BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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

 

Monday 17th June [Mainy dry]

I didn't visit the lake until the evening, and saw two broods of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (4 and 2) with their mums at Cheddar Water. It was curious to see the brood of 4 young diving for food, an unusual sight for dabbling ducks. Their mum didn't seem to be interested in whatever food the young were exploiting, and neither did the other brood close by. It's usual to see the young Mallards feeding on caddis flies and midges by snapping at them out of the air at that time of the evening. The young were quite big, but hadn't fledged yet. In fact, their wing feathers had barely developed at all, but they were using them to help propel themselves as they dived.

I bumped into Nick Wilcox-Brown and spent time chatting with him. We saw several small flocks of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris flying around at dusk, presumably looking for somewhere safe to roost, and went to see if we could hear the Water Rail singing that Mark I had heard on 8th June. No luck tonight though.

Sunday 16th June [Early rain, then some showers during the day.]

I carried out the WeBS count with Phil Delve, Terry Doman and Rob Hargreaves this morning. There wasn't anything very exciting to report, but we did count juvenile waterfowl and reckon there were 3 Mute Swan Cygnus olor, 3 Canada Goose Branta canadensis and about 8 Coot Fulica atra broods. We also saw a new Mallard Anas platyrhynchos brood of 9 ducklings, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo. The Pyramidal Orchids Anacamptis pyramidalis have started to flower on Green Lawn and I noticed a pale pink one among them.

In the evening Mark Hynam, Ken Anstey and I did an emergence survey of the 1FW bat box we looked at on Friday (see Bat News).

Friday 14th June

Mark Hynam visited the lake early evening but didn't have much to report. We went to have a look at one of the hibernation bat boxes at dusk that had lots of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus roosting in it during June 2017 (but none in the hot summer of 2018). We counted between 60 and 70 out during a 10-15 minute spell, so have decided to go back and do a proper emergence survey on another evening.

Thursday 13th June

I'm back from a couple of days in Cornwall, and I reckon there were 1000+ Swifts Apus apus over the lake this evening.

Celia and I took a ride on the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and back, on the way home from Cornwall this afternoon, and I saw a brood each of Mandarin Duck and Goosander on the River Dart from the train. I reckon the last time I was on that line was 1973, some 3 years after it had re-opened, while I was a summer student at Seale-Hayne Agricultural College. It's celebrating 50 years in preservation this year!

Further to my comment on the 2nd June about seeing a Black Swan on the Exe at Topsham, Paul Williams contacted me from the Spanish Pyrenees to say he'd seen Black Swans on the Exe earlier in the year too.

Wednesday 12th June

News from Rupert Higgins today of a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca at Holt Bay (first of the year) and the ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus still singing on the North Shore.

Monday 10th June [Wet, wet, wet.]

I spent the day finishing off the ABR duck section and putting off going to the lake as the weather got worse and worse - lovely weather for ducks, unless they're still in down, I'd imagine. I did venture out in the car at dusk but there wasn't much to see; anything with any sense was under cover!

Sunday 9th June [Some heavy showers]

A quick whizz around this evening was of some interest in that there was a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing on the North Shore, a pair of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus with a juvenile at Burmah Road (first of the year), and a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 7 juveniles in Rugmoor Bay. Duck numbers had increased a little with 30 Pochard Aythya ferina and 27 Tufted Duck A. fuligula at the Ubley end of the lake.

Saturday 8th June [Heavy overnight rain and strong wind for most of the day]

Mark Hynam and I were surprised by a ♂ Water Rail Rallus aquaticus singing at Top End this evening, not something you hear very often, saw 2 pairs of Mute Swans Cygnus olor with 1 and 2 cygnets, and a pair of Coots Fulica atra with 2 juveniles in Home Bay. That's 3 broods of Mute Swan (only 6 juveniles though), and just 2 of Coot, so far.

Friday 7th June [Rain in the morning, drying out later]

I saw 3 pairs of Gadwall Mareca strepera today, but there was no sign of any young, and a total of 23 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula.

At home I watched a Humming-bird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum feeding on Red Valerian by our back door for a while this afternoon, my first of the year.

Thursday 6th June [Stormy]

I had a look at the lake late this morning, but aside from lots of Swifts Apus apus and House Martins Delichon urbicum over the water, I didn't see much else to report.

Wednesday 5th June [Mainly cloudy and warm]

I was enjoying a cuppa with Ce on the patio this morning when a splendid, pristine-looking, Painted Lady Vanessa cardui dropped in to feed on the Red Valerian outside our back door.

Tuesday 4th June [Cloudy, then clearing to sunshine in the evening]

I saw a Badger Meles meles cub at the lake today, but I've nothing to report on the bird front.

Monday 3rd June [Some light showers. Warm.]

Yesterday's comment about seeing a Black Swan on the Exe Estuary prompted a response from Nigel Crocker who reminded me there used to be Black Swans in Dawlish town centre park. I'm not sure if they're still there and if this was one of them though. Does anyone out there know?

