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Blagdon Lake Birds

March 2021 News

Thursday 4th March [Overcast & cool]

I decided to stroll around the lake this afternoon, along footpaths and lanes, although it was markedly more greasy underfoot after last nights rain. I saw 2, probably 3, and possibly 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos as I walked along the dam. I think I will settle for 3, given their distribution. They also made me have a little moment when 2 were chasing each other in flight along Cheddar Water bank while I watched from Butcombe Bank - for a few seconds I thought I'd nailed my first Sand Martins of the year! 'Twas not to be. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, and a 'blizzard' of small egrets fly out of Flower Corner, 4 of which were definitely Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis, and I believe the flock, of no less than 10, were all Cattle Egrets although my view was brief through trees and over a hedge.

I have been given an update on the angling situation by a friend who says that fishing is currently scheduled to commence on all waters on 29th March. I will confirm when BW let us know.


Wednesday 3rd March [Chilly & misty, with rain setting in during the afternoon.]

The oppressive looking afternoon made me decide to head out for another 6 mile yomp around the lake, using footpaths and lanes, in the hope that some Sand Martins may have dropped in. I made it down the hill to Holt Farm and light, but steady, rain set in! Still, I thought, good conditions for the martins to feed over the water, but sadly no-one had told the martins. Looking over the hedge, I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba fly in to Flower Corner, and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos were noted in flight over the dam end as I checked the handful of gulls present. While walking along Butcombe Bank I heard a chorus of Frogs Rana temporaria croaking for all they were worth. They're probably reasonably safe there, unlike those further along the lake that are being stalked and eaten by the Grey Herons Ardea cinerea. Water has stopped flowing down the spillway again, after the recent dry spell.


When I got home I learned that 'Buteophile', Robin Prytherch, had died earlier today. I always looked forward to his Christmas cards with his Buzzard drawings on them. Indeed, 1963 was a year that saw Robin leave an indelible mark on the birding history of Blagdon Lake, during which he was co-finder of Britain's first Pied-billed Grebe, and Blagdon's first, and only Purple Heron to date, his sketches of which were given to me after we got together to erect some Osprey nesting platforms locally with Ken Carruthers a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, to local birders at least, I first met him nearly 30 years ago while he was standing in a layby staring out across the Gordano valley through binoculars, watching his beloved Buzzards between Portishead and Clevedon. Of course, I had to stop and speak to him, and his kindness to a complete stranger, and enthusiasm for his subject, came pouring out. Since then, I've spent quite a few days out in the field with him and enjoyed his company immensely. RIP Robin, dear friend, the 'Ornithological World' is a poorer place without you.


Tuesday 2nd March [Cold & misty much of the day with some sun later]

I walked around the lake, following footpaths and lanes as usual, starting out just before 1600 hrs. When I got to the dam I saw a cracking adult summer Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus with a few Black-headeds Chroicocephalus ridibundus, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the overspill (which has nearly stopped flowing again). The rest of my yomp was pretty much just that, although I did see a few Fieldfares Turdus pilaris gathering to roost on Holt Farm, as the watery sun set over the hill.

Bristol Water are proposing that bank angling will begin again on 10th March for season ticket holders only, on BL, CVL & Barrows, and day ticket bank and boat angling will start at Blagdon on 11th March (the boats being a week earlier than Chew this season). We await confirmation that this is still the plan. Update on 4th.


Monday 1st March [A fine sunny day, if a little chilly.]

I decided to walk around the lake again today, following footpaths and lanes, in the hope of seeing some early spring migrants. However, I was to be disappointed on that front, but pleasantly surprised to see a Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis from the bridge at Ubley Gate, standing alone in a field on the other side of the road. Wildfowl numbers are dropping quickly, as they move off to their breeding grounds, although the Mute Swan Cygnus olor herd grew again, to eighteen (15 adults and three 1st-years). There was a single Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and just before I walked up the hill as the small gull roost gathered, 3 (1 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser also appeared.

Back at the ranch, there were 3 Lesser Redpolls on our patio bird table this morning, trying to get a look in with all the Chaffinches flying in and out.


Sunday 28th February [A lovely sunny day]

With the weather looking set to be fine for the day, I went for a walk around the lake this morning, following footpaths and lanes. I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Rugmoor Bay, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor Point, and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly over the road bridge at Top End, but no sign of any Sand Martins yet. I saw a few Goldeneye Bucephala clangula from the various gateway viewing points, and Buzzards Buteo buteo circling above their territories in the sunshine. The Mute Swan Cygnus olor herd is up to 16. I should add that I met Sarah Lynett and her husband who were out walking the dog, and she told me she'd heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita singing.

I counted 16 people trespassing, but I bet there will be a lot more this afternoon!


Friday 26th February [Dry & sunny]

A late afternoon walk saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 16 (6 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay. Another correspondent said he'd seen a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Butcombe Bay earlier as well.


Thursday 25th February [Dry & sunny]

I walked down the hill and over the dam, along Butcombe Bank because there were few people about, and back up to Blagdon Lane and home. I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, a pair of Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea feeding in the Spillway, and 12 (4 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay.

There was no sign of any Sand Martins from the dam, but Top End is often a good place for them early on, albeit out of bounds at present.


Tuesday 23rd February [Very windy & dry]

I took a walk to Butcombe village and back late this afternoon, and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in the roost, which was quite close to the dam in the southerly gale.

I didn't spend any time watching the bird table this morning, but spotted a Lesser Redpoll visiting again in passing.


Monday 22nd February [Wet early, sunny later.]

I didn't visit the lake today, but saw 3 Lesser Redpolls on our bird table shortly after I'd loaded it with sunflower hearts this morning. I'd had brief sightings of small brown finches on a couple of occasions in the last few days, but suspected they'd be Siskins. Redpolls were a very welcome surprise!


Sunday 21st February [Mild & still]

I spent the afternoon slipping and sliding my way for 6 miles along the public footpath from Blagdon to Top End, and from there back along the lanes and fields through Nempnett Thrubwell to Butcombe Bay, over the dam and home. I recorded 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus, 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser (same as yesterday), 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and 14 Mute Swans Cygnus olor.

I also recorded 16 people walking inside the permit only area of the lakeside, one family with a pushchair would you believe, and another couple with a dog off the lead on the North Shore. Yes, I did see 2 Bristol Water vehicles go through, one sounded like a mobile disco from half a mile away, and there were two people taking it easy on a seat half way along the south side shortly after they'd passed!