BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

September 2015 News

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


Tuesday 1st September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

I spent most of the day birding in the Forest of Dean with South African visitors Paul and Sally, so only paid an evening visit, during which time I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly east. Steve Hale reported "c.300 Canada Goose (most north shore), 15 Grey Heron, 4 Common Sandpiper, 5 Grey Wagtail" on the Avon Birds blog.

Wednesday 2nd September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

It remains pretty quiet at the lake, despite all the goings-on at Chew. I was at the Lodge by 0600 hrs and birded with Paul and Sally until nearly 1000hrs. Of note, we saw 9 Barnacle Geese Branta bernicla, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. In the afternoon we went in search of Dippers etc. along the River Chew.

Thursday 3rd September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

I was at a meeting about the management of Priddy Mineries today so, again, only visited the lake in the evening. I counted 398 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and saw singles of Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo and Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. In addition, Steve Hale reported "1 flyover Spotted Redshank at the dam 10.30am (Mrs Trellis)... 24 Grey Heron, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Raven."

Friday 4th September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

We're still waiting for the hay to be cut at Blagdon, so this afternoon (with Natural England's agreement) I pulled some Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea. The birding was not terribly exciting, with 12 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 8 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and just 6 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis the only notable sightings. While in the meadows, I saw several Meadow Browns Maniola jurtina, Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria and a Common Blue Polyommatus icarus still on the wing.

Saturday 5th September [Mainly sunny]

After a morning spent at Golden Valley LNR, Wick, checking bat boxes, I went directly to the lake and met Steve Hale who had birded his way through from the dam end. So, as I'd just received a bat emergency call-out, I didn't stick around. He reported "6 Barnacle Goose (Rugmoor Pt.), 21 Grey Heron, 3 Common Sandpiper, 5 Grey Wagtail" - so not much change from yesterday. There were, however, large numbers of House Martins Delichon urbicum hawking insects over Bell's Bush as I drove through.

Sunday 6th September [Sunny]

Earlybird Mark Hynam saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on the dam this morning, and a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra at Green Lawn. This evening we couldn't find the Whinchat, but found 3 Green Sandpipers at Flower Corner. There was also a large (by Blagdon standards) pre-roost gathering of Herring Larus argentatus and Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus, which eventually flew off towards Chew as dusk fell.

Monday 7th September

Steve Hale reported "c.600+ Canada Goose (north shore, numbers still rising), 6 Barnacle Goose, 17 Grey Heron, 5 GBB Gull, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Raven, 3 Grey Wagtail." The Canada Goose flock, if much bigger than 500, would be a site record - shame they weren't counted. I'll count them when I get back.

I didn't visit today because I drove to Northumberland to stay with my brother.

Tuesday 8th September

Steve Hale reported "17 Grey Heron, 1 Common Sandpiper, 7 Great Black-backed Gull (including green L42)."

Celia and I went over to Newcastleton (aka Copshaw Holm), just over the Scottish border, where I lived from 1968-1972 to meet up with friends Jimmy Lamb and Neil Wylie in order to watch the Tour of Britain 2015 and go for a cycle ride together. I wasn't expecting 38 miles over Whitrope summit to Bonchester Bridge and back via the Knot o' the Gate! Unfortunately, Joanna Dailey wasn't at Kielder Water for a catch-up on the Kielder Osprey Project on the way back, but on the drive across the moorland to Ogle I had brief, but good, views of a Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus.

Wednesday 9th September

No news from the lake today.

We went to see the Queen open the Borders Railway at Tweedbank today. She arrived on a steam-hauled train pulled by LNER A4 Pacific 60009 Union of South Africa (formerly Osprey). My father was heavily involved in the unsuccessful campaign to stop the Waverley route being closed in 1969, so it was pleasing to see at least part of the original route restored, albeit only 30 of the original 98 miles.

Thursday 10th September

Celia and I drove into Cumbria to watch the end of the 5th stage of the Tour of Britain 2015 at Hartside summit at over 1900 feet asl. On the way up, I was really pleased to see a Red Grouse in the purple swathe of heather close to the roadside.

Friday 11th September [Overcast]

Although I've only been away for a few days, there's a definite change in the waterfowl with 23 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 6 Northern Pintail Anas acuta and more Eurasian Teal Anas crecca scattered around. There was also a decent-sized flock of martins, both Sand Riparia riparia and House Delichon urbicum in front of the Lodge at dusk. I was happy to see the hay meadows being cut and baled on the south side of the lake too.

Saturday 12th September [Sunshine and showers]

Mark Hynam was on site early this morning and gave me some news to Tweet out regarding an arrival of Ruff Philomachus pugnax overnight. I went for a look around twice during the day and counted 6 Ruff and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, but no Green Sandipers. I saw a White Wagtail Motacilla alba on Tiny's Shallow, where there were two ringed Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, yellow 'D:AT' and green 'L42', both of which are regulars at the lake. There were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at different areas of the lake, 6 Northern Pintail Anas acuta and 23 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at Top End, and 466 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 9 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis.

