June 2011 News

Wednesday 1st June [The wind has dropped and it's warmed up]

The female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was feeding at Cheddar Water as usual this evening and the Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata was still at Hellfire Corner as well. Two Stock Doves Columba oenas flew out of Holt Copse when I walked through and the Canada Goose Branta canadensis count was up again to 174 including the 'odd' one photographed on 29th May.

Thursday 2nd June [A beautiful hot day]

A super evening walk during which I saw 6 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, 2 adult Red Foxes Vulpes vulpes, a young Badger Meles meles less than 6 feet away and a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus. I also heard my first juvenile Tawny Owl Strix aluco food-begging, though I couldn't see it.

I had a chat to a few anglers who seemed a bit happier now the wind has died down, there's lots of fish on the surface along the North Shore. Jeff Hurst told me he'd seen a white insect at Orchard Bay which, from his description, sounded like a White Plume Moth Pterophorus pentadactyla, the first of the year.

The lake level is currently at 80% (per Bristol Water).

Friday 3rd June [Hot and sunny]

The Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was at the dam where a drama was taking place as the pair of Common Coots Fulica atra who'd previously lost no less than three nests (one with at least one egg in) were struggling to prevent their latest nest with 4 or 5 eggs in from being swamped by the change of wind that has brought big waves all down Butcombe Bay to Cheddar Water. I filmed their efforts for a while hoping against hope that they'd succeed.

On the North Shore, which was relatively sheltered, I spent some time looking for new insects to photograph, without too much success I'm afraid. I saw my first Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata moths and Large Skipper Ochlodes faunus butterflies of the year and photographed a few Common Blue Damselflies Enallagma cyathigerum.

Male Large Skipper Ochlodes faunus & Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, North Shore © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Sunday 5th June [A bit of rain at last - but nowhere near enough]

I didn't visit yesterday and a look around at lunchtime suggests it is very quiet still. The female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was on the dam and hundreds, if not thousands, of Common Swifts Apus apus were around the Lodge. The pair of Common Coots Fulica atra seem to have weathered the storm and they are still sitting on the nest which has been considerably fortified and also protected by distributing gathered weed in a kind of barrier on the windward side of the nest.

At Green Lawn there was a Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, a pair of Gadwall Anas strepera and an adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. Also, flying around in the meadow were the first of the adult Six-spot Burnet Moths Zygaena filipendulae, noted pupating on the 17th May (see that date for pictures). I saw 99 Canada Geese Branta canadensis later in the evening including the white-necked individual. Someone reported a Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus yesterday, but I wonder if it may have been the 'odd' bird.

There is a lot of flowering weed Ranunculus spp. around the lake margins now. Along the Indian Country bank at Top End Common Pochards Aythya ferina are starting to congregate with 8 birds asleep securely moored in the weed, alongside the male Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis.

Monday 6th June

I went up north with Messers Vinicombe, Willmott and Massey to see the White-throated Robin at Hartlepool headland so didn't visit the lake, but RWS reported seeing the female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 8 Common Pochards Aythya ferina and 3 Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata.

Tuesday 7th June [Showers]

Some good news and some bad news - there was another Mallard Anas platyrhynchos brood of 7 ducklings with their mother at Cheddar Water this evening, but on the down side the large brood of Mute Swans Cygnus olor is unfortunately down from 7 to 6 cygnets. The female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was diving in front of the Lodge, instead of lounging around on the dam as usual.

The presumed Cackling x Barnacle Goose hybrid was back with 84 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and a lone Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis.

Wednesday 8th June [More showers]

I went down to the lake this afternoon during a sunny spell hoping to get some photos of the Cackling x Barnacle Goose hybrid in decent light, but like last time it visited, it only stayed for a day, consequently no pictures I'm afraid. I didn't spend much time looking for passerines, but did go through the wildfowl reasonably thoroughly, and the only bird of note (for the time of year) was the female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula in front of the Lodge again.

I had a quick look for Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis spikes at Green Lawn while I was at the lake and found some quite weedy-looking specimens starting to come up and flower. Perhaps the recent showers will help them to fill out and look a bit better in due course.

