BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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

 

Tuesday 10th December [Very wet & increasingly windy]

There was a very strong SSE wind blowing over the lake this afternoon, and there were huge numbers of gulls present, including a large roost in Wood Bay, separate from the usual one off the dam. Unfortunately, I was too late to be able to go through them and look for any rarities, or even just get some idea of numbers. However, I did see a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End in one of the very wet meadows, and the Greylag Anser anser. I'll be busy tomorrow too, getting my mum back home again after 5 months of hospital and reablement but, hopefully, I will get more time in the coming weeks to catch up with all the things that have been put on the back burner, and bring you more thorough news from the lake going forward.

Monday 9th December [Overnight gales, then a dry mild day.]

I got down to the lake late this afternoon and was pleased to see 2 (possibly 3) Great White Egrets Ardea alba and counted 13 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End as dusk approached. Unfortunately, I ran out of daylight to do the gull roost.

Burrington Combe is closed to traffic this week between 0800-1700 hrs and the resultant traffic is horrendous through the village, especially morning and evening. I couldn't get out of my drive for about an hour this morning!

Sunday 8th December [A wild day with frequent squalls, hail & thunder.]

A mid-afternoon visit brought me 2♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser asleep at Cheddar Water, and the Greylag Anser anser on Holt Farm. But, the weather was the star turn to be honest. On leaving the Top End hide, the heavens opened and as I drove towards Hellfire Corner an almighty flash of lightning gave me quite a turn. All the Jackdaws Corvus monedula exploded out of the wood in front of me and hail started to fall with a vengeance. The noise was deafening in the car. The road was white by the time I started up Station Lane into the village and it got a little slippy. The fire engine was called out just as I arrived home, and the alarm company rang because our home phone line had been knocked out. That was quite enough excitement for a few minutes, and let's hope the emergency call out isn't for anything too serious and that no-one has been hurt.

Saturday 7th December [Dry & mild early on, but wet & windy later.]

Mark Hynam went to the lake this morning after a visit to Barrow Reservoirs to see the divers. He found a number of Goosanders Mergus merganser, but after I'd joined we thought we saw others as well. At dusk, when I went to check the gull roost, I counted 10 Goosanders (1♂ adult and 9♀♀) in Butcombe Bay, but given our earlier observations, there were certainly more because we saw at least 1 1-w♂ as well during the day. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was still present today, being frequently chased around by Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser was in the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock, and I counted 64 Wigeon Mareca penelope and a single adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor. The evening gull roost was quite large and I was going through the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus with my clicker when the uncounted part of the roost got up off the water and relocated - I'd got to over 700 when that happened and couldn't be bothered to start again! There were probably over 2000 Black-heads though. There was also a very impressive four-figure roost of Jackdaws Corvus monedula and Rooks C. frugilegus too.

Friday 6th December [Windy, wet & Mild]

I went down to the lake for an hour around lunchtime and saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba and a juvenile ♀ Peregrine Falco peregrinus at Rugmoor Point, and I counted 329 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Holt Bay. Two or three of the flock appear to have mixed parentage or gene abnormalities!

Rupert Higgins sent me lots of very interesting records as a result of his ecological survey work around the lake for Bristol Water this year. I hope to find time this weekend to go through them in more detail, and add them to the growing species lists on the website. My thanks go to him and Bristol Water for agreeing to let me share them.

Thursday 5th December [Milder & dry]

I saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor Point late this afternoon. I understand there was a sighting of a Cattle Egret at around 1330 hrs, but I don't know who reported it. If accepted, I believe it would be the 5th record for the site.

Tuesday 3rd December [Cold & sunny]

I managed a short visit to the lake late this afternoon, and saw a (the) Great White Egret Ardea alba, 1000+ Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus at the dam end, and 9 (4♂♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathered to roost at Top End.

Monday 2nd December [Cold & sunny]

I had a day out and went down to the Isles of Scilly to catch up with the Hermit Thrush on St. Mary's with Mark. I've seen them in the United States of course, but this is a first for me in the UK, and boy was it a poser!

Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus © Nigel Milbourne 2019

After spending over an hour watching it feeding in the horse paddock among the Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos we meandered up through Holy Vale, where we saw a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus and loads of Goldcrests Regulus regulus, then down to Lower Moors before heading back to the airport for our flight to Land's End (where there's a very obliging Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros around the terminal buildings).

Sunday 1st December [A cold wind]

My visit at lunchtime was pretty uneventful with just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and a pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca noted, until an Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus flew east up the lake calling at 1435 hrs, followed 5 minutes later by a flock of 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Saturday 30th November [A cold wind]

I couldn't find the mystery duck today! However, I did manage to spot the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and 2 groups of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying east (25 birds) before going home for a hot drink to warm up. Mark decided to see if any Starlings Sturnus vulgaris came in to roost, and said although there was no aerial show, he reckoned about 2000 flew in. It was perishing by the lake.

Friday 29th November [Cold & sunny]

Mark Hynam and I walked the lakeside today from 0910 hrs to 1430 hrs trying to find Chiffchaffs, and more especially a Siberian Chiffchaff. We found two Chiffs, but neither called and we didn't get prolonged views of either of them. We saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Indian Country, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Holt Bay, a ♀ Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla in Lodge Copse, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 34 Teal Anas crecca, just 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 4 Shovelers, and heard 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus.

However, at Top End I spotted a ♀ Aythya with a huge well-defined white face blaze. We couldn't do much with an identification through binoculars as it was on the far side of the lake. We decided to leave it and walk back to the cars at the Lodge. We drove back and I scoped it for ages, but it remained asleep! We each went our own way, but after some soup and a cuppa I went back with my camera. The bird had woken up by then, but I really couldn't make a positive identification. It was the size of a Tufted Duck, but was essentially golden brown, especially the head (with paler ear covert patches), neck, mantle, and breast. The mantle was concolorous with the breast, but the flight feathers appeared darker. As noted earlier, there was a well-defined face blaze, a brownish eye, grey bill with a black nail, that may spread slightly and grey legs and toes with darker grey webs. The belly was whitish with a brown vent and speckled black undertail. The size suggested a possible Lesser Scaup, but the head shape was wrong, and there was no sign of any frosting in the flanks or mantle feathers. The head shape and extensive face blaze suggested Greater Scaup but the bird was surely too small. So, was it just a Tufted Duck? I suppose it could have been, but the head shape, bill pattern and extensive blaze was unlike any I've seen on a Tuftie. So, that leaves us with a probable hybrid, but what? I saw it wing flap a few times at dusk, but in truth it was too dark to decide if the colour of the panel in the primaries was grey or white. Perhaps I might get some pictures tomorrow, it might help - but it might not! Here's the best I could do this evening; it will give you a sense of what we were looking at.

 

Wednesday 27th November [Showers]

Not much to tell today. I counted 162 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Holt Bay and saw a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. There were over 2000 Gulls on the lake too, probably attracted by the work in the fields on te North Shore.

Tuesday 26th November [Mild with sunny spells]

I was busy most of the day but allowed myself time to get down to the lake in order to look for the Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus and photograph the Starling roost. That didn't go well - the Pink-foot was seen by Richard Mielcarek before I arrived, but then skipped over to Chew, and there were less than 100 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris in to the roost. Most of them appeared to fly straight up the lake towards Chew too!

Monday 25th November [I was going to write showers, but let's just say wet - again!]

The adult Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus was with the Canada's Branta canadensis at lunchtime, but they were well out of reach of my camera lens. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam and the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid was off Peg's Point. I wrote that there were just 3 Mute Swans Cygnus olor (all adults) on the lake last Thursday, well, today there were none, save for a dead adult at Holt Bay that looked as if it had been killed by another Mute Swan. When I saw the 3 last week, a pair were continually hassling a lone bird, so they were probably the culprits.

Sunday 24th November [Mild & grey all day]

Mark Hynam and I had agreed to meet up again this evening to photograph the Starlings coming in to roost, but he rang me while I was getting my cameras ready to say he'd found a Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus with the Canada's Branta canadensis at Peg's Point. I met him there, just after they'd flown off the lake into a neighbouring field. The light was going rapidly, but we agreed it looked like an adult (brown type) and didn't appear to have a ring on either leg. This is just the right time of year for one to turn up, and a cracking find for Mark. I believe it to be the 7th lake record (more details on the Pink-foot Page). Mark also heard 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita before finding the goose. He thought both gave the nominate P. c. collybita call.

Record shot of Pink-footed Goose, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Taken at 1605 hrs, in the dark, so 1/50th sec, f4, ISO800 was the best I could manage.

Saturday 23rd November [Still, dank and dark all day.]

This afternoon I had a short walk at the lake from Wood Bay Point to Top End and back. I found what I presume was the same Chiffchaff that I heard and glimpsed yesterday. I had good views of a warm brown and buff-flanked bird that had no hint of yellow-green tones in the light I was watching it in. Interesting, but the two calls I heard today were standard Phylloscopus collybita collybita to my ear. Some photos in better light might be more enlightening.

