BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

June 2014 News

A blog of sightings and up-to-date news from the lakeside


Sunday 1st June [Overcast]

We finished the Compton Martin Garden BioBlitz at lunchtime and I visited the lake in the evening.

Best among the birds were a Stock Dove Columba oenas at Long Bay, a pair of Common Pochards Aythya ferina at Holt Bay, a juvenile Tawny Owl Strix aluco at Hellfire Corner and the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock which has grown to 49. Oh, and when I got back to my car by the Lodge, I had a Serotine Eptesicus serotinus flying around at head height for a minute or two, which was quite fun. Great views of it foraging.

For those with an interest in the lake (especially birders & anglers), I have a Lake Users Meeting (all BW lakes) with Bristol Water tomorrow afternoon, so if you have anything pressing you would like me to table for discussion please contact me (link above).

Monday 2nd June [Overcast]

Not much to say on the bird front. I saw a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna fly east along the lake.

I carried out a Bat Transect from Long Bay to the dam (south end) this evening and there were stacks of bats flying, including the Serotine Eptesicus serotinus that I saw last night near the Lodge. I recorded 8 Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii passes at similar points along the May transect. Could they be regular foraging areas of resident bats? As I do more transects over the coming months and years, this is the sort of question I shall be trying to answer.

Tuesday 3rd June [Overcast morning, sunny afternoon]

I went to the lake four times today for one reason and another, and the only bird news I have is that one of the Canada Goose Branta canadensis goslings is missing, leaving just the three. I saw, a Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus skip across the road at Bell's Bush barrier, my fourth site record. Not everyone's cup of tea, I guess!

I did another bat transect from Holt Copse to Green Lawn and reckon I located three different Nathusius's Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii; two at Green Lawn around the Oak trees and another at Holt Bay flying backwards and forwards along the road. On checking the data, there were 12 passes recorded. I was able to watch a Noctule Nyctalus noctula foraging at Holt Bay too, which was instructional, having watched the Serotine for the last two evenings. I'm beginning to get a handle on their flight 'jizz' and silhouettes, as I can watch them while recording and viewing their sonograms in real-time on the EM3+ detector, if the light hasn't completely gone.

It's nervous times at Kielder, with neither White YA or his older brother's nesting attempt resulting in chicks yet. Maybe tomorrow...

Wednesday 4th June [Cool with heavy rain most of the day]

...and as predicted, Osprey chicks have hatched on both nests at Kielder today, in awful conditions. See Joanna's blog for pictures and a link to a fantastic video showing the two chicks on YAs nest being fed for the first time.

Steve Hale and I have both visited the lake today despite the deluge, but aside from lots of, mainly, Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus on Holt Farm fields where they've been feeding for the last two days since the silage cut was taken and slurry injected, there's nothing to report.

Thursday 5th June [Sunny and warm]

I spent nearly three hours with Dave Cottle at the Pumping Station conducting a bat survey late this morning and while we were outside, a couple of Greylag Geese Anser anser flew west over the dam. This evening a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was hawking over the middle of Top End and a young Tawny Owl Strix aluco was food begging at Hellfire Corner.

Joanna Dailey emailed news of a third Osprey chick hatching on YAs nest at 1500 hrs, which was simultaneously matched on his brothers nest nearby at Kielder Water. More great video footage of dad feeding the young on her blog site (link below). It's compulsive viewing!

Friday 6th June [Sunny and warm with a strong easterly breeze]

The pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor at Top End (with 6 cygnets) have taken to roosting on the edge of the road and the cob has become quite aggressive towards anyone or anything (by which I mean vehicles) going by. So, please proceed with caution if you're in a car and drive by very slowly if they are there. I heard a ♂ Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis singing at Wood Bay that was new.

I had another fruitless search for Narrow-bordered Bee Hawks at lunchtime, but did see my first Six-spot Burnets Zygaena filipendulae, Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and Large Skipper Ochlodes faunus of the year.

I walked a bat transect from Top End to Hellfire Corner this evening. It didn't seem to get dark throughout the whole walk and there weren't so many bats on the wing as the last two transects. I recorded just one Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii pass.

