BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

November 2016 News


Tuesday 1st November [Foggy and cooler than of late]

The 4 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii are back from their visit to Chew, and we still have 20 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 3+ Greater Scaup Aythya marila (I didn't really set out to count them this morning), an adult ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and 11+ widely scattered Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I also heard several Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over in the mist. I made a late afternoon count of 34 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea too. Update on the Greater Scaup, Chris and Trees Stone saw at least 6 today. Thanks Chris.

The best viewpoints for seeing most of the waterfowl currently are either Wood Bay Point or Rainbow Point.

Wednesday 2nd November [Sunny and cool]

I was at the lakeside for a meeting early this morning, then birded the south side. As predicted, with the boats off now, the waterfowl have started to spread themselves around. So much so, I didn't bother to try to count the egrets, although both species were present. I spent time looking through the Aythya ducks and counted 8 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, saw the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 4 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, a juvenile Peregrine Falco peregrinus, a Dunlin Calidris alpina, and heard several Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita singing by the Lodge.

I focussed on the Bewick's too and finally discovered that, as expected, 'Winkey' is one of the birds at the lake, wearing a white darvic inscribed 'BCL'. I notified Julia Newth and Steve Heaven at WWT Slimbridge, and enquired about breeding success this season and Julia emailed back "our colleagues from the Nenetskiy Zapovednik in the arctic told us that they hardly saw any cygnets in their study area this summer....Not many cygnets seen so far in the Baltic states but early days so fingers crossed....."

This afternoon while going through the Aythya flock for the umpteenth time today, I picked out an adult ♂ Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris (presumably the one that was at Chew) feeding against the north shore opposite Rainbow Point. Our first at 'Blaggers' since 2011. Also, there were 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 11 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, as well as Northern Ravens Corvus corax overhead and a flock of 18 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina at Green Lawn.

Thursday 3rd November [Sunny then clouding over. Cool.]

I looked for the Ring-necked Duck for several hours (1000-1415hrs) without finding it. Perhaps it's gone back to Chew? Still present were 8 (5 1st-w ♂, 2 adult ♀ and a juv.) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 4 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and new in was a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis. Additionally, I noted an adult ♂ Scaup-like Aythya hybrid, and a probable adult ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid among the ducks, and saw a maximum of 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita of note.

Friday 4th November [Rain then brightening up after lunch]

Another day of high drama at Blagdon Lake! Two women, who were trying to walk across Rugmoor Bay around lunchtime became stuck up to their thighs in the mud. What were they thinking? The emergency services came out to rescue them, including a Welsh Police chopper that landed on Rugmoor Point. Needless to say, that put paid to the birding...

I had already had a quick look around at 0930 hrs from Rainbow Point and saw the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a couple of Greater Scaup Aythya marila, before meeting with Rupert Higgins to survey for Shoreweed Littorella uniflora, which we found in Butcombe Bay. Blagdon Lake is the only place where it is recorded in the Bristol Region, I believe, having been discovered in 1922. Rupert and I saw 3 Dunlins Calidris alpina at the Lodge and 3 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End while surveying, which puzzled me because the swans weren't present earlier, and if they were the usual birds, then why weren't there 4 of them? I spoke with Richard Mielcarek on the phone and he told me later that one was flying around at Chew calling, which headed off towards Blagdon, although we didn't see it. Anyway, after all the drama of the rescue, there were none at the lake.

Late afternoon update: I found 6 (3 1st-w ♂ and 3 adult ♀) Greater Scaup towards dusk in front of the Lodge, and I'd seen the juvenile bird earlier, so there were at least 7 on site today. The 2 Red-crested Pochards had also relocated in front of the Lodge, where there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and 2 adult Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula. Top End had 10 Little Egrets by this time.

Saturday 5th November [Cold breezy and sunny]

I was at the excellent Worcester Entomologists Day today with friend Robin Williams, where I had the opportunity to buy a signed copy of the new 'Field Guide to the Bees of GB & Ireland' by Steven Falk, which I'm sure will prove to be immensely useful going forward.