I had seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, as usual, when I arrived, and met Mark while I was walking. He spent some time scanning the waterfowl from Rainbow Point and counted 8 Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula. We met up again later to watch the Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost come in to Home Bay reeds. It was an amazing spectacle, with a fly-over Peregrine Falco peregrinus and at least one, if not two, Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus hassling the incoming birds. I reckon there were no fewer than 5000 Starlings, but there could have been more, as many stole in very low unseen from our viewpoint. The reed bed had been partly flattened, no doubt due to the number of birds that have been coming in on a daily basis, so the roost may already be in decline. Perhaps, they'll move to Pipe Bay rather than abandon the lakeside?

Thursday 21st November [A cold breeze]

I decided I needed some 'me time' this morning, and got up and went down to the lake to reconnect with nature and enjoy some of the therapeutic sights and sounds, on foot. The wind was whipping the waves up the dam wall, but the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was in the relative shelter at the south end. As I walked into Lodge Copse I heard the unmistakable call of a (Lesser) Redpoll Carduelis cabaret as I looked up into the birch trees, but I couldn't spot it. I was able to count the Canada Geese Branta canadensis properly today, and made it 176, so Tuesday's estimate was satisfyingly close. There were just 3 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor left on the lake, and 58 Wigeon Mareca penelope at Top End today. I was really pleased to see the adult ♂ Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid back in Wood Bay (I must check how many winters it has spent with us now - first noted Dec. 2014), and I spotted a roosting Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, after not seeing any on the WeBS count. My final note was of a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the hedge at Top End that just wouldn't afford me a decent view through the bins, even though its continual calling made it easy to keep up with. I gave up after 20 minutes in frustration, but it was great to be out enjoying a decent walk for the first time in four months.

Wednesday 20th November [Dry]

I didn't have time to visit the lake today, but Philip Smith emailed to say that he saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus at about 10.30 hrs "over the fields behind us, being mobbed, and then it flew down towards the lake.  Unmistakable with its V tail, and we have seen a lot of them around Reading this year."

Tuesday 19th November [Dry & cool]

Today, I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, counted approx. 170 Canada Geese Branta canadensis at Paradise, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeal in Pipe Bay reeds.

Monday 18th November [Bright & sunny with a chilly breeze]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning. Blagdon seems to be a black hole at the moment, what good birds there are seem to be turning up at Chew, Cheddar and even Barrow Reservoirs this year! The count was unremarkable, apart from the sunshine, and the details are on the WeBS Page. Best birds were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti.

Phil Delve went to Barrow Res. #3 after the count to see the Long-tailed Duck and Black-throated Diver and found a Snow Bunting! There's a Whooper Swan at Chew today, but I haven't heard about the Green-winged Teal and Red-throated Diver. Time for me to hibernate I think...

Sunday 17th November [Overcast]

Following last night's news of a big Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost at Home Bay, Mark went back with his video camera at first light hoping for some decent footage of the emergence. Unfortunately, most came out low and dispersed without putting on a show, but he felt confident of the number he suggested were in the roost last night. While he was there, he heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti calling in the reed bed, saw a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, and watched 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fly in over the dam and head up the lake. We will be carrying out the WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Saturday 16th November [Sunny, dry & cold]

Mark went to the lake this afternoon and called me late on to say there was an amazing (by Blagdon standards) Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost forming in Home Bay reeds. He estimated at least 10000 birds were involved, and there was certainly a heck of a racket being made by them before they settled down to roost. We heard (and saw) a few Snipe Gallinago gallinago flying out of the marginal vegetation at Top End as dusk fell too. Earlier, he'd seen the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.

Wednesday 13th November [Sunny morning with rain setting in later]

Not much to tell today, just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. We were hoping to finish our bat box checks tomorrow (some deferred by Bristol Water access issues in October) but that has had to be postponed once again. The weather hasn't been kind this autumn, and the lack of access has spoiled what was becoming quite a good data set. A real shame.

Tuesday 12th November [Windy]

I didn't get down to the lake today, but Mark Hynam sent me the following news from a late afternoon visit he made: a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca flying west down the lake, and a couple of Water Rails Rallus aquaticus squealing in front of Top End hide, and about 250-300 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris flying to roost in the Home Bay reeds.

Monday 11th November [Windy. Mainly dry.]

I got to the lake late in the morning, but the wind was whipping up the waves and making life pretty uncomfortable at Top End (not least in the hide). There was little prosepect of hearing, much less seeing, Bearded (Tits) given the conditions. What's more, the 2 juvenile/1st winter Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus were back at the lake causing mayhem. I watched them have a go at the resident pale Buzzard Buteo buteo at Flower Corner until it flew into cover at Top End then, over Rugmoor, they had a right old sparring match with another pair of Buzzards. When I left at lunchtime one was circling with menace over Holt Bay putting the fear of God into the Coots Fulica atra and Moorhens Gallinula chloropus out in the bay. I counted 74 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Holt Bay too.

Late News: Jeff Hirst called me over as I was leaving, and told me he saw 2 Otters Lutra lutra swimming towards him at Rugmoor Bay from Peg's Point last Saturday (9th Nov.) in the pouring rain. They swam to within 20 metres of Jeff before stopping and eye-balling him then they beat a hasty retreat. While we were chatting he said the fishing has been good, with mainly large 3lbs plus fish, but the worrying thing is they don't appear to have much food inside them - mainly Daphnia. That's not good news for the waterfowl, and might help explain the mediocre number of Aythya diving ducks that are currently present perhaps?

Sunday 10th November [A beautiful day]

This morning I drove Mark and I over to the Forest of Dean, and for the first time we saw the Great Grey Shrike that has been wintering at Crabtree Hill for the last few years. We were very privileged when it flew and landed on the top of a pine tree close by in the sunshine giving us an extraordinary view. We also saw a Common Darter still on the wing while we were searching for the shrike - it's the latest date I've ever seen one (previously 3rd Nov. 2011 at Blagdon Lake).

This afternoon we went down to the lake and were pleasantly surprised to see the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and staying on in the hide as the sun went down we saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flash past and heard at least 4 different Water Rails Rallus aquaticus squealing in the flooded vegetation in front of us. Best of all though, while we sat there, we both heard one or more Bearded (Tits) Reedlings Panurus biarmicus 'pinging' near the water's edge in deep cover. Mark thought he saw one briefly, but we didn't get our binoculars on it before it disappeared into cover again. Hopefully they'll stick around with the water level up into the vegetation now.

Saturday 9th November [Pretty wet]

I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this afternoon, but that is the extent of my news I'm afraid. I think the water will start going over the overspill in the next few days.

Friday 8th November [Sunny but cold]

While looking for the Common Sandpiper on the dam (I didn't see it today) a gritter lorry come down the hill and turned around. I guess we're in for a cold night, and as the sun dipped behind the Mendips at 1600 hrs, the temperature immediately started to drop quickly. The sunshine beforehand gave good viewing conditions, but I wasn't able to spot anything unusual. A newly arrived adult ♂ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was feeding off Rainbow Point, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End again. Two other observations were a Saw-wort Serratula tinctoria plant remarkably still flowering, and no fewer than 7 Grey Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis running around beside the Lodge entrance drive as I arrived.

Thursday 7th November [Sunshine & showers]

Again, just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Great White Egret Ardea alba of note. The water level is up to the front of the Top End hide now.

Wednesday 6th November [Dry morning, then increasingly wet.]

An early afternoon visit turned up the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Great White Egret Ardea alba. The water level is continuing to rise and is probably about a foot off top level, so about 95% full by my reckoning. With no boats on the water, you'd be forgiven for thinking that conditions are right for some more waterfowl to drop in, and I know we have the disturbance caused by fireworks at present, but it patently isn't happening - yet!

Tuesday 5th November [Dry & Cloudy]

I didn't get to the lake until late in the afternoon and my eye was immediately drawn to the gull roost which was the biggest I've seen this autumn (November is often the largest of the year). There were lots of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus alongside the usual Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, perhaps drawn there to feed on Holt Farm fields which have been sprayed with liquid manure over the last couple of days. I made the mistake of moving from the dam to the Lodge to scope the roost and found most of the birds were facing away from me in the northerly breeze. Also, a really heavy bank of black clouds appeared at just the wrong time making viewing even more difficult. I didn't spot anything unusual as a result, and left the lake early in the gloom. Not my finest half an hour of birding!

Monday 4th November [Sunshine & showers]

Late afternoon was still and the light good, so provided good viewing conditions for the first time in a few days. However, there is still little to report on the lake, just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Great White Egret Ardea alba.

I had a chat with bee-keeper friend John Smythe at the dam, and he was telling me that if bees make their winter store up almost entirely of Ivy pollen it sets off too hard for them to be able to use it in this part of the country, unless we have a wet winter when they will be able to make use of it to keep the colony going.

Sunday 3rd November [Early rain, sunshine, then more rain.]

