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Blagdon Lake Birds



January 2019 News

Tuesday 1st January [Mild with plenty of sunny spells]

I was on site at 0745 hrs on an incredibly mild and calm morning, and had seen quite a few bird species by sun-up and spotted a Treecreeper at 0900 hrs to bring up my 50th species for the New Year. I walked to Top End and back from the Lodge, eventually amassing a (half-)day list of 58 species. There were no surprises, but I was pleased to see a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a flock of about a dozen Siskins Spinus spinus, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, hear 6 singing Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major drumming, and saw around 30 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.

Before sunrise, and while I was scanning the lake from the Lodge, I estimated about 1300 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris left the Pipe Bay reeds in a series of pulses, each of about 100 birds at 0805 hrs. On the way back from Top End, I noticed that there were Hazel catkins out in Holt Copse. So, quite an enjoyable morning's walk to bring in the New Year.

 

Thursday 3rd January [Overcast with a cool breeze]

I grabbed a couple of hours by the lake this afternoon, having been away visiting family yesterday. I managed to get a couple of new species for the site year list in the form of a drake Gadwall Mareca strepera, and heard a squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus in Pipe Bay reeds while checking the gull roost from the Lodge at dusk. Other than that it was the usual suspects, with a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Holt Bay, the adult male Pintail Anas acuta at Home Bay Point, and a pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser off Butcombe Bank. The picture of the Shoveler, below, is somehow prophetic in that I have yet to see one this year! 

A pair of Pintail Anas acuta, WWT Slimbridge, 2019.A pair of Pintail Anas acuta, WWT Slimbridge, 2019.

 

Friday 4th January [Sunny but cold]

I spent much of the day doing bat work at the lakes, firstly at Blagdon, then Chew. I had intended to visit Blagdon to have a look at the birds on the way back, but I had to come straight home.

 

Saturday 5th January [Cold & grey]

Mark Hynam was on site early this morning and sent me a report of the following sightings: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the elusive Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2 Green Woodpeckers Picus viridis, a House Sparrow Passer domesticus and some Shovelers Spatula clypeata.

 

Monday 7th January [Grey, drizzly & windy.]

'Twas a blustery old afternoon by the lake and, frankly, most birds were keeping their heads down. The only notables were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, one each at Pipe Bay and Rugmoor Point. There was nothing to add to the year list.

 

Tuesday 8th January [Mainly sunny with a cool light breeze]

This afternoon there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again beside the lake at North Shore and Indian Country, an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, no less than 295 Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis mainly along North Shore/Rugmoor, and 5 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm. I caught up with 4 Shovelers Spatula clypeata, the Barnacle Geese and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus to add to my site year list, and saw 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus at dusk on the way home.

 

Wednesday 9th January [Sunny with a cool light breeze]

It was a fine afternoon by the lake and as usual there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, one on North Shore and one at Top End, and the 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were still with the large flock of Canada Geese Branta canadensis. The only new bird I recorded was a calling Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, but I didn't see it because a helicopter flew over drowning out its calls, and the bird had moved on when the chopper disappeared over the hill.

 

Thursday 10th January [Cool but pleasant]

I went out for a long walk over the Mendips with friends today and didn't get back home in time was too tired to go to the lake. 

Anyway, there isn't much to tell apart from my hearing Crossbills Loxia curvirostra in the northwest corner of Rowberrow Plantation. However, as I didn't have my binoculars around my neck for a change, I just couldn't spot them, despite their being quite close by.

 

Saturday 12th January [A bit grey and miserable]

I walked the whole south side of the lake with fellow warden Mark Hynam this afternoon. He'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and while birding together we saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, between 50-80 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and, new for the year on site, the regular male Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Bell's Bush. There were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm fields today.

 

Sunday 13th January [Windy, & quite wild at the lakeside.]

My late afternoon visit turned up little to relate here in the blog. The small Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost is still using the reed beds near the Lodge, and although there were probably a couple of thousand, or more, gulls in the roost, I couldn't even spot a Med Gull. It's a bit grim.

 

Monday 14th January [A bit milder, still, but mostly overcast.]

I thought I'd change tactics a bit today, so did the gathering of gulls mid-afternoon then went for a look around afterwards. But, there were no 'white-winged' or Yellow-legged Gulls, and only 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 (male & female) Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus of note.

 

Wednesday 16th January [Cooler, with rain around midday, and some sun late afternoon.]

On arrival at the lake mid-afternoon, I caught up with the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and spotted a huge line of gulls from the dam right down towards Ash Tree. I spent nearly an hour going through them, especially as there were still plenty of Common Gulls Larus canus (usually the carrier species for Med. or Ring-billed Gulls). However, despite looking at between 2 and 3000, I didn't find any surprises. While at the Lodge, I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing briefly in Pipe Bay reeds, and behind the copse there were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor in the fields on Holt Farm, with 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Home Bay. During a search to Top End and back, I saw the usual 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and behind the east end hide, I saw 2 Great Spotted Dendrocopos major and a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis fly out of the wood towards Bell's Bush almost one after the other.

 

Thursday 17th January [A lovely, cold, and sunny day.]

