BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

October 2010 News


Friday 1st October [Rain all day but the sun came out at the death and the wind died down too]

The first day of October brought a change at the lake, as water came pouring down the feeder streams, and the dabbling ducks got out of the water and spread out all over the wet marginal mud. I found 27 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 14 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 9 Gadwall Anas strepera, 2 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and a male Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis. The wader count was down to a single Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia at the head of Butcombe Bay, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Rugmoor Bay and 35 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Bell's Bush. The rain brought quite a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbicum down over the lake too.

Saturday 2nd October [Warm and sunny]

No visit today. Family were visiting from up north.

Sunday 3rd October [Rain early before it brightened up in the afternoon]

Lots of rain overnight and the water level is just beginning to rise again. There was still quite a wind blowing and there were lots of hirundines feeding over the water, mainly House Martins Delichon urbicum with some Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. Selected counts included 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 32 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna and 28 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus.

Monday 4th October [Warm and sunny]

At last! Mervyn Pearce pulled the rabbit out of the hat today when he found a 1st-winter Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus at lunchtime off Bell's Bush. What a relief to see a good bird at the lake this autumn at this late stage. It was still present at dusk but too far away to get a picture as the evening shadows lengthened. There were also 3 Common GreenshanksTringa nebularia and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Holt Bay (per Mervyn Pearce) and 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, at Top End (per Keith Vinicombe). I also totted up 39 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus while I was there at tea time. I'll have a look first thing in the morning to see if the phalarope is still present.

Tuesday 5th October [Warm and overcast much of the day]

The Red-necked PhalaropePhalaropus lobatus was still at Bell's Bush this morning when I checked before work, so I rang Rare Bird Alert to put the news out and they in turn reported it as still being present this afternoon at 1540 hrs in the same place. I learned later that John Thorogood watched the bird until 1600 hrs. I saw the 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna again this morning, but was unable to get back to the lake this evening due to work commitments. I'll check again in the morning. Richard Mielcarek got this very distant digiscoped shot of the phalarope yesterday:

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus © Richard Mielcarek, 2010

There was another migrant Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe on the sports fields at Somerdale, Keynsham today.

Wednesday 6th October [Sunny spells this afternoon with a light WSW breeze]

The first bird I saw this morning was a Peregrine Falco peregrinus flying away over the dam! Was it any coincidence that there was no sign of the phalarope this morning? However, there was a new arrival today in the shape of a Little Stint Calidris minuta at Top End where there were 51 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 40+ Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis and 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna. Like yesterday, I found the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock feeding in front of the lodge early on and with them there were 16 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. At Holt Bay this evening, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos crept steathily along the waters edge feeding where the long-staying drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis slept just off the bank. I fancy there has been an increase in the number of (mainly drake) Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula over the last couple of nights and it has been quite noticeable how quickly the drake Eurasian Teal Anas crecca are coming into their breeding finery - time to start looking for my first Blagdon Green-winged Teal again!

Thursday 7th October [Warmish with an ESE breeze and showers in the evening]

Conditions were difficult for viewing first thing this morning with mist and bright sunshine breaking through. I saw a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus at Lodge Copse, 2 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and I heard a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia call, but didn't see it, when an angler went down to the water to fish at Rainbow Point.

Friday 8th October [Warm with a light easterly breeze]

I met up with Mervyn Pearce at Bell's Bush this afternoon and he told me he'd seen a Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 100+ Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis and 200+ Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis. He also saw 2 Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe at the spillway which I eventually managed to connect with later. I was able to add 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Point, the first 2 Common Gulls Larus canus of the autumn and at least 6 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus (2 adults and 4 juveniles). The 51 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna were still present.

Saturday 9th October [Cool, grey and overcast with a stiff easterly breeze]

With the lake up 2% to 43%, Roy Curber, Lucy and Philip Delve, Terry Doman and myself carried out the monthly WeBS Count this morning in very interesting conditions that suggested we might see some migrants and so it turned out. Highlights included 2 Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe, an adult male Ruff Philomachus pugnax, 2 Common Greenshanks Tringa nebularia, a winter-plumaged Sanderling Calidris alba, 3 Common Redshank Tringa totanus, 5 Redwings Turdus iliacus and 2 Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis (an adult and juvenile). We were also treated to the sight of an adult female Peregrine Falco peregrinus dismembering some unfortunate prey item on Wood Bay Point (where it hit a Common Coot Fulica atra when we did last months WeBS Count). The rest of the count is on the WeBS Counts page.

