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Blagdon Lake Birds

December 2018 News

Saturday 1st December [Wet overnight & morning. Drier later.)

There was a lot of water flowing into the reservoir today. The level had come up significantly since yesterday and waterfowl had moved around as a result. New in were 5 (3 ♂) Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Burmah Road, while 133 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a large flock of Linnets Linaria cannabina were visible from the hide. I stayed until 1600 hrs, and although by that time there were a lot of Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in to roost, I'd seen hardly any Common Gulls Larus canus, the usual carrier species for Mediterranean Gulls. Larger gulls were starting to come in too, mainly Herring Gulls Larus argentatus, a real change to the roost of ten years ago.


Sunday 2nd December [Grey & wet]

Geez, it's a tough life as a patch worker at Blagdon! 'Highlight' of my visit this afternoon was the group of 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago standing on the water's edge at what's left of Wookey Point! I can add 45 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii on Tiny's Shallow, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, and about the same number of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus as yesterday, although I didn't count them. The rise in water level over the weekend has brought about the inevitable clear-out, so I must count the Teal Anas crecca and Wigeon Mareca penelope tomorrow before they leave for pastures new too. The adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta was back by the Lodge feeding on the bank with Wigeon and Teal again. It comes and goes (I know not where), and behaves quite unlike any other Pintail that has appeared at the lake over the autumn.


Monday 3rd December [A wet morning & dry afternoon.]

I reckon the lake level is up to about 62% now, and the margins are disappearing at quite a rate. I counted 873 Teal Anas crecca and 57 Wigeon Mareca penelope, although the former were pretty mobile. There were quite a few Pochard Aythya ferina too, so they might be worth a tot up, and I reckon there were about 50 or so Gadwall Mareca strepera. Other birds noted today were 58 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, and a Dunlin Calidris alpina on Tiny's Shallow briefly (perhaps one of 3 unidentified waders that flew through my field of view while I was counting Teal). Tiny's was host to a gathering of gulls before they flew out onto the water to roost, among which I saw two ringed birds:

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, 3rd winter, yellow D:DX, ringed 18th June 2016, on Denny Island by Goldcliff Ringing Group. Thanks to Richard Clarke.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus, adult, blue BXA, ringed GC60762 on 16th Feb 2008 at Stoke Orchard Landfill site, Glos. by Severn Estuary Gull Group. I think this gull is 12 yrs old if I'm reading the BTO age codes correctly. Thanks to Peter Stewart for info.



Tuesday 4th December [Sunshine, then grey & wet later.]

I didn't get beyond the Fishing Lodge today. I had to go home and didn't get up to Top End later. However, I saw an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser off the dam, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at the head of Butcombe Bay. A flock of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew down the lake from Top End and settled briefly on Tiny's Shallow with all the gulls but I didn't get a chance to count them.

I should have posted this news from Steve Heaven at WWT Slimbridge on Sunday when he sent it to me: "By-Brook/Keynell with their two cygnets arrived at Slimbridge overnight with seven other adults most are stained, this must be the flock from Chew, no Winkey or Winker yet."


Wednesday 5th December [Rain spreading in late morning]

This morning, before the rain came, I spent a couple of hours at the lake and saw one each of Great White Egret Ardea alba and Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser fishing in the coloured water at Top End, 186 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 78 Gadwall Mareca strepera. I was pleased to see an adult ♂ Aythya hybrid back in Wood Bay, proving that there is some movement of wildfowl still going on, and I think it's the putative Pochard x Ferruginous Duck that's been present for the last few winters.


Thursday 6th December [Dismal mizzle all day]

This afternoon it was business as usual, with a Great White Egret Ardea alba trying to eke out a living in the coloured water at Top End, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta in Home Bay, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, and regular Herring Gull Larus argentatus blue G:P, on Tiny's Shallow. Mark and I were pretty bored, so I gave hime a clicker and challenged him to count the Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. He made it 395 and I made it 384, which is 2.8% difference. So, not too bad.


Friday 7th December [Showers]

I was out for most of the day today, but did get down to the lake very late in the afternoon. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, but very little at Top End. The water level is rising fast and there were no Lapwings at all on what's left of Wookey Point, although I saw a few at The Lodge.

I rang the gentleman in Portishead who took the injured Tawny Owl Strix aluco in on 20th October, to see how he got on with it. Well, apparently it had lost quite a lot of blood, so it went to the vet to get it rehydrated. Unfortunately, although they got it to feed a couple of times, it wasn't able to keep the food down due to gastric problems, so the vet put it to sleep.


Sunday 9th December [Overnight gales]

Overnight rain and gales brought the possibility of something new being blown in, but despite being lakeside at sunrise, I didn't manage to find anything. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca in front of the Lodge, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, an adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta was at Burmah Road, and most of the 400 or so Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were at Top End. It's WeBS count day tomorrow.


