November 2013 News

Friday 1st November [Mainly overcast]

'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were asleep at Bell's Bush late this morning and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were at Pipe Bay. Aside from these notables, I couldn't find anything special among the throng of wildfowl scattered around the lake during my brief visit, but we should have lots of pairs of eyes and ears looking and listening tomorrow morning when I lead a walk for BOC.

There were 2 adult Herring Gulls with darvics in front of the Fishing Lodge:

I've had some news from Dr. Alain Caizergues at the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage. He's given me a sightings update of ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula blue '34' which I noted on 20th October. The bird has been in France during May and July at Juvigne, near Rennes, since my last sighting at Blagdon.

Saturday 2nd November [Mainly dry, with a rising wind and showers]

The BOC field meeting this morning was very well attended and we got off to a great start with excellent views of 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis at the Lodge, and before we'd even started the walk we saw an extremely late juvenile Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica fly over (it's the latest date I have in my lake database by some margin with the previous late date being 13th October 2012). A couple of Skylarks Alauda arvensis were heard flying over at the Lodge and Mike Johnson spotted a ringed Mute Swan Cygnus olor, yellow 'BJB', there too. I've submitted details to the BTO reporting scheme.

The rising wind seemed to keep the small passerines well hidden, though Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis were very much in evidence. We even saw a few Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta in sheltered, sunny, spots. A flock of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus gave us good scope views in the Alders Alnus sp. at Hellfire Corner and a few of the group found some Redwings Turdus ileacus at Bell's Bush where we stopped to check over the wildfowl at Top End. 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still present despite the rising water level, and we found the Black Swan Cygnus atratus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a handful of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and some good-looking ♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta that have just about attained full breeding plumage. Thanks to everyone who came, it made for a very enjoyable morning walk.

It was really windy this afternoon, so I decided to go back and check the gull roost which was quite large with exceptional numbers of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, as well as the 2 Yellow-legged Gulls seen earlier. Only the one bird really caught my eye and that was a full summer-plumaged Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus!

The water level has risen to 45% as of the 31st October, with May, July and October the only months with above average rainfall in the Mendip catchment this year (per Bristol Water website).

Sunday 3rd November [Heavy wintery showers]

It was not at all pleasant trying to check the birds at the lake this morning. We had some heavy showers including sleet. I saw the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and one of the adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis, as well as ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula blue '34' for the second time this autumn. There was at least one Little Egret Egretta garzetta sheltering at Hellfire Corner and it, or another, flew into Pipe Bay briefly just before I came home.

Monday 4th November [Sunny and warm]

News from Paul Williams by text to say that there were 4 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End at 1350 hrs today. Thanks for the info Paul.

I was walking the South West Coast Path from Brixham to Kingswear, a challenging stretch, according to the pundits and so it proved! However, we did see a Great Northern Diver Gavia immer off Brixham breakwater and quite a few Harbour Porpoises Phocoena phocoena off Berry Head. More of a surprise were the 2 Slow-worms Anguis fragilis that we saw on the path along the way.

Tuesday 5th November

The 4 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still present at Top End today (thanks to Paul Williams for info).

Bristol Water give the current water level as 51%. That's a rise of 6% since the start of the month, and has made a huge difference to the amount of lake bed that's exposed at Top End.

I walked the South West Coast Path from Dartmouth to Torcross today. We walked alongside Slapton Ley where I'd like to have spent some time, but we rushed to try and catch a bus that we ended up missing by a couple of minutes and then had to wait for an hour and a half. There were lots of waxcaps on the coastal grasslands, ranging from white through yellow to red.

Wednesday 6th November [Overcast with showers]

I spent some time watching the 4 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End this morning. They were asleep with the Black Swan Cygnus atratus, an incongruous group if ever there was one, but they soon woke up and started feeding. I couldn't see any rings on them but did at least recognise some bill patterns and will try and match them to my photos. I spent another couple of hours going through the dabbling and diving ducks, pipits and wagtails, but aside from seeing the adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula blue '34' at the entrance to Long Bay, there wasn't much else to report on.

This evening when I went to check the gull roost I saw 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Shallow and counted 52 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus from the Lodge.

