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Blagdon Lake Birds

March 2015 News

Sunday 1st March [Mainly dry until a huge squall mid-afternoon]

Steve Hale sent me news of the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Wood Bay today - he's got a couple of nice shots on his Avon Birds website. He also saw 2 Goldcrests Regulus regulus and a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major at Top End.

I spent most of the afternoon at Chew Valley Lake with Chris Barrington trying to finish putting up the bat boxes. Unfortunately, the rain came and we got drowned and frozen before we managed to finish the job.


Monday 2nd March [Dry and sunny with a chilly wind]

Only the one Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus in the field next to the Ubley entrance this afternoon, but the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was showing beautifully in Wood Bay. I saw just a single adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser along Butcombe Bank and counted 37 Canada Geese Branta canadensis.


Tuesday 3rd March [Dry and sunny with a chilly wind.]

A big surprise today when I found an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla at Wood Bay with the small flock of Canada Geese Branta canadensis. I popped home for the camera, but it had flown over the hedge onto Holt Farm, which meant it was backlit by strong sun when I took this record shot. It's the 8th site record. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Wood Bay too, so I grabbed a few more shots of this little jewel.


Brent Goose, Holt Farm. 3rd March 2015.Brent Goose, Holt Farm. 3rd March 2015.

Black-necked Grebe, Wood Bay. 3rd March 2015.Black-necked Grebe, Wood Bay. 3rd March 2015.


Other notable birds included a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Burmah Road and a lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus at Top End.


Wednesday 4th March [Sunny with a cold wind]

I spent the afternoon beside the lake but despite extensive searching I didn't catch sight of the Black-necked Grebe (did anyone else?). The adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla was still around and this afternoon a Greylag Anser anser flew in too. While looking for the grebe from Rainbow Point, I spotted a pair of adult Greater Scaup Aythya marila (the first of the winter, I think) but they didn't appear to stay long. The lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus was still at Top End and I spotted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in flight at Wood Bay. I guess birds are on the move now, Northern Wheatear and White Wagtail have both been reported on the south coast in the last couple of days. Perhaps this weekend will bring the first Sand Martins?


Brent Goose, Wood Bay. 4th March 2015.Brent Goose, Wood Bay. 4th March 2015.

Greylag Goose, Wood Bay. 4th March 2015.Greylag Goose, Wood Bay. 4th March 2015.


We will be carrying out the WeBS count in the morning though we are expecting disturbance as the season ticket anglers will be back tomorrow too. The season opens again on Saturday, with yet another week shaved off the winter close season. At least 10 weeks have been eroded off the close season since I was fishing regularly at the lake.

Just before dusk, Warwick White and his son-in-law Colin, managed to set the North Shore Barn Owl box back upright again. This was the third attempt to sort it out, and will hopefully be the last before the breeding season starts. Thanks guys.


Thursday 5th March [Sunny and slightly warmer]

Roy Curber, Terry Doman, Linda Lee and I carried out the WeBS count this morning. Sadly all the goodies bar the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus appear to have moved on. We did see a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta before we started the count, but no spring bird migrants as such. Details of the count are on the WeBS page.

I am going to India until 9th April as of tomorrow, and because we will be in some remote areas where there is unlikely to be electricity much less an internet connection, I do not expect to be able to bring you any updates from the lake or the trip. I will if I can, of course, but please don't expect it as a rule. I would like to receive news people may have from the lake as spring unfolds and will add it, when I get a chance, to the blog and enter it into my Blagdon Lake database. So, please don't stop sending it to me. You should be able to tweet your news via the website to other interested parties.


Friday 6th March

Message from Steve Hale to say that Melvin Hedges saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Hellfire Corner today.


Saturday 7th March

Message from Craig Lewis: The Black-necked Grebe showed well from hide at Home Bay 15:00 - 16:00 hrs. Also Small Tortoiseshell at same location. Colin Hunt spotted the grebe.


Sunday 8th March

Message from Steve Hale: 17 Common Goldeneye, 3 Common Buzzards, 1 Common Snipe + shoals of anglers.


Friday 13th March

Message from Steve Hale: 33 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose, 400+ Black-headed Gulls (on adjacent farm fields), 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 200+ Common Starlings.


Saturday 14th March

Message from Steve Hale: Dean Reeves reported a flyover ♀ Long-tailed Duck at the dam, a Common Sandpiper and 45 Fieldfares. Steve wrote it's hard to say whether it's a new LTD, or the Chew bird on a wander. Steve checked with Dean and he is as sure as he can be that he identified it correctly.


Sunday 15th March

Message from Steve Hale: 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 Goosander, 1 Common Sandpiper, 12 Chiffchaffs reported by Sean Davies.


Monday 16th March

Message from Steve Hale: Pretty quiet Nige, just the Gyp (Egyptian Goose) of note (Home Bay).


Wednesday 18th March

Message from Steve Hale: The lake still pretty quiet with just 3 Egyptian Geese and a Common Goldeneye of note. Spillway bushes, 1 Coal Tit, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Nuthatch, 2 Grey Wagtails.


