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Blagdon Lake Birds

August 2020 News

Thursday 6th August [Warm]

The nights are drawing in, and I'm afraid I left my visit too late to do any meaningful birding other than count the big white ones! To wit, there were 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta present. I also noted the family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the dam when I arrived.


Wednesday 5th August [Overcast]

I was at the lake just after 0730 hrs this morning hoping to see the Little Stint again in better light, but it had apparently moved on. The family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were at Cheddar Water, and I counted 6 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. At Top End there was one, possibly two, Garganey Anas querquedula and 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. In the evening, there was a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Wookey Point to add to the earlier sightings.


Egyptian Geese, adult & juvenile, 2nd August 2020.Egyptian Geese, adult & juvenile, 2nd August 2020.

 Tuesday 4th August [Overcast]

A mid-morning visit saw 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Cheddar Water, 3 adult Common Terns Sterna hirundo on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, 6 scattered Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a single Lapwing Vanellus vanellus at Long Bay, with another 6 at Top End where there was also a surprise juvenile (I think)) Garganey Spatula querquedula.

In the evening I found two waders on Tiny's in front of the Lodge, one was an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina that was asleep, and the other was a smaller bird that I took to be a stint sp. It was extremely mobile and elusive, and quite a long way away. Having seen it for a short period at around 1945 hrs, I lost sight of it for probably 30 minutes or so. Eventually it came back into view and, having consulted my field guides, I started to think it was probably an adult Little Stint in predominantly summer plumage, although the so-called 'tramlines' on its mantle were less than obvious and there was quite a lot of fine upper breast streaking when looked at from head-on. Time was marching on and the light was poor, so I thought I'd ring Chris Craig as he lives the nearest and get him to come and look as well, for a second opinion. I had considered Sanderling, Little Stint and the more unlikely Semi-palmated Sandpiper and the very unlikely Red-necked Stint, during my deliberations because the legs were clearly black rather than yellow. To cut a long story short Chris, Helena and Mya came down pretty quickly and were able to get some, poor by this time, views of the bird, sometimes alongside the Dunlin, and we agreed that it was a summer-plumage Little Stint Calidris minuta having discussed the possible alternatives.


Monday 3rd August [Mainly dry & sunny]

I was very late getting down to the lake this evening and after spotting 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos  on Tiny's Shallow, that took way too long to identify, the 'shank' (I think) that I saw at Top End had to remain unidentified. I only clocked 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba too. Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus have long been known to nest as late as July at Blagdon, and this evening I saw another sitting on a newly-constructed platform that suggests it is just about to lay. I'll keep an eye on it, as well as two other nests that were constructed in July with birds sitting.


Sunday 2nd August [Early showers, drying up later with sunny spells.]

I arrived at the lake at 0730 hrs, just in time to meet Mark who was leaving, having arrived at around 0600 hrs. He had little to report, and by the time I went home at 0845 hrs, neither did I! Between us we saw 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta. Mark also reported 4 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos that eluded me, and I saw the family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

In the evening Mark, Ken and I met up to check our two hibernation boxes to see how many Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus emerged. We had none in May, 89 & 58 on 21st June, 99 and 78 on 17th July, but this evening it was down to 14 & 0. As explained previously, we think the boxes are being used for maternity roosts and have data loggers inside them this summer. When they have both been vacated, perhaps we can retrieve them and have a look at the data collected, although we have to be mindful of the Covid-19 guidelines in place currently about working with and around bats.


Saturday 1st August [Sunny spells]

I was out of bed bright and early, full of hope for my morning visit to the lake, but to be honest it wasn't terribly exciting.  New in were 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus along the bank at Burmah Road, an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge on Tiny's  Shallow, and I counted 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. The family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca flew onto Holt Farm. 

Ken, Mark and I had arranged to meet in Chew Stoke to do a bat emergence count this evening, so I decided to walk there via the lake for my evening visit. It was well worth it because I had an immature (2nd-calendar year perhaps) female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus float past me at Holt Bay, giving superb views, and just before I got to the Top End hide I heard a Greenshank Tringa nebularia calling around the Flower Corner/ Bell's Bush bank area. I had hoped to see it on Wookey Point from the hide, but no such luck. Mark videoed 37 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus out of the small bat roost, but we discovered that there may be another one in another part of the building that we need to check as well. 


Friday 31st July [Steamy hot]

A quick check around the site late morning turned up the 5th Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis record, an adult at Orchard Bay, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I only saw 1 Lapwing Vanellus vanellus this morning, and none in the evening. The hay was being turned and bailed today, which caused some disturbance.


