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Blagdon Lake Birds

.November 2020 News


Important Please Note:

  1. Bristol Water have announced that they will be closing the bird hides during Covid-19 lockdown from the 5th November.

  2. Station Road in Blagdon, from its junction with High Street to its junction with Park Lane (at the south end of the dam), will be closed to vehicles from Monday 9th November between 0800 hours and 1700 hrs. The works are anticipated to be of six weeks duration, ending Friday 18th December. However, the closures may not be implemented for the whole of the period but only as necessitated by the works, and I will update this notice accordingly. The alternative route from the High Street (A368) is Bath Road, Church Street, Park Batch and Park Lane.

  3. This is just to make you aware that there will be a road closure on Blagdon Lane (between the pumping station and the Aldwick junction, just north of the dam).  The road will close on Monday 30th November for 3 weeks.  The closure is to allow Bristol Water to fell hazardous trees that are in the late stages of Ash dieback.  The footpath at Butcombe Bay will remain open, and permit access only to North and South shores will also remain open for birdwatchers and anglers on Monday. Thereafter, the North shore is out of bounds to everyone until the fishing season re-opens.


Tuesday 1st December [Sunny & still. A breeze blew up later.]

The water level is around 78% by my ready reckoner.

Another 5 hours birding at the lake this morning. I met Mark at Lodge Copse at just after 0800hrs and we birded our way to Top End and back. The usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Great White Egret Ardea alba and 2 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were still present, and we added an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser, 30 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 (2 adult drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 32 Shoveler Spatula clypeata, circa 170 Teal Anas crecca, 69 Wigeon Mareca penelope, 21 Gadwall Mareca strepera, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, and the strangest looking 'Egyptian Goose' I've ever seen - it had a bright red bill with a black nail! I was counting wildfowl when we first saw it swimming away from us, and when I went to look for it again it had hauled out on the far bank. I couldn't find it again after that. Has anyone else seen it? When we arrived back at Lodge Copse we met Tony, who had come to see the Redpolls at the weekend without any luck. Just as he got in his car to leave, we spotted no less than 6 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret (and there may have been twice that number) again in the birch trees. Luckily, we managed to get his attention and he saw them before he left.

Nigel Crocker called me this afternoon (thanks Nigel) when he found 'the goose' again on Green Lawn. It appears to be the so-called pale-headed variant of Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. I've not seen one before. I managed a couple of record shots in the late afternoon gloom at ISO 800 which will give the general idea:


Pale-headed form of Egyptian GoosePale-headed form of Egyptian Goose


Pale-headed form of Egyptian GoosePale-headed form of Egyptian Goose  


Monday 30th November [Breezy & overcast]

I was in touch with Steve Heaven at WWT Slimbridge this morning trying to see if we could identify the 2 adult Bewick's Swans that were present until yesterday. Whilst Blagdon regulars Winkey and Winker turned up overnight at Slimbridge, suggesting it might have been them, my checks of my own photos coupled with Mark and Steve's photos have conclusively proven it wasn't them. Neither was it Keynell and By-brook, who have been at Slimbridge. So, as Mark suggested, could it have been offspring of Winkey and Winker? I guess we may never know, unfortunately. 

Mark was at the lake most of the day, and I went down for about 4 hours, but there isn't much news to share dear reader! Between us we saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, two pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola (Rainbow Point and Flower Corner), and I lost the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus count 15-37. Today was the last day of the fishing season at Blagdon.


Sunday 29th November [Misty]

I spent the morning at the lake and met Mark at the Lodge. He saw 3 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret at Lodge Copse and despite several sets of eyes looking for at least another hour, they just vanished, again! With his knee playing him up, he drove along in front of me as I walked the south side and managed to spot (nearly) all the good birds first! The pair of Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii stayed until lunchtime, when they were driven into the centre of the lake by a resident Mute Swan Cygnus olor and flew off east. While looking for passerines before I arrived at Top End, Mark also found a group of 9 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at Flower Corner, and he also claimed 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba to my 1, but at least I saw one of the pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola which he missed by driving along. Yay, result! Just for the record, the Cattle Egrets also flew off east not long after we saw them.


