BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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

 

Saturday 16th February [Cloudy but mild, with a southerly air flow.]

I met up with Mark Hynam at the Lodge just after 0800 hrs this morning for a birding walk and we did quite well. Pick of the sightings were the first Scaup Aythya marila of the winter period, 2♂ and a ♀, a couple of flyover Skylarks Aluada arvensis, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and an immature ♀ Peregrine Falco peregrinus and 19 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields. Bizarrely, we also found a recently killed Tawny Owl Strix aluco (minus its head). I wonder who, or what, did that?

I think I'll have to go down to the lake again tomorrow morning, because there have been a few Swallows reported in the south west today, as well as a handful of House Martins, one of which was on the Shetland Isles!

Friday 15th February [Another beautiful sunny day]

You could actually feel some warmth in the sunshine today, but I was busy at home for most of it. I went down to the dam to look through the gulls at dusk, and there were lots of large gulls, but nothing noteworthy. However, while scanning through the flock I counted at least 23 (7♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, 5 (2♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathering to roost together, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Thursday 14th February [A beautiful sunny day]

I didn't visit the lake today, despite the lovely weather, as I was busy on a construction project at home and ferrying family around. However, while I was walking down Sunnyside Road in Clevedon, I heard and saw a ♂ Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing in a garden hedge at the junction with St. John's Road. No doubt a wintering bird, but a reminder that Spring is just around the corner - I hope!

Wednesday 13th February [Fairly mild & dry]

Ken Anstey and I spent five hours at the lake today, checking and giving the bat boxes a spring clean. Amazingly, we checked 63 Schwegler boxes and saw no bats, but in the 14 self-made wooden Kent boxes we saw no fewer than 10 bats safely hibernating. That is very rewarding and, perhaps, with more evidence gathered over the next few years, discussion with other bat workers may lead to more artificial hibernacula being put up for bats. I'm not saying Schweglers are never used by hibernating bats, they are, and we have found some doing so at both Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake, it's just my growing suspicion that wooden boxes may be preferred. Another plus point is that we found bird droppings in 35 of the 63 bat boxes because they are being used as bird roosts over the winter period.

While at the lake we saw 2, probably 3, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a pair of Pintail Anas acuta off Wood Bay Point, 12 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm fields, and heard a Greenfinch Chloris chloris singing at the Lodge. In a few places we saw Lesser CelandinesRanunculus ficaria in flower too.

Tuesday 12th February [Mainly sunny, until cloud moved in during the afternoon.]

I didn't go down to the lake until late afternoon for a quick look around. The only notable birds that I saw were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, just 2 Great White Ardea alba and 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser.

Ken Anstey and I will be at the lake for the majority of the day tomorrow in order to check, clean, and do the necessary to prepare the bat boxes for use during the coming season.

Sunday 10th February [Sunny spells and showers, but the wind had a bit of an edge to it.]

The birding has been so slow at Blagdon Lake this winter that it's taken me until today to see my first Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii. I also added feral Pigeon Columba livia livia (on Holt Farm) and Redshank Tringa totanus (calling from the dam end) to my year list during an afternoon walk with Mark Hynam, but it's been depressingly birdless in terms of scarcities throughout the winter months. We spent about an hour going through the gull roost too, but couldn't even find a Mediterranean or Yellow-legged Gull in the 2-3000 throng. Despite a good start on New Year's Day, I now have the lowest total for this time of year in the six years I've been plotting annual progress on my Bird Year List graph. Having heard the Redshank calling from Home Bay, we went to look on the dam for it, but there was no sign; just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. We counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca feeding in the field with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor beside Park Lane on Holt Farm and that's about all I have to report folks.

Saturday 9th February [Mainly dry, though blustery.]

Today there were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm feeding on the grass. Thanks to Mark Hynam and Rob Hargreaves for adding to my sightings made during a very brief visit late this afternoon.

Friday 8th February [Mainly wet]

There's quite a lot of surface water locally due to overnight rain continuing into today, and sure enough it's bringing the level of the lake up a bit. We have strong winds forecast, and I noticed several torn limbs and a tree down at the lake today. There were even fewer wildfowl to be seen than the low numbers in recent months, but I noted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm feeding on the grass.

Monday 4th February [Sunny & mild]

The snow's been washed away by overnight rain and there's quite a lot of water flowing into the lake. However, the level hasn't risen at all since at least the 29th December. Late this afternoon, I counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 13 (5♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and heard my first Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs of the year singing.

Sunday 3rd February [Sunny]

I went out this morning to count bats in hibernation at a couple of sites on the Mendip Hills with a group of local workers, then, this afternoon, Mark Hynam and I checked out Blagdon Lake for birds. We found 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 4 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 50 + Shoveler Spatula clypeata and 100+ Teal Anas crecca.

Saturday 2nd February [A cold, sunny, day.]

Mark Hynam had a look around the lake this morning and reported 4, possibly 5, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca as well as a large flock of Redwings Turdus iliacus.

