BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

June 2015 News


Tuesday 2nd June [Wild, windy and wet.]

The Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood and one of the Canada Goose Branta canadensis broods (4 juvs.) seem to be thriving despite the awful weather, but I can't see the lone juvenile of the other Canada brood any longer. Canada Goose numbers are building, as reported last week, and I counted 133 this morning. No wind-blown seabirds or off-course migrants were noted, but I did see a familiar Mute Swan standing on the cill of the spillway, green PZ9. I first saw it at Blagdon on 23th Nov. 2011, after it was released at Chew Valley Lake on 25th Feb. 2008 having originally been taken into the RSPCA Wildlife Centre at West Hatch by South Wales Swan Rescue from Cosmeston Lakes, Glamorgan, suffering with enteritis.

Celia and I spent the weekend in Amsterdam, a lovely little city that's built around an amazing network of canals. Art galleries, dinner at a jazz club, lots of walking and tram rides, preceded a final morning cruise during which I saw a number of water birds, including a pair of Egyptian Geese. There's also a substantial population of Rose-ringed Parakeets around town, but the weirdest sight, were the Grey Herons walking around the among stall holders of Albert Cuypmarkt, where judging by the lingering smell, at least some of the stalls had been selling fish - perhaps the herons were used to hand-outs?

Wednesday 3rd June [Sunny and warm]

The Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock was on Holt Farm again today and I spotted the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus in the same field close by. There was a small flock of 6♂ Common Pochards Aythya ferina and a separate pair keeping themselves to themselves in Wood Bay. ♂ Mallards Anas platyrhynchos are starting to look really grotty now, and numbers of them and a few Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula are hauling out on the dam during the day as they moult into their non-breeding plumage. During my visit I also saw Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus and Badger Meles meles.

Thursday 4th June [Sunny and warm]

I didn't visit the lake during the day, but went down at dusk as I had an all-night bat trapping session planned. I did hear the Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus calling at some point in the darkness, and was amazed that the Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus at Home and Pipe Bays sang ALL NIGHT without let up. It was light when we left the lakeside and they were still going! Details of the bat trapping session on the Bat News Page.

Friday 5th June [Sunny periods, breezy and warm.]

Fisheries warden John Harris told me he's seen the Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus brood (from Long Bay) in Home Bay in the last day or two, which might explain why I hadn't tracked them down yet. Anyway, this evening I saw the family near the Lodge and spotted 2 juveniles, though there may have been more riding on the back of mum or dad. I spotted 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock as well. It was still pretty windy early evening, and there were hundreds of House Martins Delichon urbicum feeding near the Lodge and thousands of Common Swifts Apus apus feeding at all levels over the entire lake.

Saturday 6th June [Mainly sunny]

I didn't visit the lake today, but I did receive an email from my neighbour Alastair to tell me a Red Kite Milvus milvus had flown over our homes in Blagdon village at 1705 hrs heading SE.

I went to Chew Valley Lake this evening for a bat trapping session with Chris Barrinton and Ken Anstey. See Bat News.

Sunday 7th June [Sunny and warm. Little wind for a change.]

Not much to report from a visit around midday other than the usual problems with 'numpties' who brought swimming gear and canoes to the lakeside! The meadows were busy with flying insects including my first adult Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina and 6-spot Burnets Zygaena filipendulae of the year. There were lots of Common Blues Polyommatus icarus too, which appear to be having a good year. This evening the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were on Holt Farm with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock, the 7 Common Pochards Aythya ferina in Wood Bay and the Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood in Holt Bay, though they only have 5 surviving cygnets now.

Monday 8th June [Sunny and warm]

I was beside the lake for 3 hours this evening, but there isn't too much to report. We have a second brood of Mute Swans Cygnus olor (5 juveniles), the pair of adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 168 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End of note. I watched a Red Fox Vulpes vulpes scrape itself a spot to curl up and go to sleep at the water's edge in the late sunshine, which was rather cute. I also had the rather unpleasant task of clearing up the mess left by yesterday's 'numpties' too. I had to drag an inflatable canoe (presumably punctured) about a mile to a skip, and clear up their litter which had been just left by the water on Butcombe Bank. What's a matter with these people?

Tuesday 9th June [Breezy with sunny spells]

Same old, same old this evening, with the pair of adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus still present. Most of my day was spent surveying at a private site near Somerton with Somerset Invertebrates Group.

Wednesday 10th June [Breezy and sunny]

Again, just the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus of note today. Most of my day was spent with Ken Anstey and Sonia Reali at Golden Valley NR, Wick, putting up some new bat boxes. Part payback for the considerable help Ken gave me last winter at Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes with our bat projects.

Thursday 11th June [Overcast, with some sun, and breezy.]

