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Blagdon Lake Birds



March 2019 News

Friday 1st March [Early cloud & mist, then a sunny afternoon.]

When the sun came out this afternoon, there were Buzzards Buteo buteo calling from all directions, with pairs soaring in the air proclaiming their territories. I also heard my first singing Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Lodge Copse and, presumably the same one again, at the entrance gate as I left a couple of hours later. The only notable water bird was a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, although there were huge numbers of gulls out on Holt/Lag Farm where liquid manure was being spread on the fields. I didn't spot anything unusual, although in truth the gulls were so mobile it was hard to get a decent look through them, except when they flew onto the lake to drink and bathe. Carol Rushton and Steve Curtis spotted 2 (presumably a pair) Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm with the Mute Swans early afternoon. Thanks for sending me the news guys.

 

Saturday 2nd March [Blustery & wet later]

News from bird warden Mark Hynam of 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a female Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, and 30+ Redwings Turdus ileacus today.

 

Sunday 3rd March [Wet & windy for much of the day]

Roy Curber, good friend and mainstay of the Blagdon WeBS count team for many years, sadly passed away yesterday in Bath from pneumonia. He conducted counts on the Tamar, before taking on Chew Valley Lake and then Blagdon, until he fell badly just over a year ago. Roy was a keen member of Bristol Ornithological Club, Bath Nats. and Bath RSPB Group, and found many rare birds locally over the years, including a number of 'firsts' for Blagdon. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and stories for the 20 years we counted wildfowl together at Blagdon, and was always amazed at his sharp eyesight and keen hearing as he approached his ninetieth year, as well as his extensive bird knowledge gained on many birding trips abroad with his wife Molly. RIP Roy, I shall miss you.

Mike Moxon visited Butcombe Bay and the dam area at lunchtime, and reported a female Goldeneye Bucephala clangula by the dam & 2 drakes in Butcombe Bay, where there was also an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser. He wrote that the Mute Swans Cygnus olor were still on Holt Farm with a few Pheasants Phasianus colchicus. Thanks for your sightings Mike.

This afternoon, Mark Hynam and I had a look around the patch, and saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 14 Mute Swans on Holt Farm (2 more swans at Top End), a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Flower Corner, and 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End from the hide. Then, on the way back to the dam, we saw an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser fly in and join the Mute Swans on Holt Farm. After a cuppa, we went to the dam to check the gull roost (about 900 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus with a few larger gulls), heard a Tawny Owl Strix aluco call from the south end of the dam, and watched hundreds of Jackdaws Corvus monedula swirl in to roost at Butcombe in the increasingly windy conditions.

 

Monday 4th March [A squally & not terribly pleasant day]

My late afternoon visit was curtailed somewhat by a dangerous tree beside the road at Hellfire Corner that is going to be felled, either this afternoon or tomorrow. I saw the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 11 Mute Swans on Holt Farm, plus another 8 swans along the south side of the lake. There was also a distantly visible Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. No hirundines were visible, but I should imagine if there were any, they'd have been sheltering in a tree or reed bed with the rain and hail that was blowing through! T'was a bit wild.

 

Tuesday 5th March [Started sunny & finished wet]

I got to the lake this afternoon just before the rain set in. There wasn't much to report, just the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. There was no sign of any hirundines, either before or after the rain started. There were about 200 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus sitting on the water at the dam end, so I guess they're moving through on migration now.

 

Wednesday 6th March [A pretty damp day]

Late this afternoon, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam in the south corner, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End. However, I didn't see the Egyptian Geese with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm. The only species I counted was Shoveler, totting up 49 at Top End feeding off the surface in the calmer water there.

 

Thursday 7th March [Windy & dry]

I walked with friends over the Mendips today, then around Cheddar Reservoir before getting back to the car via a tea shop and the Strawberry Line for a mile or so. While walking around Cheddar Res., where we could barely stand up in the gale, I saw a drake Scaup Aythya marila with a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula only a few metres out from the bank, and a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser further out.

When I got home I went down to the lake and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 17 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm (plus 2 others at Green Lawn), and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (one at Rugmoor and the other at Burmah Road).

 

Friday 8th March [Showers]

There was nowt to set the pulse racing this afternoon. Just the usual (copy and paste) Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. Frankly, I couldn't be bothered to stand in the rain and go through the gull roost...

 

Saturday 9th March [Mainly dry with sunny spells. Windy.]

