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Blagdon Lake Birds



February 2019 News 

Friday 1st February [4-6" of snow overnight continued until lunchtime]

I didn't visit the lake, but having cleared the snow off the patio and around the house before putting seed and water out, we were blessed with a visit from our 3rd ever garden (I think) Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, a Siskin Spinus spinus, and one each of Redwing Turdus iliacus and Fieldfare Turdus pilaris.

 

Saturday 2nd February [A cold, sunny, day.]

Mark Hynam had a look around the lake this morning and reported 4, possibly 5, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca as well as a large flock of Redwings Turdus iliacus.

 

Sunday 3rd February [Sunny]

I went out this morning to count bats in hibernation at a couple of sites on the Mendip Hills with a group of local workers, then, this afternoon, Mark Hynam and I checked out Blagdon Lake for birds. We found 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 4 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, an adult male Goosander Mergus merganser, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 50 + Shoveler Spatula clypeata and 100+ Teal Anas crecca. 

Common Sandpiper Actitis hyoleucos, Overspill, 18th February 2015.Common Sandpiper Actitis hyoleucos, Overspill, 18th February 2015.

 

Monday 4th February [Sunny & mild]

The snow's been washed away by overnight rain and there's quite a lot of water flowing into the lake. However, the level hasn't risen at all since at least the 29th December. Late this afternoon, I counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 13 (5 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser, saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and heard my first Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs of the year singing.

 

Friday 8th February [Mainly wet]

There's quite a lot of surface water locally due to overnight rain continuing into today, and sure enough it's bringing the level of the lake up a bit. We have strong winds forecast, and I noticed several torn limbs and a tree down at the lake today. There were even fewer wildfowl to be seen than the low numbers in recent months, but I noted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm feeding on the grass.

 

Saturday 9th February [Mainly dry, though blustery.]

Today there were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm feeding on the grass. Thanks to Mark Hynam and Rob Hargreaves for adding to my sightings made during a very brief visit late this afternoon.

 

Sunday 10th February [Sunny spells and showers, but the wind had a bit of an edge to it.]

The birding has been so slow at Blagdon Lake this winter that it's taken me until today to see my first Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii. I also added feral Pigeon Columba livia livia (on Holt Farm) and Redshank Tringa totanus (calling from the dam end) to my year list during an afternoon walk with Mark Hynam, but it's been depressingly birdless in terms of scarcities throughout the winter months. We spent about an hour going through the gull roost too, but couldn't even find a Mediterranean or Yellow-legged Gull in the 2-3000 throng. Despite a good start on New Year's Day, I now have the lowest total for this time of year in the six years I've been plotting annual progress on my Bird Year List graph. Having heard the Redshank calling from Home Bay, we went to look on the dam for it, but there was no sign; just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. We counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca feeding in the field with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor beside Park Lane on Holt Farm and that's about all I have to report folks.

 

Tuesday 12th February [Mainly sunny, until cloud moved in during the afternoon.]

I didn't go down to the lake until late afternoon for a quick look around. The only notable birds that I saw were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, just 2 Great White Ardea alba and 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser.

Ken Anstey and I will be at the lake for the majority of the day tomorrow in order to check, clean, and do the necessary to prepare the bat boxes for use during the coming season.

 

Wednesday 13th February [Fairly mild & dry]

Ken Anstey and I spent five hours at the lake today, checking and giving the bat boxes a spring clean. Amazingly, we checked 63 Schwegler boxes and saw no bats, but in the 14 self-made wooden Kent boxes we saw no fewer than 10 bats safely hibernating. That is very rewarding and, perhaps, with more evidence gathered over the next few years, discussion with other bat workers may lead to more artificial hibernacula being put up for bats. I'm not saying Schweglers are never used by hibernating bats, they are, and we have found some doing so at both Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake, it's just my growing suspicion that wooden boxes may be preferred. Another plus point is that we found bird droppings in 35 of the 63 bat boxes because they are being used as bird roosts over the winter period.

While at the lake we saw 2, probably 3, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a pair of Pintail Anas acuta off Wood Bay Point, 12 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm fields, and heard a Greenfinch Chloris chloris singing at the Lodge. In a few places we saw Lesser Celandines Ranunculus ficaria in flower too.

 

Thursday 14th February [A beautiful sunny day]

I didn't visit the lake today, despite the lovely weather, as I was busy on a construction project at home and ferrying family around. However, while I was walking down Sunnyside Road in Clevedon, I heard and saw a male Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing in a garden hedge at the junction with St. John's Road. No doubt a wintering bird, but a reminder that Spring is just around the corner - I hope!

