BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

October 2016 News


Saturday 1st October [Showers]

Despite last nights rain, not much has changed. This morning I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 6 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, 4 Dunlin Calidris alpina, 2 juvenile Little Stints Calidris minuta (the latter in front of the Lodge at midday still), 32 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 30 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis on the pipes at the dam.

Mark Hynam contacted me later and reminded me of a Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava at Burmah Road (I'd seen it earlier at Hellfire Corner), and he saw 3 Great White Egrets, 5 Dunlin, and 2 Northern Ravens Corvus corax on a fish carcass.

Sunday 2nd October [Sunny and warm]

There were 2 Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia at Top End from 1230 to 1500 hrs at least today (4th record, 4th & 5th birds). One looked like the bird present on 19th September, a probable 2nd-calendar year bird with buffish outer primary feathers, and the other (smaller bird) was probably a 3rd calendar year with just 3-4 black tips in the primaries. They were tucking into Great Pond Snails Lymnaea stagnalis by the looks of it. Other birds of note included 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 6 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, and 2 juvenile Little Stints Calidris minuta (the latter in front of the Lodge at 1500 hrs on Tiny's Shallow).

We were bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake in the evening and I noticed 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in front of the main reed bed as we put the traps up. It was like WWIII behind Herriott's Pool with guns continually being fired (shooting wildfowl perhaps) at dusk? Anyway, we had a successful evening batting (see Bat News).

Monday 3rd October [Sunny and warm]

Sorry for the late posting - computer problems again yesterday. During my late morning visit I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 4 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, a Dunlin Calidris alpina, and a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta on Tiny's Shallow from the Lodge, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, another Ringed Plover, 4 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 33 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and the juvenile Eurasian Hobby Falco subutteo from Top End hide, plus a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra at Rugmoor Gate. I met Robert Hargreaves at the Lodge as I was leaving, and he e-mailed later to tell me he'd seen 2 Whinchats at Rugmoor, 15 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and 8 Common Snipe.

Tuesday 4th October [A cool easterly, but remaining dry.]

Wow! The March of the Great White Egrets continues apace! This morning there were 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 15 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at the lake. The normally pugnacious Grey Herons seem slightly bewildered by the take-over. There has been an influx of new birds with counts of 106 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 10+ Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. At the Lodge, although I saw none of the regular waders on arrival, I found the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 4 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, and 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina there on my way home. I also saw a mystery wader in flight over Rugmoor Point that had white trailing edges in the wings but I lost sight of it behind a bush in the foreground and couldn't refind it, despite going over there.

Great White Egrets Ardea alba, Top End © Ian Stapp, 2016

Late afternoon Chris Craig rang me and reported a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus at Flower Corner/Bell's Bush, but although I was there within the hour I found no sign of it, so another year tick goes a-begging! I did, however, see 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 2 more Dunlin (different to those that were in front of the Lodge this morning).

Wednesday 5th October [Sunny and fairly warm]

What an extraordinary day! My early morning visit turned up 15 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a juvenile Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, and a Dunlin Calidris alpina before I had to leave to meet BOC Chairman Ken Carruthers and Robin 'Buzzard' Prytherch at Chew Valley Lake. While Robin and I were up on the Mendips later in the afternoon, I felt a tap on the shoulder and looked around to see a Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula perched there... It wasn't ringed, but clearly used to interacting with people because it kept trying to tip my cap off and was all over me and my binoculars. Robin and I dug up a couple of worms to feed it, but it tried to store the biggest in a fold in the sleeve of my top rather than eat it. I thought it was going to come home with me, but fortunately it flew off after we'd walked about 1/4 mile back towards our cars. Bizarre or what? I took some selfies with it on my iPhone4 (not great but you get the idea):

A friendly Jackdaw © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

I went back to Top End hide before it got dark, and saw a Ruff Philomachus pugnax, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 4 White Wagtails Motacilla alba alba and counted 160 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There were still 12 Great Whites when the sun went behind the hill.

