Daily News

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


Monday 23rd March [Bright & sunny]

The reservoirs are now closed in line with government advice. See this news item on the Bristol Water website issued today:

"We’ve made the decision to close the car parks at our reservoirs and lakes from Monday 23 March. Given the current Government advice around social distancing we feel this is the best thing to do to help stop the spread of coronavirus. It’s with a heavy heart that we do this, as we know being able to go for a walk in nature is very important at this time for wellbeing. And although lots of people have been responsible around the lakes over the weekend, we’ve seen large numbers of people not keeping the appropriate distance. All of the businesses around the lakes will close for the time being. This includes Salt and Malt and the Woodford at Chew Valley Lake. We’re doing everything we can to encourage people to stay at home in line with the Government advice to help stop the spread of coronavirus."

The following was also posted today by Bristol Water Fisheries team:

"Bank and Boat fishing suspended at all Bristol Water Fisheries. Due to the ever increasing concerns surrounding the spread of the covid-19 virus we have sadly made the decision to cease all fishing activities at our waters in effect from 7:30pm today. Bank and boat fishing will cease until further notice."

Sunday 22nd March [Mainly sunny but still with that chill wind]

I am absolutely dumfounded by what I've witnessed this weekend. People, dogs, more people than I've ever seen at the lakeside, many of whom can't read signs in plain English, or who choose to ignore them. I suppose if they're going to ignore the government advice of social distancing in these difficult times, then why should I be surprised that they ignore Bristol Water signs? Fellow warden Mark and I spent about half an hour at the lake this afternoon, and I guess we saw and spoke to at least 30 people who were trespassing. There were 5 dogs on private land, 2 of which weren't even on leads despite signs saying 'strictly no dogs.' I can't enjoy my birdwatching in those circumstances so, as of tomorrow, I will be self-isolating with my wife and mother, and as I can't be sure of visiting the lake and being able to stay healthy, I will not be reporting for the foreseeable future - I hope those of you who follow my blog will understand why. To my friends - keep yourselves safe.

Saturday 21st March [Mainly sunny but with a chill wind]

By 'eck there were lots of people about today! Fellow warden Mark and I walked the south side of the lake to Top End, and back to the Lodge. I heard the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing again at Lodge Copse, and we both saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba (yellow bill) at Top End and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Holt Bay. But, as usual, all the birds we'd have liked to have seen were everywhere else except Blagdon. It's depressing birding Blagdon - anyone wanna buy some new(ish) bins?

The ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla spent quite a bit of time on our patio this morning with the Chaffinches and Goldfinches that come for their daily dose of sunflower hearts.

Friday 20th March [Spring Equinox - pretty windy & chilly]

I wasn't able to spend much time at the lake today, but I did manage a quick look at dusk. It wasn't terribly exciting, I saw 12 Mute Swans Cygnus olor. Phil Smith emailed me some pictures of a pair of Stonechats Saxicola torquata at Park Batch, saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly across Butcombe Bay.

Wednesday 18th March [Mainly overcast]

I 'wandered lonely as a cloud' this morning from 0730-1000 hrs from the Lodge to Top End and back and heard 11 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and saw another 4 that weren't. I'm pretty sure I heard a couple of bursts from a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla (wintering?), was serenaded by 2 Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, a Nuthatch Sitta europaea, and even managed to hear a Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. I counted 54 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, saw 4 grey geese flyover and head SW that I presume were Greylags Anser anser, 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 5 Sand Martins Riparia riparia, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, 3 Wigeon Mareca penelope, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba (black bill). Breeding activity included 40+ Rook nests being built, and a single Coot Fulica atra platform. The Primroses Primula vulgaris have been putting on a show and, as I commented the other day, the Cowslips Primula veris are starting to flower, so it was little surprise to me that I spotted a couple of the hybrids, known as False Oxlips, flowering as well today.

I checked the gull roost this evening, such as it was, there were just 40-50 large gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus, but sadly no american visitors. I also counted 24 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 22 Sand Martins Riparia riparia from the dam in the drizzle and gloom.

