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Blagdon Lake Birds

September 2014 News

Monday 1st September [Steady drizzle clearing in the afternoon]

I didn't find any birds worthy of note during a brief visit late morning in the steady drizzle.

In the evening I went to do some bat trapping with Jim Mullholland and a few Avon Bat Group members on the Tortworth Estate in South Glos.


Tuesday 2nd September [Mainly sunny]

There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this morning when I went down to help remove the old barn owl box from the North Shore meadow with Keith and Linda of Specialized Nestboxes. We were lucky it remained upright and in one piece while Barn Owls bred in it this summer because it was rotten right through. Melanie Patch did a great job monitoring them and thinks they fledged 4 youngsters. Let's hope the owls take to the new box as well as another pair did at Top End when we replaced that box earlier in the year.

Most of my afternoon and evening was spent doing bat work at Chew Valley Lake, Barrow Tanks, Freshford and finally, back at Chew!


Wednesday 3rd September [Warm, muggy with some sun late on]

The thick mist made it all but impossible to see the lake this morning, so I went down as the sun broke through this afternoon. There was a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a huge flock of 487 Canada Geese Branta canadensis on Holt Farm and the lake, accompanied by the regular Greylag x Canada Goose hybrid. Most of the fishing boats were out on the water and the number of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula has certainly gone down.


Thursday 4th September [Autumnal mist, followed by warm hazy sunshine]

I took a stroll along the south side around lunchtime and saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a ♂ Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope in Long Bay, 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo (one, at least, was an adult) at Green Lawn, watched 5 Northern Ravens Corvus corax flying over Wood Bay, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Polish Water. I also saw my first Shaggy Ink Caps Coprinus comatus of the autumn near the fishing lodge.

I walked bat transect #1 this evening (see Bat News for details) and had a Tawny Owl Strix aluco fly just over my head into Pipe Bay Copse, as I walked along Park Lane.


Friday 5th September [Warm and overcast with sunny spells]

It was a busy day beside the lake due to the arrival of Daniel Hargreaves (from Kent) and Denise Foster (from Herefordshire) who came to help with bat box checks and to run harp traps in the evening for a televison film crew with presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff.

In the afternoon we were working in the Pumping Station grounds checking boxes, during which I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos fly down the Spillway. We found a roost of 18 Natterer's Bats Myotis nattereri in one box and in another, evidence of a large number of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus that had used the box as a maternity roost over the summer. Then, in the evening we caught 4 new ♂ Nathusius's Pipistrelles P. nathusii (bringing the total to 43 trapped and ringed at the lake), 3 Common P. pipistrellus and 7 Soprano Pipistrelles and a ♂ Whiskered Bat Myotis mystacinus. We also saw a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros hanging at a night roost. Thanks to Bristol Water for allowing us the use of the facilities overnight - we were batting in style!


Saturday 6th September [Warm and sunny]

The only birds worth reporting today were the 3 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope in Holt Bay. I think it's going to be a quiet birding autumn at Blagdon! The engineering works are still underway and the water still isn't being pumped.


Sunday 7th September [Sunny]

Simon Isgar reported an Osprey Pandion haliaetus over the lake this morning at 0735 hrs. It flew in from the west over the dam and kept going. Fisheries Ranger Laurence Hellier told me later that he'd seen one, possibly two, Ospreys just before lunchtime. One over Butcombe Bay and one at Top End, I think he said. So, whether we had one, two or three Ospreys during the day I don't know.

There were lots of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, back at the lake today, I wonder if they've come back from Chew? This evening there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 3 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope in Long Bay and I heard a Common GreenshankTringa nebularia flying over at 2100 hrs, as I finished bat transect #2. A Greater Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum flew low past me at Holt Bay and I recorded 4 Nathusius's Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii passes. We will be doing the WeBS count tomorrow morning.


Monday 8th September [Sunny and warm]

We carried out the WeBS count this morning and found a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra at Burmah Road, the first for two years, though hardly surprising given the number filtering south through the country at the moment. Other good birds included 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, an adult Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo carrying a bird, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus heard at Top End and 10 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. No Ospreys though! Full count details on the WeBS Page.


Tuesday 9th September [Sunny and warm]

I went to Wales to to take some photos of the Friends Life Tour of Britain cycle race today, and didn't make it to the lake in time to have a good look around. I heard a Common GreenshankTringa nebularia flying around but didn't see it or any sandpipers on the dam wall. The water level is still at 82% according to the Bristol Water website.


Wednesday 10th September [Sunny and warm]

I had a reasonable look around today after watching the Tour of Britain in Bristol, but didn't find anything at all to report.