The scene fromTop End hide this evening © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

There were additional reports of a Garganey Anas querquedula, 4 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta,  165 Northern Lapwings, 2 juvenile Ruff, and 20 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis on Avon Birds.

Thursday 6th October [Overcast and still]

Inevitably, the bulk of the Great White Egrets Ardea alba seemed to have moved on, with just 2 present early this morning. Also noted were 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, a Dunlin Calidris alpina, and a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago.

Mid-morning update from Andy Davis (thank you), a flock of Great Whites has just flown in from the west and there are 14 present again, as of 1130 hrs. They may have come in from Butcombe Bay where I found them mid-afternoon to get this shot:

13 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea for comparison © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

13 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, Butcombe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

At 1215 hrs Andy Davis noticed a wader fly in to Top End, and Richard Mielcarek and he quickly realised it was a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos (9th site record, I think). It fed at Top End for about 45 mins then flew off west with 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago (Andy had seen 6 earlier). Richard and I went to look for it at the Fishing Lodge and watched it until about 1400 hrs when again it flew, apparently back towards Top End.

Two record shots of the Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos (Honest! It's right of the gull) © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

The juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, 2 juvenile Ruff and a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta were present at Top End until dusk, and I watched 12 Great White Egrets gather together by the Top End inlet stream and fly off towards Chew as darkness fell, whereas the Little Egrets headed off west. My Little Egret count was of 10 birds today. Other birds noted by Andy Davis and Ian Stapp included a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus. Chris Stone picked out a couple of Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Rugmoor Point late this afternoon too. Thanks for all the news today.

Friday 7th October [Mainly overcast with a slight breeze]

The Great White Egret Ardea alba numbers built up over the morning and when I left there were 13, but Ken Hall just texted to say there were 14 present as of lunchtime. Richard, Andy and I spent much of the morning looking for the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos without any luck, then Ken sat in the hide beside me and put his scope straight on it! The 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, were still at Top End, and I counted 7 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 43 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and saw Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Green 'L42'[2012], and a Mute Swan Cygnus olor Yellow 'BNI' (a new bird).

We will be bat trapping again this evening, probably along Butcome Bank (dependent on the strength of the breeze), or, at the Fishing Lodge. We will also be running a YACWAG bat walk at 1830 hrs from the north end of the dam along Butcombe Bank (for about an hour) and hope to show those who join us, some of the bats in the hand that they have been hearing on the detectors during the walk. We have some new visual detectors that show the bat sonograms that help us identify the species echolocating. So, it should be a fun evening, please feel free to come along.

Saturday 8th October [A cool breeze but dry]

There were 15 Great White Egrets Ardea alba present all morning at the lake (so presumably the 4 reported at Chew late morning were additional), 13+ Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos until 1415 hrs at least, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, 3+ Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus. Mark Hynam had been birding since dawn and had also seen a Common Redshank Tringa totanus and 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula.

One of the Great White Egrets had a ring on its left tibia, Red 'AAF', that Andy Davis saw at Chew yesterday and which had been present at Durleigh Reservoir near Bridgwater last month, I'm told. This is a bird from a new project that started in early May 2016 and was ringed in Somerset. Chicks from 2 out of a possible 7 nests were ringed in May and June, with used letters: AAA, AAC and AAF. Good old Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Green 'L42'[2012] was also loafing at Top End.

The bat walk was highly successful last night with Soprano, Nathusius', Serotine and Noctule being heard on the detectors. Unfortunately, we didn't catch any bats before the group left, whereupon we caught the first of 2 Nathusius' Pipistrelles (♂♂) Pipistrellus nathusii, a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros, a Brown Long-eared Plecotus auritus and 2 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus. I was able to show the group some Soprano Pipistrelles and Lesser Horseshoes before they went, so I think most went home happy. We packed up at 0230 hrs.

