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Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2017 News

Sunday 2nd April [Sunny & warm]

Sorry for the lack of news since Thursday. I saw a flock of hirundines feeding over Top End when I made a quick visit this evening.


Monday 3rd April [Sunny but cooler than yesterday]

My first bird walk of the year after tea was full of hope for some new yearlies having missed a few days birding, but I didn't manage to catch up with anything new. There were small numbers of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica among several hundred Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was feeding on Holt Farm with a few Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor. There were still a few Eurasian Teal Anas crecca too. Towards the end of my walk, I watched many bats of several species foraging at dusk, especially Noctules Nyctalus noctula.

The lake level has essentially reached 100% now, although water is not exactly flowing over the cill, just a few waves are breaking over it and running away down the spillway.


Tuesday 4th April [Sunny spells & warm'ish]

Today, I counted 29 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and 15 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla singing on my standard lakeside walk, but it seems I can't buy a Willow Warbler, despite spending all afternoon there! Let's hope tomorrow morning brings more luck. The rookery is up to 52 nests now, and I noted a Chiffchaff carrying nest material, as well as a Canada Goose Branta canadensis sitting. A pair of Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flew through to the west, and 2 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago flew up from the roadside at Top End. Other wildlife included a roosting Lesser Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus hipposideros, and 4 flowering spikes of Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio with their heads up already (my second earliest date after 29th March 2012).


Wednesday 5th April [Blue skies & vapour trails. Warm.]

A morning walk finally cracked Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus (at the end of Butcombe Bay) and I had the bonus of an unexpected Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa on Green Lawn. There was quite a gathering of large gulls attracted by ploughing operations on Holt Farm, but not much else apat from the aforementioned vapour trails high above the lake. The Sand Martin Riparia riparia flock is still present rather surprisingly, they must be really piling on fat reserves depleted by migration with all the Chironomids coming off the lake. Today's count of singing Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla was 32 and 23 respectively, and I also saw 3 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. Two new species of butterfly were on the wing ♂♀ Orange-tips Anthocharis cardamines and 2 Speckled Woods Pararge aegeria.


Thursday 6th April [Sunny & warm]

I was out walking on the Mendips today and came across a pair of Red Kites, and a pair of Mandarin Ducks along a stream.

I went to the lake at dusk and saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a pair of Greylag Geese Anser anser on Holt Farm. I'll spend some time there in the morning looking for migrants again.


Friday 7th April [Sunny & warm]

I had the great pleasure of showing Ethan and Joseph some birds at the lake this morning. 6 year old Ethan has just started bird watching, but was very knowledgeable already, and was able to tick off a few new birds in his book.

There was nothing new to report today, but the 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser and lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca were still present. The Sand Martin flock seems to have finally moved on. I didn't see a single hirundine today. However, the first Common Coots Fulica atra are nesting with one or two sitting tight already.

This evening I took a walk over the dam and along Butcombe Bank with my detector and was amazed at the number of bats on the wing. I recorded Noctule, Serotine, Common, Soprano and Nathusius' Pipistrelles as well as a Lesser Horseshoe. I haven't looked at the recordings yet, but there will almost certainly be one or two species of Myotis recorded as well.


Saturday 8th April [Sunny & warm]

I saw the 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, while Mark Hynam saw one each of Common Actitis hypoleucos and Green SandpipersTringa ochropus on the dam early morning. At Top End I saw my second Dotted Bee-fly Bombylius discolor for the site.


Sunday 9th April [Hot & sunny, then cool & breezy after tea.]

Having been busy checking bat boxes most of the day, I didn't go to the lake until after tea. A cool wind had got up and there was a flock of a couple of hundred hirundines feeding near the dam, mainly Sand Martins Riparia riparia, quite a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, and a few House Martins Delichon urbicum. I didn't see any Greylags, but the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was with the Mute Swans Cygnus olor and Canada Geese Branta canadensis. Tomorrow, we'll be doing the WeBS count.


Monday 10th April [Warm & sunny]

We carried out the WeBS count today, but there weren't many waterfowl so it wasn't a particularly onerous task. There was a large flock of Sand Martins Riparia riparia, with a number of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and a couple of House Martins Delichon urbicum, very often high over the lake and surrounding countryside, rather than low over the water. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula numbers remain bouyant at 155, as are Common Coots Fuligula atra at 205. See full details on the WeBS Counts Page. I also counted 64 Rook Corvus frugilegus nests at Home Bay Point.

