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Blagdon Lake Birds



July 2018 News

Sunday 1st July [Warm & sultry]

I met Mark Hynam at 0530 hrs for a look around the lake this morning. We found 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 15 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 5 Teal Anas crecca and saw a ♂ Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo at Top End. There has been a small increase in Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula numbers, but it's still quiet as far as wildfowl are concerned.

Mike O'Connor emailed to say he'd seen a Red Kite Milvus milvus circling for 2-3 minutes just up the road near Yeo Valley HQ this morning, before it headed off towards the south side of the lake and out of sight.

 

Monday 2nd July [Hot]

I got down to the lake rather late this evening, and while I was checking over the dam, Mark appeared. He'd been having a look around, and had seen a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and circa 12 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. As dusk was rapidly falling, we decided to go straight up onto the Mendips again, and found a third pair of Nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus.

I had been out earlier in response to a call from Sarah Lynett because a Swift Apus apus had flown into Ubley village hall at around 1400 hrs and had been flying around near the ceiling for much of the time until I got there at 1900 hrs. Anyway, I eventually netted it while it was clinging to a ceiling support beam, and we released it back outside with the other local swifts and watched it fly off strongly. Thanks to Sarah for her call, and being prepared to give up her time until the bird was safely removed.

Tomorrow, I am going to help Dr. Dani Linton at Wytham Woods, with Ken Anstey and two of our bat handling trainees. It will be a long day, and I doubt that I will get down to the lake as well. So, any bird news would be gratefully received!

 

Tuesday 3rd July [Warm & sunny]

A long, hot, day at Wytham Woods checking bat boxes resulted in our little group spotting just 3 Pipistrelles in 2-off 1FF boxes. Another crew found a maternity group of 40 Natterer's Myotis nattereri, including 19 juveniles. We also saw a roosting Barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus while we were there - an unexpected bonus. Thanks to Dani, as ever, for having us.

There was no news from the lake.

 

Wednesday 4th July [Some spits & spots of rain. Cloudy & warm.]

I went down to Exmoor this morning with photographer Chris Hooper, but spitting rain turned persistent and became quite heavy as I drove back up the motorway from Taunton. When I got within a couple of miles of home, the ground was virtually dry. It had by-passed Blagdon. Unfortunately, our mission was to photograph butterflies, but it was pretty hopeless in the circumstances. Nevertheless, it was really kind of Chris to take me out.

This evening I spent an hour and a half at the lake. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a few Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rugmoor Point. But, finding 28 Pochard Aythya ferina back at the lake, as well as another successful brood of 5 juvenile Mallards Anas platyrhynchos at Top End were the more noteworthy sightings.

 

Thursday 5th July [Hot & sunny]

I had a very quick look at the lake this evening and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam plus 4 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn. Then, I went over to Chew Valley Lake to count the emergence from a bat roost with Ken Anstey and Mark Hynam.

 

Saturday 7th July [Baking hot]

It was way too hot to go traipsing about at the lake looking for birds during the day. However, this evening I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, but Mark told me he'd seen at least 4, possibly 6. There were more Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula present than during my last visit, but they were put into the air by two separate firework displays!

 

Sunday 8th July [Hot]

I was down at the lake by 0700 hrs this morning and met Mark Hynam, so we walked to the Top End hide and back from the Lodge. We saw 12 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, more than 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and the first Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus of the year. So, things are on the move and there are some small margins at the lake to attract shorebirds, but we need it to drop some more yet. At Lodge Copse, I saw a juvenile Siskin Spinus spinus, then at Holt Bay we heard a singing Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, the first since two passage birds in spring. I was wondering what had happened to them this year.

 

Monday 9th July [Hot, hot, hot.]

This evening I saw 3 Redshanks Tringa totanus (an adult and 2 juveniles, I think) on the dam, but couldn't find a Common Sandpiper for love nor money. There were about 40 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn and Holt Farm, 6 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis (5 adults and a juvenile) in Long Bay, and I counted 60 Mute Swans Cygnus olor (16 juveniles).

