BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

November 2011 News


Tuesday 1st November [Sunny and warm]

There was a rumour that the 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus popped over to Chew yesterday afternoon, but they were back at Bell's Bush, where they belong, this morning! Also present were 10 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta and the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis.

New in, was an adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina in Holt Bay and a CACKLING GOOSE (aka Richardson's Cackling Goose) Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii that I spent some time photographing. The goose was actually 10-20% smaller than the Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis that I saw it alongside on occasion. It was given a bit of a hard time by both the local Barnies and larger Canada Geese and often fed on it's own. The bird appears to have a slight limp at times. Here are a number of shots showing various aspects of its morphology.

Richardson's Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Wednesday 2nd November [Increasingly wet and windy]

The 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus had moved along to Burmah Road and were best viewed from Wood Bay Point, by the seat, today. All the other shorebirds except the Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus appear to have moved on, though I thought I saw a single Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria in flight mid-morning. Both the juvenile Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina were still present as well. However, early attempts to locate the CACKLING GOOSE (aka Richardson's Cackling Goose) Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii were thwarted because it had gone over to Chew with most of the goose flock. Nevertheless, not long after it was located there, it promptly flew back to Blagdon with 2 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and landed in Holt Bay at about 1245hrs. It then swam off on its own, calling continually, and eventually linked up with some more Canada and 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis before flying onto Holt Farm fields. So far as we can tell, there is no evidence to suggest it's an escape, as reported on the pager services, but likewise there is no good evidence, other than the date of arrival, to suggest its a wild bird from Greenland - it didn't arrive with a carrier flock of wild Barnacle Geese.

Richardson's Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii, Holt Farm © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

I spent some time this morning looking for more plant galls and found a few that I'll add to the list with photographs. Then Celia and I went over to Bath Library, at The Podium, to see the exhibition put on by Bath Naturalist's Society in celebration of their 70th birthday. It's very well put together and my congratulations go to Lucy Delve and her team for their effort. I took the opportunity to look through a few of their old magazines dating back to the 1940s and 50s while I was there and found the report of a field trip by the society to Blagdon Lake on 5th April 1952 led by Bernard King. What was very surprising was the small number of wildfowl that they counted. On the other hand, it was nice to read that they saw lots of Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis among others - a species that has all but disappeared as a breeding bird at the lake over the last decade until this years influx.

Thursday 3rd November [Squally showers]

The 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were back at Bell's Bush today, along with a single Dunlin Calidris alpina. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was off the Holt Bay end of Green Lawn and the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was at the dam end as usual. The Long-tail is continuing its juvenile moult and has become significantly brighter since its arrival. However, there is still no sign of any pink colouration coming through on the bill, so it's looking like an immature female at present.

Adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

In front of the Lodge, on Tiny's Shallow, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus '2.BB2' was present again, as was the 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and at least 8 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus (3 adults and 5 1st-winters).

The lake remains at 42% full (per Bristol Water website) compared to 37% this time last year.

Friday 4th November [Sunshine and showers]

The 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were at Bell's Bush with a single Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Meanwhile, the adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was off Green Lawn and the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was at the dam end. I also saw a couple of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a very vocal adult Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

I managed to spend a while photographing the sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis alongside the other 'Yellow-legged' Gull that has been causing some confusion. I present you with comparative pictures of both, and an upper wing shot (not great I'm afraid) of the gull showing all the head streaking. I've been out this evening, but have had a chance to look at them properly now and think both are Yellow-legged Gulls, albeit one is at the extreme end of the winter head markings range - especially the heavy streaking on the nape. As to ages, well, the bird we've been calling 4th-winter is probably 3rd-summer to 4th-winter (note the new primary coming through under the tertials) and the other bird is probably 4th-winter because of the extent of black on primaries P4 and P5, with some black on the coverts, and no hint of dark feathering in the tail. The face markings worried me though - I had wondered about one of the 'lusitanicus' or 'atlantis' types, but don't think it's one of them.

3rd-summer / 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Upper wing of 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Saturday 5th November [Dry and cooler]

The 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus stayed at Bell's Bush except when they were flushed mid-morning. The other scarce birds remain; the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis at the dam end, the adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina at Green Lawn and the the 'streaky-headed' 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge. There were still 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at least around Butcombe Bay and I found what is probably the hybrid Ferruginous Duck that looks really good, but which has a wing stripe more akin to a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula when you see it wing-flap (ref. note from Keith Vinicombe 28th August). I didn't manage to see the wing panel today, I got fed-up watching it asleep! Richard Mielcarek was the last to see it at Blagdon on 20th October.

There are several examples of the fungus Melanoleuca polioleuca, also known as the Common Cavalier, in the grassland at Bell's Bush and I saw another Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta heading south over Green Lawn. North Somerset & Bristol Fungus Group are visiting Blagdon to look for grassland fungi tomorrow. The recent rains have brought some more fungi up in the last few days, so I hope they make some interesting finds.

