BLAGON LAKE BIRDS

March 2018 News

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


Thursday 1st March [Snow all day] 1st Day of Spring!

Not a day for going birding today. I spent most of it putting wildlife records into my database for 2017 - 2134 so far with just December to go. I had to put three lots of food out for the hungry birds during the day, and was rewarded with a sighting of the wintering adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla from the back door again. I will be looking to get down to the lake tomorrow morning to re-fill the feeders and have a look around, but that rather depends on being able to get down the hill of course.

Mark Hynam did visit the lake this afternoon but said the visibilty was terrible. He spotted 100 or so Lapwings Vanellus vanellus sheltering behind a hedge on Holt Farm by Wood Bay. He also saw a couple of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.

Friday 2nd March [More snow overnight which lay on the ground all day]

I didn't visit the lake today, I couldn't drive down the hill through the snow. Neighbours Alastair and Martin spent 3 hours this afternoon clearing and gritting the pavement from the school to the Seymour Arms for the second day in succession (top blokes), so I went out to try and help them - I just know I'll pay for it this weekend. Lol. Hopefully I won't be too stiff to be able to get to the lake tomorrow to feed the birds and have a look around.

Saturday 3rd March [Snow still on the ground but a thaw setting in]

I tried to get down Station Road mid-morning but was thwarted by other vehicles. Then, Mark Hynam who'd already seen a Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, was asked to leave by Bristol Water on the grounds that it was too dangerous to be on site. So, I decided to head back home at that point. The A368 through the village is clear, but many of the village side roads are still difficult unless you're in a 4x4.

Mike O'Connor emailed to say he'd seen 4 Dunlin Calidris alpina at the Spillway late this afternoon. Thanks Mike.

Sunday 4th March [Mild with sunny spells]

I made it down to the lake around midday and saw a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, 4 Dunlin Calidris alpina feeding in the Spillway, a flyover Little Egret Egretta garzetta (heading east), 31 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and another Dunlin feeding with Starlings Sturnus vulgaris on Holt Farm, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and 92 Wigeon Mareca penelope at Holt Bay, and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus in a flooded ditch behind Top End hide.

I met Mark Hynam on the dam at dusk to look through the gull roost. No white-wingers. Mark counted c. 275 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus, and a good few came in after that, so we can say there were over 300 in the roost. There were 2 Little Egrets flying around and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam. By the time it was getting too dark to see, there were at least 19 Goosanders gathered at the entrance to Butcombe Bay.

The adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla and a Fieldfare Turdus pilaris were still around the garden this morning with all the local residents.

Monday 5th March [Mild. Sunny am & wet pm.]

Things are still slightly out of kilter in the birding world since the cold snap. A ♂ Pintail Anas acuta was new in today, I saw it at Home Bay then Burmah Road later. The rest of the news relates to birds on Holt Farm, where there were 33 Mute Swans Cygnus olor out on the fields, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 38 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 100-200 of Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, and weirdly, an adult ♂ Gadwall Anas strepara feeding with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis flock out on the fields - I don't remember seeing this behaviour before.

Tuesday 6th March [A lovely sunny day]

I'm sure I didn't see them all, but I counted 9 Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 34 Mute Swans Cygnus olor and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and totted up 37 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rainbow Point. Nest building seems to be getting under way, with a Coot Fulica atra starting a platform in Long Bay, so they at least think Spring is just around the corner! At Top End hide there was a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula close in, with yet another Aythya hybrid that I've not seen before. This bird is an adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted hybrid, that is the size of a Pochard with an even dark grey back, with a pochard-coloured head and red eye, but with with a tuft on the nape. If he successfully breeds with one of the Tufties...

Thursday 8th March [Mostly sunny]

I don't have too much to report from the lake today I'm afraid. There were a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm and just 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Wood Bay. I have seen an injured, old, dog Badger Meles meles out and about during daylight for the last few days, that I guess may have been ousted from his social group. I put some food down and he gulped it down which allowed me to get some pictures of him. I think he has injuries to one or both of his back legs or, worse case scenario, a spinal injury. However, he's making his way at the moment, so I don't feel the need to intervene.

Badger Meles meles © Nigel Milbourne, 2018

Friday 9th March [Wet]

I didn't spot any harbingers of Spring today, even though this is often the week when Sand Martins first appear. All I have to report is the presence of 6 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. There seemed to be more Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo roosting than usual, and there were was a small influx of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula. Perhaps this is the result of disturbance at Chew, where the fishing season kicked off yesterday. The trout fishing season starts at Blagdon for season ticket holders with an exclusive day for them next Tuesday, while the season proper gets underway on Thursday.