Thursday 9th June [Sunny spells but turned cooler]

Mervyn Pearce rang me just as I was about to go down to the lake to tell me he'd just heard a Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata as he was about to leave. I went down and we eventually found the bird at Green Lawn. The female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was in front of the Lodge and Mervyn reported seeing a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo in Holt Copse and a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Bell's Bush barrier in the Willows Salix sp. There was no sign of the Cackling x Barnacle Goose hybrid.

Friday 10th June [Sunshine and showers]

I spent 4 hours at the lake this morning but didn't see a great deal new on the bird front, save for a family group of a pair of adult and four juvenile Common Coots Fulica atra in front of the Lodge and a family group of Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea at Cheddar Water. Of birds in unusual places, pride of place must go to the Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea at Hellfire Corner and some Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major in the Oak trees Quercus sp. on Green Lawn. We do the WeBS Count tomorrow and I should imagine the bulk will be Common Coots.

Best sighting of the day, however, was a Chimney Sweeper Moth Odezia atrata in the long grass at Holt Bay. The larvae of this species feeds on Pignut Conopodium majus which is relatively common around the lake in the hay meadows. Surprisingly, this species has not been recorded at the lake before, so far as I can tell. Other insects worthy of mention were a male Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator in front of the Lodge and a female Brimstone Butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni ssp. rhamni along the Lodge entrance road. Weather permitting, Alan Bone and I will probably run a couple of moth traps at the lakeside this evening. We are within a whisker of 200 species presently and the aim is to try and get at least 300 on the list by the end of the year.

Chimney Sweeper Odezia atrata, Holt Bay & Grasshopper nymphs sunning on an Oak Leaf, Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

The moth trapping session had to be carried out at the Lodge due to the rain continuing well after dark, unfortunately, so we only ran one trap from 2240 - 0115 hrs and the second one for about half that time. We caught a total of 16 moths in all that time! The list, for what it's worth was:

Saturday 11th June [Sunny and warm]

The BIG surprise on this mornings WeBS Count was a GREAT WHITE EGRET Ardea alba seen in flight at Top End from Rainbow Point at 1215 hrs. It stayed all afternoon showing on and off from Top End hide. When Roy Curber, Chris Billinghurst and I got to the hide we could see that the bird was in breeding plumage with aigrettes, grey bill and pink upper legs with no rings; so not the bird from the Somerset Levels. This is the first record for the lake pending a flight sighting yet to be submitted and assessed from the turn of the year.

Great White Egret Ardea alba, Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Today's count has been entered into the WeBS page and the highlight was Chris spotting our first Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis chick in Home Bay - the first brood for two years. Sadly, we saw the second pair of adults that have been at the other end of the lake without any young today as well. The bulk of the count was Common Coots Fulica atra, as predicted, and we saw a single Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and another increase in Common Pochard Aythya ferina numbers. There was also a very showy Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at the Lodge hawking for insects from the ornamental trees along the entrance drive and around the car park.

Sunday 12th June [Pouring rain on a strong easterly wind]

There was no sign of the Great White Egret Ardea alba either at lunchtime in the pouring rain and high winds, or, later this evening when the rain had stopped and the wind had died down slightly. I did see a Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus sitting on a nest, the first of the year, with another raft of 17 birds fishing around the Top End. Other selected counts included 45 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 71 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, 32 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, 8 Gadwall Anas strepera and single males of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata and Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis.

Monday 13th June [Sunny]

Mervyn Pearce texted me to say it was quiet at the lake today, though he did see a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata in the corner of the dam at Cheddar Water.

A pair of Jackdaws Corvus monedula commandeered the Top End owl box this year and I thought I'd share these pictures of the nest and young (thanks to Chris Klee) for your enjoyment. Chris noted a dessicated body in the box in addition to the two chicks which were about to fledge when the picture was taken. They left the nest last week.

Jackdaw nest Corvus monedula, Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Jackdaw Corvus monedula young, Top End © Chris Klee, 2011

Tuesday 14th June [Sunny and warm]

Not a lot to say about the lake today. I went over to Chew (oh, the shame) to see the female Blue-winged Teal Anas discors found by Sean Davies yesterday. It is not the most obvious bird and was a great find by Sean.

