BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

May 2016 News


Sunday 1st May [Early sun then drizzly rain]

I was at the lake most of the day carrying out bat box checks (see Bat News). The team watched 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo over Rugmoor Point and I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos around the dam end while we were there. Roger and Jean Staples stopped to say hello, and gave me the low-down on their sightings, the pick of which was a Hobby and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. Mike Jenkins texted news of a Red Kite heading our way but we didn't see it, although Chris Barrington rang to say he saw one over Rickford on his way home - perhaps the same?

Monday 2nd May [Sunshine & showers with a cool wind]

News from Avon Birds: "24 Mute Swan, 15 Canada Goose (+ a brood of 6 goslings), 2 Shelduck, 2 Gadwall, 1 Pochard, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Common Sandpiper, 10 Swift, 6 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap, 1 Sedge Warbler, 5 Song Thrush, 1 Grey Wagtail."

This evening I took a walk along the south side and saw the 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 5 (4♂, 1♀) Common Pochards Aythya ferina Burmah Road, lots of Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake, and 4 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo over Top End as the sun went down. There was also a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Top End, and I had a very brief view of a bird with a red tail that may have been a Common Redstart though I only glimpsed it the once, so couldn't be sure.

Tuesday 3rd May [Mainly sunny]

During the late afternoon there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a Dunlin Calidris alpina on the south end of the dam. I walked the south shore road and saw the pair of Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna and the family of Canada Geese Branta canadensis (with 6 juveniles) on Green Lawn, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca nearby. I'd heard 3 Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis singing in the hedges by the time I got to Burmah Road, where I watched a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea struggling with a jack Northern Pike Esox lucius. At Top End there were 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting together, but no sign of the passerines I saw last night.

Wednesday 4th May [Sunny and warm, at last!]

This morning I enjoyed a walk with friends Ann and Colin along the northern edge of Black Down, where I saw two displaying Tree Pipits, then along to Dolebury Hill Fort and The Swan at Rowberrow for lunch.

After tea I was at the dam watching 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos when Mark Hynam texted to say there was a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End. We spent the rest of the evening at that end of the lake where we had good views of an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo and a passing Otter Lutra lutra at 2055 hrs, as the sun went down.

Thursday 5th May [Sunny and Warm]

There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening and I saw the first 3 broods (5, 3 and 2 juveniles) of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos of the year on the lake. I think the ♀ Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca is probably sitting again, because I saw the ♂ on his own again today, and at 2100 hrs I saw the Otter Lutra lutra family, albeit briefly, from the Top End hide. We will be carrying out the WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Friday 6th May [Overcast and warm]

The team carried out the WeBS count this morning. Notable sightings were 7 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata at Top End, and the first flowering Marsh Orchids (or hybrids). A second brood of Canada Geese Branta canadensis (5 juveniles), a first brood of Common Coots Fulica atra (4 juveniles), and 4th brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos (unable to count the juveniles) were spotted during the count. Amazingly, we didn't see any raptors at all, despite the pleasant weather. The full count details are on the WeBS Page.

Saturday 7th May [Mainly overcast and thundery, sunny and warm later.]

I was at the lake at 0630 hrs to do one of my Breeding Bird Survey squares (ST5060), and saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus over Butcombe Bay. From there I went to Folly Farm to do some bat box checks before going back to the lake in the evening. Unfortunatley, I didn't see the Spotted Flycatchers, Eurasian Hobbies or Otters at Top End, but did see an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca fly through to the east at dusk. It was good to see you out and about too Merv!

Sunday 8th May [Mainly sunny and warm]

There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this evening when I got to the lake for a bat trapping session. I don't have any other bird news I'm afraid.

The rest of the day was spent doing bat box checks with YACWAG at their Littlewood reserve. I saw my first Red Admiral, Large Red Damselfly, Hairy Dragonfly and Broad-bodied Chaser of the year.

Monday 9th May [Still warm with showers]

This evening there were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna off Green Lawn. I stayed in the Top End hide for a couple of hours until dusk, and saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo off Bell's Bush between the showers, and an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca flew over to the east, but again, there was no sign of the Otters. On the way home, there were quite a few Common Toads Bufo bufo on the roads, some of which I picked up and moved out of harm's way.

