BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

May 2017 News


Monday 1st May [Sunny spells then some thundery showers, including hail.]

Mervyn Pearce rang at tea-time to tell me he'd just been watching the Great White Egret Ardea alba from Top End hide, and had heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Indian Country.

I can add a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca at Home Bay, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. Mark Hynam added 2 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods, one of which I'm assuming is a new one (2nd of the year).

Tuesday 2nd May [Sunny]

I had a text from Mervyn Pearce who spent the afternoon by the lake and reported 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea on the dam, the Great White Egret Ardea alba in the pines at Indian Country, 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin and the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End.

This evening I was able to add 3 Greylags Anser anser and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm and 2 flyover Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna. The Great White Egret was feeding along Burmah Road bank at dusk.

Wednesday 3rd May [Breezy, cool & overcast.]

I was on site before 0630 hrs this morning to do one of my BBS squares from Home Bay, across Holt Farm to Burmah Road. I saw a Greylag Anas anas and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing. As I walked back towards my car I saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but not this evening.

Much of the morning was spent checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey and Sam Olney on the east side of Bristol, during which we saw 10 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrelle pygmaeus. Then, in the afternoon, I went to check up on progress with a re-roofing job that is the subject of a Voluntary Bat Roost Visit I'm engaged on.

During a brief visit to the lake this evening I saw a flock of circa 70 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica feeding over Top End, but the 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo hawking insects along the bank from Holt Copse to Bell's Bush paid them no heed. It was pretty cool again, which can't be good news for the breeding birds, and might set back the breeding of bats.

Thursday 4th May [Breezy & dry]

Once again I was busy during the day, so didn't visit the lake until this evening. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba and ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End. There were also a few Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake.

While walking along the road at Bell's Bush a gentleman stopped his car and asked if I'd seen a lost white dog, and no sooner had he driven away when I spotted 'Max' in a field on Ubley Farm. I called him by name but he ran away. Thanks to Chris Craig we got in touch with the owners who live in Compton Martin. They came rushing down but, unfortunately, we were unable to re-find Max this evening. Hopefully, he'll get spotted tomorrow, cos he's obviously scared and a long way from home.

Friday 5th May [Sunny & very breezy]

We spent the whole day checking bat boxes (see Bat News), so I had the opportunity to keep an eye open for birds. I saw a single Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and lots more Common Swifts Apus apus over the lake than yesterday, but didn't hear the Common Cuckoo or see the Great White Egret at Top End. There were 16 or so active Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus nests in the bat boxes, some with eggs and one at least with young already.

The evening was spent bat trapping at Blagdon, and the first bat in was a ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii (see Bat News for more).

Saturday 6th May [Sunny spells]

Merv Pearce emailed to tell me he'd seen 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea on the dam. During my visit this evening I also saw the Common Sands, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, Great White Egret Ardea alba, heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End, and saw the first brood of Canada Geese Branta canadensis with 5 juveniles at Green Lawn.

Tomorrow, we're checking the bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake.

Sunday 7th May [Sunny & warm out of the light breeze]

Most of the day was spent at Chew Valley Lake checking bat boxes, but I did get the chance for a quick look at Blagdon this evening. Sightings were much the same as yesterday evening except I didn't see the Great White Egret. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, and heard the Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca at Home Bay and ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End singing.

Chew bat boxes were interesting (see Bat News), and we found a number of Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus nests. We also found a freshly expired, ringed, Blue Tit with a huge tick on it. This bird had been ringed by Chris Craig at a nest box near Stratford hide in 2014. During the day we also spotted a pair of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris, a bird I haven't seen at Blagdon for over 10 years.

Dead Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus with engorged Ixodes sp. tick © Ken Anstey, 2017

Monday 8th May [Sunny & breezy]

Today was lovely, so having to spend most of it indoors was hard to take. After an early evening visit to see my mother, I snuck down to the lake at dusk. I saw the single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, though have decided that I'm going to stop reporting it daily now, in line with most other regular lakeside species, restricting the blog to notable species, unusual observations, and migrants.

I've revised my recent sightings to include a Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola I saw on 25th April in one of the lakeside woods. I decided not to publish it at the time, but haven't seen the bird since. It was curious because I'd have expected wintering birds to have long gone, and there are no local breeding sites to my knowledge, although there are some not too far away. Perhaps it was one of those?

Tuesday 9th May [Sunny with a light breeze]

I decided to take a walk in the sunshine mid-afternoon, and jolly nice it was too! However, aside from a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a fly-by Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Long Bay I didn't have much to report. I saw a single juvenile Mallard Anas platyrhynchos duckling in the Top End, but couldn't see the rest of the brood (3rd for the lake this year so far). I also noted that there were a few Damselflies on the wing, so the Hobbies will have something more substantial to feed on aside from the midges.

Mervyn Pearce rang me at tea time to say he was watching the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus from Top End hide and that he could see an egret in the trees, but was unable to decide what species with just his binoculars. I did go down for a look with my scope Merv but couldn't spot it.