Thursday 7th November [Overcast but dry]

The water level is rising fast (see 5th for latest BW news) and the feeder streams are all still running high. As a consequence the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii have decided to move on, ahead of tomorrows visit by Minehead U3A, which is a bit if a shame. Perhaps we'll catch up with some after lunch at Chew. I've only made a very brief visit to Blagdon so far today, during which I saw 3 brown head Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula off Green Lawn and a single juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Lodge. The dabbling duck numbers continue to fall, but there are good numbers of Aythya ducks feeding in flocks between the dam and Rainbow Point that might repay closer inspection.

I carried out the first November Nathusius's Pipistrelle transect this evening and recorded a few Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in the lee of Home Bay Point woodland and rather surprisingly 6 Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros calls that probably represent two different bats.

Friday 8th November [Rain until late afternoon]

It sure was a wet day for the visit of the Minehead U3A group. We didn't spend too long at Blagdon, the Top End hide was a bit too crowded with 14 of us in there! We went over to Chew Valley Lake and visited Villice Bay hide where we saw the adult ♂ LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis late morning close to the fish cages. After lunch with it still raining we had a quick glimpse of 4 of the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at East Shore before heading back to Blagdon.

There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (one at Top End and the other at the head of Butcombe Bay) and a lone Bewick's Swan at Bell's Bush this afternoon (also seen by Paul Williams). It was one of the birds present on Wednesday, and I'm hoping I can photograph it in better light tomorrow to send a shot to Julia and Steve at WWT for identification. There was no sign of any Yellow-legged Gulls, the Dunlin or Black Swan today.

We are due to carry out the WeBS Count in the morning. It'll be intriguing to see how the Tufted Duck numbers have changed compared with last month, they're definitely on the up again.

Saturday 9th November [Early rain, then dry with some sunny spells]

It was WeBS Count day today and Phil Delve, who was counting Aythyas, found a ♂ Scaup sp. in front of the Lodge that we were quickly able to establish was an adult ♂ LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis. I Tweeted out the news and we moved on. By the time we were looking over the corner of Green Lawn and Holt Bay the LESSER SCAUP had swum to join the flock feeding there. Not to be outdone, Phil's wife Lucy, spotted our first Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis of the autumn in Holt Bay on the west side of Rainbow Point.

We had over 4200 waterbirds of 32 spp. on the count, see the WeBS Page for our counts. As I speculated yesterday, the Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula count was up very significantly to 1098. When I came home at 1430 hrs, or so, the LESSER SCAUP was feeding off Rainbow Point and the Black-necked Grebe was still in the same place as earlier. We also had a single Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End (possibly Blagdon?) and for the unwary, a ♂ Aythya with a superficial resemblance to LESSER SCAUP, but noted that it had a 'dipped in ink' bill pattern. I haven't had time to give it a good 'grilling' yet, but suspect it'll be either a Tufted Duck x Common Pochard, or more likely, a Tufted Duck x Greater Scaup. Other decent birds included 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 4 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (one adult ♂).

Sunday 10th November [Sunny and cool]

I spent nearly four hours looking for the LESSER SCAUP Aythya affinis today without any luck. It later transpires that it has flown back to Chew. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still around Rainbow Point this morning, but an angler walking out onto the point pushed it across to the north side of the lake at Orchard Bay this afternoon. 5 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, including 'Jonitor' and 'Willows', ranged from Burmah Road to Top End, and 2 mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were also noted. A small flock of 18 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew around at the dam end for a while, but didn't appear to settle, and 2 Skylarks Alauda arvensis flew over to the west.

When I first arrived and went to fill the Lodge feeders, I heard a Phyllosc calling "soo-weet". This provoked my interest, and I eventually caught one very brief glimpse of a bird with a bright supercilium, but I didn't see the wings or legs. It then flew into the copse by the lodge, from the willows by the boat landing stage. I tried to find it again but only heard a bird giving the apparent call of a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita. I can't be sure what the first one was, though I suspect it might have been a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus. So, if you're around there in the next day or two, it might be worth listening for. We're due drizzle tomorrow, but I'll try for it again in the morning.

