BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

March 2016 News


Tuesday 1st March [Wet then windy]

A late, late visit to the lake saw the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis roosting with a raft of Aythya ducks out of the wind behind Wood Bay Point, and I heard the call of an Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca at Top End as I was locking the Top End gate.

Wednesday 2nd March [Wintery showers]

I didn't visit the lake today, I was doing bat work. Sorry, I don't have any news from anyone else who might have visited.

Thursday 3rd March [Sunny and cool]

There was no sign of any spring migrants yet, other than large gulls, despite the mild winter, but the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were hanging on in there, as was the single Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca at Top End.

We've still got Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla coming to the garden daily.

Shortly, I will be going to Trinidad on my third expedition with the Trinibats team, so I won't be visiting the lake for most of March. I will have internet access while I'm there, so if you have news or sightings at the lake, please let me know by email and I'll continue to post the blog for the regular readers. I'd be especially interested in earliest dates of migrants, of course. I will also post news from Trinidad, so please continue to watch this space!

Friday 4th March [Sunny with a cold breeze]

It took a little while, but I spotted all 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis at lunchtime. They were all feeding on their own, so it was a while before I could be sure I'd seen all of them. The single Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca remains at Top End. There was also quite a gathering of gulls, including a couple of hundred Common Gulls Larus canus, but I didn't spot anything exciting among them.

Sunday 6th March [Mainly sunny but still cool]

No sign of any Sand Martins, but the 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were all visible from the Top end hide. The lone Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca was at Top End, and I saw at least a single Brambling Fringilla montifringilla among a finch flock feeding in the big field behind the hide. Then, before leaving site by the Ubley gate I watched a Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret feeding on some weed seeds beside the road.

Tuesday 8th March

It is pre-opening day for the fishing season ticket holders at Blagdon today, so birders will find the gates open. Wednesday there will be no fishing, so I'm not sure if you will find the gates open, and then the angling season starts in earnest on Thursday 10th March, so it will be open for permit holders (angling and birding) from then onwards. I am on the plane to Trinidad today, so expect updates from there from Wednesday, plus any news I'm sent from the lake. Looking forward to some warmth, sunshine and photographing hummingbirds on the balcony!

Wednesday 9th March

TRINIDAD DIARY

I was sitting on the verandah watching 3 species of hummingbirds (Black-throated Mango, Blue-chinned Sapphire and White-necked Jacobin) come to the feeders this morning, then took a walk around the gardens and saw a couple more (Tufted Coquette and Ruby-topaz). Overhead there were Black and Turkey Vultures, and a single Plumbeous Kite. Bananaquits and Ruddy Ground Doves were nesting beside the cabin and there was a steady stream of tanagers including Palm, Blue-grey, Silver-beaked and White-lined moving through the trees. A Great Kiskadee was hawking insects around the lake, briefly joined by a Black-tailed Tityra, and the Wattled Jacanas were ever-present as you'd expect at a place called Hacienda Jacana! A Purple Gallinule put in an appearance as did a Green Heron before people were up and about. It was nice to see a pair of Southern Lapwings in the grounds and the Crested Oropendolas tending their huge hanging nests, just as they were on my last visit in 2014. It was getting steamy hot, as the humidity went up, and even the House Wrens went quiet. It's just a question of getting acclimatised at the moment rather than spending too much time in the sun! Mad dogs and Englishmen, and all that jazz...

Green Heron and adult ♂ Black-throated Mango, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Zandolie Ameiva atrigularis and Spectacled Thrush, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

As the evening drew in I added Green Hermit and White-chested Emerald to the hummer list, and Spectacled and Cocoa Thrushes came out of hiding and were feeding around the shrubs. As it got dark the frog chorus started up and a few bats appeared on the wing. I went looking for bats and insects after dark around the grounds and was surprised at how few moths there were around the lights - I saw one! Scanning the surface of the lake and ponds I saw several sets of eyes shining back at me. These were Spectacled Caiman.