The only Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood of 3 cygnets is still okay, no doubt thanks to the experience of their parents who are regular breeders at Top End. If there are any other successful broods of water birds, they are keeping a very low profile in the marginal vegetation.

Anyway, I have been sent some invertebrate records of interest by Rupert Higgins, which include a record of Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae, the first I've heard about here, the tree hopper Centrotus cornutus, and weevil Apoderus coryli, all recorded on 25th May. I will post the findings of our Moth Group meeting in the next day or two.

Sunday 2nd June [Mainly cloudy, with some rain.]

I went to East Dartmoor NNR with Mark early this morning, hoping to see some of the regular breeding birds there. We enjoyed great views of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Marsh Tit at this fabulous site, but didn't see Wood Warbler. I spoke to a guy there who told me there were record numbers of Pied Flycatchers this year but no Wood Warblers. In fact, he said there were very few on Dartmoor at all this year, probably due weather affecting their Spring migration. A real shame, let's hope they fare better next year. On the way back home we stopped off at Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, and had a look over the estuary. I was more than a little surprised to see a Black Swan swimming down the Exe on the falling tide from the Goat Walk, to say the least. We also saw 2 Greenshanks and 7 Black-tailed Godwits on the marsh.

Back at the lake this evening, I saw all 3 broods of Canada Goose Branta canadensis (1, 3 & 4 juveniles) on the dam. but that was it I'm afraid.

Saturday 1st June [Sunny & warm]

I was at the lakeside at 0545hrs to carry out one of my late BBS surveys. Despite having a look around before I went home for breakfast, I don't have anything to report save for seeing an adult Fox Vulpes vulpes on its way home with prey.

Mark Hynam spent some time at the lake later in the day and heard a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing somewhere at the Top End, he thought it was probably on the Ubley side.

Friday 31st May [Early cloud then Sunny & warm]

After a morning spent working on the Avon Bird Report ducks section, and an afternoon shopping and visiting mum, I headed down to the lake after tea. However, I don't have anything to report other than the calling of 'branching' young Tawny Owls Strix aluco for the first time this year. Aside from Mallards, Canada Geese and one brood of Mute Swans, this season seems to be shaping up as the the worst yet for breeding waterfowl at the lake. An increase in the numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls Larinus marinus would appear to be one of the main causes for the decline, although Carrion Crows Corvus corone remain the principal avian egg thief.

Thursday 30th May [Mainly sunny with a strong breeze]

I went to the lake at lunchtime on my way back from checking the bat roost and, now I've come to write my blog, I realise that I didn't make any notes at all while I was there. There were good numbers of Swifts Apus apus over the water again, but there wasn't much else to report, except perhaps that a pair of Coots Fulica atra have nested again for at least the 5th time this Spring, after being washed out on each previous occasion! Alan Dymock told me he'd heard a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End one day this week.

It was back to Bishop Sutton to the bat roost in the evening, but there was disappointment (see Bat News).

Wednesday 29th May [Grey & drizzly]

It rained most of the day until about 1600 hrs when I went to Bishop Sutton to locate 'Naomi'. Satisfied she was still around, I drove home via Blagdon Lake where I saw the first Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood of 3 cygnets at Indian Country, and counted a total of 46. Also counted, were circa 100 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 16 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and 4 Gadwall Mareca strepera. There were good numbers of hirundines and Swifts Apus apus over the lake.

Tuesday 28th May [Overcast in morning & sunny later]

In the morning I went to Chew Valley Lake to relocate 'Naomi', and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly past at Sutton Wick. Then in the evening before going to Chew to continue radio-tracking, I had a quick look at Blagdon Lake, where I saw 2 broods of 3 and 4 Canada Goose Branta canadensis goslings at The Lodge. At Top End there were 15 Pochard Aythya ferina and 12 Tufted Ducks A. fuligula, as far as I could see.

I then went on to Bishop Sutton for another rendezvous with 'Naomi' (see Bat News) who kept me entertained until midnight.

Monday 27th May [Cloudy, then sunny later. A cool breeze.]

A good sleep was called for, having got home to bed for around 0515 hrs. I didn't bird Blagdon today, and met up with Mark Hynam and Daniel Hargreaves (and Heidi) instead, to locate the roosting 'Naomi' in Bishop Sutton.

Sunday 26th May [Drizzle until late in the day]

Having not got to bed until the early hours, I had to get up early to meet fellow members of Bristol & District Moth Group for a day meeting at the lake. Just 5 of us braved the drizzle and miserable conditions for about 4 hours. We found some nice things and it was enjoyable company. Ray Barnett (Bristol Museum) will put together a list of finds in due course.

Then it was home for something to eat, before preparing for a second night of batting at Chew Valley Lake with the same aim as last night. Six years of trying finally paid off at 0005 hrs (see Bat News).

Saturday 25th May [Blustery]

I didn't visit the lake to go birding today, although I was there well before dark to meet up with the bat team because we were trapping to try and catch a ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii to radio tag and find her roost. We had a pretty good night and details are on the Bat News Page.

