BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

September 2017 News


Friday 1st September [Sunny & warm]

This afternoon there were 11 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula (I'm fairly sure) on Wookey Point, and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered around Top End. A few more Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and Northern Shovelers Anas clypeatus have arrived too. Then, late this afternoon Chris Stone kindly rang me from Chew to say an Osprey Pandion haliaetus was heading west and I'd no sooner arrived on the dam at 1700 hrs when I spotted it flying west down the centre of the lake at about 100-200 feet. It didn't fish and flew low overhead and off to the west.

Saturday 2nd September [Sunny & warm]

I didn't realise I hadn't posted the news today - apologies. It wasn't terribly exciting which might explain why...

There were 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa flying high above Top End which settled on Wookey Point and promptly fell asleep, the 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point (seen yesterday), and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Sunday 3rd September [Miserable, wet & windy]

I had a look around this morning with Mark Hynam, having decided not to do the planned bat box check, and found a (probable juvenile) Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis feeding close to Wookey Point and visible from Top End Hide. There were 3 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on the point, as well as another family party of 2 adults and 4 juveniles in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow, where a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was also sheltering in the blustery conditions. At least one Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 2 juvenile Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo were at the lake, and I spotted two gulls with darvic rings:

Over the lake and surrounding fields were over a thousand hirundines, mainly House Martins Delichon urbicum, with quite a few Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.

The Black-necked Grebe was still present this evening off Wookey Point.

Monday 4th September [Overcast & grey early with sunny spells later. Warm.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still feeding around Wookey Point this morning and viewable from Top End hide, as were 3 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula. There were 10 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa feeding along Burmah Road, viewed distantly from the hide, and 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow.

This evening, I saw what was presumably the same juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius that I saw yesterday in front of the Lodge, plus 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

During the day I was at Thurlbear Quarrylands with Robin Williams and John Mason. We had the great good fortune to see a Brown Hairstreak Thecla betulae (only the second I've ever seen), plus several interesting invertebrates including Volucella zonaria, Tachina fera, Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor among a host of others. During lunch we were entertained by a couple of Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata. Here are a few pictures:

Comma & Brown Hairstreak, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Ichneumon sp. ovipositing & Tachina fera, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Tuesday 5th September [Drizzly]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis had moved up to Burmah Road last night and was still there this morning, as were just 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. The juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was in front of the Lodge and 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula were on Wookey Point, with a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

Wednesday 6th September [Warm & mainly sunny]

I spent most of the day over at Chew Valley Lake checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey (see Bat News).

I had a text from Chris Stone who had a look around the lake this afternoon and saw 4 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, including 2 probable juveniles, a Black Tern Chlidonias niger in front of the Lodge, and a Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. This evening I saw the Black Tern until dusk, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wood Bay Point, the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius in front of the Lodge, 5 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Thursday 7th September [Some drizzle]

Late this afternoon the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wookey Point viewed from the Top End hide, and the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was still in front of the Lodge, with a juvenile Common Redshank Tringa totanus feeding on Tiny's Shallow. There was no sign of any Black-wits or Little Egrets. Among the throng of gulls on Tiny's Shallow, I picked out:

Friday 8th September [Wet in the morning, drying out later.]

I took a slow drive through early this evening and had a quick look from the Top End hide, from where I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba. I bumped into Fishery Manager Alan Dymock who told me he'd seen the egret at the hatchery for a day or two. I didn't spot any waders, or the Black-necked Grebe, but wasn't carrying my scope so can't say definitively whether either were present or not.

We did some bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake in the evening. Results to follow when I have time to go through them.

Saturday 9th September [Sunshine & showers]

Mark Hynam and I checked some bat boxes with Ken Anstey this morning on the east side of Bristol, then met again later at Blagdon where he'd seen 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. The Wheatear was a first for the lake this year and I was pleased to connect with it, thanks to Mark.

An update on adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor with a ring yellow BNI (see 7th Sept.): Ringed as a cygnet on 15th September 2013 at Charminster just to the west of Dorchester, Dorset, by Terry Coombs.

Sunday 10th September [Wet and increasingly windy]

This evening I saw just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba sheltering at Hellfire Corner, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis feeding close to the bank at Burmah Road.

With the wind rising and threatening to be gale force early tomorrow morning I think I'll get down to the lake as soon as possible to see what may have been blown in. Grey Phalaropes are on the move and would be a welcome find.

Monday 11th September [Very wet & windy overnight, with blustery showers throughout the day.]

I got down to the lake reasonably early this morning, but was only able to find one sheltering Great White Egret Ardea alba of any note. The Black-necked Grebe didn't appear to be in its usual feeding areas. I then spent the rest of the day around Chew Valley Lake getting three more Osprey nest poles put up, only to find I'd missed 2 Manxies there. Bummer! We will be doing the WeBS count at Blagdon in the morning.

Tuesday 12th September [Mainly dry & sunny with occasional showers]

Roy Curber, Terry Doman, Phillip Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I carrried out the WeBS count this morning and saw 6 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, a Northern Pintail Anas acuta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wookey Point, the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea, 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo, a Common Swift Apus apus, a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, and a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, aside from the regular waterfowl. The WeBS count has been put on the WeBS page.

