BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

October 2009 News

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2009

Friday 2nd October

Autumn migrants are arriving with 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Home Bay, 2 adult Common Gulls Larus canus in front of the Lodge, & 2 flyover Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Long Bay. There has been a notable increase in the number of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata during the last few days. I counted 83 along the Burmah Road shoreline with Eurasian Teal Anas crecca during the afternoon.

Saturday 3rd October

The regular adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis is about the only bird of any interest at lunch time today. I saw a number of Hornets Vespa crabro along the south side in windy weather, an insect that is, without doubt, on the increase locally.

Sunday 4th Ocober

I found a drake Ring-necked Duck Athya collaris at 1730 hrs viewed from Burmah Road. This is the first record since 2003. The adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was also loafing at Hellfire Corner with the roosting Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo. The feral flock of 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were feeding at the lake with Canada Geese Branta canadensis.

Monday 5th October

I didn't spot the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris this evening when I checked. It may still be present, but it could be worth checking other local sites. There were 36 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End.

Tuesday 6th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris has relocated to Cheddar Reservoir where it was seen on Monday and Tuesday. Perhaps it was originally displaced from there during the weekend sailing activities at Cheddar? There have been several instances of rarer ducks flying over the hill at weekends in recent years e.g. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca with carrier flocks of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and Pochard Aythya ferina. There was nothing else of note this evening.

Wednesday 7th October

Little of note this evening.

Friday 9th October

18 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis and a drake Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle with black '34' from a French scheme. The bird was ringed at Marolles-Sur-Seine in France on 19th Novemer 2007 (per Alain Caizergues) and first appeared at Blagdon Lake last autumn from 2nd August to 30th November 2008.

Drake Tufted Duck with nasal saddle, © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Saturday 10th October

WeBS Count Day; We carried out the monthly WeBS Count this morning during which I found the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again in Orchard Bay. However, it was spooked by a fishing boat and flew to Top End where we saw it again later. I also spotted a drake Aythya hybrid that had a superficial resemblance to a Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Pipe Bay - probably the same bird seen previously at Cheddar Reservoir and Chew Valley Lake. That too was being moved around by anglers and we saw the same bird later in Holt Bay and at Top End with the main flock. The drake Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with the sky blue nasal saddle with black '34' on it was still present in the main flock at Top End. There were few other highlights in the count aside from a flyover Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata at the dam (per Terry Dolman), a male Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Green Lawn and quite a few Hornets Vespa crabro along the Butcombe Bank public footpath. The latter are appearing in unprecedented numbers this autumn. The Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus roost is beginning to build with 444 being counted during the morning and 5 adult Common Gulls Larus canus have made an appearance along with the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis still knocking about.

Sunday 11th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present this afternoon in Holt Bay along with a 1st-winter drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and the Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle number 34, all showing well. Also, the drake Aythya hybrid was back in Pipe Bay with a small flock of Tufted Ducks. After a bit of searching I located the adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis loafing on Rugmoor Point.

Drake Ring-necked Duck, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Male Kestrel under the rain clouds, Holt Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Monday 12th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present this afternoon in Holt Bay.

Wednesday 14th October

The water level has dropped a little during the day and the wildfowl are widely distributed. The area known as Tiny's Shallow in front of the Fishing Lodge is exposed sufficiently to attract birds (and anglers unfortunately) as is Wookey Point at Top End. There has been a small influx of Common Pochard Aythya ferina, I counted 54, and Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, I saw 3. The adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was flying around before roosting on its usual buoy and I spotted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in the Top End trees. A quick check through the Aythya ducks in the failing light failed to reveal the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, but it could still be present among the 600 or so Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula.

Thursday 15th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present this evening in Holt Bay. The water level has dropped again today and the island in front of the Fishing Lodge (also known affectionately as 'The Hut') is now a significant point jutting out into the lake and attracting many birds - principally loafing Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus.

