening when I found the 5 cygnets Cygnus olor feeding in front of the Lodge on their own, with no sign of either parent in the vicinity. They are still very young and it must be very unusual for the parents to leave them to their own devices like this. They are probably just too big for a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus to tackle now, but should really be enjoying the protection of their parents.

The female Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus at Top End has got two young (see 10th June), which according to some of my mammal reference books is said to be somewhat unusual. I have seen it once before at the lake. I also had a close encounter with a Badger Meles meles that came trotting along the track towards me. Whilst their hearing is excellent, their eyesight is very poor and it approached to within a few feet before scuttling off into the long grass. Two came to our back door step, as usual, this evening to eat bird food put out for them every evening.

2 REMINDERS:

Friday 18th June [Starting warm & sunny before a cool front, cloud & drizzle came through]

The Bat Walk with Avon Bat Group and YACWAG went ahead and was expertly led by Daniel and Heidi. A group of 15 of us walked along the dam and then along the Butcombe Shore footpath to the bridge at the end of the bay and back. We heard Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus (55k) in the woodland before dark and then saw them flying around the woodland edge and our heads. These were quickly joined by Common Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pipistrellus (45k). No sooner had we sorted these two species out and a Daubenton's Bat Myotis daubentonii was picked up on the bat detectors, so we switched to 35k to hear it more clearly without the Pipistrelle calls. Soon we picked up the 'chop chop' calls of Serotines Eptesicus serotinus at 27k before Noctules Nyctalus noctula joined in, echo locating at 20-22k with their 'chop chip chop' calls. Up to this point we had pretty good views of all the species identified on the detectors. Various other species were possibly identified as the evening wore on and Dan will provide me with a definitive list in due course when the sonograms have been studied in more depth.

On the way back to cars we found 3 Glow-worms Lampyris noctiluca, the first I seen at the lake this year, and we went our various ways at 2330 hrs after a very instructive evening. Thanks to Dan and Heidi and the rest of the knowledgeable participants for sharing their time.

Saturday 19th June [Cloudy & cool before the sun came out this afternoon]

The cygnets Cygnus olor were re-united with one of their parents this evening and I saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo fly out of the trees at Green Lawn. I plan to do the WeBS count tomorrow.

There were 2 Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs hunting around for food and I stood and watched a Badger Meles meles gathering bedding material and dragging it backwards to the sett this evening.

Sunday 20th June [Sunny with a few fluffy white clouds & a light NNE breeze]

I did the WeBS Count today (see WeBS Count Page) and there were no real surprises. 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were picking around on the Holt Bay shore. Coot Fulica atra numbers have started to rise but aside from a sighting of a nest with 3 juveniles on Rugmoor Point, by angler Jeff Hurst, I have not seen any successful Coot broods in 2010. I've never known Coots to completely fail before. I don't know what factors have caused this other than perhaps predation. I saw two predated eggs at Top End earlier this week so we may yet get some breeding success. I didn't see any Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis which is also strange because I know there was a pair in Home Bay reeds for several weeks, but they've gone quiet recently - so perhaps they're failed breeders too. On the plus side, there was a family of Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinera at Cheddar Water in the corner of the dam.

The last week has seen a lot of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae butterflies on the wing and today I saw lots of Ringlets Aphantopus hyperantus, Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and a single Marbled White Melanargia galathea (at Bell's Bush). Also, at Top End by the road bridge I saw a male Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens and a Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula ovipositing as well as 6 small Pike Esox lucius lurking in the edges of the stream. There was also a male Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa patrolling the stream by the bridge at the end of Long Bay and a few male Black-tailed Skimmers Orthetrum cancellatum sunbathing on the south side road.

There are lots of the beautiful Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus throwing up their pink heads in front of the Lodge.

Monday 21st & Tuesday 22nd June

No visits to the lake because I was preparing to lead a walk for Somerset Wildlife Trust (Wells Group) at Stock Hill Plantation to see European Nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus. We had lovely views on Tuesday evening with a group of something like 50 people!

Wednesday 23rd June [Hot & sunny with a steady WNW breeze blowing up]

Return migration is underway with 10 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in Holt Bay and 5 adult Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (3 on the dam and 2 straight through to the west) this evening. There was a family of Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Hellfire Corner and 29 Canada Geese Branta canadensis feeding out in the middle at Top End.