The first of the firework parties were held yesterday (they seem to be spread over a week these days for some reason), but we can expect more tonight and tomorrow, so it'll be interesting to see if the Dowitchers stick around or get spooked off the lake.

While I was trying to photograph the Yellow-legged Gulls at The Lodge on Thursday, I became aware of a commotion over in Long Bay and looked over to see a pair of Mute Swan cobs fighting. I grabbed a few shots of the fight from where I was standing then after 5 minutes decided to jump in the car to try and get some close-ups of the action. When I got there the fight was over, but the 3 pairs of swans that were involved were pair-bonding and the two cobs that were fighting were cleaning themselves up as the fight had moved onto the bank resulting in them getting plastered with mud, at considerable cost to their plumage. The violence of these encounters is quite staggering:

Mute Swans Cygnus olor fighting, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Sunday 6th November [A lovely crisp and sunny autumn day]

Well, how prophetic was my comment about the Dowitchers then? No sign of them all day today. No news from Chew yet, so I don't know if they've gone over there. Today saw fewer dabbling ducks about as well, but there seems to be a gradual increase in Aythya duck numbers now that the boats are off the lake for the winter. I saw a drake Eurasian Teal Anas crecca with a nasal saddle at Green Lawn, the first time I've seen one on this species at Blagdon. It was a green - yellow colour but I couldn't read it from Rainbow Point.

The Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina were both still on the lake. I also counted 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 3 Dunlins Calidris alpina, 19 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and 44 Mute Swans Cygnus olor.

The finds on the grassland fungus survey along the north shore were a little disappointing but we did find the following that I noted:

There were a number of other species found in the wood at Spinney Point, including the False Chanterelle Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, and along the north shore which will be listed on the NS&BFG website when they have been keyed out and identified.

I ran my 15W Heath Trap in Lodge Copse overnight (4 Celsius, 2100 - 0700 hrs) and caught:

Monday 7th November [Overcast, dismal and quite cool]

I was at the lake early this morning and, although it took some time, I eventually located the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis at the west end of Green Lawn. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was off Rainbow Point, but all the shorebirds have gone. There was at least one Little Egret Egretta garzetta knocking about too.

I paid a visit in the murk this afternoon to look for fungi and plant galls during which I met Professor Dick Byrne (thanks Simon Harris for letting me know) and his wife from Fife who told me they had seen the 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus around lunchtime, so just before it got too dark, at around 1600 hrs, I popped down to Bell's Bush and sure enough, they're back! I can only assume they've flown in from Chew because the 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and 6 Dunlins Calidris alpina were also there.

I found the Black Poplar Spiral Gall Pemphigus spyrothecae on the Poplars Populus sp. by the bridge at Long Bay. It is caused by social aphids that make the petiole of the leaf spiral and I even got some shots that show two galls on the same leaf stalk.

I ran my 15W Heath Trap in Lodge Copse again overnight (9 Celsius, 2100 - 0900 hrs) and caught the following:

When he got home to Scotland, Dick Byrne very kindly emailed a paper that should help me identify the Epirrita moths without having to resort to gen. dets. which I shall use for subsequent captures where the wing markings allow. Of course, we will need a couple of gen. dets. to ascertain which species we have unequivocally in the first instance and I'll cross-reference them with my pictures as we build up a picture of the forms that occur locally. What a kind gesture.

Tuesday 8th November [Overcast but significantly warmer]

This morning from about 0900-1000 hrs I was checking the wildfowl and shorebirds and was surprised to find just the 1 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER Limnodromus scolopaceus at Bell's Bush, with 1 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, 4 Dunlins Calidris alpina and 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Both the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina were both where they were yesterday.

This afternoon I rang Mike Jenkins who was at Chew while I was looking at the lone Long-billed Dowitcher on Wookey Point and he told me the other one was there. I added one to the Dunlin count making it 5, then John Martin (county bird recorder) came along and added 4 more bringing the total to 9. However, the biggest surprise I had was finding a 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris off Wood Bay Point at about 1430 hrs. It has brown flanks with a hint of a white peg on one side but the bill is bright and the white line around the base is clear. The head is still a bit spiky at the back and the tail feathers are nicely pointed. The eye is a dull yellowy-brown. This is presumably the bird Richard Mielcarek saw at Chew yesterday.

Checking for galls again, I came across the leaf edge roll gall Phyllocoptes goniothorax on Hawthorn Crataegus sp. caused by mites.

Later, Mike Bailey showed me how to gen. det. Epirrita spp. moths and we checked two that I'd kept from the trap on 30th October. They turned out to be male and female November Moths Epirrita dilutata caught under Oak Quercus sp., one of their larval food plants. Last nights Epirrita sp. both appeared to be Autumnal Moths Epirrita autumnata based on the shape of the first postmedian fascia, which shouldn't be a surprise as they were trapped under Birch Betula sp. their larval foodplant. I shall add photos of both species to the Moth List in due course.

The lake has risen 1% to 42% full presumably having fallen to 41% since 3rd November (per Bristol Water website).