Friday 16th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present this afternoon off Wood Bay Point (there was a fishing boat in the middle of Holt Bay). The Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle number 34 was off Burmah Road and the drake Aythya hybrid was at Cheddar Water with Tufted Ducks. There were 4 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula along the North Shore, a pair of Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 5 Gadwall Anas strepera and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End. 18 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were with 141 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and the adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was loafing in front of the Fishing Lodge with 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I saw 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus flying about at Cheddar Water and a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta was still on the wing at Top End. Finally, as I was checking the gull roost at the Lodge I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in the Pipe Bay reeds.

Grey Heron bathiing, Tiny's Shallow © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Saturday 17th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Wood Bay this afternoon as was the Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle number 34. At Top End there were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 4 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti near the hide and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. The adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was knocking about as were 2 adult and a 1st-winter Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus. Alan Morgan (Blagdon) rang me today to tell me he'd watched a Merlin Falco columbarius harassing one of a flock of 7 Swallows Hirundo rustica over his house further up the hill.

Drake Ring-necked Duck, Wood Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Sunday 18th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Wood Bay this afternoon and the Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle number 34 was in Holt Bay. Supporting cast was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 4 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus, a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti near the hide, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and the adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. While photographing the drake Aythya hybrid this morning Keith Vinicombe rang to tell me a Northern Gannet Morus bassanus was heading my way from Chew. I ran from Cheddar Water to the Lodge just in time to see it fly past. I grabbed some shots as it circled around before heading off west at 1140 hrs. This was the 7th record at the lake and the first since 2006. It was probably the bird also seen at Barrow Tanks earlier in the day.

Juvenile Gannet, Fishing Lodge © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

While at Cheddar Water a Peregrine Falco peregrinus made an unsuccessful low level attack on some Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus.

Adult female Peregrine, Cheddar Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

The other nice bird surprise was a juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax in front of the Lodge.

Juvenile Ruff, Polish Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Finally, I saw a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui at Cheddar Water warming in the morning sun and a couple of Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta and good numbers of Hornets Vespa crabro still flying.

Monday 19th October

The drake Aythya hybrid was in front of the Lodge early this morning as well as this evening and though I didn't see the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax this morning it was in front of the Lodge this evening. I am working on a new page to feature hybrid Aythya ducks that other local birders have agreed to contribute photos and information to, so watch this space. There were groups of Aythya ducks all over the place in the bitterly cold east wind this evening but I couldn't see the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris among them in a brief search, though it could easily be present. There were at least 57 Common Pochard Aythya ferina in Holt Bay (mainly drakes), with other groups elsewhere, so their numbers are rising as are Eurasian Teal Anas crecca around the widening muddy margins.

Tuesday 20th October

No sign of the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax when I was there, but Rich Andrews emailed me later to tell me he'd seen it at the Lodge. I couldn't see the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris this evening in the main body of the lake but it may be present at Top End. A Little Egret Egretta garzetta was at Wookey Point this evening and the number of Common Pochard Aythya ferina is still increasing in Holt Bay with over 90 at the lake this evening. The gull roost is also increasing as it usually does into November. Nothing exciting but 500-1000 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, a single Common Gull Larus canus, 10 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and 2 adult Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus. The roost usually comprises Black-headed and Common Gulls with all the larger gulls flying off to Chew at dusk, but perhaps this is starting to change, or, perhaps they didn't fancy winging eastward into the pouring rain! It made me go home...

Wednesday 21st October

Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris still present this evening in Wood Bay and also reported as being in Holt Bay yesterday afternoon (per Harry Bowden - thanks). Little else noted other than Aythya hybrid.

Thursday 22nd October

The lake is only 65% full & the old bund is exposed but barely visible from the Top End hide © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

My brief visit this evening was curtailed by dark clouds swarming northward over the Mendips and plunging me into darkness. I didn't manage to find the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris or anything else worthy of note either.

Friday 23rd October

Drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was off Rainbow Point this afternoon and the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was present in the growing gull roost.

Saturday 24th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was off Rainbow Point when I got back from the 15 hour drive to a grey, overcast, South Shields and back to see the Eastern Crowned Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus coronatus. The lake had to take second best today, but I did still manage a brief visit.