Still no hirundines at the lake today. Mark looked early this morning, and we both looked mid-afternoon. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were with Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, while a brief moment or two of speculation was engendered by a female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a broad white facial blaze.

During the rest of the day went over to the Forest of Dean to visit some of the sites there. We saw a number of Goshawks from New Fancy View, including distant displaying birds, a pair of Adders trying to soak up enough warmth to get moving, and Mandarins at Cannop Ponds. On the way back, the railway crossing gates were opened in Lydney high street to let a 4575 class Small Prairie tank no. 5541 cross the road on the Dean Forest Railway, and we stopped at Barrow Gurney to see the superb-looking Long-tailed Duck on Barrow No. 1 reservoir (the little one).

 

Sunday 10th March [Wild & windy]

Mark Hynam was at the lake early this morning and I met him later. The conditions were quite exciting, but the birding certainly wasn't! So, here we go again, 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Holt Farm, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser that flew out of Butcombe Bay and probably left the lake. We left at lunchtime.

 

Monday 11th March [Sunny]

This afternoon I finally saw my first hirundines of the year, about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a single Swallow Hirundo rustica. The martins were feeding over Top End, but the Swallow appeared to fly through to the west on its own. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was feeding along the south side between Burmah Road and Top End, while the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm with Mute Swans Cygnus olor until they were all chased off.

Belated news from Mike Moxon as follows: I could see the Egyptians today from the top of the field, but not from the bottom where I was looking last week, and 14 swans. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still on the dam and the white-fronted tuftie was nearby. Two ♂ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were in Butcombe Bay, plus a nice flock of Long tailed Tits Aegithalos caudatus, with 2 Nuthatches Sitta europaea, a Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Robin Erithacus rubecula, Blue Cyanistes caeruleus and Great Tits Parus major in a tree by the spillway, and a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis calling in the distance. Thanks for your news Mike.

I read with horror today that a devastating fire has destroyed Fair Isle Bird Observatory. I went there in 1998 with Steve Preddy and Julian Thomas and enjoyed the most amazing week of birding. The observatory that burned down was in fact a new one built since we went there, and is likely to cost some £4 million to replace. Not only will its loss jeopardise the long data set going back to 1948, but it will have a profound effect on the islands economy until rebuilt and providing accommodation again. Strangely, I came across my Fair Isle Obs sweat shirt in the wardrobe yesterday and decided to wear it for the first time in ages - I've had it 21 years, and treasure it. One day I hope to go back and buy another, as well as a woollen Fair Isle beanie.

Tomorrow, the first anglers of the year will take to the banks, as the season ticket holders have their day, before the season opens to bank and boat anglers on Thursday.

 

Tuesday 12th March [Pouring with rain until late afternoon]

The water level has certainly come up, thanks to the rain over the last 24 hours, and I saw only one angler braving the weather. There was very little to report, with the only birds that I saw and worthy of note being the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.

 

Wednesday 13th March [Still cool but some sun today. Windy.]

There's not much to tell you other than I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush. Storm Gareth is set to lash us again tomorrow.

 

Saturday 16th March [Dry. Getting windy again.]

I arranged to meet fellow bird warden Mark Hynam this morning at 0800 hrs and having parked at the Lodge I picked up a Scaup sp. in the southern corner of the dam through my binoculars. We set off for our walk and on getting to the dam we could see that the bird was either an Aythya hybrid or drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis. It was a couple of hundred metres away and looked good, but I went to get my scope to check the finer details, especially the nail of the bill. It still looked good and actually swam in closer. Mark had seen it wing-flap while I was away and confirmed the wing pattern was also right. So, I put out the positive news on Twitter. It was still present off the dam at 1320 hrs and had swum close into the bank at times while Mark and I were looking around the rest of the lake. Dean Reeves was watching it just before we left and had some nice photos, he also told me he'd seen about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia briefly at the dam. Mark and I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, heard 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita singing/calling, and saw 20 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. 

 Drake Lesser Scaup, Cheddar Water, 16th March 2019Drake Lesser Scaup, Cheddar Water, 16th March 2019

Sunday 17th March [Mainly sunny with a cold blustery wind]

Mark Hynam got to the lake at around 0830 hrs and I joined him just after 1000 hrs when we found the drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay. I had to go home for an hour after that, and eventually got back down to the lake where we spent much of the afternoon until it got too cold. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was still in residence, and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were back on Holt Farm with Mute Swans Cygnus olor. During the day several Sand Martins Riparia riparia were noted by various observers, including ourselves, but none seemed to stick around.