Wednesday 9th November [Grey, wet and miserable]

I had a relatively quick, 3 hour, scout around and was disappointed at not finding the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again in order to photograph it. Did anyone else see it at BL today? Both juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were back at Bell's Bush, with 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa preferring Burmah Road, 3 Dunlins Calidris alpina were at Bell's and one was at the Lodge with the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was off the east end of Green Lawn as usual feasting on water weed. I spotted the 'streaky' 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis over at Peg's Point, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Butcombe Bay and counted 194 Canada Geese Branta canadensis (no sign of the Cackler), 140 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo on Rugmoor Point and saw a flock of over 200 birds consisting mainly of Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina, although there were some European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis as well, feeding on weed seeds growing on the exposed lake bed in Wood Bay. There has been at least one flock of over 100 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii also roaming the lake bed, with good numbers of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis in close company, for the last couple of weeks and I saw 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus fly overhead at Bell's Bush while I was there this afternoon.

I shall be leading a walk for Bristol Ornithological Club at the lake on Saturday, starting from the Fishing Lodge at 0900 hrs. We should have a good time, as there are lots and lots of birds about at the moment. If you're new to birding and want to improve your duck and gull identification skills in particular, there should be plenty of time and opportunity during the outing to brush up. I would hope to get over 50 bird species during the visit. If you don't have a permit, don't worry, I have day permits (price £2.50) that will allow access to Chew &/or Barrow Tanks later in the day as well, should you wish.

Thursday 10th November [Reasonably sunny and warmish]

Well, I shouldn't have said the last bit about all the birds yesterday - there's been a clear out overnight! No sign of any shorebirds, other than a few Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus scattered about and a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. However, I did see the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again in Wood Bay (see poor record shot below). It was probably there yesterday too, but the bird I suspected as being it, was asleep and showing no hint of its identity. The Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was feeding in front of the Lodge but there was no sign of the adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina either. The 4th-winter Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was back in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow and an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus was at Bell's Bush with a flock of Common Gulls Larus canus. It was a different individual to the one seen on 28th October because this bird had no BTO ring on its leg. While at Bell's Bush I heard (presumed) Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret flying over and calling while I was looking at a few scarlet waxcaps Hygrocybe sp. that I'll try and get identified when they've grown a bit.

There were a couple of larger gulls with darvic rings in front of the Lodge late afternoon, but I only managed to read one; black '8UF' on light green (left tarsus). Dr Viola Ross-Smith, BTO Research Ecologist (Wetland and Marine), sent me the history as follows: Ringed on 2nd July 2006 on Flatholm, BTO ring number FH07848, and subsequently seen on just a single occasion, at Gloucester Land Fill Site on 25th July 2008, before today.

1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, Wood Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Friday 11th November [Breezy and dry until mid-afternoon]

The big news today is the arrival of the first Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 'Morton' (thanks to Steve Heaven at WWT for identifying him) who was resting and preening in front of the Lodge late morning, along with a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis. Also, a Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was a nice find for Geoff Dring along the bank at Indian Country between Rugmoor Point and Top End. This is the first since 2008.

Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 'Morton', Wood Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was off Green Lawn as usual and the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still in Wood Bay along with a new drake Tufted x Pochard hybrid. At Bells' Bush the 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were back from Chew and I saw an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser fishing around the legs of about 8 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea.

I've just been looking at my pictures of 'Blagdon's' bill pattern and comparing them with pictures taken this afternoon and no longer think it is him/her so will send them to Julia Newth at WWT Slimbridge for comment.

It seems that the Long-billed Dowitchers Limnodromus scolopaceus have done a flit, with no reports from Chew either.

Saturday 12th November [Warm, still and sunny]

I have an update on the CACKLING GOOSE (aka Richardson's Cackling Goose) Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii that visited Blagdon and Chew recently. Some observers considered the breast to be too dark for a Richardson's Cackling Goose, so I emailed David Allen Sibley in the USA (author of The North American Bird Guide) to seek an authoritative view. Whilst agreeing that the breast was dark, he pointed out lots of good field marks and said "its best fit is with hutchinsii...and (referring to the breast colour) that's not far off. Some would argue that the darker color indicates taverneri, I consider taverneri indistinguishable from hutchinsii." He kindly attached a photo taken in Illinois of several hutchinsii showing variation in breast color in that subspecies. Keith Vinicombe also emailed me a photograph of a bird taken in Norfolk in 1999 that was widely regarded as being a Richardson's Cackling Goose with Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus that also had a dark breast. As for the chances of vagrancy - well, why not? The time of arrival is exactly right, with three birds arriving in County Sligo and two on Islay, albeit with carrier flocks of Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. Could this bird have become detached from a carrier flock? Richardson's Cackling Goose is a long distance migrant that nests in Arctic Canada and winters mainly in Texas and Mexico (http://www.sibleyguides.com/2007/07/identification-of-cackling-and-canada-goose/), but regularly turns up on the northeast US Atlantic coast. Andy Davis pointed out that there has been a seemingly curious pattern of dispersion across North America as well at the moment with, among others, three in Ottawa the other day apparently mega-alerted. We'll keep researching, but I have agreed with Richard Mielcarek to submit a record to the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC), who are currently circulating records of "Cackling Geese" since it's split from Canada Goose Branta canadensis. Cackling Goose has not yet been accepted onto the British List and is currently in category E, but secretary of the BBRC, Nigel Hudson, also emailed me about ongoing clarification work with the split and asked us to submit the sighting. My sincere thanks to all those mentioned above for their help with my understanding.