News from the lake came courtesy of Mark Hynam who saw: 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 (♂&) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 35 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, 146 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 3 Northern Ravens Corvus corax, and 50+ Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.

Sunday 6th November [Sunny with a bitter NNW wind]

There are many fewer waterfowl since the helicopter on Friday and firework night. However, Mark Hynam and I saw 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 11 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 (1st-w ♂& juv) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 39 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, 2 (adult ♂ & ♀/juv) Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and after Mark had gone, an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus appeared briefly in front of the Lodge. Also in front of the Lodge was an adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus yellow '2KXT' which was ringed by the North Thames Gull Group as a nestling on 26th June 2015 at Fishers Green in Essex. It was subsequently reported at Shawell, Lutterworth in Leicestershire on 26th October 2015, and then today at Blagdon.

Monday 7th November [Sunny with a bitter northerly wind]

Still fewer waterfowl today, with no sign of the Black-necked Grebe. There were 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 15 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a 1st-w ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the Scaup-a-like ♂ Aythya hybrid, and 41 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea. I saw 2 adult winter Dunlins Calidris alpina at Top End but they only stopped over briefly, and while I was watching a Bewick's Swan from Bell's Bush there was a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling continually nearby, but I just could not get a visual on it. I also heard my first Fieldfare Turdus pilaris of the autumn too. Word seems to have got around that the boats are off the lake and this morning I counted 135 Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo (displaced by Pike angling activities at Chew?). Mike Gillett put me onto the 1st-winter ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata that was at Long Bay this afternoon, and I saw an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus Blue 'G:P' [2004] again in front of the Lodge.

I've downloaded a couple of pictures of the dramatic events of last Friday:

Being pulled out of the mud, Rugmoor Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

NPAS Eurocopter EC135P2+, G-NWOI, built in 2010 and based at St Athan (South & East Wales Air Support Unit) © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

All emergency services and the National Police Air Service chopper from South Wales in attendance - I wonder how much this foolishness cost the taxpayer?

Tuesday 8th November [Overcast and cold]

It's a case of cut and paste: 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 15 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 5 (2 1st-w ♂, adult ♀ and 2 juvs) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and the Scaup-a-like ♂ Aythya hybrid. There was an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge mid-morning and 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba flew in from Chew (4 headed back that way before I left at around 1400 hrs). I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca briefly on Butcombe Bank and heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling at Rugmoor Gate in the hedge.

I spent some time watching the Bewick's Swans again, hoping to get ring details on more of them, but I can say that the family of four and most of the others do not appear to have any. I'd also hoped to photograph their bill patterns, but when they rest it's on Rugmoor Point among the Cormorants and are too far away. Frustrating!

Wednesday 9th November [Sunny and a bit milder]

Adult winter ♂ Long-tailed Ducks, Pipe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Adult winter ♂ Long-tailed Ducks, Pipe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Meadow Pipit bathing, Pipe Bay & ♂ Red-crested Pochards, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

If you need no better reason to come birding at Blagdon, then the 2 adult ♂ Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis are worth the visit alone. They are best viewed from the dam or over the gate in Park Lane. Information of previous sightings are on the Long-tailed Duck page. We don't get to see them very often locally, and even then they are not usually sparkling birds like these two. I also saw 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 5 (2 1st-w ♂, 2 adult ♀ and a juv) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 21 Dunlin Calidris alpina, an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus and counted 62 Mute Swans Cygnus olor and 352 Canada Geese Branta canadensis before having to go to a meeting. Late update: The Long-tailed Ducks were present until dark in front of the Fishing Lodge. The Dunlin count was difficult to ascertain because I saw 12 flying west towards the dam then going high first thing, and 9 at Top End shortly after, while Paul Williams counted 17 at Top End late afternoon. There may have been as many as 29 I suppose.