Saturday 28th November [Foggy, but warmer.]

A great start to days the days birding seeing the first record of a Dusky Warbler at Chew Valley Lake, so thanks to CVRS and the Chew boys for the call. Also saw a Marsh Harrier while I was there.

Back on the patch, I was pleased to see that the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were still present in the same place as yesterday. I also saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita (one a Common, the other didn't call), and a handful of Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret (Mark counted at least 6 individuals) but they were pretty hard to find and unobtrusive, feeding away quietly. A couple of counts produced at least 30 Teal Anas crecca and 20 Shoveler Spatula clypeata.


Friday 27th November [Foggy & colder still]

I had a walk to Top End and back with Mark Hynam, who was very excited to have found a pair of adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii new in at Wookey Point. I'll have a look at my photo database of visiting Bewick's Swans to see if I can identify them. We also saw a male Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, 3 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and saw 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. One of the Chiffchaffs called and was probably the Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita collybita we saw in the same place last Sunday, the other one didn't call while we were watching it. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam before meeting Mark.


Thursday 26th November [Foggy & cold]

I didn't visit the lake today, but I did take some exercise walking up and down a hedge line at Sand Point looking for the Pallas's Warbler that Gary Thoburn found! They're little jewels and I had some fine views of it while I was there. Nice to see some local birders too. Mark didn't have anything to report from Blagdon, and Nigel Crocker texted to say he'd seen a Great White Egret Ardea alba and a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus.


Wednesday 25th November [Late afternoon sun]

I spent an hour having a nose around, but could only come up with 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Tuesday 24th November

Mark and I walked to Top End and back along the south side, but we had little to report. One Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, about 150-200 Woodpigeons Columba palumbus spooked from Indian Country pines by a Buzzard Buteo buteo, and a late afternoon Song Thrush Turdus philomelos heard serenading the setting sun.


Monday 23rd November

Another quiet day bird-wise, with 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba the pick of the bunch. I also counted 13 Shoveler Spatula clypeata when checking the gull roost, which formed in a difficult position to view properly.


Sunday 22nd November [Early fog lifted leaving a sunny day]

I met up with Mark at 0900 hrs for a wardening session, during which we walked from the Lodge to Top End and back. We got off to a good start with 8 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret  and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Lodge Copse. At Green Lawn I saw 7 (one drake)  Shoveler Spatula clypeata fly down the centre of the lake, and when we went around the corner into Holt Bay we saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola along the hedge, as usual. A pair of 'cronking' Ravens Corvus corax flew over Rainbow Point, and we noted 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba from there too. At least 50 Fieldfares Turdus philomelos flew into Holt Copse, long enough for us to admire them from a distance as we walked around Wood Bay,  and when we reached Top End we found the second pair of Stonechats again. After a chat to Nigel Crocker and his wife (glad to see you're getting out walking again), we saw about 100 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in flight, and found a second Chiffchaff near the hide. As we got back to Holt Copse we saw a group of 6 Jays Garrulus glandarius, heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeal from Pipe Bay reeds, and saw a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser near The Island (the first this winter period). I think Mark said we'd totted up 54 species during our visit, which was a pretty good return.


Saturday 21st November [Drizzly & overcast]

A lunchtime walk produced the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Lesser Redpoll Acanthis cabaret at Lodge Copse (where there were lots of Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis at the feeders), a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Long Bay, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point, and 5 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End. A honk among the Canada Geese Branta canadensis drew my attention to a Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus, and there were pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay and Flower Corner. 

There were just 6 walkers (one with a huge dog) during my visit, but it was just starting to get busy as I left!


Friday 20th November [Mainly drizzly & overcast]

I didn't really have enough free time to do the lakeside birding justice today, although I did look. The only entries in my notebook relate to a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Rugmoor Gate, a pair at Long Bay, and 2 drake Shovelers Spatula clypeata at Wookey Point.