During the count I spotted that one of 3 Sandpipers had quite yellow legs but we couldn't get close views of it, so continued the count. Afterwards we went back for another look at it and after some time decided that it was just a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. The long tail projection, straight bill and typical tertial pattern swung the id for us, even though the leg colour and pot-bellied look made us check it out thoroughly. One day, I'll find a Spotted Sandpiper here!


Tuesday 11th April [Warm & sunny]

I did my standard walk this morning hoping to find some new migrants, but no such luck! I did, however, spot a pair of House Sparrows Passer domesticus in the hedge at Rugmoor Gate while watching some Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina. The sparrows were my first of the year at the lake, and no doubt from Rugmoor Farm. The only other colony nearby are at Holt Farm and these usually appear in the hedges around Holt Bay when feeding young. The Sand Martin Riparia riparia flock is still at the lake. Other local sites are reporting Acro. warblers arriving this week but, as yet, I've heard or seen nothing at Blagdon. While walking towards Top End I saw a large bird riding a thermal between the lake and Chew that was probably a Common Crane, but I only had my binoculars with me and it was too far away to identify for sure. It had long square-ended wings and a long neck so was likely to have been a crane or stork sp. Still present at the lake were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and I counted 28 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 25 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, plus a single Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus. Other sightings included 2 Holly Blues Celastrina argiolus at Cheddar Water, a Water Shrew Neomys fodiens (watched hunting for at least 10 minutes) at Holt Copse, 2 Common Kingfishers Alcedo atthis at Butcombe Bay and the first flowering Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula along North Shore.


Wednesday 12th April [Breezy & cooler than of late]

There were at least 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam when I made a brief visit to the lake this evening and several hundreds of hirundines over the lake, mainly Sand Martins Riparia riparia.

Kielder Ospreys: White YA landed on his nest site on 26th March (so not the bird seen at Blagdon on 27th), and was joined by Mrs YA on 29th March. She laid the first egg on 10th April. For more news see Kielder Ospreys Blog by Joanna Dailey.


Thursday 13th April [Overcast & cool]

I saw a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the flock of Sand Martins Riparia riparia and 4 flyover Common Shelducks Tadorna tadorna in 3.5 hours around midday. There was a small influx of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, I saw and heard 3 along the south side, but that was it.

Two days ago the State of UK Birds 2016 was published, and the news about our birds continues to shock as the Red List grows substantially. It shows a net increase of 15, from 52 species in 2009 to 67 in 2015. Over a quarter of the species assessed (more than ever before) are now Red-listed. Familiar birds at Blagdon Lake such as Grey Wagtails and Common Sandpipers are among those moved from Amber to Red lists. Precious few of those previously highlighted as being in trouble are showing signs of recovery despite significant resources being thrown at their conservation, and it occurs to me that soon we'll all be watching those at specially designated conservation sites, where we can spare the room and resources for them to thrive, rather seeking them in the wider countryside. Furthermore, there will undoubtedly come a point when some politician will call for funding for conservation to be capped or, more likely, cut. What will happen to the birds that are destined to become Red-listed then? It's going to Hell in a Handbasket methinks - and I fear that those young birders I shared a lovely morning with at the lake less than a week ago, won't have the same opportunity when they're my age, which makes me sad.


Friday 14th April [Overcast & warmer]

I was out for most of the day, so didn't visit the lake until just before dusk. I walked the south side road looking for birds, then walked back with my bat detector in drizzle that eventually turned to light rain. I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Greylag Anser anser among the geese and swans, a fly-by Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and saw a goodly number of hirundines that included more Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica than I've seen up to now. Given the wet and breezy conditions walking back, it was little surprise that I didn't record quite as many bats as I had along Butcombe Bank a week ago.


Saturday 15th April [Overcast with a cool breeze]

I carried out my standard walk from 1030-1320hrs and counted 32 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 30 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, plus 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. There were no other new singing migrants to be heard, but I'm becoming puzzled by the prolonged stay of the large number of Sand Martins Riparia riparia at the lake - I wonder if they've found a new breeding site nearby? I saw over 250 this afternoon, with a number of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, one at either end of the dam and one on Peg's Point, with single pairs of Gadwall Anas strepera and Eurasian Teal Anas crecca hanging on too. The Greylag Anser anser was also present, but I haven't seen the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca since slurry was injected into the fields a few days ago.