Sunday 9th October [Sunny with a cool breeze]

I had time for the briefest of visits this morning between 0830-0900 hrs and tweeted out my sightings (see above), then spent the rest of the day at Chew Valley Lake checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey (see Bat News). After a diversion to re-hang a bat box at Folly Farm, I finally got back to Blagdon for another look at 1815 hrs. Anyway, I saw the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, 13 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and 30 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea today. It is clear from my early morning count, and one made mid-afternoon (on Top End hide board), that the majority of the Great White Egrets flew in to Blagdon later in the day, presumably from Chew where we saw them regularly while checking bat boxes.

Monday 10th October [Sunny with a cool breeze]

The juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos was still present this lunchtime, as were the 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, a Little Stint Calidris minuta, 4 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]), 16 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis and (according to a count by Robert Hargreaves) 152 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. The water level continues to drop... I reckon it was probably about 47% as of yesterday.

I see there was a report on Rare Bird Alert of 10 Great White Egrets at some point during the day today.

Tuesday 11th October [A sunny afternoon]

I didn't get to the lake until this afternoon, when there were a record 17 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]), 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, a Little Stint Calidris minuta, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis and a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula present. I didn't see it, but Colin Hunt told me he'd seen the lone Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa earlier as well. Also, thanks to Neil Downer for contacting me about the tripod left in the hide - it was successfully re-united with its owner.

Wednesday 12th October [Sunny spells]

I managed to fit two visits in today between 0900-1000hrs and 1615-1700 hrs. During the morning I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on Tiny's Shallow, 66+ Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Pipe Bay, with at least another 13 at Burmah Road. I heard a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus call over the Lodge car park, saw 3 juvenile (1♂ & 2♀) Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, and a Lesser Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus hipposideros. This evening I counted a record 18 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]) with Christine and Mike O'Connor, and saw the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta and 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago.

In the evening our team went to Backwell Lake (thanks to Wessex Water) and ran 3 traps and lures as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project and caught just one bat - a juvenile ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii. Yay! I also saw a Little Egret roosting on the island, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing after dark in the reed bed.

Thursday 13th October [Some sunny spells but chilly in the wind]

A late morning visit today, and after careful scrutiny I came up with a total of 18 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]), 21 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (I couldn't find any more to match your record count of 26 Karen), 3 juvenile (1♂ & 2♀) Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina and a juvenile (probable ♀) Peregrine Falco peregrinus.

Friday 14th October

I only had time for a quick visit between 1000-1030 hrs this morning. I saw 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 19 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, and 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina. The water level continues to drop and, frankly, the birds are a long way from Top End hide now.

Saturday 15th October [Sunny but cool]

Again, just a quick visit this morning, between 1100-1200 hrs, when I saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, 20 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 3 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 3 Dunlin Calidris alpina, and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. This evening at dusk there were probably around 7 Great White Egrets, which flew off towards Chew before I could get from Rainbow Point to the hide to check their identity. The Little Egrets flew off west as usual.

Mike Gillett sent me the following news: Spent two hours 1230ish till rain come in. Saw a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, one Redwing Turdus iliacus, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and a long way off I could make out 5 Great Whites and 22 Little Egrets. Also a Black-tailed Godwit, several  small waders, and started to count Grey Herons Ardea cinereus, but something scared every thing up and I gave up, although I did see a Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus on the mud at Rugmoor, so this may have been the reason. Cheers Mike.

Sunday 16th October [Sunny with a cool breeze]

I had a look around late morning and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]), 18 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, and 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. Despite the reed bed in Pipe Bay being left high and dry, I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing from there while checking through the gulls at the Lodge. I had a bit more time than of late to scan through the wildfowl and 'mipits' too, but couldn't find anything of note.

At 1745 hrs there were 11 Great White Egrets and 16 Little Egrets on view. We'll be conducting the WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Monday 17th October [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

Three of us, Phillip Delve, Robert Hargreaves and I, carried out the WeBS count this morning and I was astounded at the counts of dabbling ducks. I thought many had started to leave, but we had record counts of 690 Northern Shovelers Anas clypeatus and 433 Gadwall Anas strepera, plus a meer (circa - due to disturbance) 2030 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, 942 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, and 560 Mallards Anas platyrhynchos. If you combine those numbers with 18 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]) and 24 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta you won't be surprised to learn it took us four and a half hours. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Pectoral Sandpiper, but we also saw the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. Full count details on the WeBS Page. Note, I've revised the Mute Swan count up to 55 adults and 7 juveniles: 62 total this evening.