Saturday 7th June [Mainly sunny and warm after overnight rain]

Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers reached 106 today as the flock of non-breeders continues to grow (I have included our little family with 3 goslings in the total as well). A pair of adult Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis were out in Wood Bay this evening. I'd heard them trilling yesterday in the corner by Holt Copse, so hoped they'd have young, but as yet there's no proof of breeding this year, though at least one other couple are still keeping a very low profile. The other nice surprise was seeing a leveret Lepus europaeus along the road behind Long Bay pines for a second day. I guess it was small enough to come through the fence when the silage cut was taken on the adjacent fields. All it needs to do is survive the traffic now! In the last ten days or so, despite a speed limit of 15 mph, 2 Grey Squirrels, an adult Common Coot and one each of recently fledged Rook and Carrion Crows have been killed on the south side road.

I ran a Heath Trap overnight at Lodge Copse but had a rather poor return for my effort:

Sunday 8th June [Sunny and warm, but breezy]

My only bird news from this mornings visit is that we have a new brood of Mute Swans Cygnus olor (Pipe Bay pair) who have 4 cygnets. This is our 3rd brood and there are two others still sitting, so it could be a good year for swans in 2014 - so far we have 16 juveniles.

Monday 9th June [Sunny spells and warm]

Breeding success again for Mute Swans Cygnus olor as a 4th pair take to the water with a brood of 6 cygnets at Orchard Bay. That makes 4 broods and 22 juveniles so far this year. At the Lodge a Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus was sitting on the water with 2 juveniles on its back, the 1st brood noted, and a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos swam across Wood Bay with 2 new ducklings.

Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers were up again to 139 (plus the family with 3 goslings) and 19 Common Pochards Aythya ferina were counted in Holt Bay. I saw a putative Canada x Greylag adult among the flock, which was new in, though I've seen it at the lake, on and off, for many years.

I'm redesigning and rebuildling the website, so please bear with me while I get everything up and running in the new format, which will make finding your way around the website simpler, with picture navigation buttons for those using touch screens.

Tuesday 10th June [Warm with sunny spells]

I spent most of the day working on the website, but did get down to the lake this evening, however, I didn't see anything new. There was a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 5 ducklings in Holt Bay beside the wooden pilings that were all snapping at adult caddisflies that were swarming just over the water. I counted 137 Canada Geese Branta canadensis plus the family group.

Tomorrow, I'll be walking around Braunton Burrows to Woolacombe as I get back on the trail, if only for a day.

Wednesday 11th June [Warm and sunny]

No news from the lake today.

I enjoyed a lovely sunny walk of 15.3 miles from Braunton to Woolacombe in North Devon with friends Ann, Colin and Trevor. As we strolled south along the River Caen there were drifts of Pale Flax over carpets of Bird's-foot Trefoil. Then, as we approached Braunton Burrows, Pyramidal Orchids and Viper's Bugloss started to appear alongside the path in profusion, with Southern Marsh Orchids on the golf course nearer Saunton. I'd have liked to have walked over the dunes exploring the flora, but we were directed along American Road. Perhaps we should have taken one of the paths out to the beach. Baggy Point gave us great views back across Bideford Bay to Hartland Point, though Lundy was typically almost entirely shrouded in mist. We walked the last 2 miles along the golden strand from Putsborough to Woolacombe. Superb!

Thursday 12th June [Warm and sunny]

Dave Cottle and I did some work in the bat house this morning, putting up material for Horseshoe bats to hang from. We discussed how we might modify the flight entrance to cut down the amount of light entering, and the potential addition of a 'hot box' in the roof. We checked a few boxes as part of my endoscope training and found a couple of Pipistrelle sp. in one of the boxes at Home Bay.

In the evening Martin Evans, Roger Edmondson and Alan Bone joined me to do some moth-ing. Martin and Roger are working on a new photographic guide as part of the series of invertebrate guides they've been producing and wanted to capture Poplar &/or Alder Kitten, but despite our running 5 lights until 0100 hrs we didn't catch either of the target species. We added three to the site list. Here's the list from my two 125W MV Robinson Traps that Alan and I ran at Top End:

Alan and I heard Water Rail Rallus aquaticus at Top End again, suggesting they might be breeding this year, and there may have been as many as 3 young Tawny Owls Strix aluco heard calling for food too.