Well, it's 0830 hrs and I've already spent 3 hours by the lake - mainly to do my second BBS survey. I saw a first for my square during a survey, yes, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, and the first 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus of the summer. I'd hoped for a Red Kite given that over 180 (yes, 180) were reported in the Nanjizal/Polgigga area of Cornwall yesterday! Perhaps, we might get some through later today with the bad weather moving up from the south west. I was also treated to a wonderful distraction display by a ♂ Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus as I walked along the road at Holt Bay. It landed just in front of me with its wings out and tail spread and hopped along in front for about 50 metres, presumably to draw me away from a nest or young in the hedge beside the road. I've never seen this behaviour by a bunting before and will have to look in BWP to see if it has been mentioned there. There were stacks of Common Swifts Apus apus and House Martins Delichon urbicum over the water as I left, but where are all the Barn Swallows this year? I don't seem to be seeing anything like the usual numbers locally.

Friday 12th June [Close and thundery]

I walked the south side of the lake this morning and saw 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo over Bell's Bush, and at least 5 (2 adults and 3 immatures) Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus over the centre of the lake, the first returning birds of the summer. I haven't heard a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca singing for a few weeks, but there was one somewhere near Ubley STW. Flyover birds included a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (heading south) and a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (heading west). At the Lodge there was a family of Mute Swans Cygnus olor (a pair and 2 cygnets) but I'm not sure if they're a 3rd brood or one of the earlier pairs who've lost some young. Judging by their size, I'd guess it's a 3rd brood though. This evening, as the thundery weather continues to brew, I thought it would be worth another look around and saw 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on the ploughed fields of Holt Farm, as well as the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus in one of their pastures. Tomorrow, I'm due to carry out the WeBS Count (unless the weather is awful).

Saturday 13th June [Overcast and misty]

I carried out the WeBS count this morning and found an adult Common Tern Sterna hirundo resting on a buoy off the North Shore, but as I've been reporting recently, there are very few waterbirds present, although it was nice to see a small influx group of Common Pochards Aythya ferina which included a really curious looking ♀ bird. I wondered about a Ring-necked Duck when I first saw it, then a Common Pochard x Red-crested Pochard hybrid crossed my mind. It's probably just a Common Pochard though... albeit it has a pale face, dark crown and nape, with pale feathering around the base of the bill (except above it).

Sunday 14th June [Continuing warm]

The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus have been hanging around the Lodge for the last few days and I can confirm there are 3 broods of Mute Swan Cygnus olor (down to 5, 4, and 2 juvs). Mark Hynam texted to tell me there were 2 Eurasian Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus on the dam at 1525 hrs. They were still flying around occasionally and piping loudly right up until dusk. I saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo fly over this evening and Mark saw 3 earlier in the afternoon.

Monday 15th June [Hot and sunny]

There was ne're a breath of wind on the lake this evening as the sun went down. I spent an hour looking around and arrived as 7 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flew west over the dam. The 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were on the platform in Home Bay, there were 5 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm, and a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting over Top End. I chatted with Alan Herring, who was fishing off Rainbow Point, and was amazed when a head popped out of the water in front of him -surely it was an Otter Lutra lutra? I kept scanning and sure enough I was able to watch an Otter swim across to Ash Tree and along North Shore through my telescope.

I spent most of the day at Merthyr Mawr NNR with Robin Williams exploring the dune system flora and fauna.

Tuesday 16th June [Warm and sunny]

I set out to twitch the two south coast yankee waders this morning but felt unwell by the time I got to Warminster so came home. This evening I managed an hour by the lake and saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus and 4 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm.

Wednesday 17th June [Overcast and cool with occasional drizzle]

It wasn't especially pleasant down by the lake today, the cool conditions and strong wind made finding birds and invertebrates difficult. There was an adult Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on Home Bay Point all afternoon and evening, and I spotted a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo chasing a House Martin Delichon urbicum at Top End (the martin escaped, I think). I didn't see the Egyptian Geese, but fisheries ranger Mike told me he'd seen them while out fishing in a boat on his day off.

The water level has dropped by at least 2 feet from top level and I reckon that the lake is about 80-85% full. If it continues to drop at the present rate, we might just get an autumn wader passage this year - here's hoping!

Thursday 18th June [Warm and sunny]

Sorry for the late news, but I didn't get in until gone 0100 hrs this morning having been called out on a Voluntary Bat Roost Visit (see Bat News) to a grounded Noctule Bat Nyctalus noctula at Sand Bay during the afternoon. I arrived at the lake late morning and saw a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus fly through to the west calling, while waiting to meet up with Robin Prytherch, Ed Drewitt and Chris Sperring of the Mendip Osprey Group at the Lodge for a day around the lakes looking for potential nest pole sites. We identified eleven potential sites, and I'll put them to Roy Dennis for comment before we get into discussions with land owners and look at sourcing materials and funding to take the project forward. On a negative note, a farmer decided to drive his cattle through an impossibly small gap by my parked car while we were out, resulting in damage that I'm going to have to get repaired. Ho hum!

Friday 19th June [Breezy with sunny spells]

I had a quick look around early this afternoon before I have to head into Bristol to collect the bat that was grounded yesterday for (hopeful) release tonight. The only notable bird was a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus on the west end of Green Lawn. It could, I suppose, be the same bird I saw yesterday.

Saturday 20th June [Mainly cloudy with a stiff breeze]

Melanie Patch reported hearing a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing briefly at Top End this morning.

