BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

March 2010 News


Monday 1st March [Partly cloudy, with a SW breeze]

Jean and Roger Staples walked the length of Blagdon Lake today (12:00 - 15:00 hrs). The only bird of note that they saw was a male Scaup Aythya marila. They also saw the drake Aythya hybrid and counted 13 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus in the adjacent fields (per BOC Website).

Tuesday 2nd March [Sunny and dry with a variable light wind]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were both still present this morning, along with 32 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope near the dam and 2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus on the buoys.

Wednesday 3rd March [Cloudy with a bitter east to north-east wind]

No change today, the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were both still present this morning.

I have been putting together a list of early and late migrant dates for the lake over the last day or two and have discovered that the earliest date for Sand Martin Riparia riparia at the lake was 5th March 2007. So, I'll be there early in the morning, as usual, but I don't expect to see any, given the current weather conditions. The local 5-day forecast has a theme of sunshine with a northerly airflow, so a few birds may fight their way through during the next week, but equally I suspect we may have to wait a little longer this year.

Thursday 4th March [Bright with a bloomin' cold NE wind]

No surprises, no Sand Martins Riparia riparia today, or Greater Scaup Aythya marila for that matter. But, a couple of geese flew in over the dam, a Canada Goose Branta canadensis and Greylag Anser anser. Hopefully they haven't paired up, or we'll be scratching our heads over more odd looking wildfowl in the future.

I have compiled a list of early and late dates for those regular species that migrate through or summer / winter at the lake, but have excluded species that cannot reliably be dated due to individuals that are present when the bulk of their congeners have gone, or, those species that no longer visit on a regular basis e.g. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis, Corncrake Crex crex or even Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus.

 
Species Scientific Name
Early Date
Late Date
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
5th March 2007
29th October 1991
Garganey Anas querquedula
13th March 1960 & 1993
17th October 1993
House Martin Delichon urbicum
21st March 1992
12th October 1935
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
22nd March 2009
28th October 2001
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
22nd March 1938
14th September 1990
(Barn) Swallow Hirundo rustica
23rd March 1959 & 2008
9th October 1938 & 2005
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
27th March 2003
27th September 1969
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
29th March 1953
15th October 2005
(Eurasian) Hobby Falco subbuteo
8th April 1997
8th October 2001
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
9th April 1989 & 1995
28th September 2008
(Common) Swift Apus apus
18th April 2004 & 2006
14th September 1935
(Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
20th April 2008 & 2009
19th September 1988
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
22nd April 2000 & 2006
27th August 2001

Friday 5th March [Bright and sunny with a cold westerly]

Top End was interesting this evening with a Little Egret Egretta garzetta rising out of the trees and flying off (probably to Chew), a Pike Esox lucius hanging in the water in front of the hide in the emergent vegetation with its caudal (tail) and dorsal fins out of the water, a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing to the right of the hide, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing, a couple of pairs of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and at least 20 Redwings Turdus iliacus flying in to roost.

I also saw the drake Aythya hybrid, a pair of Goosander Mergus merganser off Wood Bay Point, 4 pairs of Mute Swan Cygnus olor, 83 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 45 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, the regular pair of Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus and lots of large gulls on the farm fields beside the lake. I have noticed a gradual build-up of large gulls over the past week, I assume them to be migrants returning from somewhere south, perhaps Iberia or the coast of Africa. There were quite good numbers of Herring Gull Larus argentatus among the feeding flock as well.

Late March and early April has traditionally been the time for the passage of larger gulls and two very dark mantled birds seen at close range by Bernard King on 2nd April 1956 were considered to be of the Scandinavian form Larus fuscus fuscus, but this was probably a case of misidentification and may have referred to Larus fuscus intermedius which commonly migrate through Britain. The nominate form migrates south east from northern Scandanavia as a rule. Spring birds that arrive in flocks at the lake do, very often, look very dark mantled and it would be good to get some ringing records to help understand which forms are involved. I hope they continue to feed in the fields for a few days, it might give me a chance to check them out.

Saturday 6th March [Mostly cloudy with a westerly breeze that moved through north to east as the day drew to a close]

It was flat calm and a beautiful sunny morning early on. The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were preening well out off the dam and the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope flock were feeding on the grass of Butcombe Bank. Again there was no sign of any Sand Martins Riparia riparia.

