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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2024 News


This is a heads-up to say that I probably won't be able to visit the lake and report my sightings for much of the rest of this month. If you are happy to share any sightings with me (for publication or otherwise) I'd be very pleased to receive them by email (see home page for address) or text. Rob. H., Lucy M. & Skip will be doing the WeBS count as usual, so I hope to be able to report their findings, at least, in due course. Mark has kindly agreed to keep the feeder topped up too.


Monday 14th May

Message from Mervyn P. as follows: Common Sandpiper, Coot and Grey Wagtail at the dam, 5 Hobbies in the same field of view in his bins at Green Lawn, Swifts, House Martins, a few Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Blue damselfies at Top End, a Beautiful Demoiselle at Bell's Bush, Song Thrush, Treecreeper, Blackcap and some Southern Marsh Orchids also noted. Top man Merv. Thanks. 


Thursday 9th May

Message from Melanie P. to say her sister-in-law and neice saw 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo this morning. Thanks ladies.


Tuesday 7th May [Sunny & warm]

I was busy around the house and in the garden for most of the day, but met Melanie P. early evening for a birding walk along the north side of the lake, for a change. We saw two broods of five Canada Goose Branta canadensis goslings, and I saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End, as did Ross F. (thanks for the text Ross & sorry I missed you). Mark told me he'd seen a Hobby this afternoon at Holt Bay too - possibly the same one.


Sunday 5th May [Showers]

I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End hide & back this evening, much of it in drizzle/light rain. I saw the seventh brood of four Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ducklings at Top End, and the first brood of Canada Goose Branta canadensis with five goslings at Green Lawn, after a tip-off from Mark. There wasn't much else to report which was hardly surprising given the conditions.


Saturday 4th May [Sunshine all day - at last]

Wow! Wall-to-wall sunshine made for a very pleasant bat box check late morning with Mark around the Pumping Station and Hatchery. We Found several groups of Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus and one group pf about 10 Natterer's Bat Myotis nattereri, saw lots of butterflies on the wing including a Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus spotted by Mark, several teneral blue damselflies, and a female demoiselle that I think was a Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo at the Hatchery.

I then went to watch a football match at Wincanton FC with Ce, where I could hear no fewer than 3 Lesser Whitethroats singing from my position on the touchline. They are almost a thing of the past at the lake these days, and I've not heard one there yet this year.

After a quick bite to eat when we got back home, I went back to the lake, parked at Rainbow Point and birded on foot to Top End gate and back, with a bit of time in the hide as the sun went down. I saw a single Hobby Falco subbuteo, and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos of note, in a total bird list of 42 species.

I was told that an Osprey Pandion haliaetus was present at the lake this afternoon too (photographed).


Friday 3rd May [Overcast & breezy]

I only had time for a quick walk, so I birded from the Lodge to Wood Bay Point and back after checking the dam. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and I saw my first brood of Coot Fulica atra in Long Bay, with 5 chicks off the nest. As I walked around Holt Bay I became aware there were 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding over the water giving great views. I managed to record 41 bird species in the limited time available.


Thursday 2nd May [Overcast, cool and breezy.]

It wasn't much of an afternoon for birding. I drove to Top End hide and walked between Bell's Bush and Top End gate, looking and listening, but it was so breezy that I decided to go back to my car and drive along the lakeside, apart from another stop for a brief listen at Lodge Copse and scan of the dam wall. I spotted another new brood of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, the sixth, of 7 ducklings, saw a Nuthatch Sitta europaea on the feeder, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, in a list of 38 bird species in an hour and a quarter. So far, I've recorded 108 bird species in 101 visits to the lake this year - it has been tough birding with the combination of high water level and dire weather we've had so far. The level has dropped about a foot and I'd say the lake is about 94% full. I'm not sure if BW are pumping, especially with the prolific algal bloom I referred to last week, but the frequent storms have flooded most floating nests built by water birds, especially Coots and Great Crested Grebes, and if the level starts to drop rapidly in the next month or so, any second attempts at nesting are likley to result in the nests being left high and dry. The Mallards that have succeeded so far probably nested away from the waterside and walked the young to the lake. Pipe Bay and North Shore reedbeds have been trashed by the storms. New growth is only just starting to appear above the water surface so this may affect the number of Reed Warblers that may attempt to nest in them this year. I have heard the warblers singing in nearby hedges, so it'll be interesting to see if they are prepared to wait until conditions are right for nesting in the reeds, or, if they'll use the adjacent hedges and other waterside vegetation. The rookeries seem to have survived the worst of the storms and many nests are empty now because the young have flown, rather than because the nesting attempts failed. Overall, I'd imagine that breeding success will be down with most early breeding species, but it has been surprising to see how resilient a few, at least, have been. 


Wednesday 1st May [Overcast & mild.]