Thursday 10th March

Steve Hale posted the following on the Avon Birds blog today: 22 Mute Swans, 41 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose still, 15 Eurasian Wigeon, 4 Eurasian Teal, 12 Northern Shovelers, 35 Common Pochards, 185 Tufted Ducks, 6 Common Goldeneyes, 5 Great Cormorants, 4 Grey Herons, 3 Black-necked Grebes still, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 10 Redwings, and 1 Reed Bunting. Nice to read the Black-necked Grebes are hanging in there. Thanks Steve.

TRINIDAD DIARY

I got up before the sun came up this morning for a trundle around the grounds. There was lots of bird song and a few new species for the trip including a juvenile Green Kingfisher, 2 Northern Waterthrushes, a Lineated Woodpecker (I think), some Violaceous Euphonias and good views of many of the species seen yesterday.

Southern Lapwing and Green Heron, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Purple Gallinule and Cocoa Thrush, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Silver-beaked and Blue-grey Tanagers, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Spectacled Caiman, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

After a brief shopping expedition with owner Helen Quesnel, I resorted to the verandah for the afternoon, during which there were a few light showers. Amazingly, during one of these a caiman swam along the pond. It was probably between 1.5 - 2.0 metres long and was the first I've ever seen during the day at the Hacienda. They normally retire to the depths during the day and come out at night. Since this morning I've added Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani and another hummer, a Little Hermit, which came to the feeders.

This evening Jesse our host took me along the drive to see the White Hawk pictured below, and during the afternoon I saw a Great Black Hawk, which he tells me is seen fairly frequently around here.

Record shots of White Hawk and Golden-headed Manakin, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Friday 11th March

No news from Blagdon Lake today.

TRINIDAD DIARY

Once again I was out of bed nice and early to take a walk down the road through an area of secondary forest. I spotted a ♂ Guianan Trogon sitting quietly in a tree, a lifer, and was serenaded by a very vocal Rufous-breasted Wren. In an area where some clearance had taken place I saw Piratic Flycatcher and Tropical Pewee.

Tropical Pewee and Great Kiskadee, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Other than that there was very little else new (that I could identify anyway), and when I got back to the gate Simon called me over and said there was a large Spectacled Caiman on the edge of the pond trying to swallow a Tilapia. Sadly, by the time I got there he was back in the pond. As I walked back to get some breakfast a Grey-headed Kite (to be confirmed from my pictures by Geoffrey) was soaring high above and a pair of Plumbeous Kites were close by. Thunder and lightning is forecast for later, I think I brought the wet weather with me! We certainly had some rain last night, which won't be welcome next week when the bat team arrive.

This afternoon, when the heat had gone off the day (more rain, but no electric storms), I ventured out around the grounds with my camera again and enjoyed myself immensely. I started with a shot of a Wattled Jacana that's sitting on, but not incubating this nest at the water's edge below the verandah. I came a cross this Caribbean Treerunner - on the road near the gate! Spotted a Yellow-breasted Flycatcher when wandering through the vegetable garden and stopped by the fish pond for a while and saw this Grey-necked Wood Rail. Finally, I plonked myself in a chair by the plunge pool and got this shot of a Crested Oropendola leaving it's nest in an Immortelle Erythrina poeppigiana. Then it was back for dinner, and to record bats emerging from underneath the cabin.

Wattled Jacana at nest and Grey-necked Wood Rail, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Caribbean Treerunner, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Yellow-breasted Flycatcher and Crested Oropendola leaving nest, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Saturday 12th March

This from Steve Hales' Avon Birds Blog today: 27 Mute Swans, 1 Greylag Goose, 45 Canada Geese, 8 Eurasian Wigeon, 21 Common Pochards, 6 Common Goldeneye, 5 Grey Herons, 3 Little Grebes, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Water Rail (Top End hide), 16 Common Snipe, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtail, 1 Reed Bunting. Thanks Steve.