I went off to the Forest of Dean for the day, but it started raining before I got there and I didn't see any Northern Goshawks Accipiter gentilis from New Fancy View but did see several Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata on Mallards Pike Lake and Hawfinches Coccothraustes coccothraustes at Parkend Church and Speech House. There were more Eurasian Nuhatches Sitta europaea around than you could shake a stick at! I don't think I've ever seen so many in a single day.

Sunday 7th March [Glorious sunshine and blue sky with a cool easterly breeze]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and drake Aythya hybrid were feeding well out off the dam and there were 30 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope by the dam and a drake in Butcombe Bay. The Western Greylag Anser anser anser that I saw fly in on Thursday was with the 90 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on Rainbow Point when I walked one way and on its own on Holt Farm fields on the way back. Intruigingly, it has orange rather than pink legs. I saw 2 pairs of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca at Top End and counted 5 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. The Mute Swans Cygnus olor are back down to 3 pairs and there is some fierce chasing and posturing going on as they try to re-establish their territories. There were several pairs of Common Buzzards Buteo buteo thermaling over the lakeside woods in the sunshine today.

Greylag Goose Anser anser & Common Buzzard Buteo buteo © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I managed to add a new bird to the year list (76 spp) when I spotted what was presumably the returning / semi-resident adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at Top End with 2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus. I have included the picture below because, although rather distant, it shows the classic broad black band across primary 5 (count from P10 inwards) and the small white mirror on primary 9 on the spread lower wing - aside from the yellow legs (which aren't necessarily diagnostic). There's a cracking identification article on Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans in the March edition of British Birds bringing together all the latest pointers to help you pick one out in the crowd. Although rare in the south-west, it can only be a matter of time before one is found at the lake.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, Top End © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I walked back up Dark Lane to the village on the way home and saw lots of Ramsons Allium ursinum coming up on the banks.

Monday 8th March [Scattered clouds but with the same cool NE breeze]

A quick peek over the dam this morning with my binoculars resulted in no sightings of Greater Scaup Aythya marila or Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. Richard Mielcarek rang this evening to say he saw what looked like the Blagdon birds off the dam at Chew today, so we speculated that perhaps they're commuting. We'll see.

Tuesday 9th March [More of the same, sunshine and a cold NE wind]

No sign of the Greater Scaup Aythya marila and very few birds at the dam end, though I did see the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope flock.

Wednesday 10th March [Cloudy and cold with a NE wind]

Again, no sign of the Greater Scaup Aythya marila or any other migrants from the dam this morning. The forecast is for more northerly winds until the beginning of next week when the forecast is for them to swing around to the south. Maybe they'll bring a bit of warmth and some birds.

Thursday 11th March [Dry with scattered clouds on a NNE breeze]

At last, a sign of Spring. A Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita sang from the tree tops in the garden of the Inspection House while I checked over the dam end of the lake. What a welcome, if somewhat repetetive, tune. Click here to hear what it sounds like (courtesy of BirdForum which is worth a look if you want more info on this tiny migrant leaf warbler). I haven't included Chiffchaff in the migrant dates table below (see 4th March) because some birds overwinter and it is almost impossible to know if you are recording a new bird or a lingering bird in the Spring. In this instance, I'm fairly sure no Chiffchaffs wintered at Blagdon Lake this winter, though they may have wintered nearby at either Blagdon or Ubley Sewage Works around the filter beds. No other exciting finds to report though I'm afraid.

Friday 12th March [Variable breeze largely from the north, with cloud and showers]

There was a decent flock of 66 feeding Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata in Butcombe Bay with another 35 in Rugmoor Bay. This is an impressive increase in numbers suggestive of their being on migration, unless they were displaced by the Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis cull at Chew Valley Lake during the week. 33 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope were feeding on the dam, 73 Canada Geese Branta canadensis (no sign of the Greylag Anser anser) were on Rainbow Point, the adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at Top End, along with 3 Gadwall Anas strepera, 10 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser that flew in at dusk.

Saturday 13th March [Sunny and warm]

We did the WeBS count this morning and rather surprisingly refound the oh so elusive Smew Mergellus albellus redhead deep in the bottom of Butcombe Bay. We also added two more species to the year list, a female Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea pottering about on the spillway and a pair of cronking Northern Ravens Corvus corax circling over Butcombe Bay, with possibly another pair over Ubley Hatchery later. Having made the large count of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata yesterday evening we only saw 14 this morning. I heard a Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus singing at Home Bay and a Goldcrest Regulus regulus singing along the Lodge entrance drive. A pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser were noted copulating in Orchard Bay (10 individuals counted) and we saw 4 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus (2 adults, a 3rd-winter and a 1st-winter) and the adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. The rest of the count is on the WeBS Counts page.

