BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

October 2014 News

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


Wednesday 1st October [Overcast and warm]

I paid a couple of visits to the lake today. There wasn't much to report on the water, but the field ploughed on Lag Farm yesterday was covered in Pied/White Wagtails Motacilla alba. I counted circa 150, but there were bound to have been at least a few in the furrows that I didn't see. Some appeared to be White Wagtails Motacilla alba alba. The Common Coot Fulica atra numbers are going up again, so it'll be interesting to see how many we get on the WeBS count a week on Friday.

I spent much of the day around Chew Valley Lake checking out places where we might put up some bat boxes, and saw an Osprey fly over Nunnery Point at 1215 hrs while I was there.

Thursday 2nd October [Hot and sunny]

I don't have any news from the lake today, I was walking in the Malvern Hills. We saw 2 Northern Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe and lots of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis on the hill tops. I think the ridge walk on a sunny day like today has to be one of the most beautiful walks in the whole of England, the views were extraordinary.

I took a look at the micro-moth caught on the night of 29th September, it was a new species for the lake, an Australian introduction called the Ruddy Streak Tachystola acroxantha which was first recorded in the UK in 1908. It's been recorded as far north as Lancashire according to the NBN Gateway.

Friday 3rd October [Breezy with sunny spells]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this morning, and Little Egret Egretta garzetta flying around at Top End. Migrants included a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis on Green Lawn, presumably the bird first noted on 30th September, and at least one small group of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.

Saturday 4th October [Steady rain, then sunshine]

Some rain is falling at last, and it felt quite refreshing to be out birding in it this morning. There was no angling competition, and only a handful of boats were out by the time I left. However, I didn't really spot anything of note during my visit other than a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago flying around in front of Top End hide while I was there. This autumn continues to disappoint!

On a more positive note, take a look at Joanna Dailey's Kielder Ospreys blog to see what the offspring of Osprey 'white YA' and his brother are up to on their first migration to west Africa. The satellite tracking information makes fascinating reading and gives quite an insight into their wanderings.

Sunday 5th October [Mainly sunny]

I had a walk along the south side of the lake today and saw some Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica moving through, a ♂ Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and a gathering of about 40 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus bathing. There were lots of Canada Geese Branta canadensis still, but only 10 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, though I saw a group of 8 later that may have been different.

Tomorrow, Ken Anstey is coming over from North Common to help me create two new roost boxes inside the bat house, one of which we hope can later be upgraded into a heated maternity roost box.

Monday 6th October [Pouring rain this morning, sunny this afternoon]

There was a sizeable gull roost this evening (by Blagdon standards) which included several hundred Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, the first few Common Gulls Larus canus of the autumn, along with a building Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus winter roost. A Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam this evening.

Ken Anstey and I had a great day, and managed to get the first roost box up inside the lakeside bat house. I'm going to visit Wadbury and Harridge bat houses with Dave Cottle and Adel Avery of Somerset Bat Group tomorrow morning. Hopefully, I'll get some more ideas to help me furnish the bat house and put the best possible roost together.

Tuesday 7th October [A few showers]

This afternoon I couldn't find much to report at the lake. The Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis number had dropped to 7 and it was quite noticeable that many of the drake Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and Wigeon Anas penelope drakes have started to attain their breeding plumage over the last couple of days.

My visit to Wadbury and Harridge Bat Houses was really interesting. We saw Lesser Rhinolophus hipposideros and Greater Horseshoe R. ferrumequinum Bats but it was really the design aspects that I was interested in. The main outcome was, I think, the need for a rethink about the bat entrance so it's back to the drawing board.

Wednesday 8th October [Showers]

This afternoon there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam again, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Cheddar Water. There were loads of Canada Geese Branta canadensis swimming all over the lake and, rather curiously, 8 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis.

Thursday 9th October [Showers and breezy]

Much the same fare as yesterday with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Long Bay and 10 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis among the Canada Geese Branta canadensis. Tomorrow morning we'll be doing the monthly WeBS Count.

Friday 10th October [Sunny and breezy]

We did the WeBS count this morning and Lucy Delve quickly spotted 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis right at the end of Butcombe Bay. Unfortunately, they were flushed soon after by a fishing boat and the last time I saw them was off the Fishing Lodge at 1040 hrs. The boat disturbance was unusually significant this morning and made the count quite difficult. Common Coot Fulica atra numbers were up to 1098, our first Northern Pintail Anas acuta was at Top End, and there may have been as many as 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around the lake (there were certainly two). We saw 2 Clouded Yellows Colias croceus and quite a few Hornets Vespa crabro, especially where you park to visit Top End hide. At least 3 Skylarks Aluada arvensis flew south overhead during the count and 7 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica flew through. Full count details are on the WeBS Page. Ian Hayes emailed to say the 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were visible from the dam at 1500 hrs this afternoon. Thanks Ian.