Monday 16th March [A lovely sunny day]

I only had time for an hour at the lake before dark. I saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba with a black bill at Top End, 2 sleeping Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus on a couple of occasions. The Rooks Corvus frugilegus are getting busy building their nests now, and we appear to have 2 rookeries in the making this year.

I was keeping an eye on the birds visiting the patio for the sunflower hearts at lunchtime, and spotted a ♀ Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. It was my first sighting of one this winter.

Sunday 15th March [More pouring rain!]

I spent 2.5 hours in the pouring rain looking for the Slavonian Grebe, and Mark was looking for a bit longer than me, but all to no avail. It seems to have moved on, which is bad news for my Patchwork Challenge list this year. The only birds of note were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. Mark and I saw a Mink Mustela sp. run across the Lodge car park which is bad news for the breeding waterfowl.

Saturday 14th March [Drizzle early & brightening later]

Mark had a look at the lake early this morning, and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba in the wet, gloomy, conditions before stopping by to pick me up. We headed down to the Plym Estuary where we rolled up and saw the Ross's Gull, that had been present for a while, straight away. I'd seen one in the UK before and that was from the same spot 18 yrs earlier! As we'd been so lucky, we decided to head on into Cornwall. We stopped at Philps in Hayle for a pasty (or two), and then headed on to Newlyn Harbour where we saw the wintering Iceland Gull and a couple of Eider Ducks, but dipped on the Black Guillemot. The afternoon was wearing on and the tide had turned, so we were hoping to connect with the Ring-billed and Caspian Gulls as it swept back into the Hayle estuary, but despite searching from Lelant Station, Copperhouse Creek and a few other vantage points we didn't spot either before we had to leave for home. Never mind, we'd seen some nice birds, visited a few familiar old haunts, and enjoyed the sight of Three-cornered Leeks lining the Cornish lanes as they herald the arrival of Spring. An amazing effort on Mark's part to drive the whole way and I'm glad he got his ticks.

Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis © Paul Williams, 2020

Paul Williams rang me after he'd found the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis that had gone missing from Chew. His hunch that it might have come over to Blagdon was rewarded when he spotted it off Peg's while scanning from Rainbow Point. He went over to the north shore for a closer look and sent me this nice picture he got there (thanks for the head's-up mate). It's the first reported since 2013. I hope it sticks tonight! He also saw a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at Top End as he was leaving. Another update from Mike O'Connor as well; he saw 2 Redshanks Tringa totanus on the dam wall at 1700 hrs yesterday. I think I'll give up this birding lark - I'm always in the wrong place lol.

Friday 13th March [Mainly dry & fairly mild.]

I spent the day at the lake with Ken today, checking and cleaning the bat boxes. We found 13 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, a Noctule Nyctalus noctula and 5 Lesser Horseshoes Rhinolophus hipposideros. While we were there we saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and on the way home I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Among the flowers were the first Cowslips Primula veris of the year, some deep blue-flowered Sweet Violets Viola odorata, and we also saw a yellow Jelly Fungus Tremella sp. probably T. mesenterica, which has several common names e.g. Yellow Brain, Golden Jelly Fungus, Yellow Trembler, and Witches' Butter. After a swift cuppa when I got home, I got a call to go over to Chew to finally catch up with the Laughing Gull. Thanks to Alan Bone for the call, and while I was there, it was nice to have a chin-wag with a few local birders I haven't seen in a while.

Thursday 12th March [Windy. Mainly dry.]

I visited the lake twice this afternoon, spending quite a bit of time checking the couple of hundred gulls that came in later on. They were mainly Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Common Gulls Larus canus with a few larger gulls thrown into the mix. I also joined the throng at Heron's Green, Chew Valley Lake for a while, but I didn't catch up with the Laughing Gull. Needless to say it was found at Woodford Lodge as I sat down for my tea, so I dipped again! There were 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at the lake during the afternoon, but I didn't spot anything else of note. The first day of boat angling was cancelled today due to the wind, but I think we can expect them to be out tomorrow. I'm also due to be doing the long-delayed cleaning and inspection round of the bat boxes with Ken Anstey tomorrow.

