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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2018 News

Wednesday 2nd May [Sunny & warm]

I had an interesting email from John Mason today that read as follows:

With the Blagdon Lake visit coming up this month, I am reminded of our day on 9th August last year looking at the bat boxes, and that I haven't reported back on my findings. I searched all the nest material and bat droppings at the time, but I kept them through the winter to see if anything else emerged. I didn't find any bat fleas in spite of collecting a lot of droppings. I think the samples from the big Schwegler boxes were too wet and foetid for fleas but they did produce a good crop of sewage flies Psychodidae. I'm not surprised that the Lesser Horseshoe droppings were flealess as their flea has not (yet) been recorded from Britain. The other samples were not large but I have collected smaller samples in the past that were productive. Most of the birds' nests were also unproductive but a few were typical tit nests heaving with fleas. All the fleas were bird fleas belonging to the two commonest species:

  • 'hen flea' Ceratophyllus gallinae gallinae
  • 'moorhen flea' Dasypsyllus gallinulae gallinulae

 (These species of bird fleas are not specific to particular hosts like some others, especially mammal fleas. Their associations are determined primarily by nest conditions. Hen fleas tend to occur in high dry nests, duck fleas occur in wet nests at ground level and moorhen fleas are intermediate in their preferences.). Thanks John.

I'm hoping to visit the lake again tomorrow, as Celia is back home again now, but we're taking each day as it comes at the moment.


Thursday 3rd May [Sunny & warm]

Another busy day today, but I found time for an hour at the lake towards dusk. Wow, what a difference a week makes! The grass in the meadows has sprung up, and many more species of tree are in leaf. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and my first 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo of the year feeding on insects off Bell's Bush as the light faded. At Top End there was a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis calling and a ♀ Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with, I think, 6 juveniles (1st brood noted), and at the dam end a flock of about 50 martins with at least 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia among them.

Phil Delve phoned during the morning to tell me he'd seen 7 Curlew/Whimbrel fly west over the dam while he was trying to photograph a Common Sandpiper. We can be relatively confident in supposing they'd have been Whimbrel but fair play to Phil, he said he wasn't sure of their identities given the view he had.


Saturday 5th May [Sunny and hot]

I got 4.5 hours off for good behaviour this morning, but had to get up at 0600 hrs to get it! Anyway, Mark Hynam joined me to survey the lakeside songsters and we counted the following of note: 47 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 29 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 20 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 20 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 7 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 3 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 2 Whitethroats Sylvia communis and just 1 Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. Sightings included a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Canada Goose Branta canadensis pair with 5 juveniles (1st brood), a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis, Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas and Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus (also reported to me by Sue Prince).

This evening I went back down to the lake at about 2000 hrs to look for Hobbies but didn't see any despite the perfect hunting conditions. However, I met Mark in the Top End hide and we had a swim-past by a lone Otter Lutra lutra before giving up and going home. A perfect end to a perfect day.


Sunday 6th May [Cloudless skies & hot, hot, hot.]

I met Ken Anstey by the lake at 0930hrs this morning and spent all day checking bat boxes with two trainees, Hannah and Charlene. The only bird of note that I saw during the day was a Tawny Owl Strix aluco. We found circa 100 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in 17 of the Schwegler boxes - there were several, probable pre-maternity, groups of females that we left alone in their boxes, so it's impossible to give a definitive count, and there were a few Pipistrelles in the Kent boxes too. We also saw an Oil Beetle Meloe sp. in Lodge Copse, probably a Violet Oil Beetle M. violaceous although I'll need to look at Hannah's photos to see if I can give a definitive ID. I got home at 1900 hrs! Knackered!


Monday 7th May [Cloudless skies & hot, hot, hot.]

I didn't visit the lake today, but Mark Hynam texted to say he'd seen 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo off of Bell's Bush this evening. I also got news from Nigel Crocker to say he'd seen a Hobby over Ubley on Saturday, and 3 Swifts Apus apus have been present since then too. Thanks to both of you.


Tuesday 8th May [Cooler & windier than the previous two days]

Not much to report from my brief mid-afternoon visit. There were 5, or so, Sand Martins Riparia riparia feeding with a small flock of House Martins Delichon urbicum in front of the Lodge.

I will be joining Richard Crompton and Sandie Sowler this evening to help them try and catch some bats with their students.


Wednesday 9th May [Warm & breezy]

I spent the day at Chew Valley Lake with Ken Anstey checking the bat boxes (see Bat News), and only had a brief look at Blagdon on the way home at tea time. I didn't see anything worthy of note.

While at Chew, I had cracking views of a Hobby Falco subbuteo taking insects at Heron's Green Bay, and found Goldilocks Buttercup Ranunculus auricomus (aka Wood Buttercup) in one of the small lakeside woodlands. I had also seen it in Holt Copse at Blagdon while checking bat boxes there on the 6th May and shown it to the ecologists we were out with.