Friday 13th June [Hot and sunny]

I didn't spend any time birding at the lake today. I was working through the moths caught last night and popped down this evening to photograph a Pine Hawkmoth Hyloicus pinastri on a Scot's Pine that Roger brought over last night for me to see and photograph. Tomorrow, Roy Curber and I will be carrying out the WeBS Count.

Saturday 14th June [Hot and Sunny with a steady breeze]

The WeBS Count was unremarkable, with none of the excitement engendered by the Red Kites we saw last month. Our 5th brood of Mute Swans Cygnus olor is out of the last nest now, but we couldn't see them in the cover of marginal vegetation at Burmah Road. We had an early returning adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus at the Spillway and a flyover Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna that was the only other bird of note. Details of the count are on the WeBS page (access from Home > Wildlife > Birds).

The work on the website revision is taking shape, so please be patient while I add all the background info. It will take a few days.

Sunday 15th June [Warm but mainly overcast]

No real bird news to report today. There was a little gathering of 20 Common Pochards Aythya ferina in front of the Lodge and I saw a Stock Dove Columba oenas fly out of Long Bay pines - I wonder if they're nesting there?

Late news of a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis seen by Jeff Hirst and 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo seen by Sean Davies.

Monday 16th June [Warm but mainly cloudy]

I spent much of the day near Somerton with Somerset Invertebrates Group, but noted that the Common Pochard Aythya ferina count was up to 36 at the lake this evening.

Tuesday 17th June [Hot and sunny]

There's no news to share from the lake.

I drove down to Ilfracombe to do some more of the SWCP. I walked from Woolacombe to Combe Martin, said to be 13.9 miles, but it was a bit of an ordeal due to the extreme heat and sun. The few hedges that I saw during the walk were liberally sprinkled with flowering Fuchsias and I saw lots of Sheep's-bit alongside the path, which was excellent from Woolacombe to Ilfracombe, especially around Morte (where I saw a Wheatear) and Bull Points, but less so between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, although I was glad of the shade provided by the little patches of woodland. I managed to get to Combe Martin in time for the last bus at 1845 hrs, but was dismayed that the powers that be have closed stretches of both the A361 and the A39 early in the evening! Whichever way I wanted to come home from North Devon, I was faced with diversions, traffic lights and miles of 30 mph speed restrictions. Joined-up thinking by the neighbouring county councils, clearly!

Wednesday 18th June [Hot and sunny, cloudy in the morning.]

Nick Wilcox-Brown reported a family of Grey Wagtails on the dam, at the Spillway, early in the day and I saw them this afternoon still on the dam.

Martin Evans & Roger Edmondson sent me their moth list with another three new records for the site caught at Hellfire Corner, where they ran 3 lights on 12th June:

Thursday 19th June [Hot and sunny]

No news from the lake today.

I walked the SWCP with friends Ann and Colin again today, from Combe Martin to Lynmouth. What a difference a day (or two) makes! It was truly spectacular, if a little exposed in places. We saw a couple of dazzling stands of Foxgloves and some Common Cow-wheat in one of the Oak woods as we moved onto sandstone, and at Heddon's Mouth there were some fritillaries whizzing around in the sunshine on the north facing bracken-covered slope, quite possibly High Brown Frits. but once again I didn't get good enough views to be sure. Then there was the Valley of the Rocks...

Friday 20th June [Sunny and very warm]

Terry Grant reported seeing a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Green Lawn when we met at lunchtime. Richard Mielcarek and I had a look for some Bee Orchids in one of the meadows, where we used to see them, but we couldn't find any spikes. On the plus side, Pyramidal Orchids Anacamptis pyramidalis seem to be going from strength to strength, both spreading and increasing in number at Green Lawn, including fair numbers with pale flower-spikes, while Richard found four in another meadow. We also saw our first Marbled White Melanargia galathea of the year among the myriads of Six-spot Burnet Moths Zygaena filipendulae and Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina.

