BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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

 

Friday 22nd March [Dry and relatively warm]

I was at the church service to celebrate Roy Curber's life today, along with a few other birders, and didn't get home until mid-afternoon. I've had a look through some of the notes I made when chatting with Roy over one of our lunches here in Blagdon a few years ago, and he told me he started doing WeBS counts at Blagdon in 1974, following on from Andy Davis. He led the team at Blagdon for some 40 years before handing over to me. Until 1974 he'd been doing counts at Chew Valley Lake, starting with Bernard King, until Keith Vinicombe took them on. Before then he counted on the Tamar Estuary when he lived in Plymouth, where he was born. Both Andy and Keith were with me at the service today and they told me Roy was incredibly kind when they were youngsters, taking them to see such exciting birds as Stone Curlews at Sixpenny Handley. Andy also told me they gave Roy the nickname 'Shotgun' after Roy C who sang the song Shotgun Wedding in 1965 while they were still fledgling birders! Roy and Molly birded in many places around the world, and we all remember their little red Bedford Rascal that they travelled the length and bredth of the land together in. Roy had a lovely sense of humour, being able to laugh at himself and his frequent clumsiness in later years, but was a real gentleman. In recent years he was ever alert, although a little hard of hearing, and found the first Avocet (2006) and Cattle Egret (2009) at Blagdon, although was proud of the Red-throated Pipit he and M. Wilson found on 24th September 1973 at Blagdon, the first for the county. RIP Roy.

I spent about three-quarters of an hour at the lake. I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Long Bay, before it relocated to Holt Bay. Simon Mackie sent me news of 2+ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus of note, plus several photos of a bat that he saw flying around while he was there that I will need to get a second opinion on.

Thursday 21st March [Sunny spells]

I had a very quick look around this morning using my binoculars and saw 3 (2♂♂) Greater Scaup Aythya marila off the dam, but didn't spot the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis which had moved, due to there being two boats in Holt Bay. However, later on after we'd done the weekly shop, I met up with Chris and Trees Stone who put me straight onto it over at Orchard Bay on the North Shore. I didn't see the Great White Egret today, but the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca were briefly on the water off Rainbow Point, and, again, there were lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus going through during the afternoon.

I've just checked my archive and noted that the wintering Common Sandpiper first appeared at Blagdon in 2011-12, assuming it's the same bird, which seems highly probable. So, remarkably, this winter is it's 8th at the lake.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila © Nigel Milbourne 2019

When I left the lake the Greater Scaup were in Pipe Bay trying to get some respite from the boat anglers with their beaks under wings! I counted 31 Common Pochard Aythya ferina and 13 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End while I was looking for the GWE.

Wednesday 20th March [Mainly cloudy, some sunny spells, & a bit warmer.]

I couldn't get to the lake early doors, but Wayne Tucker managed to find the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis this morning and let me know it was still present. Cheers Wayne. When I arrived I met Pete Taylor who'd been in Top End hide trying to convince a Welsh birder, over for his 3rd or 4th attempt to see the Lesser Scaup, that the birds they were looking at were in fact Greater Scaup Aythya marila. I went to have a look and sure enough there was a pair at Top End. Thanks Pete, I'm always pleased to see Scaup. I put Pete on the Lesser Scaup in Holt Bay but the Welsh guy drove straight past in his yellow car and, therefore, missed it again! The Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and, while waiting to photograph the main attraction, I saw 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia fly east up the lake mid-afternoon. I forgot to add that at 1440 hrs I used my clicker to count 294 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus sitting on the water at the dam end. There was quite a high proportion of 1st-winter birds but I didn't count them separately. By 1600 hrs I'd estimated there to have been no fewer than 1000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls into and out of the lake during the afternoon. During my actual count of 294, I'd say there were just 10-15 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus among them.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Now then, looking at today's photo and with reference to Wildfowl of Europe, Asia & North America by Sebastien Reeber (Helm Identification Guides, 2015), I'm of the opinion that the Blagdon bird is a 1st-winter. This is based on the brown in the back, formative scapulars and juvenile blackish-brown upperwing. Most tail feathers are pale brown (see below) although there are two (?) new black central feathers and at least two new outer feathers of a different moult.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Tuesday 19th March [Cloudy in the morning & sunny in the afternoon]

I was out for most of the day but did get to the lake at about 1730 for an hour. The ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was off Green Lawn and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. Neither Mark, who I met there, or I saw any hirundines.