It's a great shame to have to report finding the mutilated carcass of a drake Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope along the Butcombe Bank footpath, in my opinion, the result of having been killed by a dog. Why can't owners keep their pets under close control?

The sunshine brought out the golden, glossy, petals of Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria and Dandelion Taraxacum agg. and I saw 5 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus and 5 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus feeding quietly on what was a lovely spring day.

Sunday 14th March [Sunny and quite warm]

The local PTA had arranged a walk around the lake today so I paid a quick visit to the dam end before the disturbance began. I couldn't see the Smew Mergellus albellus, as usual, but there were 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser (two drakes) in Butcombe Bay.

Last night 2 Badgers Meles meles came to eat the nuts and sunflower hearts we put out for them by the back door and this morning a female Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla was on the sunflower feeders. Blue Tits Parus caeruleus have been going in and out of the box on the window sill, so perhaps they'll breed in there this year.

Having been put off spending any time at the lake today, I went down to Weymouth. A visit to The Fleet to see the Bufflehead Bucephala albeola, keeping the company of a female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, was followed by a trip to Portland Bill to see if any migrants had come in over the last few days. Martin Cade told us there had been virtually no visible migration yet. From the Bill I went to Radipole Lake RSPB where I saw the drake Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus, lots of Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and, surprisingly, no Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus.

Monday 15th March [Sunny and warm'ish]

A quick look over the dam this morning but nothing to report.

Tuesday 16th March [Sunny and warm]

When I drew the curtains this morning there was a thick pall of mist in the valley (rising to about 250 or 300 feet) and it was too dense to see through down at the lake. I've often wondered if the reflected light of the moon on a clear night might attract overflying water birds in, which then call and listen for replies before flying on or landing. A covering of thick mist over the lake would block the reflection and birds would just fly on oblivious to the fact that the lake was below. If there were any migrants on the move last night, they dont appear to have dropped in. I drove around to Rugmoor and over the dam this evening but didn't spot anything out of the ordinary. There are still some groups of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata feeding around the lake and a few Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at the dam end.

Thursday 18th March [Warmer today but cloudy with some drizzly rain late this afternoon]

Still nothing worthy of comment on my brief visits to the lake over the last couple of days, so it's a bit ironic to have to report seeing my first Sand Martins Riparia riparia of the year as I drove past Heron's Green at Chew this morning! At least 3 flew in front of the car heading west at around 0730 hrs. I haven't received any reports of migrants from anyone else visiting the lake, but with the wind due to stay southerly veering to the south-east over the weekend, surely I must catch up with some soon. The trickle should become a flood tomorrow or over the weekend. Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe, Sand Martins Riparia riparia and Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica have all been reported from around the local area in the last few days.

Friday 19th March [Sunny start but soon clouded over with a south easterly breeze]

Two visits today but still no Sand Martins Riparia riparia for me. However, during a long discussion with Richard Mielcarek about the 'Scaupy' things at Chew Valley Lake, he mentioned that Roger Partner saw 20+ Sand Martins at Blagdon Lake on Thursday. So now we start looking for Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. There were still 18 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at the dam today but this number will probably drop when fishing starts next week. I saw a pair of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos doing what comes naturally in Spring (as I did yesterday) and more unexpectedly a Carrion Crow Corvus corone despatching a Toad Bufo bufo on the dam before carrying it off - I thought Toads didn't have too many predators and interestingly BWP mentions Frog Rana temporaria among the listed prey items of Crows but not Common Toad. A Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealed from Pipe Bay reeds while I was checking out the Aythya hybrid.

It seems like the Scaupy things at Chew are quite possibly the two birds that appeared after the bad weather at Blagdon and spent part of January and February well off the dam at Blagdon. I don't think the bird that more closely resembles a drake Scaup Aythya marila is the 1st-winter drake that was present before Christmas though, so the plot thickens. As I said to Rich, how are we going to decide what is and what isn't a Scaup at the Bristol Water reservoirs unless we see them at point blank range? Scaup ducks are hard enough, but if drakes are going to give even the more experienced duck watchers so much trouble....... help!

Then, to cap it all, I saw a sleeping bird in front of the Lodge in the rain this evening that had a dark grey back. I eventually went home and got my scope and spent 20 minutes grilling it before deciding it was another drake Aythya hybrid. I think it's the drake Lesser Scaup look-a-like that spent some time last Spring at the lake.

