BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

November 2015 News

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


Sunday 1st November [Sunshine then thick mist]

I had a quick whizz around with Mark Hynam at dusk and between us we saw 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, a record 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 19 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

Monday 2nd November [Thick fog, that cleared a little during the afternoon.]

I was at the lake by around 0930hrs this morning and, frankly, wasn't able to see a lot due to the thick fog! I was able to make out the 3 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii in the mist but couldn't count egrets of either species, much less go through the other waterfowl. I think the pair of Bewicks are probably 'Jonitor' and 'Willows'. Neither are ringed and disappointingly, they haven't brought any cygnets with them to the lake this year.

Andy Davis and Richard Mielcarek reported 4 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria (how did I miss them again?) and 36 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End mid-morning.

This afternoon another 8 Bewick's flew in from Chew Valley Lake (thanks for the call Mike Jenkins - nice to see them arrive while we were chatting on the phone). That group comprised three pairs of adults, two of which each had a cygnet with them. There were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 21 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, a Common Redshank Tringa totanus, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, and a brownhead Common Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula also on the lake, with 7 Common Snipe at Top End.

The boat angling has finished for the season but bank angling continues until the end of the month.

Tuesday 3rd November [Misty and grey]

This morning I counted an astonishing 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba before one flew off towards to Chew around 1000hrs, leaving just the 5 to early afternoon at least. The 11 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii reported yesterday were still present at Top End, as were the 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis. While scanning through the ducks at lunchtime from Rainbow Point I spotted the (probable ♀) juvenile Greater Scaup Aythya marila back in Wood Bay as well. No goldies while I was there though!

Steve Hale sent me an email this evening to add news from Dean Reeves of 15 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (I'd counted 10 earlier, without checking Butcombe Bay) and 35 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis (presumably from Top End hide where there were good-sized flocks of pipits and European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis being hassled by a juvenile ♂ Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus with white spots on it's back).

I've filled the Lodge feeders with sunflower hearts and the hatchery feeder with peanuts, so keep an eye out for birds on them if you're visiting, and let me know if you see anything unusual please.

Wednesday 4th November [Overcast, mild and still.]

New birds today included a Ruff Philomachus pugnax at Bell's Bush, a Skylark Alauda arvensis on Wookey Point (the first I've ever seen on the ground at Blagdon), and some unidentified small waders seen briefly by Richard Mielcarek that flew off from Top End. In addition, there were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, up to 20 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 11 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 1+ Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (I didn't count today), the juvenile Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and circa 250 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus (half of which flew off south over Mendip). Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that there were 15 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis at the lake today - one extra to the 14 that have been around for a while. Also, a single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus flew in from the west and joined the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

Thursday 5th November [Soggy]

News from Julia Newth at WWT Slimbridge that a ring I read as 'ZBN' on one of the adult Bewick's Swans at the lake yesterday, was fitted on him as a cygnet on 16th January 2001 at Slimbridge. He was given the name 'ByBrook' and his partner 'Keynell'. They arrived at Slimbridge over the weekend but have been at Blagdon since Monday. Today we have 2 extra adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End bringing the total to 13. There are still 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus flew off west over the dam as I arrived. The additional, 15th, Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis is still with the usual flock too. There were Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus calling at the Lodge and I counted 23 Northern Pintails Anas acuta.

March of the Great White Egrets Ardea alba, Indian Country © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

It will be interesting to see if fireworks, let off over the next few days, frighten any of the birds off the lake. I am leading a walk for BOC on Sunday morning, and although the forecast is for rain, there are currently loads of water birds to look at, so it'd be worth bringing a brolly and a telescope - you won't be disappointed, I hope! According to the Bristol Water website, the water level was 47% on 2nd November and has continued to drop since then, so most of the water birds are quite distant as a result.