Wednesday 11th March [Sunny spells]

News of a 1st-winter Laughing Gull photographed at Chew Valley Lake yesterday afternoon, urged me to go to the lake early'ish this morning to see if there was any sign of it there. Two hours of scanning gulls and raptors didn't turn it up unfortunately, but I did see 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Sand Martins Riparia riparia flying west, and up to 13 Buzzards Buteo buteo in the air at any one time from my chosen vantage point on Green Lawn. I'll go back again later, when the gulls come in to bathe during the afternoon.

No sign of the gull at Blagdon this afternoon, but it did reappear briefly at Heron's Green, Chew Valley Lake, before disappearing into the ether again. I spent time this afternoon looking through the gulls as they came in to bathe, but at around 1600-1615 hrs I was rather taken aback by a pack of foxhounds coming through the woods on the north side of the spillway (BW land) before spilling into the road in front of my car and making off towards Aldwick and Butcombe at a rate of knots closely followed by a quadbike and several 4x4. It's high time, in this day and age, this illegal activity was stopped. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam while all the mayhem was going on.

The Laughing Gull was subsequently relocated from Woodford Bank, Chew Valley Lake, at around tea time.

Tuesday 10th March [Rain until mid-morning. Windy.]

It was the 5th consecutive day that I got a lake year-tick after none in February! Today, I saw a Peregrine Falco peregrinus at Top End that was the size of a typical ♀ but quite brown on the back. I didn't manage to get any other ageing plumage details in my brief view, but assume it was probably a 2nd-calendar year bird. And, talking of 2nd-calendar years, I also saw what I presume to be the same Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus noted on the 6th March, this time at Rugmoor Bay, and think it too was probably this age and not an adult ♀ after all. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam and there were 2, mobile, non-breeding Great White Egrets Ardea alba moving around the top end of the lake.

Monday 9th March [Dry, then rain after lunch.]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I carried out the WeBS Count this morning, luckily finishing just before the rain set in. While we were sitting in the Top End hide, Rob spotted 4 Sand Martins Riparia riparia flying through to the west, that I managed to get on to as well. These were undoubtedly the highlight of the count! Yesterday's Scaup had moved on, leaving just 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos as the other birds of note that we logged. Along Butcombe Bank footpath, I saw Sweet Violet Viola odorata (white form), and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa in flower. Full count details are on the WeBS Page.

Sunday 8th March [Sunny early morning]

Andy Mears reported a ♂ Scaup Aythya marila off Green Lawn this morning, and it was still there until 1400 hrs at least. There was only a single Great White Egret Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point, and Mute Swans Cygnus olor were up to 10 adults. Mark and I saw a few Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and spent time watching two, one of which had jet black legs and the other had paler, almost brownish legs. There were lots of Buzzards Buteo buteo displaying and soaring in the patchy sunshine, and I'm sure I saw at least 15 while I was on site. We will be doing the WeBS count tomorrow, ahead of the fishermen coming back to site on Tuesday (the season ticket holders) and the general opening day on Thursday when the boats go out for the first time.

Saturday 7th March [Dry]

A busy day started with meeting Mark to have a look for migrants at the lake, and whilst we didn't see anything to set the pulse racing, I saw a pair of Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, that stayed all too briefly, and Mark saw the first Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus of the year at Burmah Road before we saw a pair at Holt Bay later. It appears that things are finally on the move with Spring just around the corner. We saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos as well, before meeting up with Ken Anstey to do some bat work.

We have two large hibernation boxes at the lake, which sometimes get used by a Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus for over-wintering, but we wanted to install temperature and humidity loggers in both as one or other is likely to be used by very large maternity or post-maternity groups of Soprano's in the summer. We also wanted to drill holes to enable us to inspect them more easily with an endoscope before opening the door. The first box which Mark opened had a Noctule Nyctalus noctula in it, which we were able to work around to install the logger, but we elected to leave the drilling of a hole in that box for another day. Luckily, the other box was empty, so we carried out the work on that one ready for the new season. Let's hope they get used this coming year in order to allow comparison of the conditions inside the boxes during occupation. We also took the opportunity to clean some of the Dormouse boxes out that we put up a few years ago. Aside from birds, they don't appear to have been used by Dormice despite the coppiced habitat looking ideal, although on this occasion we did see signs of use by a Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus at least.