Friday 1st February [4-6" of snow overnight continued until lunchtime]

I didn't visit the lake, but having cleared the snow off the patio and around the house before putting seed and water out, we were blessed with a visit from our 3rd ever garden (I think) Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, a Siskin Spinus spinus, and one each of Redwing Turdus iliacus and Fieldfare Turdus pilaris.

Thursday 31st January [Overcast with a cold easterly wind]

I used the best of the late afternoon light to go through the gull roost, mainly Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus of course, but there there were lots of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus as well. I didn't find anything unusual, although I did spot 3 pairs of Goosander Mergus merganser, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at the dam end/ Butcombe Bay. Sleet started to fall as it got dark, by which time I had noted another Little Egret in Holt Bay and a Great White Egret Ardea alba along the Indian Country bank.

Wednesday 30th January [Sunny but chilly]

My how the month has flown by! After the sleet of yesterday, I decided to venture forth and visit the lake again. The Feeders needed filling anyway. I enjoyed a lovely walk and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 (1♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, and a Primrose Primula vulgaris in flower on the bank of a ditch at, appropriately enough, Flower Corner. I also counted 36 Shovelers Spatula clypeata, and saw 10 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and a couple of Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus in the same field at Top End.

Sunday 27th January [Windy & chilly]

Mark Hynam visited the lake around lunchtime and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, plus a Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii (the first reported this year), then we met up with some bat worker friends to carry out another bat hibernation count on the Mendips late this afternoon - infinitely preferable to doing the Blagdon gull roost again today!

Saturday 26th January

Mark Hynam saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta before we met up to spend late afternoon going through the gull roost. A pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser put in an appearance, but we didn't find any unusual gulls in the large roost.

Thursday 24th January [Milder than last couple of days]

A late afternoon visit turned up 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and 3 (1♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser. There were lots of gulls again, but I didn't spot anything out of the ordinary among them.

The 'leaky' Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus turned up on the patio again, briefly, early this afternoon, and I watched it taking a drink of water from the bowl provided. It looked okay, but water was dribbling from it's breast after every sip. See yesterdays news for more on this strange bird.

Wednesday 23rd January [Cold & sunny]

A quick look late morning revealed 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. It's probable that there were 3 Great White's yesterday too, although I chose to err on the conservative side with my count and assume I'd seen one of the two at Rugmoor earlier. They're highly mobile so counting isn't easy if you're birding on foot.

Celia and I witnessed the most extraordinary thing this afternoon. A rather dishevelled Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus landed on the patio and spent ages mopping up sunflower hearts that I put on the ground. Nothing unusual there you say, but while I was watching it, I realised that as fast as it was eating seeds, so some of them were dropping out of its throat back onto the ground! I can only think that it must have had a close escape from a Sparrowhawk that had ripped a hole in its throat before the Pigeon escaped. It would explain the curious feathering around the neck that had a large gap in that area. There was no blood, so I'm assuming its an old wound. It flew off when I went outside shortly afterwards.

Tuesday 22nd January [Sunny spells & wintery showers]

Nigel and Beryl Crocker sent me news of 14 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Top End (thanks), and I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta (too) late this afternoon. There was a huge gull roost, by Blagdon standards, again this evening but they escaped a 'grilling' from me. Perhaps tomorrow.

Monday 21st January [Mainly overcast]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning as planned. We saw the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos of note. There was also a fair smattering of 156 Pochard Aythya ferina. Full count details on the WeBS Count page.

As forecast, and despite making the effort to get up twice, there was no sign of the lunar eclipse due to thick cloud when I looked for it. Phil, who lives in Wilts., managed to get some pictures through his scope and phone though - just to rub salt into the wounds!

Sunday 20th January [Overcast]

Mark Hynam and I had a brief look early afternoon and saw 4 (3♂) adult Goosanders Mergus merganser, circa 80 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.

For the latter part of the afternoon we met up with Chris, Sam and Ken to carry out a bat hibernation roost count.

Sadly, the local forecast is to stay cloudy today and tomorrow, so I won't be getting up in the middle of the night and going out with my camera to photograph the super blood wolf moon (lunar eclipse in January) before dawn. Neighbour Alastair, who is a bit of an astronomy buff, tells me the next one is in 2028. Let's hope we're spared and have another opportunity!

The usual team will be doing the WeBS count tomorrow.

Saturday 19th January [Sunny spells]

News from Mike Johnson (and Jacky), as well as Mark Hynam today. So, thanks for your input guys. Birds reported included 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and 4 (3♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.

Friday 18th January [Another grey day]

I didn't get down to the lake today, but Mark Hynam did, and he texted the following sightings: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a ♀ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 50+ Redwings Turdus ilaceus and a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinereus of note. Neither of us have been able to spot a Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii at the lake so far this year! It's quite extraordinary, and I'm wondering where they've gone because I've never noticed an absence of this species before.

Thursday 17th January [A lovely, cold, and sunny day.]