Wednesday 13th September [Sunshine & showers]

Another overnight blow last night but I didn't get down to the lake until dusk because I was away with my brother, Ross, driving a steam engine on the East Somerset Railway all day.

I saw the 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point, but couldn't spot the Black-necked Grebe in the gloom, after I'd spent most of my time going through the gulls. There were about 1000 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus gathered at the dam end; more than I've ever seen at the lake before. They probably out-numbered the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus this evening.

Thursday 14th September [Sunny & windy]

I ventured down to the lake this afternoon and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush, 4 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at Burmah Road/Holt Copse, but it was pretty wild and windy still.

Tomorrow, I will be checking bat boxes and trapping in the evening but will, of course, be looking for migrant birds too. Sorry postings have been brief this week, I have been moving everything over from my old laptop to a new one with my brothers not inconsiderable help.

Friday 15th September [Mainly dry with some late afternoon showers]

I was at the lake for much of the day, firstly birding, then checking bat boxes this afternoon, and trapping this evening. There were a few gulls in front of the Lodge this morning but nothing of import, however, at Top End I saw 2 mobile Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rugmoor, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point. During the afternoon I spotted an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow at the Lodge, and two more ringed gulls:

Georgie Hayworth and I checked a few of the boxes this afternoon and found lots of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and, amazingly, a ringed ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii in a box at the Pumping Station, that was fitted with his bling on 24th September 2011 on Butcombe Bank, and not seen since. Results of the trapping session are on the Bat News page.

Saturday 16th September [Mainly dry, but heavy rain at dusk.]

This evening, just before the rain set in, there were 40 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road, one Great White Egret Ardea alba, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wookey Point and 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on the point.

I will be leading a walk for Bristol Ornithology Club at 0930 hrs in the morning, and bat trapping at Litton Reeservoirs in the evening.

Sunday 17th September [Mainly dry with sun in the afternoon]

Fourteen BOC members came for a guided walk at Blagdon with me this morning and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll from the Lodge to Top End and back. Bird highlights included a late Common Swift Apus apus with the hirundines over the Lodge before we set out, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Great White Egret Ardea alba, 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, a flyover Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and circa 20 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta feeding alongside the cattle on Lag Farm, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay, and two or three groups of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus along the south side of the lake. I noted over 40 species on what was a very enjoyable visit.

Mark Hynam, who had a look around in the afternoon added a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo to the day list.

In the evening, I met up with a few bat workers to trap at Litton Lower reservoir, where we had brilliant session (see Bat News for details).

Monday 18th September [Autumnal]

I met Colin Hunt this afternoon at the Lodge, so we had a quick look around together. The gulls on Tiny's Shallow included:

There wasn't much to see before reaching Top End when we saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba, just one juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, 21 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Northern Pintail Anas acuta, but there was no sign of the Black-necked Grebe that I could see from the hide.

Tuesday 19th September [Warm & sunny]

I spent the morning on the Mendips checking dormouse boxes with Ken Anstey, Georgie and Dan. We even found a Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius which was really pleasing because the site has been really poor in the last few years.

Unfortunately, a late afternoon visit to the lake continued the dire autumn migration season we're having; I didn't find either the Black-necked Grebe or Great White Egret, and only have 19 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 9 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope to report, aside from another ringed gull:

News from Pete Rock about recently sighted gulls:

Wednesday 20th September [Warm & dry until rain & wind arrived late afternoon]

More news from Pete Rock about yesterdays gull sighting:

I spent the morning at the lake with Ken Anstey to finish checking the bat boxes started last Friday with Georgie Hayworth. Over the two sessions we found over 100 bats and a Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus in the boxes. We made a quick stop at the Top End hide and saw 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I made another visit this evening in the rain and wind but don't have anything to add.

Thursday 21st September [Rain in the morning & sun in the afternoon. Breezy.]

Rebecca Jones at APHA sent me the following information about the gull with the gps pack on its back, Red AF (2016), that I saw on Tuesday: "This gull was ringed in May 2016 at its nest site on Waring House in central Bristol, when it bred successfully – it returned to the same roof to breed (again successfully) this year. The tag is a GPS tag that takes location fixes every ten minutes and beams them to a base station on a roof in Bristol when it comes near enough. This one is a bit of a home bird – never goes too far from Bristol."

I was at WWT Steart this afternoon meeting with Alys Laver the site manager to try and find some suitable bat trapping sites for us to use during the next month as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project, but I didn't really see anywhere close to a decent body of freshwater that the bats might forage over, although this will change as the reserve is flooded during the coming weeks. I also stopped at Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park in Burnham-on-Sea on the way back to see if there was anywhere suitable there as well. It looks like we could trap there, but I'll have to get the permissions sorted first.

Back at the lake this evening, I saw absolutely nothing of note! Eurasian Teal Anas crecca numbers are building (albeit still very low), and more Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope are also dropping in - we have 21 now! I might count Mute Swans tomorrow....