Eastern Crowned Leaf-warbler, South Shields NOT BLAGDON © Nigel Milbourne, 2009

Sunday 25th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was off Rainbow Point and feeding in Wood Bay, when undisturbed, at lunchtime. The drake Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a sky blue nasal saddle number 34 was in Holt Bay and a new juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax was in front of the Lodge when I arrived at about 1000 hrs and was still there I left at 1400 hrs. A couple from Ubley reported seeing a small flock of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus in the Alder Alnus glutinosa trees at Hellfire Corner. There was no sign of the 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta that have been hanging around at Top End during the day this week (per fisherman). In addition to the birds I saw a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, a Comma Polygonia c-album, 2 Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta and several Hornets Vespa crabro when the sun came out. There were about 1100 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in the evening roost.

Monday 26th October WEBSITE PUBLICATION DAY

Arriving at the Lodge at dawn I was surprised to hear a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing from the Pipe Bay reeds and yesterdays juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax was in front of the Lodge picking around on the extensive area of exposed mud. The adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis was sitting on the green buoy off North Shore where it usually roosts and the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Wood Bay first thing this morning as the sun came up. Canada Geese Branta canadensis were scattered widely and the feral flock of 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were just off Peg's Point.

Tuesday 27th October

First thing this morning the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax was in front of the Lodge and the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Wood Bay feeding with a small group Common Pochard Aythya ferina. A pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor were engaged in courtship greeting display or pre-copulative display off Rainbow Point but sadly I didn't have time to take photographs of their elegant synchronised head turning, dipping and preening. There appears to have been a small arrival of Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope with circa 10 off Burmah Road a sure sign of autumn. I always think their whistling calls are so evocative of the changing season.

Mervyn Pearce texted me later in the afternoon and told me the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was off Rainbow Point but he didn't see the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax. However, he did see two Water Rails Rallus aquaticus in front of the Pipe Bay reeds (75m to the left of the Lodge). He also commented that there were 8 fishermen in front of the Top End hide (where the fish are Merv)! At least the boats are off the lake next week and the birds will get some peace and quiet to feed up for the onset of winter.

Wednesday 28th October

A brief visit this morning during which I managed to locate the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris off Wood Bay Point and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Bell's Bush. There were lots of thrushes Turdus spp., presumably migrants, in the lanes around Blagdon and Ubley as well. Sue Caola rang to tell me she'd seen a flock of 37 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris fly the length of the lake later in the day.

Friday 30th October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Holt Bay this afternoon with a large flock of mixed wildfowl and the drake Aythya hybrid was at Cheddar Water. There were 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge and the male Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was singing in Home Bay reeds instead of Pipe Bay. A flock of several hundred Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris flew in to roost in Home Bay reeds late in the afternoon just as the Rooks Corvus frugilegus and Western Jackdaws Corvus monedula were arriving on Home Bay Point. Also present were 4 Ruddy Ducks Oxyura jamaicensis, 39 Gadwalls Anas strepera, 10 Eurasian Wigeons Anas penelope, 7 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula among large numbers of Common Pochard Aythya ferina and Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula. I witnessed a male Peregrine Falco peregrinus make terrific attack on a flying Eurasian Teal Anas crecca off Wood Bay Point. The duck jinked and plunged into the water to make its escape and the Peregrine went hungry.

The recent showers have brought a few fungi up, including Shaggy Ink Caps Coprinus comatus (also known as Lawyer's Wigs) beside the road at Home Bay.

Saturday 31st October

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was reported as being in Holt Bay this afternoon (per RBA pager service and subsequent confirmation from Dick James - thanks Dick) though I didn't see it there this morning early on. Aythya ducks were flying in from Top End when I had to leave so it may have arrived later. The hybrid Aythya was at Cheddar Water as usual and 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were standing on the shoreline at the Lodge.

I've received news of a female Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator spotted at the dam end in the morning (per Gary Thoburn - again thanks to Gary) a great sighting of a bird that is probably only just about annual in its occurrences.