TRINIDAD DIARY

I spent the day pottering around the grounds again today and didn't really see too many new birds and neither did I have one of my more successful days with the camera. That's just the way it pans out sometimes. New birds for the trip included, Ringed Kingfisher, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow Oriole, Golden-crowned Warbler, a pair of Channel-billed Toucans and either White-tailed Nightjar or Common Pauraque (I couldn't decide).

Ringed Kingfisher and Crested Oropendola, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Blue-black Grassquit and (knock-kneed) Wattled Jacana, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Plumbeous Kite, and a Black-throated Mango and Green Kingfisher having a difference of opinion - the kingfisher is too near the hummingbirds nest (to the right on top of the branch), Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I totted-up my bird list for the Hacienda grounds this evening, and reckon I've seen at least 60 species while just bumbling around with my camera!

Sunday 13th March

No news from Blagdon.

TRINIDAD DIARY

I was up before the sun this morning, and had an enjoyable time around the grounds again - before it got too hot. I added Turquoise Tanager, Greyish Saltator and Copper-rumped Hummingbird to the growing list, and spent quite a bit of time trying to photograph hummers at the bushes near the entrance gate. When I got back to the cabin I surprised a Golden Tegu on the path to the door. It's a big, good-looking, lizard that wasn't at all bothered by me.

Lineated Woodpecker and Orange-winged Parrots, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

White-chested Emerald and Blue-chinned Sapphire, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Tufted Coquette and Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Golden Tegu, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Not much to add to my news from here except getting this pleasing image when I'd finished writing my last update. I went out onto the balcony and there he was on the bank opposite! In a few minutes Daniel Hargreaves should be arriving, Geoffrey and Stephanie will be picking him up from the airport, so that will probably mean the end of my birding and on with the batting - we'll see. Dr Merlin Tuttle and his wife Paula should also be arriving later this evening. He's bringing 300lbs of photographic equipment with him apparently! Makes my three bags of photo and batting equipment seem a bit pathetic!

Spectacled Caiman (aka Uncle Wally), Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Monday 14th March [Cold, ENE wind]

Thanks to Terry, Phil, Lucy and Roy, the WeBS count was done today, and the totals were as follows:

61 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 1 Northern Shoveler, 3 Eurasian Wigeon, 12 Eurasian Teal, 293 Tufted Duck, 14 Common Pochard, 9 (5♂♂ and 4♀♀) Common Goldeneye, 4 Little Grebe, 15 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Great Cormorant, 8 Grey Heron, 43 Canada Goose, 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 Greylag Goose, 23 Mute Swan, 22 Common Moorhen, 149 Common Coot. Day-time gulls: 25 Black-headed Gull, 50 Common Gull, 30 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Greater Black-backed Gull. Raptors: 2 Common Buzzard.

I also received the following from Steve Hale of Avon Birds (thanks Steve):

23 Mute Swan, 1 Greylag Goose, 52 Canada Goose, 1 Egyptian Goose (Top End jungle), 8 Grey Heron, 3 Buzzard, 5 Common Snipe, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Eurasian Nuthatch of note. Plenty of Tufted Duck present but few other duck species showing themselves today. The lake was like the North Atlantic in today's brisk northerly wind.

TRINIDAD DIARY

A quick walk to check out a probable Black-tailed Tityra's nest site that I'd spotted a couple of days ago on the island in the fish pond, saw the ♀ come out before I was ready, but I got this nice shot of the ♂ returning with what looks like a Katydid. I also saw a Cocoa Woodcreeper. When I got back to the cabin to have some breakfast I found 10 Proboscis Bats Rhynchonycteris naso underneath the eaves.

Black-tailed Tityra, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

A search around the estate with Daniel, Merlin and Dallas this afternoon turned up the following bats: Lesser White-lined Bat Saccopteryx leptura, Common Long-tongued Bat Glossophaga soricina, Seba's Short-tailed Fruit Bat Carollia perspicillata, Little Mastiff Bat Molossus molossus, and the Rhynchonycteris naso noted earlier. Sounds like we're doing some netting tonight!