The current water level is 75% according to Bristol Water and some margins are beginning to appear. However, it may just be too little, too late. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday 11th October [Sunshine and showers]

The 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis were still in Butcombe Bay at 1415 hrs this afternoon. Also noted today, were at least 2, probably 3, Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 4 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and I heard a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus calling by the boat jetty.

Sunday 12th October [Mist and overcast all day]

I spent about 7 hours beside the lake today but it was to finish doing the autumn bat box checks rather than birding. I had a look for the Black-necked Grebes in Butcombe Bay just as the boats were going out for a competition, but couldn't really see right down to the end through the wisps of mist rising from the water. At lunchtime we were checking boxes on the east side of bay but there was no sign of them that I could see. Several birders turned up for a look, but I've had no reports of any sightings. I did see a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly in from the west over the dam while we were checking boxes in the Pumping Station grounds.

Thanks to Ken Anstey, Sarah Dale, Catherine Jones, Tom Johnston and Jane Cole for help with the boxes - we found 5 (4♂ and a ♀) Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus.

Monday 13th October [Rain all day]

I was at the funeral of a dear friend Malcolm Bowran for most of the day, but I did have a look around the lake late this afternoon and saw 3 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. Then, when checking Butcombe Bay from the dam, I spotted a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus on a buoy with a green darvic ring 'L42'. This was a bird I first saw on 16th May 2013 as a 1st-summer, that was ringed in Normandy.

Tuesday 14th October [Rain again]

Well, whad'ya know, another Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis has turned up and seems quite settled in Holt Bay. It was still there feeding when I left at 1405 hrs. Also noted today were 6 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 10 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. The water level is dropping quite quickly now that the new pumps seem to have been turned on, and a daily visit suddenly feels worthwhile with migration still underway. Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata are arriving and, while checking around for Yellow-browed Warblers (which are on the move through the country), I heard a couple of Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita.

Wednesday 15th October [More rain]

I took time out for a good look around again today, but it was a while before I spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis hard against the North Shore feeding with a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula. Other interesting birds included a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Home Bay Point, a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Rugmoor Gate, a couple of noisy Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Paradise, 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 10 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing by the Lodge, 13 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Green Lawn, 5 Common Gulls Larus canus, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and a mixed flock of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus and European Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis over Long Bay heading south. At Lodge Copse there was a large flock of 60+ Goldfinches feeding on Birch Betula sp. seeds.

There were 3 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus on Holt Farm fields with darvic rings on:

The Black-necked Grebe was back in Holt Bay at 1800 hrs this evening. Although I saw the Chew Bonxie briefly, it didn't come over Blagdon unfortunately.

Thursday 16th October [Early sun,then overcast]

I went to the lake early this morning and eventually found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis from Rainbow Point looking towards Rugmoor at 0830 hrs. I also saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Green Lawn and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in flight over the North Shore.

I popped home for breakfast and drove over to Edford and Harridge Woods to join Adel Avery and Dave Cottle to check some bat boxes. We did surprisingly well, finding a few each of Soprano Pipistrelle, Brown Long-eared and Natterer's Bats. I heard at least 2 Marsh Tits singing to each other while we were checking boxes at Edford Wood. Then, I had to make a quick dash to Yatton to have a look around someone's house for evidence of bats using their outbuildings and loft.

The gull roost contained an exceptional number of large gulls (for Blagdon) and I wished I'd had time to count the Herring Gulls Larus argentatus. However, I couldn't find anything unusual in the throng.

Friday 17th October [Mainly dry, a bit warmer, with some sun]

I spent most of the day with Ken Anstey in my garage making a new entrance for the bat house so didn't do any birding until about 1700 hrs. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, and there was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Bell's Bush. At Top End I saw 6 (5 adults and an imm.) Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus and 2 more adults at Long Bay, with another juv/1st-winter flying around at Rugmoor. They really are becoming more common these days. There was a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta still on the wing at Top End too.

Saturday 18th October [ Sunny spells]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay again today, and to be honest there wasn't much else to report. There is a lot of boat activity at the moment, especially weekends, and this is likely to continue until the end of the month when they come off the water.

Sunday 19th October [Sunny spells and breezy]

Once again the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay at 1300 hrs, when I came back from Chew Valley Ringing Station. One of the ringers, Mark Dadds, has kindly made 4 Kent Bat Boxes for me to use at Blagdon - one of which will go up along Butcombe Bank as a trial, and three will go up in the Bat House. While I was in the ringing station I saw the Bonxie (Great Skua) washing itself in Stratford Bay, and a Clouded Yellow Butterfly in the meadow.

