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Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2018 News

Sunday 1st April [Nice until tea time]

I saw a ♂ Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla out of the lounge window today, feeding on sunflower hearts, so I presume it to be a wintering bird. Mark Hynam visited the lake but had nothing to report.


Monday 2nd April [A bit warmer with a southerly blow]

I spent the afternoon at the lake with Mark Hynam who had arrived before me. Amazingly, apart from a new Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing at Lodge Copse we have nothing new to report between us. Not even any hirundines. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm as usual.

There was a report of 2 Ospreys 'at the east end' (which would be the Top End) on RBA while we were sitting in front of the Lodge on Osprey migration watch at 1700hrs, but on driving straight there all we could find were 2 pale Buzzards sitting in a tree. Then, we heard the east end should have been the dam end, so back we went. Needless to say there was no sign of any Ospreys, and there wasn't at the time of the report either. Mark and I searched around the dam area and stayed on until 1815hrs at least, and sadly saw nothing but Buzzards as far as raptors were concerned. Update: the report of 2 Ospreys relates to birds seen at Top End from the dam. So, whilst we weren't at Top End at the time of the report, we had been there all afternoon and got there within a few minutes, as we were already at the lakeside. A very confusing finish to the day...

There's more! An Osprey was seen at Chew Valley Lake over Herriott's at 1900 hrs, then it or another was reported at Blagdon at 1945 hrs. A case of my being in the wrong place at the wrong time perhaps? Avon Birds is also carrying news of 2 Swallows Hirundo rustica at Blagdon during the day - presumably just in and out. Ho hum.


Tuesday 3rd April [Sunny-ish & warm]

I spent an hour and a quarter at the lake this morning before friends came over to go for a walk. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 18 Sand Martins Riparia riparia high over the lake. Disappointingly, no Ospreys. Another hour and three-quarters this afternoon resulted in my seeing the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm and a few Sand Martins.


Wednesday 4th April [Pretty wet until mid-afternoon. A stiff breeze.]

An adult Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus in transitional plumage was at the dam end from 1445-1630 hrs at least this afternoon. I saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and Paul Williams saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by the Spillway. At dusk, on a later visit, I saw 12 Swallows Hirundo rustica feeding at the entrance to Butcombe Bay.

I had my first emergency bat call-out at lunchtime. A ♂ Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus brought in by a cat in Chew Magna. I'm hoping to release it tonight as I couldn't find any signs of damage other than a pin-prick hole in a wing that should heal very quickly. Update: the bat escaped the shoe box it was being kept in until this evening, but we retrieved it from under the washing machine, warmed it up, and when released it flew away strongly. Result.


Thursday 5th April [Bright, sunny & warm.]

"One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy." A single Swallow Hirundo rustica over the dam end and a lovely sunny day did, in deference to Aristotle, make me entirely happy to be out and about today. I heard my first Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus of the year at Top End, where I also saw a pristine Comma Polygonia c-album butterfly on the wing. On a walk from the Lodge to Top End and back I counted 8 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and 7 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 3 Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, and a ♂ Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, as well as the first Mute Swans Cygnus olor building a nest. While on the walk I also noted some insects and flowers including several Eristalis pertinax hoverflies, 2 Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major, flowering Cowslips Primula veris and patches of Wood Anemonies Anemone nemorosa. Spring is gathering pace at last.


Friday 6th April [Sunny & warm]

I don't have much to report from a late evening visit of 1.5 hours. Just 2 Swallows Hirundo rustica at the dam end (probably breeding nearby), and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. There were quite a few bats on the wing at dusk, and there's plenty of black Chironomid midges on the wing for them to feed on now.


Saturday 7th April [Wet, then sunny spells. Warm.]

As Tweeted, Mark Hynam and I saw an Osprey Pandion haliaetus, probably a ♀, flying east down the centre of the lake at 0915 hrs this morning while we were surveying. We found it at Top End when we got there and it stayed until 1115 hrs when disturbed by a car. After flying west to the dam and back to Ash Tree being harried by gulls and corvids, it decided to leave to the North over Nempnett Thrubwell. As it happens, Joanna Dailey emailed to say White YA arrived back at Kielder at 1537 hrs this afternoon, which is great news for the Northumberland team - see Joanna's blog. Mark and I were only carrying binoculars, so couldn't see any rings on the Blagdon bird, and it had just taken off when Paul Williams arrived with his scope, though he did see it.