Tuesday 15th March

News from Mark Hynam as follows: A quick look tonight 17.00-18.00 hrs. 2 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flew past Top End hide, a Tawny Owl Strix aluco behind the hide and 5 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End. Thanks Mark, quite a late date for the first Sand Martins this year.

TRINIDAD DIARY

Last night Daniel and I spent some time photographing bats (see Bat News) after we'd had a good hunt around the grounds looking for invertebrates. I came across a Leaf-cutter Ant trying to climb a vertical step with an impossibly large flower, with some measure of success it must be said, and a nice little Clearwing moth. I also found a little Tree Frog that contrasted rather with the colour of the leaf it had chosen.

Leaf-cutter Ant and Clearwing Moth, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Tree frog, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Melissa, from Canada, and I ran two nets and a triple high at dusk by one of the lodges in the grounds this evening waiting for the others to arrive, and caught a number of bats that Daniel was able to show the new team in after the evening meal. We continued after dinner until about midnight before heading for bed.

Wednesday 16th March

News from Steve Hale of Avon Birding: 21 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 2 Gadwall Anas strepera, 3 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, 11 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 35 Eurasian Starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Thanks again Steve.

TRINIDAD DIARY

We had a busy day, starting with a long boat trip around Caroni Swamp where we saw the usual birds I've seen on my previous 4 trips there, but a Red-capped Cardinal was probably new for me. One of the special species to see are the Silky Anteaters and we saw 3 today, but none of the views made for good pictures - they rarely do anyway, rolled tightly into a sleeping ball. There were lots of Scarlet Ibises, the national bird, Little Blue and Tricoloured Herons, a Pygmy Kingfisher, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Green-throated Mango, Bicoloured Conebills, Common Black Hawk, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon among many more. I'm already tired and it's past midnight, so I won't post any pictures tonight but will, hopefully, have time tomorrow. This afternoon and evening were spent in Arena Forest Reserve catching bats, and the Trinibats team were doing a piece with a reporter from the Trinidad Guardian about our work. All good bat publicity, in a land where they're are still not protected. We caught surprisingly few bats tonight, but I should have more details after we do the day list tomorrow morning.

Yellow-headed Caracara and Scarlet Ibis, Caroni Swamp © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Thursday 17th March [The wind was lighter & the sun was out - per Ian Stapp]

Once again thanks to Mark Hynam, Mike O'Connor, Steve Hale, Ian Stapp and Chris Stone for news from Blagdon as follows: 1 Egyptian Goose Alophochen aegyptiaca (Top End gate), 6 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, 1 Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (Top End, distant), 4 Common Buzzards Buteo buteo, 250 mixed Gulls, 1 Northern Raven Corvus corax, 40 Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, 2 Redwings Turdus iliacus, and 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus. Also 1 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, a Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea, but no Sand Martins reported. Mike saw 2 Egyptian Geese fly over the dam away from the lake at 17.45 hrs today. Mark reported seeing the Black-necked Grebe, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and 63 Redwings in the wood and field behind Top End hide between 1700 and 1800 hrs.

TRINIDAD DIARY

I cannot update you at the moment because its 0100 hrs, and we're off for the 3 hour drive to Nariva Swamp at 0800 hrs in the morning. Suffice to say, we walked in Arena Forest this morning looking for bat tents and other potential roosts. Then after lunch, and a 40 minute break, we were back out there again trapping in two teams. We had a pretty quiet time of it in the team I was in, but stayed out in the hope of something turning up. I haven't been back to the Hacienda long and it's time for some shut-eye before a long day tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll try and update more fully in the next day or two with some photos - if Daniel gives us some time off!