Monday 10th December [Quite a pleasant day]

The WeBS team had quite a remarkable day with two sightings of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (the 3rd and 4th at the lake). Terry, Phil and I watched 2 fly past us at Rainbow Point heading west at 1255hrs. I watched them fly away over the dam. However, as we left site at just after 1400hrs, Terry and Phil saw 4 fly back east up the lake while Rob and I waited for them at the gate!

The rest of the count was a busy one with 1153 Teal Anas crecca, 926 Coots Fulica atra, 640 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 465 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 311 Mallards Anas platyrhynchus, 269 Pochards Aythya ferina, and 128 Gadwall Mareca strepera among the biggest and most significant totals. Other goodies included a Great White Egret Ardea alba, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, 2 adult ♂ Pintails Anas acuta, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 (1♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, and 10 (4♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Full details are on the WeBS Page.


Tuesday 11th December [Another pleasant enough day]

My look around at Blagdon this morning started with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the south end of the dam, an adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta in Long Bay, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. I didn't count them today, but there was a large flock of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus also still at the lake.

Today was the second of the WWT winter co-ordinated age assessments of Whoopers and Bewick’s across the country. There were none at Blagdon, so I went over to Chew Valley Lake and saw 2 adult and 2 juvenile Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus right in front of Moreton Hide. One was a 'darkneb' (black down the front of the bill) and the other a 'pennyface' (a round penny-shaped mark on the front of the bill) with a yellow darvic leg ring that I didn't have time to read. However, I have no doubt that this was By-Brook and Keynell with two young of the year. I drove around to the dam and saw four more adults distantly at Hollow Brook that ought to be checked out in the coming days. So, I think there were a total of 6 adults and 2 juveniles, at Chew. I drove on to Barrow Gurney Reservoirs, but there was no access to tank #2 due to engineering works. However, I was afforded the opportunity to have a quick look, accompanied by one of the contractors who manage the site at present. Although we saw a few Mute Swans, I didn't see any Bewick's. Neither did I see the Long-tailed Duck on #1.

Later, in the evening, I contacted Andy Davis and he told me he'd seen 2 more Bewick's Swans at Chew, at Stratford Bay, bringing the total there to 10. Cheers for that Andy.


Wednesday 12th December [A reasonable day with a cool easterly breeze]

Late afternoon saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and the flock of circa 400 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Wood Bay, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.

A message from Steve Heaven at WWT Slimbridge to say "Winkey & Winker arrived at Slimbridge at 07:50hrs." So, the two at Herriott's, Chew Valley Lake, were presumably not them.


Thursday 13th December [Another sunny enough day, but the easterly wind was cold.]

This afternoon, I met Ken Anstey to do some bat box work at Chew and Blagdon. While at Blagdon we noted a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and a flock of 13 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End.


Friday 14th December [Sunny but cold. Frost lay all day in sheltered spots.]

I took myself down to the lake mid-afternoon and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid. There was a pair of Pintail Anas acuta new in at Indian Country, and a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis feeding along the side of the road behind Top End hide, but little else to report. I didn't have time to check the gull roost.


Saturday 15th December [Cool, wet & windy]

It was a pretty wild scene at the dam end of the lake when I arrived mid-afternoon, with waves crashing up the dam wall. There wasn't anything new to relate in the blog though, with singles of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, just 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a redhead Goosander Mergus merganser, and a lone ♀ Pintail Anas acuta. I gave it an hour but, to be honest, it was was less than pleasant out there today!


Sunday 16th December [Overcast, then wet.]

Mark Hynam texted me at 1330 hrs to say he'd seen 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a whopping 489 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 27 Linnets Linaria cannabina and 9 Redwings Turdus ilaceus. We met up a little later to take a look a look at where we might put up some new bat boxes (reconditioned, and we think improved, by Ken Anstey), before going to the Lodge to watch the gulls coming in to roost. During that time we saw 2, probably 3, redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser, the 2 Godwits, and the regular adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, as well as a baffling Common Gull Larus canus that I picked out in the roost before it flew to preen in front of us on Tiny's Shallow. It was probably a 2nd-winter, with a white tail, but had the most extraordinarily neat and tidy hood of fine (grey?) streaking. I've seen thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Common and Mew Gulls, and many have partial hoods and finely streaked heads, but this one really stood out of the crowd. Mark, hopefully, has some video footage of it.


Monday 17th December [A lovely benign day]

I hosted a visit by Lucy Delve and her Bath U3A Bird Group at the lake today. We had a great time in the very pleasant conditions and looked at all the birds thoroughly to help the newcomers to bird watching. Amongst the resident species, we saw 4 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus (By-Brook and Keynell plus their 2 youngsters), 4 (3♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a pair of Pintail Anas acuta, and a large number of mobile Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, plus all the other regular winter visitors.


