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Blagdon Lake Birds

December 2020 News

Thursday 31st December [Bright & sunny. Cold & icy.]

It's getting frustratingly difficult to go down to the lake and enjoy a quiet afternoon birdwatching these days. On my way to Top End hide to look for roosting Cattle Egrets, I passed no fewer than 17 people walking without permits, two dogs (one not on lead), and met 4 fellow birders (with permits). So, what did I see? Well, having chatted to Ross, who had taken a look around this morning and who told me there were people everywhere where they shouldn't be when he was there, it's little surprise I didn't see much either. I noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, saw 2 pairs of Stonechat Saxicola rubicola (at Long Bay & Top End), counted 32 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, watched an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser swim out of Top End trees at dusk, and enjoyed the company of no less than 3 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus within feet of me on the marginal ice. I hung on until after 1700 hrs for the Cattle Egrets, but none appeared before I gave in to the cold.

Let's put this dreadful year behind us. I wish you all a happier and healthier 2021.


Tuesday 29th December [Bright early with sleet /rain in afternoon]

This afternoon 24 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis appeared to come in to roost at Top End, arriving at 1615 hrs and still present at 1650 hrs. Mark had a look along Bickfield Lane on his way earlier, and reckoned on there being 34 egrets feeding in the fields in three groups, probably all Cattle Egrets, but he couldn't be sure. I noted an adult drake Pintail Anas acuta at Green Lawn on my way to top end and Mark fed the appreciative pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola with meal worms at Rainbow Point. On my way back home, I saw a Peregrine Falco peregrinus at Flower Corner and a Barn Owl Tyto alba over Holt Farm - my first for quite some time.


Monday 28th December [A bitter wind. Mainly dry.]

The lake is full, and the fields and footpaths around it flooded in several places.

I spent the afternoon there and just missed, as usual, seeing the Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis Mark saw around 1400 hrs. However, we decided to be patient and sure enough they came back just before dusk when we counted 25 at Top End. They were present until at least 1630 hrs when I was last able to look at them from Green Lawn on the walk home. We also saw 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Great White Ardea alba. Mark added 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at Rainbow Point, and I noted a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola and adult drake Pintail Anas acuta at Long Bay.


Sunday 27th December [Bright & sunny turning to rain late in the day]

Mark was on site at first light this morning and saw 3 (an adult male & 2 redhead) Goosanders Mergus merganser on the dam wall. I arrived at the dam end around sunrise and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos before Mark phoned to say there were 17 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at Flower Corner at 0839hrs. Two adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor had moved onto Holt Farm fields now they can no longer sustain themselves on water plants that have been flooded. There was a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor, Mark counted 262 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, and we noted 2 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola (at Long Bay and Rainbow Point), plus the male of the pair at Top End. We both left site late morning, although not before seeing Martin and Jacky, my ex-neighbours, out with new binoculars - welcome to the birding club!

The water was almost on the point of starting to run away down the spillway while we were there, as the lake reaches top level, and will surely have been doing so either sometime later today or tomorrow.


Saturday 26th December [Overcast & wet]

Mark saw 23 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at 1415hrs with a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and they all flew off again at 1447hrs. He relocated the Cattle Egrets again later along Bickfield Lane in a field on the south side. He also saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a flock of 38 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus that headed off towards the Mendips and a single Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at the lake. During an earlier visit I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a single Great White Egret.


Friday 25th December [Bright & cold] 

Mark spent some time at the lake today, and saw 2 pairs of Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, a Lesser Redpoll Acanthis cabaret, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and an adult male each of Pintail Anas acuta and Goosander Mergus merganser. The flock of Fieldfares Turdus pilaris & Redwings Turdus iliacus was still present around the Holt Copse area.

Happy Christmas from Blagdon

Blagdon Pumping Station, 18th Dec. 2010.Blagdon Pumping Station, 18th Dec. 2010.


Thursday 24th December [Bright, but cold & windy.]

It was Mark's turn to check out the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis invasion this afternoon, and they didn't disappoint - he totted up a new site record of 31 which, needless to say, all flew off east again before I got there! We also saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola (so probably 2 pairs), and I spotted an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser as we drove back towards the dam to check the disappointing gull roost.