Silky (aka Pygmy) Anteater Cyclopes didactylus, Arena Forest © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Friday 18th March

John Thorogood sent me this lovely account of a visit to the lake today, having not long got home from, you guessed it, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago (including a short stay at Hacienda Jacana and a visit to Asa Wright Nature Centre where he bumped into Ed Drewitt - small world)! Anyway, to his news: I spent the latter part of this morning (from 10.00hrs) at the lake which was pretty misty and seriously cold; temperature on car still only showing 6 Celsius when I drove home. Boy, was I yearning to be back in temperatures of 30 Celsius again! I found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis out in the middle, off Burmah Road.  Probably around half-a-dozen Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula but the most seen together was three. Around six sightings of Grey Heron Ardea cinereus at different locations. Two spots where Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii had gathered: just round the corner from Green Lawn a group of ten to twelve were on the road with a single Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and on the road and lakeside at Wood Bay, where I parked and had lunch at the end, I counted twenty. The large, open field between Top End Hide and Ubley village falls outside the lake enclosure so any birds there may not be included in your records but there was a mixed flock of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris and Redwings Turdus iliacus – had to be at least 60 – 70 of each and I found a single FieldfareTurdus pilaris.  On the flood as I approached Top End gate there was an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and as I got closer about 8 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago flew off.  Possibly a second Egyptian Goose flew up the lake past Rainbow Point as I drove back towards the Fishing Lodge. I only walked the stretch from Wood Bay to Top End and the Hatchery (and back) but saw or heard quite a few land birds: 1 Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Goldcrest Regulus regulus (heard), 2+ Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major including drumming, Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea (calling at the Hatchery), Song Thrush Turdus philomelos (at least 2 singing) but no sign of Sand Martins. Don’t blame them given the temperature this morning! Best wishes, John.

It's been a struggle working out here John, in the heat, but someone's got to do it! Thanks for the news.

TRINIDAD DIARY

It was a long day in the field today, leaving at 0800 hrs and not getting back until 0100 hrs, but we had a great time. A local guide joined us from the Bush Bush Sanctuary (Nariva Swamp) team for a long , long field walk before we set up nets and trapped. Here are a selection of pictures. not all bat related, from the day. I saw two new birds for me, the Yellow-crowned Parrot and Red-bellied Macaw, thanks to Geoffery.

Two tent-roosting species, Artibeus lituratus and Uroderma bilobatum, Nariva Swamp © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

 Prehensile-tailed Porcupine Coendu prehensilis and Trinidad Pink Toe Tarantula Avicularia velutina, Nariva Swamp © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Wrinkle-faced Bat Centurio senex, Nariva Swamp © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Saturday 19th March

News from the ever-dependable Steve Hale of Avon Birds as follows: 24 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser, 58 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 1 Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis, 18 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo, 5 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, 1 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, 1 Water Rail Rallus aquaticus (Top End), 9 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 160 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 20 Common Gulls Larus canus, 11 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, 2 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 1 Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea, 2 Redwings Turdus iliacus, 67 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii (mini-fall, Rainbow Point). Thanks Steve. At this rate, I won't need to come back...

TRINIDAD DIARY

We visited Aripo Savannah this evening, which was a bit quiet. We only caught 27 bats of 8 spp. I'm guessing this is probably due to the fact that it has been so dry and because there is almost a full moon which has been lighting up the evenings making it difficult to hide the traps.

Sunday 20th March

News from Sean Davies today as follows: "Quick look on the way back from CVL. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis still from Top End hide. Dunlin Calidris alpina and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Thanks Sean.

TRINIDAD DIARY

We trapped at Asa Wright Nature Centre this evening. We had some time for a quick look off the verandah at the birds and Agouti's before a walk down the Discovery Trail to look for netting positions in the evening. We caught 96 bats of 13 spp. and got some nice flight shots (again with special thanks to Daniel Hargreaves).