 

Friday 15th February [Another beautiful sunny day]

You could actually feel some warmth in the sunshine today, but I was busy at home for most of it. I went down to the dam to look through the gulls at dusk, and there were lots of large gulls, but nothing noteworthy. However, while scanning through the flock I counted at least 23 (7 male) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, 5 (2 male) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathering to roost together, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

 

Saturday 16th February [Cloudy but mild, with a southerly air flow.]

I met up with Mark Hynam at the Lodge just after 0800 hrs this morning for a birding walk and we did quite well. Pick of the sightings were the first Scaup Aythya marila of the winter period, 2 males and a female, a couple of flyover Skylarks Aluada arvensis, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and an immature female Peregrine Falco peregrinus and 19 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields. Bizarrely, we also found a recently killed Tawny Owl Strix aluco (minus its head). I wonder who, or what, did that?

I think I'll have to go down to the lake again tomorrow morning, because there have been a few Swallows reported in the south west today, as well as a handful of House Martins, one of which was on the Shetland Isles!

 

Sunday 17th February [Mainly cloudy, with some sunshine, and a cool southerly wind.]

Buoyed by an interesting morning's birding yesterday, and southerly winds overnight, we'd hoped for similar today. Got that wrong though! So, apologies for the familiar ring to my post but here we go - 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 2 drake Pintail Anas acuta, an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser, a female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (first of the year), an adult male Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, and 14 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields. Tomorrow is WeBS count day.

 

Monday 18th February [Mainly sunny]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning, and while counting 943 Common Gulls Larus canus I found an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus. At long last! Pick of the birds today were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 7 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. I had to leave before the end and would like to thank the guys for finishing off without me. Count details are given, as usual, on the WeBS Count Page, but note that there may be some minor adjustments made over the coming days. 

 

Tuesday 19th February [Mainly sunny, then clouding over with some light rain.]

This afternoon I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser, and counted 1112 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 123 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and 40 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus in a somewhat reduced roost. Over the coming weeks the numbers of Black-headed Gulls will quickly drop as they move off to their breeding sites north and east of here, but the 'large gull' numbers will increase as they move through on passage from further south in West Africa and Iberia.

 

Wednesday 20th February [Overcast & dry]

I spent the whole day at Chew Valley Lake with Ken Anstey cleaning the bat boxes. While we did our round we saw a pristine-looking Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta in the copse on Nunnery Point, and were taken aback by the damage done to Parkland again this winter, presumably by hungry badgers who roll the turf back looking for worms or plant material. I'm not sure if it will benefit the orchids that grow there though. What was also surprising was that in the few patches we had time to roll back into place, there were lots of holes, that we reckon were made by probing birds. Could they be made by Snipe or Woodcock feeding at night?

Anyway, on the way home I had a brief look at Blagdon (by which time it was gone 1700 hrs) and didn't see any egrets! However, I did see a drake Scaup Aythya marila in Holt Bay. This, I'm sure, is a new bird because neither Mark nor I have seen the 3 noted on Saturday since our initial mid-morning sighting.

 

Friday 22nd February [A lovely day]

I'm sorry news has been a bit sparse, but my wife is currently in hospital and I have little time to visit the lake at present. If you have news please feel free to share with me and I'll get it posted. The current situation is likely to continue for a week or more.

 

Saturday 23rd February [A lovely day]

Mark Hynam sent me the following report from the lakeside today: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 9 (5 males and 4 females) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a male Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus at Top End, 15 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, a couple of dozen Redwings Turdus iliacus and 2 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris.

 

Monday 25th February [The warmest February day in the UK on record]

Another day of glorious sunshine, most of which was spent in hospital with my dear wife. However, I did manage time for a drive along the lakeside as the sun sank over the hill. I saw a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, 16 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. As I let myself off site at the Ubley gate, I noticed that there was a Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna breaking out in leaf there - not the earliest date I ever seen it, but certainly up there.

There was a report, on Avon Birds, of a Black-necked Grebe at the lake today. I don't have any more details.

 

Thursday 28th February [Rain & hill fog]

Today was an ideal day for visiting the lake to look for migrants, with the mist and rain, but I couldn't make it. Celia came home, having had a heart pacemaker fitted at Bristol Heart Institute yesterday. Her care in Harptree Ward at Weston General, and by the BRI heart team was brilliant. We'd both like to say thanks to everyone who has been in touch to wish her well. Tomorrow's the first day of meteorological Spring, and a time to look forward... Sand Martins and a Swallow arrived at Chew today.