BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

November 2014 News

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


The 2013 Avon Bird Report is now available - a 'must read' for all local birders. It has 184 printed pages, eight pages of photos, articles on Waders in Avon, the Fregetta petrel, the Bonaparte' s Gull, Ospreys and Skuas at the reservoirs, as well as the usual items and a very fine photo of a Peregrine on the cover. Reports are available from: Harvey Rose, Arncliffe, Coast Road, Walton Bay, Clevedon, BS21 7FW. They cost £9.50 including postage, and cheques should be made out to "AOG".

Available now the latest DVD by Nigel Tucker, called ‘Birds in the West’ it is a collection of interesting, unusual and rare birds which have recently occurred in the Bristol and surrounding area. Featuring 21 species of birds it runs for 60 minutes and costs £10.00. Click here for details. It includes Lesser Scaup, Squacco Heron and Long-tailed Duck videod at Blagdon.


Saturday 1st November

I popped down to the lake before I went to the Worcestershire Entomology Day at Rock Village Hall with Robin Williams. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay, but no waders on any of the exposed points. More Common Woodpigeons Columba palumbus were flying south overhead (circa 200 in the short time I was there). Melanie Patch spotted a Peregrine Falco peregrinus later in the morning; only the second or third sighting at the lake this year that I've heard about. Mark Hynam texted to say he'd seen 2 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge. Apparently, a stunt plane flew down the lake and caused mayhem - the shanks obviously didn't appreciate the show and left!

Sunday 2nd November [Showers and sunny spells]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay late morning as usual. Also noted were 1+ Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus at Cheddar Water, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and brownhead Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End during a brief visit. Late this afternoon, I counted 18 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, which was a bit puzzling until I found the extra drake at the Lodge, bringing the total to 19. There wasn't anything unusual in the gull roost, but I did see the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Monday 3rd November [Cooler, but mainly sunny.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, there were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 21 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and at least 12 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus also present today. Now the boats are off the water, the Top End is a mass of water birds and I don't envy Lucy Delve who will coming to count the Common Coots Fulica atra on Saturday for the monthly WeBS.

Tuesday 4th November [Heavy showers and much cooler than of late]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis remains in Holt Bay most of the time, although I did see it off Rainbow Point this morning. There were also 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta present. When I went back to the lake this evening to check the gull roost, I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I spent most of the rest of the day down at Steart Marshes with Robin Williams. There was no sign of the Pallid Harrier, but I did see a Great White Egret on the way out to 'the breach', and 498 Golden Plovers in a field by the main car park (thanks to Tim McGrath for the count).

The current water level is 66% (per Bristol Water website).

Double rainbow over Rainbow Point © Paul Williams, 2014.

Wednesday 5th November [Sunshine]

A late afternoon visit saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a lone Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa in front of the Lodge (the 133rd species of the year). There were an amazing 18 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis in Long Bay, so it will be interesting to see how many we'll count on Saturday. Our top count in 2014 has been 22, for what is a species that has really declined since the three figure counts of the early 'noughties' (e.g. 129 in Aug. 2003 and 98 in Aug. 2004).

Thursday 6th November [Overcast and breezy]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was feeding in Holt Bay until 1335 hrs at least, and I spotted a Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Fishing Lodge, plus the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam and at least 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered about the lake. There have been hardly any records of Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at the lake this year, for some reason, but I spotted a 1st-winter at Wookey Point over lunchtime. There have been lots of flocks of Redwings Turdus iliacus flying over the village and lake today, in just about every conceivable direction.

Friday 7th November [Heavy showers]

I went to Bath this morning to pick up some wood to make more Kent Bat Boxes, but did see the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point in a quick look around beforehand. It didn't look like there were any storm-driven strays blown in last night, but I'll have a more thorough look later.

Bewick's Swans have begun arriving at WWT Slimbridge and in the east of England, so I'm hopeful we may see some in the next few days. Mute Swan Cygnus olor numbers are still relatively good at the lake, so they must be finding plenty of weed to feed on.

Saturday 8th November [Miserably wet]

The water was right across the road by the south end of the dam and in Park Lane this morning, there was even a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea feeding along the road! We decided to postpone the WeBS count given the conditions, but I went for a look around anyway. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was feeding on the Wood Bay (east) side of Rainbow Point and I spotted 3 adult (2♂ and a ♀) Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina feeding off the south side of Rugmoor Point (best viewed distantly from Rainbow Point). Brick red water is pouring into the lake, colouring the water, and the level is rising.

Sunday 9th November [Bright and sunny]

The WeBS team carried out the count today (click here for details) and we saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay and 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina between Wood Bay and Butcombe Bay. Looking at them in decent light today, I believe there are 3 adults (2♂ and a ♀) and a ♀/juvenile which, when we saw it, was keeping itself to itself (it may also have been present yesterday). We saw the adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 'blue 34' (nasal saddle) in Home Bay. I don't wish to start hares racing, but I picked up a large Diver sp. in flight going west along the lake before it came back around and flew towards Chew. Sadly for me, the only scope view I had was of it going away and I just couldn't pick it up as it came back, either in my scope or binoculars. The time was about 1340 hrs or so. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, I had a ♂ Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis on the bank at Burmah Road viewed distantly from Bell's Bush. While I was waiting for the rest of the team to join me, all that group of birds flew off the bank. We couldn't relocate it. I saw the vertical breast stripe on the one side (it was 3/4 face on, asleep) and can say I didn't see a horizontal white stripe, but obviously didn't see any facial detail to rule out the possibility of hybridisation. The water level has come up overnight to the point where the island in front of the Lodge has been flooded again, which is very disappointing.