Earlier in the day I had a quick look at Chew Magna reservoir to see how much the water level has fallen. As it happens, it is still quite full. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the spillway, and heard a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus call from somewhere behind the dam. However, the real surprise was spotting a ♂ Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope patrolling the NE corner of the dam, viewable from Battle Lane, between 1210-1240hrs or so. The last time I saw this migrant dragonfly was at Blagdon Lake in 2006, during a general influx into the country.

 

Tuesday 10th July [Less hot with a breeze]

I spent most of the day at WWT Steart Marshes with our invertebrate group, more about which later. This evening I went to the lake and saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Home Bay. John Mason, one of our group of friends who meet up regularly during the summer to go on invertebrate forays, found a road casualty Grey Heron Ardea cinerea a while ago and brought a claw with him to show me the comb on one of the toes that is presumed to be used to wipe fish slime etc from their feathers. It's not something I've seen before, and I thought I'd share a photo for the birders among you.

 

Claw comb of a Grey Heron. With thanks to John Mason.Claw comb of a Grey Heron. With thanks to John Mason.

 

At Steart I didn't see too much of interest before we took lunch in the Quantock hides watching young Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta and Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus. However, late in the day, we went to Wall Common and spent a fascinating hour watching bees which, at the time, we thought were probably Coast Leafcutter Bees Megachile maritima. According to Steven Falks' Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland they use the leaves of birches, willows and Hound's-tongue to make their cells. Our bees were using the leaves of Dandelions Taraxacum agg. and I now think they were Silvery Leafcutter Bees Megachile leachella in a large, noisy, nesting aggregation. 

 

Thursday 12th July [Less warm again & cloudy]

I was supposed to be going to Exmoor again today, but rain put paid to that for the second week in a row - the weird thing is, we've barely had a drop at home. Anyway, I did visit the lake this evening and saw 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Rugmoor Bay (the point is now exposed), 39 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Holt Farm and Rugmoor Point, and 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Green Lawn and Home Bay Point. The Coot Fulica atra numbers are starting to build too.

 

Friday 13th July [Warm & close. Thundery with a brief but heavy rain shower!]

The best sighting on a brief visit this evening was a couple of Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus on Green Lawn. They were backed up by no fewer than 7 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, an unidentified distant egret that was probably a Great White Ardea alba, and a flock of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

I moved on afterwards to meet up with our Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project team, bat trapping at Litton lower reservoir.

 

Saturday 14th July [Warm & sunny]

Mark Hynam had a look around the lake today, and spotted a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 50+ Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

 

Sunday 15th July [Warm & sunny]

I had a look around this evening with Mark Hynam, and we saw a 2nd-year Common Gull Larus canus at a distance with great white patches in its wings, that flew off when we tried to approach it for a better view. There were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus and 58 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, as well as a new singing Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus at Long Bay (the other one was still at Holt Bay). Tomorrow, we will be doing the monthly WeBS count.

This afternoon, a ♂ Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo flew into the lounge through the open patio doors. Quite a remarkable event given that they are associated with clean running water, and we live 350 feet up a hill with no stream nearby! Perhaps, they are being forced to move around the countryside more, as the local hill streams dry up. It is a splendid looking species, and I was able to let it settle on a finger while I walked it back outside.

 

Monday 16th July [Warm, with some cloud & a shower late afternoon.]

Phil Delve, Terry Doman, Rob Hargreaves and I did the WeBS count this morning. Top birds were a Mandarin Aix galericulata, probably an adult ♂ in eclipse (5th site record), 2♂ Ruff Calidris pugnax, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba flying west over the dam, and 8 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. There has been an increase in Coot Fulica atra numbers to 825, and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula to 264 (virtually all ♂♂). See WeBS Page for details of count. The Mandarin was still present this evening, and I saw 2 Sand Martins Riparia riparia over Top End. The water level is about 72% now.

 

Tuesday 17th July [Warm, some rain.]