PS. Bruce Taylor emailed me this evening to say the bird was at Torr Reservoir, East Cranmore, Somerset today.

Autumn is upon us, Trooping Funnels Clitocybe geotropa © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Todays BOC visit was attended by 12 members who managed to see 56 species, with 25 in the bag before we even left the Lodge car park. Highlights included 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, Little Egret Egretta garzetta and the usual residents among which Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea and Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris performed well for us at The Hatchery. Thanks to all for making it such an enjoyable morning. We also saw a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta at Holt Bay and 3 Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta.

I ran my 15W Heath Trap in Holt Copse overnight (11 Celsius, 2000 - 0800 hrs) and rather disappointingly only caught:

Sunday 13th November [Bit of a breeze, but sunny and mild]

In a quick visit this morning I saw the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and 4 Dunlin Calidris alpina which flew in with some Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. But, I didn't see the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina or Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii, though all could easily be present.

There was yet another firework party last night, this time on the Nempnett Thrubwell side, and this seems to have reduced the number of wildfowl again.

Late this afternoon, I went down to look for the 'ringer' and do the gulls, but had a Homer Simpson moment and arrived lakeside without my telescope. Doh! However, I did have my binoculars and found the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris close in at Rainbow Point, but couldn't find the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina.

John Bailey (North Somerset and Bristol Fungus Group) emailed me this evening to tell me that he'd identified the scarlet waxcap I gave him from Bell's Bush as Hygrocybe mucronella.

Monday 14th November [Grey, grey, grey with a cool easterly breeze]

What a miserable day weather-wise, but you won't hear me complaining. Today, I finally added Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra to my Blagdon list! There were at least two bright red males and one green female feeding on the cones at Lodge Copse. Then, to cap it all, the 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus have re-appeared at Wookey Point together with 5 Dunlins Calidris alpina and 3 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago with 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa still at Burmah Road. There were also about 100 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus around the lake, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Butcombe Bay and lots of Fieldfares Turdus pilaris flying about in the mist. The Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis (I didn't see it, but Ian Lucas did), Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis and drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina were all on show but mobile. At the Lodge there was a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and there was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major feeding on sunflower hearts - the first time I've seen this, they're usually on the peanuts. I couldn't find the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris off Rainbow Point, but wouldn't be surprised if it were around the lake somewhere.

Last thing, I heard 2 male Tawny Owls Strix aluco singing at each other down by the Inspection House at the south end of the dam.

Tuesday 15th November [Grey with a cold easterly wind, brightening up in the afternoon]

What an excellent morning's birding. I bumped into a few friends and between us we found just one of the juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus at Wookey Point, the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Wood Bay, the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina in Holt Bay, the immature (female?) Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis off Green Lawn, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis feeding at Top End but mobile, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Rugmoor Bay and a host of other nice birds like decent flocks of 50+ Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina, c.150 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 500+ Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris feeding around the lake. New in were 8 Bewicks Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adults, 2 2nd-winters and 4 juveniles at Burmah Road and I hear that 12 flew in to Chew as well this morning, comprising 7 adults and 5 juveniles. Added together this appears to indicate a good breeding season with 45% juveniles locally. It'll be interesting to see what proportion turn up at WWT Slimbridge. Julia Newth replied to my email of 11th November today and said that she didn't recognise the bird that turned up at Blagdon and subsequently moved to Chew on 13th November.

I've just found an email from Joern Lehmhus about a picture originally titled as an adult Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus in my March 2010 news. He has pointed out that it is a hybrid Snow x Bar-headed Goose and made the following observation: "Together with a fellow birder from Sweden, I am searching for photos of this particular hybrid combination for a publication on the identification of such birds; as it is an often overlooked hybrid. Your bird is typical for the hybrid combination as it shows snow goose-like tertials in shape and pattern, and not the much broader, more uniformely grey tertials of Bar-headed Goose. Additionally it has a white area on the flanks and the bill coloration would be unusual for a pure Bar-headed goose." Very interesting - I shall have to look back through more pictures and see if I've misidentified this hybrid before.

The lake remains at 42% full (per Bristol Water website).

Wednesday 16th November [Mist and fog all day with a biting east breeze]

I had planned to go to Gwent this morning with Richard Mielcarek to have a look at the Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii over there, that has turned up with a Greenland White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons flavirostris (per Gwent Birding blogspot) but the weather is just awful. As I sit and write this at 1540 hrs I can't see the end of the road 100 metres away, as the fog thickens again. However, it did lift just sufficiently for Chris Stone and I to catch up with all the regular goodies including the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Holt Bay, the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina on Green Lawn asleep, the immature Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis off Rainbow Point and the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis feeding off Burmah Road. However, once again, no sign of the Dowitchers or Black-wits, just a single Dunlin Calidris alpina feeding at Wookey Point.

