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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2019 News

Wednesday 1st May [Warm & still]

I made a very brief visit to the lake and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End.


Thursday 2nd May [Changeable]

I spent most of the day with Ken Anstey and Steph checking bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake. What a contrast to Blagdon Lake last week. We found 19 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and 11 Hornets Vespa crabro in 9 of the boxes! We also found a dead ringed Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus (details will be passed on to CVRS).

A late evening visit to Blagdon as dusk fell turned up the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis again, at the corner of Holt Bay and Green Lawn.


Friday 3rd May [Changeable]

I didn't visit the lake today, but Mark Hynam had a quick look and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, but not the increasingly elusive Lesser Scaup.

In the evening I went with Mark to do some bat trapping in South Wales with friends Stephen and Linda. It was a really quiet session resulting in our catching just just a single Daubenton's.


Saturday 4th May [A cool breeze & a gradually improving day]

During the day I received a call to say there was a dead Mute Swan Cygnus olor at Peg's Point and this evening Mark and I met for a look. It was an adult with neck wounds that had perhaps been killed by one of the resident breeding swans.

What I assume to be the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still pottering around on the dam, and we saw our first largish flock of Common Swifts Apus apus over Rainbow Point. We hadn't seen the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis until we checked Butcombe Bay where, if he stays there when the fishing boats go out tomorrow, he will be readily seen from the public footpath from the north end of the dam. Late on, a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew east along the North Shore, but I saw one fly into the trees at Hellfire Corner at dusk, so it may have roosted overnight.


Sunday 5th May [Mainly sunny with a cool breeze]

I was out for most of the day but saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis in Holt Bay at teatime.


Monday 6th May [Plenty of sunny spells]

'Twas an early start. Out the house at 0500hrs and off to the Isle of Portland with Mark for sea-watching, and a walk around the Top Fields coupled with a visit to the Observatory looking for migrants. It was, however, pretty quiet. We saw summer-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit and Red Knot, as well as Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel and Little Tern at Ferrybridge. A Diver sp. flying west (identified as a Great Northern at the Obs.), Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Common Scoter off the Bill, and Hobby, Whinchat, Wheatear and Black Redstart of note at the south end of the island. Rather than face holiday traffic queues on the way home, we left at lunchtime and spent the afternoon at the lake.

Back on the patch, we saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and were on the point of going our separate ways at 1715 hrs by the Top End hide, when I heard the Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus making a commotion, which drew my attention to an Osprey Pandion haliaetus flying through to the west. We jumped into our cars hoping to see it from Rainbow Point and scope it, but it had just disappeared over the horizon. On my way home at 1800 hrs I noted that the ♂ Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis had relocated from Indian Country back to Holt Bay.


Tuesday 7th May

I didn't visit the lake today, but Rupert Higgins did, and he texted to say he'd seen a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End and heard a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing. He also spotted the Stitchwort Case-bearer Coleophora lutarea, a micromoth, that I recorded on 1st May 2011, and haven't recorded since. I asked if he'd seen the Lesser Scaup but he confessed to have not specifically looked for it.


Saturday 11th May

Mark Hynam had a look around today and reported that it was "very, very quiet." He didn't see any egrets or the ♂ Lesser Scaup, just 2 new broods of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos (one of 11 juvs in Long Bay and the other of 8 juvs. at Ash Tree).


Tuesday 14th May [Sunny & warm]

Mark was right, it is very quiet at the lake, as is usual at this time of year. I had a quick look this evening and saw a non-breeding Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Green Lawn, less than 10 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, and the 10 or so Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ducklings at Home Bay Point that are probably two broods. There were also single pairs of Gadwall Mareca strepera and Shoveler Spatula clypeata.


Wednesday 15th May [Sunny & warm]

I spent much of the day at Sand Point looking for invertebrates and went to the lake this evening. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, and two Canada Goose Branta canadensis broods, of 1 and 4 goslings, in Long Bay. While at Top End hide, a Great White Egret Ardea alba flew up from Rugmoor onto the top of a pine tree at Indian Country where it stood while the sun set in a blaze of red glory. I also saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly up into a Willow tree at Top End at sunset. Until they flew into the trees, both the egrets were completely hidden in the marginal vegetation which is springing up remarkably quickly.


