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Blagdon Lake Birds

July 2019 News

Monday 1st July [Cloudy]

I saw another new Coot Fulica atra brood this evening in Home Bay but couldn't tell how many juveniles there were as they were under an adult on the nest. There were at least 6 juvenile Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus too, one of which was feeding on caddis flies (sedge flies in angling parlance) on the shoreline within a few feet of me at Green Lawn.


Tuesday 2nd July [Sunny & mainly warm]

I went walking with friends today in an area I used to run with a City of Bath AC training group around St. Catherine Valley half a lifetime ago. We walked from Batheaston, over Little Solsbury Hill (the view was stunning), Charmy Down and then back down the valley following the Two Rivers Way. I heard my first Lesser Whitethroat of the summer singing on the west side of Little Solsbury.

Rupert Higgins texted me with the news that he'd found the jewel beetle Trachys subglaber sensu stricto in one of the North Shore meadows. Its larva makes very distinctive leaf mines in the leaves of Devil's-bit Scabious, of which there is a lot around the lake, but the adult beetle is quite an elusive little creature. T. troglodytes was found by David Gibbs during his survey work in 2004, and that was likely to refer to the same species because it was split a few years later and should now be recorded as T. troglodytes sensu lato.


Wednesday 3rd July [Sunny & warm]

I was busy during the day, so didn't visit the lake until the early evening. The water level is just starting to creep downward and is probably at about 80%. There are a couple of exposed edges, but they are subject to angling disturbance from dawn, so not that useful for passing birds yet. However, the top half of the lake is getting really weedy and is attracting increasing numbers of Mute Swan Cygnus olor; I counted 71 adults and 6 juveniles. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus on the dam, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in full breeding dress at Rugmoor Point.


Thursday 4th July [Warm]

Nothing to report at the lake other than I counted 77 Mute Swans Cygnus olor again.


Friday 5th July [Warm]

I thought I'd count Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula today. I made it 165.


Sunday 7th July [Warm}

I received a call from Chris this evening. He was watching a 'white' gull on Herriott's Pool at Chew Valley Lake. I rang Rich Mielcarek to see if he knew anything about it, but he didn't, so I went over to have a look. Chris and I had a good look and chat about it, during which time Rich turned up too. We eventually decided that it was probably a leucistic Herring Gull owing to it's head shape as much as anything, although Lesser Black-backed would be another contender. It was a strange-looking creature to be sure.

Mark Hynam had a quick look at Blagdon and saw a new brood of Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus (the 3rd, I think) with 2 tiny juveniles riding on their mums back. Then we met up with Ken Anstey to count some bats emerging from boxes at the lake (see Bat News). We saw a single Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca after dark while we were there.


Monday 8th July [Warm & sunny] WeBS Count

Phil Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I did the WeBS count this morning, during which time I was lucky enough to add 2 new species to my lake year list. The first was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius on the dam wall, and the second was a Red Kite Milvus milvus that dropped in over Holt Farm while they were cutting the organic rotation rye/legume crop. That operation attracted quite a few Buzzards Buteo buteo and Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus too. The worry was that the numerous Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and odd Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus that nested in the crop this year may not have had time to get their young off the nest yet. I first noted that numbers had taken up territory in the crop on the 16th May, and with an average incubation period of 8-13 days and a fledging period of 9-13 days for Reed Warblers, I'm hopeful that most first broods will have succeeded. Any second broods will undoubtedly have been lost though. Other notable sightings included a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis seen by Phil, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (see WeBS Page for count details).

I saw my first Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum at the lake this year, and noted that the 6-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae numbers have been really low, possibly as a result of the cold and wet spring. Conversely, Marbled White Melanargia galathea and Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina numbers are excellent.


Tuesday 9th July [Warm & sunny]

An evening visit produced just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.


Wednesday 10th July [Warm with a good deal of cloud]

Another evening visit, and it was evident that a few birds had been on the move overnight. I saw no fewer than 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and an adult Redshank Tringa totanus on the dam. There were also 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying to and from Holt Farm. So, we can hopefully add a few waders to the year list as the summer and autumn advances because there's a big gap at the moment. The water level is dropping slowly, so it's fingers crossed now.


Thursday 11th July [Mainly cloudy. Warm with occasional drizzle.]

I had an interesting and enjoyable day out with a couple of friends, Chris and Ron, on Exmoor. We went down to look for Heath Fritillaries, but failed again (on my third attempt) mainly due, I think, to the cloud cover and by just missing their flight period. We did see Golden-ringed Dragonly, and heard Siskins regularly during our visit. On the way home we visited the stunning Stogumber Flower Meadow, and WSR station just down the road. Both are well worth taking a day out of your life to go and see (do a quick Google search for more information and some videos).

Back at the lake in the evening the best I could muster were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, on my way to count a bat roost emergence.


Friday 12th July [Warm]

Today I spent most of my time with family, but did get to the lake in the evening. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 3 more in Home Bay, with 2 Redshanks Tringa totanus also on the dam. At last light, I caught sight of a Tawny Owl Strix aluco in one of the copses carrying a prey item.


Saturday 13th July [Mainly cloudy & warm]

Mark Hynam spent the late afternoon and evening at the lake, and texted me that he'd seen a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus hunting on a couple of occasions before I got there, after tea. Thankfully, I duly saw it with him later. We spent a while on Rainbow Point just chilling, and 2 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus duly flew down the lake calling. We later found them on Green Lawn, where there was also a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in addition to 2 more on the dam. Mark saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that may have been the same as, or we saw another, that later went to roost at the lake.