I have decided that the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii group actually appears to comprise 2 adults, 2 2nd-winters (greyish heads and necks) and 4 juveniles. The grey head and neck seems to be a consistent feature rather than just staining caused by feeding. I am also fairly sure now that just one of the birds (an adult) has a darvic ring on; yellow with black lettering, but as yet, I haven't managed to read it. If I have aged them correctly, then this could be a family group, as it isn't unusual for immature birds to accompany their parents for a second winter. Julia Newth has suggested it might be Saruni (ring number '525') and I have a picture of her and her new partner Sarune so will check their unique bill patterns tomorrow. Julia also said that the current percentage of young birds arriving at Slimbridge is between 20-24% and you can read regular updates on Julia's Bewick's Blog.

There was also a Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo on the shore at Bell's Bush that had a green darvic inscribed with three white letters, the last two of which appeared to be 'LB', though the first was fairly well obscured by mud. Chris and I thought it may have been a 'C', but that's another one to keep an eye out for.

Thursday 17th November [A beautiful sunny day]

Rather surprisingly, just about the first bird I clapped eyes on this morning was the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Pipe Bay, of all places. I took some more rubbish shots (too far away) and checked through the gulls and that was the last I saw of it! I looked high and low on the way back from Top End. The usual drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay, the immature Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis off Green Lawn and the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis feeding off Wood Bay Point. There was no sign of any shorebirds other than the regular Northern Lawings Vanellus vanellus and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, while 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta continue to fish in Butcombe Bay.

I had a brief moment of excitement when I spotted a small Aythya, off Peg's Point on the other side of the lake, that looked for all the world like a drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, that is until I looked at the bill pattern. Another hybrid, sadly. There were 5 Greylag Geese Anser anser on Green Lawn with a small group of Canada Geese Branta canadensis and the 8 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii remain off Burmah Road. The adults were feeding with the juveniles and the 2 2nd-winters were feeding on their own a short distance away. Julia Newth's hunch was proved correct as I was able to read the ring '525' on an adult today confirming it to be 'Saruni' - a swan with a history. I have records of 'Saruni' visiting Blagdon back as far as November 2006, when Julia told me she was a 3 year old female and one of the offspring of 'Kerry' and 'Dingle' who were also known to visit Blagdon Lake.

Greylag Geese Anser anser, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Friday 18th November [Sunny intervals and milder than of late]

IT'S A MEGA DAY AT BLAGDON: A JUVENILE SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER

At about 1230 hrs I was working my way back along the lake from Top End having failed to find any of the 'mysterious' Greylag Geese Anser anser that dropped in yesterday (see pic), I stopped to look across at Tiny's Shallow from Green Lawn to check for birds on the end of the point and came across a wader that I couldn't immediately identify. The blood red streaked cap with a very noticeable flared supercilium behind the eye made me think of the Pectoral / Sharp-tailed Sandpiper pair, so I rang Richard Mielcarek who I knew was out at Chew, and said he'd better get over asap because I thought I had a possible Pectoral Sandpiper. By the time he arrived, I'd had a look at the Collins Field Guide and felt more inclined to Sharp-tailed. We discussed it and decided to call a few of the other Chew birders and I rang Keith Vinicombe at home. Ken Hall, Mike Jenkins, Chris Craig and Andy Davis arrived by which time Rich and I were convinced it didn't look like any of the Pecs that had been at Chew this autumn, or, any that we had seen. Keith arrived and agreed that it was indeed a SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER Calidris acuminata, a lifer for me (having not seen one on my travels, or, had the opportunity to twitch one in this country), so we put the word out. Late in the afternoon, the bird walked along the edge of the spit towards the boat landing quay and we had closer views (about 80 metres) and I took a couple of pictures in the gloom but had to use ISO 500 and 800 so the quality is rubbish. Anyone else get any?

Description: A small wader that crept around quite furtively at the waters edge and fed quite slowly. When it got alarmed it crouched. There was an obvious black streaked, blood red cap. The supercilium was very obvious behind the eye at all times and occasionally showed over the bill in front of the eyes. There was a dark patch below the super on the ear coverts. The bill was medium length with a down-turned tip and looked pale at the base of the lower mandible. The breast had 5-6 streaks on the sides at the top, but was otherwise an orange / ginger wash. The scaps were black-centered with rufous fringes and the coverts appeared to be grey with whitish fringes. The legs were yellow-green and quite long when the bird climbed up from the water, though it tended to walk in a crouching manner. The feet were large. The belly was white but had some grey smudges on each flank and showed 3-4 dark streaks either side of the vent. The wings were marginally longer than the tail. We didn't really see any scap lines until watching it from the Lodge when two ill-defined golden straps could be seen. The tertials were rufous fringed. I'm told there was a white wing bar though I didn't see the upper wing because other birders were looking through my scope when it showed them. The underwing was white from axillaries through lesser underwing coverts at least. It was present til dusk when it flew back to the point and out of view.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata, Tiny's Shallow © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Aside from all the excitement, still present were the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, the immature Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis off Green Lawn, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, 3+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. I also managed to sort out the nasal saddle details on a female Common Pochard Aythya ferina; a turquoise saddle with black 'F' on the front and 'NP' on the sides. Alain Caizergues has replied to say that the bird was ringed on 20th May 2011 at Saint-Philbert-De-Grand-Lieu in France and captured as an adult of unknown age. This is the first resighting since it had the nasal saddle applied.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina, Rainbow Point © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Saturday 19th November [Sunny intervals and mild]