At lunchtime we decamped to Daniel Hargreaves' farm house on the Somerset Levels for a discussion about the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project this year, and for a catch up about his bat research trip to Costa Rica that Mark and I were supposed to be joining him on, before other events prevented either of us going. It was an excellent afternoon watching his wild bees using the home created for them, and eating lunch while looking out of the window at Great White and Little Egrets with a Grey Heron on the wet meadows outside. Good company, good food, and a surprise birthday cake too! Nom, nom.

Friday 6th March [Sunny & dry]

Standing at the corner of the dam this afternoon, I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 2 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii on the wall, plus a Great White Egret Ardea alba and Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (probably an adult ♀) on The Island. The harrier and wagtails were my first of the year at the lake, so that was a promising start, but although I added another 2 Great White Egrets, and saw 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, I wasn't able to add any spring migrants yet.

Ken Hall sent me the following news and must have been at the other end of the lake when I arrived: "Just to let you know that I saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus over the lake this afternoon, around 3pm. It appeared from the Breach Hill direction, came as far as Rainbow Point, and then headed off towards the Mendips, just circling and drifting along in a leisurely manner." He also saw a Chiffchaff at Top End, which if it wasn't at Bell's Bush barrier where I saw 4, and was another on the total.

Tuesday 3rd March [Gloomy, wet & miserable]

I was able to see and count the 'large white birds' in the horrible conditions; 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor. I didn't see much else though. There was a stunning ♂ Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea feeding along the south side road at Holt Copse that I watched for a few minutes, and I noted my first Early Dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana in bloom. However, I saw more Moorhens Gallinula chloropus fly off the wet farmland pastures onto the lake as I drove along, than birds on the lake itself, testament to the dire state of the countryside at present. Ken and I haven't yet been able to do our usual February round of the bat boxes, to clean and spruce them up for the coming year because of the weather and ground conditions. I dread to think what condition the lakeside meadows will be in after the fishermen come back to site on 10th March, unless things dry out pretty quickly.

Monday 2nd March [Dry & sunny]

Just 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba to report in a 45 minute visit at tea time. Nigel Crocker also had a look during the day and noted a Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus near the Spillway.

Sunday 1st March [Sunshine & showers]

Mark found a pair of Stonechats Saxicola torquatus along the hedgeline at Long Bay today, and a second year tick, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, flew past the Top End hide while we were there later. The number of Great White Egrets Ardea alba grew to 5 while we watched them. Two pairs, one pair with non-breeding bare part colouration and the other pair assuming breeding bare part colouration, plus a lone non-breeding bird which flew in to Top End. As we left, we saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. So, things are on the move - could we see our first Sand Martins this coming week?

Saturday 29th February [Storm Jorge. Wintery showers. Windy.]

There were 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again today (the two new ones in breeding plumage bare part colouration), the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus still on Green Lawn and just a single adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser off Burmah Road. It was too cold and wet to do the gull roost.

Friday 28th February [Wet again!]

I spent an hour lakeside mid-afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to find 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba - possibly a singleton and a pair. There was also a passing Lapwing Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn. The Mute Swan Cygnus olor count was up to 6 today and there were 2 ♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam.

I was in Clevedon again this morning, and when I got back to my car in Sunnyside Road, I heard a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing from a garden bush close by - undoubtedly a wintering bird, but my first of the year. I wondered if we might get some early migrants this weekend with Storm Jorge due tomorrow, but possibly not if it hits Ireland first.

Thursday 27th February [A second dry, sunny, day albeit with a cold wind.]

Slim pickings I'm afraid. I saw the regular Great White Egret Ardea alba along the Indian Country bank and went through the 300+ gulls sitting on the water one by one without spotting anything exciting. Nowt else to report from me, though Mike O'Connor enjoyed a walk looking for birds this afternoon, and emailed to tell me he'd seen 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Holt Bay.

Monday 24th February [Miserable. Wet & windy.]

Once again, the birding is pretty poor. I saw 13 Goosanders Mergus merganser this evening before leaving, and went through the gull roost late afternoon without even finding a Mediterranean Gull. The only real difference I noted today, was that there were 5 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor back at the lake, an increase of two...