This evening Dave Cottle came over and gave me some more bat licence training. I had a look in some boxes with an endoscope and found one with a bat in that I had to try and hand net, the use of which is a stipulation from Natural England for me to get my class 2 licence. I caught a Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus which I immediately released.

Saturday 21st June [Hot & sunny] Summer Solstice

I enjoyed a lovely day showing Avon Wildlife Trust Keynsham Group around. They could hardly asked for better weather. A couple of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were on Green Lawn (I heard one there yesterday) and I had two great flight views of a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Home Bay.

One of the highlights of the day was a flyover by a Spitfire and Hurricane, which flew west along the lake towards Weston Air Show, and we caught part of the Red Arrows display as well. When I got home and was sitting in the lounge with a cup of tea later, a Flying Fortress flew east back up the valley!

AWT Keynsham Group watching a Great Crested Grebe family © Dave Sage, 2014

After the visit, the group had a whip-round and generously gave me £20 that I will use to buy materials for modifying the flight entrance into the bat house in the next week, or so. Thank you so much to all who contributed.

Sunday 22nd June [Warm and sunny]

I had an early morning walk at the lake and saw 4 Northern Ravens Corvus corax fly over and heard a Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis scalding me from the hedge on the corner of Green Lawn and Holt Bay.

This evening I walked a bat transect from Orchard Bay to Indian Country pines and was, in some ways, disappointed by the lack of echolocation calls. There were, however, plenty of bats on the wing as I made my way back to the start after completing the transect. I recorded just one Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii pass at Rugmoor Gate. A juvenile Tawny Owl Strix aluco was calling at Indian Country, that I saw in flight in the half light.

Monday 23rd June [Hot and sunny]

No news from the lake today.

I walked the penultimate stretch of the SWCP from Lynmouth, up Countisbury Hill to Porlock Weir (12.7 miles) this afternoon. Luckily much of the walk was in woodland, so I kept a bit cooler than had I been out in the baking sun. As I entered NT Glenthorne Cliff wood I heard a Wood Warbler sing three times, and during the walk heard no less than five others calling, one of which I managed to see. I also heard a Spotted Flycatcher giving it's 'iss-chuck' call and managed to get a good view of that too. So, both can go on the trip list now. There were loads of Grey Squirrels on the ground on the west-facing bank beside the path in the woods, and I can only conclude that they were taking in the late afternoon sunshine. I've never witnessed this behaviour before. Anyway, there's just one short section of the SWCP to go from Porlock Weir to Minehead (8.9 miles), but I've decided to leave that until Wednesday, when the weather looks set to be cloudy and a bit cooler. Then, I start the 'Summits of Somerset and Avon' (129 miles) which will take me from Minehead to Chepstow.

Tuesday 24th June [Warm and sunny]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening, and at dusk I heard it and possibly another calling in response.

I walked a bat transect with Georgie Hayworth along Butcombe Bank and the dam. There wasn't too much activity until we got to the last point at the south end of the dam, when there were bats all over the place.

Wednesday 25th June [Warm. High cloud then sun]

I did manage a late evening visit to the lake, but couldn't see or hear the Common Sandpiper(s).

I spent most of the afternoon walking the last stretch of the SWCP from Porlock Weir to Minehead, and then on as far as Dunster Station. I visited Hurlestone Point, a top sea-watching point for Somerset birders, then climbed the steep gradient of Hurlestone Combe and found myself walking the inland route, rather than the intended 'rugged' cliff-top route. Hey-ho! Anyway, the heather was in flower in the combe carpeting the hillside purple, and when I got to the flanks of Selworthy Beacon the view was certainly impressive. Some Lesser Redpolls flew over calling (the third successive day of the walk I'd heard them), and when I got to North Hill car park there were Exmoor ponies and Belted Galloway cattle grazing close by. The high cloud meant there were dozens of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies sunning themselves on the path, 'lighting' the way forward to Minehead esplanade where Celia was waiting to greet me with a bottle of fizzy water to celebrate my finishing this, the first section section of my end-to-end walk. As I was still feeling pretty good, we went onto the platform to see and photograph a prairie tank, before I headed out around the Warren to Dunster Station, my finish for the day (12.9 miles).

