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Blagdon Lake Birds

October (part 2) 2013 News

Wednesday 16th October [Showers then sunny. Windy.]

The juvenile Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus was in Long Bay this morning and I was really pleased to see 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Wood Bay Point. Looking at their bill patterns I suspect they might be 'Jonitor' and 'Willows', but the disappointing thing was they didn't have any young ones with them. There was a juvenile Ruff Philomachus pugnax and quite a few Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Bell's Bush too.

As I had Dale and Carolyn from New Mexico birding with me, we moved on to Chew to see a few new birds there before heading off to the Somerset Levels for the afternoon in the sunshine. I'm sure the birds have been covered elsewhere, so it is nice to report that we saw lots of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta, a couple of Small Tortoiseshells Aglais urticae, and singletons of Comma Polygonia c-album and Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria. I was amazed at the number of Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta still on the go along the cycle path at Ham Wall, where there were also good numbers of Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum sunning themselves on the path.

I'm sorry I havent worked out how to tweet from my phone yet, so I rang RBA with the bird news because I didn't get home until this evening.


Thursday 17th October

No news today, cos I have been away (an old Beatles song). I birded the Exe Estuary with Carolyn and Dale today. Of note, we had a Common Scoter and Slavonian Grebe on the sea, and late Blackcap and Reed Warbler at Dawlish Warren NNR, with Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Avocet at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh at high tide this evening.

I'll be back on the patch in the morning...


Friday 18th October [Showers]

I did not see the Glossy Ibis today, although I wasn't at the lake for very long looking for it. I did see the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii which flew out towards Chew after circling Top End a couple of times. They came back again a short while later and were still at Bell's Bush at dusk. There were 30 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta standing around at Top End and a small flock of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus around the Lodge / Home Bay.

Later, Carolyn and I saw a Brambling Fringilla montifringilla at Priddy and this afternoon I took her and Dale along the River Chew looking for (White-throated) Dippers Cinclus cinclus. We saw one fly away downstream from Pensford Bridge, then nothing at Publow or Woollard, but luckily Compton Dando came up trumps with 2 birds showing beautifully. On the way back to Blagdon we stopped at Herriott's and watched a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica hawking over the pool at dusk, and up to 4 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus on the island behind the gathering gulls.


Saturday 19th October [Overcast and mild. Occasional showers.]

Simon Isgar reported 2 Eurasian Curlews Numenius arquata in front of the Lodge at 0900 hrs but they were gone by 1015 hrs.

The 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Bell's Bush again mid-morning and there were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta among the Grey Herons Ardea cinerea at Top End. The Black Swan Cygnus atratus is still present as is the mystery ♀ Aythya which has undergone significant head moult since I last saw it. The head and neck are darker now, the rounded head shape is less pronounced and a point is more evident on the rear of the crown. The pale ear coverts have all but disappeared too. The bill pattern looks very like a ♀ Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula but this is not necessarily a bad thing during this transitional period. The bill is, however, a different size and shape to a Tufted Duck. I tried to get some pictures this afternoon but a boat went into the flock and flushed the bird.

This afternoon, while at Green Lawn, a November Moth Epirrita dilutata landed on my car allowing me to photograph it.


Sunday 20th October [Sunshine and showers]

The 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Bell's Bush this morning, where we counted 23 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. At Holt Bay I stopped to spend some time going through the large flock of mainly ♂ Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and found an old friend that was fitted with a nasal saddle (blue 34) at Marolles-sur-Seine in France on 19th November 2007 (per Alain Caizergues), and noted for the first time at Blagdon on 2nd August 2008. The mystery ♀ Aythya was also there, but both were disturbed by a walker so I couldn't get any pictures. An adult Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna roosting at Holt Bay was also flushed by yet more walkers. The adult Black Swan Cygnus atratus was at Long Bay and a Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Fishing Lodge. At Cheddar Water I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, that I couldn't find for love nor money when Carolyn and Dale were here, and a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta flew past Tony Donnelly and I while we were chatting at the south end of the dam.

At Bell's Bush meadow a couple of small groups of yellow waxcap Hygrocybe sp. have sprung up, and elsewhere I saw a few other fungi that will be worth taking the camera out to photograph tomorrow.


Monday 21st October [Showers]

Julia Newth emailed to say that Steve Heaven came down at the weekend and confirmed that the 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii are 'Jonitor' and 'Willows', as I thought. See her blog with the latest migration info. Julia also sent a message in 2011 that read "This pair arrived at Slimbridge on the 20th (December 2011) with Winkey! They have been named Jonitor/Willows." I saw them at Top End again today.

