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Blagdon Lake Birds



April 2019 News

Monday 1st April [A lovely sunny day]

I could not get to the lake until lunchtime, and at that late hour the Osprey had moved on, of course. Although, I made a fairly thorough search, I couldn't find the Lesser Scaup either. So, highlights of my visit were the Great White Egret Ardea alba and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, plus a ♂ Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines butterfly at Top End.

An update: This evening I spotted the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis apparently paired with a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (heaven help us) off Rainbow Point.

 

Tuesday 2nd April [Mainly dry with a few squally showers about]

An early afternoon visit today in the windy conditions produced just the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Wood Bay and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

 

Wednesday 3rd April [Sunny early, then a cold front with rain & sleet came through.]

I enjoyed a coastal walk from Clevedon to Portishead this morning and got to the car just before the rain started. This evening a quick visit to the lake produced the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a small but noticeable influx of Swallows Hirundo rustica, the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Wood Bay and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

Ian Stapp reported the first Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus of the year today, and let me know that there may have been an Osprey Pandion haliaetus too. The bird was seen and photographed by BW ranger Paul Barnfield who showed me his shots, so I can confirm the sighting.

 

Thursday 4th April [Cold & miserable with rain/sleet]

Today was a day that I had set aside with Ken Anstey to enter some of our Nathusius' Pipistrelle records into the project database and luckily the weather was pretty poor, so we were glad to be inside. However, the database still has many teething problems and it was a real trial of patience!

I had a look at the lake late in the afternoon and saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and a Great White Egret Ardea alba in flight at Burmah Road (Avon Birds is carrying a record of 2 Great White Egrets). There were Sand Martins Riparia riparia and Swallows Hirundo rustica all over the lake in the steady rain, so it was hard to make an estimate of numbers but clearly well over a thousand.

 

Friday 5th April [Another, wet, miserable day until late afternoon]

My mid-afternoon visit saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and off Rainbow Point, with a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush. Again, there were masses of hirundines feeding over the water on the huge numbers of chironomid midges that have been hatching (great bat food too).

 

Saturday 6th April [Cloudy & breezy]

I was up with the lark to do another survey walk at the lake but, like last week, conditions weren't ideal. I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay and 1, probably 2, Great White Egrets Ardea alba. I heard my first Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus of the year, but they were the only new birds in that I recorded.

Selected survey counts included: 40 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 25 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 20 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 3 Willow Warblers. There were 86 Rook nests this weekend (up one on last weekend), and the first Canada Goose Branta canadensis and Coot Fulica atra are sitting already.

Mark Hynam was at the lake this afternoon and confirmed that there were 2 Great White Egrets present, as I thought. I met him at dusk and we took a walk around the Lodge, Park Lane and the dam and saw lots and lots of bats on the wing, despite the cool breeze, including Noctule, Serotine, Common and Soprano Pipistrelles.

 

Sunday 7th April [Cloudy to start, then the sun came out.]

Not much bird news to impart today. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present, as was at least one Great White Egret Ardea alba and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I walked to Top End with Mark Hynam, then on the way back we checked some of the Schwegler 1FF and wooden Kent bat boxes and, amazingly, Mark spotted a bat with a ring on in one of the Kent boxes which we believe was a ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii.

 

Monday 8th April [Dry & warmish]

This evening the sky was threatening, especially over the Mendips and it got dark early. I saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis off Rainbow Point, pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. As I walked back from Top End, a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus came loping along the south side road towards me. I stood still and it came to within 20 metres and stopped. It sat down and looked at me looking at it. This went on for about 2 minutes before it decided to make off onto the meadow and circumnavigate me at the same gentle pace that it appeared at. I walked on back to my car. I've had similar experiences with Foxes and Badgers on several occasions, but this was the first with a Hare. Magical.

 

Tuesday 9th April [Grey & murky. Chilly & wet pm.]

Good conditions today for passage migrants to drop in and, sure enough, there were 4 adult (2 each summer and winter) Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus between 1400 and 1500 hrs at least. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was showing well in Holt Bay and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba flew over Indian Country while I was scanning from Rainbow Point. A single adult Greylag Anser anser was with Canada's and Mute Swans on Holt Farm too.

 

Wednesday 10th April [The forecast wall-to-wall sunshine didn't arrive until this afternoon!]

Not much to tell you about again I'm afraid. The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was in Holt Bay showing well, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm. I struck lucky in my Patchwork Challenge quest when 15-20 Linnets Linaria cannabina flew east past me at Bell's Bush, and aside from a pair of Shelducks Tadorna tadorna the only other 'news' were my first Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria of the year at Cheddar Water. I didn't see the Great White Egrets this afternoon or evening.

 

Thursday 11th April [Sharp overnight frost & sunny by day]

I did a survey of selected singing summer visitors this morning, and came up with 21 (25 last Saturday) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 27 (20) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 9 (3) Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus.