Thursday 24th June [More hot sunny weather]

I spent a happy quarter of an hour watching two Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs playing on my walk this evening. They'd found a plastic ring which gave them endless entertainment. The Lapwing Vanellus vanellus count has risen to 17 at Holt Bay and I heard a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus calling close by as I walked alongside Wood Bay, but couldn't see it. At least one of the ringed Tawny Owl Strix aluco chicks has flown to a new copse where it was calling loudly for food.

I continued my walk through the lanes of Nempnett Thrubwell and Butcombe where the scent of Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum hung heavy between the high hedges and I counted 3 Glow-worms Lampyris noctiluca shining brightly in the base of hedges along Blagdon Lane between Butcombe and the Aldwyck turning.

The reservoir is now only 75% full according to the Bristol Water website and they comment "there have now been six consecutive months of significantly below average rainfall. The soil moisture defecit (a measure of its dryness) was about 80 mm in May, twice the average -- indicating that only average rainfall in June would produce little or no inflow to the reservoirs."

Friday 25th June

There were 19 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus spread between Long and Wood Bays, and 5 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (all adults) with a Nuthatch Sitta europaea calling rather unusually at Lodge Copse.

There were 3 Black-tailed Skimmers Orthetrum cancellatum and 2 Emperors Anax imperator (all males) in front of the Lodge.

In the evening I joined Bristol & District Moth Group members at Sand Point and ran one of my Robinson Traps. Aside from 2 adult Lackeys Malacosoma neustria I caught little to excite, though we did have some nice finds in other traps.

Saturday 26th June

I spent a very interesting afternoon looking over a new nature reserve called Moorend Spout in Nailsea with Roger Staples with a view to listing invertebrates. One of the first I looked at was a real surpise; a male Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva holding territory. We took a good long look around checking the Odonata and took some photos for their website. Two Scarlet Tigers Callimorpha dominula were also seen in flight.

At Blagdon Lake I saw an adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus and the first 2 juveniles of the summer on Home Bay Point. Lapwing Vanellus vanellus numbers had climbed to 22.

Sunday 27th June

We had a Somerset Invertebrates Group meeting at Smitham Pool in East Harptree Woods which was well attended. There were some nice finds especially by Robert Cropper who did some pond dipping.

Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Smitham Pool, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I heard Siskins Carduelis spinus calling there, later as I walked along Rowberrow Lane, Rowberrow and near Rod's Pot, Burrington. They must surely be breeding on the Mendips this year. I also heard and saw a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus on Dolebury Warren as well as a Redpoll Carduelis sp. (probably a Lesser) at the plantation on the Warren too.

Hoverfly Eristalis interruptus, East Harptree Woods, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Two males displaying over a feeding female,

Monday 28th June

The lake was flat calm this evening and is starting to look as if it might drop to a suitable level to attract migrant waders in over the autumn. The usual male Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis was still in Holt Bay looking rather lonely and all the Coots Fulica atra were swimming determinedly up the lake towards the dam end, presumably to feed off the Lodge after the boats had returned to the quay.

Tuesday 29th June [Hot and sultry]

I added some more plants to the plant list this evening when I walked along Butcombe Bank, out around Butcombe and Nempnett Thrubwell before heading back along the south shore. I saw a bird I couldn't identify through my binoculars in the gloomy light out on Rugmoor Point - it may have been a Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, but equally may have been a juvenile Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus! There were huge numbers of tiddly little Frogs Rana temporaria at Top End on the roads and the young Tawny Owls Strix aluco have moved back towards their nest site from Bell's Bush barrier to Hellfire Corner this evening, where they were making lots of noise food-begging. I heard Lapwings Vanellus vanellus calling at dusk but assumed they were out feeding on the adjacent farmland because I didn't see them along the water's edge.

The lake level has dropped to 72% (per Bristol Water website).

Wednesday 30th June [Warm but cloudy]

I paid a quick visit in my car this evening and saw 36 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rugmoor Point and counted the usual 29 moulting Canada Geese Branta canadensis. I didn't spot anything interesting amongst the flotillas of wildfowl.

However, being a nosey sort of guy, I spotted some interesting goings-on along the Butcombe Shore and on investigation I found the BBC setting up cameras to film bats for 'The One Show'. After a quick chat, I bid them good luck and left them to get on with their recording.