Thursday 10th November [Sunny and cool]

An early morning recce to look for the Long-tailed Ducks, but no sign today unfortunately. Still present are 11 (9 adults & 2 juvs.) Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 4 (1st-w ♂, 3 adult ♀) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 8 Dunlin Calidris alpina and the Scaup-a-like ♂ Aythya hybrid, plus Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata noted.

Friday 11th November [Sunny and cool]

A new family (3 juveniles) of Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii arrived overnight, bringing the total to 16, and Steve Heaven (WWT Slimbridge) sent me the following email: "Look out for By-Brook (ZBN) and mate Keynell with 3 cygnets, arrived at Slimbridge yesterday but not seen today, they do tend to visit Blagdon at the start of the season." It seems quite likely that the new family will turn out to be them, although I couldn't see rings on either adult for sure.

I spent much of the day beside the lake birding my way from Top End back towards the Lodge and saw 6 Dunlin Calidris alpina, 3 (1st-w ♂, adult ♀ & juv.) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 32 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 17+ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, and was just going through the gulls by the Lodge when Andy Davis phoned to say there was a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica along the Indian Country Bank found by Richard Hastings. I assume this must have dropped in around lunchtime and becomes the 11th site record - so a nice find (see Bar-tailed Godwit page). Thanks to Andy and Richard for the heads-up.

Ringed birds today included:

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Red 'AW'. Details sent to the BTO.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus juvenile ♂, Red 'J+Z'. Ringed in Bristol 30th June 2016 by Peter Rock.

Herring Gull adult Dark Blue 'JBB'. Peter Stewart of Severn Estuary Gull Group ringed the bird on 30th Jan 2010 as a 4th year at Stoke Orchard, Glos. Previously seen at Blagdon on 21st Oct. 2013.

Herring Gull adult Dark Blue 'G:P' [2004]. A regular bird at Blagdon.

Saturday 12th November [Mild and overcast - damp and autumnal]

Birding from 1030-1300 hrs I saw 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and can confirm that the new arrivals yesterday were By-brook and Keynell with their brood, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 7 Dunlin Calidris alpina, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 36 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and 12 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago which flew out of the marginal vegetation when I just caught up with a young couple before they tried to walk across Rugmoor Bay where the emergency incident took place on the 4th. I didn't see any Scaup up to that point.

Sunday 13th November [Mild and sunny]

I had a look around this morning and found the 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii and 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina were still present, despite the continuing fall in waterfowl numbers. The Dunlin Caldris alpina count had gone up to 8, and I saw a 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata. At the Lodge I spotted 2 new ringed gulls in the throng:

Adult Common Gull Larus canus Red 'A10H' left tarsus. Ringed in Northern Germany in 2011.

Adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus Orange '261A' left right tarsus. Kevin Sayer replied: "Many thanks for your sighting. This bird was ringed at Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire as a chick on 18th June 2015. It was subsequently seen on the Axe Estuary in Devon on 5th Mar. 2016."

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Blue 'CNK' reported by me on 25th Sept 2016 was ringed by Severn Estuary Gull Group as age at least 4 years, sex unknown, on 15th Dec 2007 near Wingmore Farm, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire, UK.

One Great White Egret Ardea alba was reported on Avon Birds later (per Keith Williams I suspect).

Monday 14th November [Fairly windy and dismal]

The team carried out the WeBS count this morning in difficult conditions and with a marauding Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus causing lots of disturbance. When we arrived on Butcombe Bank, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba flew in, but they thought better of it and flew off east and weren't seen again. Nice surprises included the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica feeding in Butcombe Bay (presumably Friday's bird), and a ♀ Garganey Anas querquedula in Holt Bay. The Bar-wit is so pale it's quite difficult to pick out when feeding over wet mud. The ususal cast of notable birds were still present and included 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, an adult ♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 Dunlin Caldris alpina, circa. 350 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata. Among the bigger counts were 1464 Common Coots Fulica atra, 1041 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, 440 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, and 243 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeatus. We were just finishing off when the drizzle started blowing horizontally onto the back of cold legs. So, I plan to count the Northern Pintail tomorrow. Count totals on the WeBS page.