There wasn't too much to else to report, just 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge late morning, the Black Swan Cygnus atratus in Home Bay with about 20 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, and I saw a (presumed) Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe very briefly at Green Lawn. Despite an extensive search I just could not relocate it. Before I left mid-afternoon, I checked the gulls at the Lodge again and saw an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus with a dark blue darvic on its left leg inscribed 'JBB' and a BTO metal ring on its right leg. It is one of Peter Stewart's birds ringed at Stoke Orchard Landfill Site on 30th January 2010 as a bird at least 3 years of age. It was recorded many times at Gloucester and Shortwood Landfill Sites and once at Barrow Gurney in 2010, then again at Gloucester Landfill Site before its last sighting at Barrow Gurney on 10th Sept. 2011. Thanks for the quick reply Peter.


Mystery ♀ Aythya showing overall impression & close comparison with a Tufted Duck. 21st Oct 2013.Mystery ♀ Aythya showing overall impression & close comparison with a Tufted Duck. 21st Oct 2013.

Mystery ♀ Aythya showing bill pattern, flattened crown & reduced facial blaze cf. 8th Oct. 21st Oct 2013.Mystery ♀ Aythya showing bill pattern, flattened crown & reduced facial blaze cf. 8th Oct. 21st Oct 2013.

Mystery ♀ Aythya showing pointed tail feathers indicative of an adult. 21st Oct 2013.Mystery ♀ Aythya showing pointed tail feathers indicative of an adult. 21st Oct 2013. 

The mystery ♀ Aythya was feeding at the entrance to Long Bay again today, and I managed a few shots in the gloom and rain that help me age it as an adult, show that it is only marginally larger than a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula (it is partially rolling away from the lens in the top right comparison photo), has gone through significant head moult since the 8th October and has a ♀ Tufted-like bill pattern.


Tuesday 22nd October [Showers]

Despite the showers and changeable weather it is still quiet on the bird front. I found the Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe again this morning at Green Lawn, and the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End keeping out of the way of an aggressive Mute Swan Cygnus olor cob. I noticed a dead adult Mute Swan at Cheddar Water (the second of the autumn). It was completely missing its head and neck and had some trauma on one of the legs consistent with something hanging on to it. Possibly a Red Fox Vulpes vulpes or out of control dog? There were at least 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 103 Northern Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, while the Black Swan Cygnus atratus was feeding on its own in Long Bay. When I arrived, I saw a single adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge and later I saw 7 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus there, with some others (not counted) at Burmah Road.

Alex Carlisle very kindly sent me an email today with an attached flight view of the Glossy Ibis. How nice is this?


Glossy Ibis © Alex Carlisle, 2013.Glossy Ibis © Alex Carlisle, 2013.


I collected the passive bat monitoring equipment and it has recorded just shy of 9000 files that I have to go through tonight! I've already found lots of Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii echolocation and advertisement calls for the first night, 1st/2nd October.


Wednesday 23rd October [Sunny, with some early showers]

I've had an amazing day at the lake. After scanning the Lodge area this morning, I spotted a pale grey and white wagtail at Holt Bay that looked very interesting. When I scoped it I could see it wasn't a Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola but thought it had the appearance of a grey and white (possibly eastern-type) 1st-winter Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. Richard Mielcarek came over for a look, and we ruled out a very pale Grey Wagtail even though there was a hint of yellow under the tail and on the tertial fringes in bright sunlight. It seemed to have faint olive shading over the shoulders, a very narrow white supercilium and a short tail. It also had two bold white wing bars. Rich grabbed some video footage and we called Chris Craig. No sooner had we done that and it took off and flew over Holt Farm and I wasn't able to relocate it. As it flew it gave a series of short notes unlike anything I've heard from a wagtail.

Rich had to go home at that point, so I drove to Bell's Bush and hadn't walked 100 metres from the car when I heard a wader call nearby. Great, I thought, something new to look at. Then it called again and was clearly on the wing. I looked up and watched a large plover fly low over the west side of the meadow that was grey underneath. It was no more than 200 metres away and gaining height. It called twice more as it turned and flew towards Blagdon (I was hoping it was going to loop back) but then it just climbed higher and flew off south over Mendip. I wrote the call down as "kle-ee'. This is an almost exact description of the call for American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica and the view I had of the underside in flight would fit. I drove home immediately and listened to various recordings while it was still fresh in my mind, and have no doubt that was what the bird was. I popped over to Cheddar Reservoir to see if it was there, but no luck.