Friday 6th November [More rain]

How prophetic my comments about the water level were - apparently the pumps were turned off yesterday, so there will be no more draw down this autumn. Today I added Sanderling Calidris alba (on Tiny's Shallow) to the year list, and there were 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Lodge as well. Thirteen Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta Garzetta and at least 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were still present this morning, but I couldn't find the Scaup in the rain.

At 1630 hrs I went back to Top End hide to see if I could work out where the GWEs might be going to roost. At 1750 hrs 2 flew off together over Top End, and the remaining Little Egret flew into pines at Indian Country, presumably to roost, during a really rough squall. Then between 1710-1715 hrs, I saw a Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris fly across the Top End twice (last time towards the trees along the feeder stream), until by 1730 hrs I could barely see the two remaining GWEs still feeding with Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, so I left them to it.

Saturday 7th November [Rain in the morning]

I enjoyed a really good day at Rock Village Hall in Worcs. with Robin Williams courtesy of the Wyre Forest Study Group and didn't have time to visit the lake at all today. Rare Bird Alert reported 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. Mark Hynam told me that he'd found an adult ♀ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina.

Tomorrow the BOC are visiting for a guided walk at 1000 hrs and, according to BBC weather, the rain should pass through beforehand - looking forward to it.

Sunday 8th November [Windy and overcast, then a miserable drizzle.]

I had a fun visit with BOC today, during which we saw over 50 spp. and some nice birds. Sheila Ablitt spotted an adult ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina close to the boat quay by the Lodge, and we saw the adult ♀ found yesterday off the east end of Green Lawn as well. As we headed along the south side of the lake we spotted a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rugmoor Point, a group of Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula between Rainbow and Rugmoor Points, a juvenile Greater Scaup Aythya marila in Wood Bay, where there was also a hybrid Common Pochard with a dark grey back and yellow (I think) eye. At Top End we found 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, 4+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 10 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. One of the swan families had moved on by the time we got there at lunchtime, although it may have been there early morning. I also saw that one of the adults had a darvic ring which I read as 'white BCI', but while I was scoping it, a gun or bird scarer went off very nearby putting lots of duck and some of the swans to flight. Looking through my database, I think it was more likely to be 'white BCL' a ♂ named Winkey. His new mate is Winker, and he has been coming to the lake since 2003. The water level is starting to rise now that pumping has stopped, and this will probably see many of the dabbling ducks start to move away from the lake though this may not be for a while yet, although Northern Pintail Anas acuta numbers have fallen dramatically already. During the walk we also spotted a late Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta still on the wing; my latest record at the lake in the past is 12th November 2011.

Monday 9th November [Dry, overcast and windy.]

We had 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 10 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End this morning, and the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina had found each other and were feeding off the east end of Green Lawn. New in was a single juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Shallow, a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna at Top End, and there were singles each of Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Ash Tree and Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Rugmoor. I didn't spot the Greater Scaup.

This afternoon I saw 3 Little Egrets, when I met up with Steve Yabsley of BBC Radio Bristol to record a series of interviews about Blagdon Lake, to be broadcast on his programme the week after next.

Tuesday 10th November [Overcast and breezy]

The news is much the same today, with 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (including the two families of ByBrook and Winkey), the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid (off Wood Point) for its second winter.

Wednesday 11th November [Overcast with some drizzle]

Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Mike Jenkins and Derek Angell appear to have solved the 'where do they go to roost' question when they spotted 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba roosting together at Herriott's Pool, Chew Valley Lake last night. It seems that the 3 birds present at Blagdon again today, fly there to join the 4 currently at Chew. The 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still at Top End this morning, where I took the opportunity of a spell of brighter light to get some pictures to try and identify the unringed birds from their bill patterns. I saw 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis swimming together off Burmah Road, and I'd be very surprised if there weren't 4 today - the usual wintering bird seems to prefer its own company - and the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina were feeding at the east end of Green Lawn off the corner with Holt Bay. I also spotted, when scanning for grebes, the juvenile Greater Scaup Aythya marila in Wood Bay and 2 mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. With less angling activity the wildfowl are spreading around the lake more, but with the water level rising, it does seem that many are moving on, especially Eurasian Teal Anas crecca.

Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Red Crested Pochards Netta rufina, Green Lawn © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

In front of the Lodge there were two groups of gulls that I scoped carefully, and I came across an old friend 'white J8P8' a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus ringed on 2nd May 2011 in Oslo, Norway, by the Lista Ringing Group, and noted previously by me at Blagdon in 2012 and 2014, and reported at Chew Valley Lake in 2011. This bird appears to be pretty site faithful. I also heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling over and over from the Willows around Pipe Bay.

♂ Common Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Late this afternoon, there were 6 Little Egrets at Indian Country and 2 Black-necked Grebes together at Orchard Bay along the north shore, so whether we have 3, 4 or 5 Black-neckeds I don't know. I went to a Gloucester Bat Group meeting this evening with Ken Anstey, to hear a talk by friend James Shipman on his Gib-Bats Project. Sounds like he's doing some great work out there researching the the local fauna and trying to educate the government and local bat workers, in order to protect and preserve the bats and their roosts.

Thursday 12th November [Grey and windy ahead of storm Abigail]

Scanning carefully from Rainbow Point, I was able to ascertain that there were 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis at the lake this afternoon. Other notable birds were a familiar cast of 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid. I also counted 81 Pied Wagtails Motacilla yarrellii feeding on the mud at Burmah Road and Top End alone.

Great White Egret Ardea alba & Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Bell's Bush © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Here's a curious juxtaposition of species I caught yesterday - a Great White Egret from the near continent, France perhaps, and Bewick's Swans from Siberia. If you are planning to catch up with them, don't leave it too long. We have heavy rain forecast for the next few days and I expect the Top End of the lake to fill quickly and force them to leave.

Friday 13th November [A wild day]

After carrying out a bat roost visit at Brent Knoll mid-morning, I went straight to the lake hoping for something new to have been blown in but no, there was nothing new to report. I saw 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis while scanning quickly, but it was too rough to spend ages looking for the fourth. The 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were still present. What really impressed me were the number of wildfowl crammed into Pipe Bay feeding on the weed. We will be doing the duck count on Monday, rather than tomorrow, given the horrendous weather forecast, but I expect the numbers to be well down on last months 5000+. It's already lashing down with rain as I write this on Friday evening!

News from the State of the UK Birds 2015 of ten-year trends in wintering wildfowl from 2002/3 to 2012/13: Mute Swan -6%, Bewick's Swans -8%, Canada Goose +7%, Wigeon -16%, Gadwall +20%, Teal -3%, Mallard -18%, Pintail -43%, Shoveler +1%, Pochard -41%, Tufted Duck +5%, Scaup -47%, Goldeneye -32%, Goosander +9%, Ruddy Duck -99%, Little Grebe -12%, Great Crested Grebe -25%, Cormorant -1%, Coot -16%. Of particular note are the large declines of Pintail, Pochard, Scaup, Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebes. From a Blagdon perspective the low productivity of Great Crested Grebes has been very noticeable, though the reasons are less clear. In recent years many nests have been washed out by stormy spring weather, and many nests were predated by crows and, especially, gulls - I suspect both are contributary factors to the national decline. If numbers of Pochard, Scaup and Goldeneye continue to decline so rapidly, they will go the way of our wintering Smew - a very scarce visitor these days, and a far cry from the counts of 20 seen in the winters of March 1946 and February 1947.

Saturday 14th November [Wet, very wet!]

The Bewick's Swans are high on my agenda at the moment and I thought I'd share a link to a rather nice short 5 minute film Bewick's Swan 'A Safe Haven' directed by Alex Rhodes. Anyway, to todays news. I saw 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (8 reported on Avon Birds), 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis and just the adult ♀ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. In addition to those notable species, I counted 181 Gadwall Anas strepera and 4 Northern Pintails Anas acuta.