In the evening Richard Crompton and Sandie Sowler brought a group of trainee bat workers to the lake for some trapping and handling experience. I joined them with my harp trap/lure (see Bat News).

Wednesday 10th May [Warm & sunny]

There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at the lake today, the adult in breeding plumage present since 30th April, and a bird in non-breeding plumage with yellow bill and yellow/brown legs. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Green Lawn, a pair of Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata at Top End, and our fourth brood (8 juvs) of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos in Home Bay. We will be carrying out the WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Thursday 11th May [Warm with the odd light shower or two]

I was down at the lake by 0630 hrs to carry out a BBS survey in square ST5060 along Butcombe Bank, then back for 0930 hrs to carry out the WeBS count with Roy, Phillip and Rob. The count got off to a great start with a Common Tern Sterna hirundo dropping in briefly and adding to my year tally. But, there wasn't a great deal to count on the lake truth be told. May is usually the month with the lowest count, and today was no exception! We saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, one or two Common Kingfishers Alcedo atthis, and heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Top End.

I'm off to a Wiltshire Bat Group meeting in Devizes this evening to hear Keith Cohen talk about the Bechstein's Project. Looking forward to it.

Monday 15th May [Rain showers in the evening]

Having been away over the weekend in East Sussex at the wedding of the year (see Bat News), I drove the car to the Top End hide this evening and spent about half an hour watching the lake in the rain. I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam, and a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis in flight several times from the hide.

Tuesday 16th May [Rain most of the day]

The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on the dam, and there were hundreds of Common Swifts Apus apus over the water, with a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbicum. At Top End I saw a single Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo.

Last week, the Great White Egret Ardea alba in breeding plumage was joined by a second bird in non-breeding plumage on the 10th. I wasn't sure if the second bird had been present unseen for a while, so decided to keep shtum about them in the public domain until I had ascertained the situation. Anyway, both birds were still present during the WeBS count on 11th, but then I went away until yesterday. I had a good look for them last night, and again this afternoon, in the rain, but have concluded today that they've probably moved on.

Wednesday 17th May [Rain until early evening]

It was another busy day trying to finish the Avon Bird Report ducks section today, but I did manage a walk after tea when the rain abated. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba and Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End, 6♂ Common Pochards Aythya ferina, 20 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and the fourth brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos in Home Bay again, this time with 9 juveniles rather than the 8 counted on 10th May.

Thursday 18th May [Mainly sunny]

I was busy writing again today, until I received a call from some birders (names deliberately withheld) who witnessed a distressing attack by an anglers dog on a young badger that resulted in what will probably turn out to be fatal injuries to the badger. I rushed down to the lake to establish what had happened, but I couldn't find the injured badger unfortunately, so it has probably crawled off to die in terrible pain. The matter is now in the hands of Bristol Water who have by-laws forbidding dogs to be on site. Whether the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 can be brought to bear I don't know.

To the bird news. I saw 2 breeding-plumaged Little Egrets Egretta garzetta on Rugmoor Point, but no Great White Egret, and heard a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus sing briefly in Lodge Copse. Mervyn Pearce saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo fly over Holt Copse and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam. In addition, I had a very brief view of what I took to be a ♂ Eurasian Wigeon swimming into Top End, but having run to the car to get my scope, I couldn't relocate it.

Friday 19th May [Sunny but breezy]

The writing continues, but I did have a look around the lake early evening. I heard a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End, and while checking out Lodge Copse with Mark Hynam a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis sped past us along the road calling! It's quiet, but there ought to be a Spotted Flycatcher somewhere around the lake to add to the species year list. Hopefully, the next few days will see the finish of the bird report and I'll have more time to go and have a good look.

After the walk, it was over to Wrington to continue with the YACWAG Batmap project.

Saturday 20th May [Rain most of the day until the evening]

A horrible wet day with some heavy showers. I didn't visit the lake.

In the evening some fellow bat workers and YACWAG members carried out a trapping session on the south side of the King's Wood SAC as part of our Batmap project.

Sunday 21st May [A sunny day for the most part]

Once again, I didn't get down to the lake because I went to see friends near Llanthony in Wales for a catch-up and do some bat trapping. I have no news from the lake.

Monday 22nd May [A hot, sunny, day.]

I paid a brief visit, including to the Top End hide, where I heard the ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing, and saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam, but that was all I noted in the time available. However, tomorrow, I hope to be on site around dawn for a good look for Spotted Flycatchers, among others. A full report will follow.

Tuesday 23rd May [Overcast, drizzly on & off.]

I looked at the weather forecast last thing before going to bed last night and decided against an early start as there was no sunshine predicted. However, I managed to see a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata today which was very pleasing given their decline hereabouts. I also heard a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing from Butcombe Bay and saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo along Burmah Road.