Neighbours Alastair and Jenny told me during the week that they'd been getting a pair of Reed Buntings visiting the garden feeders, but amazingly I have yet to see one by the lake this year! I would expect to see them around now, as they come back seeking breeding territories, but whilst I have seen them occasionally during the winter months at the lake, they could almost be considered as summer visitors there. One of the reasons I put seed feeders up at the Lodge a few years ago was to see if I could attract Reed Buntings to stay, but other than an odd sighting or two in the early spring, it really hasn't worked. Still, all the other residents and winter visitors seem to appreciate them.

Saturday 10th March [Sunshine & showers]

Not much to report I'm afraid. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus and 34 Mute Swans Cygnus olor were on Holt Farm.

Sunday 11th March [Sunshine then showers]

Just the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca noted on a drive through today. Oh, and I saw a ♂ Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus at Long Bay.

Monday 12th March [Mild. A dry morning followed by rain in the afternoon.]

Signs of spring migration at last. I had a walk from 1130-1430 hrs and saw 13 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End, a ♀ Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Holt Bay, and heard a ♂ Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita singing at Hellfire Corner. The wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 34 Mute Swans Cygnus olor were on Holt Farm. The leucistic Coot Fulica atra is still present, generally around the centre of the lake. I saw Crows Corvus corone and Rooks Corvus frugilegus carrying nesting material, including to 15 nests under construction at a new rookery at Hellfire Corner, a spot that has only occasionally been used in the past.

Tuesday 13th March [Bright and sunny all day]

I spent most of the day at Chew Valley Lake with Ken Anstey cleaning bat boxes ready for the new season, our fifth attempt to get the job done after postponements for bad weather. On arrival at the Chew Valley Ringing Station we had 5 Sand Martins Riparia riparia flying overhead. At Moreton Bank we inadvertently disturbed a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. Then, at Sutton Wick bird hide we found the remains of a Barn Owl Tyto alba that had no rings on its legs. We found 4 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus during the bat box cleaning session.

Back at Blagdon, I went for a quick look around as the sun went down behind the hills. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, as well as a few Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay.

Wednesday 14th March [Windy]

I visited the lake twice today, the first time for a couple of hours over lunchtime, then again late afternoon. There was little or no bird song in the prevailing conditions, with white horses racing down the lake. I saw nothing of note on the first visit apart from some flowering Lady's Smock Cardamine pratensis at Top End, and 34 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm with a further 2 in Holt Bay. Later, I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca in the fields too.

Thursday 15th March [Sunny spells with a cool wind] Opening Day for Fishing.

I went walking with friends today because of the disturbance caused by the anglers and boats, but I did venture down for a look around at 1630 hrs and the first bird I saw was a Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus, probably a 2nd-winter (the first I've seen here since Aug. 2016). It was still present when I left at 1745 hrs. More Mute Swans Cygnus olor had arrived during the day, and we now have an exceptional 41. Aside from the new arrivals, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, leucistic Coot Fulica atra, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta were all noted. I've seen no hirundines since Tuesday.

Friday 16th March [Mainly sunny]

It was still very busy at the lake today, so I wasn't minded to spend long there mid-afternoon to be honest. There was no sign of the Little Gull or any hirundines, so I only have the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca to report. Since the beginning of the week, there's been a drop in Teal Anas crecca and Shoveler Spatula clypeata numbers, and winter thrushes have moved off by the looks of it.

Saturday 17th March [Cold with snow flurries]

Mark Hynam texted me the following: "11 Sand Martins Riparia riparia, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 30+ Fieldfares Turdus pilaris and 6 Redwings Turdus iliacus."

Sunday 18th March [Overnight snow]

Mark Hynam got down to the lake early this morning, despite the snow, and picked out 16 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End that were harried by a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Then he found a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on Green Lawn that we both looked for a little while later but were unable to find again. We spent a couple of hours in the Fishing Lodge watching the gulls coming and going mid-afternoon, and saw a couple of Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus. We put some food out for the birds while we were there. Let's hope for a quick thaw, because tomorrow, we're due to do the monthly WeBS count.

Bird food put out at home brought in the adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla and a Fieldfare Turdis pilaris again.

Monday 19th March [Snow still on the ground, but thawing in the sunshine.]

Phillip Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I carried out the WeBS count today between 1000-1300 hrs. One of the first birds we saw was a ♂ Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe sheltering from the icy blast, on the back of the roadside wall over the dam. When we got to the Lodge, a 'large' Dunlin Calidris alpina flew in and started feeding on the wet grass in front of the building. It was quite robust in structure, with long legs and bill. Phillip and Rob took some pictures, because I thought it looked 'quite interesting' from a sub-species point of view. We saw at least 7 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, about 20 or so Sand Martins Riparia riparia, 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and watched a Weasel Mustela nivalis hunting in the snow while we were there. I also noted Blackthorn Prunus spinosa in flower at Holt Copse, and saw Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna leaves opening at Top End. Full WeBS details on the WeBS Counts Page.