Sunday 10th October [The stiff easterly breeze continued to blow but the warm sun bathed the lake eventually during the late afternoon]

As expected, some birds had moved on overnight, but the male Ruff Philomachus pugnax was still present at Top End this afternoon feeding with Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, of which there were 49 scattered about. The weather for the week ahead doesn't look very favourable to bringing more new birds in unfortunately. A Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta was flying about in Lodge Copse and the Hornets Vespa crabro nest at Home Bay was still active in the sunshine although I did see one moribund looking individual on the road. Other selected counts included: 217 Canada Geese Branta canadensis (plus two hybrids), 18 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, 4 Common Gulls Larus canus (3 1st-winters) and at least 4 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus (2 adults and 2+ juveniles).

Monday 11th October [Sunny with a stiffish ENE wind]

Not a lot to report today, just 55 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and the 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna worthy of note.

Tuesday 12th October [A grey chill day with an ENE breeze]

Gosh, it was a bit cooler this evening! Somewhat surprisingly, there were good numbers of midges over the dam wall (wall of the dam, if you'd prefer) in the cool easterly wind. Again, no sign of any new waders or wildfowl unfortunately. I counted 41 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna and 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. There are still large numbers of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarellii feeding around the lake.

It has been an amazing year for the species count at the lake this year with 137 recorded so far, that I know about. This is no doubt a result of the low water conditions, but there are still some species which I might reasonably expect to turn up e.g. Tundra (Bewick's) Swan, Merlin, Golden Plover, Rock and Water Pipits, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll (I'm sure I heard a flyover Redpoll sp. last Saturday). So, we could get quite close to 150 with a bit of luck... If you spot anything not recorded so far (see the Blagdon Lists page), please be sure to let me know.

Wednesday 13th October [Cloudy with a slight ENE breeze]

When I got to the lakeside there was an altercation going on between a Peregrine Falco peregrinus and Common Buzzard Buteo buteo at Top End. The Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus count was down to 17 (well, that's all I could see) and they were joined by another Northern, this time the first autumn Pintail Anas acuta (a female), while the 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna have prolonged their stay for another day. Also out in the open were 3 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus in Indian Country.

Thursday 14th October [Cloudy with hardly a breath of a northerly breeze]

By 'eck it's a bit nippy out there! The maximum temperature was 9.4 Celsius in the village today. I couldn't see much different during my short visit after work this evening; 17 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, the Northern Pintail Anas acuta and 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. The lake has dropped again by 1% to 42% full according to the Bristol Water website.

Friday 15th October [Cool and cloudy with a light NE breeze]

I couldn't visit today, what with work and over an hour in the dentists chair this afternoon! However, Mervyn Pearce emailed me to tell me the first of my predictions for birds that might yet turn up this year have arrived in the form of 3 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria along with a fresh influx of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, of which he counted 78.

Tomorrow, there is another Bat survey, meet on the dam at 1000 hrs.

Saturday 16th October [Cool but mostly sunny]

Still not much new on the bird front. I didn't see any Golden Plovers, but counted 72 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, the Northern Pintail Anas acuta, a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, a Dunlin Calidris alpina and 30 Mute Swans Cygnus olor (including a new family with 2 juveniles). Several Skylarks Alauda arvensis flew over calling, of which I saw 3 flying ENE.

The bat survey, led by Daniel Hargreaves, was very exciting. We found 40 bats roosting in the various boxes that we checked, 16 of which were Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus and 24 of which were Natterer's Bats Myotis nattereri. One box at the Pumping Station appeared to hold the remains of a Natterer's maternity roost (complete with Bat Bugs Cimex pipistrelli - see picture 30th August 2010) which really pleased Daniel. I took some Bugs for Ray Barnett at Bristol City Museum, who told me there are very few local records; mainly due to under-recording, I guess.

Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Home Bay, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

A handful of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Pumping Station, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Natterer's Bat Myotis nattereri, Pumping Station, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Natterer's Bat Myotis nattereri, Pumping Station, Blagdon Lake © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

The three pictures above show some of the key identification features for Natterer's Bat. The shot on the left shows the pointed tragus in the ear (you can see it standing out clearly from the right ear), the middle shows the fringing hairs of the tail membrane (often used to remove spiders from their webs) and the right picture shows the white belly fur.

Daniel also told me that a check for the rare Nathusius' Pipistrelle carried out in September was successful and that he has it in mind to try and establish whether or not there is a roost at Blagdon Lake next year. Apparently, there are only three known roosts of this species in the UK.