Sunday 13th September [Dry]

Most of the day (over 8 hours) was spent lakeside checking bat boxes (see Bat News), but I did see the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax again on Tiny's Shallow, although the 5 Ruff at Top End yesterday had gone. There appeared to be just a single Northern Pintail Anas acuta, also at Top End, although there may have been more hidden from view, and I saw a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis in the Pumping Station grounds. Sue Caola, who joined us checking the bat boxes, spotted some Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus that seemed to be hanging around the Lodge car park area, and while we were there I spotted 3 ringed gulls as follows:

I will be out with the WeBS team tomorrow morning to carry out the September count.

Monday 14th September [Frequent heavy showers]

We carried out the WeBS count today and were delighted to find a Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, 2 Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea , a juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina, a juvenile Common Redshank Tringa totanus, a juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax, an adult Common Tern Sterna hirundo and Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge. I Tweeted out the news, but found out just now that the message didn't get sent from my iPhone for some reason. At least one Curlew Sandpiper and the Ruff were still there when I left site at 1445 hrs. The waterfowl included 167 (site record) Moorhens Gallinula chloropus, 1407 Common Coots Fulica atra, 331 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and 5 Northern Pintail Anas acuta. There were huge numbers of Sand Martins Delichon urbicum over the lake together with a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and Sand Martins Riparia riparia that were being regularly harassed by a couple of Hobbies Falco subbuteo (an adult and juvenile). Full count on the WeBS Page.

Peter Rock sent me details of the ringed gulls noted yesterday, as follows:

Tuesday 15th September [Occasional showers]

I was hoping for some new birds this morning, but there was just a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, single juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina and Ruff Philomachus pugnax on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, and about 30 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus and a Northern Raven Corvus corax around the Lodge car park. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus yellow 'D:AT' (ringed on Flatholm) was on Tiny's Shallow this morning and yellow 'D:AC', it's sibling, was in the same place this evening when a Black Tern Chlidonias niger dropped in too (thanks for the heads-up on the tern Sean).

Ken Anstey, Georgie Hayworth and I checked the Dormouse boxes we put up this summer, but disappointingly we didn't find anything in them.

Wednesday 16th September [Overcast, with rain setting in late afternoon.]

Not a lot to tell today. The juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax was still in front of the Fishing Lodge on Tiny's Shallow, and new in was a Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola on Wookey Point at Top End (view from hide). I saw Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus green 'L42' again (the French bird) on Tiny's Shallow among the loafing gulls, and can report there were still hundreds of hirundines over the lake, including some Sand Martins Riparia riparia, and Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus at the Lodge car park.

We've cancelled our Nathusius Project trapping session for Conham this evening, but still plan to go ahead at Blagdon Lake tomorrow night (weather permitting).

Thursday 17th September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

A new bird for the lake year list this afternoon was a (long-overdue) Garganey Anas querquedula at Top End, along with the juvenile Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola on Wookey Point. Also, new in was a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago feeding under the trees at Top End near the Garganey. Other birds noted were the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax and Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow, and 3 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End.

Friday 18th September [Mainly dry]

This evening I saw the juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax on Tiny's Shallow and the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus reported by Paul Williams, but not the juvenile Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola that he saw along the Indian Country bank at 1330 hrs. Elsewhere there were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a couple of Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End.

Last night's bat trapping session was scaled down due to the weather threat, but we did run two harp traps with lures and caught just 3 Soprano Pipisterelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus.

Saturday 19th September [Sunny and still]

There were 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula and a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow, while the Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola was back with the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on the Indian Country shore opposite Top End hide. I also saw 3 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and Ken Hall sent me the following message "Two Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos flew across to land on the Rugmoor Point shore, there were 18 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis all together off Burmah Road, a (Eurasian) Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus flew over, and the Wood Sandpiper was still in situ when I left."

This evening I saw a Tawny Owl Strix aluco at Top End, and while bat trapping along Butcombe Bank later, I heard Ringed Plovers calling over the water when I went for a walk along the dam with my detector. Tomorrow there is a 25 boat angling competition on the lake.

Sunday 20th September [Dry and sunny early, then becoming increasingly cloudy.]

This evening I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow, and at Top End the Wood Tringa glareola and Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus were still on the Indian Country shore and a juvenile Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was hawking in front of the hide.

Avon Birds additionally reported "1 Little Egret, 17 Grey Heron, 6 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker."

Monday 21st September [Rain in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon]

The Ringed Plovers had moved on from Tiny's Shallow and there was just the remarkable sight of 18 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus (including green L42) in front of the Lodge. The Wood SandpiperTringa glareola was still along the Indian Country bank and I spent quite a bit of time looking for the Garganey I saw last Thursday at Top End without any luck. On the way back to the Lodge, I stopped to chat to anglers Steve and Jeff and spotted a pair of Eurasian Stonechats Saxicola torquata at Green Lawn which was a pleasant surprise, given how unusual they've become at the lake over the years.