Friday 22nd September [Sunny until tea time, then the rain set in.]

I spent a lovely 2 hours by the lake late afternoon, with over an hour of it being entertained by a large juvenile (surely a ♀) Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. It spent about 20 minutes drinking and bathing at the lake edge, right in front of Top End hide, not 80 metres away. The views through my scope were eyeball-to-eyeball stunning! While I was watching it, I realised it had a darvic ring on its right leg, which I was able to read as Black 75. Three Grey Herons Ardea cineria sidled towards it, so it took off scattering the waterfowl at Bell's Bush and Wookey Point, but about 5 minutes later it came back and settled on the middle of the point. A very cautious Carrion Crow Corvus corone started to circle it, but the Peregrine wasn't having any of that and saw it off. Then it spent time preening while a number of very nervous Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus that had been frightened onto the water tried to make their minds whether to make a dash for the shore and cover, or sit it out. I left them struggling with their dilemma.

I counted the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope again, 23 today, and saw over 500 House Martins and lots of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica high over the lake. While I was watching the Peregrine, a Great White Egret Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flew in to Top End, presumably from Chew. And, I spotted a juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on the shore at Burmah Road. At the Lodge there were hundreds of gulls and I managed to read two rings as follows:

Again, as has been the case for several days now, there were hundreds of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus on the lake.

Saturday 23rd September [Sunny and warm. Breezy.]

Before leaving for Dorset early afternoon, I had time for a look at the lake and saw 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Northern Pintail Anas acuta and a juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula.

News from Graham Roberts about the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, black 75, that I watched yesterday: "Many thanks indeed for this record.  Black 75 was ringed as a nestling (female) on 26th May 2017 in the Arun Valley, West Sussex by Jon Franklin.  No doubt Jon will be in touch for further information & to provide you with any further details of this individual." That was a bit of a surprise, to put it mildly.

Sunday 24th September [Cloudy, some drizzle.]

I was out batting in Dorset all night last night (see Bat News). I left home at 1330 hrs on Saturday and got home at 1000hrs this morning. After some sleep, I met with Mark Hynam for a very brief look around the lake and saw 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta of note. Then, I did some hand net training for bat workers at dusk.

Monday 25th September [Misty, then cloudy & drizzly.]

I enjoyed a walk to Top End hide from the Lodge at lunchtime, and counted no fewer than 21 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, including green L42, 5 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 17 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 7 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, c. 75 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula. There were Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus calling in Lodge Copse, as well as a ♂ Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus displaying!

Tuesday 26th September [Misty morning]

'Tis the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"... and I paid a mid-morning visit before the mist cleared. More Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope have arrived overnight, I made it 118 present now, and the geese were flying around, not quite sure where they wanted to go. Among the Canada Geese Branta canadensis were 5 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis again. At Top End, there was a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta and a number of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus scattered around the shoreline. I will go back later for a more thorough search and report back, but that 'mega' hasn't put in an appearance yet. Indeed, I haven't recorded a new 'yearly' for two weeks now, which given we're in the middle of the migration season is mildly disappointing. Anyway, I'll still be trying to find the first Yellow-browed Warber later, because they're coming through in numbers now.

What a lovely afternoon by the lake. I had lots of time to go through the birds, and can only add a second Little Egret to the earlier tallies. So, I spent nearly an hour in front of the Lodge going through the forest of gull legs looking for darvic rings. Here's what I spotted:

Wednesday 27th September [Fine early on, but rain spread in from the west during the afternoon]

I was helping Ken Anstey and Sam Olney check the bat boxes at Bickley Wood and Conham this morning, but managed an hour and a half late afternoon for a look around the lake. Again, no waders were evident, neither were there any egrets. At Top End I saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 13 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and a flock of circa 40 Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis. The 5 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were still present, and in front of the Lodge I saw:

Once again, thanks to Peter Rock for a rapid response to my gull enquiries.

Leter, when I was looking out of the back door for a calling Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the trees, I was gobsmacked to see a Red-legged Partridge  Alectoris rufa come wandering along the neighbours drive. I haven't seen one for many years around here.

Thursday 28th September [Mainly sunny]

More of the same today with a juvenile Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 205 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 24 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis. So, I resorted to spending an hour or so going through the gulls that were coming and going in front of the Lodge, and spotted:

Friday 29th September [Warm and dry]

I didn't visit the lake today. I went with a few local bat workers to Dorset to trap at Little Sea, Studland, with some of the Dorset Bat Group. While we were waiting for dusk to fall, Mark Hynam and I counted 73 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Great White Egret Ardea alba flying in to roost. An impressive sight!

Saturday 30th September [Showers]

The lake continues to disappoint from a birding viewpoint. New in today was an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca at Polish Water in front of the Lodge, otherwise the cast remains the same with 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 11 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and 17 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There also appeared to have been a bit of an arrival of Common Pochards Anas ferina.

We had a very interesting visit back to Studland, Dorset, last night (see Bat News) on the first weekend designated for co-ordinated NNPP coastal migration trapping that took place from Scotland, down the east and south coasts of England, and included Wexford in the Republic of Ireland.