Tuesday 10th May [Misty and grey with showers]

I had a quick look this morning hoping to see a tern or two in the grim conditions, but no such luck. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam, and a 1st-summer Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus around the Overspill but not much else to report.

This evening there was a lone Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo off Bell's Bush at dusk, and I noticed that yesterday, someone had noted hearing/seeing a Common Cuckoo on the sightings board in the Top End hide.

Wednesday 11th May [Wet and misty this morning, improving during the afternoon.]

Finally, I managed to connect with some passing terns, 4 Arctic Sterna pardisaea and 2 Common S. hirundo late morning to early afternoon. The Arctics headed off high to the north and the Commons headed east towards Chew. Two Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna were swimming about for much of the time, but no waders dropped in onto the dam that I saw. In the evening some visiting bat workers came to Blagdon as part of their training, and while looking for suitable spots to trap I saw my first Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis of the year fly along Butcombe Bank.

The bat trapping session is reported on the Bat News Page.

Thursday 12th May [Warm and mainly sunny]

I enjoyed the most wonderful evening walk at the lake for some time. The birding wasn't great, but the sunset - wow! I watched 3 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting insects at dusk, mainly around the Burmah Road/Bell's Bush area, and saw what I take to be the 4th brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos that I couldn't count when doing the WeBS (6 juveniles). One of the Canada Goose Branta canadensis broods is down to 4 juveniles and can usually be seen around the Green Lawn area. Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus and Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi were in flower at Top End. Two local ladies I met in Top End hide, told me they'd seen a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Holt Copse recently, but stupidly I didn't ask when!

Friday 13th May [Grey and overcast this morning, and sunnier this afternoon with a stiff breeze.]

I did my second BBS square (ST5159) at 0630 hrs this morning. There was nothing especially unusual, save for a pair of Gadwall Anas strepera in the feeder stream at Long Bay again, and a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis with a dozen Canada Geese B. canadensis on Holt Farm fields. This evening I walked the North Shore and came across a Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca on the track. Then as I walked back to my car parked by the Top End hide I came across two adult newts crossing the road towards the lake, one at Rugmoor Gate and one near the hide - I gave them a helping hand! Neither had spots on the underside so I think they were probably Palmate Newts Lissotriton helveticus.

Saturday 14th May [Sunny]

I didn't visit the lake today, being busy doing bat box checks at Golden Valley, Wick, then trapping at Chew Valley Lake in the evening (see Bat News), as well as looking after the Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus I have in care.

Sunday 15th May [Mainly sunny]

I met Mark Hynam at Top End early this evening on my brief look around. I saw very little, but he reported: 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo giving "fantastic views from hide as close as 50ft at one point", a Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with a brood of 6 juveniles and a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus heard at Top End. Thanks for that Mark.

Monday 16th May [Sunny but breezy]

Today, I noted 2 broods of fledged Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea on the dam and at Paradise. Then, in the evening, I had a visit from local Hawk and Owl Trust members. We looked at some of the different orchids currently flowering in the meadows and were able to contrast the flora of the North Shore with the wetter Top End meadows. We saw 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at Top End while we were there. I book-ended the visit by showing the group the bat house, and took them for a short walk with bat detectors and demonstrated harp trapping. Thanks to Ken, Chris and Greg for helping out with the bat work - capture details and notes are on the Bat News Page.

Tuesday 17th May [Sunshine and showers]

I spent the morning with Ken and Dan on the Mendips while they were checking Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius boxes (under licence). We found a Dormouse nest in one box and a ♂ asleep in another, which was pleasing, but what was remarkable were the number of Blue (and Great) Tit nests in the boxes. I think Ken said we'd found 16 during our round, with all stages from eggs to 'skinnies'. We also found an extraordinarily beautiful caterpillar in one of the boxes, which looks like a Green-brindled Crescent Allophyes oxyacanthae. I didn't get to photograph the Yellow-necked Mouse I'd hoped for, but maybe we'll find one later in the year. I remember the late Doug Woods showing me one about 25 years ago, and it's something I'd love to see again. Rain set in at lunchtime, so we abandoned the proposed Dormouse box checks at Blagdon.