Sunday 23rd February [Overnight gales dropped to calm by dusk]

Andy Mears reported 2 Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis and 2 Goosanders Mergus merganser this morning from the Lodge, and Mark Hynam saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba this afternoon at Top End. As dusk fell, there were 21 (4 adult ♂♂, a 1st-winter ♂ & 16 ♀♀) Goosanders visible from the dam, and lots of bats flying around. Mark got his Echometer Touch out and recorded Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, a Common Pipistrelle P. Pipistrellus and a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros in Park Lane.

Saturday 22nd February [Pleasant early, then rain & wind later.]

Mark Hynam spent the afternoon at the lake without seeing anything new, and when I joined him later to check the gulls, we were able to combine sightings as follows: The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 13 (4 adult ♂♂, a 1st-winter ♂ & 8 ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 40 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at the dam & Cheddar Water to roost together, and Mark saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Thursday 20th February

I squeezed a quick visit in late this afternoon and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the presumed adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, 10+ Teal Anas crecca at Hellfire Corner, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and on the way back 31 (4 ♂♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 9 (2 adult ♂♂, a 1st-winter ♂ & 6 ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

Monday 17th February

The unpredictable nature of my caring duties meant I sadly missed the funeral of Roger Palmer. RIP Roge old friend.

Sunday 16th February [Aftermath of Storm Dennis]

Not much change today, I saw 25 Wigeon Mareca penelope at Cheddar Water when I arrived, the Great White Egret Ardea alba along Indian Country bank, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam later, when waiting for the 19 Goosanders Mergus marganser and 30+ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula to fly in to roost at Cheddar Water, as dusk fell.

Saturday 15th February [Storm Dennis arrived]

I spent an hour by the lake this afternoon in the half light, wind and rain. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End, and at the sheltered south end of the dam 19 (4 adult ♂♂, 1 1st-winter ♂ & 14 ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 26 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula had gathered by the time I left (there were plenty of other Goldeneye on the lake as well though).

Friday 14th February [Started bright then increasingly grey & wet by dusk]

Sorry for the lack of news this week. Caring for an elderly parent is all consuming at present. I managed half an hour or so by the lake before dark this afternoon and saw 8 (1 adult & 7 ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser on the dam, 40+ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathering to roost, 18+ Shovelers Spatula clypeata and a Great White Egret Ardea alba.

Monday 10th February [Storm Ciara]

It wasn't quite so wild as yesterday, but we did have one amazing shower as we finished the WeBS count. Phil,Terry, Rob and I met to the sound of a singing Mistle Thrush Turdus philomelos and the sight of the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. The Greylag Anser anser and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, and the top counts were 344 Coots Fulica atra and 327 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, but Phil only spotted 30 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula today (full count details on the WeBS Page). I saw a couple of Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush on the way home too.

Sunday 9th February [Storm Ciara]

I didn't spot anything unusual at the lake this morning, but there had been an influx of Pochards Aythya ferina and gulls. I counted 300 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Holt Bay and on Green Lawn and I'm hoping to get back to the lake in order to have a look through the gull roost later this afternoon - a Kittiwake or Ring-billed Gull would be nice!

In the evening, I had a look through a very large gull roost but, even with the extra number present, I didn't spot a 'white-winger', but counted 48 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 4 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor, an adult Greylag Anser anser and a ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser.

Friday 7th February [Mainly overcast]

My hospital visit today allowed me time for an hour at the lake as dusk fell. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Greylag Anser anser with the Canada's on Holt Farm, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Indian Country. Duck numbers seem to be falling this week.

Thursday 6th February [A sunny day]

All day in hospital with my mum meant I didn't visit the lake today, but Mike O'Connor texted me news of a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus around the Wood Bay area mid-afternoon. Thanks again Mike.