With an improvement in the weather forecast for tomorrow, it's likely that the fishing boats will be out on the lake, so it's possible the Lesser Scaup may get pushed around or even leave the site. I'll have a look in the morning and put news out. I haven't heard if the Chew bird has been seen over the weekend, but then I don't know if anyone has looked for it. Hopefully, we'll get an update from Rich or Andy tomorrow.

 

Monday 18th March [Started fine but quickly clouded over with some spots of rain.]

On arrival at the lake, I was greeted by a singing Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in Lodge Copse. I didn't spot the drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis on the way to see the dentist, but it was being watched in Holt Bay by Pete and Pauline Grant, and Phil Delve, as I made my way home for lunch. Lovely to see you guys. I watched the scaup this afternoon and left sometime after 1700 hrs. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba and the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca but very little else in the fairly miserable conditions. I have an appeal: has anyone got upper wing photos of the Lesser Scaup that I could be directed to please? It will help with ageing the bird. Ian Stapp kindly sent me a picture of a wing flap showing the breast markings, and they are the same, as you would suppose, given the timing of the disappearance of the bird from Chew and arrival at Blagdon, and their relative scarcity.

 

Drake Lesser Scaup with drake Tufted Duck, Holt Bay, 18th March 2019.Drake Lesser Scaup with drake Tufted Duck, Holt Bay, 18th March 2019.

 

Drake Lesser Scaup showing tail, Holt Bay, 18th March 2019.Drake Lesser Scaup showing tail, Holt Bay, 18th March 2019.

Tuesday 19th March [Cloudy in the morning & sunny in the afternoon]

I was out for most of the day but did get to the lake at about 1730 for an hour. The drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was off Green Lawn and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. Neither Mark, who I met there, or I saw any hirundines.

 

Wednesday 20th March [Mainly cloudy, some sunny spells, & a bit warmer.]

I couldn't get to the lake early doors, but Wayne Tucker managed to find the drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis this morning and let me know it was still present. Cheers Wayne. When I arrived I met Pete Taylor who'd been in Top End hide trying to convince a Welsh birder, over for his 3rd or 4th attempt to see the Lesser Scaup, that the birds they were looking at were in fact Greater Scaup Aythya marila. I went to have a look and sure enough there was a pair at Top End. Thanks Pete, I'm always pleased to see (Greater) Scaup. I put Pete on the Lesser Scaup in Holt Bay but the Welsh guy drove straight past in his yellow car and, therefore, missed it again! The Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and, while waiting to photograph the main attraction, I saw 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia fly east up the lake mid-afternoon. I forgot to add that at 1440 hrs I used my clicker to count 294 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus sitting on the water at the dam end. There was quite a high proportion of 1st-winter birds but I didn't count them separately. By 1600 hrs I'd estimated there to have been no fewer than 1000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls into and out of the lake during the afternoon. During my actual count of 294, I'd say there were just 10-15 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus among them. 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup wing flap, Holt Bay, 20th March 2019.1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup wing flap, Holt Bay, 20th March 2019. 

Now then, looking at today's photos and with reference to Wildfowl of Europe, Asia & North America by Sebastien Reeber (Helm Identification Guides, 2015), I'm of the opinion that the Blagdon bird is a 1st-winter. This is based on the brown in the back, formative scapulars and juvenile blackish-brown upper wing. Most tail feathers are pale brown although there are perhaps new black central feathers. 

 

Thursday 21st March [Sunny spells]

I had a very quick look around this morning using my binoculars and saw 3 (2 drakes) Greater Scaup Aythya marila off the dam, but didn't spot the 1st-winter ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis which had moved, due to there being two boats in Holt Bay. However, later on after we'd done the weekly shop, I met up with Chris and Trees Stone who put me straight onto it over at Orchard Bay on the North Shore. I didn't see the Great White Egret today, but the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were briefly on the water off Rainbow Point, and, again, there were lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus going through during the afternoon.

I've just checked my archive and noted that the wintering Common Sandpiper first appeared at Blagdon in 2011-12, assuming it's the same bird, which seems highly probable. So, remarkably, this winter is it's 8th at the lake.