In addition, we heard 16 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 14 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 1 Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus singing around the lake, saw the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca at Orchard Bay and a Shelduck Tadorna tadorna off Butcombe Bank.


Sunday 8th April [Changeable by day. Still this evening.]

We had a meeting for a chinwag about our batting plans for the year this morning, so I didn't get to the lake until the evening. I only have the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm to report.


Monday 9th April [Mist & rain all day. Cool.]

What a dismal day! Again, little to report with just 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus heard singing, at Lodge Copse and Flower Corner, 4♀ Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Rainbow Point. No hirundines over the water and, still, no House Martin - the latest first date since 2014 when they arrived on 12th April.


Tuesday 10th April [More rain, drying up early afternoon.]

I wasn't able to visit the lake until late in the day. I only have news of the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm. Still no sign of any hirundines. I'm off to the coast tomorrow for a walk with friends, and hopefully, I'll see some migrants there at least! I should get to the lake later in the day.


Wednesday 11th April [Rain overnight & in morning. Cold & grey all day.]

I went down to the dam before going out to Sand Bay, Sand Point and Middle Hope a walk with friends. As I was about to leave, with the car started and put in gear, a large flock of 200+ hirundines drifted in from the west over the dam. I jumped back out of the car and spent 5 minutes going through them and eventually spotted a House Martin Delichon urbicum, my first of the year. This evening Mark Hynam called me while I was at the Lodge to say there were 2 among the flock at Top End. We saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis from the hide at dusk when I joined Mark.


Thursday 12th April [Overcast & cool]

I spent 3 hours at the lake this afternoon, and had a good look around. Of note were 4 singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, and several hundred hirundines with a good smattering of House Martins Delichon urbicum. There were certainly 20+ but the birds were so widespread over the lake and surrounds it would be hard to give an accurate number. I heard my first singing Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus too, which is amazing given that they've been in over a month.


Friday 13th April [Mainly overcast but still & warm]

I had an enjoyable day out on the Somerset Levels with the 'Bristol Boys' (messers Bone, Willmott, Massey, Ponsford, Vinicombe, & Middleton) today. We had most of the usual suspects, with great views of Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Great White Egret, ♂ Garganey, Black-tailed Godwit, Cetti's Warbler, and my first Garden Warbler of the year. Nothing to report from Blagdon.


Saturday 14th April [Misty, then sunny & warm.]

I was up at 0630 hrs and I surveyed the lake for singing birds this morning with Mark Hynam. Firsts for the year included a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus at Butcombe Bay, a Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus in Pipe Bay reeds and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. Selected counts included 42 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 22 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 15 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and 8 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. also noted were 2 Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flying through to Chew, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago and Mark saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Green Lawn.


Sunday 15th April [A dry morning with rain later]

I don't have anything to report today save for a Tawny Owl Strix aluco fly-past at Cheddar Water as I left to go home. WeBS count tomorrow.


Monday 16th April [Mainly dry & warm]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I carried out the WeBS today. There were a surprising number of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula still on the lake, Rob counted 263, but very few of most other species, including Coots Fulica atra which came in at a rather measly 112, although with the high water level I guess there were quite a few hidden in marginal vegetation. Instead of driving along, stopping and counting we walked the length of the lake, hoping to pick up some new migrant passerines as well, but there's nothing new to report yet I'm afraid, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos hasn't left yet. Full count details are on the WeBS Page.

While carrying out the count, we found a dead Grass Snake Natrix natrix that had been run over near Bell's Bush Barrier. It appeared to be of the nominate race with the bright yellow collar, referred to as the Common or Eastern Grass Snake N. n. natrix.


Tuesday 17th April [Windy & overcast]

It was a bit wild by the lake, and not ideal conditions for finding passerines. There were 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and I heard a couple of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus singing along the south side, with one at least seemingly on territory. There were small numbers of Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbicum at Top End.