Tuesday 20th March [Dry & cool] Spring Equinox

Not a great deal to report today. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca were both noted this afternoon, as were 6 Sand Martins Riparia riparia. No Wigeon Mareca penelope were counted yesterday, but there were 4 at Green Lawn today, and 39 Mute Swans Cygnus olor had gathered on Holt Farm again.

Wednesday 21st March [Sunny & cool]

A late afternoon visit produced very little different to yesterday. There were 12 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End, with the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 39 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm. I hope to have more time tomorrow at the lake looking and listening for migrant passerines and, who knows, perhaps a passing Osprey.

Thursday 22nd March [Overcast with a cool wind]

There were 18 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End today. I found 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita along the south side, one singing and two calling, and heard an insistent Green Woodpecker Picus viridis yaffling near Ubley, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major drumming close by. But, there weren't many signs of Spring in truth, although I noted False Oxlips Primula x polyantha in flower for the first time this year. This time last year, the first Swallow had arrived 2 weeks previously and the first House Martin a week previously. There were 40 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, with the majority feeding on the grass of Holt Farm, where the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on its own as usual. There was a flock of at least 44 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis feeding in a sheep-grazed pasture at the Ubley end too.

Friday 23rd March [Mainly overcast with a chilly breeze]

The wait goes on... there were about 14 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End, 40 Mute Swans Cygnus olor and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water. I thought perhaps a few more waifs may have dropped in on the southerly breeze.

Saturday 24th March [Slightly milder without the cold wind]

I had quick look late afternoon and didn't see any hirundines, just the lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca of note.

Sunday 25th March [Sunny & warm]

I went to visit the West Somerset Railway Spring Gala today, but Mark Hynam spent some time at the lake and reported as follows: "What a quiet day. 2♂ Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 20+ Redwings Turdus iliacus and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos." Seems like I didn't miss much.

Monday 26th March [Sunny spells & benign]

It's still hard to believe March is nearly over and many of the usual bird migrants have yet to put in an appearance. Today, I spent the afternoon along the south side of the lake and heard just 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita singing, saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and counted 48 Rook Corvus frugilegus nests being built at Home Bay Point/Long Bay, and 22 nests at Hellfire Corner. Away from the birds, I saw Sweet Violets Viola odorata in flower, and a few Whirligig Beetles Gyrinidae on the stream running through Holt Copse, and a handful of Buff-tailed Bumblebees Bombus terrestris, but we need a few days of warm sunshine to get things going yet.

Looking out of the window this morning, I spotted the adult ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla on the patio eating sunflower hearts that I'd put out. And, as has happened for the last few evenings, a few Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii also came down to pick up a few morsels before heading off to their communal roost close by.

Tuesday 27th March [Fog until lunchtime, windy & sunny thereafter.]

With white horses racing up the lake late afternoon, there were a handful (circa 10) Sand Martins Riparia riparia feeding at the dam end, with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Yay, I'm actually excited at the appearance of a (presumed) pair of adult Greylag Geese Anser anser on Green Lawn, with the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a small flock of Fieldfares Turdus pilaris on Holt Farm nearby. There have been good numbers of large gulls moving through, but nothing exciting has been spotted yet.

Wednesday 28th March [A cold wind]

Not much to report again, just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. At dusk I noticed a Little Egret Egretta garzetta battling its way into the wind down the lake, just before it came hurtling back towards Top End with the breeze up its tail. Perhaps it just gave up!

Thursday 29th March [Rain and hail]

Even less to report from this evenings visit than usual. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and met Mark Hynam at the Lodge. He had birded from Top End and nothing to report, so we whiled away the last hour of daylight at the Lodge hoping for an Osprey to drop in. No Osprey was forthcoming, but a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flew past us a couple of times.

Friday 30th March [Misty first thing, then rain set in mid-morning]

I got up and went down to the lake fairly early in order to beat the forecast rain. I walked to Top End and back, some of it with Simon Isgar, and also met Mark who popped over from Chew where he had been keeping an early morning vigil for a passing Osprey. I heard 5, maybe 6, Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and the first Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla of the year singing at the lakeside. Aside from that 'highlight', I saw a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Holt Bay, 11 Teal Anas crecca, 21 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, and a small flock of about 8 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Top End. The last mile or so back to the Lodge was in light rain, which set in shortly after.

Saturday 31st March [Mainly dry for a change, but still chilly.]

I was just on the point of going to the lake late this afternoon when Mervyn Pearce texted to say he'd seen a Red Kite flying west towards Blagdon over Woodford Lodge as he came out at 1640 hrs. Needless to say, I didn't connect with it! Just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca to report.