Brown-bellied Broad-nosed Bat Platyrrhinus fusciventris, Asa Wright Nature Centre © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Adult ♂ White-necked Jacobin, Asa Wright Nature Centre © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Monday 21st March

Steve Hale kindly sent me the following news from Blagdon: 20 Mute Swans, 38 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose (Top End near the gate), 11 Common Goldeneyes, 9 Great Cormorants, 6 Grey Herons, 2 Little Grebes, 13 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Water Rail, 1 Jack Snipe, 15 Common Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper (dam), 27 Common Gulls, 83 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Herring Gulls, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 3 Green Woodpeckers, 4 Eurasian Jays, 1 Barn Swallow (Top End 1400 hrs), 5 Eurasian Nuthatches, 1 Eurasian Treecreeper, 1 Song Thrush. Thanks Steve - well gripped by the Jack Snipe - it's still not on my Blagdon list!

TRINIDAD DIARY

We paid a visit to an old WW2 American ice house this morning to have a look at the bats roosting there. There were many hundreds. At lunchtime, I noticed that the Wattled Jacana nest I showed with 3 eggs on 11th March has just a single egg left in it, and the adults are guarding 2 newly hatched young with great vigour at lunchtime.

Wattled Jacana with chicks, Hacienda Jacana & Big-eyed Bat Chiroderma sp., Arena Forest © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

In the evening we went back to Arena Forest and trapped along a ridge, with a bit more success than we had previously. We caught 53 bats of 19 spp. including a White-winged Vampire Diaemus youngi, which was radio-tagged, and a Little Big-eyed Bat Chiroderma trinitatum. I even had the chance to remove my first, delightfully calm, Greater Spear-nosed Bat Phyllostomus hastatus from the nets. It's Trini's second largest bat, weighing around 80-110 grams, and can be quite a handful.

Tuesday 22nd March

Sorry I haven't been able to pass on news for a day or so, we've had no internet connectivity. As ever, I'm grateful to Steve Hale for the following news: 17 Mute Swans, 45 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose, 5 Northern Shovelers, 7 Grey Herons, 3 Little Grebes, 2 Common Buzzards, 20 Common Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Coal Tits, 4 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Eurasian Nuthatches, 1 Eurasian Treecreeper, 110+ Redwings, 20+ Chaffinches (dam spillway).

TRINIDAD DIARY

This morning we took a trip to Tabaquite to visit Knolly's Tunnel. It's an old railway tunnel that is home to large numbers of bats. I didn't take many pictures because I was trying to charge batteries in time for a photographic session in the evening, during which I was trying to get pictures of bats coming to bananas I'd been leaving out each evening at the Hacienda. As a result, I didn't join the team for their last trip to Arena Forest, and missed the Mimon crenulatum that they caught, although it's a species I've seen in the past.

Knolly's Tunnel & a leucistic Seba's Short-tailed Fruit Bat Carollia perspiciallata found there © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Seba's Short-tailed Fruit Bat Carollia perspiciallata gorging on Banana, Hacienda Jacana © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Wednesday 23rd March

TRINIDAD DIARY

We had a reasonably lazy morning before being driven to Tamana Hill Cave to see the roosting bts and their emergence at dusk. Although we'd previously trapped here using a single harp trap near the entrance, we were able to just enjoy the spectacle on this occasion, as thousands of bats swirled out of the chimney and away into the forest. I saw an albino Geoffroy's Hairy-legged Bat Anoura geoffroyi for the third time in four years, perhaps the same individual, which I got a flight shot of, but it was slightly over-exposed unfortunately (we only had the one chance on release). Then, when I got back to the Hacienda I spent more time videoing and photographing Seba's Short-tailed Fruit Bats Carollia perspicillata feeding on bananas Graeme Smart and I had put out as bait to lure them in.

Albino Geoffroy's Hairy-legged Bat & Seba's Short-tailed Fruit Bat © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Thursday 24th March

News from Steve Hale as follows: 18 Mute Swans, 3 Canada Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese (field by Top End gate), 5 Northern Shovelers, 3 Common Goldeneye, 4 Grey Herons, 4 Common Snipe, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Barn Swallow, 12 Common Blackbirds, 3 Song Thrushes, 30+ Chaffinches, and 2 Reed Buntings.