Sorry you couldn't join us due to illness Roy Curber, but hope you'll be fit and well soon.

Tuesday 18th October [Rain overnight and a dry day]

I spent most of the day checking Dormouse boxes with Ken Anstey (including the scheme at Blagdon Lake - where no signs were found). I did manage to have a look at the birds late afternoon and immediatley saw a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Green Lawn, which gave me hope that we might have some new birds after the overnight rain, but the report has a very familiar ring; 12 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (including Red 'AAF'[2016]), 19 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina, and 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa.

Wednesday 19th October [Dry with sunny spells]

Two visits today, as I try to do at this time of year, and was pleased to see some new Aythya ducks arrived in the shape of 7 (3♂, 3♀, & a juv.) Greater Scaup Aythya marila. I made two complete counts of the egrets, morning and evening, with maxima of 11 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 27 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (both this evening) along with 26 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea visible from Bell's Bush. The only wader I saw this morning aside from Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus was a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, but this evening there was a single juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax and juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta at Top End. My witness to visible migration, were single flyovers of Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret at Wood Bay and Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina at Green Lawn.

Sad news from the Great Crane Project team today - there are way too many morons running around our countryside with guns!

Thursday 20th October [Mainly overcast and dry]

Late this morning was another egret fest, with 16 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 27 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, but this evening there were actually 30 Little Egrets with the same number of Greats. Amazing! The 7 (3 1st-w ♂, 3 adult & a juv. ♀) Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still present today, mainly in the vicinity of Rugmoor Point, moving along to Ash Tree when the fishing boats weren't around. A juvenile Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Yellow 'D:DK' was loafing on Rugmoor Point. At Top End, among the bulk of the egrets, were singles of Dunlin Calidris alpina, juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. I also came across what I take to be the same Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata that I'd seen on the 18th, this time at Bell's Bush. For those that keep a note of such things, I have retrospectively tweaked the Mute Swan count for this month up by one juvenile, bringing the total to 63. I thought we were one short on the day but didn't remember to check until today - we still have 8 (broods of 4, 3, & 1).

Tomorrow evening we will be running the last scheduled bat trapping session of the year at Blagdon Lake. Looks like it's going to be a cold one!

Friday 21st October [Sunny]

I saw 19 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (site record) and 27 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta this morning with Andy Davis, and he heard a Bearded Tit (Reedling) Panurus biarmicus calling at about 1100 hrs from the small patch of rushes to the right of the Top End hide. Sadly (for me - patch tick), neither of us saw it, but it is the 3rd site record. There were still at least 5 Greater Scaup Aythya marila and singles of Dunlin Calidris alpina, juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. What I assume is the same 1st-winter ♀ Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata as yesterday was over at Peg's Point at lunchtime.

Mike Gillett sent me the following: Few hours at lake this afternoon,  46 species seen. I wonder if any water will be left for fish & water fowl. 17 Great Whites and 22 Little Egrets, 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 200+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, Little Stint and Eurasian Stonechat at Long Bay. He also took the Lodge feeders home for a wash and brush up, ready for the winter - thanks again Mike.

Paul Williams texted his news from a late afternoon/dusk visit: 19 Great Whites and 24 Little Egrets, 3 Greater Scaup and 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis. Thanks Paul.

We had a large group of bat workers enjoying our last trapping session at the lake for this season, and ran three traps and lures. Again, it was quiet with just 6 bats caught up to 0130 hrs, but remarkably we had 5 species! Unfortunately, for the first time this autumn, no Nathusius' either. Catch details on the Bat News page.