Hazel Dormouse in nest and hand (fur trimmed on right rump for DNA analysis), Mendip Hills © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Hazel Dormouse awakening and Green-brindled Crescent larva, Mendip Hills © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

This evening's look around at the lake provided a surprise in the shape of 2♀♀ Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula in Home Bay, alongside 7 (6♂, 1♀) Common Pochards Aythya ferina and a handful of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula. There was a single ♂ Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in the middle of the lake, not for the first time, so I wonder if his partner is sitting somewhere close by? At Top End there was a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing and at dusk 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting.

Wednesday 18th May [Sunshine & showers]

I only had time for a brief look around late this evening as I was out checking bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake (west side) all day from 1000 - 1830 hrs. I didn't see a single birder in all that time! Anyway, the only bird of note at Blagdon was the singing ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus (I heard a ♀ give her 'bubbling' song at Chew Valley Ringing Station this morning too). As usual the results of our bat box checks are on the Bat News Page.

Thursday 19th May [A pleasant day that turned wet at dusk]

It's a quiet time at the lake on the bird front, that's for sure. This evening I saw an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm fields and heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End again. During a walk along Butcombe Bank this morning I saw my first Damselfly sp. at the lake.

Tomorrow morning we will be checking bat boxes along the north and east shores at Chew Valley Lake.

Friday 20th May [Overcast and dry with rain setting in at dusk]

It has been a long and tiring day again, starting at 0630 hrs with a survey of Blagdon Lake counting singing birds, followed by bat box checks along the north and east shores of Chew Valley Lake.

Selected migrant species counts at Blagdon were 35 (27) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 16 (22) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 0 (3) Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 5 (2) Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, 0 (1) Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and 17 (0) Eurasian Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, with the April count in parentheses. Of the resident species I counted 62 (53) singing Winter Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 34 (25) European Robins Erithacus rubecula, 19 (17) Common Blackbirds Turdus merula, 9 (7) Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus and 9 (7) Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos. Other birds noted during the survey included 2 pairs of Gadwall Anas strepara, 2 singing Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis, the singing ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End, and another Cuckoo heard singing in the village as I stepped out of my back door (probably the first heard from the garden in about 20 years). I've only heard one brief song by a Lesser Whitethroat at the lake so far this year - I wonder if numbers are down?

A Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was reported on the board in Top end hide.

Our Chew Valley Lake bat box checks are reported on the Bat News Page.

Saturday 21st May [Dry this morning, rain this afternoon, and brief sun at dusk.]

I spent most of the day working on my draft of the duck section of the Avon Bird Report, but when the rain stopped in the evening, I saw a Barn Owl Tyto alba quartering fields at Rugmoor, before moving on to the Top End hide where I had excellent views of a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo in the late sunshine. Once again, the vegetation has grown up in front of the hide, severely restricting the view of the water and it's likely to get worse in the next week or so. Sean Davies retrospectively reported the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End this morning. Cheers Sean.

Sunday 22nd May [Sunshine and showers]

Again, I spent most of the day working on the Avon Bird Report, but went down to the lake for a look this evening. A couple (a pair perhaps) of Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo were showing really well from the Top End hide during the last hour of daylight. I haven't heard the Cuckoo for the last two evenings, so it may have moved on. Mark Hynam spotted what I think is the 8th brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos near the hide.

Monday 23rd May [Mainly sunny]

I'm confined to bed today, feeling under the weather.

Tuesday 24th May [Sunny]

Another day in bed while the sun shines!

Wednesday 25th May [Dry, but mainly overcast.]

After two days in bed and noticing that the Dalmatian Pelican was probably roosting overnight on Drift Reservoir, Nr Penzance, I finally cracked! I've never seen this species, so I got out of bed at 0300 hrs and set off for the long drive to the far south west. I rolled up at 0630 hrs, having thought the sun had been up for way too long for such a well-travelled bird to still be present, and after an initial scan I thought I'd dipped. But no, two guys from London had seen it from the road way up at the end of the north-east arm. Yay, success! What an absolute monster of a bird it is - they have a wingspan of up to 11 feet - it absolutley dwarfed the Canada Geese, but was vary wary of a lone Mute Swan that flew towards it and was amazed how easily it sprang off the water for such a large bird.