I spotted a late Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta at Wood Bay, and Simon Mackie told me he'd seen a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta.

We read the ring of a Mute Swan Cygnus olor in front of the Lodge on the BOC Walk on 2nd November and I've received the following from Chris Perrins today: "Yellow 'BJB' (BTO ZY5592) was ringed at Abbotsbury, Dorset 06/10/11 as a first winter female (not hatched at Abbotsbury). It was reported at Chew Valley Lake  25th July this summer."

Monday 11th November [Warm, with mist and drizzle]

It was a fascinating day at the lake. When I arrived, there was a Common Redshank Tringa totanus in front of the Lodge and 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina off Tiny's Point. While I was scanning, 12 Dunlin Calidris alpina flew in calling but didn't land. I moved along to Green Lawn where I saw that the Muscovy Cairina moschata was dead, and checked to find the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis still in Holt Bay. While there, a Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata came in and flew around calling, before departing towards Chew where Richard Mielcarek and Andy Davis found it asleep later. At Top End I saw the 5 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii tucked into Flower Corner where, rather irritatingly, I couldn't get close to photograph them for identification purposes. There were also 2 mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End.

Richard and Andy came over to see the Red-crested Pochards, which had moved down to Wood Bay Point by lunchtime, and while we were chatting 3 more Eurasian Curlews flew over heading south-west. The ♂ Aythya hybrid was off Wood Bay Point. Andy told me the pike anglers at Chew were pushing the Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis into Villice Bay on Friday afternoon, so perhaps that's what forced it over to Blagdon, where we saw it on Saturday during the WeBS Count?

Paul Williams came down during his lunch break and told us there were a few shorebirds at the Lodge so we went back there and found 2 Common Redshanks and 2 Dunlin. I also saw a fairly steady stream of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus going over during the morning. I may have seen the same birds several times, I can't say, but I counted 51, and Peter and Pauline Grant said they'd seen a flock of about 40 go over while they were at the Lodge.

The mist came right down again mid-afternoon, so I went back to do the gull roost and a Nathusius's transect walk. An adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis came in to roost and although I recorded a number of bat calls on the walk, there were no Nathusius's Pipistrelles. While I was walking I also heard another Eurasian Curlew fly over to the west, that I assume was the bird that flew to Chew earlier.

Tuesday 12th November [Sun, sun, sun]

The mist cleared overnight and on arrival mid-morning I spotted another, different, 1st-winter ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina in front of the Lodge. This bird was still coming out of moult and had quite mottled flanks. A chat with Chris Stone suggests it was the bird that was at Chew yesterday. At Green Lawn, I saw the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards that arrived yesterday, but no sign of the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay - it had moved around Rainbow Point and I caught up with it off Wood Bay Point. Top End held 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 8 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. I managed to photograph four of them before they flew off to Chew early afternoon.

Also noted today were an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at Tiny's Shallow with 24 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, that seemed fairly settled, and a brown head Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula just off the bank.

We have been watching the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus during the last couple of weeks, especially on sunny days. They seem to be spread out all over the lake plunge-diving for food items. Chatting with Jeff Hirst about it this morning, we think they are probably targeting Greater Water Boatmen Notonecta sp. (known colloquially as Backswimmers) as they hang just under the surface.

Julia Newth at WWT Slimbridge emailed, and forwarded news from Reserve Warden Martin McGill, to say 6 Bewick's Swans that were on the far side of the estuary at Slimbridge beween 0830 -0900 hrs flew upriver, collected a Mute Swan Cygnus olor, and then flew back downstream past Sharpness towards the Severn Bridges gaining height. This would, it seems, account for the 6 extra birds that turned up this morning at Blagdon and subsequently moved on to Chew. I've sent pix of 2 pairs to Julia and Steve Heaven at WWT to see if they can identify them.

The water level is 59% as of today, according to the Bristol Water website.

Wednesday 13th November [Sun, sun, sun, again]

On arrival, I refilled the Lodge bird feeders and took a walk around the copse listening for Phylloscs. but didn't hear any. However, I was amazed to hear a ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti giving sub-song on the opposite side of the road from the lake! I have been listening for the putative Yellow-browed Warbler since my initial encounter, but the European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis attracted in to the feeders make such a din, it's been a futile exercise trying to locate the warbler.

