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Blagdon Lake Birds



February 2023 News

Wednesday 8th February [Cold overnight. Dry & sunny with a keen breeze.]

I didn't get to the lake until the sun had gone behind the hill this afternoon, so I wasn't expecting to see many of the usual passerines. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was at Top End again, and I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (being big and white helps). The only other notable sightings were a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus.

 

Tuesday 7th February [Frosty overnight. A glorious day.

I walked with friends on the Mendip plateau today, and didn't get home until late afternoon. I drove down to the lake for a quick look and saw 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and, as they went to roost, at least 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta that joined them. I went on to the Top End hide and saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in a large raft of Pochard Aythya ferina and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula that gathered as it got dark, there was also a group of 28 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula nearby. At the dam I didn't see the Common Sandpiper, but there was a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser.

 

Monday 6th February [Cold overnight, but a beautiful sunny day.]

It almost felt like Spring today and I saw my first butterfly, a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta at Top End, having come out of the hide where I'd seen the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris glowing in the sunshine with a couple of visiting birders from Ross-on-Wye. There were 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba scattered around the lake, 4 redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser at Rugmoor, a flock of 60 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Home Bay Point (plus a few more with Redwings Turdus iliacus at Top End), and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, that were all worthy of note. I only totted-up 51 spp. but it was a lovely afternoon to be out in the countryside.

 

Sunday 5th February [Overnight frost. Sunny & dry.]

After a morning get together to discuss the upcoming bat work this year over a 'big breakfast' with Daniel and Ken, Mark and I decided to head to the lake for the afternoon. I spotted 2 redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos when I arrived at the dam, and having met Mark again near the Lodge, we heard the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay, saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Green Lawn, noted 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, before settling in the hide to look for the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris which showed on and off, disappearing into the flooded trees at times. We also saw 2 sleeping Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba from the hide. I got my patch year tick House Sparrows Passer domesticus at the Hatchery, before we turned and made our way back to our cars at the Lodge. I logged 60 spp. during the walk, but didn't see the drake Scaup this afternoon.

 

Friday 3rd February [Overcast & breezy]

There was quite a sight when I arrived at the dam late this morning, because the dam end of the lake was covered in gulls. I parked at the Lodge and got my scope out and was amazed to see that the vast majority were Common Gulls Larus canus. I did a quick (rough) count of the Common Gulls and reckoned there to be about 1500 sitting on the water. I went through the birds, but rather surprisingly didn't find any Mediterranean Gulls, or other goodies. A pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser were feeding just out from the dam wall, but there was no sign of the Common Sandpiper. While I was going through the waterfowl, after counting the gulls, they all suddenly exploded into the air calling. Lots of ducks started flying about, and a large flock of circa 350 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus also took to the air, but I couldn't see what was causing the disturbance. The pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were at Holt Bay, and at Rainbow Point, I counted 51 Wigeon Mareca penelope, and saw the drake Scaup Aythya marila that has been back at the lake for several days (presumably returned from Cheddar Res.). As I set off around Wood Bay I was really pleased to see 3 Shelduck Tadorna tadorna flying down the lake, and saw 3 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, before popping into the Top End hide to see if I could spot the ever elusive drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. I eventually picked it out tucked right into the bank along Burmah Road, but had failed to spot it while walking along the road there. There was just a single Snipe Gallinago gallinago bouncing around on the floating vegetation in front of the hide, as more and more of it is being swamped by the waves being driven up the lake on the winds of the last few days. I think there were just the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at the lake today.

 

Thursday 2nd February [Overcast & breezy]

I spent my first hour or so today looking around some areas of the site I don't visit very often, but didn't see anything new. Then, as it was overcast, I thought I'd go back and have another session with the camera and chiffchaffs, but I didn't see anything other than 3 Common Chiffs P.c. collybita, and heard another two elsewhere. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still around the Bell's Bush / Hellfire Corner area this afternoon on the couple of occasions I saw it. Other notables included 3 (one drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 52 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in a day list of 54 species (which didn't include the drake Scaup that was reported after I'd gone home).

 

Note olive tones of this Common Chiffchaff, Top End. 2nd Feb 2023.Note olive tones of this Common Chiffchaff, Top End. 2nd Feb 2023.

 

 

Wednesday 1st February [Light cloud & blustery]

I walked from the house to Ubley Hatchery and back this afternoon. It was pretty windy at the lake and it got steadily worse during the afternoon. After searching for two days, what should be just off the bank at Bell's Bush but the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again, mind you, it had disappeared again by the time I made my way back! At Ubley Hatchery I heard Siskins Spinus spinus calling and saw 3 before they disappeared. On the way back, I looked for the Chiffchaffs and saw 3 Common Chiffs P.c. collybita but there was no sign of the Sibe or the puzzling bird pictured yesterday. In the strong wind they might just have relocated nearby, we'll see. The Stonechat Saxicola rubicola pair were at Holt Bay perching on the wooden pilings and hedge to sally-forth for insects, and when I got back to the dam the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was pottering along the waters edge and there were 2 Goosanders Mergus merganser nearby.

I've received an email from Rich M. to say he saw the Sibe Chiff yesterday at lunchtime, along with some correspondence and photos he's shared with me and Andy D. Thanks for including me in the discussion Rich.

 

Tuesday 31st January [Sunny & dry after early drizzle. A stiff breeze.]