Friday 24th May [It clouded over as the day wore on]

There was a spectacular-looking Great White Egret Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point this evening, it was draped in the most wonderful shawl of back plumes. As usual with this species, it flew off east at dusk. Aside from the egret, the only other notes I made were of 6♂ Pochard Aythya ferina and 20 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula at Top End.

Thursday 23rd May [Mainly sunny & warm]

My limited time at the lake this afternoon was spent dealing with people rather than birding, unfortunately. I saw a new brood of, I think, 4 juvenile Mallards Anas platyrhynchos on the dam with mum, a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major probing the Lodge Lawn for titbits, and there was a marked increase in Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers compared with Monday's WeBS count; I saw 53 today, and suspect there may have been another juvenile that I couldn't see with a pair in the marginal vegetation. I'm guessing goose numbers will slowly build now as the moult flock forms.

Wednesday 22nd May [Sunny & warm]

A couple of hours at the lake this evening only produced a Hobby Falco subbuteo of note. I watched, with fascination, as a Fox Vulpes vulpes went slowly through the marginal vegetation at Top End. Three Mallards Anas platyrhynchos caught sight of it as it walked past them within a few feet while they kept careful watch. The pair of Shovelers Spatula clypeata, also there, thought better of the situation and flew onto the water. The Fox just moved on. Later, as I drove home, I came across 4 Fox cubs too. Magic.

Tuesday 21st May [Sunny & warm]

I felt better today and went down to the lake at 1400 hrs, dropping Celia off on the way to the lake. I had a look at the dam and Lodge before moving on to Green Lawn where I spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the margin that is being exposed by the falling water level. I parked up on Rainbow Point after having a quick chat to another couple of bird watchers, and started to scan Top End and the hillsides, mainly hoping to spot a passing Red Kite. I saw a good few Buzzards Buteo buteo and a Hobby Falco subbuteo, but no kites. To my utter surprise I also spotted a tern at tree top height over Top End. It was white, with long tail streamers, but clearly not an Arctic Tern. When it flew up towards me it appeared to be more the size of a Common Tern. I was puzzled though, because I saw a narrow black'ish wedge on the outer primaries but no dark trailing edge on the underwing, which appeared to be white too. The bill was narrow and long and appeared black to me at range. However, in the hour and a half or so that I paid it attention, it only flew down the lake past Rugmoor Point once, when it was almost opposite me between Rugmoor Point and Peg's Point. I thought I saw some red colour at the base of the bill and assumed it to be a Common Tern rather than an Arctic Tern, and thought I'd check its plumage features in the literature before I wrote my blog this evening, thinking it might be an immature. It was the first tern I'd seen at the lake this year! Imagine my surprise when Mark Hynam contacted me this evening to see how I was feeling, and ask if I'd seen anything at the lake today. I told him I'd seen a Common Tern, and it was at this point that he told me about the events at Chew Valley Lake, where the first Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii had been seen during the morning. Now I've had time to check the literature I have little doubt it was the same bird that I had been watching, and it's true identity hadn't even occurred to me, I'm ashamed to say. I spoke to the other couple when they came back past me and they had also seen the 'swooping bird' but didn't offer an identification. I saw the bird sometime after 1400 hrs probably nearer 1430-1445 hrs by the time I got to Rainbow Point and last saw it around 1600 hrs still over Top End. I closed my eyes for a while because I had a banging headache by this time, and decided to go home at about 1630 hrs. I drove to Top End where I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba (the one with a black-tipped bill) and looked for the tern again but couldn't see it, either there or on the way back to the dam end, so concluded it must have gone. Oh dear, not my finest hour... Had I known about the tern at Chew, I might have alerted birders to the Blagdon tern, but it wasn't to be. All I can do is submit my notes and leave the decision to the records committee as to whether Blagdon had it's first Roseate Tern today as well.

Monday 20th May

I was unable to take part in the WeBS count this morning due to illness, but Rob, Phil and Terry kindly went ahead and recorded the very low numbers of waterfowl present currently. Their biggest species count was 239 Coots Fulica atra, and they picked up on the two families of Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea currently foraging on the dam, as well as a Terrapin - a real surprise to me. I've seen Red-eared Terrapins at Chew Valley Lake on and off since the 1990s, obviously set free in the lake by people who bought them at the height of the 'Ninja Turtle' craze, but I've never seen one at Blagdon. Details of the count are on the WeBS Page as usual.

Sunday 19th May [Threatening]

Although still full of cold and not able to get much sleep, I spent an hour or so at the lake towards dusk and saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that may have roosted at Top End again.

Friday 17th May [Dull & overcast. Cooler.]

Although feeling under the weather, I managed to raise enough enthusiasm for a late afternoon visit, during which I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Burmah Road. It was a day dominated by the Swifts Apus apus over the lake, certainly in their hundreds, if not more.

Thursday 16th May [Sunny & warm]

I was on duty very early this morning and surveyed the lakeside for singing birds. During my round I recorded a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, my first Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis at the lake this year, a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, and a ♂ Pochard Aythya ferina. I also saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but this was a different bird to that seen last night, as it had a completely yellow bill.