Mark picked me up at 0430 hrs this morning, and drove us to Land's End through the pouring rain to see the putative Paddyfield Warbler (an Old World sp.), which was still in the same field at Sennen along with a Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens rubescens (from the New World). Thankfully, we saw both birds in less than an hour and a half before we had to come back home.

I went for a look at the lake, after a bite of lunch, and saw just the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Great White Egret Ardea alba of note, plus a ♂ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula new in overnight.

Saturday 2nd November [Persistent rain]

Even the ducks looked fed up with the weather today! A surprise at Cheddar Water was an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser while I was looking for the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, which was on the dam. Also noted were 4 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 8 Wigeon Mareca penelope, 2 Teal Anas crecca, and a squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus at Top End. As I drove along the south road I was appalled to come across 30 Pheasants Phasianus colchicus at Hellfire Corner. It seems the shooting fraternity are releasing more and more of these non-native birds into our countryside every year - at what cost to our resident species?

Thursday 31st October [Damp, grey & murky.]

An hour spent at the lake early afternoon was pretty uneventful. I saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba several times in flight, the 4 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were still present, and I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Top End.

Wednesday 30th October [Dry & cold, with a strong easterly wind.]

Some migrant wildfowl have started turning up, with at least 46 Wigeon Mareca penelope and 183 Canada Geese Branta canadensis today, plus 4 brownhead Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Other counts included 30+ Gadwall Mareca strepera and 134 Pochard Aythya ferina. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was ranging between Rugmoor and Top End as usual.

Tuesday 29th October [Dry & cold, with a strong easterly wind.]

The Great White Egret Ardea alba was stalking around Top End again today, and I saw 2 brownhead Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off a flooded Wookey Point. Long Bay, unusually, hosted a flock of sleeping Pochard Aythya ferina, and there was also a ♂ Shoveler Spatula clypeata and 4 Teal Anas crecca hiding from my gaze. Aythya duck numbers are steadily climbing and with the fishing boats due off the lake in a couple of days time, perhaps things will settle down a bit.

Monday 28th October [Dry but a distinct chill in the air]

A mid-afternoon visit was cut short when I met Ken Hall at Wood Bay Point. He'd covered the Top End and only noted the Great White Egret Ardea alba I'd also spotted from Rainbow Point. Coming in from the dam end I'd noted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta sheltering from the chilly wind on The Island, and although I didn't see it from the dam, I picked out the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by the valve tower from the Lodge. As I made my way along Green Lawn, a large flock of something like 200 Common Gulls Larus canus flew in to bathe. I saw a few yesterday, but this was the first decent flock I've seen this autumn at the lake.

Sunday 27th October [Sunny & warm in the sunshine]

Mark Hynam spent most of the day at the lake from first light. I joined him after the rugby match this morning, and we spent most of the afternoon looking around. Although it was a beautiful day, we saw very little other than the usual Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Some trees along the head of Long Bay were covered in flowering Ivy Helix hedera, and in the sunshine one or two of them were absolutely festooned with Honey Bees Apis mellifera. The sound was amazing, and it was such a lovely sight to see. I was hoping to see Ivy Bees, but didn't spot any there.

Saturday 26th October [Grey, very wet & quite cool.]

The weather was pretty miserable, and I can't say I really enjoyed my lunchtime visit. Best bird was a Great White Egret Ardea alba that continues to cling on at the lake. New birds were 7 Wigeon Mareca penelope at Top End, and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus that was squealing in Pipe Bay reeds. It was really difficult to see the birds along the North Shore with any clarity, but I did notice a really good spread of Pochards Aythya ferina.

Friday 25th October [Overcast & showery]

Tony Warren contacted me again today with the following information: Further to my email of yesterday evening, I have been looking again at Ken Hall's comments and at the lake map. I now realise that the 'second bird' to which I made reference was located between Rugmoor Point and Top End - an area where Ken Hall had identified the Harrier - and very close to the shore line. This 'second bird' perched at no great height in one of the trees; we watched it there for some 45 minutes or so, during which time it made occasional sorties.  I should have mentioned yesterday that, when this 'second bird' did fly, it stayed relatively low, flying more or less parallel to the ground. Unfortunately, on each excursion, it was rapidly obscured by the trees. It repeatedly returned to the tree from which it had flown; perhaps it is still in the area.

Thursday 24th October [Mainly sunny]

The only birds of note that I saw late this afternoon were the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago fly out from the marginal vegetation at Polish Water.

Further to yesterdays sighting of the harrier by Ken, I received this email from Tony Warren (and Tim Joy): Further to your comment in  Blagdon Lake Birds of Wednesday, October 23, a colleague and I were in the hide adjacent to Wookey Point at circa 2.45 pm this afternoon (Thursday). The light was exceptionally good. A Harrier appeared directly in front of and close to the hide, flying seemingly fast from the direction of the Top End towards Bell's Bush, where it was lost to sight. Some 15 to 20 minutes later it reappeared, flying in the opposite direction and quite low; it was lost to view behind the bull rushes in front of and to the right of the hide. On both occasions, the bird was so low that we did not have a view of the underwing. We stayed on for thirty minutes or so, but we did not see it again. In the short time of viewing, the most obvious features were the broad, very white in the sunlight, rump, the tail length, the barring on the tail and  the overall dark brown of the upper wing. We assumed that it was a Hen Harrier; neither of us has the experience to suggest whether or not it could have been a Pallid Harrier. After these initial sightings, a raptor settled on and off in the trees on the far bank of the lake and directly opposite the hide. At that distance and having only binoculars with us, we could only say that the breast was pale; we assumed it was one of the many colour variants of the Buzzard.

I'd like to thank you for getting in touch, Hen Harrier is a rare bird at Blagdon, the last being a ringtail seen by Chris Vines on 17th Oct. 2004. I hope you'll submit your notes to the local rare bird panel for consideration, as I'm sure Ken will.

Wednesday 23rd October [Foggy, then gradually deteriorated to rain by dusk]

Ken Hall sent me the following account of his visit to the lake today: As I mentioned on the phone, I went down to the lake this morning, the first time for ages, and walked from the Top End to Green Lawn and back. Of note were a ♂ and 2♀ Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, a Great White Egret Ardea alba also at Top End with, maybe, a second at Rugmoor Point with 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I also saw circa 20 Common Gulls Larus canus, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in flight at Holt Bay, with presumably the same a bit later on the fields behind Green Lawn, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in willows near Bell's Bush. At 3.15 I saw, very briefly from what you call Flower Corner, a harrier fly past the west end of the wood by the Top End hide and away towards the hide and out of sight. I assumed it was going to be a Marsh Harrier until I saw the narrow white rump. I then picked it up miles away on the far side as far as Rugmoor Point, where I lost it. It must have returned as about 10 minutes later it passed in front of me again, now heading towards Bell's Bush. I waited until 1630 hrs, but it never reappeared, so I didn't get more than these very brief views. It was obviously a harrier, basically all fairly dark brown above and below, and across the wings, with a long tail. The narrow white rump was very obvious as it went past, and I just about glimpsed a paler area on the face. The main contrast in the wing was a tawny wash across the upper-wing-coverts. I assume that it was a Hen Harrier ♀ or juvenile, although these days I suppose one has to consider Pallid, a species I have never seen (apart from a distant adult ♂ in Africa). Maybe it will reappear, one can only hope.

Update from Ken as follows: I can add one mea culpa and a clarification. First, the times I gave were an hour out. I actually first saw the bird at 14.15, and I left the lake at 15.30 (and rang you just afterwards (15.43 - check your phone). I use a small tape-recorder to make notes in the field, and it was still set to French time, my having not long returned from there!

The other thing is that for long periods in the afternoon there was a Buzzard with extensively white underparts perched in the pine trees between Rugmoor Point and the Top End (Indian Country). I saw it several times, not always quite in the same spot, and I imagine that it could well have been the bird that Tony and Tim saw. It, or a bird like it, has been around the lake for some time, I believe.

Thanks Ken, and yes, I can confirm the pale Buzzard has been around the Top End for quite some time.

Tuesday 22nd October [A lovely sunny day, by & large.]

I spent the day at the lake checking bat boxes with Ken and Mark. We found 22+ Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus and a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros, as usual, and one box that had quite a few orange Batbugs Cimex pipistrelli in it. We saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a flock of 17 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying east, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds while we were there. I bumped into Rupert Higgins who was mapping the marginal vegetation around the lake. He told me he'd seen 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Holt Bay, and heard several Skylarks Alauda arvensis passing over during the morning. Later, he texted me to say he'd heard a Bearded (Tit) Reedling Panurus biarmicus calling at Pipe Bay, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Home Bay. He also spotted some Birch Catkin Bugs Kleidocerys resedae at Bells Bush.

Saturday 19th October [Warm sunshine]

I took a walk along the south side of the lake looking for migrant passerines this afternoon, but had no luck. There were very few small birds at all in the copses to be honest. There were still a few Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta on the wing and I saw a Sympetrum sp. too. Birds of note included the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 107 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, singles of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a single adult Common Gull Larus canus.