Friday 20th March

Message from Steve Hale: 2 Egyptian Geese, 5 Grey Herons, 1 Common Sandpiper of note.


Sunday 22nd March

Message from Steve Hale: 1 Egyptian Goose (Home Bay), 3 Grey Herons, 100+ Common Gulls (Home Bay Pt).


Tuesday 24th March

Message from Paul Williams that reads "A brief visit from 15-20 Sand Martins over the lake at lunchtime today, during a hail storm." Then another from Steve Hale: 1 Greylag Goose, 24 Canada Geese, 1 Egyptian Goose, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 singing Blackcap, 1 Grey Wagtail. Thanks for regular updates guys, I may be out of touch until I get back now, but keep sending the information to me and I'll post it out as and when I get the opportunity.


Wednesday 25th March

Update from India: I've notched up over a hundred new species so far, having spent a week trekking in Namdapha National Park where we got the critically endangered White-bellied Heron, but no Blyth's Kingfisher. The first sighting of the heron came rather remarkably while we were watching 3 Dhole (Asiatic Wild Dogs) trying to catch a young Sambur that was in the river standing between it's parents. We think all the Sambur escaped on this occasion. From Namdapha we travelled to the Mishmi Hills and stayed at a forestry lodge at some 7700 feet with no electricity! A couple of thunderstorms and a heavy hail fall meant it was cold, but we got Blyth'sTragopan, although the rest of the group saw a Himalayan Monal fly by, and gripped me off big time! We left the cold of the Mishmi Hills for a 400 km day in the vehicles back into Assam and on to Nagaland where we had a home stay (B&B equivalent) with the local Angami tribe at Khonoma for a couple of days, who introduced me to some delicious pumpkin curry! Back then to Assam and another night in Tinsukia where we'd already missed a wintering Baer's Pochard by a day. We got Marsh Babbler though! The usual 0400 hrs start the next day saw us make a 450 km, 11.5 hour journey, to Shillong the capital of Meghalya where I'm writing this. We saw Tawny-breasted Wren-babbler and Dark-rumped Swifts this morning, but a huge storm came in at lunchtime which meant we had to abandon birding for the day. It got so dark at 1400 hrs we had to put the lights on in the hotel. As a thunderstorm hit, hail and rain lashed the city. Even the locals were taking pictures with their cell phones. Bear in mind the village of Cherrapunji which we visited this morning has at various times claimed to be the wettest place on earth, with 11,777 mm (464 ins) of rain annually, and an absolute record of 41 inches in one 24 hour period. It's at 4800 feet in the Khasi Hills overlooking the plains of Bangladesh. Tomorrow, we leave for Tezpur on the north side of the Brahmaputra, before moving on to Nameri National Park, then Se La (the world's second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 14000 ft.), Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary for a full week before finishing with a few days at Kaziranga National Park. I hope I can continue to last the pace! No leeches have got me yet, though a couple of ticks were found and removed and I've had a couple of bites and a bee sting. I did manage to break a tooth on a naan bread on my second day here, but luckily it doesn't seem to be any bother. My travelling companions Dave Gibbs (Bristol) and Mike Williams (Exeter) seem to be coping too. We were joined until yesterday by Norfolk birder Dave Willis, who was a great deal of fun, but he's flown back to the Philippines this evening to continue birding and sound recording there. I'm hoping for White-winged (Wood) Duck in the next couple of days, though it's endangered and extremely secretive so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I reckon the whole place will be at a standstill in the morning when India play the Aussies for a place in the final against New Zealand. With England's miserable showing, I've been forced to changed my allegiance - Come on India!


Thursday 26th March

Message from Steve Hale: 9 Mute Swans, 26 Canada Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese (Top End), 6 Gadwall, 180 Tufted Ducks, 5 Grey Herons, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Common Sandpiper, 11 Black-headed Gulls, 25 Rook nests currently, 2 Grey Wagtails (Spillway).


Saturday 28th March

Message from Steve Hale: 13 Mute Swans, 2 Egyptian Geese (Top End fields), 8 Northern Shovelers, 1 Common Goldeneye (sitting on the North Shore), 1 Common Sandpiper, 40+ Black-headed Gulls, 2 Grey Wagtails. Sean Davies saw 3 Egyptian Geese, 5 Common Goldeneye, 3 Little Egrets and 5 Common Snipe.Melanie Patch reported 12 Chiffchaffs, 1 Egyptian Goose, 25 Canada Geese, 1 Reed Bunting, 2 Meadow Pipits, 4 Common Goldeneye, 1 Gadwall, 2 Northern Shovelers, 1 Common Buzzard and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. At Butcombe Bay / Dam end Melanie saw a pair of Grey Wagtails, a Eurasian Treecreeper and a Common Sandpiper.


Tuesday 31st March

Message from Steve Hale: 13 Mute Swans, 17 Canada Geese, 3 Egyptian Geese (2 Top End, 1 Home Bay), 1 Common Kestrel, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Coal Tits, 40 Barn Swallows. "The lake was like the Atlantic this morning except for the dam end which was surprisingly sheltered and it was where we saw the Swallows."

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