I had to go to visit a local church to survey their bats this evening, and took Mark with me to help count and video the emergence. Before that, we met at the lake and spent 45 mins looking for new birds. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a ♂ Ruff Calidris pugnax, but couldn't spot the Mandarin Duck we saw yesterday in the time available.

 

Wednesday 18th July [Warm, with sunny spells.]

It was quite quiet at the lake this evening. Mark and I saw 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a single Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and about 40 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, although the latter were well scattered and difficult to tot up. There were 11 Teal Anas crecca at Rugmoor Bay, missed on the WeBS count, and a handful of Gadwall Anas strepera around the Top End, but no sign of the Mandarin again.

 

Thursday 19th July [Warm]

My evening visit turned up a juvenile Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus on the dam with Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and at least 38 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I should be able to get to the lake tomorrow morning for a look around, and will be batting each night over the weekend at the Bristol reservoirs.

 

Friday 20th July [Warm]

I didn't manage to get to the lake this morning, but this evening I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus. I moved on then to Chew Magna reservoir where we carried out a short batting session until the rain set in. We'd caught 13 bats of 3 species by the time I called it off. We couldn't afford for the gear to get too wet with two more sessions planned this weekend.

 

Saturday 21st July [Warm & sunny]

This evening, I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at various points around the dam end, and 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in flight over the lake. Seven of us assembled to run 3 harp traps and a net to catch bats at Top End, and we had a pretty good session (see Bat News). The best capture was, as we were about to pack up, an adult ♂ Brandt's Bat Myotis brandtii brought to the processing station by Daniel (only our second site record). Phil Delve also used my generator to run his Robinson moth trap at Flower Corner where we based ourselves. He had a pretty good return I believe, and he'll send me a list that I'll post here when I receive it. As we were packing up the last trap at 0400 hrs, we heard a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus give a couple of flight calls in the early dawn light.

Tomorrow, we move on to Chew Valley Lake to trap overnight.

 

Sunday 22nd July [Warm]

A brief visit on the way to Chew Valley Lake for a batting session this evening, turned up 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

The batting was disappointing at Chew, probably due to the clear skies and bright moon, although it did remain warm (see Bat News for catch details).

 

Monday 23rd July [Warm & sunny]

This evening the island (Tiny's Shallow) has well and truly risen above the waves in front of the Lodge and there are birds starting to use it for lounging and feeding. So, hopefully, we might start to see a few waders dropping in there. I spotted the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata again, sitting on a branch above the water at Top End, and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus and 46 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at various points around the shoreline.

 

Tuesday 24th July [Hot & sunny]

I was out photographing invertebrates for a good part of the day at Worley Hill Nature reserve on the Poldens (owned by Millfield School). Like everywhere else at the moment, the hillside was burnt to a crisp and all we could find there were a few Mottled Grasshoppers. The woodland rides were much more productive, however, and we saw a good selection of butterflies and other creatures, although I could only find 4 hoverfly species, which was a disappointment. Here are a couple of pictures taken today:

 

 

A tick, probably the Castor Bean Tick Ixodes ricinus & a jumping spider probably Heliophanus flavipes © Nigel Milbourne 2018

The tick turned out to be particularly appropriate, I picked up 3 during my visit! It's been a terrible year for them this year.

Back home on the ranch, I saw the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata, a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, about 25 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. There was also a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with a single smallish duckling in Long Bay, the remains of a late brood.

 

Wednesday 25th July [Warm & sunny]

This evening I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, circa 18 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, and the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata briefly.

Small Red-eyed damselflies were found at Chew Valley Lake by Rupert Higgins yesterday, so it'll be worth a concerted effort to see if they've made it to Blagdon too. I couldn't see any this evening, but it was a bit late in the day. They are a fairly recent colonist and I remember going to see them on the ponds at the massive Bluewater shopping complex in Kent a few years ago. Richard Mielcarek also told me he'd seen the Southern Migrant Hawker at Waldegrave Pool at Priddy yesterday, so I might go and have a look for that too.