Unfortunately, some misguided visitors to All Saint's Meadow at the head of Butcombe Bay have been picking, then discarding, Green-winged Orchids and Bluebells along the public footpath. Perhaps we need an interpretation board at the meadow?

Tomorrow evening, weather permitting, we will be carrying out our first Nathusius' Pipistrelle trapping session of the year, as part of the national project to find out more about this enigmatic bat in England.


Sunday 16th April [Cloudy & windy]

This evening we did our first bat trapping of the year. While I was looking for a suitable spot to put up a trap at Home Bay I heard my first (Eurasian) Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus of the year singing. Then, in the wee small hours I heard at least one Greylag Anser anser calling in the the vicinity of Home Bay. Mark Hynam, who joined us while we were out batting reported seeing the usual flock of 250+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia, together with a few House Martins Delichon urbicum, and Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica. He also saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Green Lawn. For a report on our batting see the Bat News Page.


Monday 17th April [Sunny spells]

Another busy day kept me away from the lake until this evening. However, I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and the flock of hirundines at Top End (mainly Sand Martins Riparia riparia). After dark I walked a bat transect with my detector along the North Shore - see the Bat News Page.


Tuesday 18th April [Sunny & warm]

After walking 8 miles of the Cotswold Way from Painswick to Birdlip, I got to the lake early in the evening and met Mark Hynam at the Lodge, so we walked to Top End together. We saw a flock of Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba alba out on the ploughed fields of Holt Farm and blow me there were 3 Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava flavissima among them. At Lodge Copse a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus was singing, and the 2 Greylag Anser anser and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca were on Holt Farm, while a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still at Green Lawn. At Top End there was a large flock of hirundines, again mostly Sand Martins Riparia riparia, but no sign of any Common Swifts yet.

While at the lake Mark and I witnessed 2 balloons passing low over the dam end of the lake, one of which was certainly at a height of less than 100 feet. This caused the ducks panic. Some relocated to the Top End, while others undoubtedly left the lake. This is unacceptable at any time, but especially during the breeding season. I noted the main offender as the Torex Balloon G-CBOW.


Wednesday 19th April [Warm & sunny]

I was busy with bat work all day and evening. I did see the flock of hirundines at the dam end while at the lake briefly. Ubley resident, Sarah Lynett, emailed to tell me there was a Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing around the Hatchery/Pixie Hole Lane area today. Thanks Sarah.

Also, Mark Hynam, texted me with news of another balloon flying too low over the lake this evening - it was the Tribute Balloon G-CIZM this time. Mark said it came down the lake and very low over the bird hide scattering waterfowl in all directions. I'll raise the issue of low-flying balloons with Bristol Water again. There ought to be some guidance put out to pilots about flying over the lakes - if it hasn't already been done.


Thursday 20th April [Sunny spells but turning cooler]

There were 3 Greylag Geese Anser anser on Holt Farm with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis and Mute Swans Cygnus olor this evening, and a pair of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca at Flower Corner. I counted 73 nests in the rookery on Home Bay Point/Long Bay, so that is up on last year after all.


Friday 21st April [Overcast, still & mild]

I did my 'standard walk' this morning between 0800-1130 hrs. Singing summer migrants included 34 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, 23 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 8 (Eurasian) Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, and my first Garden Warbler Sylvia borin. Selected resident counts included 44 Winter Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 32 European Robins Erithacus rubecula, 24 Common Blackbirds Turdus merula, 8 Song ThrushesTurdus philomelos and 7 (Common) Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus. Other, more notable, birds included 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, 3 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, a pair of Gadwall Anas strepera, and 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser. I didn't see any hirundines at all.

I won't be visiting the lake tomorrow, as I will be at the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project Meeting at Upshire Village Hall, on the aptly-named Horseshoe Hill, near Waltham Abbey. Then, in the evening, hopefully trapping with Patty Briggs and the Dorset and Cornwall Bat Groups at Bedfont Lakes.


Sunday 23rd April [Warm & sunny]

I spent most of the day recovering from the very l-o-n-g day yesterday and had a walk this evening. I saw 2 Greylags Anser anser and lone Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 5♂ Common Pochards Aythya ferina in Holt Bay and a pair of Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata at Flower Corner.