The Dactylorhiza sp. orchids are putting on a stunning show in the meadows this year. We carried out a Dormouse box check and, disappointingly, have yet to find signs of any small mammals in them at all. We did, however, find a few Blue Tit broods. On the Mendip Hills we also carried out a Dormouse box scheme check and found none there either, although we did find two or three abandoned Blue Tit nests with dead 'skinnies' in them, along with quite a few doing okay, and one with a bird still sitting.

This evening after the YACWAG AGM I was shown at least one new plant gall on a Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur tree in Yatton, the so-called Cotton-wool Gall caused by the cynipid wasp Andricus quercusramuli (sexual generation). There was another gall on a Bird Cherry Prunus padus that may have been Taphrina padi, but I will need to take another look to separate it for sure from Taphrina pruni. Thanks to Tony and Faith Moulin for pointing them out.

Wednesday 24th May [Sunny and warm. Calm.]

Today, I noted 2 Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata, a ♂ Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis, a ♂ Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that we saw fly from The Island while setting up our bat traps on Butcombe Bank.

At home, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum was feeding on the Red Valerian outside the back door when I looked out this morning.

In the evening a group of bat workers got together to trap along Butcombe Bank as part of the National Nathsusius' Pipistrelle Project (See Bat News). It was the most beautiful night with shooting stars, the ISS, and we even saw dawn come up on a mirror-like lake.

Thursday 25th May [Sunny and warm]

Before dawn a ♀ Tawny Owl Strix aluco was calling around Butcombe Bank woods and a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus sang for a while from somewhere over by The Island.

This evening the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on the dam, a second ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was singing at Top End, there were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in the trees on Rugmoor Point, the Canada Goose Branta canadensis pair with 5 juveniles were on Rainbow Point, 2 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus flew east, a pair of Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata flew from Burmah Road to Rugmoor Point, and I saw Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and Great Tit Parus major fledglings being fed.

Friday 26th May [Sunny and warm]

I was at the lake early this morning to carry out my May 'standard walk' at the lake (0655-1020 hrs). I made the following count of singing migrants: 28 (34) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 25 (23) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 20 (8) Eurasian Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 4 (1) Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, 1 Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis, 1 Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, and 10 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus. Selected resident bird counts included 45 (44) Winter Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 32 (32) European Robins Erithacus rubecula, 26 (26) Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs, 21 (24) Common Blackbirds Turdus merula, and 6 (8) Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos. The April counts are in brackets. Other bird sightings included an adult Western Greylag Anser anser anser, Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 3 1st-summer Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, the first brood of Mute Swans Cygnus olor (3 juveniles, I think) and a ♀ Demoiselle at Top End that I was unable to identify owing to the fleeting view. Both species are uncommon at Blagdon.

It has been really noticeable how few Sedge and Willow Warblers have been around the lake this spring. It will be interesting to find out if this has also been picked up by the local BBS surveys too.

Saturday 27th May [Mainly overcast]

I led an AWT group from Chew Magna for a look around the lake today from 1000-1530 hrs. We had an excellent time exploring, although the lack of sunshine meant there weren't many insects on the wing, although we did see a couple of Common Blues Polyommatus icarus and a few 6-spot Burnet Moths Zygaena filipendulae. Best birds were a Common Tern Sterna hirundo, a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo at Long Bay, and a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. We also watched as a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major raided the nest of a pair of Great Tits Parus major that had young in an old 'pecker hole. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on the dam.

After the visit I drove to Falmouth, Cornwall, to join Daniel Hargreaves, Samantha Smith and some of Cornwall Bat Group to trap overnight at Argal Reservoir on their first outing as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project (see Bat News).

Sunday 28th May [Heavy showers]

I didn't pay a visit to the lake today because I got to bed at 0700hrs and slept until late morning. Then, late in the afternoon I drove down to the Somerset Levels with Ken Anstey, to join Daniel Hargreaves, Paul Kennedy and some of Somerset Bat Group to trap at Shapwick NNR (with permission from Natural England), again as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project (see Bat News).

While at Shapwick I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba in flight and heard at least 2 booming Eurasian Bitterns Botaurus stellaris.

Monday 29th May [Scattered showers]

I didn't visit the lake today.

Tuesday 30th May [Mainly cloudy with some sunny spells]

My apologies for the lack of news recently. There's not much to report this evening aside from a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End.

This evening, a bat I took over to Kiri Green and Stew Rowden in Fishponds for nursing back to proper weight and hydration was ready for release back to the wild. So, I drove it back to Stanton Drew for release where it had been grounded, picked up, and taken into care. It flew off strongly, so I'm hopeful it will be okay.

Wednesday 31st May [Sunny spells]

The only bird that I noted at the lake today was the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam. On the way to Chew this evening I saw a Little Owl Athene noctua at Moat Farm. Then, I joined Ken Anstey and Mark Hynam to do a bat roost count (see Bat News).

I picked up a Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus from Golden Valley Vets in Chew Magna this evening and handed it on to Ken Anstey who ran it over to bat carer Kiri Green on his way home after the roost count.