The lake is very nearly 10 3/4 feet below the old top level and still dropping slowly.

Tuesday 15th November [Low cloud and drizzle]

The (probable adult) Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was feeding in Pipe Bay this morning until flushed by an angler walking along the water's edge between the Lodge and the dam. Viewing was difficult again, but there were 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, an adult ♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 5 Dunlin Caldris alpina, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata still present. I also counted 13 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 10 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea.

Wednesday 16th November [Overcast then rain]

The Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica was in Butcombe Bay again this morning (present for it's 6th day) when Mervyn Pearce and I had a look from the dam. We also saw 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos while we were there too. When we birded along the south side of the lake I was taken with the unusual distribution of birds. Anyway, we found the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina off Rugmoor Point, but could only see 11 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. By-Brook and family were missing. At the Top End there were barely any Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus (just a small flock flying around) and no sign of any Dunlin. Merv found the reason why, there was a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus on the ground surveying the scene where all the Lapwings should have been. After Merv had gone, I saw By-Brook and family fly in and land on Rugmoor Point. So, we were back to 16 Bewick's at least. I was still going through the throng from Wood Bay Point when a large explosion put everything to flight. It was a bird scarer that had been activated on Holt Farm to keep the Canada Geese Branta canadensis off the pasture. Made me jump I can tell you! I guess this must have been deployed earlier and was the explanation for the odd distribution of waterfowl and the reason why By-Brook and family went missing. They were looking nervy for quite some time afterwards. At the Lodge there were very few gulls, but I did spot 4 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula while scanning for Scaup before going home for lunch.

I was working on updating some of the site lists (Bees and Dragonflies revised, and Birds in progress) this afternoon, and didn't get back to the lake to check the gull roost because as I was about to go out the door, it absolutely tipped down!

Thursday 17th November [A wild autumnal day]

I spent an hour or so at the lake this afternoon, between showers, and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. It wasn't a day for spending much time standing around going through the waterfowl to be honest!

Friday 18th November [Perishing wind with squally showers]

The lake has risen slightly after yesterdays rain, and waterfowl numbers continue to drop. I didn't manage to spot the Bar-tailed Godwit this morning, but did see a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, 11 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii of note. Adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus Blue 'G:P' was in front of the Lodge early afternoon.

5 years ago the water level was equally low and the weather was much warmer. During my daily visit I was lucky enough to spot the first Sharp-tailed Sandpiper for the Avon recording area. Ah, the memories! Not quite so spectacular as the White-tailed Eagle this year, but one I'll be thinking about when they come to take me away and sit me in front of the window to stare out at the sea in my dotage without doubt!

Saturday 19th November [Frequent showers]

More rain has seen the lake rise a little overnight. It's starting to get a bit quieter on the bird front now, though you can never turn your back on the place entirely. There were 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii still, and I saw a flock of no less than 70 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Long Bay feeding with some Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii. Mervyn Pearce emailed to say he'd seen much the same with the addition of the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Butcombe Bay and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Top End.

Sunday 20th November [Heavy overnight rain and a changeable morning]

Mark Hynam was out early this morning, and texted me at 1030 hrs to say he'd seen an Otter Lutra lutra on the spillway at about 1015 hrs which ran into the lake and swam off. He'd also seen 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina at the Lodge. There were 16 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Cheddar Water and Pipe Bay when I arrived, and Mark had counted 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta earlier. Birding together we saw the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and a 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off Ash Tree.

Great White & Little Egrets, Cheddar Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Great White Egret Red 'AAF', Cheddar Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus By-Brook (left, a pennyface) & Keynell (right, a darkneb), Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Monday 21st November [Heavy rain and flooding]

The Ibuprofen got me mobile for a short while late this afternoon (back trouble, not helped by a fall today) and I managed a short visit to the lake in the car. My, how things are changing down there! There is quite a large part of a tree in the middle of Top End that has obviously been washed there, and quite a few sections of the private south side road are flooded. I managed to spot the Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Green Lawn, a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Wood Bay, and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, I think - it was difficult to be sure in the poor light. I didn't see the Red-crested Pochards, but they could have been anywhere in the conditions prevailing.