TRINIDAD DIARY

We all packed for the long trip home this morning, before enjoying a talk by Dr Merlin Tuttle, which included some of the superb images he'd taken during our trip. He was primarily working with a Little Big-eared Bat Micronycteris megalotis we'd caught, and been training it in order to get photos of the approach and catching of insects. His talk was inspirational, and re-affirmed the need for the protection of bats worldwide thanks to their insect, flower pollination and seed dispersal habits, especially in tropical climes. See Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation website to view some of his wonderful images.

After I'd packed my photographic gear, I spotted a new woodpecker for me, the Crimson-crested, excavating a hole in the grounds of the Hacienda. It's very similar to the Lineated Woodpecker in appearance, but the head and lines on the back help to distinguish it.

Friday 25th March [Mainly sunny]

Home again! I didn't visit the lake after the long overnight flight and 4 hour drive home through the holiday traffic. Sean Davies saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Top End.

Saturday 26th March [Wintery squalls]

News from Sean Davies of 1 House Martin Delichon urbicum, 3 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, and circa 50 Sand Martins Riparia riparia this morning. Chris Stone visited in the afternoon and saw circa 40 Sand Martins around the lodge and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the Spillway.

Sunday 27th March [Wintery squalls]

My first visit since I got back from Trinidad, and I saw Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake. I counted 20 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 6 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 5 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and saw a pair of Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata at Top End.

Steve Hale also reported the following: At least 300 Sand Martins this morning, mainly at the Lodge area. Other stuff, 21 Mute Swans, 21 Canada Geese, 219 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Herons, 1 Little Grebe, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Common Sandpiper, 10 Common Snipe, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Eurasian Jay, 2 Coal Tits, 3 Long-tailed Tits, 6 Chiffchaffs, 1 Eurasian Nuthatch, and 1 Reed Bunting. Thanks Steve.

Monday 28th March [A few wintery squalls]

I drove through late afternoon, but didn't spot anything out of the ordinary. Laurence, one of the Bristol Water rangers, rang to tell me an angler had spotted an Osprey Pandion haliaetus over Butcombe (Bay?), during the day, but I have no more details as yet.

Tuesday 29th March [Wintery squalls]

It's nice to be back, but the weather...! I enjoyed a wet walk from the Lodge to the Top End hide and back this afternoon and saw 2 House Martins Delichon urbicum, 6 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and about 30 Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake. I heard 3 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and saw another, spotted a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis among a sizeable group of Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii feeding on Green Lawn, and counted 23 Mute Swans Cygnus olor and 3 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.

Wednesday 30th March [A lovely sunny day with a cold wind]

I enjoyed a lovely afternoon lakeside. I heard my first Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus of the year singing at Long Bay, and there were 11 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita dotted around the lake, with all three regular hirundine species hawking overhead. Last year a pair of Grey Herons Ardea cinerea bred for the first time in years at the lake, and I saw a bird sitting on the same nest today, which is quite exciting. The sunshine brought out a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major. My prowl also revealed flowering Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina, Early Dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana, Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, Cowslip Primula veris and Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta. At All Saints Wood, I heard Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus calling and saw Scarlet Elf Cups Sarcoscypha sp. on the woodland floor. So Spring isn't too far away, we just need more warm sun!

In the evening I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Thursday 31st March [Another sunny, and milder, day]

There's not too much to report today. A (or, the) Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was present from the Top End hide, and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm fields. I didn't see any hirundines while I was at the lakeside but the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam again. I saw a ♂ Brimstone Butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni along the footpath through All Saint's Wood this afternoon, when walking with friends. We also came across the most amazing viewpoint over the lake today, along a path I've not walked previously; I shall go back early one sunny morning with my camera and tripod to take a panorama.