Sunday 15th November [Dry, overcast and windy.]

No Leach's Petrels here! Just the usual cast of a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, the adult ♀ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, the juvenile (probable ♀) Greater Scaup Aythya marila and adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid. I saw 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and had a good look around with Mark Hynam this afternoon who saw 8, but we didn't spot anything else unusual. Tomorrow morning we'll be carrying out the WeBS count.

Great White Egret Ardea alba, Pipe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

I took this picture of the Great White Egret over the gate at Pipe Bay this afternoon, but despite being really careful it only allowed me one shot before flying to Green Lawn. So annoying...

Monday 16th November [Mainly overcast and dry]

A surprisingly big WeBS count this morning which included a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus, 3 Northern Pintail Anas acuta, the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the juvenile Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, 22 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii of note. Large species counts included 1426 Common Coots Fulica atra, 1062 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 908 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, 359 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and 314 Gadwall Anas strepera. There was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in the gull roost this evening. Full count details on the WeBS Page.

It was a shame the light was so bad today because when we arrived at the dam to start the count this Great White Egret was fishing close by and allowed me to get a number of shots of it:

Great White Egret Ardea alba hunting European Perch Perca fluviatilis, Cheddar Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

During the count we also saw a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus at the Inspection House where there were a number of Redwings Turdus iliacus too, circa 325 Woodpigeons Columba palumbus flew over, I found some Herb-robert Geranium robertianum in flower by Top End hide and a Hornet Vespa crabro was still flying at Butcombe Bank.

Tuesday 17th November [Rain and wind increasing as the day goes on]

The water has all but filled the Top End, and was still pouring down the feeder streams this morning. There's little change in the waterfowl species present despite the Top End looking brick-red in colour. I walked the south side in the drizzle and rain and saw 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (although another birder reported seeing 4 at Cheddar Water before I got there), 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid. I saw a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita with a flock of Long-tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus in Holt Copse on the way through, and 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Holt Bay too. I saw 3 Great White Egrets this evening, but the gulls were in a nightmare location against Spinney Point facing me, and into the wind, so virtually impossible to scan properly. Gale force winds blew in this afternoon and evening, so I shall be on site early in the morning to look for waifs and strays that might get blown in.

Wednesday 18th November [Windy. Sunny and bright to start, then showers set in.]

No change today apart from a rise in the water level. 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba were in Pipe Bay until they flew over to Butcombe Bay, where I also saw 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. There were 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis off Rugmoor Point with the 4th off North Shore, and the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina were off the east end of Green Lawn as I made my way back home for lunch, though I somehow missed them as I birded my way east along the lake during the morning. The adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid remains in Wood Bay and the 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still at Top End. While I was at Wood Bay Point, 24 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris flew west overhead and I saw 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus in front of the reeds at Home Bay again, from the boat quay.

I forgot to add that Mike Gillett told me he'd seen a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point and a (European) Nuthatch Sitta europaea on the feeder at the Hatchery.

During the morning I saw a curious gull that looked to all intents and purposes like a juvenile/1st-winter Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans sitting on the water among Common and Black-headed Gulls off Wood Bay Point. The bill was long, black and appeared to droop, and the head was small with a dark eye and the neck appeared long when it was sitting on the water. It was long-winged and very distinctive. However, I am not claiming it was one, I didn't get any photos or see it in flight, and the viewing conditions were less than perfect to say the least, but I thought I'd put it out there in case anyone else spots it either at Blagdon, or in the Chew roost - perhaps, they'll get some feather detail to clarify its i.d. one way or the other.