Friday 18th October

There was just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam today. The level continues to rise and many of the dabbling ducks are leaving - all the Teal have gone this week for instance.

Wednesday 16th October

The only birds of note today were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Tuesday 15th October

There was no sign of the egrets today, even they have left with the rising water, but I saw 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.

Monday 14th October [Mainly overcast with rain on & off]

Phil, Rob and I carried out the WeBS count this morning during which I actually got a year tick! The Black Swan Cygnus atratus that I'd seen at Heron's Green (see) yesterday, was spotted off the dam by Phil as we met up for the count, and not long afterwards, 2 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria flew east over the lake calling. Aside from the new birds, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and a pair of Pintail Anas acuta were the best of the rest. See WeBS Page for count details.

Sunday 13th October [Wet early, becoming dry & breezy later.]

We did a short 3.5 hour bat trapping session at Chew Valley Lake in the evening and caught just 16 bats, a poor return given the activity we witnessed. While at Chew we saw 6 or 7 Cattle Egrets, as well as Great and Little alongside them, and a Black Swan at Heron's Green.

Saturday 12th October [Mainly dry & overcast after early rain]

The water level continues to rise, but I had the pleasure of finding an adult ♀ Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a new bird, following the two juveniles that have spent so much of the autumn at the lake. There was a surprise, late, Hobby Falco subbuteo over Long Bay. Other notable birds included 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Pintails Anas acuta, and I counted 140 Pochards Aythya ferina too.

Thursday 10th October [Showers]

The water level is slowly rising and there are few decent margins now. In addition, this week has seen Pike fishermen at the lake which brings additional disturbance to the wildfowl. Consequently, what has been a pretty dismal year for birding is unlikely to get any better as the year draws to a close. Today, I saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 39 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 31 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii on Holt Farm, and a single Pintail Anas acuta among the usual suspects at Top End.

Tuesday 8th October [Sunshine & showers]

Most of my day was spent at Chew Valley Lake today doing the last round of bat boxes for the year with Ken Anstey. We found 3 species of bat in the boxes. While I was there I saw Great White, Little and 3 Cattle Egrets, plus a couple of Green Sandpipers.

I had a look at Blagdon Lake on the way home, and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and 45 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus of note, but no hirundines at either lake today.

Monday 7th October [Showers & windy]

I had a look around the lake at lunchtime and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, an adult Greylag Anser anser and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus at the Lodge, 47 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 119 Pochards Aythya ferina and 9 Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. Mark ventured down to the lake this afternoon and added a count of 53 Lapwings, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and a ♀ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. There were several hundred House Martins Delichon urbicum still over the lake today.

I went to East Sussex over the weekend to catch Nathusius' Pipistrelles at Rye Harbour with friends Sally-Ann Hurry and Roger Jones, Daniel Hargreaves, Mark Hynam and Sam Olney. There wasn't any evidence of bats migrating through however, because other teams at Oare, Stodmarsh, Sandwich Bay, and Dungeness didn't do any better than us despite being further east on the coast. We caught about 20 bats over the two evenings, including 11 Nathusius' Pipistrelles, plus Natterer's, Daubenton's and a Brown Long-eared Bat.

Thursday 3rd October [Overcast with showers. Breezy.]

Having been away for a couple of days in East Devon, my visit today was one of anticipation again. The water level had come up slightly, so still no real areas to attract flocks of waders. There were 31 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, to be fair, but they were only backed up by 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Pintails Anas acuta and 7 Wigeon Mareca penelope of note.

Monday 30th September

I had a look at the lake this morning and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, 58 Shovelers (at Top End) and 55 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus.

Sunday 29th September [A storm overnight. Showers & wind throughout the day.]

I went down to RSPB Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham before dawn this morning with Mark Hynam. He wanted to see his first Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus and, sure enough, it was feeding right in front of the hide when we arrived at first light. We spent a few hours watching the waders at close quarters during the top of the spring tide and got a few snapshots for the record.

Moulting juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Aside from the dowitcher, we saw an incredible flock of 41 Greenshanks, 2 Knot, and a Curlew Sandpiper among the hoardes of shorebirds.

Later in the day, I got down to Blagdon Lake and saw a Dunlin Calidris alpina, a Black Tern Chlidonias niger, an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea and 108 Pochards Aythya ferina.

Saturday 28th September [Heavy rain showers]

Juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Yay! A juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina turned up for a while this morning, until it was disturbed from Wookey Point by 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus. Mark and I also saw a juvenile Hobby Falco subbuteo, 21 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4 Pintails Anas acuta, 5 Wigeon Mareca penelope, the juvenile Black Tern Chlidonias niger, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba. At the Lodge there were 13 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, and on the dam the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still present.

Friday 27th September [Rain early then showers. Windy.]

Where are all the migrating birds? A recent paper by Ken V Rosenberg et al in the US posted the following abstract "Species extinctions have defined the global biodiversity crisis, but extinction begins with loss in abundance of individuals that can result in compositional and functional changes of ecosystems. Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, we report population losses across much of the North American avifauna over 48 years, including once common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance. A continent-wide weather radar network also reveals a similarly steep decline in biomass passage of migrating birds over a recent 10-year period." So, clearly there are huge problems in continental North America, but one can't escape from the fact that during the last few years at Blagdon there is an undoubted decline in migrants, especially at this time of year. It's getting quite disturbing to go down to the lake day after day and see so few migrants coming through.

Today, I set out with hope, but this was quickly quashed. All I found was the juvenile Black Tern Chlidonias niger, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Wigeon Mareca penelope, and 4 Pintails Anas acuta of note. Mark saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta later in the day, but this was all rather similar to previous days if we're honest. Tomorrow's another day though...

Thursday 26th September [Dry early on]

This morning I went back to look for the tern I saw last night, and found it still over Top End and can confirm it was a Black Tern Chlidonias niger. There wasn't a great deal else to excite, just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and one of the juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus.

Later, I saw 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at roost, and spotted a photograph taken by Raoul Chandrasakera on Avon Birds that shows 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers present again.

Wednesday 25th September [Dry for most of the day]

Keith Williams reported seeing and photographing the White Stork Ciconia ciconia at Blagdon Lake this morning (per Avon Birds). However, it flew from Top End to Rugmoor before taking off shortly after midday and was lost to sight. It, or another, was seen in flight over Stanton Drew later in the afternoon.

I spent the last hour of daylight at the lake and picked out a marsh tern over Top End. It seemed to have a distinctive pale uppertail/rump and so I immediatley started to consider the possibility of its being a White-winged Black Tern. However, after much observation, with it eventually settling on Wookey Point at dusk, I concluded that it was a juvenile Black Tern Chlidonias niger after all. It had 'collar pegs' and the mantle was concolorous with the wings. Close, but no banana! The two other birds of note were singles of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egret Egretta garzetta that went to roost.

Tuesday 24th September [Early heavy rain]

The White Stork Ciconia ciconia was still present late morning, although I didn't see it until I was leaving at lunchtime when it flew overhead just behind my car at Flower Corner. I stopped at Rainbow Point where I was able to watch it in flight over Top End being accompanied by a squadron of Jackdaws Corvus monedula, and when it gained some height one of the pair of breeding Buzzards Buteo buteo also joined in the harrying. Eventually, after some 10-15 minutes the Stork landed again on the water's edge near Top End hide.

I received the following email this morning: "Thank you for your email regarding the sighting of a white stork at Blagdon Lake, North Somerset on 20/09/2019. This is indeed one of our white storks and is one of our free flying adults who came to us in 2018 from Poland.  We have had multiple sightings of her in your area over the last few days.  The sightings coming in are vital for the project to learn about how these birds are behaving post release and we are monitoring their movements closely.  Thank you for providing so much information. You can find out more via www.whitestorkproject.org and on our twitter account @ProjectStork where we will be posting regular updates."

The only other birds of note that I saw during my visit were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 4 Pintails Anas acuta. The ringed juvenile Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Yellow D:GM was on Tiny's Shallow again too.

Monday 23rd September [Rain on & off for most of the day] Autumn Equinox.

My visit today was in the late evening half light and while counting egrets from Rainbow Point, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, I was amazed to see the White Stork Ciconia ciconia prowling around along the water's edge at Top End. There was a sponsored walk along the south side of the lake yesterday supported by Bristol Water, so it's possible that the disturbance moved the Stork elsewhere - Mark and I certainly couldn't find it during the afternoon. Anyway, at dusk it walked under a Willow overhanging the water's edge to roost. While I'm writing about roosting birds, I watched the 2 Little Egrets fly into a patch of waterside Willows, where they were joined by their 2 larger cousins - normally the Great White Egrets fly off to Chew to roost. Aside from our regular Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, I didn't see any other waders. Where are they all? A Hobby Falco subbuteo put in a brief appearance in front of the hide at dusk to round off an interesting last hour of daylight.