Selected counts included: 54 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 41 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 29 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 18 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 13 Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, 7 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, 6 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, and 2 each of Willow Phylloscopus trochilus and Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. The Reed Warbler count was unusually high because they were singing from Wood to Long Bays, apparently from the barley crop growing in the fields there.

Wednesday 15th May [Sunny & warm]

I spent much of the day at Sand Point looking for invertebrates, and went to the lake this evening. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, and two Canada Goose Branta canadensis broods, of 1 and 4 goslings, in Long Bay. While at Top End hide, a Great White Egret Ardea alba flew up from Rugmoor onto the top of a pine tree at Indian Country where it stood while the sun set in a blaze of red glory. I also saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly up into a Willow tree at Top End at sunset. Until they flew into the trees, both the egrets were completely hidden in the marginal vegetation which is springing up remarkably quickly.

Tuesday 14th May [Sunny & warm]

Mark was right, it is very quiet at the lake, as is usual at this time of year. I had a quick look this evening and saw a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Green Lawn, less than 10 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, and the 10 or so Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ducklings at Home Bay Point that are probably two broods. There were also single pairs of Gadwall Mareca strepera and Shoveler Spatula clypeata.

Saturday 11th May

Mark Hynam had a look around today and reported that it was "very, very quiet." He didn't see any egrets or the ♂ Lesser Scaup, just 2 new broods of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos (one of 11 juvs in Long Bay and the other of 8 juvs. at Ash Tree).

Tuesday 7th May

I didn't visit the lake today but Rupert Higgins did, and he texted to say he'd seen a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End and heard a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing. He also spotted the Stitchwort Case-bearer Coleophora lutarea, a micromoth, that I recorded on 1st May 2011, and haven't recorded since. I asked if he'd seen the Lesser Scaup but he confessed to have not specifically looked for it.

Monday 6th May [Plenty of sunny spells]

'Twas an early start. Out the house at 0500hrs and off to the Isle of Portland with Mark for sea-watching, and a walk around the Top Fields coupled with a visit to the Observatory looking for migrants. It was, however, pretty quiet. We saw summer-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit and Red Knot, as well as Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel and Little Tern at Ferrybridge. A Diver sp. flying west (identified as a Great Northern at the Obs.), Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Common Scoter off the Bill, and Hobby, Whinchat, Wheatear and Black Redstart of note at the south end of the island. Rather than face holiday traffic queues on the way home, we left at lunchtime and spent the afternoon at the lake.

Back on the patch, we saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and were on the point of going our separate ways at 1715 hrs by the Top End hide, when I heard the Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus making a commotion, which drew my attention to an Osprey Pandion haliaetus flying through to the west. We jumped into our cars hoping to see it from Rainbow Point and scope it, but it had just disappeared over the horizon. On my way home at 1800 hrs I noted that the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis had relocated from Indian Country back to Holt Bay.

Sunday 5th May [Mainly sunny with a cool breeze]

I was out for most of the day, but saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay at tea time.

Saturday 4th May [A cool breeze & a gradually improving day]

During the day I received a call to say there was a dead Mute Swan Cygnus olor at Peg's Point and this evening Mark and I met for a look. It was an adult with neck wounds that had perhaps been killed by one of the resident breeding swans?

What I assume to be the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still pottering around on the dam, and we saw our first largish flock of Common Swifts Apus apus over Rainbow Point. We hadn't seen the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis until we checked Butcombe Bay where, if he stays there when the fishing boats go out tomorrow, he will be readily seen from the public footpath from the north end of the dam. Late on, a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew east along the North Shore, but I saw one fly into the trees at Hellfire Corner at dusk, so it may have roosted overnight.

Friday 3rd May [Changeable]

I didn't visit the lake today, but Mark Hynam had a quick look and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, but not the increasingly elusive Lesser Scaup.

In the evening I went with Mark to do some bat trapping in South Wales with friends Stephen and Linda. It was a really quiet session resulting in our catching just just a single Daubenton's.

Thursday 2nd May [Changeable]

I spent most of the day with Ken Anstey and Steph checking bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake. What a contrast to Blagdon Lake last week. We found 19 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and 11 Hornets Vespa crabro in 9 of the boxes! We also found a dead ringed Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus (details will be passed on to CVRS).

A late evening visit to Blagdon as dusk fell turned up the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis again, at the corner of Holt Bay and Green Lawn.

Wednesday 1st May [Warm & still]

I made a very brief visit to the lake and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Tuesday 30th April [Warm with sunny spells]

I spent much of the day at Westhay Moor NR looking at invertebrates, but saw 5 Hobbies and 2♂ Marsh Harriers while I was there.

Back home at the lake, I counted 10 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 2 more on Rainbow Point, while the 2 non-breeding Great White Egrets Ardea alba were still present, and a lone Swift Apus apus flew over Top End at dusk. I didn't really look for the Lesser Scaup, and didn't see it, because Hannah, Mark and I were doing some bat work as it got dark.

