Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Blagdon Lake Birds

October 2019 News

Thursday 3rd October [Overcast with showers. Breezy.]

Having been away for a couple of days in East Devon, my visit today was one of anticipation again. The water level had come up slightly, so still no real areas to attract flocks of waders. There were 31 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, to be fair, but they were only backed up by 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Pintails Anas acuta and 7 Wigeon Mareca penelope of note.


Monday 7th October [Showers & windy]

I had a look around the lake at lunchtime and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, an adult Greylag Anser anser and 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at the Lodge, 47 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 119 Pochards Aythya ferina and 9 Pintails Anas acuta at Top End. Mark ventured down to the lake this afternoon and added a count of 53 Lapwings, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and a ♀ Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. There were several hundred House Martins Delichon urbicum still over the lake today.

I went to East Sussex over the weekend to catch Nathusius' Pipistrelles at Rye Harbour with friends Sally-Ann Hurry and Roger Jones, Daniel Hargreaves, Mark Hynam and Sam Olney. There wasn't any evidence of bats migrating through however, because other teams at Oare, Stodmarsh, Sandwich Bay, and Dungeness didn't do any better than us despite being further east on the coast. We caught about 20 bats over the two evenings, including 11 Nathusius' Pipistrelles, plus Natterer's, Daubenton's and a Brown Long-eared Bat.


Tuesday 8th October [Sunshine & showers]

Most of my day was spent at Chew Valley Lake today doing the last round of bat boxes for the year with Ken Anstey. We found 3 species of bat in the boxes. While I was there, I saw Great White, Little and 3 Cattle Egrets, plus a couple of Green Sandpipers.

I had a look at Blagdon Lake on the way home, and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and 45 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus of note, but no hirundines at either lake today.


Thursday 10th October [Showers]

The water level is slowly rising and there are few decent margins now. In addition, this week has seen Pike fishermen at the lake which brings additional disturbance to the wildfowl. Consequently, what has been a pretty dismal year for birding is unlikely to get any better as the year draws to a close. Today, I saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 39 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 31 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii on Holt Farm, and a single Pintail Anas acuta among the usual suspects at Top End.


Saturday 12th October [Mainly dry & overcast after early rain]

The water level continues to rise, but I had the pleasure of finding an adult ♀ Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a new bird, following the two juveniles that have spent so much of the autumn at the lake. There was a surprise, late, Hobby Falco subbuteo over Long Bay. Other notable birds included 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 3 Pintails Anas acuta, and I counted 140 Pochards Aythya ferina too.


Sunday 13th October [Wet early, becoming dry & breezy later.]

We did a short 3.5 hour bat trapping session at Chew Valley Lake in the evening and caught just 16 bats, a poor return given the activity we witnessed. While at Chew we saw 6 or 7 Cattle Egrets, as well as Great and Little alongside them, and a Black Swan at Heron's Green.


Monday 14th October [Mainly overcast with rain on & off]

Phil, Rob and I carried out the WeBS count this morning during which I actually got a year tick! The Black Swan Cygnus atratus that I'd seen at Heron's Green (see) yesterday, was spotted off the dam by Phil as we met up for the count, and not long afterwards, 2 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria flew east over the lake calling. Aside from the new birds, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and a pair of Pintail Anas acuta were the best of the rest. See WeBS Page for count details.


Tuesday 15th October

There was no sign of the egrets today, even they have left with the rising water, but I saw 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm.


Wednesday 16th October

The only birds of note today were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.


Friday 18th October

There was just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam today. The level continues to rise and many of the dabbling ducks are leaving - all the Teal have gone this week for instance.


Saturday 19th October [Warm sunshine]

I took a walk along the south side of the lake looking for migrant passerines this afternoon but had no luck. There were very few small birds at all in the copses to be honest. There were still a few Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta on the wing and I saw a Sympetrum sp. too. Birds of note included the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, 107 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, singles of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a single adult Common Gull Larus canus.


Tuesday 22nd October [A lovely sunny day, by & large.]