We still had 3 ♂ (2 adult & a 1st-w) Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina feeding together at the east end of Green Lawn late morning, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was asleep between Rainbow and Rugmoor Points, an adult ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula was at Top End, and there were at least 5 mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered about. Before I came home for lunch, I stopped in at the Lodge where I saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis among the throng of gulls at the water's edge.

Richard Mielcarek rang to say he thought 5 new Bewick's Swans were heading my way from Chew, while I was eating my lunch, but when I got back down to the lake I couldn't find them. Julia Newth has taken a look at the photos I sent her yesterday but hasn't been able to identify the birds yet. They haven't been at WWT Slimbridge so far this winter.

I've just had a late email from Paul Williams of a Greylag Goose Anser anser on Tiny's Shallow this afternoon.

Thursday 14th November

Paul Williams reported 2 Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Bells Bush, 2 adult ♂ Red-Crested Pochards Netta rufina at the entrance to Long Bay, with the 1st-winter ♂ off Green Lawn. He couldn't find the Black-necked Grebe.

We walked the South West Coast Path around Start Point from Torcross to East Portlemouth, along the splendid South Devon cliffs today. We saw Cirl Buntings Emberiza cirlus around Langerstone Point and a Slow-worm Anguis fragilis on the path along Portlemouth Down. Again, as last week, there were still plenty of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta on the wing and we even saw a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas just west of Start Point while eating our lunch. The path and scenery was very different here in comparison with the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, but no less dramatic for all that.

Friday 15th November

Paul Williams and Roy Curber reported 10 Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (including 2 immature birds, so presumably from Chew), a single 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. My thanks to them for filling the gap while I was away.

I had a wonderful day in Devon on the Kingsbridge estuary with former Bristol Water Fisheries and Conservation Manager, Chris Klee, who lives there now. In the morning Chris took me to South Milton Ley, where we saw a number of Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita around the sewage beds, before moving on to West Charleton Marsh where we saw a late Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and lots of of common shorebirds, including a sizeable flock of Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria on the rising tide. In the afternoon we went out in his boat and explored the estuary. We saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the west shore and a juvenile Great Northern Diver in Salcombe harbour at really close range - shame I hadn't taken my camera. I was also amazed at how approachable the roosting European Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis were from the boat. I had a lovely day out and I'd like to thank Chris and Jill for their splendid hospitality.

Saturday 16th November

No news from the lake today, while I was away on my second Volunteer Bat Roost Visitor (VBRV) training day at RSPCA West Hatch, Nr Taunton. I will be visiting the lake tomorrow.

Sunday 17th November [Mist and fog]

A 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina remains at the lake off the east end of Green Lawn and there were 4 Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, but they didn't look too settled. I also counted at least 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered about before I joined the YACWAG team to carry out the remaining bat box checks of the year along the north shore. At dusk I carried out the 3rd Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii transect walk of the month.

I saw 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canadas B. canadensis during the day and feel sure I heard a Greylag Anser anser with them after dark.

Monday 18th November [Still and overcast]

Blagdon remains quiet despite all the goings-on at Chew. This morning I spotted an adult ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator that was roosting on Wookey Point, then feeding with an adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser off Bell's Bush, so I'm assuming it must be the returning Chew bird. In addition there were 3 other Goosanders, an adult ♀ with 2 ♀/juv types. The 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina was still at the east end of Green Lawn, and I counted at least 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta dotted about. We remain on 141 species for the lake so far this year which, while not bad, one feels could have been so much better with the water level dropping like it did - we had 148 in 2011 when the water went down last time, and 134 in 2012 when it stayed at top level.

Tuesday 19th November [Sunny]

Paul Williams told me he'd seen the ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina today.

I walked more of the South West Coast Path from Salcombe to Bantham (13.1 miles) along another wonderful stretch of the Devon coast around Bolt Head and Tail. We managed to avoid the occasional shower too, so it was sunshine all the way but we only saw one Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta. We also had amazing views of a hunting Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus at Bolt Head, hovering at eye level just a few tens of metres away, seemingly unconcerned by our presence.