Other notable birds included Skylark and Northern Raven calling in flight, and we saw at least 5 Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta and a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae still on the wing. There were also quite a few Hornets Vespa crabro flying around ivy along Butcombe Bank - presumably looking for prey items.

Monday 10th November [Sunny spells]

I spent all day with Ken Anstey fabricating a hot box for the bat house at the lake, and although I was at the lakeside I didn't do any birding at all. Bristol Water fisheries warden dropped in and let me know that there was a diver sp. in front of Woodford Lodge. I rang Richard Mielcarek who went to have a look, and found what I assume to be the juvenile Great Northern Diver Gavia immer that flew off from Cheddar Reservoir yesterday, and which the Blagdon WeBS team saw briefly in flight yesterday heading towards Chew. I'll have a look for the Green-winged Teal again tomorrow.

Tuesday 11th November [Wet and windy]

I visited the lake this afternoon and was surprised at the transformation since the WeBS count on Sunday. The water level has continued to rise and is very coloured, especially at Top End. I'd estimate there were less than half the number of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca that I counted on Sunday. Paul Williams looked for the putative Green-winged Teal yesterday without any luck, and I didn't spot it this afternoon either - could it have been the bird reported at WWT Slimbridge yesterday, I wonder? The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, and 3 adult (2♂ and a ♀) Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina were in Wood Bay, but I couldn't find the juvenile in the miserable conditions. There were 6 (3♂) Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula in Rugmoor Bay, and I noticed some elements of display among the adult drakes.

Wednesday 12th November [Sunshine and showers]

I had a trundle around this afternoon and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay as usual, but also spotted the juvenile-type Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina there too. The 3 adult (2♂ and a ♀) Red-crested Pochards were off Wood Bay Point (look towards Rugmoor Point), where they've been feeding since their arrival. Other sightings included a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis and 12 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Thursday 13th November [Miserable. Wet and windy.]

I visited the lake late morning and the wind was howling from the east down the lake, creating white horses and waves up the dam wall. When I got back from Bath early afternoon, the wind had turned to the south and I met Keith Vinicombe who'd been watching the adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, and the 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, which were all back together off the south side of Rugmoor Point. While we were chatting, a flock of 54 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew south over the lake. It wasn't a day for time outside, and I spent most of it in the garage putting the finishing touches to 10 new Kent Bat Boxes that I've built for the lakeside. These will provide more roosting sites for the small and medium bat species in the copses which have few 'potential roost features' (PRFs).

Friday 14th November [Sunny and warm]

I don't have any bird news from the lake today. I'll be looking around early tomorrow, so hope to update the bird news by mid-morning.

I was at the lake all day working with Ken Anstey to finish building the roost boxes in the Bat House, which we did by early afternoon. Then, after lunch, we went back to move 3 Schwegler boxes to what I hope will be more favourable positions. These have yet to be used as far as I can tell, so I'm hoping the move to sunnier positions will mean bats find them more attractive.

Saturday 15th November [Dense fog]

The fog was way too dense to see anything other than birds close to the bank which, thankfully, the adult Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was at Rainbow Point around 1000 hrs. I peered hard through the murk to see if I could pick out the Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, but it was hopeless. Mark Hynam managed to pick out 3 off Rugmoor Point at about 1030 hrs briefly before they disappeared back into the fog. Water is flowing in at Pipe Bay and the level is rising fast.

Sunday 16th November [Mainly overcast with some sun]

The cast of thousands had the same notables today, with the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point and 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina on the south side of Rugmoor Point (best viewed from Rainbow). The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on Green Lawn and a number of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were on Rugmoor Point, but I was unable to count them in the vegetation. I counted at least 6 (3♂♂) Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula along the North Shore between Spinney Point and Rugmoor.

Monday 17th November [Miserable, cool and wet]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Rainbow Point and 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina on the south side of Rugmoor Point as they have been for the last few days. I noticed a grey-backed Aythya over at Rugmoor Bay which I went round to check, but it was an adult ♂ Common Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid - I presume the usual wintering individual. A flock of circa 50 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis flew over while I was scanning from Rainbow Point too.

Tuesday 18th November [Sunny with a chilly NNE breeze]

A couple of hours at lunchtime turned up the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Holt Bay, 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina (a pair off the south side of Rugmoor Point and a pair off Wood Bay Point), an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser in the mouth of Butcombe Bay and a squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus at the Lodge. While looking through the masses of waterfowl at Top End, I heard a (presumed Lesser) Redpoll Carduelis cabaret fly over calling at Bell's Bush.