Thursday 26th June [Steady rain in the afternoon and evening]

No news from the lake today.

Back to the West Somerset coast again today for day 2 of the Summits of Somerset and Avon (SoSA), the next section of my end-to-end walk. It was still dry as I left Celia at Dunster Station, but by the time I started to climb out of the village onto Grabbist Hill, light rain was falling. By the time I got onto the ridge it was steady, and time to put my waterproofs on. The view of Minehead from atop the hill was well worth the 500' climb and when I got to Holes Corner I came upon a ♀ Roe Deer. I was tramping the Macmillan Way West at this point and followed it down into the lovely little hamlet of Wooton Courtenay and then on up towards the highest point in Somerset, Dunkery Beacon (1705'), a steady 3 mile pull. I was pleased to be up there for the first time, but a little disappointed to be loooking back down on Porlock Marsh because I'd made the huge detour to bag it. I decided to take the alternative option of heading straight down to Wheddon Cross rather than follow the route via Exford, which was even further out of my way. As I dropped down Mansley Combe I saw a Red Fox out on the prowl, and a Red Deer hind (our largest land mammal) grazing not more than a hundred metres away. On down into the valley of the River Avill before one more short stiff climb to Wheddon Cross at 12.6 miles, where I was glad to get out of my wet things.

Friday 27th June [Rain showers, some heavy.]

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall at lunchtime and I saw an adult (Western) Greylag Goose Anser anser anser at Rainbow Point. Then it poured down!

Saturday 28th June [Thundery showers and sunny spells]

There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening, and an interesting grey-backed ♂ Aythya off Peg's Point which I think is probably a Tufted x Pochard hybrid, though the light wasn't great when I was watching it. There has been an influx of mainly ♂♂ Aythyas as birds continue to arrive. I also saw 5 Gadwall Anas strepera at Rugmoor Bay, another indication of wildfowl on the move. A ♀ Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus with 2 little'uns moved off the road, and 2 Tawny Owl(ets) Strix aluco also flew in front of the car. Curiously, I also heard a ♂ Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca singing as dusk fell - second brood perhaps?

Sunday 29th June [Sunny and warm]

Having spent much of the day with Bath Naturalists Society on Ubley Warren, I didn't get down to the lake again until this evening. I picked out yesterdays suspected Aythya hybrid in Orchard Bay and saw a wing stretch from the Lodge which looked good for a ♂ LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis. I drove around to the North Shore, and at 2145 hrs or so, I got closer views and reckon it is one, although the fine bill detail was difficult to be sure about in the dark. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Monday 30th June [Cloudy with sunny spells. Warm.]

I managed to spend an hour by the lake between 1630-1730 hrs and can confirm that there are TWO grey-backed ♂ Lesser Scaup-like birds present. One is an adult ♂ LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis and the other, whilst superficially similar, has no obvious coarse vermiculations on the back, so is very likely to be a Tufted x Pochard hybrid, as suggested on the 28th. Viewing was exceedingly difficult this afternoon, but the LESSER SCAUP swam off towards Rugmoor Point just before I left for my tea, so might be more easily seen early evening from the north side of the lake. I need to get a picture, so will go back later. The hybrid bird went back into cover at Hellfire Corner as I left. This evening the LESSER SCAUP was feeding off Rugmoor Point until I left, but it was too far out to photograph.

The 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos were on the dam, and I was told of a summer-plumaged Dunlin Calidris alpina that was with them, annoyingly it had flown by the time I got there. The Western Greylag Goose Anser anser anser was still present, a juvenile Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus flew through, a Stock Dove Columba oenas was on the roadside at Bell's Bush and a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 5 juveniles was at Cheddar Water gorging themselves on adult caddis flies. John Harris saw a Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata fly past the Lodge just before 0700 hrs this morning.