Wednesday 19th December [A lovely sunny day for the most part]

Having been busy for most of the day yesterday, and having been out walking for 8 miles around Dundry this morning, it was mid-afternoon before I got down to the lake, where I met Mark at the Lodge. About 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew around in front of us when I arrived, and Mark said he'd seen some at the Top End, while I saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the southern corner of the dam. He'd been birding from Top End, where he'd seen a Great White Egret Ardea alba. At the Lodge we got the scopes out and started to scan the gulls arriving into the roost, during which time another Great White Egret and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew in from the west. We looked through the gulls but didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

While I was walking on Dundry Hill I counted 57 Skylarks Alauda arvensis in a stubble field at ST564659.


Thursday 20th December [A changeable day with periods of rain]

I had a bit of a surprise when I got to Flower Corner this afternoon. There were 4 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus upending close to the bank. Unfortunately, it was getting a bit dismal for photography and I would have had to pop home for my camera anyway. Two of them definitely weren't ringed, but I can't be so sure about the other two. Interestingly, Steve Heaven emailed today to tell me that: "By-Brook/Keynell +2, Winkey/Winker & Amber/Stowey plus a couple of other Bewick’s all at Slimbridge this morning." I hope the four I saw today are present in the morning, though I doubt they will be, and that I get the chance to photograph their bill patterns for Steve.

Also noted this afternoon, were a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Barn Owl Tyto alba, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, and some 100-150 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.


Friday 21st December [A dry, changeable, day.]

I didn't have time to go to the lake today. However, Mark Hynam spent much of the day there and saw 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus at Burmah Road, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, and 400+ Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. Unfortunately, he also reported disturbance caused by walkers trespassing along the north shore, a drone (how topical) being flown over the lake, and to cap it all a low-flying electricity helicopter that put everything on the lake to flight. The disturbance on the shortest day of the year, means many of the birds will probably not have had enough time to feed and rest properly, and therein lies the issue for Bristol Water when faced with the clamour for access at all their waterbodies. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, we need to have quiet places for wildlife to flourish too. It wasn't so long ago when a paper was published that drew attention to catastrophic insect biomass losses in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (Hallmann CA, Sorg M, Jongejans E, Siepel H, Hofland N, Schwan H, et al. (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185809. And now, we have World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report 2018, that concerns itself with vertebrates (WWF. 2018. Living Planet Report - 2018: Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.). One of the points made in the report reads "The Living Planet Index, which measures biodiversity abundance levels based on 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species across the globe, shows an overall decline of 60% since 1970." Taken together, the two reports paint an horrific scenario for the future.


Saturday 22nd December [A dry changeable day.]

I met Mark Hynam mid-afternoon at the lake. He'd seen 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus fly past him from the dam end and land at Wood Bay before they paddled off to Rugmoor Point where I saw them later. One was a yellow-kneb and the other a black-kneb, but I could do with seeing them much closer to get an identification. I spotted the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Aythya hybrid in Long Bay, and again later in Wood Bay, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 (2 adult ♂♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and at least 400 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.


Tuesday 25th December


Reindeer, St. Paul Island, Alaska. 2012.Reindeer, St. Paul Island, Alaska. 2012.


Wednesday 26th December [Quite a pleasant, if grey, day.]

I managed to squeeze 45mins or so at the lake early this afternoon in very benign conditions. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (cos they're big and white), and noted quite a rise in Pochard Aythya ferina numbers. Mark Hynam has just texted me to say he had a wander about later this afternoon, but the only notable thing he reported was a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita among a mixed tit/crest flock. Hopefully, I'll have more time for a look around tomorrow.


Thursday 27th December [A mainly sunny, & still, day.]

It was a very pleasant afternoon for a walk, and I concentrated my effort from Top End to Holt Bay, and racked up 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, an adult ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis, and I counted circa 200 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.


Friday 28th December [Mainly overcast & still.]

There were no egrets late this afternoon, and little else of note to be honest, but I did record 4 (2♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.


Saturday 29th December [Mild]

2018 is going out with something of a wimper as far as my effort in the Patchwork Challenge at Blagdon Lake is concerned. Looks like I'll be settling for 2nd place in the Inland South League this year. During todays visit I saw the 4 (2♂) Goosanders Mergus merganser again, and about 50, or so, Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. Again, I saw no sign of any egrets, but they have been finding it increasingly difficult to find shallow margins to feed in as the water level rises. I think the level's about 78% now.


Monday 31st December [Cool]

It's time for the last post of 2018 already. Today, I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 200-300 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. However, more exciting were the sizes of the Starling Sturnus vulgaris and Gull Larus sp. roosts. The Starling roost wasn't quite on the same scale as that on the Somerset Levels, but quite impressive for all that. They tend to sneak into the reeds in small groups, without the spectacular aerial display of the larger murmurations usually associated with this species. The gulls were widely spread out over the dam end in such large numbers that I decided I didn't realistically have enough time to look through them all before it got too dark.

I'm planning to be on site before sunrise to try and get the year list off to a good start in 2019.

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