Also at Blagdon were 400+ Canada Geese Branta canadensis, a couple of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Holt Bay and a Northern Raven Corvus corax at Top End.

I took a wander along the Butcombe Bank footpath late this afternoon to look at some trees for BW and spotted a diver sp. on the way back that I couldn't identify through my binoculars. Luckily, I had my scope not too far away and was gobsmacked to spy an adult summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver Gavia immer just off the dam. Looking through the records, this would appear to be the first adult identified as such, and the 22nd record (30th bird), with the last three in 1993, 2008 and 2009-10.

Monday 20th October [Showers]

Paul Williams reported seeing the Great Northern Diver Gavia immer off Spinney Point this morning at 0810 hrs, but it appears to have flown off sometime between then and 0930 hrs. Several of us were looking for it between 0930 and 1100 hrs but there wasn't any sign. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay still at 1100 hrs showing well, and there were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered about. Migrants flying over included several Skylarks Alauda arvensis, a (presumed Lesser) Redpoll Carduelis cabaret and a small flock of about 20 Redwings Turdus iliacus. I also saw at least two small groups of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis (one on the dam and the other at Holt Bay).

Tuesday 21st October [North-westerly gales and cooler]

The wind was screaming down the lake this morning, and I thought perhaps there might have been a Grey Phalarope blown in, but no such luck. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, where there were 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus sheltering on the lee shore, and we still have 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta (4 adult ♂♂), but that was about the extent of it. The gull roost in the evening was remarkable for the number of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, an incredible 734, which surpasses my highest count of 647 on 16th October 2012. I'm guessing the roost was over 2000 birds when all the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus were taken into account.

Yesterday evening, Celia and I joined members of Avon Bat Group at Wildscreen 2014 to see 'The Bat Man of Mexico', Tom Mustills inspiring 'BBC Natural World' documentary about the conservation of Lesser Long-nosed Bats Leptonycteris yerbabuenae by Rodrigo Medellin. It is such a good news story in these days of doom and gloom. We even had a chance to chat with Tom and Rodrigo over a pint afterwards!

Wednesday 22nd October [Breezy and overcast]

I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos fly across Pipe Bay while I was working at the lake, but couldn't see the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay at dusk. David Hughes photographed it earlier and sent me this picture.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Holt Bay © David Hughes, 2014.

I spent the day working in the Bat House with Ken Anstey. We've been creating new roost habitat inside and put up the entrance cowling. Mark Dadds made some superb Kent bat boxes, two of which we've put up inside and two of which I plan to put up outside. Dave Cottle gave us some netting for the bats to hang from, which we've lined the roosts with. Thanks to everyone, it's been a great team effort.

The lake water level is at 68% (per the Bristol Water website).

Thursday 23rd October [Mild but overcast with occasional drizzle]

Our first Ruff Philomachus pugnax of the year, a juvenile, dropped in today and joined the 6 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in Holt Bay. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was also back in Holt Bay, although a fishing boat was moving it around a bit. A Willow Salix sp. in the same bay had an amazing 18 Collared Doves Streptopelia decaocto roosting in it. It's not unusual to see the odd bird or two flying over, but I've never seen this number beside the lake before. At Top End there were 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and I counted 16 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, as well as 17 (naturalised) Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis on Holt Farm fields (present since Monday). French Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 'green L42' was one of several GBBs, and I saw a Herring Gull Larus argentatus with a blue darvic that I couldn't quite read.

Friday 24th October [Showers]

I spent most of the day checking YACWAG bat boxes with Tony, Bob and Irene; we found 11 Soprano Pipistrelles in three ♂ advertising sites (boxes).

Just before dusk, I had a quick look at the lake and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End.

This evening I walked bat transect #1R at the lake. Even though some light rain fell during the walk, the bats kept flying, and I recorded at least a couple of different Nathusius's Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii and a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros among the usual species.

Saturday 25th October [Occasional sunny spells]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay as usual this morning (see picture below taken by Dave Hughes). A Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata was reported in the hedge at Green Lawn/Holt Bay and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta was in front of the Fishing Lodge. During the afternoon I counted 17 Northern Pintails Anas acuta between Burmah Road and Top End and saw the 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis on Holt Farm fields. I saw 2 more Little Egrets at Top End later.

Sunday 26th October [Overcast but mild] Blagdon Lake Birds is 5 today!