The gull roost in the evening didn't contain any interesting birds, except for a single Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus which was already sporting a full (breeding plumage) brown hood.

Wednesday 19th November [Mainly sunny before rain at dusk]

A mid-morning visit saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay, and 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina between Wood Bay and Rugmoor Points. I put up 4 of the Kent bat boxes I made last week, before driving over to help with a bat roost visit in Chew Magna this afternoon.

Thursday 20th November [Mainly sunny with a cool easterly breeze]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was on the east side of Rainbow Point again this afternoon, and the 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina between Wood Bay and Rugmoor Points. On Holt/Lag Farms I saw 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis among the Canadas Branta canadensis, and 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

I spent the rest of the afternoon putting up 4 more Kent bat boxes with Roy Curber, before checking the gull roost at dusk, in which I spotted an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis among the throng.

Friday 21st November [Miserable, grey and wet.]

I met a group at Green Lawn this afternoon who reported the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos flew from there into Long Bay. Also still present were the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Rainbow Point and 4 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina between Wood Bay and Rugmoor Points. As dusk fell, I had a look through the quite extensive gull roost and found 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis, and a group of Common Gulls Larus canus, which is unusual for Blagdon as they normally fly off to Chew to roost after bathing.

Saturday 22nd November [Mainly sunny and still]

As usual, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Rainbow Point and the 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina had relocated to Holt Bay, where they seemed to be finding lots of weed to feed on.

Sunday 23rd November [Sunny and still]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news.

Monday 24th November [Sunny and still]

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam early this afternoon, and the 4 Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina in Holt Bay, with the heads of the drakes almost day-glow in the sunshine. I had another look at the two juvenile/female types as they were much closer than hitherto. The bills of both birds are almost black, though one has more red on it than the other. I still think the bird that tends to spend time on its own is a bird of the year. Many of the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and Mute Swans Cygnus olor have left the lake with the rising water (although two swans have been predated during the last week). So, I was a bit concerned when I couldn't find the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in its usual haunts. However, I did eventually spot it off Wood Bay Point. The lake is a mass of feeding Common Coots Fulica atra, Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and rising numbers of Common Pochard Aythya ferina - it's quite impressive now that they've spread out.

I forgot to add an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis noted as the roost assembled, and a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta in the late sunshine.

Tuesday 25th November [Cold and grey with light rain all day]

Richard Mielcarek rang to say he'd found some Red-crested Pochards at Chew Valley Lake, and sure enough there was no sign of the Blagdon birds today. However, we're still hanging on to the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis which had returned to the shallow water off Rainbow Point. It was a pretty miserable day, so I only had a short walk, but couldn't relocate the Chiffchaff sp. that I heard yesterday.

Wednesday 26th November [Murky, cold and grey.]

A Little Egret Egretta garzetta was feeding along Butcombe Bank, thanks to the lack of dog walkers, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was keeping lone fisherman, Alan Herring, company at Rainbow Point. The 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis remain in the dwindling goose flock and 12 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus seem to have settled for the duration on Holt/Lag Farm fields.

Thursday 27th November [Sunny to start then clouding over]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, probably due to anglers fishing on Rainbow Point, and a large flock of gulls flew in off the fields to bathe just before midday, which included an adult Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus. At least 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus squealed indignation at each other from Pipe Bay reeds while I was at the Lodge.

Friday 28th November [Milder with a strong NE breeze]

When I arrived at about 1530 hrs there was already a huge gull roost (by Blagdon standards), which surprised me somewhat. Perhaps, it was related to the unusual wind direction? Anyway, I spent ages going through it gull by gull but disappointingly I couldn't find anything unusual at all. However, the growing number of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus that appear to be roosting at Blagdon is a real sea change compared to their relative scarcity even as recently as a decade ago. I just about had enough light afterwards to superficially check the rest of the waterfowl and found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rainbow Point. The small flock of a dozen or so Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus remain faithful to the reseeded field on the east side of Holt/Lag Farms, but I didn't see the Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canadas B. canadensis today. Additionally, I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 'squeal' at Burmah Road.

Saturday 29th November [Fog early, then lovely sunshine.]

When the fog cleared, I had a look around in the beautiful sunshine and quickly spotted 2♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina in Pipe Bay. One was an obvious adult but the other was a probable 1st-winter, with lots of brown feathering on the flanks and black patches on the bill. Curiously, it had its tongue hanging from the corner of its bill all the time I watched it. I remember seeing an adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula at Herriott's Pool, CVL, years ago with a similar problem. Anyway, if you want to see them, the best place to look would be from the Bat House gate between the dam and Lodge entrance. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off the east corner of Green Lawn in the entrance of Holt Bay.

Sunday 30th November [Fog early then a lovely sunny day]

It was a lovely sunny day for the last day of the fishing season. As of tomorrow birders may find the entrance gates closed but, if they're not and you venture in by car, don't park and leave it because you may get locked in. Anyway, to the birding. It took a while to spot the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis which was feeding off Rugmoor Point. The only other birds worthy of note were a Little Egret Egretta garzetta which flew in from the west over the dam and a couple of squealing Water Rails Rallus aquaticus heard while checking the gull roost at The Lodge.