There was no sign of the Lesser Scaup or Great White Egrets, so I'm guessing they've moved on, but I did see my first Kingfisher Alcedo atthis of the year (twice), the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.

 

Friday 12th April [Sunny but cold]

I was busy with domestic duties most of the day but saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba back at Top End this evening, when we were going out to do some bat trapping (see Bat News) as part of a National Nathusius'Pipistrelle Project training session for the Welsh Bat Groups who came to Blagdon with project leader Daniel Hargreaves.

 

Saturday 13th April [A cold easterly wind]

It was a cold day by the lake, although I was indoors with the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project training session delegates, thankfully. Mark Hynam found a couple of Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus on the dam late afternoon, that I missed by the skin of my teeth, and later we saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba as we went back out to do more bat trapping (see Bat News). Boy, did we get cold in the evening - it was perishing!

 

Sunday 14th April [Still cold with sunny spells]

Well, well, well, what should Mark and I find today, but the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis feeding at Rainbow Point again. I'm absolutely sure it has been elsewhere since my last sighting because I've spent hours looking for it without any luck. We're confident that there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba on site again, but we couldn't hear any song of birds new in, but that would have been suppressed by the cold wind anyway.

 

Monday 15th April [A strong ESE wind with some sunshine]

The 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still present off Rainbow Point this afternoon, and I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam where the waves were crashing up the dam wall. It was wild, and I decided not to hang around trying to find passerines today.

 

Tuesday 16th April [Dreary and wet, but warmer and dry later.]

An angler rang Bristol Water to say a bat was hanging from some fishing line tangled up in a tree at Butcombe Bank this morning. I got the call and sprang into action, and with the help of Alan Dymock, managed to retrieve a ♂ Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus and cut down the twigs that had flies and line tangled around them. The bat had a fly hook through the tail membrane that I was able cut the barbed point off and free the bat. It was pretty wet but still alive and 'shouty', so I kept it indoors on a warm pad throughout the day. Wing and tail membrane tears are not uncommon for bats and they heal very quickly. This one had a very small hole that shouldn't be a problem. The issue is how long it'd been hanging there. So I weighed it later at 3.6 grams, proving it was very light. I went and got some mealworms to feed and water it in the evening, and allowed it to take a short flight. I'll keep it for a short while, to give it rest, and allow it to put on some weight, before release in the next day or two, now the weather is warming up.

I went birding in the evening, and saw the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis asleep on the Wood Bay side of Rainbow Point being video'd by Mark Hynam. An adult Greylag Anser anser was also present, as was at least one Great White Egret Ardea alba. Mark and I walked to Top End and back as dusk fell, and he spotted the first Whitethoat Sylvia communis of the year.

 

Wednesday 17th April [Warm & eventually sunny]

I enjoyed a walk at Shapwick along the old railway path with friends this morning. We saw 2 Marsh Harriers and heard quite a few booming Bitterns. On the way home a Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa ran across the road in front of me at Two Trees, Blagdon, as I came down the hill.

This evening the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was at Top End keeping close company with a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, and preventing all the other ♂ Tufties getting anywhere near her. The non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Burmah Road, and the adult Greylag Anser anser was on Holt Farm.

The Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus I have in care is doing pretty well and eating mealworms like they're going out of fashion, and hopefully putting on weight. I'm fairly confident I'll be able to release him back at the lake tomorrow evening.

 

Thursday 18th April [Warm & breezy, with a watery sun.]

Mark Hynam and I carried out another 4.5 hour survey this morning between 0700 and 1130 hrs to count territorial passerines. While we were out we saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, adult Greylag Anser anser, pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegytiaca, and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. We had 3 firsts for the year in the form of a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, 5 singing Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, and a ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Top End. Selected survey counts included: 55 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 40 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 22 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 9 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and 11 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus.

 

Friday 19th April [A beautiful sunny day]

There wasn't too much reward for a walk from the Lodge to Top End and back. The best bird was our first Hobby Falco subbuteo of the year over Top End, and aside from the adult Greylag Anser anser and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, I don't have much to report. We didn't see the ♂ Lesser Scaup, and there is fairly intense angling activity for the next couple of days leading to a match on Sunday.

This evening I saw another Hobby, that I assume to be an adult, whereas the one seen this morning was a 1st-summer that drifted off east towards Chew. The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the lawn at The Lodge, and I found the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Top End.

 

Saturday 20th April [A beautiful sunny day]

I didn't get down to the lake until the evening, when we were preparing for a bat trapping session to try and catch a ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii to radio tag and track. Needless to say we didn't catch one!

Mark and I had a quick look around for an hour before the batting took over, and saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay. Mark spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and we both heard the Greylag Anser anser calling after dark.

On Thursday evening, I released the ♂ Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus that was caught up in fishing line and flies left dangling from trees along Butcombe Bank.