Thursday 19th November [Mainly dry & cold]

I spent about 4 hours at the lake this morning and Mark was there pretty much all day. There was a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, at least 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (reported), and 3 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, of note. Lots of birds are coming in to the feeders at the Lodge, and Mark stayed on to watch the Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost again this evening, and estimated there were about a thousand at Home Bay. He also noted 7 Moorhens Gallinula chloropus, none of which were seen during our WeBS count, and 17 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Green Lawn.


Tuesday 17th November [Grey & mild]

I carried out the WeBS Count with Mark this morning, with Rob being unavailable, and Phil and Terry in lockdown the other side of Bath. What a difference there was in a month, now that the water level has come up! The count details were as follows, with selected figures in brackets from last month for comparison: Mute Swan 14 (50), Canada Goose 443 (200), Mallard 117 (321), Teal 28 (1318), Gadwall 7 (109), Wigeon 23 (101), Pintail 1, Tufted Duck 712 (690), Pochard 97 (140),  Goldeneye 5, Cormorant 29, Coot 1757 (1720),  Great Crested Grebe 37, Little Grebe 24, Great White Egret 1, Grey Heron 2, Buzzard 2. We didn't spot any Shovelers or, more remarkably, Moorhens! In addition to the waterfowl, we saw a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay.


Monday 16th November

The only report today came from Mark Hynam, who saw and videoed approx. 2500 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris coming to roost in the evening.


Sunday 15th November [Heavy showers]

I met Mark early this morning. He had seen 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam that we couldn't find again, and we both saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba. We decided not to be at the lake in the afternoon after the goings-on last weekend, so went down to Apex Park at Burnham-On-Sea hoping to see the wintering wild geese. There was a 1st-winter Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris that has taken to coming to corn with all the wildfowl, gulls and pigeons! There were also two 1st-winter Russian White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons that were equally confiding. I thought I'd share some pictures:


Tundra Bean Goose, Apex Pond,  Burnham-On-Sea.Tundra Bean Goose, Apex Pond, Burnham-On-Sea.


1st-winter Tundra Bean Goose1st-winter Tundra Bean Goose


1st-winter Tundra Bean Goose1st-winter Tundra Bean Goose


1st-winter Russian White-fronted Goose, Apex Pond, Burnham-On-Sea1st-winter Russian White-fronted Goose, Apex Pond, Burnham-On-Sea


1st-winter Russian White-fronted Goose1st-winter Russian White-fronted Goose


Mark went back to the lake early this afternoon but after searching for the Common Sandpipers, and seeing the numbers of people about, including walkers with 2 dogs on Green Lawn, he decided to go home.


Friday 13th November [Mainly overcast. Cooler.]

I didn't spend much time at the lake today. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 3 (1 adult drake) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. I reckon the level to be back up to something like 74% now.


Thursday 12th November [Sunny most of the day. Mild.]

It was another relatively quiet day at the lake from a birding point of view, although many anglers seem to be enjoying the chance to fish during lockdown. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Pintail Anas acuta, 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 2 pairs of Stonechat Saxicola rubicola , of note.


Wednesday 11th November [Overcast until just after lunch, when drizzle started and the wind got up. Very mild.]

Mark was at the lake this morning, so we birded together to Top End and back to the Lodge. We saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, where there was a pair of Pintail Anas acuta later, one each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End, and a 'porpoising' Otter Lutra lutra that swam past us at Bell's Bush. This is the first Otter either of us have seen at the lake for 4 years, although Malcolm told me he'd seen the remains of a large Eel Anguilla anguilla on the bank when I was chatting to him on the 5th, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, though always a thrill, of course!


Tuesday 10th November [Sunny morning]

I walked the south side of the lake around lunchtime and thought the number of Canada Geese Branta canadensis had increased significantly so counted them. I made the total 307. There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 5 (3 males) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and I heard a Nuthatch Sitta europaea calling near the Top End gate. I had a report of 30+ Lapwing Vanellus vanellus seen in flight as well.


