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Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2020 News

Thursday 30th April

Not much to report today, with just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the dam.

We had a visit by a pair of Robins and their 2 recently fledged young to the patio feeding station today.


Wednesday 29th April

My trip down the hill to the lake and back, taking my daily exercise, produced 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and circa 30 House Martins Delichon urbicum over the Inspection House / Cheddar Water together with a handful of Swallows Hirundo rustica. Neighbours and friends are reporting singing Cuckoos up on the hill behind us, which is good to hear.


Tuesday 28th April [Steady rain & cold all day]

Late this afternoon I checked the dam and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. There were small numbers of hirundines feeding in front of the Lodge, but no sign of any of the terns that I was hoping to see, given the conditions.


Monday 27th April [A bit murky early doors, then sunny intervals.]

I walked around the lake along lanes and public footpaths again early this morning and added two new species to the year list. There was a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on the dam, and I heard a Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca singing at Rugmoor, just before a runner ran past me and jumped over the gate (signs saying 'strictly no entry' which he ignored) and proceeded along North Shore. It's frustrating having the authority to be lakeside as a warden, except during lock down, while others walk, cycle and jog there with impunity, ignoring all signs and requests to stay out. I noted singing Garden Warblers Sylvia borin at Butcombe Bay, Spinney Copse, Rugmoor Farm, 'Selways' smallholding, Top End, Hellfire Corner and Holt Copse too. 

Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa © Nigel Crocker, 27th April 2020 Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa © Nigel Crocker, 27th April 2020

Later in the day Nigel Crocker sent me this lovely image taken during a walk around the fields near the east end of the lake, together with his news. Thanks for permission to share it Nigel.


Sunday 26th April [Bright & sunny. Still in the evening.]

It looks like the spell of sunny weather is about to break, which might see a few more birds moving. I only walked down to the dam and back this evening, but the only birds of note, that I could see, were the 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water.


Saturday 25th April [Still bright & sunny]

I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and a juvenile Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with its parents near the dam (2nd brood), and another 3+ juveniles (third brood) with the leucistic female Mallard, but she was too far off along North Shore to be really sure how many young she had in tow. I looked in vain for my first Hobby Falco subbuteo of the year, but later in the evening Melanie Patch sent me the following email: I biked down to the Ubley Hatchery end tonight and... along the lane to the gate by the north shore... there was a Hobby hunting insects. I had wonderful views of it in the field at times by the lane 2030ish. Big bats in Regil High Street too on my return! Thanks for the news Melanie, that's a first for the lake this year.


Friday 24th April [Bright & sunny]

I saw my first Swift over the house today, so I guess it's probably one of the local breeders. I did a longer walk this evening and saw a male Orange-tip butterfly in St. Andrew's Churchyard. The only birds I have to report from the lake was hearing 1+ Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos calling as I walked over the dam.


Thursday 23rd April

I didn't visit the lake today, but Nigel Crocker sent me news of a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus by the Top End gate and a Garden Warbler Sylvia borin singing over at Rugmoor, during his walk along the lane from Ubley.


Wednesday 22nd April [Bright blue sky, light breeze]

I walked around the lake at 0615 hrs this morning using public footpaths and lanes. I managed to add 3 new species to the lake year list. As I got to Rugmoor Gate having walked down the hill from Nempnett Thrubwell I heard my first male Cuckoo Cuculus canorus on Rugmoor Farm, and then a Red Kite Milvus milvus came drifting along the north side of the lake not 100 metres away. Brilliant! As I approached the road bridge at Top End a Weasel Mustela nivalis came tearing out of the gate, up onto the bridge wall and disappeared. While I stood on the bridge a few seconds later, I spotted it again as it chased a Moorhen Gallinula chloropus about 100 metres away along the lakeside road - man, they move like greased lightning! On the Hatchery side of the lane, a Garden Warbler Sylvia borin broke out into song and a minute or two later, it showed beautifully in the pollarded Willows in front of me. I also heard a Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus sub-song on the Hatchery side of the lane in the hedge too. Other sightings included 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a first brood of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (7 juvs.) along Butcombe Bank, 2 Swifts Apus apus over the lake with unidentified martins, 2 Sand Martins Riparia riparia later, and I heard a Garden Warbler singing from the Spinney Copse area, 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 3 Nuthatches Sitta europeaea, a Tawny Owl Strix aluca, 19 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 5 Chiffchaffs P. collybita from the lakeside (I didn't count those along the lanes). All that, and I got back in time to sit down and have breakfast with Ce and mum.