Additionally, Steve Hale reported 3 Common Snipe Actitis hypoleucos and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and photographed a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 7 juveniles (1st brood of the year).

During the day at home I saw 2 Common Swifts Apus apus over the garden (there is a small breeding colony at the converted chapel over the road).


Monday 24th April [Overcast & breezy. Cooler.]

I ran a 15W Heath Trap at Lodge Copse last night and only caught:

  • Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica 1

I had two bird year ticks at the lake this morning; a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo that was showing well in front of Top End hide, and a Common Swift Apus apus amongst the hirundines (with good nos. of House Martins Delichon urbicum) at the dam end. On Green Lawn there were 2 Greylags Anser anser and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and I heard a probable Sedge Warbler in the hedge at Long Bay but it was very quiet and I couldn't be sure it wasn't a Reed Warbler - if I moved close enough to hear it, it stopped! We still have 5 Gadwall Anas strepera (2 pairs and a single drake) and a ♂ Eurasian Teal Anas crecca calling at Top End, as well as a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis that I saw in flight at Wood Bay.

When I got home I found an email from Andrew Stagg to tell me he'd also seen a Hobby, at Home Bay, but at 0620 hrs! Thanks Andrew.


Tuesday 25th April [Sunny spells. A cold breeze.]

A four hour walk at the lake turned up my first Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus of the year at Top End, but aside from the 200+ mixed hirundine flock, 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Greylags Anser anser and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, there was little else to report bird-wise. But, I have reliable, if belated, news of an Osprey Pandion haliaetus successfully catching a trout on Sunday before I visited the lake (per Bristol Water Fisheries staff).

I saw Adder's-tongue Ophioglossum vulgatum and Green-veined White Pieris napi for the first time this year, so things are gradually coming on.

News from David Rodrigues (co-ordinator for duck nasal marking in Europe) that a ♂ Lesser Scaup fitted with a nasal saddle at San Jacinto in Portugal, and seen in Wales (Llangorse, I think) and Scotland, was shot in Northern Ireland last September. That's a shame because it would have been interesting to see if it re-located back to the other side of the Atlantic given time. They also fitted a ♀ Lesser Scaup with a nasal saddle, that may have passed through San Jacinto in the previous two winters, so we'll need to keep an eye out for that.


Wednesday 26th April [Sunny spells & a cool breeze]

An alarm call from the hedge at Burmah Road alerted me to my first Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis of the year. I walked past and waited, and sure enough a couple of minutes later up he jumped off the top of the hedge in a looping display flight. My 106th species of the year at Blagdon. Unusually, there was a 2nd-calendar year Common Gull Larus canus attracted onto Holt Farm fields briefly, my immediate thoughts turned to a possible 'Ringer' but no, sadly, it wasn't. Today, there was just the single Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 2 Greylags Anser anser, one Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, up to five Common Swifts Apus apus with the hirundine flock which numbered over 500, and 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin singing at Top End. Once again, I spent a few minutes watching the Water Shrew Neomys fodiens I spotted for the first time a few days ago.


Thursday 27th April [Some sunny spells]

I didn't visit the lake today as such, although I did walk along the footpath along the south side where I saw the flock of hirundines over Top End, before heading up the hill through Ubley and along Ubley Drove to Charterhouse where I heard a Common Cuckoo singing this afternoon at Blackmoor.


Friday 28th April [Sunny spells though coolish]

I walked from the Lodge to Top End and back this evening between 1915-2115 hrs and an unremarkable walk definitely perked up when I heard a ♂ (Common) Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia reeling from a lakeside hedge. Yay! My last record was 29th April 2011. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm.


Saturday 29th April [Overcast]

Nowt to report apart from lots of anglers. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Holt Bay, 3 Greylags Anser anser and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Green Lawn. I didn't hear the Gropper late morning, but then I wouldn't really expect to.

Mervyn Pearce sent me a text in the afternoon to tell me he'd seen 6 Common Sandpipers on the dam and a fly-by Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Top End hide.

We're bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake this evening.


Sunday 30th April [Some sun then overcast with light rain later]

I had an interesting evening walk in the light rain seeing a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 pairs of Eurasian Teal Anas crecca at Flower Corner and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. Surprisingly, given the conditions, there wasn't a single hirundine or Common Swift over the water.

One of the Fisheries Rangers told me he'd heard a ♂ Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing around Rugmoor Gate/Indian Country during the afternoon, but I didn't hear it in the evening.

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