Monday 29th April [Warmer with sunny spells]

I went to the lake twice today, mid-morning and evening, but the only notable birds that I saw were the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Flower Corner, Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Burmah Road and Rugmoor Point, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Sunday 28th April [A cool breeze although dry with sunny spells]

I walked the south side of the lake with Mark late this morning, and we saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Flower Corner, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Swifts Apus apus, a Hobby Falco subbuteo and heard 3 singing Garden Warblers Sylvia borin. The Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus at Top End were tending their nest which was still afloat, so their efforts, at least, survived the storm. The first Canada Goose Branta canadensis brood were on Green Lawn with 7 goslings, and we saw the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Jeff reported at Wood Bay yesterday, but there was only one duckling today. There was another brood of 4 ducklings at Flower Corner. However, there seem to be around 8 or so Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus continually patrolling the edge of the lake on the lookout for unguarded nests and juvenile wildfowl that wander too far from parental protection.

Saturday 27th April [Very windy: Storm Hannah blew through]

A wild night was followed by a wild day. There was a tree across the road at the entrance to the Fishing Lodge today, but there were no boats allowed out in the gale force conditions. As seems to happen every year these days, a lot of Coot Fulica atra nests have been swamped and the eggs lost. The Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus at Top End were still grimly trying to save their nest at lunchtime. I saw just the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but Mark Hynam spotted the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, later in the day, where I'd failed miserably to spot it.

Friday 26th April [Showers all day]

I was at the lake for most of the day and saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Burmah Road. Ken Anstey heard a ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing at Pipe Bay, and we both heard the other one still singing at Top End.

Ken and I checked the bat boxes and found at least 80 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus around the lake, with a group of at least 15 Natterer's Myotis nattereri in their usual box, one of which that I could see had a ring on. However, due to the steady rain, we elected not to get them out of the box to read the ring. Hopefully, we'll see them again post-parturition.

There were quite a few empty bird nests in the boxes, and just a handful with eggs, perhaps its not going to be a good year for the Blue and Great Tits? We were also relieved to only find 3 Hornet Vespa crabro queens, while one box had a lovely potter wasp nest in it.

Thursday 25th April [Showers, some heavy, & cooler.]

It was the usual fayre this lunchtime, with the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, at least 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. I sat a particularly heavy shower out in the Top End hide and watched lots of hirundines come back down over the lake as it moved off. All three common species were present, but I haven't seen any Swifts yet.

I had planned to pop down to the lake again after tea, but Mark picked me up and we went to see the ♂ Citrine Wagtail at Pilning Wetlands instead. It was nice to see a Yellow Wagtail while we were there too. He'd managed to see the Alpine Swift at Ham Wall RSPB after work as well.

Wednesday 24th April [Rain for much of the day]

Late this morning, before the rain, the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was back in Holt Bay. I didn't get back down to the lake until late in the evening when I counted 11 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, saw a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo feeding over the dam end of the lake.

Ken Anstey and I had intended to check the bat boxes today, until the rains came. We're re-scheduling for Friday and hoping for better weather.

Tuesday 23rd April [Cloudy & warm]

I was busy all day today, but managed to take a walk after tea to Top End and back. The only bird I have to report was a Sedge Warbler that gave a brief snatch of song as I walked past it. I didn't see the Lesser Scaup, and there seemed to be fewer Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula present today. It was a nice evening though!

Monday 22nd April [Another warm sunny day]

The WeBS team of Phil, Terry, Rob and I carried out the count this morning. Of course, given the time of year, many of the waterfowl have moved off the lake, while those that remain are getting on with nesting. Birds of note included the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the lip of the Spillway, an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and the first singing Garden Warbler Sylvia borin of the year. The ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was also still singing at Top End. Most numerous were the 266 Coots Fulica atra and 116 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula (see Webs Page for full count details).

In the evening Mark and I met at the lake just after Chris Craig had rung me to tell me he'd seen a Black Kite between Chew and Blagdon Lakes. We didn't see the kite unfortunately, it either slipped past us along the valley, went through before we arrived, or roosted overnight between the lakes. However, while we waited until dusk fell, we heard 2 ♂ Cuckoos Cuculus canorus, one at Top End and one around North Shore/Butcombe. They even sang simultaneously at one point.

Saturday 20th April [A beautiful sunny day]

I didn't get down to the lake until the evening, when we were preparing for a bat trapping session to try and catch a ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii to radio tag and track. Needless to say we didn't catch one!

Mark and I had a quick look around for an hour before the batting took over, and saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay. Mark spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and we both heard the Greylag Anser anser calling after dark.

On Thursday evening, I released the ♂ Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus that was caught up in fishing line and flies left dangling from trees along Butcombe Bank.

Friday 19th April [A beautiful sunny day]

There wasn't too much reward for a walk from the Lodge to Top End and back. The best bird was our first Hobby Falco subbuteo of the year over Top End, and aside from the adult Greylag Anser anser and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, I don't have much to report. We didn't see the ♂ Lesser Scaup, and there is fairly intense angling activity for the next couple of days leading to a match on Sunday.