Sunday 17th October [Sunny with barely a breath of wind]

A beautiful afternoon's walk with a couple of surprises, a probable 1st-winter Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina (see picture below) and a couple of adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila off the dam. I don't recall seeing a 1st-winter drake Red-crested Pochard looking like the bird in the picture and although I've checked the literature the bill turning red from black would appear to be OK but will eventually have a pale nail. The dusky flanks show signs of white feathering coming through and the black feathering appears to be in the right place. The buffy brown feathering on the back is right for a juvenile. The head structure looks consistent with it being a good bird and the male gingery feathers are coming through. The dark red eye is also indicative of it being a young bird. What do you think? I'd be pleased to read opinions sent to the email address above.

1st-winter Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, dam © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

The two drake Greater Scaup are shown in the following picture while they were asleep off the dam. There may be a third bird as well, as I saw a drake, possibly a 1st-winter that was disturbed by a fishing boat and flew out of Pipe Bay with Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula just before I found these two.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila, dam © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Other birds included a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia in Long Bay, 22 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, a drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis, and a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Ubley Hatchery. I also saw a late Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, 2 Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria, a Comma Polygonia c-album, a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta and a white Pieris sp. flying in the October sunshine.

Monday 18th October [Cool with early sun and cloud in the afternoon on a westerly breeze]

The drake 1st-winter Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was still present off the dam this evening as was one of the drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila (an adult) at Cheddar Water. The fact that the single drake Scaup was present with Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula in the same place as yesterday makes me happy that there were 3 present yesterday (see late news below). Still present were a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia in Long Bay, 27 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, a drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna and 2 female Northern Pintails Anas acuta. I didn't see any Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus this evening, so I guess they've moved on as well, unless they are in one of the ditches, or, on adjacent fields roosting.

Late news from Mervyn Pearce who visited the lake not long before me this evening: he saw 2 drake Greater Scaup off Rainbow Point, a male Peregrine Falco peregrinus, 203 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. He also visited Cheddar Reservoir this afternoon and saw 2 Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus and the Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena. The last Whooper appeared at Blagdon in 1974 and the last Red-necked Grebe was in 1992, so it's all the more galling that they are only 5 or 6 miles away tonight!

Tuesday 19th October [Sunny most of the day with a WNW breeze]

The daylight hours are drawing in rapidly and it is getting harder to check the lake after work. However, this evening I did see the drake 1st-winter Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina again at the spillway end of the dam, where it's been for the last 3 days, and the 2 adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still together at Cheddar Water this evening. Other than that, it looked like the usual characters were still present, except the Common Greenshank which I couldn't see anywhere.

Wednesday 20th October [Sunny but cool]

At Top End there were 70 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and the 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna still, while at the dam end there were 2 Greater Scaup Aythya marila feeding with different groups of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and the 1st-winter drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was close to the spillway as usual.

The gull roost is growing steadily and most surprisingly contained over 100 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus among the multitude of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus this evening, a very unusual occurrence at Blagdon. I suppose they may have been pre-roosting before going to Chew Valley Lake, but they did seem to be settled. I didn't count them, so there could easily have been far more than 100, perhaps I'll get a clearer picture when I count the roost this weekend.

Thursday 21st October [Sunny start with squalls later]

More of the same today, with the 2 adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila and 1st-winter drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina still off the dam and the 2 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna at Burmah Road. There seem to be more Aythya ducks present today and I had one moment of excitement when I thought I'd found a female Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris at some distance, but after more careful grilling it appeared to be a female Tufted Duck in heavy moult. Hopefully, with some sunshine between the showers tomorrow afternoon I'll have a chance to go through the newcomers more thoroughly.

Last night there was a piece on the BBC One Show about bats that Mike Dilger filmed at Blagdon Lake along the public footpath at Butcombe Bay. It is on iPlayer at the moment and you can see it by clicking on the link below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/vhwd6/?t=16m08s

Blagdon Lake has dropped 2% to 40% full (65% this time last year) according to the Bristol Water website. They continued "Mendip rainfall: the total for the whole of September was just 43.4 mm, 52% of the average expected for the month. So far in October, 46.4 mm has been recorded with just 0.4 mm in the last week. Before August we saw seven consecutive months of significantly below average rainfall. In statistical terms, that period remains among the top 5% of all dry periods since 1910 and was the lowest January to July rainfall total since 1976 (the second dry year of a severe two year drought)."

Friday 22nd October [Sunny with a SSW breeze]

This afternoon there was no sign of the Greater Scaup or Red-crested Pochard but there were 111 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 3 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, 51 Common Pochard Aythya ferina, a female Northern Pintail Anas acuta and Dunlin Calidris alpina.

