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Blagdon Lake Birds



January 2022 News 

Monday 10th January [Grey with showers]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still showing from the Lodge, in Home Bay, when I arrived late morning and, despite walking to Top End gate and back, that was about my only notable sighting of the avian kind. However, as I made my way back to the Lodge, I saw a large group of waterfowl scatter, and stood ringside as an Otter Lutra lutra grappled with a large Eel Anguilla anguilla, before it finally subdued it and swam to shore to enjoy its meal. What an absolute treat!

 

Sunday 9th January [Mainly dry]

Mark and I decided we'd see if we could connect with the Baikal Teal that has been at RSPB Greylake down the road, near Street, this morning. He rolled up at 0600 hrs to pick me up, and we were sitting in prime position in the hide on our own at 0640 hrs... only an hour to wait before it got light enough to see anything! As things transpired, it was seen a couple of times briefly from the open shelter and out of our view, until at 1115 hrs or so, a Marsh Harrier put up all the Teal again after a two hour wait, and a huge flock re-assembled at the back of the visible open water. I was lucky enough to pick it out when it put its head up preening, and got Mark and a few others in the hide on to it. Yay! Just one BOU list (cats. A&C) duck to get now for the full set in the UK - although I've seen them all somewhere in the world.

We left so that others might get a sighting, and headed back to Blagdon for a warming cuppa. We were both perished after the five hour vigil in the hide. When we warmed through, we headed down to the lake and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, and when I got to the Lodge, I immediately spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, after not being able to find it at all yesterday. We walked to Top End gate and back and noted a couple of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Rainbow Point, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba from the hide. As we left, we both stopped at the south corner of the dam and counted 14 (8 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser before heading home.

I reckon the water level has risen to something like 79% over the last few days.

 

Saturday 8th January [More rain & some flooding]

Woo! The lake has certainly come up a bit over the last day or two. I went down this afternoon and searched for the Black-necked Grebe, but couldn't find it. I saw one, possibly two, Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. Then, when I got back from Top End, I had another look from the dam and saw a gathering, a dopping, of 17 (10 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

 

Friday 7th January [Light rain & sleet for much of the day]

I didn't go to the lake today, but the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was reportedly back in Home Bay. There was also a separate report of 15 (9 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos seen from the dam.

There were lots of birds coming into the garden feed today in the cold conditions, at one point there were at least a dozen Blackbirds on the patio for sunflower hearts and dried meal worms. There were also lots of Chaffinches and Goldfinches as well.

 

Thursday 6th January [Wet & breezy]

I had a mildly uncomfortable walk late morning through lunchtime in the driving rain. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Cheddar Water, but missed the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (subsequently reported), and that was about it! I looked through the Teal Anas crecca that I saw for vagrants, but had no luck with that idea, and although there were plenty of Common Gulls Larus canus sitting on the water, I couldn't find a Med. Gull among them either.

 

Wednesday 5th January [Sunny spells. Cold.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in the Home / Long Bay area again today, and continuing to draw birders to Blagdon for a peek. I wandered from the Lodge to Top End gate and back, albeit a bit late in the day as the sun sunk over the hill. I did see a few Siskins Spinus spinus, around Hellfire Corner, and counted 31 (14 drake) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula from the dam while I was looking for Goosanders at dusk. I didn't see any Goosanders before I left, and didn't add any year ticks today.

 

Tuesday 4th January [Grey early, then sunny. A bitter wind.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis remained faithful to Home Bay again today. I walked from the Lodge to Rugmoor Gate and back, but have little else to add to the news. I saw about 30 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and either one, or two, small flocks of about half a dozen Siskins Spinus spinus, some of which were positively glowing in the late afternoon sun. I also heard a Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula calling near Top End gate, so that was added to my site year list.

 

Monday 3rd January [Mild & dry]

I enjoyed an extremely pleasant walk with Martin, my ex-neighbour today. We birded our way from the dam to Top End and back, and spoke to quite a few local birders who were still whizzing around building their year lists - nice to see Dean and Karen, and Steve and Carol among the familiar faces - all checking in for the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis which was still in Home Bay by the boat quay. If you are coming to see it, please don't venture out onto the concrete quay, life jackets are required, and the area is covered by CCTV. Aside from the grebe, we saw about 75 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and a larger flock later, but not sure if they were the same. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam as usual, mid-morning, when I arrived, a flock of about 40 Siskins Spinus spinus were at Hellfire Corner in the alders, we scoped a Stock Dove Columba oenas, and saw 3 adult drake Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam before driving back up the hill around 1530 hrs. While Martin and I were walking along the road at Long Bay, I spotted a hole in the grass, which looked like it was a wasp nest that had been dug out by a Badger after the comb, although that looked quite old and not exactly nutritious.

Carol has just texted me to say Steve saw a Bullfinch while they were at the lake (I'm gripped big time - ha, ha), so the site list is building nicely.

 

Sunday 2nd January [Mild. Sunny spells.]

I met up with Mark and Ken this morning to do a little bat work, which carried over into the early afternoon with the moving of two of our Kent boxes that haven't been used, to replace one that does get used, but that had been attacked and damaged by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Another that has been damaged nearby currently has 3 bats in it so we can't repair that one and rehang it at the moment. While we were doing the bat work, we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major drumming at the Inspection House/Cheddar Water.