Wednesday 23rd December [Overcast with drizzle & heavier rain at times]

I took some time out from trying to get ready for Christmas late this afternoon and went down to see what's going on with the visits by the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis flock. At 1530 hrs 28 flew in from the east low over the water and landed in the cormorant roosting tree at Flower Corner. They proceeded to preen, and a few flew down to the water's edge out of sight. Mark had commented yesterday that they flew in covered in mud, so may have been washing it off. As time wore on, they gradually flew down out of the tree and landed at the water's edge nearer me and were either stalking around on the flooded vegetation stabbing at prey items or continuing to preen. Finally, at 1635 hrs they suddenly all took off in the near darkness and headed off east. This curious pre-roost has been apparently going on for some time now, and it seems strange that although feeding between Chew and Blagdon during the day with cattle, they fly to Blagdon before heading back towards Chew where they presumably roost at night. During the last hour of daylight, I also saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly past towards Top End and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeal from the flooded marginal vegetation. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was also present.


Tuesday 22nd December [Overcast with a lot of drizzle turning to heavier rain at times]

My time doesn't seem to be my own lately, and I didn't have time to get to the lake today. However, Mark did and reported the first 2 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis arriving to the pre-roost at 1400 hrs, which rose to 23, and finally 25, before 22 flew off east together at 1500 hrs. I've just spoken with Mark, and he also saw the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.


Cattle Egrets & Cormorants, Flower Corner, 22nd December 2020. Mark Hynam.Cattle Egrets & Cormorants, Flower Corner, 22nd December 2020. Mark Hynam.


Monday 21st December [Overcast with occasional rain/drizzle]

When I arrived at the Lodge around midday, I was really pleased to spot an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among those siting on the water. Aside from that gem, the only other noteworthy bird I saw between there, and the Top End was the usual Great White Egret Ardea alba. It appeared to catch a small mammal at Burmah Road - possibly a Short-tailed Field Vole.

It was pretty mild for the time of year today, and I saw a (buff-tailed) bumblebee in flight on the house patio, and a wasp in flight at the Top End hide at the lake.


Sunday 20th December [Wintery showers]

Mark saw no sign of the Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at the lake this morning, they were back between the lakes, however, once again at 1530 hrs Mike O'Connor, Mark and I counted 27 together at Flower Corner in the cormorant tree, before they flew off towards Chew, presumably to roost. I didn't spot anything special in the gull roost and counted 61 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus and 32 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula in the fading light as they gathered to roost.


Saturday 19th December [Wintery showers]

Sorry for the lack of news, I've not been birding for a few days, and my computer has been away for another attempted repair (still not sorted). I walked to Top End and back with Mark this afternoon, before popping home for a cuppa and going back to look at the gull roost. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, there were 3 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Holt Bay, a mobile Great White Egret Ardea alba, 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus over heading south towards the Mendips, circa 1300 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus in the roost, and 58 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus and 38 Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula gathered at the dam end at dusk. News from Mike O'Connor later of 20-22 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis roosting with Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo at Top End around 1530 hrs, and he also saw 16 in flight later which may or may not have been some of the same group.


Tuesday 15th December

Mark spent a long time at the lake today and saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Rainbow Point, plus 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta. I added a flock of at least 60 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Burmah Road, a female Goosander Mergus merganser at the dam end while checking the gull roost, saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and counted 40 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus and 19 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at dusk. The corvid roost must have had at least 1000 Jackdaws Corvus monedula in it, and the Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost appears to be growing, although we didn't estimate numbers this evening.


Monday 14th December [Dry]

After yesterday's deluge, when I couldn't be bothered in truth, I teamed up with Mark Rob and Phil to do the WeBS count. We tallied: Canada Goose 272, Mallard 159, Gadwall 32, Pintail 1 drake, Teal 112, Wigeon 191, Shoveler 25, Tufted Duck 943, Pochard 136, Goldeneye 15, Great Crested Grebe 36, Little Grebe 23, Coot 1958, Moorhen 21, Grey Heron 9, Great White Egret 1, Cormorant 41, Mute Swan 9, Snipe 1, Common Sandpiper 2, Lapwing circa 80, LBB Gull 13, GBB Gull 3, Herring Gull 6, Black-headed Gull 517, Common Gull 447, Buzzard 6, Sparrowhawk 1.