If you're coming to see the Stork tomorrow, please stay on the road, or, look for it from the hide. It spends a lot of its time wandering around the meadows in full view, so you can get your pictures from there, like me, without chasing it around. I used my car as a hide. Mark spent quite a while watching it on Saturday, and observed it eating frogs and crane-flies, as well often throwing its head back and clapping it's bill in display. I'd be interested to hear your observations if you come for a gander. I'll collate them and feed the information back to the team carrying out the re-introduction programme.

Sunday 22nd September [Showers]

It rained for much of the morning, so I waited until it stopped before going down to the lake for a look. Frankly, it was pretty quiet still, although both juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus were present, as were at least 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo which put on a dazzling display from the hide catching Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, as usual, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta as supporting cast.

Juvenile Hobby Falco subbuteo, Top End © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Captions welcomed for the Hobby picture (left), Juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (right) © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Tiny's Shallow is exposed in front of the Lodge now, so it's an opportunity to look for ringed gulls, and Mark and I spotted two this afternoon:

Saturday 21st September [Sunny & warm, with a stiff easterly breeze.]

This morning 12 of us walked much of the south side of the lake, mainly concentrating on the water birds because the woodland patches were pretty quiet. Mark Hynam and I took them along to see the White Stork Ciconia ciconia first, just in case it decided to fly before we got to Top End. However, it stuck around until 1400 hrs at least, then Mark watched it flying around being pursued by a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus shortly afterwards. Pick of the 40+ species that we saw were a Red Kite Milvus milvus that flew over Top End and Ubley, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a ♀ Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula, an adult Common Gull Larus canus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and 4 Pintails Anas acuta. Mark saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End before the group got there as well.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Two of the group told me they'd seen 49 species (was it?) of butterfly this year, but not Clouded Yellow Colias croceus. They are going to be so annoyed to hear I spotted one in front of the Lodge just after they'd gone! My first of the year too.

Friday 20th September [Sunny & warm]

In the morning I joined friends Georgie, Ken and Dan to check a Dormouse box scheme on the Mendips. We found four juveniles in a box, so despite not finding any up to this point during the year, we were really pleased to know that there was still a breeding population present.

I didn't have a chance to visit the lake until the sun had gone down. I received a call from a friend who was at Chew Valley Lake late afternoon, while I was in Weston-Super-Mare. He had watched a White Stork Ciconia ciconia fly towards Blagdon. I thought it would have flown over, but wanted to check when I got home - just in case! As I stopped at the dam, Martin Maill, one of the Fishery Rangers pulled up and said he'd photographed a strange bird at the other end of the lake on his phone. He showed me his shot and I knew it was the bird I was after. He had seen it some 45 minutes earlier - gulp! Thankfully, it was still there, and a handful of really local birders came to see it before it got too dark to see. My last sight of it was on the grass looking for frogs, so I guess it will have roosted overnight.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Mark and I had managed a few shots in the failing light, and it appears that it had a ring on the left leg, one of which had GB58 inscribed on it. So, it appears to be one of the birds released from the rewilding scheme at the Knepp Estate in Sussex.

I'm leading a walk for Bristol Ornithological Club in the morning, so let's hope the Stork sticks around long enough for them to see it too.

Thursday 19th September [Sunny & warm]

The quite dusky Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still present this afternoon, though mobile. I also saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, and 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Burmah Road, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Holt Bay and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Wednesday 18th September [Sunny & warm]

I didn't get to the lake until dusk this evening. I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, but didn't spot the Black-necked Grebe near the Fishing Lodge.

Tuesday 17th September [Sunny with a light breeze]

Sorry for the lack of news in the last week or so, but I will endeavour to fill in the gaps over the next few days. This morning the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still around the Lodge area, and I also noted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, while from the Top End hide I saw a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a Great White Egret Ardea alba with a dirty metal ring on its right tarsus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Wigeon Mareca penelope, a Pintail Anas acuta and the ♀ Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula among the usual wildfowl currently present.

Monday 16th September

The usual team of Phillip, Terry, Rob and I carried out the WeBS count his morning. Best birds were undoubtedly the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis found by Phil in front of the Lodge, and the 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus seen by Rob and I at Top End. Full count details are on the WeBS Page.

Sunday 15th September

I saw a Swift sp., possibly a Chimney Swift, over Worle Station for a few minutes this afternoon. However, as I didn't have my binoculars with me there was no way I could make a positive identification. It certainly didn't have the jizz of our more familiar Common Swift.

Back at the ranch, I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and in the evening carried out a short bat trapping session, during which we caught a parous ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii.

Wednesday 11th September

I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and Hobby Falco subbuteo at Butcombe Bay and what was probably a different Hobby at Top End.

Tuesday 10th September

I spent the day doing bat box checks at the lake with Ken Anstey today. We had a pretty good day with the bats.

Birds spotted during our work included a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in flight over the Pumping Station, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Monday 9th September [Rain in the morning & drying up later]

Today, I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus at Burmah Road, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Rainbow Point and 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm.

Sunday 8th September [Sunny]

I got down to the lake this evening and met Mark Hynam. We saw 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at dusk at Top End, and Mark saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on Rainbow Point, 6 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, and an egret sp. that flew off east at dusk.

Saturday 7th September [Mainly overcast]

Ken Anstey and I spent the day checking bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake. We found 3 ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii in a single group of boxes, including one we ringed at Blagdon Lake in 2016, and a good number of Soprano Pipistrelles P. pygmaeus. I saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly along Woodford Bank while we were there too.

Avon Birds reported the sighting of a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at Blagdon Lake today.

Friday 6th September [Showers]

I had the opportunity for a brief look around at lunchtime, but I didn't see anything worthy of mention.

Thursday 5th September [Mainly sunny, with a steady breeze.]

Late this afternoon, I saw 4+ Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (one on Home Bay Point and 3 on Rugmoor Point), 6 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Rugmoor Bay, and a ♂ Kestrel Falco tinnunculus on the road side of Indian Country pines.

There were hundreds of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus all over the lake, and a loose flock of large gulls; Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus and Herring Larus argentatus. I decided to put the counters on the large gulls, and split them into juveniles and 1st-year plus (mainly adult) birds. I counted 122 juveniles and 255 older birds. So, roughly a third were juveniles - a goodly proportion.

Wednesday 4th September [The day improved as it went on]

Alan Bone arrived at 0500 hrs, and I drove us to Kynance in Cornwall to see a Brown Booby (the second for the UK). As we walked down to join the other twitchers on the cliff top, the bird flew past and commenced fishing in the bay in front of us with Gannets! It was the first time it had shown today, and we arrived right on cue - how lucky was that? Anyway, we watched it for half an hour, then went back to the car for a new NT parking ticket and cuppa. While we were at the car, the bird flew back to the rocks in front of us and settled on the rocks out of sight. While we hoped for it to fly again we saw a small flock of 6 Choughs bouncing around in the wind and calling. We waited for another two hours without seeing the Booby again, so left for the long drive home.

During the evening I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam down at the lake.

Tuesday 3rd September [Rain early, then clearing up.]

This evening I met Mark Hynam at the lake, after I'd seen the juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus on the dam wall among all the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. He'd spotted a Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Top End, and when I got there we watched the bats feeding in front of the hide slats at almost point-blank range. Then we saw one or (possibly) two Hobbies streak past, presumably hunting the unwary bats. It was pretty dark by this time though.

Monday 2nd September [Sunny, but cooler than yesterday]

A brief visit this evening, cut short by the weather, saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. There were probably over a thousand gulls on the lake at dusk, mainly large, that I think had been attracted by farming activities on Holt/Lag Farms.

Sunday 1st September [Sunny & warm]

Nick Wilcox-Brown very kindly texted me news of 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus and a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End late this afternoon.

In the evening, Ken Anstey, Mark and I carried out a short bat trapping session at Chew Valley Lake and caught 22 bats of 7 species.

Saturday 31st August [Changeable]

News from Mark Hynam this evening to say hed seen 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus and a juvenile Common Gull Larus canus.

Thursday 29th August [The sun eventually broke through in the afternoon]

I only have 2 Redshanks Tringa totanus to report today.

Wednesday 28th August [Cooler & changeable]

Late this morning I watched 2 Black Terns Chlidonias niger flying up the lake towards me while I was sitting in the Top End hide, but my eye was drawn to the sudden flight of Coots Fulica atra from the Indian Country bank. The kerfuffle was caused by a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus hunting along the water's edge. After that, I didn't see the terns again. There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta present, one on Wookey Point (still flooded) and one in Home Bay.

Monday 26th August [Hot & sunny]

I managed a visit to the lake around lunchtime, before going to visit my mum in hospital, and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and spotted a few Small Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma viridulum still on the wing from the boat quay.

In the evening, Ken, Mark and I carried out a short 2.75 hr trapping session on Rugmoor Point. We caught 3 new ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii as well as a few Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus and a Daubenton's Bat Myotis daubentonii.

Sunday 25th August [Hot & sunny]

Not much to report this evening other than a Redshank Tringa totanus and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall.