When I left the lake the Greater Scaup were in Pipe Bay trying to get some respite from the boat anglers with their beaks under wings! I counted 31 Common Pochard Aythya ferina and 13 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, while I was looking for the Great White Egret that I didn't find.

 

Drake Greater Scaups, Pipe Bay, 21st March 2019.Drake Greater Scaups, Pipe Bay, 21st March 2019.

 

 

 

Friday 22nd March [Dry & relatively warm]

I was at the church service to celebrate Roy Curber's life today, along with a few other birders, and didn't get home until mid-afternoon. I've had a look through some of the notes I made when chatting with Roy over one of our lunches here in Blagdon a few years ago, and he told me he started doing WeBS counts at Blagdon in 1974, following on from Andy Davis. He led the team at Blagdon for some 40 years before handing over to me. Until 1974 he'd been doing counts at Chew Valley Lake, starting with Bernard King, until Keith Vinicombe took them on. Before then he counted on the Tamar Estuary when he lived in Plymouth, where he was born. Both Andy and Keith were with me at the service today and they told me Roy was incredibly kind when they were youngsters, taking them to see such exciting birds as Stone Curlews at Sixpenny Handley. Andy also told me they gave Roy the nickname 'Shotgun' after Roy C who sang the song Shotgun Wedding in 1965 while they were still fledgling birders! Roy and Molly birded in many places around the world, and we all remember their little red Bedford Rascal that they travelled the length and breadth of the land together in. Roy had a lovely sense of humour, being able to laugh at himself and his frequent clumsiness in later years, but was a real gentleman. In recent years he was ever alert, although a little hard of hearing, and found the first Avocet (2006) and Cattle Egret (2009) at Blagdon, although was proud of the Red-throated Pipit he and M. Wilson found on 24th September 1973 at Blagdon, the first for the county. RIP Roy.

I spent about three-quarters of an hour at the lake. I saw the 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Long Bay, before it relocated to Holt Bay. Simon Mackie sent me news of 2+ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus of note, plus several photos of a bat that he saw flying around while he was there that I will need to get a second opinion on.

 

 

Saturday 23rd March [Dry, & warm out of the breeze.]

A 5 hr morning visit with Mark Hynam turned up the 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, 3 (2 drakes) Greater Scaup Aythya marila, and not a lot else! There were still 13 Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the Top End hide, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and a mixed flock of c. 50 Redwings Turdus iliacus and Fieldfares Turdus philomelos being harassed by a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus in Holt Copse as we went through. We saw a few Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major on the wing already (the earliest I've ever recorded them, by a day), and heard 7+ singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita along the south side of the lake. I also spotted a Pill Beetle Byrrhus pilula on the road at Burmah Road, a new species record for the lake, I believe.

A Red Kite Milvus milvus flew east over the dam at 1518 hrs per Mervyn Pearce and Keith Vinicombe.

 

Sunday 24th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I was on site at 0700 hrs with Mark Hynam to carry out a survey walk, and apart from going home early afternoon to have a cuppa and get the ladder and tools to rehang a bat box that came down on a fallen tree during the last stormy weather, I was on site until 1630 hrs. The 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis and 2 drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila were still present but we didn't see the female Greater today. We saw two groups of Sand Martins Riparia riparia, one of 8 birds when we got there, and the other of circa 30 birds mid-afternoon. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the overspill, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Green Lawn, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was back at Top End.

Selected survey counts included: 3 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 20 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 5 Nuthatches Sitta europaea, 5 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 24 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 73 Rook Corvus frugilegus nests (some still under construction), 3 each of Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni butterflies, and the first of the Bluebells Hyacynthoides non-scripta in flower.

The WeBS team will be conducting the monthly count tomorrow morning.

 

Monday 25th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count his morning. The 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still on the lake, but the 2 drake Greater Scaup Aythya marila had moved on. There was a female that looked like a Greater Scaup to most, but I have some reservations about its identity. I'll record it as Greater for now, but there was no discernible 'frosting' on the mantle, no pale ear coverts, and the bill/head didn't look quite right, but I'll hope for a closer look tomorrow. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the overspill again, the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor, a 2nd-summer Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus was hawking insects with the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba was at Top End. Numbers of waterfowl were quite low and details are on the WeBS Page.

 Great Crested Grebes performing the 'weed dance', 25th March 2019.Great Crested Grebes performing the 'weed dance', 25th March 2019.