At last, an Osprey Pandion haliaetus was showing well at Top End late this afternoon. I'm guessing it was the same bird seen earlier at Chew Valley Lake, but when it flew it appeared to go off down the lake, although I lost track of it so don't know if it left. I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, 2 non-breeding Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, a good selection of warblers (though nothing new for the year), and another brood (the fifth) of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 4 ducklings. My day list was 46 bird species. 


Tuesday 30th April [Driving drizzle showers, drying up, then rain in the evening.]

This my second attempt at posting this news, the last one disappeared into the ether, rather frustratingly, having posted it when I got home in the morning!

I was up early to do one of my BBS-style lakeside passerine surveys between 0630-0925hrs, in rather inclement weather, counting singing birds or pairs apparently on territory. The counts were as follows, with those on 13th April in brackets for comparison:

Wren 45 (48), Blackcap 30 (23), Robin 26 (24), Chiffchaff 18 (22), Chaffinch 18 (20), Blackbird 15 (16), Woodpigeon 15 (11), Reed Warbler 14 (1), Crow 9 (14), Blue Tit 9 (12), Garden Warbler 8 (0), Great Tit 7 (11), Song Thrush 7 (11), Pheasant 6 (8), Cetti's Warbler 5 (4), Dunnock 4 (6), Reed Bunting 3 (2), Sedge Warbler 2 (0), Stock Dove 2 (1), Whitethroat 1 (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (4), Jay 1 (1), Coal TIt 1 (2), and Mistle Thrush 1 (0). Other birds of note included 2 Common Sandpipers and a Little Egret. I believe the count of 5 singing Cetti's Warblers to be a site record. My day list was 45 bird species.


Monday 29th April [Overcast & breezy]

I spent an hour and half at the lake this afternoon, birding on foot at Top End, then checking the rest using my car. I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a decent flock of hirundines including over 100 Sand Martins Riparia riparia around the Lodge. There wasn't too much too much else to report in the rather depressing conditions for the time of year.


Sunday 28th April [Sunny, but the breeze gradually increased throughout the afternoon.]

There was another fishing competition on today (national qualifier I believe) so the Top End was stuffed with boats again. I decided to bird on foot from the Lodge to Rainbow Point and back. I racked up a decent list without seeing anything special, with the pick probably being the 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam wall. However, as I arrived back at my car, I received a call from Chris C. to tell me 2 Cranes Grus grus had just "flown through" at t'other place and were probably coming west.  I got in my car and drove to Rainbow Point where I started scanning the skies between the lakes. There was no sign of them at first, but about 15-20 minutes later I picked out two birds that 'looked good' heading towards me but still a long way off. I ran to the car to get my scope, set it up, and after more scanning through my binoculars picked them up alongside the Mendips close to Compton Martin. I scoped them for about a minute as they turned and rose over the hill and out of sight, east of Compton Wood, no doubt heading for the Somerset Levels. Thanks Chris, I wouldn't have got them on my year list for Blagdon Lake without the call, but I don't think I can really claim them as being at Blagdon Lake for record purposes. It's a similar situation to the infamous Booted Eagle that we had at CVL all those years ago - I scoped it with my Questar from the lake on one occasion, but as far as we know it didn't actually make it here (although one lady contacted me to say she'd seen a big bird of prey at the water's edge eating something during the eagles stay - I couldn't rule out the possibility of a Buzzard scavenging a dead fish though, and no record was ever submitted to my knowledge). Day list was 39 bird species.


Saturday 27th April [Cool in the breeze today]

I didn't go to the lake until the evening, hoping to see the Hobby at dusk - I didn't. I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End and back having already counted 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam wall. I saw Mark, who was working, for a quick chat and he told me he thought he'd heard a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing at Holt Bay, which was still chuntering away when I got there, and he'd seen a third brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos at the boat quay, while I saw a fourth at Holt Bay (a total of 17 ducklings between them). The only birds of note were a couple of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta that flew up the lake and away towards Chew Valley at dusk.


Friday 26th April [Some sunshine on a generally cloudy day]

I spent a couple of hours at the lake this afternoon, during which I heard 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin singing at Top End, then I spotted a Hobby Falco subbuteo which flew overhead at Bell's Bush before appearing to fly off North, but I saw one over the centre of the lake a little while later, so assumed it hadn't departed after all. Two tiny Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ducklings were with mum (and a drake keeping close attendance) at the dam end. I saw mum bring a broken eggshell out onto the water and dispose of it too, so maybe there are more tiddlers to come - this is the second brood I know about at the lake this year. Best sighting of the day, was the 13 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, with a Nuthatch Sitta europaea on the feeder another contender, not forgetting the Hobby of course.

There have been boats all over Top End for the whole week, and with the number of competitions increasing year on year, I guess we will have to get used to it. But it's not great creeping down to the hide, opening the shutters, to find half a dozen boats immediatley in front of you with barely a bird to be seen. And, it would be nice if boat anglers remembered that birders may be using the hide close by, before emptying their bladders in full view! Just sayin'. 


Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.