 

Monday 22nd April [Another warm sunny day]

The WeBS team of Phil, Terry, Rob and I carried out the count this morning. Of course, given the time of year, many of the waterfowl have moved off the lake, while those that remain are getting on with nesting. Birds of note included the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on the lip of the Spillway, an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and the first singing Garden Warbler Sylvia borin of the year. The ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was also still singing at Top End. Most numerous were the 266 Coots Fulica atra and 116 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula (see Webs Page for full count details).

In the evening Mark and I met at the lake just after Chris Craig had rung me to tell me he'd seen a Black Kite between Chew and Blagdon Lakes. We didn't see the kite unfortunately, it either slipped past us along the valley, went through before we arrived, or roosted overnight between the lakes. However, while we waited until dusk fell, we heard 2 ♂ Cuckoos Cuculus canorus, one at Top End and one around North Shore/Butcombe. They even sang simultaneously at one point.

 

Tuesday 23rd April [Cloudy & warm]

I was busy all day today, but managed to take a walk after tea to Top End and back. The only bird I have to report was a Sedge Warbler that gave a brief snatch of song as I walked past it. I didn't see the Lesser Scaup, and there seemed to be fewer Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula present today. It was a nice evening though!

 

Wednesday 24th April [Rain for much of the day]

Late this morning, before the rain, the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was back in Holt Bay. I didn't get back down to the lake until late in the evening when I counted 11 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, saw a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo feeding over the dam end of the lake.

Ken Anstey and I had intended to check the bat boxes today, until the rains came. We're re-scheduling for Friday and hoping for better weather.

 

Thursday 25th April [Showers, some heavy, & cooler.]

It was the usual fayre this lunchtime, with the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, at least 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. I sat a particularly heavy shower out in the Top End hide and watched lots of hirundines come back down over the lake as it moved off. All three common species were present, but I haven't seen any Swifts yet.

I had planned to pop down to the lake again after tea, but Mark picked me up and we went to see the ♂ Citrine Wagtail at Pilning Wetlands instead. It was nice to see a Yellow Wagtail while we were there too. He'd managed to see the Alpine Swift at Ham Wall RSPB after work as well.

 

Friday 26th April [Showers all day]

I was at the lake for most of the day and saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Burmah Road. Ken Anstey heard a ♂ Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing at Pipe Bay, and we both heard the other one still singing at Top End.

Ken and I checked the bat boxes and found at least 80 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus around the lake, with a group of at least 15 Natterer's Myotis nattereri in their usual box, one of which that I could see had a ring on. However, due to the steady rain, we elected not to get them out of the box to read the ring. Hopefully, we'll see them again post-parturition.

There were quite a few empty bird nests in the boxes, and just a handful with eggs, perhaps its not going to be a good year for the Blue and Great Tits? We were also relieved to only find 3 Hornet Vespa crabro queens, while one box had a lovely potter wasp nest in it.

 

Saturday 27th April [Very windy: Storm Hannah blew through]

A wild night was followed by a wild day. There was a tree across the road at the entrance to the Fishing Lodge today, but there were no boats allowed out in the gale force conditions. As seems to happen every year these days, a lot of Coot Fulica atra nests have been swamped and the eggs lost. The Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus at Top End were still grimly trying to save their nest at lunchtime. I saw just the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but Mark Hynam spotted the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay, later in the day, where I'd failed miserably to spot it.

 

Sunday 28th April [A cool breeze although dry with sunny spells]

I walked the south side of the lake with Mark late this morning, and we saw the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Flower Corner, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Swifts Apus apus, a Hobby Falco subbuteo and heard 3 singing Garden Warblers Sylvia borin. The Great Crested Grebes Podicpes cristatus at Top End were tending their nest which was still afloat, so their efforts, at least, survived the storm. The first Canada Goose Branta canadensis brood were on Green Lawn with 7 goslings, and we saw the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Jeff reported at Wood Bay yesterday, but there was only one duckling today. There was another brood of 4 ducklings at Flower Corner. However, there seem to be around 8 or so Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus continually patrolling the edge of the lake on the lookout for unguarded nests and juvenile wildfowl that wander too far from parental protection.

 

Monday 29th April [Warmer with sunny spells]

I went to the lake twice today, mid-morning and evening, but the only notable birds that I saw were the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis at Flower Corner, Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Burmah Road and Rugmoor Point, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

 

Tuesday 30th April [Warm with sunny spells]

I spent much of the day at Westhay Moor NR looking at invertebrates, but saw 5 Hobbies and 2♂ Marsh Harriers while I was there.

Back home at the lake, I counted 10 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 2 more on Rainbow Point, while the 2 non-breeding Great White Egrets Ardea alba were still present, and a lone Swift Apus apus flew over Top End at dusk. I didn't really look for the Lesser Scaup, and didn't see it, because Hannah, Mark and I were doing some bat work as it got dark.