Saturday 20th March [Dismal drizzle, grey sky and a SE breeze] The Vernal Equinox

At long last, I spotted at least 27 Sand Martins Riparia riparia feeding long the south shore between Wood Bay and Hellfire Corner but they soon disappeared. A lone Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita sang in the copse by the Lodge and that was the extent of the migrants today! A pair of Goosander Mergus merganser linger still at Wood Bay Point and 2 pairs of Teal Anas crecca and a pair of Gadwall Anas strepera were further towards Top End. At least 2 pairs of Raven Corvus corax were circling over Top End. There was no sign of the new Aythya hybrid and with two being seen together at Chew, I guess it's flown back there (thank goodness).

The Hellfire Corner rookery seems to have moved to Holt Copse this year where 8 nests are being built and there are an additional 33 nests being built on Home Bay Point.

Flowers are starting to poke their heads up now the milder weather has arrived and I saw Sweet Violet Viola odorata, Daisy Bellis perennis, Primrose Primula vulgaris and Colt's-foot Tusilago farfara at the lake today.

Sean Davies counted 4 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 17 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, as did I, but he also added 22 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and reckoned on there being about 30 Sand Martins.

A female Siskin Carduelis spinus visited the garden feeders this morning.

Sunday 21st March [Partly cloudy but warm with a westerly wind turning southerly in the late afternoon]

There were lots of raptors up on the thermals being generated by the sunshine today, including Common Buzzards Buteo buteo, Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, Peregrine Falco peregrinus and Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. I grabbed the following rather distant shot of a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Carrion Crow Corvus corone.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus & Carrion Crow Corvus corone, Butcombe Bank © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

There were no hirundines at the lake but I did see my first butterflies of the year, 3 Small Tortoiseshells Aglais urticae, one in Station Road and one each at Cheddar Water and Pipe Bay. I saw a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Ubley Hatchery and rather amazingly, a Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus (later identified as a Bar-headed x Snow Goose hybrid by Joern Lehmhus) on Rainbow Point. There were 52 Bar-headed Geese at 18 localities in eight counties in 2000 (Rowell et al. 2004) and this is is the first at Blagdon since 2007.

Sean Davies reported 7 Sand Martins Riparia riparia earlier in the day, with 19 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End and 2 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus phylloscopus.

Bar-headed Anser indicus x Snow Goose Anser caerulescens, Rainbow Point © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

I spotted a Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus carrying a feather at one lakeside location, but it flew before I could focus the camera. I guess it was carrying it as potential nesting material. Finally, I saw what are probably the 2 'scaupy-things' as they have become known while on a sojourn at Chew Valley Lake recently. I believe Rich Andrews got some shots yesterday and as they were fairly close to the dam late this afternoon at Blagdon I also took some pix.

Drake Aythya hybrid (rear) and Greater Scaup Aythya marila, Dam © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Neither of these birds are the Aythya hybrid I noted on Friday that looks very similar to a Lesser Scaup and that I photographed at Cheddar in spring 2008. Both of these birds have mantle colouring similar to a Greater Scaup (silvery-grey at distance) with vermiculations consistent with Greater Scaup. Clearly the rear bird is an hybrid with its odd head shape, but I still see the nearer bird as a Greater Scaup with a typically-shaped head (no evidence of a rear bump here) and nail consistent with Greater Scaup. If this is the same bird that is being called a 'scaupy-thing' due to an abnormal head shape, I saw no evidence this afternoon to persuade me not to call it a Greater Scaup - However, I would like to photograph it alongside a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula to compare bill shape and size. I was musing how much genetic variation there would need to be to give the head shape of the bird Rich A has pictured on his website and if it would actually qualify the bird as being genetically different enough from a Greater Scaup for us to label it as an Aythya hybrid as I walked home back up the hill. What a nightmare these things are!

Monday 22nd March [Cloudy with showers and a cold southerly wind]

The Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid were still present today as the fishermen lined the banks for the first time this season. I couldn't find the Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus with the few remaining Canada Geese Branta canadensis but there was a single Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (the earliest ever date at Blagdon - see below) with 50 plus Sand Martins Riparia riparia in front of the Lodge at 1730 hrs this evening. The number of Wigeon Anas penelope has dwindled to 11 on the dam.

Tuesday 23rd March [Easterly wind that turned southerly with cloud and rain]

During a quick visit this morning I saw a small flock of hirundines off the Lodge but didn't go through them in the short time available. Unfortunately, I was at work until well after dark this evening so didn't visit the lake again. There were 37 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and a pair of Gadwall Anas strepera in Holt Bay, a singing Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at the Inspection House and 7 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope on the dam.

