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Blagdon Lake Birds

November 2018 News

Thursday 1st November [Sunny]

I went walking with friends today, from Shepton Mallet to Croscombe taking in Ham Woods, and on to Dinder, before returning on the other side of the valley. We saw several Skylarks above Bowlish, a Woodcock in Ham Woods and a Dipper at Croscombe. I didn't visit the lake when I got back home.


Friday 2nd November [Sunny]

I went down to the lake during late afternoon and met Mark Hynam there. He'd found 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus asleep at Bell's Bush, one of which had a metal ring, but we didn't see any of the other 3 legs! Looking at the bill pattern of the ringed bird, I'm sure that it's Winkey (White BCL) back from Chew Valley Lake with his mate Winker. Also present were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 2 adult ♀ Goosanders Mergus merganser, a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, in Pipe Bay reeds. The waterfowl have started to spread out over the lake now that the boats are off, however, bank angling continues until the end of the month.


Sunday 4th November [A grey, drizzly, but mild day.]

I only had the briefest of looks this afternoon and saw several large white birds in the murk! There were 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus at Bell's Bush, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta. More news tomorrow when I'll have a proper look around.


Monday 5th November [Sunny & mild]

I spent much of the afternoon at the lake and went back to have a look at the gull roost too. I was walking towards Top End when Mark Hynam texted me that there was an interesting wader there. When I arrived, I was very pleased to see a Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria among 405 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus - another site year tick. Golden Plover is a difficult species to see each year now. We also saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus at Bell's Bush (Winkey and Winker), a ♀ Stonechat Saxicola torquata at Holt Bay and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds.

I met Mike and Jacky before we left and they told me they'd seen a Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa along the south side of the lake.


Tuesday 6th November [Some drizzle in the morning, then sunny this afternoon. Mild.]

I was out on the Cotswold edge today, on a circular walk from Coaley Peak to Uley village and back with friends. The autumn colours of the beech woods was stunning, as were some of the views. I have to say we had a lovely impromptu lunch in the Vestry Cafe at Prema Arts Centre in Uley - it is highly recommended if you're passing. The spicy red lentil and butternut squash soup with granary bread was excellent!

When I got home, I had time for a quick look at the lake before dark, and saw the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus and counted 177 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Bell's Bush. There were still 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba present, and the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta was back on Home Bay Point as well.


Wednesday 7th November [Lots of rain overnight and through the day]

I didn't fancy it much this morning, but did have a look early afternoon and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus, good numbers of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus (although I didn't count them), and an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. As it was so wet, there were good numbers of ducks out on the margins, including the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta in front of the Lodge, where there was a large flock of 30+ Linnets Linaria cannabina, and I reckon there were no fewer than 200 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis scattered about, with the majority at Top End. I looked hard at the mipits, but lightning didn't strike twice... this time!


Thursday 8th November [Mainly dry & mild]

I usually look forward to migration springing the odd surprise on us in early November, but it has been very quiet so far. Today, I found just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta, and no fewer than 420 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There was no sign of the Bewick's Swans which, it transpires, have hopped it back over to Chew.

I have been absolutely staggered by the number of Pheasants Phasianus colchicus running around the lakeside over the last few weeks. I just don't understand how the shooting fraternity get away with releasing upwards of 30 million into the British countryside every year, and expect them to have no detrimental affect on our native species. It's scandalous!


Friday 9th November [Dry until rain and wind set in as dusk fell]

I spent some time at the lake this afternoon in the company of Mark Hynam who came down the hill just behind me. He'd been to see the Crossbills at Stockhill Plantation. We had quite a careful look around but, to be honest, there wasn't anything exciting to see bird-wise. There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta prowling the lakeside margins, and at Top End we saw very little from the hide because a juvenile Peregrine Falco peregrinus was sitting out on the shore. It had an orange ring on the left leg with 2 alphanumeric symbols on it, but we just couldn't make them out in the gloom. There were hundreds of Teal Anas crecca at Burmah Road, and Mark spotted a small gull with a full hood that gave us a moment or two of excitement, but it was just another Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, albeit in summer plumage. The forecast is for a rough night, so perhaps tomorrow might bring something new.