Saturday 22nd October [Sunny with a bitter wind]

Two brief visits today around 1400 hrs and dusk. I had time to count egrets both times and came up with 18 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 23 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta on the early count and 7 Greats and 27 Littles on the late count. I had a look for waders this evening but didn't see any aside from a depleted number of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I thought I saw a couple of Greater Scaup this evening but I wasn't entirely sure in the poor light and long distance, but there was a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis present. I will have more time tomorrow, and plan to have a more thorough look around.

Sunday 23rd October [Sunny and windy]

There were up to 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba during my visit today, with a peak count of 24 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta made by Mark Hynam. There are still 7 (probably 3 1st-w ♂, 3 adult & a juv. ♀) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, a Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 4 Dunlin Calidris alpina, and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Mark counted 293 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and saw an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca earlier in the day.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the most bizarre sighting was of a bird with a white beak swimming towards me with orange cheek patches. It turned out to be a Common Coot Fulica atra, but I have no idea what the orange cheek patches are all about. Mark got some video of it, and I showed Steve Preddy the bird when I bumped into him. His suggestion of another coot possibly grabbing hold of its head and pulling feathers out is the best plausible explanation, but I don't know if they have orange skin on their cheeks. Below is a still from Marks video grab and it does appear to show that the feathers are missing on the cheek as they are on the other side.

Common Coot Fulica atra © Mark Hynam, 2016

Monday 24th October [Steady rain all day]

I visited the lake late this afternoon between 1600 and 1715 hrs. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in front of the Lodge. I counted 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 24 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around the lake, and picked out 6 of the Greater Scaup Aythya marila before having to leave.

Colin Hunt included 2 Black-tailed Godwits and and 5 Common Snipe in his report on the Top End hide board, while Avon Birds reported 71 Mute Swans, 9 Barnacle Geese, 28 Little Egrets, 5 Great White Egrets, 31 Grey Herons, 1 Common Buzzard, 98 Northern Lapwings, 8 Great black-backed Gulls, and 2 Winter Wrens.

Tuesday 25th October [Sunny and warmer]

I went walking with friends today, so didn't get to the lake until tea time when I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 28 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the same 7 Greater Scaup Aythya marila that have been present for a few days and a Dunlin Calidris alpina with a 'gammy' leg in front of the Fishing Lodge. I didn't get the chance to check the Top End before having to dash off for a bat roost visit follow-up.

Wednesday 26th October [Overcast and mild]

I made a record count of 32 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta this morning, and there were 16 Great White Egrets Ardea alba together at Bell's Bush (not including red AAF). I also counted 8 Greater Scaup Aythya marila and showed them to Andy Davis and Neil Downer when we met at Wood Bay Point. This equals the site record, in answer to an enquiry by Andy, with 8 having been seen twice before in 1993 and 2008. While looking through the throng of waterfowl, Andy heard a Skylark Alauda arvensis fly over, calling twice, that I managed to miss, but when a military helicopter came up the valley a little later I picked out 14 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria in flight, which had presumably been flushed off ploughed fields on Lag Farm. We also saw and heard a Dunlin Calidris alpina and the long-staying Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa which towered high into the sky when the Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus flock went up. I also counted 66 Mute Swans Cygnus olor during my visit.

Thursday 27th October [Overcast and mild]

I decided that I would spend the morning at the lake today, having had little chance to have a thorough look around this month. I was up before first light and at the lake by 0800hrs, and what a good time I had. New birds included 4 adult Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, and a spanking adult ♂ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. When I got to Top End there were 17 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in view, but because I was on foot I didn't try and count the highly mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. So, at 1400 hrs I drove back along to Wood Bay Point and counted 20 Great Whites (a site record), 20 Little Egrets, and 40 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea (also a site record) - you wouldn't want to be a small fish at Blagdon at the moment! The 8 Greater Scaup Aythya marila were together off Peg's Point, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the Spillway, 8+ Skylarks Alauda arvensis flew over, and at least 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita were in Lodge Copse at sun rise. In total I notched up 64 species. There are some level marker stones at the south end of the dam, and they indicate the water level is down by over 10 feet, which almost certainly refers to the original top level that has subsequently been raised when the overspill was made higher, so the lake is probably nearer 12 feet below top level and still falling.