I spotted a Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus in front of the Lodge that had a darvic ring on its right leg and metal ring on the left leg. It looked like black letters "2.BB2" on a white ring. Peter Rock put me in touch with Paul K. Veron who ringed the bird at Ty Coed, Vale Marais, Guernsey on 25th May 2009 (see www.guernseygulls.blogspot..com). It bears the metal ring E15417. Subsequent sightings are as follows:

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, Gloucester Landfill © John Sanders, 2010

Saturday 23rd October [Rain overnight & this morning with sun and showers this afternoon]

At lo-oo-ong, long last, and after 18 years of looking, I found my first Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta at Blagdon this afternoon at Polish Water by the Lodge. Also new in (although I've had a couple of sightings of a small grebe through my bins over the last two days without pinning it down), was a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wood Bay Point. In addition I managed to sort out the 3 Greater Scaup Aythya marila of which there were 2 adult drakes off the dam and another much scruffier looking drake at Wood Bay which had quite a bright eye so is probably an adult (or possibly a subtle hybrid) just coming out of eclipse plumage. The 1st-winter drake Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina was in the usual place again at the spillway end of the dam.

No wild swans have arrived yet, but I counted 108 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 11 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and 3 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna. John Martin reported seeing the Red-crested Pochard and a single Greater Scaup this afternoon (thanks John).

One day after asking, news has arrived about yesterdays gull sighting (see below). Ain't the internet amazing?

Sunday 24th October [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

The drake 1st-winter Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina and immature Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis were off either end of the dam this morning and the scruffy drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila was also there briefly before flying down the lake where I saw it later off Orchard Bay. There was no sign of the Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta when I checked early on, but I did see a sizeable flock of pipits get flushed later by a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus from the marginal vegetation in front of the Lodge, so it may have been among them.

Also noted were, 10 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina feeding on the dam wall with Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis, 4 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis, 3 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna, 12 Gadwall Anas strepera, 2 flyover Ravens Corvus corax and quite a few migrating Skylarks Alauda arvensis. On the butterfly front, I saw a single white Pieris sp. (probably Green-veined), one Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria and 2 Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta.

LATE NEWS: Rich Andrews rang me late this afternoon to tell me an adult Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia was flying around at Chew Valley Lake and might have flown towards Blagdon. He rolled up while I was looking at the gull roost and said he'd called me 20 minutes earlier to warn me about the possibility of an approaching Spooner - my phone was at home. Doh! I said large birds like that take a surprising time to make the 3 mile flight and we might yet see it... with that it flew through and off to the west at 18:10 hrs. A long overdue first record for the lake, even though it didn't drop in, and my 200th bird species for the lake (including category D & E birds). Yahoo! Thanks Rich, I'm chuffed to bits.

Here's a rather rubbish record shot taken when it was about half a mile away, at 1/13th of a second, after the sun had gone down as it flew away over the dam. Rich managed some rather better, if distant, shots of the bird at Chew - see CVL Birding.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia © Nigel Milbourne, 2010

Rich kindly sent me another picture of the bird in flight at Chew, which rather than being a shadowy blur just about shows it was an adult with no black tips to the wing feathers.

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia at CVL © Richard Andrews, 2010

Monday 25th October [More wall-to-wall sunshine but crisp and cold after early morning mist]

Sadly, I didn't manage a hat trick of new birds on consecutive days today! The sun had already gone down behind the Mendips when I made my evening visit. I didn't spot any of the unusual visitors and I've heard nothing from anyone else, but did count 50 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus, 48 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus in the Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus roost, 14 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, and a female Northern Pintail Anas acuta. A male Tawny Owl Strix aluco sang briefly from the grounds of the Inspection House at dusk.

Tuesday 26th October [A drizzly grey, but warmer, day]

THE 'BLAGDONLAKEBIRDS' WEBSITE IS ONE YEAR OLD TODAY. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE CONTRIBUTED NEWS, VIEWS & PHOTOS AND HELPED TO MAKE THE PROJECT FEEL SO WORTHWHILE. MY THANKS ALSO GO TO BRISTOL WATER, ESPECIALLY THE FISHERIES STAFF, WHO HAVE BEEN SO HELPFUL WITH ALL MY REQUESTS. I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO SPENDING MORE TIME AT THE LAKESIDE INVESTIGATING THE WILDLIFE AND DOCUMENTING ITS RICHES WITH MY CAMERA IN RETIREMENT NEXT YEAR. I HOPE TO GET THE SPECIES ACCOUNTS WRITTEN A BIT QUICKER IN ORDER TO PROVIDE A FULL REPOSITORY OF INFORMATION FOR BIRDERS & I CERTAINLY AIM TO ADD TO THE OTHER SPECIES LISTS. KEEP WATCHING THIS SPACE!