I walked with friends around the lake today, following footpaths and lanes, before reaching Butcombe Bay where we had a brief stop to take it all in. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by the overspill, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and located the missing Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm at long last. Again, there were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor in the farm fields as well. It was one of those beautiful, glad to be alive days, with some great views of our lovely valley along the way.

Wednesday 16th January [Cooler, with rain around midday, and some sun late afternoon.]

On arrival at the lake mid-afternoon, I caught up with the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and spotted a huge line of gulls from the dam right down towards Ash Tree. I spent nearly an hour going through them, especially as there were still plenty of Common Gulls Larus canus (usually the carrier species for Med. or Ring-billed Gulls). However, despite looking at between 2 and 3000, I didn't find any surprises. While at the Lodge, I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing briefly in Pipe Bay reeds, and behind the copse there were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor in the fields on Holt Farm, with 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Home Bay. During a search to Top End and back, I saw the usual 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and behind the east end hide, I saw 2 Great Spotted Dendrocopos major and a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis fly out of the wood towards Bell's Bush almost one after the other.

Monday 14th January [A bit milder, still, but mostly overcast.]

I thought I'd change tactics a bit today, so did the gathering of gulls mid-afternoon then went for a look around afterwards. But, there were no 'white-winged' or Yellow-legged Gulls, and only 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 (♂ & ♀) Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus of note.

Sunday 13th January [Windy, & quite wild at the lakeside.]

My late afternoon visit turned up little to relate here in the blog. The small Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost is still using the reedbeds near the Lodge, and although there were probably a couple of thousand, or more, gulls in the roost, I couldn't even spot a Med Gull. It's a bit grim.

Saturday 12th January [A bit grey and miserable]

I walked the whole south side of the lake with fellow warden Mark Hynam this afternoon. He'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and while birding together we saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, between 50-80 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and, new for the year on site, the regular ♂ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Bell's Bush. There were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields today.

Thursday 10th January [Cool but pleasant]

I went out for a long walk over the Mendips with friends today and didn't get back home in time was too tired to go to the lake. Lol. Anyway, there isn't much to tell apart from my hearing Crossbills Loxia curvirostra in the northwest corner of Rowberrow Plantation. However, as I didn't have my binoculars around my neck for a change, I just couldn't spot them, despite their being quite close by.

Wednesday 9th January [Sunny with a cool light breeze]

It was a fine afternoon by the lake and as usual there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, one on North Shore and one at Top End, and the 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were still with the large flock of Canada Geese Branta canadensis. The only new bird I recorded was a calling Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, but I didn't see it because a helicopter flew over drowning out its calls, and the bird had moved on when the chopper disappeared over the hill.

Tuesday 8th January [Mainly sunny with a cool light breeze]

This afternoon there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again beside the lake at North Shore and Indian Country, an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, no less than 295 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis mainly along North Shore/Rugmoor, and 5 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm. I caught up with 4 Shovelers Spatula clypeata, the Barnacle Geese and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus to add to my site year list, and saw 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus at dusk on the way home.

Monday 7th January [Grey, drizzly & windy.]

'Twas a blustery old afternoon by the lake and, frankly, most birds were keeping their heads down. The only notables were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, one each at Pipe Bay and Rugmoor Point. There was nothing to add to the year list.

Saturday 5th January [Cold & grey]

Mark Hynam was on site early this morning and sent me a report of the following sightings: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the elusive Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2 Green Woodpeckers Picus viridis, a House Sparrow Passer domesticus and some Shovelers Spatula clypeata.

Friday 4th January [Sunny but cold]

I spent much of the day doing bat work at the lakes, firstly at Blagdon, then Chew. I had intended to visit Blagdon to have a look at the birds on the way back, but I had to come straight home.

Thursday 3rd January [Overcast with a cool breeze]

I grabbed a couple of hours by the lake this afternoon, having been away visiting family yesterday. I managed to get a couple of new species for the site year list in the form of a ♂ Gadwall Mareca strepera, and heard a sqealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus in Pipe Bay reeds while checking the gull roost from the Lodge at dusk. Other than that it was the usual suspects, with a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Holt Bay, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta at Home Bay Point, and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser off Butcombe Bank. The picture of the Shoveler, below, is somehow prophetic in that I have yet to see one this year!

Tuesday 1st January [Mild with plenty of sunny spells]

A festive Shoveler © Nigel Milbourne 2018

I was on site at 0745 hrs on an incredibly mild and calm morning, and had seen quite a few bird species by sun-up and spotted a Treecreeper at 0900 hrs to bring up my 50th species for the New Year. I walked to Top End and back from the Lodge, eventually amassing a (half-)day list of 58 species. There were no surprises, but I was pleased to see a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a flock of about a dozen Siskins Spinus spinus, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, hear 6 singing Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendropcopos major drumming, and saw around 30 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.

Before sunrise, and while I was scanning the lake from the Lodge, I estimated about 1300 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris left the Pipe Bay reeds in a series of pulses, each of about 100 birds at 0805 hrs. On the way back from Top End, I noticed that there were Hazel catkins out in Holt Copse. So, quite an enjoyable morning's walk to bring in the New Year.