I went back to Blagdon in the afternoon and eventually found the wagtail in the same place in Holt Bay. I got the camera out to take some pics and it flew off again with four or five Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii. I called Rich and Chris Craig and we eventually found it again in front of the Lodge. It was noticeably smaller than the accompanying Pied Wags. Here are some video grabs taken by Rich this morning:




























1st-winter Yellow Wagtail, Holt Bay © Richard Mielcarek, 2013.1st-winter Yellow Wagtail, Holt Bay © Richard Mielcarek, 2013.


It could be one of the eastern-types, but I must stress we haven't unequivocally noted the call yet. It's certainly worth a look and any help gathering notes would be appreciated.


The Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe was still at Green Lawn, and the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End today.


Has anyone else noticed the amazing crop of acorns from Pedunculate Oaks Quercus robur this autumn? I don't ever recall seeing as many. The ground underneath the oaks at the lake is absolutely littered with nuts, which is great for Eurasian Jays Garrulus glandarius.






Thursday 24th October [Mainly sunny]

After the cool, clear night, it seems there has been a bit of a clear out. Disappointingly, there was no sign of the Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava and hardly any Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii or Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis compared with yesterday. There was a significant and steady stream of Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over until late morning and an arrival of Common Gulls Larus canus (previously we'd only had a handful on any one day this autumn but I counted about 140 at Top End). The other curious thing was the number of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo flying in from Chew to fish. At one point I counted around 120 either in the air, drying their wings or fishing.


Mandarin Ducks, Pipe Bay. 24th Oct 2013.Mandarin Ducks, Pipe Bay. 24th Oct 2013.


So, to the birds I did see: A Little Egret Egretta garzetta was at the head of Butcombe Bay, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the south end of the dam, there were 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge at lunchtime, the Black Swan Cygnus atratus was at Green Lawn, 5 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were at Top End, as were 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii. I understand 7 Bewick's have been feeding behind Denny Island at Chew Valley Lake since yesterday, so perhaps they'll all get together at some point.

There were 2 white domestic ducks by the Spillway yesterday, I didn't look too closely at the time, but today I saw a white Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata on Tiny's Shallow.


Muscovy Duck, Dam. 24th Oct 2013.Muscovy Duck, Dam. 24th Oct 2013.


I saw a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta on the wing at Holt Bay in the sunshine.


Friday 25th October [Mainly sunny]

Simon Isgar rang me at home this morning to tell me there were 5 Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata viewable from the Lodge. This is the first multiple record and only the 4th site record (first 1993 and last 2006). When I got there, shortly afterward, we could see 2 ♂♂ and 3 ♀♀ asleep at the water's edge in Pipe Bay. They remained there until lunchtime when an angler wading out at Cheddar Water flushed all the birds in the bay. One smug ♂ was with the 3 ♀♀ in front of the Lodge when I left, and the second ♂ was swimming around looking for the others at Polish Water. They were all back together at 1715 hrs on the end of the point in front of the Lodge (but not visible from there) known as Tiny's Shallow. View from Green Lawn.

As yesterday, there were Skylarks Alauda arvensis flying over most of the morning (perhaps not in the same numbers though), and a fresh influx of (circa 30) Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and 93+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. The 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Top End, where there were 31 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea. Simon told me he'd seen a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Pipe Bay earlier too. Two adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis were in front of the Lodge, as were two gulls with rings on; a 1st-winter Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 'D:AG' which I've seen a few times, and a new adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus rung by Peter Stewart 'DZY'. It's a bird of 2008 and has been sighted mainly at Gloucester Landfill Site, Nr Hempsted in 2008-2011, with a couple of sightings at Shortwood Landfill Site, Pucklechurch in November 2008 and 2009. Then, like the bird on 21st October there's been a gap since 2011 until today's sighting.

Paul Williams texted late this afternoon to let me know that he'd seen a Little Stint Calidris minuta at Bell's Bush early afternoon. I couldn't find it at 1600 hrs.

The only other thing of note was the Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata sleeping at the south end of the dam on its own. Mike Gillett pointed out an injury to the back of the neck, so it may have been attacked by a Mute Swan Cygnus olor. Also, there are 2 white domestic ducks on Butcombe Bank, that look as if they've just been dumped there by someone. I should think they will probably get attacked at some point by one of the many pooches that are let off the lead by irresponsible dog walkers. I haven't been over to see if they're fully winged. It's getting like Heron's Green and Herriott's Pool at Chew, only we don't have lots of people rolling up and feeding them at Blagdon, so their outlook is probably grim, unless they can fly.