I have been updating the Blagdon Lake Birds List [2016 revision], but please be aware that this is far from complete. It pulls together, and in some cases elaborates details of the extremely rare and rare species records. I am always happy to receive more detail that will enhance the list, so please get in touch if you have information to share.

Tuesday 22nd November [Damp and drizzly]

I'm still suffering with a bad back, but did get up and go down to the lake for an hour towards last light, just to test things out. I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Rainbow Point and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, as well as the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina back in Holt Bay, and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii from Rugmoor Point to Top End. At last light there were certainly no fewer than 200 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii roaming across Top End before going to roost, and on my way back home I counted 53 Mute Swans Cygnus olor still present.

I see that the Bishop Sutton weather station recorded 46mm of rain yesterday, on top of the 17mm for Sunday. If you're interested in such things, I can thorougly recommend a look at the site, especially the WeatherDisplayLive link.

Wednesday 23rd November [Cool and mainly overcast]

Hurrah! Back on my feet again today, so without further adoo, I went to Barrow Reservoirs to carry out bat box checks with Ken Anstey, did a bat roost visit in Cleeve, then spent some of the afternoon at the lake. There were 14 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fishing in Long Bay when I arrived. I quickly added another 3 Great Whites and a Little as I headed towards Top End, bringing the totals to 17 Greats and 11 Littles during my visit. The 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina were feeding in Wood Bay and 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were scattered from Rugmoor Point into Top End, as they were yesterday. They looked incongruous when the Great Whites all gathered at Top End to feed around them later in the afternoon! I also noted 3 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, and an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser swimming close to the shoreline at Orchard Bay. I spent some time looking through the Pipit and Wagtail flock for a Water Pipit, but no luck. I still want one more species to bring my patch list up to 140 for the year.

Thursday 24th November [A strong easterly blow and dry]

The water level continues to rise, and it was a case of the same old, same old, today. A bird scarer was going off on Holt/Lag Farm again, so there was an unusual distribution of waterfowl and not a little amount of disturbance. A couple who were looking for the 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina missed them unfortunatley, because they were right over at Rugmoor Bay/Peg's Point. The 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End, as were 13 of 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. While I was going through the few gulls that were in to roost and chatting to Nick Wilcox-Brown, several flocks of (Common) Starlings Sturnus vulgaris came into Pipe Bay reeds, then streamed past us to roost in Home Bay reeds. It's a sad thing to have to relate, but the (not so common) Starling is almost a passage migrant and winter visitor to the lake these days. I can go several months without seeing one lakeside during the summer.

Friday 25th November [Bright & sunny with a keen NE breeze]

There was no sign of any Red-crested Pochards this lunchtime. However, the 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still hanging in there, and I counted 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 20 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End fishing around the incoming feeder stream. I spent a long time going through the dabbling ducks, but wasn't able to turn up anything unusual. There was good, if contrasty, light for photography from the Top End hide, but as I'm not able to carry the weight of my tripod, camera and 600 mm lens at present, it was an opportunity lost. The egrets and herons were very entertaining. I met Allan Chard on my way home, but he said he was on his way to Chew the other place when I mentioned the photo op! That's him off my Christmas card list... ho, ho, ho!

Steve Heaven (Swan Research Assistant) just emailed to say there were 61 adult and 12 juvenile Bewick's Swans at Slimbridge WWT this morning, with 19 new in overnight. I guess they've been making use of the NE wind that's been blowing for the last couple of days. Hopefully, it'll bring some Tundra Beans or other goodies in too.

Additionally, I saw a ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Holt Bay.