I spent the day at the lake checking bat boxes with Ken and Mark. We found 22+ Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus and a Lesser Horseshoe Rhinolophus hipposideros, as usual, and one box that had quite a few orange Batbugs Cimex pipistrelli in it. We saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a flock of 17 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying east, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds while we were there. I bumped into Rupert Higgins who was mapping the marginal vegetation around the lake. He told me he'd seen 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago in Holt Bay and heard several Skylarks Alauda arvensis passing over during the morning. Later, he texted me to say he'd heard a Bearded (Tit) Reedling Panurus biarmicus calling at Pipe Bay, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Home Bay. He also spotted some Birch Catkin Bugs Kleidocerys resedae at Bells Bush.


Wednesday 23rd October [Foggy, then gradually deteriorated to rain by dusk]

Ken Hall sent me the following account of his visit to the lake today: As I mentioned on the phone, I went down to the lake this morning, the first time for ages, and walked from the Top End to Green Lawn and back. Of note were a ♂ and 2♀ Pintails Anas acuta at Top End, a Great White Egret Ardea alba also at Top End with, maybe, a second at Rugmoor Point with 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I also saw circa 20 Common Gulls Larus canus, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in flight at Holt Bay, with presumably the same a bit later on the fields behind Green Lawn, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in willows near Bell's Bush. At 3.15 I saw, very briefly from what you call Flower Corner, a harrier fly-past the west end of the wood by the Top End hide and away towards the hide and out of sight. I assumed it was going to be a Marsh Harrier until I saw the narrow white rump. I then picked it up miles away on the far side as far as Rugmoor Point, where I lost it. It must have returned as about 10 minutes later it passed in front of me again, now heading towards Bell's Bush. I waited until 1630 hrs, but it never reappeared, so I didn't get more than these very brief views. It was obviously a harrier, basically all fairly dark brown above and below, and across the wings, with a long tail. The narrow white rump was very obvious as it went past, and I just about glimpsed a paler area on the face. The main contrast in the wing was a tawny wash across the upper-wing-coverts. I assume that it was a Hen Harrier ♀ or juvenile, although these days I suppose one has to consider Pallid, a species I have never seen (apart from a distant adult ♂ in Africa). Maybe it will reappear, one can only hope.

Update from Ken as follows: I can add one mea culpa and a clarification. First, the times I gave were an hour out. I actually first saw the bird at 14.15, and I left the lake at 15.30 (and rang you just afterwards (15.43 - check your phone). I use a small tape-recorder to make notes in the field, and it was still set to French time, my having not long returned from there! The other thing is that for long periods in the afternoon there was a Buzzard with extensively white underparts perched in the pine trees between Rugmoor Point and the Top End (Indian Country). I saw it several times, not always quite in the same spot, and I imagine that it could well have been the bird that Tony and Tim saw. It, or a bird like it, has been around the lake for some time, I believe.

Thanks Ken, and yes, I can confirm the pale Buzzard has been around the Top End for quite some time.


Thursday 24th October [Mainly sunny]

The only birds of note that I saw late this afternoon were the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago fly out from the marginal vegetation at Polish Water.

Further to yesterday's sighting of the harrier by Ken, I received this email from Tony Warren (and Tim Joy): Further to your comment in Blagdon Lake Birds of Wednesday, October 23, a colleague and I were in the hide adjacent to Wookey Point at circa 2.45 pm this afternoon (Thursday). The light was exceptionally good. A Harrier appeared directly in front of and close to the hide, flying seemingly fast from the direction of the Top End towards Bell's Bush, where it was lost to sight. Some 15 to 20 minutes later it reappeared, flying in the opposite direction and quite low; it was lost to view behind the bull rushes in front of and to the right of the hide. On both occasions, the bird was so low that we did not have a view of the underwing. We stayed on for thirty minutes or so, but we did not see it again. In the short time of viewing, the most obvious features were the broad, very white in the sunlight, rump, the tail length, the barring on the tail and the overall dark brown of the upper wing. We assumed that it was a Hen Harrier; neither of us has the experience to suggest whether or not it could have been a Pallid Harrier. After these initial sightings, a raptor settled on and off in the trees on the far bank of the lake and directly opposite the hide. At that distance and having only binoculars with us, we could only say that the breast was pale; we assumed it was one of the many colour variants of the Buzzard.