This evening I saw another Hobby, that I assume to be an adult, whereas the one seen this morning was a 1st-summer that drifted off east towards Chew. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the lawn at The Lodge, and I found the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Top End.

Thursday 18th April [Warm & breezy, with a watery sun.]

Mark Hynam and I carried out another 4.5 hour survey this morning between 0700 and 1130 hrs to count territorial passerines. While we were out we saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, adult Greylag Anser anser, pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. We had 3 firsts for the year in the form of a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, 5 singing Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, and a ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Top End. Selected survey counts included: 55 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 40 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 22 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 9 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and 11 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus.

Wednesday 17th April [Warm & eventually sunny]

I enjoyed a walk at Shapwick along the old railway path with friends this morning. We saw 2 Marsh Harriers and heard quite a few booming Bitterns. On the way home a Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa ran across the road in front of me at Two Trees, Blagdon, as I came down the hill.

This evening the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was at Top End keeping close company with a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, and preventing all the other ♂ Tufties getting anywhere near her. The non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Burmah Road, and the adult Greylag Anser anser was on Holt Farm.

The Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus I have in care is doing pretty well and eating mealworms like they're going out of fashion, and hopefully putting on weight. I'm fairly confident I'll be able to release him back at the lake tomorrow evening.

Tuesday 16th April [Dreary and wet, but warmer and dry later.]

An angler rang Bristol Water to say a bat was hanging from some fishing line tangled up in a tree at Butcombe Bank this morning. I got the call and sprang into action, and with the help of Alan Dymock, managed to retrieve a ♂ Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus and cut down the twigs that had flies and line tangled around them. The bat had a fly hook through the tail membrane that I was able cut the barbed point off and free the bat. It was pretty wet but still alive and 'shouty', so I kept it indoors on a warm pad throughout the day. Wing and tail membrane tears are not uncommon for bats and they heal very quickly. This one had a very small hole that shouldn't be a problem. The issue is how long it'd been hanging there. So I weighed it later at 3.6 grams, proving it was very light. I went and got some mealworms to feed and water it in the evening, and allowed it to take a short flight. I'll keep it for a short while, to give it rest, and allow it to put on some weight, before release in the next day or two, now the weather is warming up.

I went birding in the evening, and saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis asleep on the Wood Bay side of Rainbow Point being video'd by Mark Hynam. An adult Greylag Anser anser was also present, as was at least one Great White Egret Ardea alba. Mark and I walked to Top End and back as dusk fell, and he spotted the first Whitethoat Sylvia communis of the year.

Monday 15th April [A strong ESE wind with some sunshine]

The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present off Rainbow Point this afternoon, and I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam where the waves were crashing up the dam wall. It was wild, and I decided not to hang around trying to find passerines today.

Sunday 14th April [Still cold with sunny spells]

Well, well, well, what should Mark and I find today, but the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis feeding at Rainbow Point again. I'm absolutely sure it has been elsewhere since my last sighting because I've spent hours looking for it without any luck. We're confident that there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba on site again, but we couldn't hear any song of birds new in, but that would have been suppressed by the cold wind anyway

Saturday 13th April [A cold easterly wind]

It was a cold day by the lake, although I was indoors with the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project training session delegates, thankfully. Mark Hynam found a couple of Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus on the dam late afternoon, that I missed by the skin of my teeth, and later we saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba as we went back out to do more bat trapping (see Bat News). Boy, did we get cold in the evening - it was perishing!

Friday 12th April [Sunny but cold]

I was busy with domestic duties most of the day but saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba back at Top End this evening, when we were going out to do some bat trapping (see Bat News) as part of a National Nathusius'Pipistrelle Project training session for the Welsh Bat Groups who came to Blagdon with project leader Daniel Hargreaves.

Thursday 11th April [Sharp overnight frost & sunny by day]

I did a survey of selected singing summer visitors this morning, and came up with 21 (25 last Saturday) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 27 (20) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 9 (3 ) Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus.

There was no sign of the Lesser Scaup or Great White Egrets, so I'm guessing they've moved on, but I did see my first Kingfisher Alcedo atthis of the year (twice), the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

Wednesday 10th April [The forecast wall-to-wall sunshine didn't arrive until this afternoon!]

Not much to tell you about again I'm afraid. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was in Holt Bay showing well, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm. I struck lucky in my Patchwork Challenge quest when 15-20 Linnets Linaria cannabina flew east past me at Bell's Bush, and aside from a pair of Shelducks Tadorna tadorna the only other 'news' were my first Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria of the year at Cheddar Water. I didn't see the Great White Egrets this afternoon or evening.

Tuesday 9th April [Grey & murky. Chilly & wet pm.]

Good conditions today for passage migrants to drop in and, sure enough, there were 4 adult (2 each summer and winter) Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus between 1400 and 1500 hrs at least. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was showing well in Holt Bay and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba flew over Indian Country while I was scanning from Rainbow Point. A single adult Greylag Anser anser was with Canada's and Mute Swans on Holt Farm too.