Tonight, Dr Baz Hughes (Head of Conservation, WWT Slimbridge) is giving a talk about the 'Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper' project to Bath RSPB at The Bath Function Rooms, Green Park Station, Bath BA1 1JB. Start time is 19.30hrs, and doors open at 19.00hrs. Cost £2 for local members and £3 for visitors. Children are welcomed free. Check out Spoonievision!

Thursday 19th November [More rain]

I only had time for two quick visits today, morning and evening, but managed to see most of the notable species. We still have 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 4 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, the pair of adult Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta. A large ♀ Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus was hunting around the lake this morning, and I saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow. This evening there was a much larger gull roost than I counted earlier in the week, but I didn't pick out anything noteworthy, and there was no sign of the hybrid Aythya in Wood Bay.

Friday 20th November [Mainly dry and windy]

Does anyone have any news from the lake today? I didn't visit because Bill English asked me if I'd like to join a WIMPS walk from Steart to Shurton and back. It was a bracing stroll but for the most part the weather was kind. Lunch was taken at The Babbling Brook, and I think we walked about 11 miles, during which I logged some 48 species.

I can't visit the lake until next Tuesday, so if anyone wants to send me their sightings I'd be happy to post them to share with readers. I'd be particularly interested to hear if the Bewick's Swans are still present each day. Thanks.

Saturday 21st November

John Jarvis sent me news: "4 Great White Egrets and 10 Little Egrets, mixing happily", but admitted he didn't look for the Bewick's Swans. Thanks John.

Late news from Mark Hynam as follows: 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (1 Top End, 2 in Home Bay), 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 1 pair of Red Crested Pochard Netta rufina, 11 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, 1 Redwing Turdus iliacus, 3 (1♂, 2♀) Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 1 juv. ♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and 200-300 Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris around  Rainbow Point. Thanks Mark.

Mike Gillett sent me this picture of a ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina taken from the dam on Thursday 19th Nov. which I suspect is the regular bird, but it would be worth looking to see if the plumage matches in order to be sure it wasn't a new one. Thanks for the record Mike.

♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, Dam © Mike Gillett, 2015

Sunday 22nd November

More from Mark Hynam today: 1 Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the lodge, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, pair of Red Crested Pochard Netta rufina (east corner of Green Lawn), 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 1 Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus on the dam wall, and 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Wood Bay. "Water level still rising." Mike Gillett added these additional sightings between 1130-1515hrs: 3 Great White Egrets, 2♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, possibly several hundred Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and of particular note were a small flock of mixed Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs and Bramblings F. montifringilla (about 6 of each) at Butcombe gate entrance. Thanks guys.

Monday 23rd November

News from the ever reliable Mark Hynam: "Only 11 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were on the lake when I got there, then at 1515 hrs they left in 3 groups, circled around the lake then headed towards Bristol / Chew Valley. Two birds returned to the lake then, as I drove out, 4 more swans came back in - could not see if they were Bewick's, so don't know what you will find in the morning." Other birds included 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 4 (1♂, 3♀) Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 11 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the pair of Red Crested Pochard Netta rufina, but no Great White Egrets. Thanks Mark.

Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii © Mark Hynam, 2015

Tuesday 24th November [Cool and breezy]

Well, it was nice to be back on my patch this afternoon. I managed to find 13 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (11 in Rugmoor Bay and 2 at Top End), 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis together along the North Shore in Orchard Bay late afternoon, only the ♀ Red Crested Pochard Netta rufina off Green Lawn (despite searching for the ♂, I didn't spot him), 10 well scattered Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus in Butcombe Bay, and the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid in Wood Bay. So, not a lot has changed during the few days I couldn't visit, though I think there are more Common Pochard Aythya ferina on the lake now. I put more food in the feeders, so keep an eye open for Brambling underneath those at the Lodge, you never know they might get attracted in - I know I'll be looking for them for my PWC list!