Saturday 12th December [Mild until late afternoon, then colder.]

Mark spent the afternoon at the lake and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 'fattened up' the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, and picked out 5 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret in the birch trees at Lodge Copse. I arrived just as the sun dipped over the Mendips, and also saw the Great Whites and Stonechats, as well as counting circa 40 Teal Anas crecca at Green Lawn, and having the good fortune to happen upon a Hare Lepus europaeus on my way back towards the Lodge.


Friday 11th December [Sunshine & showers]

An afternoon walk produced an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser off the dam, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay (wondering where Mark and his mealworms were), an unidentified small white egret at Rugmoor, circa 200 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus over towards the Mendips, and 100-150 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris and Redwings T. iliacus at Home Bay Point.


Wednesday 9th December [Milder]

I went down to the lake late in the afternoon to have a look through the gull roost, which was unremarkable, and met Mark who'd spent some of the afternoon there at least - he was feeding a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola with mealworms, which they took very readily! I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, counted 10 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 41 Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus at the dam end where they'd gathered to roost, and Mark saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. The Starling Sturnus vulgaris roost was fun to watch again, and it looked like they used both Home Bay and Pipe Bay reeds this evening.


Tuesday 8th December [Cool & sunny]

I walked the south shore with Mark around lunchtime today. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and 18 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus heading over high to the west, we both saw 4 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret in the birch trees at the Lodge, a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Rainbow Point, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, that didn't call at Hellfire Corner.


Monday 7th December [Bitterly cold late afternoon]

Mark told me he saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba this afternoon.


Sunday 6th December [Cool & still.]

Not a great deal to tell again today I'm afraid. There were 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos as usual, but as I got back to the Lodge, I spotted 15 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret in the birch trees at the copse, which lifted my spirits a bit!


Saturday 5th December [Cold & breezy]

Not much to report I'm afraid. One Great White Egret Ardea alba and the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Rainbow Point. There were lots of Woodpigeons Columba palumbus in the trees.


Friday 4th December [Cold & breezy]

Sorry for the lack of news the last two days, a combination of being busy and computer problems. If news dries up, then it may be because my computer has given up while I await some attention to it. 

Mark and I both spent about 2 hours at the lake today and comparing notes over a cuppa at Rainbow Point, we'd both only seen the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Rainbow Point and a single Great White Egret Ardea alba. After he'd gone, I counted 309 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, saw a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus at Green Lawn and a female Goosander Mergus merganser at Cheddar Water while watching the Starlings Sturnus vulgaris pouring into Pipe Bay reeds at dusk.


Tuesday 1st December [Sunny & still. A breeze blew up later.]

The water level is around 78% by my ready reckoner.

Another 5 hours birding at the lake this morning. I met Mark at Lodge Copse at just after 0800hrs and we birded our way to Top End and back. The usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Great White Egret Ardea alba and 2 pairs of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were still present, and we added an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser, 30 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 (2 adult drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 32 Shoveler Spatula clypeata, circa 170 Teal Anas crecca, 69 Wigeon Mareca penelope, 21 Gadwall Mareca strepera, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, and the strangest looking 'Egyptian Goose' I've ever seen - it had a bright red bill with a black nail! I was counting wildfowl when we first saw it swimming away from us, and when I went to look for it again it had hauled out on the far bank. I couldn't find it again after that. Has anyone else seen it? When we arrived back at Lodge Copse we met Tony, who had come to see the Redpolls at the weekend without any luck. Just as he got in his car to leave, we spotted no less than 6 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret (and there may have been twice that number) again in the birch trees. Luckily, we managed to get his attention and he saw them before he left.

Nigel Crocker called me this afternoon (thanks Nigel) when he found 'the goose' again on Green Lawn. It appears to be the so-called pale-headed variant of Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. I've not seen one before. I managed a couple of record shots in the late afternoon gloom at ISO 800 which will give the general idea:


Pale-headed form of Egyptian GoosePale-headed form of Egyptian Goose


Pale-headed form of Egyptian GoosePale-headed form of Egyptian Goose  


Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.