Saturday 24th August [Hot & sunny]

Excitement at Chew Valley Lake due to a big fall of Black Terns Chlidonias niger meant I had to change plans hastily and find time for a quick visit to the lake, and I was duly rewarded with finding a flock of some 62, or so, Black Terns at Top End. I also spotted a Great White Egret Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Home Bay Point. The terns were still present at 1800 hrs when I went back later.

2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were also noted during the day according to Avon Birds.

Thursday 22nd August [Sunny spells. Dry & warm.]

This evening I spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and watched a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly in over the dam and straight into some lakeside trees to roost.

Tuesday 20th August [Sunny with a steady breeze]

Late morning the workmen were repointing the dam wall, a guy on a mower was cutting the grass on the top and as a result all the birds had moved off. Disappointingly, I couldn't find anything worthy of reporting during my visit other than seeing a ♀ Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus with 2 young.

Monday 19th August [Blustery & changeable]

I made two visits to the lake today, but the only birds of note were the juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephaluson the dam, and a ♀ Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula in heavy wing moult among the flock of Aythya ducks at Top End. Since Friday, there have been good numbers of hirundines over the lake, mainly House Martins Delichon urbicum.

Sunday 18th August [Blustery. Sunny spells.]

I only have the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam to report today. Avon Birds reported the sightings of a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 6 Swifts Apus apus, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and 2 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea.

In the evening, Ken, Mark and I ran a short bat trapping session at Chew Valley Lake in a last ditch attempt to catch another ♀ or juvenile Nathusius' Pipistrelle to radio tag, in order to trace it back to its roost. Sad to report, we failed!

Saturday 17th August [Mainly dry]

After yesterdays incessant rain, the level of the lake has risen, and the early promise of margins for migrant waders to drop on has all but disappeared again. I fancy this is going to be a year with far fewer species recorded than when the water level drops significantly. At present I only know of 114 species that have been seen at the lake this year, so it'll be a stretch to reach the 140+ that we might expect during one of the better years.

Nick Wilcox-Brown texted me to say he saw 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus in front of the Top End hide this morning, as well as a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus near Home Bay. I'm presuming these are the same 2 juvenile Marsh Harriers that have been seen regularly at Chew Valley Lake as well.

Later in the day, I saw the juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus again at the Lodge, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Long Bay, and a Brown Hare.

Thursday 15th August [Breezy. Changeable with sunny spells.]

The best bird that I spotted during a lunchtime visit today was a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at Burmah Road with a prey item (possibly a dead fish). I also saw 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. Frustratingly, the recent rains have meant the water level is holding rather than dropping, so Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge remains covered with water, and the margins are not sufficient to attract any groups of waders in yet. There were good numbers of larger gulls present with quite a high ratio of juveniles to adults, so I guess these particular birds had a good breeding season. I didn't see any evidence of rings on those on the dam wall, so they're probably not local.

Wednesday 14th August [A miserable wet day, with low cloud over the surrounding hills]

It was a busy day today, so I didn't get home in time to check the lake over. However, as I drove home towards Blagdon through Rickford, I spotted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta standing in a tree over the pond.

Tuesday 13th August [Mainly sunny]

I didn't have much time to spend at the lake today, but I did see the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam, with 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among a host of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. I couldn't spot anything new at Top End as darkness fell.

A report of 2 Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata at Long Bay on Avon Birds today.

Monday 12th August [Sunny spells after overnight rain]

The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the dam again late this morning, and I saw 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus.

This evening Mark Hynam and I went to video and count the emergence of bats from one of the boxes. We got to 99 when heavy rain forced us to stop, and the bats that were already out came winging their way back to shelter.

Sunday 11th August [Annoyingly wet]

I spent most of the day at the lake, checking early on for bird arrivals, then spending the rest of it until tea time checking bat boxes. There was an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina on Rugmoor Point with 4 or 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around Home Bay/Point, and I spotted a fly-by Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at the Lodge. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the dam wall early on. There were Swifts Apus apus over the lake too, and although spread widely, the biggest single count was of 5.

The bat box checks turned up circa 150 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, with another box full of them that we will video the emergence from tomorrow. This group has moved from the box on the next tree that contained over 170 Soprano's a week or two ago. We also found a new, unringed, adult ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii in one of the boxes.

Saturday 10th August [Very windy with heavy showers]

My late morning visit wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped, although I saw Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Home and Rugmoor Bays, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point. There were lots of hirundines including a fair number of Sand Martins Riparia riparia, and a few more Teal Anas crecca and Shovelers Spatula clypeata have arrived. Late this evening I met Mark who'd been at the lake since 1600 hrs and we saw a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Bell's Bush barrier.

Mark had seen 3 Little Egrets, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and the dark Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus again - I'll book my eye test on Monday!

Friday 9th August [Windy with some heavy showers]

This morning I found a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in front of the Fishing Lodge (first of the year), a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End and 4 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Rugmoor Point.

If the wind really gets up overnight as the forecasters suggest it might, we could be in for a few surprises tomorrow. Here's hoping!

Thursday 8th August [Sunny]

A lovely calm morning at the lake and a good selection of Odonata were showing around the Lodge area including Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum, Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans, Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum, Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum, Emperor Anax imperator, Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta, and Black-tailed Skimmers Orthetrum cancellatum. There were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta plus all the usual waterfowl, but no sign of any new waders. Hopefully, with the weather set to come in tonight a few migrants will drop in over the next two days.

Wednesday 7th August [Sunny spells]

I went to Chew Valley Lake with Mark Hynam this evening to finish checking the last 10 bat boxes, that Ken and I didn't manage to complete last week. We found some Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and Mark got up close and personal with some Hornets Vespa crabro but thankfully lived to tell the tale!

We popped over to Blagdon in the failing light and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Rugmoor Point, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleuco on Green Lawn, and heard others calling in the near-darkness. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the dam wall.

Tuesday 6th August [Sunshine & showers]

A brief morning visit turned up the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus seen previously, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and no fewer than 10 (9 adults and a juvenile) Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus.

Monday 5th August [Pleasantly warm] WeBS Count

Phil Delve, Terry Doman and I carried out the WeBS count this morning. Coot Fulica atra, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and Mute Swan Cygnus olor numbers continue to build with 994, 630, and 102 respectively; the latter count being very close to the site record of 103. Teal Anas crecca and Shoveler Spatula clypeata are back at the lake, and a few Herring Larus argentatus and Lesser Black-backed Gulls L. fuscus are starting to pass through again. Full count details are on the WeBS Page.

Sunday 4th August [Warm & overcast]

This evening I met Mark Hynam at the lake and we saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, up to 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos scattered about, 4 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rugmoor Point and 2 distant ducks that may have been juvenile Scaup, but we couldn't really be sure in the failing light. While we were trying to work out the ducks identity, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus flew up the lake. Tomorrow the usual team will be carrying out the WeBS count in the morning, so I'll keep an eye out for the 'mystery' ducks.

Saturday 3rd August [Warm & overcast]

Today there were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and a pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. What appears to be the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis has returned to the lake for the late summer period. I managed to spot a few Small Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma viridulum from the boat quay while I was there, so it appears they did breed successfully for the first time last year. I also spotted a pair ovipositing.

Monday 29th July

Mark Hynam reported 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a dark, seemingly all-brown, raptor that flew over Top End that he was unable to identify positively as he was watching it from behind.

Sunday 28th July

I had time for a look around with Mark Hynam today, and we saw one each of Green Tringa ochropus and Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

Saturday 27th July

There were at least 30 Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake, although I suspect it was more a case of several small groups going through while I was there. There were 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and I counted 44 Pochard Aythya ferina at Top End. I noted that one of the successful Mute Swan Cygnus olor parents was sporting a yellow darvic ring Yellow BJB, a 1st-winter ♀ ringed at Abbotsbury in Dorset on 6th October 2011, and first noted at Blagdon by me on 2nd November 2013. A few Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea plants have grown in a couple of the south side hay meadows this year and I was really pleased to see a few Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae larvae on them, the first I've seen in a while here.

In the evening a small group of us ran some harp traps and lures as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project. While we were batting we saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo and Tawny Owl Strix aluco.

Thursday 25th July

I was really surprised to see 6 adult Greylag Geese Anser anser in Holt Bay late morning, as well as 2 Teal Anas crecca, and the usual pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

Wednesday 24th July

One, or more, Little Egrets Egretta garzetta roosted again this evening.

Sunday 21st July

The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the boat quay and 1 or 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were present at dusk and went to roost.

Thursday 18th July [Cool & breezy with afternoon sun]

I had time to get down to the lake late this afternoon, and spent quite a bit of the time looking for the Lesser Emperor dragonfly I saw at the Lodge on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the strong breeze was blowing across the front of the Lodge and there was very little flying there. So, I had a look into Home Bay where there was more shelter, and I spotted a few Emperor Anax imperator dragonflies on the wing, but no sign of the Lesser. Equally, I was hoping to spot a few Small Red-eyed Damselflies after last years arrival, but there's been no sign so far.

There's very little to tell about the birds, just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Home Bay.