Wednesday 5th February [A lovely day]

Warwick White did some bird trapping this morning in the area where the wintering Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita have been feeding on a regular basis. I went down and joined him and we had a good look at the 4 Chiffs he caught while I was there. They all appeared to be the nominate race P. c. collybita, as we'd suspected from our observations. However, one had been previously ringed so Warwick is going to share that information with the BTO to see if we can find out where it was rung. It was a British ring. Of the four birds I saw, Warwick aged them as two adults and 2 first-winters. He caught another after I had to leave, but he's just emailed to tell me that looked like a nominate race bird too. It's a shame, but we think the grey-looking bird may have moved on. Warwick also caught, 2 Treecreepers Certhia familiaris, 2 Goldcrests Regulus regulus, 3 Great Tits Parus major, 6 Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus, 2 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes and a Robin Erithacus rubecula during the session. I had to leave in a hurry to meet friends for our weekly walk, but then had to go to hospital with my mum after I called an ambulance out to her during the afternoon, so I didn't get back to the lake before dark.

Tuesday 4th February [A cold wind]

A wild wind overnight gradually abated throughout the day, but it was still pretty cold. Mark spent much of the day by the lake and found the first Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarellii of the year at the dam, and a Greylag Anser anser with the large flock of Canada Geese Branta canadaensis, while Warwick White told us he'd seen up to 5 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita.

Monday 3rd February [Mild]

No visit for me today, but Dr. Mike O'Connor reported an adult summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus on a buoy off the dam late this afternoon . Thanks Mike.

Sunday 2nd February [Mild & overcast]

The morning was spent underground counting bats and ringing a few Greater Horseshoes on the Mendips, then after a cuppa, Mark and I went down to the lake. We saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba, 3+ Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 3 Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus, and were surprised to see 10 Snipe Gallinago gallinago in flight overhead while we were standing on the road bridge at Top End. We made our way back along the lakeside road and decided to have a last look from the southern corner of the dam and were amazed to see 16 (4 adult , 2 1st-winter , and 10 ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser in front of us. I looked through the scope and began to realise there were also a good number of Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Cheddar Water. I counted 38 from where I was standing at the dam and had just counted 7 off Bell's Bush, making a total of 45, without looking for any in between. This was probably the highest count since 55 on 7th February 2010. Not only were there all the Goldeneye, but I also counted 50 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus gathering at Cheddar Water to roost. It was a fine end to the weekend.

Saturday 1st February [A cool wind]

I enjoyed a day out with Mark Hynam today. We went to Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham, early in the morning to watch the birds coming in from the estuary at high tide. The Black-tailed Godwits were quite a spectacle in flight as they wheeled around and landed on the marsh to roost. There were a couple of Knot and few Greenshanks among a good number of Redshanks. we moved on from there to visit a Train and Toy Fair, where we took lunch then drove down to Mansands, Brixham to see the Blue-winged Teal that's been around for a few weeks. Offshore there were 5 Great Crested Grebes and a probable Black-throated Diver. Then on the way back to the car we watched the birds visiting the feeders by the hide - well worth a trip for you photographers, there were Bullfinches feeding within 2 metres of us. Then, I spotted a Firecrest which gave us good views. Further up the track back to the car park we saw yet another Firecrest!

Friday 31st January [Mild for the time of year]

I've been busy for the last couple of days and not managed to get down to the lake, but Mark Hynam spent an hour or two there late afternoon. He texted me with news of 9 (1 adult , 1 1st-w & 7♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser on the dam wall and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

Wednesday 29th January [A bit milder]

Not too much to tell today; there was a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor.

Tuesday 28th January [Wintery. Rain, hail & sleet]

It was a day for staying in and watching birds at the feeders in the garden today. I filled the feeders down at the lake and had an hour or two looking around, but the only noteworthy sightings were of the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Long Bay, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba actively moving around Top End. There were at least 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita still feeding around the stream at Bell's Bush too.

Sunday 26th January [Morning rain clearing late afternoon]

I've got to be honest I didn't fancy it this morning, in the rain, but I went for a look when it stopped. I was in time to see the Common Gulls Larus canus bathing before they flew off to Chew to roost, but there was nothing among them. However, the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus started to flock in to roost while I was watching and lo and behold, there was an adult winter-plumaged Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among them. Yay! I pointed it out to Mark, who arrived shortly after me. While we were scanning the gulls, 6 (3 adult , 1 1st-w & 2♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser came out of the trees at The Island to start feeding. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was present again, although it flew off towards Chew at dusk, and Mark spotted a single Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.