It was a lovely day beside the lake, but there was no sign of any migrants on the move. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay, and there were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 19 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. A Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos flew off the south end of the newly-cleaned dam wall and I spotted an old friend in Home Bay, an adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 'blue 34' (nasal saddle), for the first time this winter period. He is another French bird, ringed at Marolles-sur-Seine on 19th November 2007 (per Alain Caizergues). Whilst on the subject of French birds, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 'green L42' was on a buoy off the dam again late this afternoon.

On a mild but blustery evening, I walked bat transect #2R and recorded a number of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, including some social calls, but no Nathusius's.

I had a look back through the archives for 26th October, and todays fayre has a familiar ring to it, including the (presumed returning) Black-necked Grebe. However, other possible arrivals in the next week or so could include Bewick's Swans, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gulls, Fieldfares and, if we're very lucky, a few shorebirds and vagrants. The boat angling is due to finish on Friday 31st October.

Monday 27th October [Mainly overcast, with a blustery south-east breeze.]

This morning there was a fair amount of disturbance due to fishing boats and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was flushed to the North Shore. Taking things in the order I noted them, I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at the Lodge and 2 more at Top End, a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a darvic 'white J8P8' (Norwegian, previously noted on 18th October 2012) in front of the Lodge, and adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 'blue 34' (nasal saddle) in Home Bay. I heard Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over, and noted 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in Holt Bay. An adult ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula flew along the North Shore and appeared to land, while a late Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita called at Wood Bay, and 3 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus flew over at Bell's Bush. On the way back to the Lodge I counted 342 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis and the usual Greylag x Canada Goose hybrid.

There were still a few Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta on the wing and a very late Clouded Yellow Colias croceus was flying around at Wood Bay while the sun was out. In the evening I walked Bat transect #3R and aside from a few Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, I recorded a single Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii pass during the last minute at Hellfire Corner, in the shelter of the trees.

Tuesday 28th October [Warm for the time of year, and dry.]

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam this afternoon and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay. At dusk there were no fewer than 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End, still feeding, so no indication that they might roost there. I'm guessing they were visiting from Chew Valley. Paul Williams emailed to say he saw 5 Little Egrets and 17 Barnacle Geese at lunch time.

Wednesday 29th October [Overcast with drizzle]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was asleep in Holt Bay mid-morning and the 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus remain there too. I only saw a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End and just the one Canada Goose Branta canadensis. The Norwegian Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 'white J8P8'was in front of the Lodge and French adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 'blue 34' (nasal saddle) was in Home Bay. There were 4 Little Egrets at Top End this evening and I saw them fly off west together while I was waiting to start bat transect #4R. Perhaps they are coming and going from the coast?

There were a few bats on the wing 20-30 minutes after dusk, as they emerged, but after that I only had an occasional pass, 6 of which were Nathusius's Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii close to Grove Farm. A lot of Tawny Owls Strix aluco have been calling around the lake while I've been batting over the last week. At least 4 different patches of woodland have calling birds in them, and I've yet to walk Butcombe Bay where there will be at least two more I'm sure.

Thursday 30th October [Overcast with sunny spells]

Roy Curber came over today and we had a quick look at the lake this morning before going off to the new WWT Steart Marshes for the day. We saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Holt Bay, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End. Adult ♂ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 'blue 34' (nasal saddle) was still in Home Bay.

I saw the juvenile PALLID HARRIER briefly at Steart, after 4.5 hours of waiting at Steart Gate, chatting to Nigel Tucker and John Martin. Unfortunately, Roy was unable to get on it before it dropped out of sight. The reserve is an amazing transformation and covers a vast area. It looks like it ought to develop into somewhere quite special over the coming years.

Friday 31st October [Sunny, and really warm - 20 Celsius!]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Holt Bay again this morning and there were 25 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End (plus another that flew past the Lodge later). I counted 19 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and saw 3 flocks of Common Woodpigeon Columba palumbus totalling 200-250 birds fly south over the lake while I was chatting to anglers at the Lodge. Norwegian Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 'white J8P8' was back in front of the Lodge again too. Oh, and I saw a lone Skylark Alauda arvensis calling and flying around at Bell's Bush.

Tiny's shallow has reappeared as an island in front of the Lodge, and with the boats finishing today, we might get the odd wader or two drop in over the next week or two - we could desperately do with some more species to add to the year total, which is as low as I've ever known it for the time of year.

This afternoon I put up 4 bat boxes (2 Kent Boxes and 2 Schwegler 2F DFP) then had another look in front of the Lodge where I found a juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (one of the 6 species recorded that I'd missed so far this year). Then, this evening I found the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and an 8th Little Egret Egretta garzetta on The Island when I went to do bat transect #5R along the dam and Butcombe Bank. The SE breeze was really blowing onto the shore, so the bat count was down, but I did record a Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii flying over the Spillway behind the dam.