Wednesday 25th November [Less cold but still breezy]

This mornings visit turned up much the same cast of characters that have been present for a week or two. I could only see 9 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (one family and a singleton have moved on), 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, the ♀ Red Crested Pochard Netta rufina, 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and I counted 242 Common Pochards Aythya ferina which confirms the increase I mentioned yesterday (cf. 108 on the Nov. WeBS count). The adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid was still in Wood Bay. Common Gull Larus canus numbers have been building steadily for the last 2 weeks or so, and there were certainly more than a hundred in front of the Lodge, though I didn't count them.

Thursday 26th November [Overcast most of the day]

I didn't visit the lake today, in favour of a trip to WWT Slimbridge with Robin Williams and our cameras. I thought I'd share a couple of images from the day in lieu of receiving some news from the lake. We had a good day and saw a Marsh Harrier, a couple of Peregrines out on the Dumbles harassing the waders, and I was especially pleased to see the 5 Greenland White-fronted Geese (thanks to Trevor Riddle for pointing us towards the Kingfisher Hide).

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus & Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Ruff Philomachus pugnax © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Steve Heaven at WWT contacted me to say yesterday's missing Bewick's Swans had gone to Slimbridge - though I'm not sure which birds were involved yet.

Friday 27th November [Mainly cloudy]

We are down to just 7 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii today, with the only family left being ByBrook and Keynell with their cygnet. So Tinkie, Winker and their cygnet have gone. I counted 3 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, and 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, but couldn't see either Red-crested Pochard. At the Lodge I saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, and an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus with a darvic 'dark blue G:P' (ringed in Bristol during July 2004, and with several sightings at BL since at least 2011). While chatting to Mike Gillett a (presumed) Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret flew overhead calling, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was hunkered down next to a stone at the south end of the dam.

If you're interested, the 5 radio pieces I recorded with BBC Radio Bristol's Steve Yabsley is on the radio iPlayer having been broadcast each evening this week on his show. I heard them by going to the BBC home page, clicking on radio, finding Local Radio on the left side and clicking that, selecting BBC Radio Bristol from the list, and scrolling down the resulting page to Listen Again Steve Yabsley. Monday to Thursdays interviews started about 1 hr 35 mins into each programme.

Saturday 28th November [Cold and wet]

I was at a Somerset Bat Group meeting for much of the day and when I got home it was cold and raining, so I wasn't terribly motivated to spend much time at the lakeside, though I did have a quick look in the gloom. I saw 5 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Sunday 29th November [A wild day with gale force winds and occasional rain]

It was mid-afternoon before I ventured down to the lake, and despite having a fairly careful look around the conditions made it very difficult - so much so, I didn't spot any Black-necked Grebes. However, there were still 5 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii on site, who I assume to have been ByBrook, Keynell and their cygnet at Rainbow Point, with another pair of adults at Flower Corner. New in were a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam wall (the first of the winter), and counts of other species included 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and just 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

There were no anglers out on the banks today, unsurprisingly, and tomorrow is the last day of the season, but with the gales set to continue tomorrow afternoon, the best of the day will be early morning, so I'll probably pop down for a good look around then. I've been notified that the fisheries staff may be out in a boat on several dates in December and January, and we have agreed that the weekends and Mondays will not be included to allow wildfowl (especially Common Pochards) to come to Blagdon away from the disturbance of sailing and fishing activities at Chew and Cheddar. We've also got an understanding that if a rare bird is discovered during this period, I will notify the fisheries staff and within reason they will avoid disturbing it. As usual, if you come birding during the fishing close season, be prepared to find the gates closed. If they are open, you may drive in, but don't walk away from your car in case the gates get closed. We have a Wardens and Lake Users Committee meeting this coming week, so if there's anything you'd like me to raise with Bristol Water on your behalf, please get in touch using my contact email.

Monday 30th November [Another wild and wet day]

I had a good look around today and saw the 5 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, and several small groups of Stock Dove Columba oenas that I assume must be on the move. A total of 52 spp. which, given the conditions, made for a very satisfactory, if rather damp, walk.