Monday 18th March [Started fine but quickly clouded over with some spots of rain.]

On arrival at the lake, I was greeted by a singing Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in Lodge Copse. I didn't spot the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis on the way to see the dentist, but it was being watched in Holt Bay by Pete and Pauline Grant, and Phil Delve, as I made my way home for lunch. Lovely to see you guys. I watched the scaup this afternoon and left sometime after 1700hrs. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca but very little else in the fairly miserable conditions. I have an appeal: has anyone got upperwing photos of the Lesser Scaup that I could be directed to please? It will help with ageing the bird. Ian Stapp kindly sent me a picture of a wing flap showing the breast markings, and they are the same, as you would suppose, given the timing of the disappearance of the bird from Chew and arrival at Blagdon, and their relative scarcity.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis images © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Sunday 17th March [Mainly sunny with a cold blustery wind]

Mark Hynam got to the lake at around 0830 hrs and I joined him just after 1000hrs when we found the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay. I had to go home for an hour after that, and eventually got back down to the lake where we spent much of the afternoon until it got too cold. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was still in residence, and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were back on Holt Farm with Mute Swans Cygnus olor. During the day several Sand Martins Riparia riparia were noted by various observers, including ourselves, but none seemed to stick around.

With an improvement in the weather forecast for tomorrow, it's likely that the fishing boats will be out on the lake, so it's possible the Lesser Scaup may get pushed around or even leave the site. I'll have a look in the morning and put news out. I haven't heard if the Chew bird has been seen over the weekend, but then I don't know if anyone has looked for it. Hopefully, we'll get an update from Rich or Andy tomorrow.

Saturday 16th March [Dry. Getting windy again.]

I arranged to meet fellow bird warden Mark Hynam this morning at 0800 hrs and having parked at the Lodge I picked up a Scaup sp. in the southern corner of the dam through my binoculars. We set off for our walk and on getting to the dam we could see that the bird was either an Aythya hybrid or ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. It was a couple of hundred metres away and looked good, but I went to get my scope to check the finer details, especially the nail of the bill. It still looked good and actually swam in closer. Mark had seen it wing-flap while I was away and confirmed the wing pattern was also right. So, I put out the positive news on Twitter. It was still present off the dam at 1320 hrs and had swum close into the bank at times while Mark and I were looking around the rest of the lake. Dean Reeves was watching it just before we left and had some nice photos, he also told me he'd seen about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia briefly at the dam. Mark and I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, heard 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita singing/calling, and saw 20 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.

Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Wednesday 13th March [Still cool but some sun today. Windy.]

There's not much to tell you other than I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush. Storm Gareth is set to lash us again tomorrow.

Tuesday 12th March [Pouring with rain until late afternoon]

The water level has certainly come up, thanks to the rain over the last 24 hours, and I saw only one angler braving the weather. There was very little to report, with the only birds that I saw and worthy of note being the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Monday 11th March [Sunny]

This afternoon I finally saw my first hirundines of the year, about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a single Swallow Hirundo rustica. The martins were feeding over Top End, but the Swallow appeared to fly through to the west on its own. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was feeding along the south side between Burmah Road and Top End, while the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm with Mute Swans Cygnus olor until they were all chased off.

Belated news from Mike Moxon as follows: I could see the Egyptians today from the top of the field, but not from the bottom where I was looking last week, and 14 swans. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still on the dam and the white-fronted tuftie was nearby. Two ♂ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were in Butcombe Bay, plus a nice flock of Long tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus, with 2 Nuthatches Sitta europaea, a Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Robin Erithacus rubecula, Blue Cyanistes caeruleus and Great Tits Parus major in a tree by the spillway, and a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis calling in the distance. Thanks for your news Mike.

I read with horror today that a devastating fire has destroyed Fair Isle Bird Observatory. I went there in 1998 with Steve Preddy and Julian Thomas and enjoyed the most amazing week of birding. The observatory that burned down was infact a new one built since we went there, and is likely to cost some £4 million to replace. Not only will its loss jeopardise the long data set going back to 1948, but it will have a profound effect on the islands economy until rebuilt and providing accommodation again. Strangely, I came across my Fair Isle Obs sweat shirt in the wardrobe yesterday and decided to wear it for the first time in ages - I've had it 21 years, and treasure it. One day I hope to go back and buy another, as well as a woollen Fair Isle beanie.