I'd like to thank you for getting in touch, Hen Harrier is a rare bird at Blagdon, the last being a ringtail seen by Chris Vines on 17th Oct. 2004. I hope you'll submit your notes to the local rare bird panel for consideration, as I'm sure Ken will.


Friday 25th October [Overcast & showery]

Tony Warren contacted me again today with the following information: Further to my email of yesterday evening, I have been looking again at Ken Hall's comments and at the lake map. I now realise that the 'second bird' to which I made reference was located between Rugmoor Point and Top End - an area where Ken Hall had identified the Harrier - and very close to the shoreline. This 'second bird' perched at no great height in one of the trees; we watched it there for some 45 minutes or so, during which time it made occasional sorties. I should have mentioned yesterday that, when this 'second bird' did fly, it stayed relatively low, flying more or less parallel to the ground. Unfortunately, on each excursion, it was rapidly obscured by the trees. It repeatedly returned to the tree from which it had flown; perhaps it is still in the area.


Saturday 26th October [Grey, very wet & quite cool.]

The weather was pretty miserable, and I can't say I really enjoyed my lunchtime visit. Best bird was a Great White Egret Ardea alba that continues to cling on at the lake. New birds were 7 Wigeon Mareca penelope at Top End, and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus that was squealing in Pipe Bay reeds. It was really difficult to see the birds along the North Shore with any clarity, but I did notice a really good spread of Pochards Aythya ferina.


Sunday 27th October [Sunny & warm in the sunshine]

Mark Hynam spent most of the day at the lake from first light. I joined him after the rugby match this morning, and we spent most of the afternoon looking around. Although it was a beautiful day, we saw very little other than the usual Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Some trees along the head of Long Bay were covered in flowering Ivy Helix hedera, and in the sunshine one or two of them were absolutely festooned with Honeybees Apis mellifera. The sound was amazing, and it was such a lovely sight to see. I was hoping to see Ivy Bees but didn't spot any there.


Monday 28th October [Dry but a distinct chill in the air]

A mid-afternoon visit was cut short when I met Ken Hall at Wood Bay Point. He'd covered the Top End and only noted the Great White Egret Ardea alba I'd also spotted from Rainbow Point. Coming in from the dam end I'd noted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta sheltering from the chilly wind on The Island, and although I didn't see it from the dam, I picked out the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by the valve tower from the Lodge. As I made my way along Green Lawn, a large flock of something like 200 Common Gulls Larus canus flew in to bathe. I saw a few yesterday, but this was the first decent flock I've seen this autumn at the lake.


Tuesday 29th October [Dry & cold, with a strong easterly wind.]

The Great White Egret Ardea alba was stalking around Top End again today, and I saw 2 brownhead Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off a flooded Wookey Point. Long Bay, unusually, hosted a flock of sleeping Pochard Aythya ferina, and there was also a ♂ Shoveler Spatula clypeata and 4 Teal Anas crecca hiding from my gaze. Aythya duck numbers are steadily climbing and with the fishing boats due off the lake in a couple of days time, perhaps things will settle down a bit.


Wednesday 30th October [Dry & cold, with a strong easterly wind.]

Some migrant wildfowl have started turning up, with at least 46 Wigeon Mareca penelope and 183 Canada Geese Branta canadensis today, plus 4 brownhead Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Other counts included 30+ Gadwall Mareca strepera and 134 Pochard Aythya ferina. The Great White Egret Ardea alba was ranging between Rugmoor and Top End as usual.


Thursday 31st October [Damp, grey & murky.]

An hour spent at the lake early afternoon was pretty uneventful. I saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba several times in flight, the 4 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula were still present, and I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Top End.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.