Monday 8th April [Dry & warmish]

This evening the sky was threatening, especially over the Mendips and it got dark early. I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis off Rainbow Point, pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. As I walked back from Top End, a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus came loping along the south side road towards me. I stood still and it came to within 20 metres and stopped. It sat down and looked at me looking at it. This went on for about 2 minutes before it decided to make off onto the meadow and circumnavigate me at the same gentle pace that it appeared at. I walked on back to my car. I've had similar experiences with Foxes and Badgers on several occasions, but this was the first with a Hare. Magical.

Sunday 7th April [Cloudy to start, then the sun came out.]

Not much bird news to impart today. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present, as was at least one Great White Egret Ardea alba and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I walked to Top End with Mark Hynam, then on the way back we checked some of the Schwegler 1FF and wooden Kent bat boxes and, amazingly, Mark spotted a bat with a ring on in one of the Kent boxes which we believe was a ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii.

Saturday 6th April [Cloudy & breezy]

I was up with the lark to do another survey walk at the lake but, like last week, conditions weren't ideal. I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and 1, probably 2, Great White Egrets Ardea alba. I heard my first Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus of the year, but they were the only new birds in that I recorded.

Selected survey counts included: 40 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 25 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 20 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 3 Willow Warblers. There were 86 Rook nests this weekend (up one on last weekend), and the first Canada Goose Branta canadensis and Coot Fulica atra are sitting already.

Mark Hynam was at the lake this afternoon and confirmed that there were 2 Great White Egrets present, as I thought. I met him at dusk and we took a walk around the Lodge, Park Lane and the dam and saw lots and lots of bats on the wing, despite the cool breeze, including Noctule, Serotine, Common and Soprano Pipistrelles.

Friday 5th April [Another, wet, miserable day until late afternoon]

My mid-afternoon visit saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and off Rainbow Point, with a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush. Again, there were masses of hirundines feeding over the water on the huge numbers of chironomid midges that have been hatching (great bat food too).

Thursday 4th April [Cold & miserable with rain/sleet]

Today was a day that I had set aside with Ken Anstey to enter some of our Nathusius' Pipistrelle records into the project database and luckily the weather was pretty poor, so we were glad to be inside. However, the database still has many teething problems and it was a real trial of patience!

I had a look at the lake late in the afternoon and saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and a Great White Egret Ardea alba in flight at Burmah Road (Avon Birds is carrying a record of 2 Great White Egrets). There were Sand Martins Riparia riparia and Swallows Hirundo rustica all over the lake in the steady rain, so it was hard to make an estimate of numbers but clearly well over a thousand.

Wednesday 3rd April [Sunny early, then a cold front with rain & sleet came through.]

I enjoyed a coastal walk from Clevedon to Portishead this morning and got to the car just before the rain started. This evening a quick visit to the lake produced the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a small but noticeable influx of Swallows Hirundo rustica, the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Wood Bay and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Ian Stapp reported the first Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus of the year today, and let me know that there may have been an Osprey too, but I will need to check that this isn't 'old news' of the bird seen on Sunday.

Tuesday 2nd April [Mainly dry with a few squally showers about]

An early afternoon visit today in the windy conditions produced just the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Wood Bay and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Monday 1st April [A lovely sunny day]

I could not get to the lake until lunchtime, and at that late hour the Osprey had moved on, of course. Although, I made a fairly thorough search, I couldn't find the Lesser Scaup either. So, highlights of my visit were the Great White Egret Ardea alba and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, plus a ♂ Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines butterfly at Top End.

An update: This evening I spotted the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis apparently paired with a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (heaven help us) off Rainbow Point.

Sunday 31st March [Cloudy & several degrees cooler today]

Mark Hynam and I carried out another survey around the lake this morning between 0745-1030 hrs. We were immediately struck by the large number of hirundines over the lake and we had to keep revising our estimates upwards from 200+, to 500+ and eventually we think there were probably 1000+, mainly Sand Martins Riparia riparia, with a handful of Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbicum. A couple of Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flew west down the lake, the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and Great White Egret Ardea alba were all still present, as was at least one of the Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca and a Greylag Anser anser. We counted 86 nests in the two rookeries, and found a roosting Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros and at least 16 other bats (probably Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus).

Selected survey counts included: 20 (3) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 29 (20) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and 14 (24) Snipe Gallinago gallinago to compare with last weeks counts in brackets. Residents included: 42 (41) Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, and 12 (32) Robins Erithacus rubecula.

This evening Nick Wilcox-Brown rang me and said there was an (adult ♀) Osprey Pandion haliaetus fishing its way towards Top End. He rang to say he'd lost sight of it as I arrived, but after a while searching for it from Rainbow Point, I heard some gulls calling that needed investigating and sure enough there was the Osprey sitting in a tree, where we think it ultimately roosted. Quite a finish to a great weekend of birding. Thanks for the heads-up Nick and nice find. Here's a couple of Nick's record shots.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus © Nick Wilcox-Brown 2019

Saturday 30th March [Foggy until burned off by the sun]

I was down at the lake by 0700 hrs this morning but the fog was so thick I couldn't even see 20 metres along the dam wall. Mark Hynam arrived shortly after, and saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca in flight as we checked all along the south side of the lake for migrants but we gave up at 0900 hrs with conditions barely any better. There was only one thing for it... we went to see this bad boy on the Isle of Wight!