Thursday 11th September [Overcast and cooler than of late]

I spent nearly two hours searching around the lake before lunch but aside from 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam there was little to report apart from some yellow waxcaps on Green Lawn - most were in a pretty shocking state, thanks to the slugs, so identification wasn't attempted.

I went back to the lake this evening to do a bat transect (until I realised the card was still in my laptop and not in the detector), and glimpsed a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo in flight at Holt Copse.


Friday 12th September [Overcast then sunny later in the day]

It was my last day chasing around after the Tour of Britain cycling race today, so it wasn't until this evening that I visited the lake. I didn't see any Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, but there were at least two flying around there calling at dusk when I went to do the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) Nathusius's Pipistrelle survey for early September with Celia. I recorded all 3 Pipistrelle species (Common, Soprano and Nathusius's), both Horseshoe species (Greater and Lesser), Noctule and at least one Myotis sp. in a 1 km walk from the Spillway along Butcombe Bank. Amazing!


Saturday 13th September [Overcast then sunny]

I had the great pleasure of showing Geoffrey Gomes and his wife Stephanie around today. Geoffrey is on the Trinidad (bird) Rarities Committee and shortly-to-be author of a book on the bats of Trinidad which I'm looking forward to reading. In the morning we went to Folly Farm to meet up with Dan Flew, who was leading an Avon Bat Group check of the bat boxes, during which we saw some Soprano Pipistrelles, before going to Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes to do some relaxed birding. The juvenile White-winged Black Tern was showing well at Chew, and we picked up 3 Green Sandpipers as well as good views of a couple of Eurasian Hobbies and other lifers for him. Then, at Blagdon, we found a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam to compare with the Green Sands and Spotted Sandpiper that Geoffrey is more familiar with back home.


Sunday 14th September [Overcast then sunny]

The angling boats had been taken off the lake over the weekend and moved to Chew for a competition, so the wildfowl were spread all over the lake. Unusually, there were quite a few Eurasian Teal Anas crecca feeding just off the dam wall, with a large flock of House Martins Delichon urbicum feeding high above, but no sign of any sandpipers on the couple of occasions that I looked. This evening a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was hunting over the lake while I watched from Rainbow Point in near darkness.


Monday 15th September [Sunny spells]

I had a quick look around at lunchtime, but didn't see any birds of note. If I get the chance, I will have another look later, but I'm currently updating my Birds and Wildlife of Blagdon Lake talk, which I'm looking forward to giving to Somerset Ornithological Society on Thursday evening. Gadwall Anas strepera numbers are holding up, and I think more Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope are arriving daily, though I haven't counted them since the WeBS.


Tuesday 16th September [Murky early, brighter later]

Once again, there is nothing much to report at the lake.


Wednesday 17th September [Early mist cleared quickly to give a sunny day]

I spent the morning at the lake in the hope of being able to report a bit more than yesterday, but it didn't really make any difference. I counted 73 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, having remarked on their build-up earlier in the week, and a pair of Northern Ravens Corvus corax flew overhead at Bell's Bush. I saw my first lakeside Hornet Vespa crabro of the year at Hellfire Corner and a Red Underwing Catocala nupta at Flower Corner. There are still good numbers of Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta in the shelter of woods and hedges, and a few Ruddy Sympetrum sanguineum and Common Darters S. striolatum along the road - they certainly seem to have had a better year than of late.


Thursday 18th September [Mist, then sunny later. Thunderstorms in the evening.]

I went to the lake for an hour this afternoon, and there were Canada Geese Branta canadensis all over the place, with the Canada x Greylag hybrid and 10 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis among them. I gave a talk to Somerset Ornithological Society this evening (my fee went towards the publication of the Somerset Bird Atlas), and got back home to find an extraordinary electrical storm going on. I thought I'd go to the lake with my camera and try and get some shots of the lightning, but driving down Station Road what should be walking up towards me but a Canada Goose! I got out of the car and picked it up, locked the car and walked down to the lake and put it back on the water at Cheddar Water. It seemed none the worse - perhaps it had been disoriented by the storm? Of course, while I walked it to the lake the heavens opened and I got soaked for my trouble!


Friday 19th September [Murky and misty all day]

There's little to report, apart from an almost complete clear-out of the Canada Geese Branta canadensis overnight.