Saturday 25th January [Overcast & cool]

Mark Hynam called round this morning and drove us down to the lake where we saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba, before going up to WWT Slimbridge where he was hoping to upgrade his binoculars. Unfortunately for him, In-Focus didn't have much of a selection to look at in the price range range he was looking to buy at. We decided to spend some time working our way down to the new Estuary Hide before going along to the North American pen to photograph some of the species that turn up locally as vagrants. It was especially nice to see American Wigeon, having not seen any on our last visit. We also spent time photographing the various ♀ Lesser Scaup on show. It was enlightening to see the extent of plumage and bill pattern variation shown at this time of year. We also took some shots of the Richardson's Cackling Geese for the record, even though we were a little hampered by the poor light conditions throughout the day.

Andy Mears found an adult Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in front of the Fishing Lodge later in the day; the first of the year.

Tuesday 21st January [Sunny & cool]

As I got into my car I heard a Raven Corvus corax flying overhead. A quick look showed it to be flying north-east towards the lake and I followed it down the hill to get my 'patch' year tick. I headed over the dam to check a couple of Kent bat boxes that we moved recently, but unsurprisingly there was no-one home. I took the opportunity to look into the spillway for the Common Sandpiper and any Coots that might have become trapped, but the only bird I saw was a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea that flew up onto Butcombe Bank - another patch year tick. That makes 71 spp. so far. I filled the Lodge feeders, and walked the south side road to Top End hide and back but the only other bird I made a note of was the regular Great White Egret Ardea alba, standing in the top of a Scot's Pine at Indian Country. There was a thin veneer of ice in front of the hide that extended out into the marginal vegetation, but not the open water beyond.

Sunday 19th January [Sunny & cold]

The Great White Egret Ardea alba was present again today, and Mark Hynam texted me that he'd seen 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and I caught up with them shortly after I got to the lake mid-afternoon. We went through the gull roost, considerably reduced from those in November, but it was almost entirely composed of Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Herring Gulls Larus argentatus. We saw 6 (1♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, and although I've looked for the Lesser Redpolls the last few days, it appears that they've moved on.

Saturday 18th January [Sunny & cold]

I got to the lake mid-afternoon and met Mark who'd been down there for a while. He'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, which I hadn't, and we both saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba flying around during the remainder of the afternoon. Mark had also seen 6 or 7 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and counted 306 Canada Geese Branta canadensis before I arrived. We stayed on until dusk, giving him the opportunity to try out my binoculars in low light conditions, as he's looking to upgrade.

I had a chat with one of the fishery rangers, Laurence Hellier, yesterday and he told me two of them had watched 2 Marsh Harriers at the lake during the week, on one occasion at Green Lawn - possibly attracted by the winter thrushes that feed there? I guess these must be the birds from Chew on one of their visits.

Friday 17th January [Colder. Sunny with showers.]

Early this afternoon the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the south end of the dam wall and, as I went through along the south side road, I saw a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis at Holt Bay, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush.

Warwick White contacted me today to tell me he'd received news from the BTO about a Barn Owl Tyto alba he'd ringed with me at the lake on 12th June 2017. Sadly, it was found freshly dead by a villlager in Blagdon, on 15th January.

One of the brood being ringed by Warwick White, perhaps the very bird described above © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Thursday 16th January [Windy. Heavy rain late in the day.]

Richard Mielcarek reported 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita again at Bell's Bush barrier today.

I spent the day in Bradford-on-Avon cleaning the loft space in a beautiful Grade 2 listed building with Ken Anstey. We removed about 100 litres of Lesser Horseshoe Bat droppings from a maternity roost. The things we do...

Wednesday 15th January [Sunshine & showers]

A bit of sunshine and all the 'tourists' come out of the woodwork... news from Paul Williams of an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser (it flew in last night I think - I saw a smaller goose come in from the Chew direction with a small flock of Canada's but couldn't relocate them as it got dark), the Great White Egret Ardea alba, 3 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret, and a Raven Corvus corax. Richard Mielcarek reported 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita from Bell's Bush barrier area which I took some photos of today. It was too dark for me to get any shots on Sunday afternoon, although Mark probably got some before I arrived. One of the birds is pale and another has some bright shiney bling on its leg. I have only seen four together in the same field of view over the last week or two, but there are more there for sure.