 

Thursday 26th July [Hot & sunny]

There's not much to tell about the birds at the lake today, save for a 3rd-year Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, at least one Sand Martin Riparia riparia, and the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata.

I was amazed to find Small Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma viridulum at the boat quay, the first place I decided to look this afternoon. There was a pair in tandem with the ♀ ovipositing, and at least 2 other adult ♂♂. I didn't have time to look for others today, but will tomorrow, because I then went up to Priddy to look for the Southern Migrant Hawker (aka Blue-eyed Hawker) Aeshna affinis reported to be there a few days ago. Luckily, it was still present and showing well along the roadside edge of Waldegrave Pool.

 

Small Red-eyed Damselfly ovipositing, Boat Quay, Lodge. 26th July 2018.Small Red-eyed Damselfly ovipositing, Boat Quay, Lodge. 26th July 2018.

 

 

Friday 27th July [Hot & breezy]

At lunchtime I saw a Greenshank Tringa nebularia at Bell's Bush, but didn't look for the Mandarin Duck. The water level continues to drop rapidly and the island in front of the Lodge is almost joined with the bank and, therefore a spit.

I saw 4 or 5 ♂ Small Red-eyed Damselflies Erythromma viridulum at the boat quay and took Mark Hynam up to see the Southern Migrant Hawker (aka Blue-eyed Hawker) Aeshna affinis which is still showing incredibly well.

Looks like its going to be cloudy tonight after all this incredible weather, which means photos of the 'Blood Moon' is going to be out.

 

Small Red-eyed Danselfly, Quay, Lodge. 27th July 2018.Small Red-eyed Danselfly, Quay, Lodge. 27th July 2018. 

Blue-eyed Hawker, Waldegrave Pool, Priddy, Somerset. 27th July 2018.Blue-eyed Hawker, Waldegrave Pool, Priddy, Somerset. 27th July 2018.

 

Saturday 28th July [A bit cooler than of late with heavy showers]

With the changeable weather I thought it worth going down to the lake a bit earlier than of late. As predicted last Monday, there was a moulting adult Dunlin Calidris alpina and 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius on Tiny's Shallow, while the adult Greenshank Tringa nebularia and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus were on Wookey Point at Top End. I didn't spot the Mandarin Duck, but it may have relocated given that the water has now drained from the Top End trees as the level continues to go down rapidly.

This evening, Mark Hynam spotted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Home Bay Point, and we both saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on Rugmoor Point, and the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata at Wookey Point (no leg rings).

 

Sunday 29th July [Heavy showers]

Overnight rain that continued into the morning made me decide to go down to the lake at lunchtime, in the hope that some new birds may have dropped in. On the dam there was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and at the Lodge there was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius and Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus yellow D:DX, which was a good start, but thereafter I didn't see anything new. There was a returning adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis loafing on Rugmoor Point, a few scattered Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and the adult Greenshank Tringa nebularia and adult Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus were at Top End.

 

Monday 30th July [Showers]

I spent most of the day with old work friends walking in the vicinity of the Orchardleigh Estate. So, it was quite late this evening when I went down to the lake. I saw 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius in front of the Lodge, 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on Rugmoor Point, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata at Top End. Hopefully, there'll be some more sunshine tomorrow, then I can get down to the lake to look for invertebrates and passing migrant birds. The water level has dropped to about 64% now.

 

Tuesday 31st July [Warm & cloudy]

At the Lodge this evening, the 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius were still in front of the Lodge, and there was a ringed Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus on Tiny's Shallow:

  • Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, 2nd year, Red K+H, a ♂, ringed in Bristol on 30 June 2016. This is the first sighting since then.

 In Home Bay I saw a pair of Moorhens Gallinula chloropus with 3 late juveniles, and on Holt Farm circa 45 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I noted just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on Rugmoor Point, whilst a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and the ♂ Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata were at Top End.

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