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Drift Reservoir, Cornwall © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Notice the bird has a mix of old brown, worn, primaries and secondaries and newer black ones. A local photographer who'd been present since dawn, told me it had already been fishing before I got there, but when it woke up again it spent a couple of hours touring the lakeside margins fishing again. It lunged forward from a swimming position, snaking its long neck out, and had quite a high success rate grabbing small fish. I'm not sure what it was eating, probably not trout, as the fish seemed to be shoaled up. While there, I also saw a kettle of 8 Red Kites go over, and noticed a small-race Canada Goose among those present (which unfortunately kept too far off to get a decent picture - but you get the idea from the record shot below). It was slightly smaller than the others, had a dark breast with no white ring, and a slender neck with small head. It's over to the locals to sort it out, if they haven't already.

Canada Geese, Drift Reservoir, Cornwall © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I had to get some sustenance after watching the pelican for a couple of hours, so made the time-honoured trip to Philps at Hayle for a hot cheese and veg pasty, then set off for home. I got back at just after midday feeling really grotty again, so went back to my bed - happy! Now all we need to make the day complete is for Bristol Rugby to finally win promotion to the premiership at Ashton Gate this evening...

Thursday 26th May [Sunny]

I'm still house-bound and streaming with a head cold, so didn't go out in the sunshine again today. Steve Hale reported 13 Mute Swans, 79 Canada Geese, 2 Grey Herons, 5 Common Buzzards, 1 Eurasian Hobby, 2 Common Cuckoos, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 European Nuthatch, 2 Song Thrushes on his Avon Birds blog this evening. So, it looks like Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers are starting to build, as is usual at this time of year, and the report of 2 Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus is of some significance - is there a bit of a recovery in numbers going on this year?

Friday 27th May [Thundery]

Feeling a lot better today and spent most of it checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey. I then had to pick up two care bats before having the chance to visit the lake. The only birds of significance that I saw in my brief look was a pair of Gadwall Anas strepara in Long Bay feeder stream. Will have to have a much closer look around, especially for new broods, over the weekend.

Saturday 28th May [Sunny]

I didn't visit the lake today, I was too busy with bat care duties.

Sunday 29th May [Sunny]

This evening I had a walk at the lake. Apart from Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, a Badger Meles meles within feet of me, and 3 Red Fox Vulpes vulpes cubs, I saw a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, a Barn Owl Tyto alba catch prey, a ♂ Tawny Owl Strix aluco in flight, heard a singing ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, watched a lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca fly east over Top End, but saw no sign of any Eurasian Hobbies. I think there are just the two Canada Goose Branta canadensis families with six and three young this year - I had only seen two nests. Ian White also emailed to say he saw 3 Spotted Flycatchers this morning (not the same as the one I saw).

Monday 30th May [Sunny in the main]

Today I saw the pair of Gadwall Anas strepara in Long Bay feeder stream again, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca in long grass on Holt Farm behind Green Lawn, a couple of summer-plumaged Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying through to the west, and way too many people to make trying to watch the wildlife a pleasureable experience!

Tuesday 31st May [Largely overcast this afternoon and sunny this morning.]

I had a good look around this afternoon, my first opportunity for a week or more. The singing ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was ranging around widely from Hellfire Corner, across to Rugmoor and up to Top End, and I saw the Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata again in the same place I saw it on Sunday. Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers continue to rise, 149 today, and the two families are still flourishing. There were lots of Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake and I saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo being mobbed by hirundines before I left. I came across 3 ♂ Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis singing along the south side hedges and heard a Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina call as well, perhaps some did stick around from the influx we had in spring. An Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca flew in from the east over Top End and was seen later with the Canada flock, and I saw a single Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus briefly while looking down the lake. In the meadows there was a single 6-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae and a couple of Burnet Companions Euclidia glyphica on the wing, while at Cheddar Water a Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus flew across the road in front of me.

Mark Hynam reported seeing 2 Common Cuckoos in flight past the hide, a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, a brood of 4 Great Tits Parus major and a dog Red Fox Vulpes vulpes this evening.