I didn't visit the lake today due to continuing work with the Noctule Bat Nyctalus noctula that I have in care. We tried to fly her again this evening, but she wasn't having it! Will we get her away before the gives birth?

Sunday 21st June [Sunny and breezy] Summer Solstice

Sean Davies sent me this news from an early visit to the lake this morning: ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus calling and seen in flight at Top End. Initially from the tall tree c100m east of hide, and then from the dense patch of willows at the end of the lake. Also, a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at Green Lawn, and a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo at Burmah Road. Cheers, Sean.

This evening I heard the Cuckoo singing from Indian Country, saw the Oystercatcher on the floating platform in Home Bay, and saw the 2 Egyptian Geese at the west end of Green Lawn. In addition, I saw 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on the 'ploughed' field of Holt Farm. We had a group board sailing in Butcombe Bay too!

This evening Chris Barrington came out with Ce and I, and we finally managed to get the Noctule back into the wild at Worlebury Woods just under a mile and a half from where she was grounded. What a relief! See pics.

Monday 22nd June [Early drizzle then sunny spells]

Yesterdays Cuckoo brought my species total up to 110 for the patch in 2015. At the end of May, I was only in 7th place in the Patchwork Challenge Inland South League, unsurprisingly well behind leader Tom Raven who has Shapwick Heath / Ham Wall as his 3 sq km patch.

Well, what do you know, this evening I managed to catch up with one of the species I missed on Spring passage. An Osprey Pandion haliaetus was over Top End hunting at 1930 hrs and was still around at 2020 hrs, when it may have roosted in the pines at Indian Country. Also noted were the Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus and a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus singing where I heard one earlier in the Spring - so presumably a local breeder still on territory. Melanie Patch reported a pair of Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting over Rugmoor and Top End late this evening.

Tuesday 23rd June [Sunny and warm]

This evening's bird news includes the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus (per Mark Hynam), the Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, a singing ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a ♂ Aythya hybrid (probably the regular Pochard x Tufted), and 106 Canada Geese Branta canadensis that look like they've probably started their moult.

After spending the morning checking dormouse boxes on Mendip with Ken Anstey, we went down to the lakeside to put up 6 dormouse boxes, the start of what I hope will become a monitoring scheme to see how abundant and widespread they are. Then, we decided to check the Bat House, and we're delighted to be able to report, we've had at least one Pipistrelle sp. roosting inside, judging by the droppings we found on the floor. Georgie Hayworth walked bat transect #5 and I walked bat transect #1, the recordings of which I've yet to analyze.

Wednesday 24th June [Sunny spells]

I was out with Somerset Invertebrates Group at Priddy Mineries for much of the afternoon, but received this from Mervyn Pearce: ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at 1430 hrs from Indian Country pines, Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo 1450 hrs at Top End, large mixed flock of birds behind the hide with Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus, Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major, Coal Tit Periparus ater and a warbler I couldn't get to grips with. 4 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus.

I visited in the evening and saw a Hobby at Top End and 9 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm.

Thursday 25th June [Sunny and hot]

I had a look around this afternoon, but the only comment I made in my notebook was to record the increase in Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula numbers at Top End. In addition, there was a report by Steve Hale on Avon Birds of 82 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, 9 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, and 2 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea.

Friday 26th June [Mainly overcast and warm with occasional light rain]

Not much to report today. I counted the two Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula flocks which totalled 136, and saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus on the dam. At dusk I went over to Chew Valley Lake to carry out a bat roost count.

Saturday 27th June [Warm and sunny]

This evening there were 7 adult ♂ Common Scoters Melanitta nigra until 2120 hrs at least - no doubt the Chew birds. Sorry for not tweeting out the news earlier but I forgot both my phone and notebook! Also, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were on the dam, 8 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm and Steve Hale reported a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus (he didn't specify, but presumably the ♂ that has been present for a while).

Pyramidal Orchids Anacamptis pyramidalis © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Sunday 28th June [Damp early, sunny spells later.]

No sign of the Scoters this evening, as expected, but the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were on the dam, the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was still singing occasionally at Top End, and I spotted a Eurasian Hobby Falco Subbuteo sitting in a tree. There were loads of Common Swifts Apus apus over the water too.

Monday 29th June [Hot and sunny]

Another quiet day, but 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus were on the dam late on.

Fellow bat worker Antonio Moreno came over to join me on a bat transect this evening. There wasn't the usual level of activity, possibly due to the bright moon and birthing season, but we had lots of Noctule Nyctalus noctula calls and at the very end (1.5 hrs after sunset), around Holt Copse, all 3 Pipistrelle spp. and some Myotis calls. We saw a Field Vole Microtus agrestis briefly while on the transect, and afterwards we heard food-begging calls by a juvenile Tawny Owl Strix aluco, and I saw an adult fly over the Spillway towards the youngster.

Tuesday 30th June [Very hot and sunny]

Today, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus had dropped in on Home Bay Point, and there were 2 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying about. Later, I saw the 2 adult Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus on the dam again. It was clear there were more Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula than I counted on 26th June so I counted them again, and totalled 182 (an increase of 46). I also counted 105 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on the lake, the same total I had on this months WeBS count.