Paul Williams also visited the lake and sent me the following news about the Peregrine "The Peregrine is ringed: orange 60. I have sent the sighting to Jez Blackburn at BTO. I’ll let you know any details." He also saw a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Green Lawn.


Saturday 10th November [Wet]

There's lots of birds at the lake, but nothing to set the pulse racing! Not even a Great White Egret this afternoon. All I have to report today was the adult ♂ Pintail Anas acuta walking about in front of the Lodge with Wigeon Mareca penelope and Teal Anas crecca. Weird! There were lots of gulls there too. I counted about 240 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus but they were a bit mobile and scattered to make a more accurate call. The water level is rising slowly which is driving off dabbling ducks now. Hopefully, lots will stick around until Monday when we do the monthly WeBS count.


Sunday 11th November [Dry & sunny]

I was out for most of the day, and got home after the sun went down behind the hill. Nevertheless, I went to the lake to see if I could find anything new, and was pleased to see 2 adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus, presumably Winkey and Winker, back at Bell's Bush. There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and lots of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End despite the rising water level. Andy Mears saw a Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta today. I'll be hoping to catch up with it tomorrow. Andy Davis thought he heard one a few days ago, but I haven't been able to find it in the meantime, not helped by the fact that I don't think I can hear their calls anymore.

Yesterday, I noticed that there was lots of debris in the form of branches etc. at the point where the feeder stream runs into the lake, so there must have been quite a lot of water coming in during the torrential rain we had on Friday night. I'll have a look at the level and check my ready reckoner when we do the WeBS count tomorrow.


Monday 12th November [Mainly dry with a shower or two]

The WeBS team did the count this morning and totted up about 4000 birds without adding in the gull roost. Highlight of the count for me was spotting the Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta at Top End, albeit distantly from the hide. Other counts and birds of note included 1148 Coots Fulica atra, 975 Teal Anas crecca, 587 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 498 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 325 Mallards Anas platyrhynchos, 2 Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. While looking for the Water Pipit it was very noticeable how many Linnets Linaria cannabina there were feeding in the weeds growing on the exposed lake bed. I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 100, but counting them would be a hugely difficult task without photos of the flocks on the wing. Full count details are on the WeBS Page.


Tuesday 13th November [Sunny & mild]

I spent a couple of hours by the lake, mainly at Top End, this afternoon and was fortunate to see a Merlin Falco columbarius that had taken a passerine, fly past the hide and off over Flower Corner with it, all the while being mobbed by Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba. For the last few days the Linnets, Pied Wagtails, Lapwings and Teal have been regularly flushed, and those of us there when it happens have not been able to spot what was causing the disturbance. Now we know! I had been watching a ♀ Wigeon Mareca penelope intently for quite a while, before it too flushed onto the water (showing its grey axillaries - boo), and this was the clue for me to look up from my scope and see the falcon. There was just one Great White Egret Ardea alba, but certainly no fewer than the 500 or so Lapwings I counted yesterday, despite the intrusions of the Merlin.

Winkey and Winker, the Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus, had decided to stay at the lake for the first of the three WWT winter co-ordinated age assessments of Whoopers and Bewick’s across the country, which made my life immeasurably easier than having to go to 'the other place' to look for them... lol.

News from Paul Williams, this evening, of the ringed Peregrine seen at Top End last Friday as follows: this bird was ringed by Merseyside Ringers as a nestling, sex unknown, on 18th May 2016 near Northwich, Cheshire. Good work mate.


Wednesday 14th November [Sunny & mild]

This afternoon there was no sign of Winkey and Winker at the lake, and it doesn't seem like they've gone over to Chew either. I'll contact WWT Slimbridge tomorrow to see if they've gone there. Hopefully, Steve Heaven will be able to spot them if they have. The rising water level will undoubtedly be a factor in their decision to leave Blagdon. I made it about 55% when I checked on Monday during the WeBS count, so it's up about 10%.

Today, I saw an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca fly east past the Lodge, saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and totted-up 390 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on my clicker. There didn't appear to be any wagtails, pipits or Linnets at Top End late afternoon, and I didn't spot anything exciting in the gull roost.