Tuesday 14th January [Wet & windy]

This afternoon I saw the usual Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but not a lot else worthy of note.

Monday 13th January [Wet, & later very windy.]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count htis morning. The lake was full and flowing down the spillway where the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was wading around in the water. I had a quick look in Lodge Copse during the count and saw 3 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret, and found the remaining juv. Mute Swan Cygnus olor dead at Top End (probably from starvation). The count was unremarkable and details are on the WeBS Page as usual.

Saturday 11th January [Grey and very windy]

Viewing waterfowl against the North Shore was all but impossible in the conditions this afternoon. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Burmah Road, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita near Bell's Bush barrier, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus over Top End, and 2 pairs of adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor also at Top End.

Thursday 9th January

Chris Craig contacted me again today to say he'd gone to look for the Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret again, and he'd seen 6 at Lodge Copse before they flew off towards Long Bay.

Wednesday 8th January [Started bright but went downhill later]

I was busy all day today, but Chris Craig texted to tell me he'd gone to look for the Lesser Redpolls this morning but didn't find them.

Tuesday 7th January [Grey & dreary with mizzle]

I had time for an afternoon walk which turned out to be quite productive. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos walking along the cill of the overspill, saw a Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula at the Inspection House in Park Lane, watched a small flock of 7 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret in the Birch trees at Lodge Copse, and 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier. The bird scarer at Holt Farm also put up a flock of Feral Pigeons Columba livia that had gathered around the farm buildings and, while sitting in Top End hide for a few minutes I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba back on site, albeit being chased around by the Grey Herons Ardea cinerea.

Monday 6th January [More rain]

I managed an hour towards the end of the afternoon and added two resident species to the site year list, but there's still no sign of the Common Sandpiper which we last saw on the 30th December!

Sunday 5th January [The weather was till pretty miserable this weekend]

Both Mark Hynam, a fellow bird warden, and I spent time at the lake both days this weekend but we added no new species to the site list. While we were chatting at 1635hrs this evening though, we heard a bird call, looked at each other and I immediately said to him "play the call of Whimbrel." He did immediately, and we were both convinced this was what we'd just heard... It's a bit of a strange one for this time of year and at an inland site especially, so we won't be claiming it, but what other explanation can there be?

Friday 3rd January [Some sunshine]

I managed another walk at the lake today and with the promise of sunshine I was hoping to catch up with the low-profile local Buzzards Buteo buteo - I saw three. However, there was little else to report.

Thursday 2nd January [Grey & dreary]

I spent an hour at the lake late in the afternoon, and added two new species to the site list for 2020; 5 (2 adult ♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and I heard a number of Snipe Gallinago gallinago calling as they flew out of the marginal vegetation at Top End and Burmah Road. I still haven't seen the wintering Common Sandpiper or a Buzzard though. From the Lodge and Green Lawn I counted 10 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula then drove to Rainbow Point where I met two fisheries rangers. After a chat I scanned the east end of the lake and counted 19 Goldeneye. Could there really have been 29 on the lake today, or was it 9 more plus my original 10? If it turns out to be 29 when I check tomorrow, it will be the highest count count since Feb. 2016 (32).

Wednesday 1st January [Foggy, dreary and damp.] HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I was lakeside by 0659 hrs this morning. I had hoped to pick up Tawny Owl Strix aluco before it got light and I did, seven were calling within earshot at Park Lane. Mark and I more or less repeated our Monday walk plus trudging over the dam to Butcombe Bay in the steady drizzle/rain at first light. It was horrible. Needless to say, we logged fewer species than Monday so, given the conditions, our total of 54 wasn't too bad before going our separate ways at 1225 hrs. The Lesser Redpolls seemed to have gone, and we didn't even manage to find a Buzzard. The best birds for me were 7 (3♂♂) Pintails Anas acuta and 6+ Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. Amazingly, although we saw just the one Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, we probably heard no fewer than ten squealing at various points along the south shore. This is our (half-)day list: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.