Tomorrow, the first anglers of the year will take to the banks, as the season ticket holders have their day, before the season opens to bank and boat anglers on Thursday.

Sunday 10th March [Wild & windy]

Mark Hynam was at the lake early this morning and I met him later. The conditions were quite exciting, but the birding certainly wasn't! So, here we go again, 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser that flew out of Butcombe Bay and probably left the lake. We left at lunchtime.

Saturday 9th March [Mainly dry with sunny spells. Windy.]

Still no hirundines at the lake today. Mark looked early this morning, and we both looked mid-afternoon. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were with Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, while a brief moment or two of speculation was engendered by a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a broad white facial blaze.

During the rest of the day went over to the Forest of Dean to visit some of the sites there. We saw a number of Goshawks from New Fancy View, including distant displaying birds, a pair of Adders trying to soak up enough warmth to get moving, and Mandarins at Cannop Ponds. On the way back, the railway crossing gates were opened in Lydney high street to let a 4575 class Small Prairie tank no. 5541 cross the road on the Dean Forest Railway, and we stopped at Barrow Gurney to see the superb-looking Long-tailed Duck on Barrow No. 1 reservoir (the little one).

Friday 8th March [Showers]

There was nowt to set the pulse racing this afternoon. Just the usual (copy and paste) Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. Frankly, I couldn't be bothered to stand in the rain and go through the gull roost...

Thursday 7th March [Windy & dry]

I walked with friends over the Mendips today, then around Cheddar Reservoir before getting back to the car via a tea shop and the Strawberry Line for a mile or so. While walking around Cheddar Res., where we could barely stand up in the gale, I saw a ♂ Scaup Aythya marila with a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula only a few metres out from the bank, and a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser further out.

When I got home I went down to the lake and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 17 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm (plus 2 others at Green Lawn), and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (one at Rugmoor and the other at Burmah Road).

Wednesday 6th March [A pretty damp day]

Late this afternoon, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam in the south corner, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End. However, I didn't see the Egyptian Geese with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm. The only species I counted was Shoveler, totting up 49 at Top End feeding off the surface in the calmer water there.

Tuesday 5th March [Started sunny & finished wet]

I got to the lake this afternoon just before the rain set in. There wasn't much to report, just the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. There was no sign of any hirundines, either before or after the rain started. There were about 200 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus sitting on the water at the dam end, so I guess they're moving through on migration now.

Monday 4th March [A squally & not terribly pleasant day]

My late afternoon visit was curtailed somewhat by a dangerous tree beside the road at Hellfire Corner that is going to be felled, either this afternoon or tomorrow. I saw the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 11 Mute Swans on Holt Farm, plus another 8 swans along the south side of the lake. There was also a distantly visible Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. No hirundines were visible, but I should imagine if there were any, they'd have been sheltering in a tree or reedbed with the rain and hail that was blowing through! T'was a bit wild.

Sunday 3rd March [Wet & windy for much of the day]

Roy Curber, good friend and mainstay of the Blagdon WeBS count team for many years, sadly passed away yesterday in Bath from pneumonia. He conducted counts on the Tamar, before taking on Chew Valley Lake and then Blagdon, until he fell badly just over a year ago. Roy was a keen member of Bristol Ornithological Club, Bath Nats. and Bath RSPB Group, and found many rare birds locally over the years, including a number of 'firsts' for Blagdon. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and stories for the 20 years we counted wildfowl together at Blagdon, and was always amazed at his sharp eyesight and keen hearing as he approached his ninetieth year, as well as his extensive bird knowledge gained on many birding trips abroad with his wife Molly. RIP Roy, I shall miss you.

Mike Moxon visited Butcombe Bay and the dam area at lunchtime, and reported a ♀ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula by the dam & 2 ♂♂ in Butcombe Bay, where there was also an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser. He wrote that the Mute Swans Cygnus olor were still on Holt Farm with a few Pheasants Phasianus colchicus. Thanks for your sightings Mike.

This afternoon, Mark Hynam and I had a look around the patch, and saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 14 Mute Swans on Holt Farm (2 more swans at Top End), a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Flower Corner, and 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End from the hide. Then, on the way back to the dam, we saw an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser fly in and join the Mute Swans on Holt Farm. After a cuppa, we went to the dam to check the gull roost (about 900 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a few larger gulls), heard a Tawny Owl Strix aluco call from the south end of the dam, and watched hundreds of Jackdaws Corvus monedula swirl in to roost at Butcombe in the increasingly windy conditions.