Saturday 26th November [Bright and dry]

The Bewick's (Tundra) Swans have gone and its looking like autumn passage is over. There were 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End, as well as 31 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. An adult Peregrine Falco peregrinus was buzzing the Eurasian Teal Anas crecca that ventured too far up the banks, and I noted 4 (1 adult ♂, 3 adult ♀♀) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

On the way back to the Lodge I spotted the adult ♂Aythya hybrid from the corner of Green Lawn, then while looking over at Tiny's Shallow spotted I saw a sleeping Wigeon sp. that appeared to have a large green post-ocular band. It had orange flanks but the head appeared to be grey and spotted. I went to the Lodge to get a better look having alerted Andy Davis. While he came over I saw a white underwing and axillaries but was puzzled by the extent of the green on the head, but couldn't remember what I was expecting to see and didn't want to take my eyes off it until Andy arrived. Chris Craig came over and we noted that the undertail was white except for some spotting near the vent. Doubts were expressed about it being an American Wigeon, and we went on to discuss the hybrid possibility. Keith Vinicombe and Richard Mielcarek joined us and Keith suggested it was a bird he (and Andy) had seen a week or two back at Chew, although the extent of the green on the head had developed more in the meantime. Alan Ashman kindly sent me this photo (I still can't carry my camera gear yet) so that you can see the bird for future reference. It is an instructive bird and the closest I've seen on the internet so far is a Yellow-billed Teal x Chiloe Wigeon, though I'd like to see more hybrid pics. Both the aforementioned species could be in a collection of South American ducks leading to an escapee or deliberate release, although it should be pointed out that hybrid ducks often show a suite of characters that don't always readily lead you to guess their parentage, so my thoughts could be way out!

'Horrible hybrid', Tiny's Shallow © Alan Ashman, 2016

Points to note on the 'horrible hybrid':

  1. The bill showed a yellowish wash on the sides at times (although I couldn't see this as well as Richard Mielcarek/Chris Craig), and although it had the basic grey (not blue-grey) with black edging of a Wigeon, it also had for the most part a dark culmen. This suggested possible Yellow-billed Teal/Pintail parentage. South American Teal/Pintail show this feature with yellow sides to their bills, as do African Yellow-billed Ducks.
  2. The head was basically greyish with black flecks similar to an American Wigeon, but the post-ocular green feathering appeared to be be much too extensive for this species. There was no cream forehead and the face appeared lighter in colour towards the bill. This suggested Chiloe Wigeon in the parentage.
  3. The flanks were orange washed and the undertail was white, although there were a few black flecks near the vent.
  4. Mantle feathers were dark centered with broad gingery brown edging, and the scapulars were similar although they appeared to have paler edges on some.
  5. Flight feathers, when closed looked dark brown/black and a few had white edges.
  6. The underwing was white, as were the axillaries.
  7. The speculum was green, bordered white.
  8. There appeared to be narrow white tips to the tail feathers.
  9. It didn't associate with Eurasian Wigeon, but spent much time on its own around a group of Mallards.

Sunday 27th November [Dry]

I didn't visit the lake today - a combination of bad back (again) and family visitors. So if anyone has news I'd be pleased to hear it. Thanks.

Steve Heaven from WWT sent me the following: The family (of Bewick's Swans) with two juveniles that were at Blagdon are Somme and Ypres going by your photos, and they arrived with Winkey and Winker, but there's no sign of By-Brook and Keynell with their three young ones yet.

I added a picture (courtesy of Alan Ashman) of the hybrid wigeon to yesterdays news this morning, together with some more thoughts about its parentage.

Monday 28th November [Bright & sunny with a cold wind]

Sorry for the lack of news yesterday. It was a surprise to find 17 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End this morning after they'd all cleared out on Saturday. I'm assuming By-Brook & Keynell are the family with 3 juveniles (confirmed later by Mark Hynam who read By-Brooks ring ZBN), and there was a family of 2 adults and 2 'immatures', which could have been Somme and Ypres with their juveniles who flew out from WWT Slimbridge at 0706 hrs this morning, according to Steve Heaven. The rest of the birds appeared to be adults. There were a lot of bird scarers going off all day at Holt/Lag Farm, so most of the waterfowl were way over on the North Shore or at Top End. I did spot a 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off Ash Tree and the ♂ Aythya hybrid (Scaup-a-like) in Home/Long Bay again. Plenty of herons and egrets with at least 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta ranging about. Oh, and I nearly forgot again (see 26th Nov.), I also saw 6 (3 adult ♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

At dusk there were still at least some Bewick's at the lake, and revised counts of 14 Great White Egrets and 26 Little Egrets (the latter mostly flew off west before I left).