I am happy to report that the rookeries at Hellfire Corner and Home Bay Point were both still being used after the curious events of Monday evening. Hopefully, at some point I'll get the chance to count how many nests are being used, as I had already counted them before lock down. 

Garden Warbler, North Shore, 2nd May 2005.Garden Warbler, North Shore, 2nd May 2005.


Tuesday 21st April [Bright, blue sky and breezy.]

With the wind blowing directly onto the dam I wasn't surprised there were no waders to be seen by the time I arrived late afternoon. There were very few birds to be seen from the dam at all in truth, although 3 Swallows Hirundo rustica flew past me there, and a House Martin flew overhead as I got back to the High Street.

It appears the recently published NPCC guidelines has lead to more people coming out to the lake again, after a relatively quiet period since Easter. There were 6 cars parked on the dam during my visit, two with their occupants just sitting eating with the windows wound down, requiring me to cross to the other side of the road where there is no pavement, in order to maintain the correct social distance.


Monday 20th April [Bright, blue sky.]

News from Nigel Crocker at the Ubley End of the lake, he reported seeing Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Peacock Inachis io, Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni and Small White Pieris rapae butterflies at Top End (over the gate).

My exercise walk to the dam was curtailed last night due to shooting activities beside the lake. It appeared to be a concerted attempt to disturb the Rooks in at least one of the lakeside rookeries, although this was denied when I spoke to one of those involved, who was sitting in a lakeside boundary hedge facing the biggest rookery loosing off his gun. He agreed to move away when I said I thought his actions were out of order. I also find it hard to reconcile the incident, and the justification for their actions, with the terms of the government lock down.


Sunday 19th April [Early cloud cleared to a bright blue sky]

It seems Swifts Apus apus arrived on a broad front locally today, with many reports from 'garden' birders. I didn't see one from my garden, but 3 were flying over Cheddar Water / Park Lane with a mixed group of 17 martins (Sand and House) when I took my daily walk. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam too.

I was told by a local friend of another dog owner related wildlife incident that occurred at the bottom of Station Road/Park Lane yesterday. Basically, a lurcher (off the lead) tore across farmland in the pursuit of a Roe Deer that it brought down and fatally injured, despite the best efforts of my friend and Secret World (I believe). The really sad part about it was that it was a pregnant doe with last years fawn in tow. I hope the village dog owner is thoroughly ashamed. Anyone know if this qualifies as a wildlife crime? I must ask one of the PCSOs when I see them next - I wouldn't hesitate to pass on details. This keeps happening around the lake, thanks to irresponsible dog owners, and it has to stop.


Saturday 18th April

This morning there were 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and I saw 6 Gadwall Mareca strepera, including some on the spillway that seem to be feeding on weed that's been growing while water was running down it. I had a peek through the Pumping Station gates to see if I could spot any flower spikes of Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio showing their heads. There were a few to be seen, and I also saw some Bugle Ajuga reptans in flower along Station Road verges.


Friday 17th April

A bit of a change in the weather today, but instead of seeing new migrants it was just the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 5 Gadwall Mareca strepera and 3+ Swallows Hirundo rustica.


Thursday 16th April

I took my exercise early this morning and attempted to count wildfowl during my walk. It was likely to have been much less accurate than our usual team WeBS counts but I wanted to get some idea of how the reduced disturbance is impacting numbers. Coot Fulica atra, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and Canada Goose Branta canadensis numbers were about normal, while Mute Swan Cygnus olor numbers seem to be down. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and counted 14 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 12 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 5 Willow Warblers P. trochilus, 2 Greenfinches Chloris chloris and a Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus singing.


Wednesday 15th April

Another bright and sunny day, and I saw 4 House Martins Delichon urbicum briefly over the lake at Cheddar Water and spotted the Greylag Anser anser on Holt Farm again.

Celia found a female Bee Moth inside the front door today, that I guess flew in when the female did last night. It is quite early for this species to be on the wing, with UK Moths website giving the flight time as June to August. 

Greylag Goose, Wood Bay, 4th March 2015.Greylag Goose, Wood Bay, 4th March 2015.


Tuesday 14th April

It was still during my visit, and the water had stopped going down the spillway. Another year tick was hawking insects, a Common Tern Sterna hirundo, and I noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 4 pairs of Teal Anas crecca, and the Greylag Anser anser. Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna had broken out in bloom at Cheddar Water (Park Lane) and the bottom of Station Road, another sign of the advancing Spring.