Adult Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius, Ventnor, Isle of Wight © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Friday 29th March [Warm & sunny but starting to cloud over]

Not much change among the waterfowl today, and quite a lot of disturbance with all the boats out, as they will be over the weekend. The ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was at Paradise on the North Shore late morning, while the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was showing well at the south end of the dam, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca were on Holt Farm.

Thursday 28th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I had very little time to spare to visit the lake today. I wanted to drive through and have a quick look this morning, but work to remove a fallen tree under a rookery before egg laying prevented that (thanks for sorting BW), although I did see the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. After a visit to Clevedon and Bristol Heart Institute, I managed to spend the last hour of daylight lakeside. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was in Holt Bay, and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca on Holt Farm. I was 'quite happy' (year tick) to see 2 Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa at Long Bay too. However, the problem with this sighting is that it's evidence of yet more pressure on the invertebrates of this important SSSI being brought about by the indiscriminate release of non-native species, including Pheasants, into our countryside in huge numbers by a selfish hunting fraternity. Time to contact Natural England, I think, for all the good it will do. I have never seen Pheasants at the lakeside in such huge numbers as I did last year.

Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus buck © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Richard Mielcarek texted me to say he'd found a single, tiny, Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio flower at Blagdon Lake today that he thinks might be the first reported in the country this year!

Wednesday 27th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I went to the lake briefly this morning to see if the Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still on the lake because I knew a couple of people were hoping to come and see it. I met Dave Northover who told me he'd just seen it over at the North Shore and he asked if I knew where the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was. It was just a few metres away when we looked over the dam wall together. I went to have a look for the Lesser Scaup and spotted it showing beautifully in Holt Bay, so tweeted out the news. While I was there I also saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, a Greylag Anser anser, and Dave told me he'd seen the Great White Egret Ardea alba. I also spotted the other 'Scaup' over against the North Shore asleep, but didn't have time today to go and have a look at it again.

I have edited the entry for 25th March to correct my ageing of the Mediterranean Gull to 2nd-summer. Apologies for the typo.

Tuesday 26th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I led a walk for Bristol Savages bird group this morning, during which we saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis distantly off Ash Tree, the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, a brief glimpse of some Sand Martins Riparia riparia, and heard lots of bird song, including Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla in new spots since my survey on Sunday. Before the group assembled I saw 2 Greylags Anser anser fly west down the lake as well.

This evening I counted 18 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathering together to roost off the North Shore while I was taking another look at the ♀ Scaup. I haven't come to a conclusion about its identity yet.

Monday 25th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count his morning. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still on the lake, but the 2♂♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila had moved on. There was a ♀ that looked like a Greater Scaup to most, but I have some reservations about its identity. I'll record it as Greater for now, but there was no discernible 'frosting' on the mantle, no pale ear coverts, and the bill/head didn't look quite right, but I'll hope for a closer look tomorrow. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the overspill again, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca on Holt Farm with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor, a 2nd-summer Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus was hawking insects with the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End. Numbers of waterfowl were quite low and details are on the WeBS Page.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus courtship © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Sunday 24th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I was on site at 0700 hrs with Mark Hynam to carry out a survey walk, and apart from going home early afternoon to have a cuppa and get the ladder and tools to rehang a bat box that came down on a fallen tree during the last stormy weather, I was on site until 1630 hrs. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis and 2♂♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still present but we didn't see the ♀ Greater today. We saw two groups of Sand Martins Riparia riparia, one of 8 birds when we got there, and the other of circa 30 birds mid-afternoon. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the overspill, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca on Green Lawn, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was back at Top End.

Selected survey counts included: 3 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 20 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 5 Nuthatches Sitta europaea, 5 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 24 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 73 Rook Corvus frugilegus nests (some still under construction), 3 each of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni butterflies, and the first of the Bluebells Hyacynthoides non-scripta in flower.

The WeBS team will be conducting the monthly count tomorrow morning.

Saturday 23rd March [Dry, & warm out of the breeze.]

A 5 hr morning visit with Mark Hynam turned up the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, 3 (2♂♂) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and not a lot else! There were still 13 Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the Top End hide, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca on Holt Farm, and a mixed flock of c. 50 Redwings Turdus iliacus and Fieldfares Turdus philomelos being harrassed by a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus in Holt Copse as we went through. We saw a few Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major on the wing already (the earliest I've ever recorded them, by a day), and heard 7+ singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita along the south side of the lake. I also spotted a Pill Beetle Byrrhus pilula on the road at Burmah Road, a new species record for the lake, I believe.

A Red Kite Milvus milvus flew east over the dam at 1518hrs per Mervyn Pearce and Keith Vinicombe.

Friday 22nd March [Dry & 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.