This evening I spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay before it got too dark to see anything.... except at least 8 bats flying around at Cheddar Water, some very low over the waters surface so presumably Daubenton's Myotis daubentonii and some around the trees which will have been Pipistrelles Pipistrellus sp.

I've put up a board up in the Top End hide which I hope birders will use to record their sightings (with initials please), as we don't have a notebook. There will be a dry-wipe pen left for use which I hope I don't have to replace too often!

Wednesday 27th October [Sunny and mild]

I worked late today and the only unusual bird I was able to spot in the gloom was a Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna (luckily they're mainly white), but I was struck by the continuing build-up of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus. It would be interesting to compare last two months WeBS counts at Chew and Blagdon to see if these are incoming migrants, or, birds relocating from one lake to the other. I shall look in the morning to see if we have a peak count for October.

While I was at work in Keynsham today, I heard and saw quite a few Skylarks Alauda arvensis and a single Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis flying over, mainly towards the south east. Mike Jenkins reported the same phenomenon at Chew Valley Lake.

Thursday 28th October [Drizzly early on but sunny later]

I met Mervyn Pearce at the lake and he reported 106 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, a female Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (first returning bird this autumn) and two drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila. I counted 76 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus, 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 2 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna a single Greater Scaup (probably a different bird to those seen by Merv) and 6+ Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus. Neither of us saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis today.

The vegetation has been cut back in front of Top End hide and on Wookey Point to the left of the hide giving a much better panorama. However, the water is absolutely miles away, so it doesn't provide great wildfowl watching, but there are plenty of other things to see. Mervyn and I saw 5 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus close by this evening and I saw a Red Fox Vulpes vulpes shortly afterward.

Boat fishing ends on Sunday, though bank angling continues until the end of November. Perhaps the wildfowl will spread out a bit more from the Top End next week.

Friday 29th October

I had a look at first light this morning to see if anything had been blown in on the gale force winds overnight but couldn't see anything unusual. This afternoon there was still a strong southerly blowing 'over the hill' making viewing quite difficult. Mike Gillett was scanning from Rainbow Point when I rolled up. Unfortunately for him, I refound the very mobile Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis again just after he'd gone and there was a drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila at Cheddar Water at first light which I didn't see again this afternoon. Other birds noted included 3 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna at Rugmoor, the lone drake Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis in Holt Bay, 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada flock, 17 Gadwall Anas strepera and at least 60 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina in a single flock at The Lodge.

During the last hour of daylight I popped back down for a third time to check the gull roost and, as suggested on 20th, the second most numerous species after Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus was Herring Gull Larus argentatus, of which I counted 189 this evening. It's not unusual to get counts like this during the spring migration in March / April, but not at this time of year. There were also 2 brown head Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off the north shore.

Conservation work is continuing by the lake side today. Much of the tall vegetation and treeline near the hide has been cut back at Top End. You can see the pond again and the feeder stream is going to be opened up slightly and pond deepened before the contractors move on to Chew. The pond on the North Shore has also been deepened slightly. This attracted good numbers of newts almost immediately after it had been cleared out earlier in the year, but its shallow depth allowed it to dry out over the summer, unfortunately. It's nice to have had an input into the works and to see it come to fruition this autumn while the water level has allowed the diggers and cutters to get in. Well done Bristol Water!

Saturday 30th October [Sunny with a few fluffy clouds]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis and the adult drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila are both still present today and there is a large increase in the number of Common Pochard Aythya ferina. I counted 165, making me wonder if they have flown in from Cheddar Reservoir. Other counts included 139 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 18 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 3 Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna (which may have been flushed from the lake by a couple trespassing along the north shore with a large dog until asked to leave by the fisheries staff), 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 12 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and at least 25 fly-over Skylarks Alauda arvensis. I heard a number of Siskins Carduelis spinus and there is a large mixed flock of finches (primarily European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis and Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina) at Top End feeding in front of the hide.

Mervyn Pearce has just called to say he's seen a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at Top End.

Sunday 31st October [Mild but grey and overcast with an easterly breeze]

I've finally stood in one place and scoped 3 drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila thereby confirming my suspicions that there have been three all along. I also caught up with what is presumably the same Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta I saw on 23rd, feeding with Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis along the shore at Wood Bay. Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula numbers have increased to 6 today and other selected counts included 132 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 19 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 19 Gadwall Anas strepera, 13 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, 3 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta. I didn't definitely see the Black-necked Grebe but there was a bird feeding along Butcombe Bank that may have been it - I couldn't be sure.

Bristol Water announced on the 26th that the water level at Blagdon has dropped still further to 38%.