I see in this months BOC News that there was a sighting of 4 Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata at Blagdon on 27th October (a day I was away). Melanie Patch spotted them, and they constitute the sixth site record (thanks to Nick at BOC for the info.). Four were seen at Chew Valley Lake today. I also noted that a 1st-winter Caspian Gull had been reported at Cheddar Reservoir on 14th October, while I was in Trinidad, and I'm wondering now if this was potentially the same bird I saw and reported at Blagdon on on the 24th. I didn't get all the conclusive field marks unfortunately, but I had little doubt about its identity - I just couldn't really prove it. I haven't seen it since, but it could still be around.


Thursday 15th November [Mainly cloudy and grey]

Steve Heaven got back to me from WWT Slimbridge and said Winkey and Winker weren't seen there yesterday or this morning.

This afternoon at the lake there were lots of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus still, plus 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. On the way back from Top End I spotted two egrets on Holt Farm with the cattle, and for a brief moment got quite excited, but it was 'only' the Little Egrets which had hopped over the hedge. There were good numbers of gulls in the roost, but nowt out of the ordinary.


Friday 16th November [Grey & misty]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news. I went to Portland with Mark Hynam where we eventually caught up with the Pallid Swift Apus pallidus above Chesil Cove - I hope it gets accepted by the BBRC. Saw some Black Redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros there too.

Melanie Patch got back to me today as well (thanks Melanie) to say she was sure she saw 2 each of ♂ & ♀ Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata at Blagdon on 27th October.


Saturday 17th November [Sunny & cooler]

Not much to excite during my early afternoon visit. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca of note.


Sunday 18th November [Sunny & cold after early mist]

This morning I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, 6 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, plus a Dunlin Calidris alpina new in at Top End. There were a few Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Linnets Linaria cannabina also at Top End, and the number of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus grew while I was there, presumably as birds flew in off fields to bathe and rest.


Monday 19th November [Cold]

I didn't visit the lake today, but Mike Moxon emailed to say he'd seen a ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser at The Island. Cheers Mike.


Tuesday 20th November [Cold]

There were 4 unsettled, and mobile, adult Bewick's Swans Cygnus columbianus at Top End this afternoon. Unsurprisingly, they flew off towards Chew Valley Lake at 1615 hrs. Steve Heaven at WWT Slimbridge emailed me this morning to say there were "over 40 Bewick’s at Slimbridge, that’s over 40 arrivals since last Saturday." There were about 160 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End too (difficult to count as tightly bunched in places).

Tonight, my good friend Daniel Hargreaves is giving one of his entertaining, and inspirational, talks to the Somerset Wildlife Trust Mendip Hills Group at Cheddar Catholic Church Hall, Tweentown, Cheddar, BS27 3HU, [off Upper North St beyond the church], at 1930 hrs. All are welcome.


Wednesday 21st November [Cold, but sunny in the afternoon.]

We had planned to put some refurbished bat boxes up at Chew and Blagdon today, but the weather forecast was dire... So, I enjoyed a lovely couple of hours by the lake in the sunshine at lunchtime instead! What is it with the Met Office?

Anyway, I saw one each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 8 (3♂♂) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and at Top End, 195 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 65 Wigeon Mareca penelope and an adult ♂ Goosander Mergus merganser.


Thursday 22nd November [Thick frost overnight. Sunny & cold by day.]

I enjoyed a 6 mile walk around Newton St. Loe and Stanton Prior with friends this morning. I was upset at the sight of a discarded electric lawnmower on the top of a hedge along one of the back roads though! We met Wayne of NSL-Birding at the end of the walk and had a chat. After a bowl of home made soup, I went down to the lake late in the afternoon, but even the Lapwings Vanellus vanellus are clearing out and I counted just 17 today. A Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew in to roost at dusk and that's about it folks!


Friday 23rd November [Grey & murky]

I had another awayday today. A trip down the M5 to see the Hume's Leaf Warbler at Berry Head, Devon. While there, Mark Hynam and I also saw a Red-throated Diver and lots of Guillemots and Gannets, before we moved on to Broadsands where we saw a ♂ Cirl Bunting in the car park.


Sunday 25th November

I've been in bed feeling unwell for the last two days, so it was good to get a message from Mark Hynam who visited the lake today. Mind you, he didn't have much to report, just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca.