Wednesday 15th June (Warm, sun and showers]

The exotics have spread to Blagdon.... I did my BBS square beside the lake this morning at 0600 hrs and spotted the 2 Shelduck hybridy things (said to be Ruddy x Australian Shelducks per WWT Slimbridge website) that were at Herriotts Pool, Chew Valley Lake over the weekend. They flew east across Holt Bay and I found them again feeding at Wood Bay Point at around 0715 hrs. All we need is the escaped Blue-winged Teal Anas discors and Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis to complete the hat trick!

On a more serious note, the Holt Bay Mute Swans Cygnus olor have 2 young out of the nest this morning (4th brood for the lake, 2011). This makes a total of 14 surviving cygnets as I write this.

Thursday 16th June [Sunny spells but cooler]

Two Greylags Anser anser with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis at lunchtime from Green Lawn and again later in the evening. Late in the day I saw 2 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus fly through to the west, and curiously one was an adult in summer plumage and the other appeared to be an adult in winter plumage. Most odd.

There are still quite a few Common Coots Fulica atra sitting on nests at the moment, including the birds at the south end of the dam, so we can hope for more young birds yet. I saw a Mallard Anas platyrhynchos brood (6 juveniles) at Bell's Bush this evening and it already looks like this season has been far more successful than the last. I just hope that the Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus manage to rear some young this year if, and when, they get going in the coming weeks.

One of the botanical gems at the lake is the abundance of pink Flowering Rush Butomus umbellatus around the south side and they have been opening over the last week or so.

Friday 17th June [Lots of showers and cool]

It's another wet afternoon and I had a quick drive around to see if I could see anything new. Some of the geese were on Holt / Lag Farm fields and I spotted the 2 adult Greylags Anser anser with them again. Most of the flock are feeding on emergent weed in the lake now, so I presume they have started their wing moult and won't be going anywhere soon.

Daniel Hargreaves and I checked out some drainage slots at the Spillway this evening in the hope that they were being used as bat roosts. Two slots contained Daubenton's Bats Myotis daubentonii and another contained a single, ringed bat of an as yet unidentified species. Daniel set up a harp trap to try and catch it, but it hit the strings and bounced out unfortunately. He did get some video footage of it and the Daub's which will be probably be posted on YouTube when he gets time. I'll put a link on the website when he does. Daniel also found a cricket on the dam that I identified as an Oak Bush Cricket Meconema thalassinum.

I've checked some of the fishermans return boxes used by Great Tits Parus major for nesting this year and it appears that all the broods fledged successfully.

I received an email from Jeremy Williams at Bristol Water today as follows:

Anglers and walkers at Blagdon Lake are being warned about the presence of blue-green algae in the raw, untreated, water. Signs are being posted advising dog walkers and others to avoid prolonged contact with water and to prevent their pets drinking or swimming. This is purely a precautionary measure. The formation of the algae is a natural phenomenon prompted by warm weather and will not last long. Prolonged contact with water containing high levels of the algae can cause skin irritation or stomach upsets. Fishing will continue as normal. However, anglers are advised to wash their hands after contact with the water, or to consider wearing gloves. There are NO implications regarding treated water supply, especially as the lake is not being used for supply at present in any case. Swimming/sailing are not allowed at the reservoir anyway.

Also, news from Ian White who found and photographed a Scarlet Tiger Moth Callimorpha dominula yesterday along the North Shore. This brings the total Lepidoptera species recorded to 200 spp. so far, just 100 to go by the end of the year to reach our target! Here's a small version of Ian's photo - I hope you'll agree, it's a good looker! Oh, and just a reminder that there are photographs of many species taken at Blagdon Lake (bigger size) that can be accessed on the Blagdon Lists page by clicking on the blue links on the scientific names in the species lists (including the photo below).

Scarlet Tiger Moth Callimorpha dominula, Orchard Bay © Ian White, 2011

Saturday 18th June [More high winds and squally showers]

There were white horses racing down the lake this lunchtime and not a great deal of note to comment on. I bumped into Simon Isgar who told me he'd seen an Egret sp. fly through very early this morning. The 2 adult Greylags Anas anas were feeding on the farm fields with a few Canada Geese Branta canadensis, and there were 80 Canada's out on the lake.