Tuesday 26th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I led a walk for Bristol Savages bird group this morning, during which we saw the 1st-winter drake  Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis distantly off Ash Tree, the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a brief glimpse of some Sand Martins Riparia riparia, and heard lots of bird song, including Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla in new spots since my survey on Sunday. Before the group assembled I saw 2 Greylags Anser anser fly west down the lake as well.

This evening I counted 18 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula gathering together to roost off the North Shore while I was taking another look at the female Scaup. I haven't come to a conclusion about its identity yet.

 

Wednesday 27th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I went to the lake briefly this morning to see if the Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was still on the lake because I knew a couple of people were hoping to come and see it. I met Dave Northover who told me he'd just seen it over at the North Shore and he asked if I knew where the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was. It was just a few metres away when we looked over the dam wall together. I went to have a look for the Lesser Scaup and spotted it showing beautifully in Holt Bay, so tweeted out the news. While I was there I also saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Greylag Anser anser, and Dave told me he'd seen the Great White Egret Ardea alba. I also spotted the other 'Scaup' over against the North Shore asleep, but didn't have time today to go and have a look at it again.

I have edited the entry for 25th March to correct my ageing of the Mediterranean Gull to 2nd-summer. Apologies for the typo.

 

Thursday 28th March [Wall-to-wall sunshine]

I had very little time to spare to visit the lake today. I wanted to drive through and have a quick look this morning, but work to remove a fallen tree under a rookery before egg laying prevented that (thanks for sorting Bristol Water), although I did see the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. After a visit to Clevedon and Bristol Heart Institute, I managed to spend the last hour of daylight lakeside. The 1st-winter drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was in Holt Bay, and pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. I was 'quite happy' (year tick) to see 2 Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa at Long Bay too. However, the problem with this sighting is that it's evidence of yet more pressure on the invertebrates of this important SSSI being brought about by the indiscriminate release of non-native species, including Pheasants, into our countryside in huge numbers by a selfish hunting fraternity. Time to contact Natural England, I think, for all the good it will do. I have never seen Pheasants at the lakeside in such huge numbers as I did last year.

 Roe Buck, Holt Farm, 28th March 2019.Roe Buck, Holt Farm, 28th March 2019.

Richard Mielcarek texted me to say he'd found a single, tiny, Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio flower at Blagdon Lake today that he thinks might be the first reported in the country this year!

 

Friday 29th March [Warm & sunny but starting to cloud over]

Not much change among the waterfowl today, and quite a lot of disturbance with all the boats out, as they will be over the weekend. The drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis was at Paradise on the North Shore late morning, while the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was showing well at the south end of the dam, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm.

 

Saturday 30th March [Foggy until burned off by the sun]

I was down at the lake by 0700 hrs this morning but the fog was so thick I couldn't even see 20 metres along the dam wall. Mark Hynam arrived shortly after, and saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in flight as we checked all along the south side of the lake for migrants but we gave up at 0900 hrs with conditions barely any better. There was only one thing for it... we went to see this bad boy on the Isle of Wight!

 

 

 Adult Great Spotted Cuckoo, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, 29th March 2019.Adult Great Spotted Cuckoo, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, 29th March 2019.

 

Sunday 31st March [Cloudy & several degrees cooler today]

Mark Hynam and I carried out another survey around the lake this morning between 0745-1030 hrs. We were immediately struck by the large number of hirundines over the lake and we had to keep revising our estimates upwards from 200+, to 500+ and eventually we think there were probably 1000+, mainly Sand Martins Riparia riparia, with a handful of Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbicum. A couple of Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flew west down the lake, the drake Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and Great White Egret Ardea alba were all still present, as was at least one of the Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and a Greylag Anser anser. We counted 86 nests in the two rookeries, and found a roosting Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros and at least 16 other bats (probably Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus). Selected survey counts included: 20 (3) Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 29 (20) Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and 14 (24) Snipe Gallinago gallinago to compare with last weeks counts in brackets. Residents included: 42 (41) Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, and 12 (32) Robins Erithacus rubecula.

This evening Nick Wilcox-Brown rang me and said there was an (adult female) Osprey Pandion haliaetus fishing its way towards Top End. He rang to say he'd lost sight of it as I arrived, but after a while searching for it from Rainbow Point, I heard some gulls calling that needed investigating and sure enough there was the Osprey sitting in a tree, where we think it ultimately roosted. Quite a finish to a great weekend of birding. Thanks for the heads-up Nick and nice find.