No sign of the Sharpie at Blagdon at first light, but it was subsequently refound at Chew from Herriott's Bridge (A368), having joined up with a flock of Dunlin. I would like to thank Richard Mielcarek who came down and helped the visitors and also say thanks very much to all the visiting birders for their co-operation this morning. I'm so pleased the bird was found again, both for those who travelled and for the 'Chew Boys' who can add it to their patch list as well! According to Rare Bird Alert Daily News Summaries, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.... is only the fifth juvenile to be seen in Britain, and is the first ever to be found in November.

The most interesting sighting this morning was a reported Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis that I contrived to miss. It's the 2nd site record, so I'd be pleased to hear from anyone who saw it. It was probably one of the two reported at Chew yesterday. I saw the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, the immature Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, 7+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii which flew off later in the day, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and was told that the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis had also been seen in front of the Lodge, though I didn't see it then, or, later. It's WeBS Count day tomorrow - is there no let up?

Anyway, I'd better add a footnote about the 'mysterious' geese photographed on 16th. Keith Vinicombe saw them and some others that flew in at Chew later in the day and took pictures of the Chew birds because he, like me, was struck by the longer, mainly pink bills, a character for Eastern Greylags Anser anser rubrirostris. He wrote of the Blagdon birds that they were "very fresh and immaculate, and well barred." However, they are clearly not pure Eastern birds, but there is an area in central Europe where birds showing intermediate characters breed and he has suggested that, along with all the other geese on the move from Europe at present (there is certainly a big freeze going on in Russia at present according to BBC Weather News), these might be genuine continental vagrants rather than British, Norwegian or Icelandic stock. A. a. rubrirostris has also been introduced in some near continental countries e.g. Belgium. Greylags are so unusual hereabouts, although breeding on the Somerset Levels, that they drew immediate attention to themselves. Sadly, these quickly moved on, as there were none at either lake the following day. Incidentally, the left bird in the picture below was much paler overall than shown in my picture, as it had just shaken itself and ruffled its feathers which weren't lying flat.

Later, Keith emailed me regarding the Greylags and said "Given that  your left hand bird in the photo appears to have an all-pink bill, I don't see why it shouldn't be identified as a pure rubrirostris. I opted for intergrades because most of the Chew birds had orange at the base of the bill but, looking at my photos, one or two seem to have all-pink bills... The exact racial ID is probably a bit irrelevant really as the main thing is that I think we can be sure that they were wild Continental birds. They have had quite a few over Portland and Andy (Davis) said there were 70 over Jersey the other day."

Robert Billingsley emailed as well to say he'd seen a male Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla in Lodge Copse this morning - a really late date for a migrant at Blagdon, the previously late date being 28th October 2001, although it might of course be a wintering bird.

Sunday 20th November [A bit gloomy]

We did the WeBS Count today and had 35 species totalling 3719 birds with the pick of the birds the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, the immature Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, a Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina and 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus. However, we didn't see the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris during the count nor did I find it later and, to my knowledge, neither did anyone else.

Monday 21st November [Dank and dreary]

We've suffered another clear out by the looks of it. It seems that Chew is hoovering up all the good birds. The only really notable bird at Blagdon this morning was the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, which was still feeding around the huge weedbed that extends from Rugmoor to Wood Bay Point. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge,1 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa was feeding along Burmah Road and 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina and 21 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were at Bell's Bush. The regular adult Peregrine Falco peregrinus seems to have turned her attention to gulls and was sitting on a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus carcass on Holt Farm when I walked past. There were several other piles of white feathers nearby, suggesting she'd seen them off too.

I saw no sign of the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in a 3 hour search this morning and although it was reported as being off the dam wall mid-afternoon on the pager service, I went back down and looked for another 1.5 hours from 1445 hrs and failed to see it again! However, the drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was back in Holt Bay at 1600 hrs and there were 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Butcombe Bay.

Tuesday 22nd November [Another rather calm dreary day]

Well, at last, I finally spotted the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again today in the same place where it spent the day feeding on Saturday, in the large weedbed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points. The drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, the 1st-winter female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis were all still present. At Bell's Bush I saw 13 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, 21 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis and 485 Northern Lawings Vanellus vanellus. There was a large increase in the Canada Goose Branta canadensis count which was up to 165 today, mainly around Butcombe Bay, and I saw a drake Eurasian Teal Anas crecca with a yellow nasal saddle at Green Lawn again. Unfortunately, someone drove up, walked down to the water's edge, spooking everything, and then drove off before I could sneak up and read, or photograph it. Paul Williams emailed to say he'd seen 3 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 'brownheads' (female / juvenile) at lunchtime.