Saturday 20th September [More murk]

Again, little to report from a visit to the lake this evening, I'm sorry to say. I spent all day writing a new talk A Month in Alaska, I'm giving to the local Somerset Wildlife Trust group at Wells Museum on Tuesday evening starting at 1930 hrs. All are welcome on the night, especially birders, entrance costs £3 and includes tea and biscuits. My fee will go to the purchase of a new bat box for Blagdon Lake.


Sunday 21st September [Sunny]

There was a Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus in Holt Bay, and a steady passage of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica moving east in the evening. The Canada Geese Branta canadensis were back and had brought 17 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with them. I also saw an adult Red Fox Vulpes vulpes at Home Bay.


Monday 22nd September [Sunny]

The only noteworthy bird was the squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus still at Pipe Bay reeds. We seem to have more ♂ Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula back since we made the WeBS count, most of which, when undisturbed, usually feed along the North Shore.


Tuesday 23rd September [Sunny]

Mike Johnson emailed to tell me he'd visited with the BOC Tuesday Group today and they'd seen a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at approx. 1130 hrs at Top End. This is presumably the same bird seen recently at Chew Valley Lake, nevertheless, a great find and the 11th record by my reckoning. The group recorded 43 spp. including a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a flyover Northern Raven Corvus corax.


Wednesday 24th September [Sunny spells]

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still on the dam today. I could only see 16 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis, though viewing was difficult through a hedge. Some of Lag Farm fileds have been turned over and the gulls were finding plenty of leatherjackets to feed on, I noted a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus adult with a white darvic on its leg which looked like 'TDWR' that I'll try and find more about, but I was surprised at the lack of rings on the larger gulls. I suspect the Black-headed Gull is part of a Polish ringing scheme.


Thursday 25th September [Sunny]

I don't have any news from the lake today, I was working up at Wytham Wood near Oxford checking bat boxes with Dani Linton.


Friday 26th September [Mainly sunny and warm]

Like yesterday, I only had time for a brief visit this evening and have nothing to report. The water level remains at 82% with no immediate prospect of any pumping taking place.

I did the second National Bat Monitoring Programme Nathusius Pipistrelle transect along Butcombe Bank in the evening and recorded some, of course.


Saturday 27th September [Overcast and mild]

I managed to have a look before the angling boats went out onto the lake this morning and noted an increase in the number of Common Pochard Aythya ferina than of late, but couldn't see any waders anywhere. I made the point about the boat anglers because the car park was full to overflowing and fishermen were milling around as if they had a mass start at 1000 hrs, but there's no mention of a competition on the fisheries website.


Sunday 28th September [Warm and overcast]

Despite two visits to the lake today, I could only see the usual waterfowl, which are present in good numbers it has to be said, but there didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary. As predicted, many of the Common Pochard Aythya ferina have moved on, but Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and Gadwall Anas strepera numbers are holding up.

I checked some bat boxes on the south side of the lake in the morning with Georgie Hayworth. We found 3 or 4 (I can't be sure because one that flew probably went into a neighbouring box) Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus.


Monday 29th September [Mist early then warm with sunny spells]

Again, lots of waterfowl today, I even saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly over. Jeff Hirst reported seeing several Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus as well. This evening there were lots of large gulls sitting on the water with fair numbers of both Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus and Herring Gulls L. argentatus, aside from the usual roost of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus.

The moth list was as follows:

  • 0656 Ruddy Streak Tachystola acroxantha [first site record] 1. An Australian introduction first recorded in the UK in 1908.
  • 1702 Small Fan-footed Wave Idaea biselata 2
  • 1906 Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata 2
  • 1913 Canary-shouldered Thorn Ennomos alniaria 1
  • 2107 Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba 2
  • 2126 Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum 1
  • 2134 Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa 2
  • 2270 Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa 2
  • 2274 Sallow Xanthia icteritia 1
  • 2474 Straw Dot Rivula sericealis 4
  • A Eudonia sp.


Tuesday 30th September [Sunny and warm]

I ran a 125W Robinson Moth trap overnight at the Lodge, and caught a few moths and lots of caddisflies. When I left to go home for breakfast I looked over the dam and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a ♂ Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus warming itself up in the sunshine. It was on the dam from at least 0830-0940 hrs. Our SWT Wells Group walk was really enjoyable in the autumn sunshine, and although we only saw the usual suspects among the birds, apart from a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in a tree at Butcombe Bay and a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Long Bay, we had plenty to look through. We must have seen about a dozen Clouded Yellow Colias croceus butterflies, lots of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta generally flying southward, a pristine Comma Polygonia c-album, 3 Small Coppers Lycaena phlaeas, a few Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria and some whites Pieris sp. There were also quite a few Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta and Common Darters Sympetrum striolatum on the wing too.

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