Wednesday 17th July [A little cooler]

As so often at the moment, my daily visit was pushed back to this evening. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking around and saw 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos gathering to roost on the anchored platform in Home Bay. They were joined by the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. The number of, mainly ♂, Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula seems to be building steadily, and it seems like the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus have had a successful breeding season with plenty of juveniles turning up. Since the rye has been cut on Holt Farm, they have been spreading liquid manure onto the stubble. This initially attracted lots of gulls and corvids, but I noticed this evening that there were 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus as well. The corvid roost is really starting to build, and many hundreds of Jackdaws Coloeus monedula and Rooks Corvus frugilegus are flying over the lake in the evenings to roost.

Tuesday 16th July [Hot & sunny]

I managed to grab an hour by the lake late this afternoon and almost the first creature I clapped eyes on at the boat quay was a ♂ Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope (dragonfly). I got my camera out, but despite waiting around for another hour, I only saw the dragon 4 more times and didn't even manage to get a record shot. Hopefully it'll stick around and I'll get another chance. On the bird front, I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta of note.

When I got home, I noticed a large crab spider walking across my windscreen when I parked in the driveway. I looked around for some paper in the car to move it onto a flower head, but when I turned around it had gone. Imagine my surprise when it reappeared moments later being carried by a spider-hunter wasp that was stinging it's abdomen to paralyse it, before it started to remove the spiders legs. After a few moments, and with the spider paralysed, the wasp tried to take off with its prize, although it was having difficulty with the weight it was carrying. If it managed to get airborne it would take the spider back to a burrow and lay an egg on it. The paralysed spider would then be a fresh larder for the hatching wasp larva...

This evening, despite some high wispy cloud, I got a reasonable shot of the partial eclipse of the moon from the back door:

Partial Lunar Eclipse © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Monday 15th July [Hot & sunny]

I only had time for the briefest of visits this evening, but it was well worthwhile. I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Stonechat Saxicola torquata, a Common Tern Sterna hirundo and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that stayed to roost, as it did last night.

Sunday 14th July [Sunny & hot out of the breeze]

I met Mark Hynam shortly after 0800 hrs to have a good look around this morning. We cleared up some plastic (a balloon in Long Bay, and some lunch items at the boat quay) before going for a walk. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Moorhen Gallinula chloropus with 2 chicks at the Lodge, and an adult Common Tern Sterna hirundo in Home Bay just at the start. When we got to Green Lawn we found another Common Sandpiper, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, then at Top End I saw a probable ♂ Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope in front of the hide briefly (not sure enough to submit a record), then on our way back a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus floating over Bell's Bush towards the hide where a photographer had just gone in. While at Bell's I saw a Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata which is dragonfly I see less than annually here. On the way back to the Lodge we saw 3 new-generation Comma's Polygonia c-album and a Grass Snake Natrix natrix.

Mark texted later to say he'd reviewed the video he made last night and spotted a ring on the right wing of the bat we suspected might be a Nathusius Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii, so it looks like we have got a new ('lekking') roost. Good spotting by Mark last night while we were checking another emergence point.

This evening I saw 7 Common Sandpipers come together at a communal roost.

Saturday 13th July [Mainly cloudy & warm]

Mark Hynam spent the late afternoon and evening at the lake, and texted me that he'd seen a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus hunting on a couple of occasions before I got there, after tea. Thankfully, I duly saw it with him later. We spent a while on Rainbow Point just chilling, and 2 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus duly flew down the lake calling. We later found them on Green Lawn, where there was also a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in addition to 2 more on the dam. Mark saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that may have been the same as, or we saw another, that later went to roost at the lake.

Back at the Lodge, we found a new bat roost that may just be that of a Nathusius Pipistrelle, but we didn't manage to confirm it for sure this evening. It came out, did a circuit of the Oak tree, went back to the roost and sat in the entrance for ages before, we think, going back inside until we gave up waiting for it to come out again!

Friday 12th July [Warm]

Today I spent most of my time with family, but did get to the lake in the evening. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 3 more in Home Bay, with 2 Redshanks Tringa totanus also on the dam. At last light, I caught sight of a Tawny Owl Strix aluco in one of the copses carrying a prey item.

Thursday 11th July [Mainly cloudy. Warm with occasional drizzle.]

I had an interesting and enjoyable day out with a couple of friends, Chris and Ron, on Exmoor. We went down to look for Heath Fritillaries, but failed again (on my third attempt) mainly due, I think, to the cloud cover and by just missing their flight period. We did see Golden-ringed Dragonly, and heard Siskins regularly during our visit. On the way home we visited the stunning Stogumber Flower Meadow, and WSR station just down the road. Both are well worth taking a day out of your life to go and see (do a quick Google search for more information and some videos).

Back at the lake in the evening the best I could muster were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, on my way to count a bat roost emergence.

Wednesday 10th July [Warm with a good deal of cloud]

Another evening visit, and it was evident that a few birds had been on the move overnight. I saw no fewer than 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and an adult Redshank Tringa totanus on the dam. There were also 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying to and from Holt Farm. So, we can hopefully add a few waders to the year list as the summer and autumn advances because there's a big gap at the moment. The water level is dropping slowly, so it's fingers crossed now.

Tuesday 9th July [Warm & sunny]

An evening visit produced just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.

Monday 8th July [Warm & sunny] WeBS Count

Phil Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I did the WeBS count this morning, during which time I was lucky enough to add 2 new species to my lake year list. The first was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius on the dam wall, and the second was a Red Kite Milvus milvus that dropped in over Holt Farm while they were cutting the organic rotation rye/legume crop. That operation attracted quite a few Buzzards Buteo buteo and Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus too. The worry was that the numerous Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and odd Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus that nested in the crop this year may not have had time to get their young off the nest yet. I first noted that numbers had taken up territory in the crop on the 16th May, and with an average incubation period of 8-13 days and a fledging period of 9-13 days for Reed Warblers, I'm hopeful that most first broods will have succeeded. Any second broods will undoubtedly have been lost though. Other notable sightings included a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis seen by Phil, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (see WeBS Page for count details).

I saw my first Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum at the lake this year, and noted that the 6-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae numbers have been really low, possibly as a result of the cold and wet spring. Conversely, Marbled White Melanargia galathea and Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina numbers are excellent.

Sunday 7th July [Warm}

I received a call from Chris this evening. He was watching a 'white' gull on Herriott's Pool at Chew Valley Lake. I rang Rich Mielcarek to see if he knew anything about it, but he didn't, so I went over to have a look. Chris and I had a good look and chat about it, during which time Rich turned up too. We eventually decided that it was probably a leucistic Herring Gull owing to it's head shape as much as anything, although Lesser Black-backed would be another contender. It was a strange-looking creature to be sure.

Mark Hynam had a quick look at Blagdon and saw a new brood of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus (the 3rd, I think) with 2 tiny juveniles riding on their mums back. Then we met up with Ken Anstey to count some bats emerging from boxes at the lake (see Bat News). We saw a single Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca after dark while we were there.

Friday 5th July [Warm]

I thought I'd count Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula today. I made it 165.

Thursday 4th July [Warm]

Nothing to report at the lake other than I counted 77 Mute Swans Cygnus olor again.

Wednesday 3rd July [Sunny & warm]

I was busy during the day, so didn't visit the lake until the early evening. The water level is just starting to creep downward and is probably at about 80%. There are a couple of exposed edges, but they are subject to angling disturbance from dawn, so not that useful for passing birds yet. However, the top half of the lake is getting really weedy and is attracting increasing numbers of Mute Swan Cygnus olor; I counted 71 adults and 6 juveniles. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus on the dam, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in full breeding dress at Rugmoor Point.

Tuesday 2nd July [Sunny & mainly warm]

I went walking with friends today in an area I used to run with a City of Bath AC training group around St. Catherine Valley half a lifetime ago. We walked from Batheaston, over Little Solsbury Hill (the view was stunning), Charmy Down and then back down the valley following the Two Rivers Way. I heard my first Lesser Whitethroat of the summer singing on the west side of Little Solsbury.

Rupert Higgins texted me with the news that he'd found the jewel beetle Trachys subglaber sensu stricto in one of the North Shore meadows. It's larva makes very distinctive leaf mines in the leaves of Devil's-bit Scabious, of which there is a lot around the lake, but the adult beetle is quite an elusive little creature. T. troglodytes was found by David Gibbs during his survey work in 2004, and that was likely to refer to the same species because it was split a few years later, and should now be recorded as T. troglodytes sensu lato.

Monday 1st July [Cloudy]

I saw another new Coot Fulica atra brood this evening in Home Bay, but couldn't tell how many juvenilesthere were as they were under an adult on the nest. There were at least 6 juvenile Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus too, one of which was feeding on caddis flies (sedge flies in angling parlance) on the shoreline within a few feet of me at Green Lawn.

Sunday 30th June [Cooler & cloudier than yesterday]

An evening visit turned up 2 Painted Lady's Vanessa cardui and 2 Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta, and Mark Hynam told me he'd seen a new brood of Coot Fulica atra (2 juveniles) at the south end of the dam.