Monday 9th November [Showers]

Frankly, I was amazed to come across another birder at Blagdon today - none other than Ken Hall. Between us we saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, Ken saw 3 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay (I saw one of them later at Long Bay), a flock of about 30 Linnets Linaria cannabina at Green Lawn and 4 Pintails Anas acuta. We both went through the flocks of diving ducks but couldn't find the Scaup, or anything else unusual, but it was nice to have a catch-up in those socially isolated times.


Sunday 8th November [Early rain, drying up later.] 

I spent an hour and a half around midday at the lake, and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 68 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 5 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. I couldn't spot the Aythya hybrid or Scaup, but then I did have my camera with me, so I shouldn't be surprised! As I left site yesterday afternoon, the road over the dam was a car park, and Mark and I saw or spoke to 11 walkers on site before we left. Today, it was just 4 walkers and a runner, with no sign of any BW presence while I was there.


Saturday 7th November [Early fog lifting to reveal an overcast day, that was slightly warmer than the last two.]

Mark was on site at dawn this morning and told me he'd seen a big movement of Wood Pigeons and Redwings going over early doors. Some Fieldfares were mixed in and I heard and saw my first of the autumn at Holt Copse later. Mark saw a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Bell's Bush barrier and a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Long Bay (that I caught up with at Holt Bay), and I added 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 7 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a female/juvenile Scaup Aythya marila and what looked like the returning drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid. I'd seen the hybrid yesterday but it was too far off to get enough detail on to be sure it was the same bird.


Friday 6th November [Fog clearing to bright sunshine, with a keen easterly breeze.] 

Today, birds of note, included the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, plus 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Thursday 5th November [Sunny, cold and still.]

What a fabulous autumn day! I enjoyed a late morning visit, and spent much of that time chatting to angler Malcolm, but I did, nevertheless, have a good look for the Slavonian Grebe I found yesterday without any success. I put Rob Hargreaves on to it yesterday but Mark, who came straight from work, couldn't find it unfortunately. Today, I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 166+ Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 5 (2 adult drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and a surprise Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa.


Wednesday 4th November [Sunny, still, & cold out of the sunshine.]

I was pleasantly surprised to find a Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus at Top End today, and I have to say, it's about time we had a half-decent bird turn up here - brief GND aside! My views suggested it was probably an adult but, hopefully, it'll stop long enough for some decent closer views to establish its age with more certainty. There were still some Pintail Anas acuta and Lapwings Vanellus vanellus hanging on at the lake, although it was way too difficult to make any accurate counts. If anyone wants to look for the grebe, remember that the hide is out of bounds, so I suggest parking by Bell's Bush barrier (opposite the portaloo) and viewing the top end from Bell's Bush - please don't feel tempted to park on the meadow. If you can't park by the portaloo, park by the hide and walk, it's not far. I also noted singles of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.


Tuesday 3rd November [Cool & breezy. Mainly dry.] 

Not much to tell today. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and I saw a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola from Top End hide. I walked the top half of the lake along the south side and heard a couple of Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita calling. Most, not all, areas of open bank are being used by anglers at present, so waterfowl are either out on the lake (diving ducks), or hidden in the marginal vegetation and quite difficult to see (dabbling ducks).


Monday 2nd November [Breezy & changeable]

Not much to tell from this morning, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and I saw a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola along the hedge at Holt Bay. The dabbling ducks were looking like they will be off pretty soon now that their feeding areas are covered by rising water.


Sunday 1st November [Wet, & windy at times.]

I spent much of the day at the lake with bird warden Mark, having arranged to meet him to re-hang a bat box that had been brought down by a huge falling branch at Holt Copse. We saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus which was constantly causing panic among the huge numbers of Teal Anas crecca and other dabbling ducks, and I saw a Peregrine Falco peregrinus fly through and counted 34 Pintail Anas acuta, although there were probably more. We had a mid-afternoon cuppa then went back to do the gull roost. There were a huge number of gulls by Blagdon standards.