Thanks to Andy Davis for the call to see the 3 Velvet Scoters at Chew this morning. Nice to see, although I have seen Velvets there before. We could sure do with some (or even one) at Blagdon though - its been 29 years since the last record! Update: Thanks Chris Stone for letting me know late afternoon that the Velvets flew off west from Chew. Sadly, they neither dropped in, or flew over Blagdon, while I was there.

I've been sent an update on the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Red AW (see 11th Nov.) by Stef van Rijn from The Netherlands, to say it's one of their birds. I've asked if it was ringed as sub-species carbo or sinensis and for its history. It would be nice to have a ringed 'Continental' Cormorant P. c. sinensis for the site list, although it's extremely likely that they have been coming here for years.

Stef replied as follows:

"Thanks for the details! We didn't record the subspecies and assume that all birds in our fresh water colonies are sinensis. In our coastal colonies we never studied it but we expect that carbo is included. The bird you observed is born in 2016 on a man made nature island in the large fresh water body of IJsselmeer, called de Kreupel (see picture attached, including positions of colonies where we ringed cormorant nestlings in many years, in the Oostvaardersplassen colony since 1983) . I think it is possible that carbo is included in the colony of De Kreupel as well, but we have no clear evidence of it. It might be very interesting if you are able to identify this bird as a carbo. Sounds fantastic if you can observe more Dutch birds!"

© Stef van Rijn, 2016

Tuesday 29th November [Hard overnight frost. Bright & sunny with a cold easterly wind.]

I went for a look around late morning and over lunchtime during which time I saw 11 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, but I will go down again towards dusk to see if they gather together like they did last night when there were a lot more present than during the middle of the day. There were 16 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End, and 9 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago that were put to flight briefly. I didn't see the Scaup along North Shore, but I did see 4 (3 adult ♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser over there. I also had an enchanting moment when a ♂ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata, which was feeding close to my parked car, came and landed on the door mirror and peered in at me! The bird scarers on the farm were still going off today, but the ducks are beginning to relax a bit, although in truth, there aren't that many left on the lake. Most of the Mute Swans Cygnus olor have moved on and things continue to wind down. I met Colin Hunt who told me he'd seen 2 Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret in Lodge Copse. I'm still restricted to birding from the car due to my back pain, apart from occasional short visits into Top End hide. However, after the set back last weekend, things are gradually improving again.

Late afternoon update: there were 17 Little Egrets and just 6 Great Whites at dusk, and I was able to confirm that yesterdays count of 6 Goosanders were still present too.

Wednesday 30th November [Hard overnight frost. Bright & sunny day, but max. temp. 4 Celsius.]

Yay, pain free at last! So, as you do, I went to Bishop Sutton and bought a few sacks of bird food for the lakeside feeders. Please have a look at the feeders when you visit and be sure to let me know what you see, unless it's Grey Squirrels! There are sunflower hearts in the Lodge feeders, and peanuts at Ubley Hatchery.

It was a gloriously crisp and sunny day, with no wind, which made for comfortable viewing. I picked out 17 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End from the hide, and I counted 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, although they come and go throughout the day. Also noted were a lone adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser at Top End, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus in Long Bay and a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in front of the Lodge.

Today is the last day of the fishing season, but I haven't had a discussion with BW about the gates yet. We have a Lake User's Committee/Warden's Meeting on 12th December so, if I don't speak to someone beforehand, I'll ask the question about what they're going to do this winter regarding locking the gates and report back.