Thursday 16th May [Sunny & warm]

I was on duty very early this morning and surveyed the lakeside for singing birds. During my round I recorded a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Top End, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, my first Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis at the lake this year, a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, and a ♂ Pochard Aythya ferina. I also saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but this was a different bird to that seen last night, as it had a completely yellow bill.

Selected counts included: 54 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 41 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 29 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 18 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 13 Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, 7 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, 6 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, and 2 each of Willow Phylloscopus trochilus and Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. The Reed Warbler count was unusually high because they were singing from Wood to Long Bays, apparently from the rye crop growing in the fields there.


Friday 17th May [Dull & overcast. Cooler.]

Although feeling under the weather, I managed to raise enough enthusiasm for a late afternoon visit, during which I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and an adult Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting at Burmah Road. It was a day dominated by the Swifts Apus apus over the lake, certainly in their hundreds, if not more.


Sunday 19th May [Threatening]

Although still full of cold and not able to get much sleep, I spent an hour or so at the lake towards dusk and saw the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta that may have roosted at Top End again.


Monday 20th May

I was unable to take part in the WeBS count this morning due to illness, but Rob, Phil and Terry kindly went ahead and recorded the very low numbers of waterfowl present currently. Their biggest species count was 239 Coots Fulica atra, and they picked up on the two families of Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea currently foraging on the dam, as well as a Terrapin - a real surprise to me. I've seen Red-eared Terrapins at Chew Valley Lake on and off since the 1990s, obviously set free in the lake by people who bought them at the height of the 'Ninja Turtle' craze, but I've never seen one at Blagdon. Details of the count are on the WeBS Page as usual.


Tuesday 21st May [Sunny & warm]

I felt better today and went down to the lake at 1400 hrs, dropping Celia off on the way to the lake. I had a look at the dam and Lodge before moving on to Green Lawn where I spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the margin that is being exposed by the falling water level. I parked up on Rainbow Point after having a quick chat to another couple of bird watchers, and started to scan Top End and the hillsides, mainly hoping to spot a passing Red Kite. I saw a good few Buzzards Buteo buteo and a Hobby Falco subbuteo, but no kites. To my utter surprise I also spotted a tern at tree top height over Top End. It was white, with long tail streamers, but clearly not an Arctic Tern. When it flew up towards me it appeared to be more the size of a Common Tern. I was puzzled though, because I saw a narrow black'ish wedge on the outer primaries but no dark trailing edge on the underwing, which appeared to be white too. The bill was narrow and long and appeared black to me at range. However, in the hour and a half or so that I paid it attention, it only flew down the lake past Rugmoor Point once, when it was almost opposite me between Rugmoor Point and Peg's Point. I thought I saw some red colour at the base of the bill and assumed it to be a Common Tern rather than an Arctic Tern, and thought I'd check its plumage features in the literature before I wrote my blog this evening, thinking it might be an immature. It was the first tern I'd seen at the lake this year! Imagine my surprise when Mark Hynam contacted me this evening to see how I was feeling and ask if I'd seen anything at the lake today. I told him I'd seen a Common Tern, and it was at this point that he told me about the events at Chew Valley Lake, where the first Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii had been seen during the morning. Now I've had time to check the literature I have little doubt it was the same bird that I had been watching, and its true identity hadn't even occurred to me, I'm ashamed to say. I spoke to the other couple when they came back past me, and they had also seen the 'swooping bird' but didn't offer an identification. I saw the bird sometime after 1400 hrs probably nearer 1430-1445 hrs by the time I got to Rainbow Point and last saw it around 1600 hrs still over Top End. I closed my eyes for a while because I had a banging headache by this time, and decided to go home at about 1630 hrs. I drove to Top End where I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba (the one with a black-tipped bill) and looked for the tern again but couldn't see it, either there or on the way back to the dam end, so concluded it must have gone. Oh dear, not my finest hour... Had I known about the tern at Chew, I might have alerted birders to the Blagdon tern, but it wasn't to be. All I can do is submit my notes and leave the decision to the records committee as to whether Blagdon had its first Roseate Tern today as well.


Wednesday 22nd May [Sunny & warm]

A couple of hours at the lake this evening only produced a Hobby Falco subbuteo of note. I watched, with fascination, as a Fox Vulpes vulpes went slowly through the marginal vegetation at Top End. Three Mallards Anas platyrhynchos caught sight of it as it walked past them within a few feet while they kept careful watch. The pair of Shovelers Spatula clypeata, also there, thought better of the situation and flew onto the water. The Fox just moved on. Later, as I drove home, I came across 4 Fox cubs too. Magic.