Back at the Lodge, we found a new bat roost that may just be that of a Nathusius Pipistrelle, but we didn't manage to confirm it for sure this evening. It came out, did a circuit of the Oak tree, went back to the roost and sat in the entrance for ages before, we think, going back inside until we gave up waiting for it to come out again!


Sunday 14th July [Sunny & hot out of the breeze]

I met Mark Hynam shortly after 0800 hrs to have a good look around this morning. We cleared up some plastic (a balloon in Long Bay, and some lunch items at the boat quay) before going for a walk. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Moorhen Gallinula chloropus with 2 chicks at the Lodge, and an adult Common Tern Sterna hirundo in Home Bay just at the start. When we got to Green Lawn we found another Common Sandpiper, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, then at Top End I saw a probable ♂ Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope in front of the hide briefly (not sure enough to submit a record), then on our way back a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus floating over Bell's Bush towards the hide where a photographer had just gone in. While at Bell's I saw a Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata which is dragonfly I see less than annually here. On the way back to the Lodge we saw 3 new-generation Comma's Polygonia c-album and a Grass Snake Natrix natrix.

Mark texted later to say he'd reviewed the video he made last night and spotted a ring on the right wing of the bat we suspected might be a Nathusius Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii, so it looks like we have got a new ('lekking') roost. Good spotting by Mark last night while we were checking another emergence point.

This evening I saw 7 Common Sandpipers come together at a communal roost.


Monday 15th July [Hot & sunny]

I only had time for the briefest of visits this evening, but it was well worthwhile. I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Stonechat Saxicola torquata, a Common Tern Sterna hirundo and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that stayed to roost, as it did last night.


Tuesday 16th July [Hot & sunny]

I managed to grab an hour by the lake late this afternoon and almost the first creature I clapped eyes on at the boat quay was a ♂ Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope (dragonfly). I got my camera out, but despite waiting around for another hour, I only saw the dragon 4 more times and didn't even manage to get a record shot. Hopefully it'll stick around and I'll get another chance. On the bird front, I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta of note.

When I got home, I noticed a large crab spider walking across my windscreen when I parked in the driveway. I looked around for some paper in the car to move it onto a flower head, but when I turned around it had gone. Imagine my surprise when it reappeared moments later being carried by a spider-hunter wasp that was stinging it's opisthosoma (abdomen) to paralyse it, before it started to remove the spiders legs. After a few moments, and with the spider paralysed, the wasp tried to take off with its prize, although it was having difficulty with the weight it was carrying. If it managed to get airborne it would take the spider back to a burrow and lay an egg on it. The paralysed spider would then be a fresh larder for the hatching wasp larva...

This evening, despite some high wispy cloud, I got a reasonable shot of the partial eclipse of the moon from the back door:


Partial Lunar eclipse. 16th July 2019.Partial Lunar eclipse. 16th July 2019. 


Wednesday 17th July [A little cooler]

As so often at the moment, my daily visit was pushed back to this evening. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking around and saw 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos gathering to roost on the anchored platform in Home Bay. They were joined by the 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca. The number of, mainly ♂, Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula seems to be building steadily, and it seems like the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus have had a successful breeding season with plenty of juveniles turning up. Since the rye has been cut on Holt Farm, they have been spreading liquid manure onto the stubble. This initially attracted lots of gulls and corvids, but I noticed this evening that there were 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus as well. The corvid roost is really starting to build, and many hundreds of Jackdaws Coloeus monedula and Rooks Corvus frugilegus are flying over the lake in the evenings to roost.


Thursday 18th July [Cool & breezy with afternoon sun]

I had time to get down to the lake late this afternoon, and spent quite a bit of the time looking for the Lesser Emperor dragonfly I saw at the Lodge on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the strong breeze was blowing across the front of the Lodge and there was very little flying there. So, I had a look into Home Bay where there was more shelter, and I spotted a few Emperor Anax imperator dragonflies on the wing, but no sign of the Lesser. Equally, I was hoping to spot a few Small Red-eyed Damselflies after last years arrival, but there's been no sign so far.

There's very little to tell about the birds, just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Home Bay.


Sunday 21st July

The pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca were on the boat quay and 1 or 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were present at dusk and went to roost.


Wednesday 24th July

One, or more, Little Egrets Egretta garzetta roosted again this evening.


Thursday 25th July

I was really surprised to see 6 adult Greylag Geese Anser anser in Wood Bay late morning, as well as 2 Teal Anas crecca, and the usual pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.


Saturday 27th July

There were at least 30 Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake, although I suspect it was more a case of several small groups going through while I was there. There were 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and I counted 44 Pochard Aythya ferina at Top End. I noted that one of the successful Mute Swan Cygnus olor parents was sporting a yellow darvic ring Yellow BJB, a 1st-winter ♀ ringed at Abbotsbury in Dorset on 6th October 2011, and first noted at Blagdon by me on 2nd November 2013. A few Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea plants have grown in a couple of the south side hay meadows this year and I was really pleased to see a few Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae larvae on them, the first I've seen in a while here.

In the evening a small group of us ran some harp traps and lures as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project. While we were batting we saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo and Tawny Owl Strix aluco.


Sunday 28th July

I had time for a look around with Mark Hynam today, and we saw one each of Green Tringa ochropus and Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.


Monday 29th July

Mark Hynam reported 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a dark, seemingly all-brown, raptor that flew over Top End that he was unable to identify positively as he was watching it from behind.



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