As promised, here is Ray Barnett's report from the visit made by Bristol and Ditrict Moth Group on Sunday 26th May. After a beautiful and warm day on the Saturday, Sunday was cloudy with almost constant drizzle and a strong gusty wind keeping temperatures down.  Despite the weather, Nigel Milbourne, Rupert Higgins, Jean Oliver, Martin Evans and Ray Barnett surveyed the site for a couple of hours and recorded the following:   

Lepidoptera                              
Lepidoptera checklist numbers are from Agassiz, D.J.L., Beavan, S.D. & Heckford, R.J (2013) A checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles.   Field Studies Council, Telford.

01.005  Micropterix calthella (Linnaeus)
03.002  Korscheltellus lupulina (Linnaeus) Common Swift
07.006  Adela reaumurella (L.)                                      
16.002  Yponomeuta padella (Linnaeus) larvae
16.004  Yponomeuta cagnagella (Hübner) larvae
19.007  Glyphipterix simpliciella (Stephens) Cocksfoot Moth
28.022  Alabonia geoffrella (L.)
49.157 Hedya pruniana (Hübner)  Plum Tortrix
54.008 Zygaena filipendulae (Linnaeus) Six-Spot Burnet larva
63.016  Anania fuscalis (Denis & Schiffermüller) Cinerous Pearl New site record. 
63.086  Crambus lathoniellus (Zincken)
70.054  Xanthorhoe montanata (Denis & Schiffermüller) Silver-ground Carpet
70.059  Camptogramma bilineata (Linnaeus) Yellow Shell
70.100  Colostygia pectinataria (Knoch) Green Carpet
70.256  Erannis defoliaria (Clerck) Mottled Umber larva New site record.
72.013  Euproctis similis (Fuessly) Yellow-tail larva
72.083  Euclidia glyphica (Linnaeus) Burnet Companion
73.058  Cucullia verbasci (Linnaeus) The Mullein larvae New site record.

Polyommatus icarus (Rottemburg) Common Blue
Lycaena phlaeas (Linnaeus) Small Copper
Maniola jurtina (Linnaeus) Meadow Brown

Other orders
Odonata
Ischnura elegans (Vander Linden) Blue-tailed Damselfly
Coenagrion puella (Linnaeus) Azure Damselfly

Orthoptera       
Leptophyes punctatissima (Bosc) Speckled Bush-cricket larvae
Pholidoptera griseoaptera (DeG.) Dark Bush-cricket larvae

Hemiptera        
Palomena prasina (L.) Green Shieldbug
Dolycoris baccarum (L.) Sloe Bug
Anthocoris confusus Reuter 1884 New site record.
Heterocordylus genistae (Scopoli)        
Cymus glandicolor Hahn, 1832  New site record.      
Miris striatus (L.)         
Liocoris tripustulatus (Fabricius, 1781) New site record.        
Stenodema laevigata (L.)          
Cercopis vulnerata Ill.  
Philaenus spumarius (Linnaeus) Spittle Bug larvae - cuckoo spit

Coleoptera
Rhagonycha lignosa (Müll.) New site record. 
Cantharis rustica Fall.  
Cantharis nigra (De Geer)        
Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) Harlequin Ladybird
Coccinella septempunctata Linnaeus Seven-spot Ladybird
Malachius bipustulatus (Linnaeus)        
Athous haemorrhoidalis (Fabr.) New site record.
Denticollis linearis (Linnaeus) New site record.
Agriotes pallidulus (Illiger)        
Agriotes lineatus (Linnaeus)     
Oedemera nobilis (Scopoli) Thick-kneed Flower Beetle
Pyrochroa serraticornis (Scopoli) Cardinal Beetle
Grammoptera ruficorrnis (Fabricius)     
Donacia clavipes Fabricius New site record.  
Gastrophysa viridula (De Geer) adults and larvae
Chrysolina oricalcia (Müller) Nationally Notable-B New site record.
Bruchus rufimanus Boheman New site record. 
Trichosirocalus troglodytes (Fabricius) 
Mecinus pyraster (Herbst)        

Hymenoptera   
Cephus pygmeus (Linnaeus) European Wheat Stem Sawfly  New site record. 
Allantus calceatus (Klug) New site record.      
Tenthredo arcuata/brevicornis/notha/schaefferi agg.     
Vespula vulgaris (Linnaeus) Common Wasp queen
Bombus lapidarius (Linnaeus) Red-tailed Bumble Bee

Diptera
Empis tessellata Fabr. New site record. 
Leucozona lucorum (Linnaeus) 

Arachnida        
Araniella cucurbitina/opisthographa agg.
Larinioides cornutus (Clerck) New site record. 
Tetragnatha ?extensa (Linnaeus)
Ixodes (Ixodes) ricinus (Linnaeus, 1758) Castor Bean Tick larvae

Thursday 27th June [Hot & sunny. Breezy.]

For the second day I didn't make it down to the lake. I spent the day up at Priddy Mineries with my invertebrate group friends, and in the evening I joined Ken Anstey and Mark Hynam to do a bat roost emergence count at Chew Valley Lake.

Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea, Waldegrave Pool, Priddy © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Waldegrave Pool at Priddy was looking nice and there was a good selection of dragonflies to be seen. There were several Downy Emeralds, Emperors, Four-spotted Chasers, a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers and a Broad-bodied Chaser. Damselfies were well represented too, and included Emerald and Large Reds among the more familiar blues. Amazingly, I also saw a ♂ demoiselle fly quickly past me on the breeze - a Banded, I think. On the mineries we saw Burnet Companion, Red-necked Footman and Chimney Sweeper Moths, as well as the usual burnet spp. There were a few Small Pearl-bordered, Painted Lady, Green Hairstreak, and Common Blue butterflies, plus lots of Small Heath. Birds included Tree Pipit, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler (Mineries Pond only), while a pair of Ravens 'cronked' overhead and a Siskin flew over calling. John Mason and I found 4 Moonwort ferns and saw the other specialities: Alpine Penny-cress and Sea Campion. A good day out in the field.

Tuesday 25th June [Early rain, overcast, muggy and warm.]

Not too much to report from an evening visit. I saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point again, saw a dead Mute Swan Cygnus olor (the third this summer), and both Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus juveniles (2 broods) are still alive and well, which is a relief, because I hadn't seen the more recent of the two since spotting it for the first time last Thursday.

Nymph stage of ♂ Roesel's Bush-cricket Metrioptera roeselii © Nigel Milbourne 2019

Monday 24th June [Mainly overcast & muggy, but getting warmer.]

I made a quick visit to the lake this morning and saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Top End, 5 adult Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and a ♂ Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens at the south end of the dam.

Sunday 23rd June [Heavy & humid. Overcast.]

I met Mark Hynam at the lake this evening. He was on his was back home from a trip up t'North - to see the Little Bustard's head at Slimbridge! There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Burmah Road, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba in full breeding garb at Rugmoor Point, that was joined by an adult Little Egret Egretta garzetta before we left. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula numbers are starting to build with 95 counted this evening. The first returning Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, an adult, also turned up during our visit.

Saturday 22nd June [Warm and sunny]

Mark and I had a long look at the lake this morning and saw 3, probably 4, Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam early on, but by midday we had very little else to report on the bird front apart from the ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti still singing at Top End. We saw a ♀ Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo at the head of Butcombe Bay, a first Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator of the year at Wood Bay, and quite a few darters at Top End, again the first of the year. They were curious because they had the abdominal shape of Common Darters, but the legs were all black, so the ones I looked at were apparently Ruddy Darters Sympetrum sanguineum. I think I need to catch a few to have a closer look. We also saw a few Large Skippers Ochlodes sylvanus around the lake too.

Friday 21st June [Warm]

Georgie Hayworth, Ken Anstey and I checked a dormouse box scheme on the Mendips this morning but didn't find any 'mice' this time around. In the evening Ken, Mark Hynam and I did a church roost emergence survey and counted about 275 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus out. There was probably at least one Myotis sp. inside the church too. We set up infra red video cameras inside and outside to try and get a feel for how the bats are using the building, but there's more to do yet. I didn't visit the lake today, but Mark and I plan to survey it in the morning.

Thursday 20th June [Some quite warm sunny spells]

I spent the day with John and Ron looking at the North Shore fields, and met Rupert Higgins who was carrying out some survey work for the management plan. The flowers in the meadows are absolutely stunning just now. We saw a good selection of insects, as well as a 'poser' of a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at the entrance to the Pumping Station, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Long Bay. Rupert told me he'd heard another Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca singing before we'd arrived.

Before I left the lake late in the afternoon, I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly west over the dam, and a saw a tiny Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus with a parent in Wood Bay (2nd brood of the year).

Wednesday 19th June [Dry & warming up]

I went to the lake this morning and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Peg's Point and heard the ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti still singing at Top End, albeit for the first time in a while.

Tuesday 18th June

I paid two visits to the lake today, but don't have anything to report.

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 (see 30 June).

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 rye 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.