Feeling somewhat dejected about the birding, I took the camera and macro lens down and saw my first Marbled White Melanargia galathea and Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus butterflies of the year, along with Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina, Large Skipper Ochlodes faunus, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and probably Green-veined White Pieris napi. I also photographed some bees and grasshoppers for identification later.

Sunday 19th June [Cloud turning to warm sunshine in the afternoon]

I have been out most of the day photographing invertebrates on Chiltern Moor on the Somerset Levels, but did pay a visit this evening and saw the 2 adult Greylags Anser anser with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis moult flock off Rugmoor Point. The Cackling x Barnacle Goose hybrid was also present in the flock, appearing to be fully-winged still.

There was also one of those unpleasant moments as one of the Mute Swan Cygnus olor cobs set about one of the flightless moult swan flock. It spent quite some time trying to drown the unfortunate bird, holding its head under the water by sitting on it and gripping the back of the nape and forcing it down. However, the rest of the moulting birds came over, and whilst not intervening directly, they may have diverted the attention of the aggressor sufficiently for the victim to make good its escape.

Tuesday 21st June [Cloudy, with a westerly breeze]

No sign of the Greylags or Cackling x Barnacle Goose hybrid that I could see with the 74 Canada Geese Branta canadensis this evening when I went down to the lake with Warwick White and Chris Klee while they were ringing.

Very disappointing news on the Common Coot Fulica atra brood at the south end of the dam. I saw at least 4+ young on the nest on Sunday evening, but not a one was visible tonight.

Wednesday 22nd June [Sunshine and showers]

This morning I saw a couple (pair?) of Stock Doves Columba oenas at the lake when I was out on a 10 mile walk and this evening I saw a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 8 juveniles in Holt Bay, 72 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and an adult drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis. There may also be an increase in Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula drakes with a few mobile groups flying around this evening.

There was an adult Badger Meles meles out on the short grass near the Lodge at 2115 hrs and a Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus female with two young on Home Bay Point.

Thursday 23rd June [Cloudy and breezy again]

Mervyn Pearce called around and told me that there were 3 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus on the dam at tea time. They all appeared to be adults to me when I took a look later. There were also between 1 and 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia flying around in front of the Lodge; a bit unusual at this time of year. There were 71 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in the moult flock and another 6 flew in off the fields to join them.

As I drove past Heron's Green Pool at Chew Valley Lake this morning, there were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fishing there.

Friday 24th June

From tomorrow, I shall be walking Alfred Wainwright's 192 mile 'Coast to Coast' Path from St. Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire, and although Celia will be keeping the home fires burning while I'm away, I doubt if there will be many opportunities for me to update the news pages during that time. If I can, I will, but I will need emails or texts to pass your sightings on. The reverse migration is starting to get underway, and it is probable that Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius and Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos will be among the first to touch down on the dam or Green Lawn in early July. Keep an eye out for them before I get back.

Keith Vinicombe kindly sent me the following comments about local Sand Martin Riparia riparia passage:

"Re your comments on the website about current Sand Martins records at Blagdon: we nearly alway get our first returning migrants at Chew around now. In fact this year I saw the first on 11 June, which I think is probably my earliest ever - no doubt due to the dry, settled spring enabling them to get on with their breeding. Portland had its first (four) on 14 June. In the past, all the early ones that I have been able to check have been juveniles. Saw three today, at least one of which was a juv."

Saturday 25th June

News from Ian White that he saw a pair of Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata feeding young this afternoon (I am witholding the location).

Tuesday 28th June

Of note, was news from Mervyn Pearce of a sighting of 5 Purple Hairstreaks Neozephyrus quercus behind the Top End hide today and an adult Common Redshank Tringa totanus on the dam.

Wednesday 29th June

Mervyn Pearce saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam today. I also received a phone call about a possible sighting of an Osprey Pandion haliaetus, though the timing would be most unusual. It later turned out to be a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.