Saturday 26th October [Mainly dry]

I was on a fascinating Bat Roost Visitors training course at RSPCA West Hatch today, but managed to fit 2 quick visits to the lake in before and afterwards (at dawn and dusk). Aside from the escapes, I saw the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flying up the lake this morning. I didn't spend any time going through the substantial roost of gulls in front of the Lodge at dusk, but there seemed to be good numbers of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, a species that is becoming increasingly common here.

The weather forecast is for very strong winds varying between south and west over the next two days, so perhaps we'll get some wind-blown migrants. As of the 22nd October the water level was 42% (per Bristol Water website) but perhaps it's set to rise over the coming week, which might see a reduction in dabbling duck numbers.


Sunday 27th October [Sunny then rain set in. Windy]

I had a good look around this morning while the sun was still out and was struck by the fact that many dabbling ducks seem to have moved on already. There were certainly fewer wildfowl today than when we did the last WeBS Count. Our 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii 'Jonitor' and 'Willows' were at Bell's Bush, as were 11 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I also saw the Black Swan Cygnus atratus and a rather lonely-looking Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata.

The large influx of Great Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo that I reported 3 days ago has resulted in many staying at Blagdon. I watched a group of 30 fishing co-operatively off Orchard Bay on Friday to see what they were feeding on and it looked like they were making inroads into a sizeable shoal of European Perch Perca fluviatilis.


Monday 28th October [Overnight storm and rain followed by a breezy and showery day]

The wait for my first Blagdon Sabine's Gull continues, despite my 0700 hrs start I hadn't found any storm-driven birds by 0900 hrs. There was a Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Lodge, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Pipe Bay, 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii at Top End with over 64 Northern Pintail Anas acuta still there. I saw the 1st-winter Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus yellow 'D:AG' at Pipe Bay trying to muscle in on a dead fish carcass.

There is a good flow coming in at Top End through the Hatchery, but no sign of any fish running yet, though the freshet has coloured up the water in the lake significantly. There were piles of weed blown up on Rugmoor Point and along Indian Country bank and a large number of the Common Coots Fulica atra had moved to the dam end for shelter and most of the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope were in Holt Bay, presumably for the same reason. Many Eurasian Teal Anas crecca were out of the water and well up the shore feeding in the wet mud and puddles.


Tuesday 29th October [Sunny]

I'm sorry, but I don't have any news from the lake today. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

I walked 15+ miles with friends from St. Marychurch, Babbacombe to Brixham along the South West Coast Path. Along the way, we walked onto Hope's Nose where there were a number of birders looking for a Lesser Kestrel photographed yesterday. Two birds had been seen this morning but one had gone by the time we arrived. We saw a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui there and another later in the walk at Broadsands Bay. I don't recall seeing any locally this year.


Wednesday 30th October [Sunny spells]

2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were asleep at Bell's Bush, where there were also 14 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and while I was checking Top End I heard one or more (presumed) Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret calling as they flew over. There were 2 brownhead Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula off Green Lawn and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in Pipe Bay.

The water level has come up fairly significantly and, as predicted, there are far fewer dabbling ducks around the margins than a week or two ago. There also appears to have been a small influx of Common Pochards Aythya ferina, though I didn't count them.


Thursday 31st October [Overcast but dry]

The 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii were at Bell's Bush as usual, as were 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Many of the dabbling ducks have spread around the lake to feed, as the level rises, and I carefully checked through a flock of Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope feeding on Rainbow Point and the many groups of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca scattered about without finding any American cousins among them. At Wood Bay I spent some time looking through Wagtails, Pipits and Linnets, again without finding anything unusual, but was struck by the numbers of birds there and elsewhere along the shores. The elusive Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was in Pipe Bay at midday. Perhaps it's the bird that wintered last year?

In front of the Lodge at lunchtime there were numerous gulls including one of Pete Rock's 'boys', an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus graellsii with yellow 'B:G' on a black or dark blue darvic on the left leg. Pete has replied with the following details:

  • ♂ Lesser Black-backed Gull ringed 24/06/2006 in Bristol. Cohort Black 3 BG, ring number GC13171. Lots of sightings at Barrow Tanks Sep 2006- Apr 2012. Málaga Apr 2007, CVL Jun 2008. Bristol May-Jun 2009 & May 2010.

This evening I popped down to see how the gull roost is building up and have to say there were good numbers of large gulls in addition to the Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus roost. I didn't go through them because I chose the wrong viewpoint in the southerly breeze, but I did see a pair of Common Goldeneyes Bucephalus clangula, one of which was a spanking adult ♂ - the first of the winter.

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