Thursday 10th May [A cool breeze]

I didn't visit the lake today. In the evening, Mark Hynam and I joined Richard Crompton and Sandie Sowler trapping again; this time in Dowling's Wood at Folly Farm.


Friday 11th May [Cool again, with rain in the evening.]

This morning I saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus fly west over Ubley at 0930 hrs, and aside from a good number of hirundines with a few Swifts Apus apus early this evening, a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Top End was the only other bird of note that I saw. Even today, there were still at least 5 Sand Martins Riparia riparia off Green Lawn - it's been a prolonged passage this Spring.


Saturday 12th May [Sunny, but still a bit cool.]

This evening, I went to the lake and saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, the first of the year at the lake, as far as I know.

I spent the morning at Golden Valley NR, Wick, with Ken Anstey, Sonia Reali and a number of friends checking the bat boxes. Tomorrow morning, I will be surveying the lakeside for singing birds and waterbird broods.


Sunday 13th May [Sunny, with a cool breeze.]

Mark Hynam and I surveyed the lakeside birds again this morning, for 4 hours between 0645-1045 hrs. We counted 43 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 28 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 21 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 11 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 9 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, 5 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, and 3 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. Other sightings included a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Canada Goose Branta canadensis pair with 3 juveniles (presumably the depleted 1st brood), a Moorhen Gallinula chloropus with 2 juveniles at Hellfire Corner (1st brood), and 2 broods (10 & 4 juveniles) of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (2nd & 3rd broods). We also watched a pair of Hobbies Falco subbuteo, saw quite a few teneral damselfies, and the white flowering form of Bugle Ajuga reptans. Not a bad haul on a fine morning, but Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler were obvious gaps on the day list.

Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be doing my BBS square surveys, both by the lake, in squares ST5159 and ST5060.


Monday 14th May [Sunny & warm]

I managed a short visit to the lake for an hour this evening, but saw nothing to report other than a beautiful sunset!


Tuesday 15th May [Misty then sunny & warm]

I had to abandon doing my BBS square on the south side of the lake this morning. No sooner had the valley mist cleared when a cool fog rolled up the valley obscuring everything more than about 100 metres away. Annoyingly, I went down to the lake twice before 0700rs too!

I had a brief look later in the day but saw nothing of note.


Wednesday 16th May [Breezy & cloudy]

I finally managed to do my ST5159 'early' BBS square this morning. It was pretty standard fare, with nothing out of the ordinary seen or heard. I did, however, tick feral pigeon for my patch list this year! Waterbird numbers are always at their lowest at this time of year, so it's no real surprise to be struggling to bring you exciting daily news. It's more about the passerines and any successful waterbird breeding. I will to be spending most of the day with friends surveying & photographing invertebrates at the lake tomorrow, but will be looking out for passing birds as well, of course. Let's hope for some sun.


Thursday 17th May [Sunny with a light breeze]

I did my ST5060 'early' BBS square this morning and found a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata in one of the fields at the head of Butcombe Bay, which was a nice surprise. But, aside from Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and a few Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, the only other warbler I heard was a single Whitethroat Sylvia communis at Aldwick. Moreover, I saw a single Buzzard Buteo buteo at the Pumping Station, but no other raptors whatsoever on the rest of the walk!

The meadows are in a kind of inbetween period as regards flowering plants. The Marsh Orchids were a delight, but the flowers that really attract insects have yet to bloom, so although we had a lovely day surveying, there wasn't the hoped-for numbers of hoverflies from my point of view, for example. John Mason had a look for Pseudoscorpions at Holt Copse by sieving some leaf litter but didn't find any on this occasion, and he pointed out two new plants for me, Changing Forget-me-not Myosotis discolor and Fern-Grass Catapodium rigidum.

Other records of interest:

  • Micropteryx calthella (a micromoth on buttercup flowers)
  • Cochylimorpha straminea (a Tortrix moth)
  • Burnet Companion Euclidia glyphica (a day-flying moth)
  • Leucozona lucorum (a hoverfly)
  • Helophilus pendulus (a hoverfly)
  • Portevinia maculata (Ramsons hoverfly)
  • Cheilosia ranunculi/albitarsis agg. (a hoverfly)
  • Several Nomada spp. (parasitic bees) - hopefully to be determined.


Friday 18th May [Sunny & warm]

I didn't spend any time at the lake today. Instead, in the afternoon, I went to Chew Magna reservoir with a view to doing some bat trapping in the evening (by permission of Bristol Water and Knowle Anglers). See Bat News for report. I saw two broods of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (2 and 4 juveniles) and a pair of breeding Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea while I was there.