Afterwards, Mark and I went to the Lodge and spent some time chatting to the stream of birders that were coming to see the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis for their year lists. Moreover, there was a great display by 8 (7 adult drakes and a female) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, which made me wish I hadn't left my camera at home. While at the lake I added three more resident species to the 2022 site list. 

 

Saturday 1st January [Very mild & grey]

A Happy New Year to one and all.

I walked down the hill at 0700 hrs and got back home at around midday. In that time I managed to list 58 species, including the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (in Home Bay, and possibly viewable from the middle of the dam with a scope, if you don't have a permit), a surprise adult Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in front of the Lodge, and a silent Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Top End. A couple more hours this afternoon with Mark, and I added another 3 species bringing the total to 61 for the day. A Great White Egret Ardea alba, and 8 (4 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser that flew in to roost were the notable additions. That's quite respectable - I'm happy with that!

The water level is about 75% currently.

 

Friday 31st December [Very mild]

I made a short visit to replenish the feeders and look for the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, which I eventually found off Home Bay Point.

2021 has seen disappointing birding at Blagdon, not just because of our being excluded from the site early in the year due to Covid-19, but also due to the lack of migrants through autumn. I will be back tomorrow though, full of hope for a bumper year, my 31st birding at the lake, and my 60th since fishing it for the first time!

Late news - Karen sent me an email to let me know she'd seen 6 Goosanders (4 drakes) at Butcombe Bay today.

 

Thursday 30th December [Mild with showers]

Typically, one of the first birds I looked at when I reached the dam at the bottom of the hill, was the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis! It was feeding really close in to the southern corner of the dam / Cheddar Water (see Tweets on the Home Page), and was still there when I walked home at 1500 hrs. A Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was feeding along the dam wall about 150 metres away, and when I got to Green Lawn to look through the throng of gulls, I saw a Common Sandpiper in flight there too, but I suspect it was probably the same bird. Despite walking to the Top End gate and back, there was nothing else to add to my report.

 

Wednesday 29th December [Overcast & blustery]

Back on the patch today, but there was precious little to report. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam wall at Cheddar Water, and I saw a flock of some 70 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus wheeling around in the air on various occasions, no doubt being spooked by the Peregrine Falco peregrinus over Top End. I couldn't find the Black-necked Grebe, and understand it may not have been seen yesterday either. The water level has come up a couple of percentage points since the overnight deluge, and is currently around 72-73% I reckon.

The wet sheep field on Holt Farm attracted thousands of gulls, and I would say there were comfortably more than a thousand each of Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Common Gulls Larus canus, but I couldn't find a sneaky rarity among them though.

 

Tuesday 28th December [Wet & windy]

I went on an away day to Lancashire with Alan and Mark, hoping to see the Belted Kingfisher at Roach Bridge near Preston. The drive was easy and uncomplicated in both directions, and we arrived at around 1000 hrs. I spoke to a guy in the preferred car park, who had just returned from site, and he said he'd stood for 3 hours in the rain for two glimpses of a few seconds each! We timed our arrival for the cessation of the overnight downpour and set off full of hope. After paying £10 each to the farmer to stand in the quagmire risking trench foot and the very real possibility of broken bones (none of us are getting any younger), we each managed a glimpse of the bird for a few seconds, at considerably greater distance than we'd have wished for, and in all our cases thanks to other birders letting us have a peek through their scopes (the viewing was very limited). We stood around until nearly 1500 hrs watching the river rise, knowing full well that the bird was almost certainly not going to come back to the swirling brown spate, having moved to a private fishing pond nearby, but hey, we'd gone all that way and we needed to give it a chance to give us a better view. As it turned out we waited in vain. Alan and I were glad we'd seen the species before, in the USA! However, being a 'lifer' for Mark, it wasn't the outcome he might have hoped for, but that's twitching I suppose. You pays your money...

 

Monday 27th December [Rain early & late]

I walked to the Top End and got a lift home from Mark, who I met there, as rain set in again late afternoon. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in front of the Lodge, and around 55 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew in while I was looking through the gulls. Although I checked through the waterfowl and bank side vegetation as I made my way to the hide at Top End, a Great White Egret Ardea alba scoped from Rainbow Point was the only bird of note. However, from the hide, I counted another 175 Lapwings, and no fewer than 47 Snipe Gallinago gallinago on Wookey Point. During my visit, I saw a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus, and 3 Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus, the latter a rarity at the lake these days, although possibly staging a comeback after a number of years with no, or few, sightings.

 

Sunday 26th December [Some light rain, then improving.]

I didn't get to the lake today. However, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was reported to still be present near the Lodge.

 

Saturday 25th December [Mild. Steady light rain. Miserable.] Christmas Day

 

 

Mark was down at the lake early this morning hoping to see the Red-crested Pochards, but they weren't there. He saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Green Lawn before heading home cold and wet. I walked down later, across the dam to check out Butcombe Bay, and along to Rainbow Point and back home. I got thoroughly wet through, and saw nothing to write in my notebook - not even the grebe! I'm back home now, toweled down, dry clothes on, and starting to help Ce with preparations for dinner. Happy Christmas to all our friends and acquaintances!