Some 208.3 mm of rainfall was recorded in November, against a standard average for the WHOLE month of 94 mm. Over 67 mm of that fell in the last week. December saw 71.2 mm. against a 102 mm average. January's total was 62.2mm, or 66 % of the average. February's rainfall totalled 57.4 mm, 86% of the average expected (per Bristol Water website). The lake is 97% full.

Wednesday 24th March

No visit to the lake today due to work commitments.

Thursday 25th March [Blustery squalls on a southerly wind]

I heard my first singing Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus in Holt Copse and 5 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita along the south shore. There were 9 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at the dam, 35 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 15 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. The 2 drake Aythya ducks were feeding right against the dam today but I didn't have time to photograph them unfortunately. Perhaps I'll get another chance tomorrow. The obvious hybrid did definitely show a flatish looking head while feeding but I'm still not convinced about the more obvious Greater Scaup Aythya marila being a hybrid. Both birds exhibited a classic green gloss to their head feathers and the photo below allows bill comparison with a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, albeit the head is turned slightly away. There were no hirundines over the lake.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila with Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, Cheddar Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Friday 26th March [Cloud on blustery southerlies]

Nothing much to report on the early morning visit, but at lunchtime I saw 3 Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus (probably all adult winter, but one had a lovely rosy hue on its breast) drop in briefly around the bathing 33 Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 402 Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus (mostly adult) and 18 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus. A Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus sang from the Inspection House garden while I was 'grilling' the gulls and I saw a total of 5 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. There were still 9 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at the dam, 35 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 5 pairs of Mute Swan Cygnus olor and 2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus. The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and his Aythya hybrid pal were at Cheddar Water but not close enough to photograph. Unexpectedly, when I walked the south side late in the afternoon I saw a pair of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus at Holt Bay doing the weed dance. Great Crests usually nest very late at Blagdon (typically July) so this was an early spring surprise. Moments later I spotted a Common Coot Fulica atra carrying nest material, also in Holt Bay.

Wood anemones Anemone nemorosa are in flower at Top End.

Saturday 27th March [Sunny intervals on a cool & rising westerly wind]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and his Aythya hybrid pal were in Cheddar Water just off the dam until they were moved by boat angers. Aside from an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and 7 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita there was very little else worthy of comment.

Sunday 28th March [Westerly breeze with sunny intervals]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid were off the Butcombe shore today. The numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus are increasing, with 113 when I arrived and 638 bathing late in the afternoon. There were reasonable numbers of Herring Gull Larus argentatus of all ages, unlike the LBBs which were almost entirely adults. At Top End there were several Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, 3 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata and 5 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Some additional Canada Geese Branta canadensis have joined the usual flock bringing the total up to 57. I saw a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae along Burmah Road.

There appears to have been a significant movement of migrant passerines overnight and I counted 14 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and 2 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla along the south shore. Today saw millions of midges on the wing, providing plenty of food for the insectivorous warblers, so it was slightly surprising that there were no hirundines over the lake (since Tuesday).

Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Monday 29th March [Light SE breeze with showers]

The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid were at Cheddar Water this evening. There was also a group of about 40 hirundines feeding over the aerators most of which were Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and at least one each of House Martin Delichon urbicum and Sand Martin Riparia riparia. There were 63 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 8 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (one drake) in Orchard Bay.

Tuesday 30th March [Falling temperature with rain & sleet on a strengthening westerly wind]

Your intrepid reporter braved the horrid weather this evening and found some even more plucky summer visitors feeding over the lake. There must have been 400+ Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and 50+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia. The drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Aythya hybrid were at Cheddar Water but I think a few Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula may have left overnight, though as there was not a single fisherman at the lake they may just have spread out to feed, having been couped up in Holt Bay and the more inaccessible areas for the last few days. There were 54 Canada Geese Branta canadensis feeding on the fields with increasing numbers of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos flighting off the lake to feed with them on the new grass.

Wednesday 31st March [Cold NW wind with wintery squalls & the occasional snow flurry]

Another miserable stormy day but there was a small flock of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica feeding in the sleet this morning and the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and Aythya hybrid were still at Cheddar Water. This evening there were many more Barn Swallows 400+ and again at least one each of Sand Martin Riparia riparia and House Martin Delichon urbicum. I saw a Badger Meles meles at Home Bay long before it got dark, and we had at least 2 or 3 visiting the patio at home this evening as well. I hope it warms up over the weekend, it was bitterly cold at the lake today.