Thursday 30th July [Hot & sunny]

I was eventually able to visit the lake at lunchtime today, and saw 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and 6 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. In addition, there were groups of 55 Gadwall Mareca strepera  and 18 Pochard Aythya ferina from the Top End hide, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Other news, see Twitter feed, was of my first Clouded Yellow Colias croceus butterfly of the summer at Rainbow Point just after noon.

In the evening Mark and I followed up the bat roost discovery in Butcombe, and did an emergence count. There were far fewer bats than we had seen on 26th, no doubt they have already started to disperse from the roost, but we still watched 336 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus emerge. Mark made a video.

Wednesday 29th July [Warm & dry]

My visit had to wait until the evening, but I was pleased to see that there were 2 adult Dunlin Calidris alpina and a Redshank Tringa totanus on Tiny's Shallow at the Lodge, as well as over 400 large gulls and an equal number of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in front of the Lodge and on nearby farmland, that was still being ploughed. There has been a start made on the hay cut in the meadows at the lake too, which will have served to attract birds looking for insects I'm sure. I counted 76 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, but only saw 3 Great White Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, plus a single Hobby Falco subbuteo.


Tuesday 28th July [Warm & dry. Breezy.]

I had a look at the lake in the early afternoon, during quite a pleasant walk. I saw the family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Green Lawn, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba,  3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a 2nd-summer Hobby Falco subbuteo. There was an adult Marbled White Melanargia galathea on the wing at Top End as well, probably attracted to all the flowering Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis.

In the evening Mark, Ken and I did a bat emergence survey at Chew Valley Lake and counted 56 Lesser Horseshoes Rhinolophus hipposideros out of a roost I've been surveying for 6 years. It was our highest count to date from that particular maternity site, and indicative of a successful breeding year. It's nice to have some good news to celebrate! After counting the bats we had a look for Comet Neowise. We found it just under the handle of the Plough, Ursa major, but it was just a faint and indistinct hazy ball. Turning around through 180 degrees we saw that Jupiter was low in the SE sky and shining brightly. Even with binoculars we had a clear view of the moons, and through the birding telescope we could even see two indistinct reddish bands in the atmosphere of the planet. Beautiful. 

Reed Warbler on Flowering Rush, Lodge, 19th July 2011.Reed Warbler on Flowering Rush, Lodge, 19th July 2011.

Monday 27th July [Showers, some heavy, & breezy]

I wasn't too surprised, given the conditions, to find an adult Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and adult male Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at the Lodge early this afternoon. Other than them, it was business as usual. I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the family of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a 2nd-calendar year Hobby Falco subbuteo of note.

While I was at the Lodge, I met Martin Cottis preparing to go out fishing and I mentioned that I had seen a few dead trout up at the dam end (I saw quite a lot more later), and we were both saddened at the loss. The downside of fish going belly-up, for whatever reason, from my perspective, is that those dead fish floating around at the lakes are attracting increasing numbers of a top bird predator, the Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, year on year. Like our coastal race of Cormorants, they shouldn't be needing to come inland (I accept there is a race of inland continental Cormorant that has spread into the area) but they are attracted by a readily available food source that, like it or not, is a result of the actions of our society e.g. fast food littering in towns and cities has resulted in gulls nesting there. The problem with having Great Black-backed Gulls at the lake during the breeding season is that very few waterfowl are successfully rearing young at either Blagdon or Chew Valley Lakes, due to increased predation, and the gulls are a big factor.  I have been challenged about my comments yesterday because they were seen as being accusatory towards anglers and the fishery in general. They weren't, I have been an angler for most of life, but that doesn't mean we should shy away from looking at the consequences of the pastime. There are changes happening that are having a pretty catastrophic effect on the breeding success of waterfowl, and as someone who sees the lake and its environs from several perspectives, I am flagging up the issue for discussion. Angling may, or may not, be a significant factor.


Sunday 26th July [Showers]

With rain on and off through the night I went to the lake with some hope of finding new birds early this morning, but I was disappointed. No waders on Tiny's Shallow and only 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus still at Top End, but sitting in the hide for a while I saw 6 adult Dunlin Calidris alpina (1 and a flock of 5) fly down the lake, but none of them apparently stopped over. The family party of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, and the 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba that roosted last night were present, but I didn't spot the Little Egrets during my visit from 0730-0930 hrs. 

In the evening, I met Mark and Ken to do a bit of bat detective work. I had noticed large numbers of bats flying down a lane in Butcombe on 17th July, so I wanted to know what species they were and where they were coming from. We found a large roost of several hundred Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, which is of considerable interest to our work with bats at the lake. So, an evening well spent.