Monday 26th November

Another day sleeping, after a terrible night of coughing. So, I didn't go to the lake, but Paul Williams sent me the following news: As well as a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus at the Lodge, I saw 2 ♂ Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, then another 2 ♂ with a ♀ at Top End. The two males could have flown past when I wasn’t looking! The Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was standing on the water trough in the field on Holt Farm. At 1055 hrs I heard a Curlew Numenius arquata calling as it flew over Rainbow Point then over the dam (a first for the year, Paul, and the 143rd bird species recorded).


Wednesday 28th November [Mainly drizzly]

I finally felt well enough to get down to the lake for an hour this afternoon, although with Celia now having the lurgy, I couldn't stay too long. It had been 6 days since my last visit, so things did look a bit different. The level wasn't up much, the water was coloured by recent wind and rain. When I poked my head over the dam wall there was a ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser not far off, and the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was just along the stones too. At the Lodge, there was a large flock of Teal Anas crecca feeding with other dabbling ducks on Wookey Point, where a reasonable gull flock was also loafing. Nothing out of the ordinary though. I re-filled the empty squirrel bird feeders, but I think the birds had followed me home and were all on our patio today! At one point we had no fewer than 16 Collared Doves on the seed, not to mention the Chaffinches, Golfinches and an increasing number of House Sparrows.

Back at the lake, I stopped frequently as I worked my way towards Top End, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was with a small flock of Canada Geese Branta canadensis on Holt Farm but, again, I couldn't find anything unusual (it's all at Chew). From the hide there was a large flock of no less than 500 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus constantly wheeling in the air, and aside from a ♂ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus that just about singed my eyebrows as it scorched past the open slats, I couldn't spot what was causing all the disturbance. Even 4 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus were put to flight along Rugmoor Bank. Hey-ho, nowt to set the pulse racing, but it was good to be back on my patch!


Thursday 29th November [Wet morning, drying later.]

Nursing duties meant I left it rather late to visit the lake today. The ♀ Goosander Mergus merganser was still just off the dam wall, and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on Holt Farm as they were yesterday, but there were only 15 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus this afternoon, all on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge. Hopefully I'll get the chance for a good look around at the lake tomorrow. Surely there must be something lurking there to help me get some more points to close the gap at the top of the Inland South League of the Patchwork Challenge? There's a few species currently at Chew that could help!


Friday 30th November [A, mainly, sunny day.]

Mark Hynam and I met at The Lodge at 1030 hrs to spend the day having a good look around, and it took us until 1300 hrs just to get to Rainbow Point. I asked Mark how many species he thought we might see and he came up with 54. I thought that might be a stretch, but we were near 50 by the time we got to Rainbow Point! The fishing season finished today, and it was nice to see Jeff and Malcolm on the bank before they take their winter break. With the sun dropping behind the Mendips before 1600 hrs, we had to crack on after our chat or risk running out of daylight.

A wader that we saw in flight briefly at Holt Bay had us puzzled, and despite walking back to Green Lawn we couldn't refind it. Perhaps, it might have gone to Top End, and sure enough we found a Dunlin Calidris alpina there, but I'm not sure it was the same bird. At Hellfire Corner we found a pair of Siskins Spinus spinus in the Alders with a flock of Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis, and at Top End there was a huge flock of about 150 Linnets Linaria cannabina (several counts were made, but they kept flying up). We steadily added species to our total until we got back to the Lodge at dusk, and even then I managed to spot an adult Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in the large roost. I noted 60 species, and Mark had seen Raven Corvus corax before we met, although he missed Song Thrush Turdus philomelos seen by me. So that made it 61 species between us, which is a cracking days birding, even if we didn't see anything particularly unusual.

Noteworthy birds included 7 Goosanders Mergus merganser, circa 180 Linnets, the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Peregrine, the Dunlin and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus and the last gasp Med Gull.

Compare that with Chew 3 miles away where I've just read the following birds were seen: Lesser Scaup, Scaup, Red Kite, Common Crane, Bewicks's Swan, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Little Stint, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Jack Snipe and Water Pipit! That's taken the gloss off my day a bit. Lol.

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