Thursday 23rd May [Mainly sunny & warm]

My limited time at the lake this afternoon was spent dealing with people rather than birding, unfortunately. I saw a new brood of, I think, 4 juvenile Mallards Anas platyrhynchos on the dam with mum, a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major probing the Lodge Lawn for titbits, and there was a marked increase in Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers compared with Monday's WeBS count; I saw 53 today and suspect there may have been another juvenile that I couldn't see with a pair in the marginal vegetation. I'm guessing goose numbers will slowly build now as the moult flock forms.


Friday 24th May [It clouded over as the day wore on]

There was a spectacular-looking Great White Egret Ardea alba on Rugmoor Point this evening, it was draped in the most wonderful shawl of back plumes. As usual with this species, it flew off east at dusk. Aside from the egret, the only other notes I made were of 6♂ Pochard Aythya ferina and 20 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula at Top End.


Saturday 25th May [Blustery]

I didn't visit the lake to go birding today, although I was there well before dark to meet up with the bat team because we were trapping to try and catch a ♀ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii to radio tag and find her roost. We had a pretty good night and details are on the Bat News Page.


Sunday 26th May [Drizzle until late in the day]

Having not got to bed until the early hours, I had to get up early to meet fellow members of Bristol & District Moth Group for a day meeting at the lake. Just 5 of us braved the drizzle and miserable conditions for about 4 hours. We found some nice things and it was enjoyable company. Ray Barnett (Bristol Museum) will put together a list of finds in due course (see 30 June).

Then it was home for something to eat, before preparing for a second night of batting at Chew Valley Lake with the same aim as last night. Six years of trying finally paid off at 0005 hrs (see Bat News).


Monday 27th May [Cloudy, then sunny later. A cool breeze.]

A good sleep was called for, having got home to bed for around 0515 hrs. I didn't bird Blagdon today and met up with Mark Hynam and Daniel Hargreaves (and Heidi) instead, to locate the roosting 'Naomi' in Bishop Sutton.


Tuesday 28th May [Overcast in morning & sunny later]

In the morning I went to Chew Valley Lake to relocate 'Naomi' and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta fly past at Sutton Wick. Then in the evening before going to Chew to continue radio-tracking, I had a quick look at Blagdon Lake, where I saw 2 broods of 3 and 4 Canada Goose Branta canadensis goslings at The Lodge. At Top End there were 15 Pochard Aythya ferina and 12 Tufted Ducks A. fuligula, as far as I could see.

I then went on to Bishop Sutton for another rendezvous with 'Naomi' (see Bat News) who kept me entertained until midnight.


Wednesday 29th May [Grey & drizzly]

It rained most of the day until about 1600 hrs when I went to Bishop Sutton to locate 'Naomi'. Satisfied she was still around; I drove home via Blagdon Lake where I saw the first Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood of 3 cygnets at Indian Country and counted a total of 46. Also counted, were circa 100 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 16 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and 6 Gadwall Mareca strepera. There were good numbers of hirundines and Swifts Apus apus over the lake.


Thursday 30th May [Mainly sunny with a strong breeze]

I went to the lake at lunchtime on my way back from checking the bat roost and, now I've come to write my blog, I realise that I didn't make any notes at all while I was there. There were good numbers of Swifts Apus apus over the water again, but there wasn't much else to report, except perhaps that a pair of Coots Fulica atra have nested again for at least the 5th time this Spring, after being washed out on each previous occasion! Alan Dymock told me he'd heard a ♂ Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing at Top End one day this week.

It was back to Bishop Sutton to the bat roost in the evening, but there was disappointment (see Bat News).


Friday 31st May [Early cloud then Sunny & warm]

After a morning spent working on the Avon Bird Report ducks section, and an afternoon shopping and visiting mum, I headed down to the lake after tea. However, I don't have anything to report other than the calling of 'branching' young Tawny Owls Strix aluco for the first time this year. Aside from Mallards, Canada Geese and one brood of Mute Swans, this season seems to be shaping up as the the worst yet for breeding waterfowl at the lake. An increase in the numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls Larinus marinus would appear to be one of the main causes for the decline, although Carrion Crows Corvus corone remain the principal avian egg thief.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.