Philip Smith sent me: "I suspect you may have already seen some, but walking down Park Lane yesterday afternoon we were greeted by a pair of Swallows. They flew along the hedge and road a couple of times, quite close to us, before moving off into the field. Makes me feel that there is light at the end of this tunnel."

At Philips suggestion, I stood outside our front door this evening, with the light on, looking at the night sky for signs of the ATLAS comet through my binoculars (without luck), and when I got indoors I saw a moth that had flown in. It was a beautiful male Bee Moth that can only recently have emerged.


Monday 13th April

Woo-hoo! House Martins Delichon urbicum, seventeen of them, and 2 Swallows Hirundo rustica were over Cheddar Water this evening. Another year tick in the bag.



Sunday 12th April

There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam again today, and I was able to make out the Greylag Anser anser on Holt Farm with Canada Geese Branta canadensis and 17 Mute Swans Cygnus olor.


Saturday 11th April

I didn't have anything to report from the lake today, but saw Holly Blue  and Peacock butterflies in the garden.


Friday 10th April

It was another beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky, and it occurred to me that there weren't any transatlantic flight vapour trails either. The last time that happened was during 2010 when Icelands Eyjafjallajökull erupted and sent millions of tonnes of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 pairs of Teal Anas crecca off The Island, and 5 (3 drakes) Gadwall Mareca strepera on the lake.


Thursday 9th April

Just the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos to report today.

Nigel Crocker from Ubley sent me the following news from the other end: "I have continued to take occasional walks along the road on the north side of the lake as far as the north (Rugmoor) gate. Little activity visible on the lake with a few Tufted Ducks, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Mute Swan and Mallard being the main players. However, there have been growing numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing to be joined today, in Ubley, by the first House Martins visiting nesting boxes on a neighbours house and seen hawking for insects over our garden in the late afternoon. I agree with Plantlife that the wild flowers are really benefiting from the lack of disturbance this year, so it will be interesting to see what blooms as the year progresses." Later he added: "I had Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus at Top End gate and Garden Warbler Sylvia borin in the Second Poor Field behind Top End hide."


Wednesday 8th April

I was a little surprised to see an adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus on the lake off Butcombe Bank, most of them headed to their breeding grounds a while ago. There were also 5 Shovelers Spatula clypeata showing from the dam, no doubt gorging on the hatching Chironomid midges, the adults of which which were in their millions over the dam. They swipe their huge bills from side to side to filter the hatching midges from the water's surface.


Tuesday 7th April

There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos today, so the migrants from further south are starting to arrive. While in the garden, I noticed my first Holly Blue of the year. We do quite well for them here, with neighbours and ourselves having Holly and Ivy in our gardens, the larval food plant of alternate generations of this delightful little butterfly.


Monday 6th April

The water was barely dribbling down the overspill today, and will stop flowing in the next couple of days unless we get rain. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and a pair of Gadwall Mareca strepera were still present. I have proved breeding by Gadwall in the past (2002 & 2003), and with their numbers increasing they will surely do so again in the near future.


Sunday 5th April

I had time for an early morning walk around the lake using footpaths and lanes, which although it meant I wasn't lakeside for most of the time, I was at least able to get many viewpoints and hear birds on the site. I heard 23 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 14 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla and 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus singing, saw the regular Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (dam), 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 4 Teal Anas crecca and a female Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (Flower Corner), and an adult Greylag Anser anser (Holt Farm) which all went in my notebook.


Saturday 4th April

Just as I was about to set off back up the hill, having reached the north end of the dam, I spotted my first Swallow Hirundo rustica of the year over the lake. It seemed to fly directly over to the north, albeit quite low as if feeding. I had seen others over the village on a couple of occasions prior to this, however.


Friday 3rd April

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam.

No Scoter movement was heard anywhere locally this evening. The clear skies seemed to have curtailed much of the nocturnal migration, as few birds were reported at all.


Thursday 2nd April

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam again. It can't be too long before it heads off to breed. There were 2 pairs of Teal Anas crecca off The Island, no doubt emboldened by the lack of anglers at present.

After dark the local birders network went into overdrive as we went into our gardens all over the Bristol area and, almost to a (wo)man, heard Common Scoters migrating overhead and calling. I went outside and heard at least two groups inside 2 minutes at 2130 hrs. It must have been an extraordinary movement of this declining sea duck to be heard on such a broad front.


Nigel Milbourne © 2009-23. All Rights Reserved.