I spent much of the day at the lake. I am following up sightings of Dipper, so far without any success, but as the last records were around 1932 they are worth checking out. Then, I met Rich M. and Andy D. to have another look at the gathering of Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Top End. The Siberian Chiffchaff P.c. tristis was still present (we haven't heard it call yet), as was another bird that I photographed yesterday which Richard and Andy think might be a bird they both heard call like a tristis nearby a few days ago. I've watched it for a while over the last two days, but haven't heard it call. There were another 5+ Common Chiffs present there and I heard another two elsewhere during the day. There was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again, since Rich saw it yesterday lunchtime, and I don't think anyone else saw today it either. I noted circa 15 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying down the lake, 13 Mute Swans Cygnus olor (many of which are feeding in adjacent improved fields as of this week), 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, a female/juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and a 1st-winter drake Goosander Mergus merganser.

 

Chiffchaff with a curious mix of characters, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.Chiffchaff with a curious mix of characters, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.

 Chiffchaff with a curious mix of characters, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.Chiffchaff with a curious mix of characters, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.

 

 

Monday 30th January [Sunny & dry. A NW breeze.]

I got down to the lake just after lunch and met up with Rich M. and Mark briefly, who had been watching the Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus spp. again this morning, and attempting to get some pictures of the Siberian Chiffchaff P.c. tristis, plus resolve the question of whether or not there is a second Siberian Chiffchaff present in the same spot. I set my stall out to photograph the bird I found on the 20th, Mark having got a couple of shots today and Gareth Jones who also got a some shots yesterday (thanks for sending me them Gareth). I spent some time with a number of Chiffchaffs coming and going, but with the Siberian Chiffchaff feeding in front of me the whole time. I took pictures of the Sibe, but also some of the others for comparison. Rich M. and Andy D. had heard and eventually seen another bird giving a 'tristis'-like call over the last few days, but told me that it had some olive tones and looked different to the first bird. I havevn't gone through my photos yet, but having heard the bird calling myself yesterday, I hope I might have some shots of that too.

Rich told me he'd seen the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris at Bell's Bush just before I arrived, but I didn't spot it during my walk this afternoon, having put my camera away. I noted 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret  Egretta garzetta, about 50 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 6 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and three new birds for my site year list, a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, an adult Peregrine Falco peregrinus and a male Greenfinch Chloris chloris in the top of a Larch tree, which gave me a 'bit of a moment' thinking I may have found a Crossbill!

Here are some images of the 'classic' Siberian Chiffchaff that I took today:

 

Siberian Chiffchaff high in a tree against a pale background. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff high in a tree against a pale background. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff, Top End. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff showing green edges to remiges and retrices. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff showing green edges to remiges and retrices. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff showing yellow at bend of underwing. 30th Jan 2023Siberian Chiffchaff showing yellow at bend of underwing. 30th Jan 2023

Siberian Chiffchaff showing yellow at bend of underwing. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff showing yellow at bend of underwing. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff showing face pattern and 'rusty' ear coverts. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff showing face pattern and 'rusty' ear coverts. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff showing ear coverts and white throat. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff showing ear coverts and white throat. 30th Jan 2023.

Siberian Chiffchaff showing face and throat. 30th Jan 2023.Siberian Chiffchaff showing face and throat. 30th Jan 2023.

 

Sunday 29th January [An increasing westerly breeze with some rain showers. Mild.]

I walked from the house today and made it as far as the Top End bird hide and back in the time I had available. At the dam I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and at Home Bay a Lesser Redpoll Acanthis cabaret popped out in front of me. As I got to Long Bay, Mark rang and told me he'd found the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris at Hellfire Corner and that it had flown high towards the dam. No sooner had he told me and I spotted it back in Long Bay! I worked my way along the south side through another shower and came across 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, then another 5, among which was the Siberian Chiffchaff P.c. trisitis. I spent no less than half an hour watching it at fairly close quarters as it fed on winter gnats in the same place throughout. The other Chiffs moved off during this time, leaving just the Sibe and a couple of Goldcrests Regulus regulus in front of me. Marvellous, but no camera...

I counted 24 Wigeon Mareca penelope, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

 

Saturday 28th January [Mainly overcast. Little breeze.]

I met Mark at the Lodge this afternoon and we walked the south side of the lake, finishing at the dam at dusk. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present at Top End, as was the adult-winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus with the Common Gulls Larus canus feeding on Lag Farm fields. Other notable records included the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, circa 35 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus (although Mark saw more before I arrived), 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 2 Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 3 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, 2 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Finally, at the dam we counted 25 (12 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser. My day list was 54 bird and 3 mammal species.

 

Friday 27th January [Mainly overcast with sunny spells. A bitter NNE breeze.]

Despite the sunny spells, there is still some marginal ice in the sheltered spots around the lake. I birded from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this afternoon, and saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris opposite the Top End hide, found an adult winter-plumaged Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among the Common Gulls Larus canus feeding on Lag Farm, and noted the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, just one of the Stonechat Saxicola rubicola pair, and a flock of about 150 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus that flew up and down the lake three times before heading back west from whence they came. My day list is on BirdTrack.

 

Thursday 26th January [A little milder today. Mainly overcast]

I walked along the Avon & Kennet Canal this morning, with friends, from Dundas Aquaduct to Avoncliffe Aquaduct and back. While looking down at the river at Avoncliffe, we saw a Dipper - I thought it was a bit of an unexpected sighting on the main river, though very welcome for a birder who doesn't see them on his own patch.

When I got home I went down to the lake for an hour and a half before dark. I picked out the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris off the Indian Country bank, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 8 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, 12 (6 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 34 Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-23. All Rights Reserved.