Saturday 2nd March [Blustery & wet later]

News from bird warden Mark Hynam of 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a ♀ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, and 30+ Redwings Turdus ileacus today.

Friday 1st March [Early cloud & mist, then a sunny afternoon.]

When the sun came out this afternoon, there were Buzzards Buteo buteo calling from all directions, with pairs soaring in the air proclaiming their territories. I also heard my first singing Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Lodge Copse and, presumably the same one again, at the entrance gate as I left a couple of hours later. The only notable water bird was a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, although there were huge numbers of gulls out on Holt/Lag Farm where liquid manure was being spread on the fields. I didn't spot anything unusual, although in truth the gulls were so mobile it was hard to get a decent look through them, except when they flew onto the lake to drink and bathe.

Carol Rushton and Steve Curtis spotted 2 (presumably a pair) Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm with the Mute Swans early afternoon. Thanks for sending me the news guys.

Thursday 28th February [Rain & hill fog]

Today was an ideal day for visiting the lake to look for migrants, with the mist and rain, but I couldn't make it. Celia came home, having had a heart pacemaker fitted at Bristol Heart Institute yesterday. Her care in Harptree Ward at Weston General, and by the BRI heart team was brilliant. We'd both like to say thanks to everyone who has been in touch to wish her well. Tomorrow's the first day of metereological Spring, and a time to look forward... Sand Martins and a Swallow arrived at Chew today.

Monday 25th February [The warmest February day in the UK on record]

Another day of glorious sunshine, most of which was spent in hospital with my dear wife. However, I did manage time for a drive along the lakeside as the sun sank over the hill. I saw a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, 16 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. As I let myself off site at the Ubley gate, I noticed that there was a Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna breaking out in leaf there - not the earliest date I ever seen it, but certainly up there.

There was a report, on Avon Birds, of a Black-necked Grebe at the lake today. I don't have any more details.

Saturday 23rd February [A lovely day]

Mark Hynam sent me the following report from the lakeside today: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 9 (5♂ and 4 ♀) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a ♂ Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus at Top End, 15 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, a couple of dozen Redwings Turdus iliacus and 2 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris.

Friday 22nd February [A lovely day]

I'm sorry news has been a bit sparse, but my wife is currently in hospital and I have little time to visit the lake at present. If you have news please feel free to share with me and I'll get it posted. The current situation is likely to continue for a week or more.

Wednesday 20th February [Overcast & dry]

I spent the whole day at Chew Valley Lake with Ken Anstey cleaning the bat boxes. While we did our round we saw a pristine-looking Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta in the copse on Nunnery Point, and were taken aback by the damage done to Parkland again this winter, presumably by hungry badgers who roll the turf back looking for worms or plant material. I'm not sure if it will benefit the orchids that grow there though. What was also surprising was that in the few patches we had time to roll back into place, there were lots of holes, that we reckon were made by probing birds. Could they be made by Snipe or Woodcock feeding at night?

Anyway, on the way home I had a brief look at Blagdon (by which time it was gone 1700 hrs) and didn't see any egrets! However, I did see a ♂ Scaup Aythya marila in Holt Bay. This, I'm sure, is a new bird because neither Mark nor I have seen the 3 noted on Saturday since our initial mid-morning sighting.

Tuesday 19th February [Mainly sunny, then clouding over with some light rain.]

This afternoon I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser, and counted 1112 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 123 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and 40 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus in a somewhat reduced roost. Over the coming weeks the numbers of Black-headed Gulls will quickly drop as they move off to their breeding sites north and east of here, but the 'large gull' numbers will increase as they move through on passage from further south in West Africa and Iberia.

Monday 18th February [Mainly sunny]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning, and while counting 943 Common Gulls Larus canus I found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus. At long last! Pick of the birds today were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 7 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. I had to leave before the end and would like to thank the guys for finishing off without me. Count details are given, as usual, on the WeBS Count Page, but note that there may be some minor adjustments made over the coming days.

Sunday 17th February [Mainly cloudy, with some sunshine, and a cool southerly wind.]

Buoyed by an interesting morning's birding yesterday, and southerly winds overnight, we'd hoped for similar today. Got that wrong though! So, apologies for the familiar ring to my post but here we go - 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 2♂ Pintail Anas acuta, an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser, a ♀ Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (first of the year), an adult ♂ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, and 14 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields. Tomorrow is WeBS count day.

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.