Tuesday 22nd September [Heavy rain showers]

There were 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula and a juvenile Dunlin Calidris alpina at Polish Water in front of the Lodge this afternoon, and the Wood SandpiperTringa glareola was still present at Top End, as were 2 Northern Pintail Anas acuta, and I counted no fewer than 29 Grey Herons Ardeola cinerea.

I also looked at a few bat boxes this afternoon, that we didn't have time to do on the last check, and found a few Pipistrelle sp. in the Kent boxes Ken Anstey and I made and put up last winter.

Wednesday 23rd September [Mainly dry with sunny spells]

The 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula were still at the Lodge this morning, but the Wood Sandpiper seems to have gone. The only other bird of note was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Wookey Point.

Thursday 24th September [A few showers, mainly dry with sunny spells.]

I didn't visit the lake at all today, because I received news from Chris Stone (thanks for the call) who saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 in Butcombe Bay and one on the dam, and a Garganey Anas querquedula in front of the Top End hide (perhaps the same one I saw a week ago).

Avon Birds added: 33 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 1 Little Egret, 24 Grey Heron, 2 Ringed Plover, 400+ mixed Swallow/House Martin (equal measure). It's interesting that Steve Hale commented on the increased proportion of Barn Swallows in the hirundine flock - I noticed the same thing this week too.

I was out checking bat boxes with Tony Moulin and Irene Mills of YACWAG, which took most of the day and then only had a short turn-around before going to Conham on the Bristol Avon for a National Nathusius' Project trapping session with Ken Anstey.

Friday 25th September [A light breeeze, and warm and mainly sunny.]

I spent the afternoon at the lake and saw the 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula asleep right up the shore near the sedges in front of the Lodge. There was a Eurasian Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Green Lawn, and 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus on Burmah Road shore, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Wookey Point and 5 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. I couldn't find the Garganey though.

I spent the night near Bath doing a bat swarming survey with friends from the bat world and wildlife photographer Nick Upton.

Saturday 26th September

I did not visit the lake today. I was catching up with sleep and watched the rugby world cup.

Sunday 27th September [Sunny and warm]

There was a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow this evening and at Top End I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 4 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Monday 28th September [Dry and sunny with a stiff easterly breeze]

It's a patch workers lot to visit on lots of occasions and not see any unusual birds, and that's how it's been for the last few weeks. Today, the best I could muster were a single Dunlin Calidris alpina, the first Common Gull Larus canus of the autumn, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 5 Northern Pintails Anas acuta. Avon Birds reported an additional Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.

Earlier, I went to the lakeside to photograph the lunar eclipse. The lake and surrounds were brightly lit when I got there, but during the full eclipse the stars and Milky Way really showed well as it became much darker. I noted that there was an increase in Tawny Owl Strix aluco calling during the full eclipse, and the Canada Geese Branta canadensis also became more vocal. Here's a sequence of shots showing the eclipse, taken between 0100 and 0400 hrs from Peg's Point. The images are approx. 1/3 the original size and were taken with a Canon 1DsMk3 and 600mm telephoto lens. Unfortunately, the moon was too high in the sky to get useful landscape shots of the lake during this phase, and I was too cold and tired to stand around for another 2 hours to watch the moon go down towards the horizon!

Lunar eclipse from Peg's Point © Nigel Milbourne, 2015

Tuesday 29th September [Dry and sunny with a cool easterly breeze]

I was up well before dawn to carry out a bat survey at Blagdon Church, and it seemed sensible to go on down to the lake afterwards. I thought there might be a few migrants brought in on the easterly air flow. I found 21 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, 9 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 6 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 14 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, a Greylag Goose Anser anser, and had great views of a ♂ Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus hunting at Holt Bay (an increasingly unusual sight at the lake). I also spotted a large headless European Eel Anguilla anguilla on the bank at Green Lawn - perhaps it had been predated by an Otter, which was subsequently disturbed?

Wednesday 30th September [Sunny with a cool north-easterly breeze]

I was checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey for most of the day at Bickley Woods (Hanham), Barrow Reservoirs and Blagdon Lake. I managed a quick visit to look for birds after tea and saw a stunning adult winter Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus on Tiny's Shallow which appeared to go to roost out on the lake at dusk. There was also an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis there. By the time I got to Top End it was very nearly dark, but I picked out at least 9 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Avon Birds reported "1 Greylag Goose, 14 Barnacle Goose, 5 Little Egret, 31 Grey Heron, 1 Ruff."

The water level is about 60%, and getting lower by the day. Top End looks really good, with lots of dabbling ducks that I hope to have time to have a very careful look through tomorrow. I might even try to count some species.