At 1815 hrs this evening, the 20 Great White Egrets and 4 Bewick's Swans (2 feeding and 2 asleep) were still at Top End.

Friday 28th October [Overcast and mild]

A RED LETTER DAY AT BLAGDON & CHEW VALLEY LAKE!

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla - 1st for Blagdon

I was birding at Wood Bay Point with Andy Davis and George Stacey, when just about everything at the lake took to the air for the third time since I'd arrived. I looked towards Top End to see the Great White Egrets and geese in the air and spotted an eagle! "It's an eagle!" I exclaimed, and Andy Davis shouted "It's a White-tailed!" I didn't have my cameras with me but George and Andy should have some shots. It stuck around circling over the lake for ages, and even drifting towards Chew, before coming back and flew up the hill to Swancombe Wood and landed in a tree. We could still see it, until it apparently dropped and landed in a field. Some time later it took off and flew up towards Black Down being mobbed by a dense cloud of corvids. Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall, who were on the north side of the lake, thought it flew along the north side of Black Down and probably landed at around 1330 hrs or so. I think it's a juvenile and only the 5th local record (others 1861, 1871, 1919, 1927). I had time to go home and get my camera and grabbed a few shots, although I'm hoping to see and post some better ones later.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

Needless to say I didn't have time to do a full search of the lake for other birds, but I did see the 4 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 5 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 12 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Andy Davis had seen 15 Great Whites before I counted them.

Ken Anstey, Greg Nightingale and I were bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake this evening. We caught 4 bats, and the first 3 were all juvenile ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii. Absolutley amazing! For completeness, the other bat was a ♂ Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros.

Saturday 29th October [Dismal and drizzling, then clearing by lunchtime.]

Todays lake news is of 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina (thanks for the heads-up Keith Vinicombe), 4 Bewick's (Tundra) Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii (one of which is ringed, but I haven't been able to read it yet), 8 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 16 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and no Great Whites. While batting at Chew last night, there was a blinding flash at around 2300 hrs and several large explosions caused by fireworks, and the egret roost was certainly very noisy for a while, as was the gull roost. They weren't happy! Also, the local petrol-heads were using the road between the Blue Bowl and Chew Stoke as a race track and filming each other, not quite what I expected at 0100 hrs in the morning on the way home.

Anyway, Andy Davis corrected my memory regarding the GWE count yesterday. He counted 15. He also sent me these two pictures taken while we were watching the eagle:

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla © Andy Davis, 2016

Chris Vines also emailed yesterday to send me this picture of the bird that he and Richard Pooley saw while it was flying along the Nempnett/Breach Hill ridge north of the lake at about 1120 hrs. My sincere thanks to Andy and Chris.

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla © Chris Vines, 2016

I've received some more pictures from George Stacey (again many thanks):

White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla © George Stacey, 2016

Sunday 30th October [Overcast then some brighter spells later. Mild.]

Although I spent the day at the lake, I was checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey until an hour from dusk. I saw 16 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 19 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (Colin Hunt told me he'd counted 20), 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, and just 4 Greater Scaup Aythya marila.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus adult, Red 'A+F'. Ringed in Bristol 10th May 2016 by Peter Rock & fitted with a GPS tag.

The bat box check turned up quite a few bats with some nice surprises - see Bat News.

Monday 31st October [Dense fog, clearing lunchtime to a sunny afternoon.]

A lovely day beside the lake chilling out and watching the birds. It turned into an 'Egret Fest' by the time the sun dipped behind the hill. Record counts of 24 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 43 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea plus the usual sprinkling of 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta made for quite a spectacle.

24 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at the fishing festival off Rugmoor © Nigel Milbourne, 2016

The 2 adult ♂ Red-crested Pochards Netta rufina, 7 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 3 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, a Dunlin Calidris alpina, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 10+ Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over, were by no means a shabby supporting cast. Boat angling finished today, and bank angling will continue until the end of November, so I expect the waterfowl to spread out more over the lake going forward. Counting might get a bit easier too!