Wednesday 18th April [Sunny & warm]

During a lunchtime visit I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis on Green Lawn with some Canada's Branta canadensis. Mark Hynam texted me this evening while I was in Axminster, Devon, to say he'd seen 4 Common Sandpipers.


Thursday 19th April [Sunny & hot]

I had a text from Tony Cook at lunchtime to say he and brother Bryan, with Dave Newman, had just seen a ♂ Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus at Top End behind the hide. They waited for me to get there and whilst I may have seen it fly across the road when looking with them, I didn't get tickable views until 1415 hrs along the roadside hedge about 100m east of the parking spot for the hide. Chris Criag arrived as I was on the way back along the lake and texted to say he saw it around 1530 hrs in the same place. It's the first record I have in my database for the lake since 5th May 2012, when I saw three on an early morning survey. So, thanks guys a really nice surprise. The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was back, and I saw a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.


Friday 20th April [Hot]

I made a late decision to go away for the night with the aim of walking a couple of stretches of the South West Coast Path that I was unable to do in 2014 during the terrible weather. So, I arrived in Charlestown, Cornwall at lunchtime and set off on 7.3 mile 'challenging' walk to Mevagissey. I ended up walking closer to 8 miles in the heat in tough conditions! I enjoyed seeing a Stoat on the track ahead of me, stepping over a Viviperous Lizard, hearing my first Whitethroat of the year and most of all, being back on the coast again. I think I have less than 50 miles of the 630 mile SW Coast Path to complete now (from Mevagissey to the Lizard).


Saturday 21st April [Hot, with a late thunderstorm.]

After yesterdays sapping conditions and mild dehydration, I chose not to walk this morning. So, Ce and I spent some time around Truro before coming home in the evening. Mark Hynam had a couple of Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus at the lake in my absence, but we plan to do a full lakeside survey again early tomorrow morning.


Sunday 22nd April [Warm with some cloud]

Our near four-hour survey turned up 47 singing Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 26 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 19 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 6 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 5 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, and a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, as well as the more familiar residents. Best bird, by some margin, was a brief Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus on Green Lawn, as well as the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. There were terrific numbers of hoverflies and Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major in sheltered spots, as well as quite a few Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines and Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria butterflies and my first St. Marks Fly Bibio marci of the spring.

The first of this years Green-winged Anacamptis morio and Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula are coming up now among the host of Cowslips Primula veris.


Monday 23rd April [Cloudy & cooler]

All of a sudden the leaves are out on the lakeside Willows and Hawthorn hedges, and the place is springing into life! I saw 2 Swifts Apus apus high over the lake and heard my first 2 Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing at Top End. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was at Cheddar Water, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Green Lawn and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flew past the Fishing Lodge while I was there.

Mike O'Connor texted to say he'd seen a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus on the dam at around 1500 hrs that flew off towards Green Lawn. I wonder if its the same one Mark and I saw yesterday which did the reverse - flew from Green Lawn to the dam?


Wednesday 25th April [Dry, cool & windy.]

I didn't get down to the lake until this evening, and after spotting the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus flew west over the dam. There were hundreds of hirundines over dam end, and right down at Top End, with a high proportion of them Sand Martins Riparia riparia.


Thursday 26th April [Mainly dry & blustery]

I walked back from the garage this morning and heard a Garden Warbler Sylvia borin singing near Top End hide, my first at the lake this year. I suspect it's a returning bird that held territory in the same place last summer, as is a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus nearby. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, one each on the dam and Green Lawn, with up to 100 Swifts Apus apus over Rugmoor and probably no fewer than 200 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at the dam end in the hirundine flock feeding there. I've yet to find a Whitethroat at the lake, but North Shore is more likely to host one of those.


Saturday 28th April [Mist & drizzle before drying up]

Mervyn Pearce and Mark Hynam both sent me news today, the best of which were 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

I'm sorry for the lack of news on my part, Celia is in hospital, so my priorities are elsewhere at present.


Monday 30th April [Quite nice, if a little cool.]

Paul Williams texted me the following news (I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him): "it was quiet other than the reeds full of warblers and the sky full of hirundines and Swifts Apus apus, and the grass full of Cowslips Primula veris. Summer's here."

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