Wednesday 23rd November [Sunny spells with a cold breeze]

I paid a morning visit and saw the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again in the large weed bed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points, where the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, the adult drake Red-crested Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid and an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser were also feeding. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay as usual, but I didn't spot the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, though I didn't spend lots of time looking for it. There were 3 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago hunkered down in one of the channels in the mud from Bell's Bush, but I saw no sign of any other shorebirds except a few Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Finally, I caught up with the adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor that has a pale green darvic ring on the right leg, while it was sleeping at Paradise.The black code was 'PZ9' and I have sent the details off to the BTO. The swan has been around for a couple of months at least. I also received an email from France about the Common Pochard Aythya ferina I photographed with a nasal saddle (see Friday 18th Nov.).

This afternoon both juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus had flown in from Chew and were feeding along the shoreline at Hellfire Corner / Burmah Road and were best viewed from Bell's Bush. Roger Treeby kindly emailed to say he'd seen the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis in Holt Bay this afternoon, for which I'm very grateful.

Thursday 24th November [Sunny spells]

Today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday mornings fare with the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again in the large weed bed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points, together with the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis and the adult drake Red-crested Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay and the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was off the east end of Green Lawn, close to where Roger Treeby saw it yesterday afternoon. 3 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii appear to have flown over from Chew and were asleep in Rugmoor Bay. One had a darvic ring on, so I assume it to be 'Winkey' but didn't have the time to wait around until it woke up and started feeding to check! I also saw at least 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, a new drake Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, with at least 5 'brownheads', and an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus in front of the Lodge with the large flock of loafing and washing gulls (this appears to be the one I saw on Sunday with a partial hood).

I nailed the drake Eurasian Teal Anas crecca with the nasal saddle today as well. It is 'H' on the front, with 'JV' on the sides of a pale green saddle. Here's a picture taken from Green Lawn of the bird on Home Bay Point - I think the clarity is remarkable given the distance. I have been trawling around the internet and discovered that this particular scheme is run in France by the ONCFS, and the lime green saddles are fitted at sites other than the Carmargue. There is some very interesting information on the website and other links on the Links Page.

Dr Matthieu Guillemain from the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage wrote back to me to say the bird had been fitted with the nasal saddle on 2nd February 2011 at La Grand'Mare, Sainte-Opportune-La-Mare near Le Havre, as an adult of unknown age. This is the first time it has been recorded since. If anyone sees it again at the lake please report it to me or the BTO. Matthieu would like to know all dates of observation.

Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, Home Bay Point © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Friday 25th November [Sunshine and showers]

I only had time for about an hour mid-afternoon, but saw the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in the large weed bed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points, together with the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay, the Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was off the Spillway and the 3 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End. I think the number of wildfowl has fallen again overnight especially Eurasian Teal Anas crecca.

Saturday 26th November [Overcast and grey]

It's done a bunk again! Sadly for the visiting birders, there was no sign of the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris today, but all the supporting cast were dotted around as usual. The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in the large weed bed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points, the adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay, the 1st-winter female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was off Green Lawn and 3 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End.

In front of the Lodge, I saw an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus with the Common Gulls Larus canus and an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus melanocephalus briefly. From Bell's Bush I saw a Dunlin Calidris alpina sleeping among the Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa also asleep along the Burmah Road stretch, while at Cheddar Water, the lingering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucosis is causing a few heart-stopping moments for those wondering if they've found Blagdon's first Spotted Sandpiper! I also saw at least 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 6 'brownhead' Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, and, additionally, some visitors told me they'd seen a female Goosander Mergus merganser at Top End this morning.

There are some sizeable flocks of Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina feeding on the weeds growing on the exposed lake bed and there are lots of Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii flitting around in front of the Lodge. Chaz Mason emailed me to say he and friends had seen and heard a (presumed) wintering Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the hedge at Holt Bay. A nice find. So, thanks for the news.

Sunday 27th November [Sunny with a strong NW breeze]

Despite the pager services reporting the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris as being present off Rugmoor Point, I spent 4 unsuccessful hours looking for it and I met two gents from the Midlands who spent 6 hours looking for it! None of us spotted it, even though we were there when it was reported.

However, on a positive note, the 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were back, but the bird of the day for me was the slumbering Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (the first for eight years) alongside the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and 15 Dunlins Calidris alpina at Bell's Bush. The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis was in the large weed bed between Rugmoor and Wood Bay Points, the adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay, the 1st-winter female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was in the entrance to Long Bay by the barge and 3 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End; one of which was 'Winkey' as I suggested it might be the other day. There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Butcombe Bay and the good looking drake Red-crested Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid was at Top End. Chris Trott and D. Elvin (per Steve Hale, Avon Birds) saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and an extra Bewick's Swan, that had presumably arrived late in the afternoon.

Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 'Winkey', Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Monday 28th November [Sunny]

I think it was a cold, clear night last night and there seems to have been another drop in bird numbers overall. Again, there was no sign of the 1st-winter drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris or, for that matter, any positive sightings of the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, though Roger Palmer thought he saw it a couple of times but couldn't pin it down.

Bell's Bush hosted 21 Dunlins Calidris alpina, the usual single Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and 6 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (Saruni, Sarune and their 4 juveniles), which were subsequently joined by 2 others (probable 2nd-winters), with another 2 feeding over by Rugmoor Point, giving us our highest total (10) so far this autumn. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay and the 1st-winter female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was close by. 98 Canada Geese Branta canadensis had been joined by just 8 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, a rather odd number for our (introduced) flock. Other birds of note included a partial count of 40+ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 9 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula (adult drake, 1st-winter drake and 7 brownheads), 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 juvenile Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis at Cheddar Water, a presumed adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at the Lodge and the drake Red-crested Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid still at Top End. I also heard my first 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major of the autumn in the grounds of the Inspection House.

Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis, Dam © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

I went on to the Bristol Water website last night and spotted the latest update on the proposal for a new raw water reservoir. Have a look it's very interesting and includes a couple of pictures (top right of the page) of how it will fit into the landscape. Geological investigations were carried out on five sites. Three, near Banwell, Axbridge and Clewer have been ruled out now, leaving two near Cheddar and Wookey where there will be further investigations and consultations. Although BW are saying that construction could not begin before 2016, it will be very interesting to see what effect a new reservoir will have on birds and birding locally. I would imagine the new reservoir will need to have a stone or concrete embankment similar to the existing Cheddar Reservoir and assume it would be likely to attract those species that go there, especially if it's close to the existing reservoir and provides a refuge from water sports. I used to fish at the huge Farmoor Reservoirs, near Oxford, on a regular basis in the 1970's and 80's and have been really impressed with what Thames Water have done there creating three wetland nature reserves that have won national awards for habitat creation and management. It'd be great to see a similar scheme built into the proposal in Somerset, so I hope local wildlife groups will lobby during the consultation phase.

Tuesday 29th November [Very windy and grey with drizzle on and off]

The 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were at Bell's Bush this morning, with singles of Dunlin Calidris alpina and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and 10 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. The Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis could be viewed from Bell's Bush, but is better looked for from the relative shelter of Wood Bay Point, where it was feeding around the weed beds between there and Rugmoor Point again. The adult drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in Holt Bay still and the 1st-winter female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis was in front of the Fishing Lodge where an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was roosting with a large flock of gulls. The 2 juvenile Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were pottering around at Cheddar Water and best viewed from the south corner of the dam. Late afternoon, I counted 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Long, Home and Butcombe Bays.

I spotted one of Pete Rock's gulls, an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus with a dark blue darvic ring with orange 'G:P' on it, in front of the Lodge. Peter, as usual, was very prompt in getting back to tell me it's a male that was ringed on 3rd July 2004 in Bristol (cohort blue3), so is aged 8W (8th-winter) and bears the BTO ring GN75134. It's been seen at Chew Valley Lake a lot since August 2004, with 38 more records ‘til December 2010. There have also been four visits to Barrow Tanks in June 2006, February and May 2007 and November 2009. He also told me that the Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus '8UF' noted on the 10th November was ringed on Flatholm. I'll add details when I get them.

There is also an update from France on the Eurasian Teal Anas crecca that I photographed on the 24th (see the paragraph above the photo).

The water level is holding steady at 42% still (per Bristol Water website).

Wednesday 30th November [Sunny]

After a visit to the dentist mid-morning, I went down to Bell's Bush to meet up with Richard Mielcarek who'd phoned to tell me the juvenile SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER Calidris acuminata had come over from Chew with the Dunlin Calidris alpina flock. Not only that, but the 2 juvenile LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS Limnodromus scolopaceus were also there. As I pulled up at 1215 hrs, one of our local Peregrines Falco peregrinus flushed the lot. I watched the Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and Dowitchers fly west, the two Yankees breaking away and apparently heading south-west over the Mendips (they were found later at SWT Catcott Lows NR before leaving there to come back to Chew). The Dunlins and Sharpie headed back to Chew directly, where Mike Jenkins spotted them from Stratford Hide. 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 10 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, the Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritis, Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis and drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina were all still there when I left at lunch time. In addition, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and one of the Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucosis were also present. John Martin reported the wintering Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita again today.

Steve Heaven, Bewick Swan Project Volunteer at WWT Slimbridge, emailed me this afternoon having managed to identify the first of the swans to turn up at the lake this winter (see Friday 11th November) as 'Morton', "a yearling from last season". Bewick's Swans show great site fidelity, both during their migration stop-overs and wintering sites, so we can expect to see the same cast of characters each year, if conditions are suitable for them. It'd be nice to build up a family tree of visiting swans, with reference images of their bills to aid identification by birders, in order to help Julia and the WWT researchers track their movements locally. I'll see what I can do.