I walked with friends around the lake today, following footpaths and lanes, before reaching Butcombe Bay where we had a brief stop to take it all in. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by the overspill, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and located the missing Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm at long last. Again, there were 6 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor in the farm fields as well. It was one of those beautiful, glad to be alive days, with some great views of our lovely valley along the way.

 

Friday 18th January [Another grey day]

I didn't get down to the lake today, but Mark Hynam did, and he texted the following sightings: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a female Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 50+ Redwings Turdus ilaceus and a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinereus of note. Neither of us have been able to spot a Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii at the lake so far this year! It's quite extraordinary, and I'm wondering where they've gone because I've never noticed an absence of this species before.

 

Saturday 19th January [Sunny spells]

News from Mike Johnson (and Jacky), as well as Mark Hynam today. So, thanks for your input guys. Birds reported included 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and 4 (3 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.

 

Sunday 20th January [Overcast]

Mark Hynam and I had a brief look early afternoon and saw 4 (3 drake) adult Goosanders Mergus merganser, circa 80 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 adult male Pintail Anas acuta and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.

For the latter part of the afternoon we met up with Chris, Sam and Ken to carry out a bat hibernation roost count.

Sadly, the local forecast is to stay cloudy today and tomorrow, so I won't be getting up in the middle of the night and going out with my camera to photograph the super blood wolf moon (lunar eclipse in January) before dawn. Neighbour Alastair, who is a bit of an astronomy buff, tells me the next one is in 2028. Let's hope we're spared and have another opportunity!

The usual team will be doing the WeBS count tomorrow.

 

Monday 21st January [Mainly overcast]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning as planned. We saw the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 5 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 adult male Pintail Anas acuta, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos of note. There was also a fair smattering of 156 Pochard Aythya ferina. Full count details on the WeBS Count page.

As forecast, and despite making the effort to get up twice, there was no sign of the lunar eclipse due to thick cloud when I looked for it. Phil, who lives in Wilts., managed to get some pictures through his scope and phone though - just to rub salt into the wounds!

 

Tuesday 22nd January [Sunny spells & wintery showers]

Nigel and Beryl Crocker sent me news of 14 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Top End (thanks), and I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta (too) late this afternoon. There was a huge gull roost, by Blagdon standards, again this evening but they escaped a 'grilling' from me. Perhaps tomorrow.

 

Wednesday 23rd January [Cold & sunny]

A quick look late morning revealed 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. It's probable that there were 3 Great White's yesterday too, although I chose to err on the conservative side with my count and assume I'd seen one of the two at Rugmoor earlier. They're highly mobile so counting isn't easy if you're birding on foot.

Celia and I witnessed the most extraordinary thing this afternoon. A rather dishevelled Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus landed on the patio and spent ages mopping up sunflower hearts that I put on the ground. Nothing unusual there you say, but while I was watching it, I realised that as fast as it was eating seeds, so some of them were dropping out of its throat back onto the ground! I can only think that it must have had a close escape from a Sparrowhawk that had ripped a hole in its throat before the Pigeon escaped. It would explain the curious feathering around the neck that had a large gap in that area. There was no blood, so I'm assuming its an old wound. It flew off when I went outside shortly afterwards.

 

Thursday 24th January [Milder than last couple of days]

A late afternoon visit turned up 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, and 3 (1 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser. There were lots of gulls again, but I didn't spot anything out of the ordinary among them.

The 'leaky' Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus turned up on the patio again, briefly, early this afternoon, and I watched it taking a drink of water from the bowl provided. It looked okay, but water was dribbling from it's breast after every sip. See yesterdays news for more on this strange bird.

 

Saturday 26th January

Mark Hynam saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta before we met up to spend late afternoon going through the gull roost. A pair of adult Goosanders Mergus merganser put in an appearance, but we didn't find any unusual gulls in the large roost. 

Drake Shoveler Spatula clypeata, WWT Slimbridge, Glos, 2019Drake Shoveler Spatula clypeata, WWT Slimbridge, Glos, 2019

 

Sunday 27th January [Windy & chilly]

Mark Hynam visited the lake around lunchtime and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, plus a Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii (the first reported this year), then we met up with some bat worker friends to carry out another bat hibernation count on the Mendips late this afternoon - infinitely preferable to doing the Blagdon gull roost again today!

 

Wednesday 30th January [Sunny but chilly]

My how the month has flown by! After the sleet of yesterday, I decided to venture forth and visit the lake again. The Feeders needed filling anyway. I enjoyed a lovely walk and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 (1 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser, and a Primrose Primula vulgaris in flower on the bank of a ditch at, appropriately enough, Flower Corner. I also counted 36 Shovelers Spatula clypeata, and saw 10 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and a couple of Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus in the same field at Top End.

 

Thursday 31st January [Overcast with a cold easterly wind]

I used the best of the late afternoon light to go through the gull roost, mainly Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus of course, but there there were lots of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus as well. I didn't find anything unusual, although I did spot 3 pairs of Goosander Mergus merganser, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at the dam end/ Butcombe Bay. Sleet started to fall as it got dark, by which time I had noted another Little Egret in Holt Bay and a Great White Egret Ardea alba along the Indian Country bank.