Blagdon is 61% full according to Bristol Water.

Wednesday 20th November [Squalls and windy]

I made an early visit before I was due to go and work with the Mendip Conservation Volunteers on Ubley Warren, but the weather took a severe turn for the worse as I got back home. Up to that point, I'd seen the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina off the east end of Green Lawn, 6 ♀/juv Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula at the west end of Green Lawn, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and 2 presumed Dunlins Calidris alpina battling their way westward over the white horses.

After the storm, the sun came out this afternoon, so I thought I'd go for another look and saw a single Dunlin and about 30 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Tiny's Shallow, which is starting to get flooded by the rising water. Paul Williams also pointed out an adult ♂ and 2 more ♀/juv Common Goldeneyes towards Butcombe. Then I drove over to Chew to see the Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica and take some pictures, though the light was rather harsh.

Thursday 21st November [Mainly sunny with a cool NNE wind]

I had an interesting time birding at the lake around midday. I spotted a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off the North Shore reed bed, which had relocated to Holt Bay by the time I left at 1330 hrs. On the east corner of Green Lawn, where I pulled up to see if the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina was still present (it was), I spotted an adult Common Redshank Tringa totanus and 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna. At Flower Corner I could see 7 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii feeding, so spent a bit of time grabbing some photos and checking to see if any of them were ringed. Six were definitely not ringed and I suspect the seventh wasn't either. There were the usual 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and about 40 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus scattered around the lake, and I counted 58 Gadwall Anas strepera at Top End. There was an adult ♂ Aythya hybrid present too.

Paul Williams arrived as I left, and reported that he saw approx 65 Northern Lapwings that flew down the lake and landed on Tiny's Shallow, and while counting them he saw 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina there.

Friday 22nd November [Mainly sunny with a cold NNE wind]

I didn't get down to the lake until early this afternoon because I went to carry out a Voluntary Bat Roost Visit (VBVR) with David Cottle in Chewton Mendip this morning.

When I got back, I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina in the usual place, up to 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, an adult ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator on Wookey Point with 2 adult ♀♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser, later feeding in Long Bay, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and I counted 71 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

There was no sign of the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Dunlins Calidris alpina or Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii noted yesterday. Julia Newth emailed to say there'd been a fall at WWT Slimbridge overnight, so perhaps the Blagdon birds went there, or, to Chew? See Julia's blog for Bewick's news. See also a new resource I'm working on called Blagdon Bewicks Gallery which will feature pictures and details of birds that visit Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes.

Saturday 23rd November [Sunny and cold]

I have no news from the lake today, although a Glossy Ibis was reported nearby at Callow Rock on the Mendips, so perhaps it headed towards Blagdon? I'll have a look for it tomorrow.

Robin Williams and I went to the Worcestershire Entomology Day put on by the Wyre Forest Study Group, and enjoyed a wonderful selection of talks, including one from John Walters on Oil Beetles and Heath Potter Wasps. He has been working on Oil Beetles for a number of years, including looking at their ecology for Buglife. His website is well worth a look if you're remotely interested in Oil Beetles, following the introduction and discussion about those seen at Chew and Blagdon in April and May. Go, take a look.

Sunday 24th November [Overcast and milder]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still present, I saw it off Rugmoor Point this morning, as was the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina at the east end of Green Lawn, a Common Redshank Tringa totanus near the Lodge and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta sprinkled around the margins. However, the most striking thing about the visit today was the huge number of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo. I counted 193 from the Lodge at the start of my visit and 205 later, just before I left. We haven't had anything like these numbers recently, except when the birds get flushed from Chew by fishing or sailing activities. Common Pochard Aythya ferina numbers are also building nicely now the boats are off the lake.

Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo on Tiny's Shallow © Nigel Milbourne, 2013

Monday 25th November [Sunny and cold]

The cold spell has brought a few Goosanders Mergus merganser in. I saw 2 pairs of adults and an adult ♀ with the ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator at the dam end. The Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo fest is gathering momentum, I counted a record 344 today, way in excess of the previous highest count of 282 made in freezing conditions of December 2010. There were 2 Dunlins Calidris alpina at Tiny's Shallow, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Green Lawn, the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina at the east end of Green Lawn, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Rugmoor Bay and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Having mentioned the build-up of Common Pochards Aythya ferina yesterday, I decided to have a quick count, and reached a total of 257 excluding Butcombe Bay. The adult ♂ Aythya hybrid was still present and clearly the bird I'd first noticed on the 9th November during the WeBS count (contrary to what I wrote on the 21st and have subsequently modified).

Tuesday 26th November

No news from the lake today. I was walking the SWCP from Bigbury-on-Sea to Wonwell. I saw a 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus at Wonwell Beach and a single Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta at the Bigbury end.

The water level is 62% according to the Bristol Water website.

Wednesday 27th November

Again, no news from the lake today. I'll have news tomorrow. I walked the SWCP again, this time from Mothecombe to Noss Mayo in Devon. We had great views of a Peregrine Falco peregrinus on a rock, a few Ravens Corvus corax and lots and lots of Eurasian Stonechats Saxicola torquata on coastal furze.

Thursday 28th November [Overcast and cool]

It doesn't look like there's been too much change since I went walking. The ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator was with his adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser partner off the Spillway, and an adult ♂ Goosander was on the dam until flushed by walkers. The 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina was still at the east end of Green Lawn, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Peg's Point and there were 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered about. Huge numbers of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo remain on the lake, though I didn't count them, and there were 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with one of the groups of Canada Geese Branta canadensis on Holt Farm.

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator, Spillway © Nigel Milbourne, 2013

I went down to check the gull roost this evening, which was fairly sizeable by Blagdon standards, with many more Common Gulls Larus canus than usual. I didn't count any gulls but did count 203 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge.

We had a wardens meeting last night, hosted by Bristol Water, at which several of us gave brief updates on what has been going on at the various lakes. It was especially interesting to hear Terry Bond talk about Barrow Reservoirs, which he has been visiting for 40+ years. He was saying that there has been a reduction in gull numbers there, partly he thinks due to the cessation of use of the open filter beds, but also because of the considerable disturbance caused by engineering works on #3 reservoir over the last year. It occurred to me that his loss might be Blagdons gain, and it might possibly explain the upsurge in numbers of roosting Herring Gulls Larus argentatus here. I have been recording ringed birds that have previously been seen there.

Friday 29th November [Cold and mainly overcast]

It had the feel of autumn turning to winter today, with most of the leaves off the trees and a cold north wind blowing across the lake. There wasn't much change among the less common birds with the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina at the east end of Green Lawn, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Peg's Point and 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scratching about. I couldn't see the ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator, but did see 5 (2♂♂) adult Goosanders Mergus merganser from the dam. All of the Northern Pintails Anas acuta moved on when the water level started to come up, so it was a nice surprise to see an adult ♂ at Top End this afternoon. When I went to the north end of the dam to look more closely at the birds in Butcombe Bay, I had a juvenile Peregrine Falco peregrinus circle low overhead and head out across the lake. The fishing season ends tomorrow.

Saturday 30th November [A beautiful cold sunny day]

It was nice to see Timsbury Nats. at the lake today and they reported a Peacock Butterfly Inachis io at Holt Bay in the sunshine. The birding served up the usual fare, the ♂ Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator was with his adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser at the head of Butcombe Bay with 2 adult ♂ Goosanders for company, the 1st-winter ♂ Red-Crested Pochard Netta rufina was off the east end of Green Lawn, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Peg's Point and there were 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. While I was scanning from Rainbow Point at around 1230 hrs, I witnessed a small movement of Northern Ravens Corvus corax all heading north over the lake as singles, pairs and a group. I counted at least 17, with one of the pairs engaging in chasing and tumbling display as they went. The 2 juvenile Peregrines Falco peregrinus that have been flying about and interacting with one another at Blagdon and the west side of Chew this autumn, also flew overhead while I was there. I also saw the adult ♂ Aythya feeding towards Top End from Rainbow Point.