Saturday 19th May [Sunny & warm]

Another day when I didn't visit the lake I'm afraid. I did a circular walk with friends from Litton reservoirs, via Hollow Marsh, Cameley, and Hinton Blewitt in the morning. There was a brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos at Litton Res., but I didn't see anything else of special mention. I was hoping for a passing Red Kite or two, but it wasn't to be. The glorious weather made for a lovely walk though.


Sunday 20th May [Sunny & warm]

An evening visit turned up 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting over Top End, and 2 Shelducks Tadorna tadorna flying west. Tomorrow morning, we'll be carrying out the WeBS count.


Monday 21st May [Sunny & warm, with thundery showers in the evening.]

Terry Doman, Rob Hargreaves and I did the WeBS count this morning (see WeBS Page). Numbers of waterfowl were dire to say the least. We saw just 7 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula! On the plus side, there were quite a few broods now, with Mallards Anas platyrhynchos doing okay; I counted 5 totalling 31 juveniles. We saw 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and 3 fly-through Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus (unusual at this time of year). Rob and I counted Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus and got very different totals, somehow, so I'll need to count them again tomorrow.


Thursday 24th May [Wet & misty]

I've just spent 3 wonderful sunny days in PadStein, Cornwall, hence the lack of news. I drove back the scenic route along the Atlantic Highway and over Exmoor because I wanted to go to Woody Bay Station (Lynton and Barnstaple Railway) on the way home. The weather turned pretty ugly over Countisbury Hill with rain and low cloud but, as I had some spare time, I also stopped at Minehead Station where there were 3 engines in steam, but the light wasn't great for photography. I popped down to the lake after tea, hoping for a passage tern or something lost in the murk, but there was nothing for me to report. Soz.

John Harris, Bristol Water, phoned to say he was out boat fishing at Chew yesterday, and had 2 Black Terns close to the boat hawking insects.


Friday 25th May [Warm & close]

I didn't get down to the lake until the evening in readiness for a bat trapping marathon. I didn't see or hear any new birds, other than a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting at Cheddar Water, while scouting the south shore for sites to place traps. The overnight batting was, however, amazing (see Bat News).


Saturday 26th May [Warm & close, with thunderstorms later.]

Having been out batting all night at the lake and not getting to bed until 0700hrs, it was evening before I returned. It had been close all day and despite forecasts of rain from 0800 hrs it remained dry until we started to unload the batting gear in readiness for another overnight session. Then the heavens opened, and although it stopped fairly quickly as the storm passed over the Mendips, we decided it would be best not to trap so that the bats had plenty of opportunity to forage between the storms passing over.


Sunday 27th May [Very warm]

Another busy day writing the Avon Bird Report wildfowl section, was followed by a batting session at Chew Valley Lake overnight between Heron's Green Bay and Stratford. Again, we had an exceptionally good session (see Bat News), but the ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelles Pipistrellus nathusii eluded us. Needless to say, I didn't find time to visit Blagdon during the day.


Monday 28th May [Sunny & warm]

Mike O'Connor emailed to say he'd seen a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at the dam today (thanks Mike), probably while I was asleep after another dusk to dawn batting session! I've nothing to add to Mike's sighting I'm afraid. Our last trapping session before bats give birth was a little quieter than yesterday (see Bat News).


Tuesday 29th May [Overcast, with light rain this afternoon.]

I met up with Robin, John and Tony this afternoon just as the rain started at East Harptree Woods, where they had been looking for invertebrates by Smitham Pool. We decided to pop down to Blagdon for a look at the meadows where we hope to have another look around in the next week or two, now that many of the flowers are in bloom. We noted Common Blue Polyommatus icarus, John saw a Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina, and there were a number of Silver-Y Autographa gamma moths on the wing. I didn't see any new birds, although there was a small flock of a hundred or more Swifts Apus apus plus a few martins over the Lodge area. This was the first decent group I've seen at the lake this year, although I often see flocks of a thousand or more in similar conditions during May in most years. Perhaps they are late this year?


Wednesday 30th May [Muggy]

I didn't see anything new bird-wise this evening, though I did come across a grounded juvenile Rook Corvus frugilegus on the road. It was very calm and just allowed me to pick it up. I put it up on the branches of a fallen tree, but didn't see it get fed. Reluctantly, I took the decision to bring it home because it was flightless. With the bad weather forecast, and potential predators like Fox and Tawny Owl a serious threat to its safety, I decided to roost it in my garage. It immediately put its head under a wing and went to sleep! The wing feathers are in pin on one side, so it isn't ready to fly just yet, so I'll feed it tomorrow if the rain sets in, and reassess what's to do.


Thursday 31st May [Still muggy & warm]

I spent most of the morning trying to get the young Rook to feed and drink with no success at all. So, after a quick lunch, I took it down to Secret World where I hope they quickly got some food and fluid into it. My visit to the lake this evening was very brief, but I did count 18 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula - yes, the birding's that good!

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