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Blagdon Lake Birds

January 2020 News

Friday 31st January [Mild for the time of year]

I've been busy for the last couple of days and not managed to get down to the lake, but Mark Hynam spent an hour or two there late afternoon. He texted me with news of 9 (1 adult drake, 1 1st-w drake & 7 females) Goosanders Mergus merganser on the dam wall and the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca.


Wednesday 29th January [A bit milder]

Not too much to tell today; there was a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn and the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Rugmoor.


Tuesday 28th January [Wintery. Rain, hail & sleet]

It was a day for staying in and watching birds at the feeders in the garden today. I filled the feeders down at the lake and had an hour or two looking around, but the only noteworthy sightings were of the pair of Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in Long Bay, and the Great White Egret Ardea alba actively moving around Top End. There were at least 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita still feeding around the stream at Bell's Bush too.


Sunday 26th January [Morning rain clearing late afternoon]

I've got to be honest I didn't fancy it this morning, in the rain, but I went for a look when it stopped. I was in time to see the Common Gulls Larus canus bathing before they flew off to Chew to roost, but there was nothing among them. However, the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus started to flock in to roost while I was watching and lo and behold, there was an adult winter-plumage Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among them. Yay! I pointed it out to Mark, who arrived shortly after me. While we were scanning the gulls, 6 (3 adult males, 1 1st-w male & 2 females) Goosanders Mergus merganser came out of the trees at The Island to start feeding. The usual Great White Egret Ardea alba was present again, although it flew off towards Chew at dusk, and Mark spotted a single Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.


Saturday 25th January [Overcast & cool]

Mark Hynam called round this morning and drove us down to the lake where we saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba, before going up to WWT Slimbridge where he was hoping to upgrade his binoculars. Unfortunately for him, In-Focus didn't have much of a selection to look at in the price range range he was looking to buy at. We decided to spend some time working our way down to the new Estuary Hide before going along to the North American pen to photograph some of the species that turn up locally as vagrants. It was especially nice to see American Wigeon, having not seen any on our last visit. We also spent time photographing the various male Lesser Scaup on show. It was enlightening to see the extent of plumage and bill pattern variation shown at this time of year. We also took some shots of the Richardson's Cackling Geese for the record, even though we were a little hampered by the poor light conditions throughout the day.

Andy Mears found an adult Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus in front of the Fishing Lodge later in the day; the first of the year.


Tuesday 21st January [Sunny & cool]

As I got into my car I heard a Raven flying overhead. A quick look showed it to be flying north-east towards the lake and I followed it down the hill to get my 'patch' year tick. I headed over the dam to check a couple of Kent bat boxes that we moved recently, but unsurprisingly there was no-one home. I took the opportunity to look into the spillway for the Common Sandpiper and any Coots that might have become trapped, but the only bird I saw was a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea that flew up onto Butcombe Bank - another patch year tick. That makes 71 spp. so far. I filled the Lodge feeders and walked the south side road to Top End hide and back but the only other bird I made a note of was the regular Great White Egret Ardea alba, standing in the top of a Scot's Pine at Indian Country. There was a thin veneer of ice in front of the hide that extended out into the marginal vegetation, but not the open water beyond.


Sunday 19th January [Sunny & cold]

The Great White Egret Ardea alba was present again today, and Mark Hynam texted me that he'd seen 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, and I caught up with them shortly after I got to the lake mid-afternoon. We went through the gull roost, considerably reduced from those in November, but it was almost entirely composed of Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Herring Gulls Larus argentatus. We saw 6 (1 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, and although I've looked for the Lesser Redpolls the last few days, it appears that they've moved on.


Saturday 18th January [Sunny & cold]

I got to the lake mid-afternoon and met Mark who'd been down there for a while. He'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, which I hadn't, and we both saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba flying around during the remainder of the afternoon. Mark had also seen 6 or 7 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and counted 306 Canada Geese Branta canadensis before I arrived. We stayed on until dusk, giving him the opportunity to try out my binoculars in low light conditions, as he's looking to upgrade.

I had a chat with one of the fishery rangers, Laurence Hellier, yesterday and he told me two of them had watched 2 Marsh Harriers at the lake during the week, on one occasion at Green Lawn - possibly attracted by the winter thrushes that feed there? I guess these must be the birds from Chew on one of their visits.


Friday 17th January [Colder. Sunny with showers.]

Early this afternoon the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the south end of the dam wall and, as I went through along the south side road, I saw a Green Woodpecker Picus viridis at Holt Bay, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush.

Warwick White contacted me today to tell me he'd received news from the BTO about a Barn Owl Tyto alba he'd ringed with me at the lake on 12th June 2017. Sadly, it was found freshly dead by a villager in Blagdon, on 15th January. 


Warwick White ringing the brood, 12th June 2017.Warwick White ringing the brood, 12th June 2017.


Thursday 16th January [Windy. Heavy rain late in the day.]

Richard Mielcarek reported 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita again at Bell's Bush barrier today.

I spent the day in Bradford-on-Avon cleaning the loft space in a beautiful Grade 2 listed building with Ken Anstey. We removed about 100 litres of Lesser Horseshoe Bat droppings from a maternity roost. The things we do...


Wednesday 15th January [Sunshine & showers]

A bit of sunshine and all the 'tourists' come out of the woodwork... news from Paul Williams of an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser (it flew in last night I think - I saw a smaller goose come in from the Chew direction with a small flock of Canada's but couldn't relocate them as it got dark), the Great White Egret Ardea alba, 3 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret, and a Raven Corvus corax. Richard Mielcarek reported 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita from Bell's Bush barrier area which I took some photos of today. It was too dark for me to get any shots on Sunday afternoon, although Mark probably got some before, I arrived. One of the birds is pale and another has some bright shiny bling on its leg. I have only seen four together in the same field of view over the last week or two, but there are more there for sure.


Tuesday 14th January [Wet & windy]

This afternoon I saw the usual Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, but not a lot else worthy of note.


Monday 13th January [Wet, & later very windy.]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning. The lake was full and flowing down the spillway where the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was wading around in the water. I had a quick look in Lodge Copse during the count and saw 3 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret and found the remaining juvenile Mute Swan Cygnus olor dead at Top End (probably from starvation). The count was unremarkable, and details are on the WeBS Page as usual.


Saturday 11th January [Grey and very windy]

Viewing waterfowl against the North Shore was all but impossible in the conditions this afternoon. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis at Burmah Road, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita near Bell's Bush barrier, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus over Top End, and 2 pairs of adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor also at Top End.


Thursday 9th January

Chris Craig contacted me again today to say he'd gone to look for the Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret again, and he'd seen 6 at Lodge Copse before they flew off towards Long Bay.


Wednesday 8th January [Started bright but went downhill later]

I was busy all day today, but Chris Craig texted to tell me he'd gone to look for the Lesser Redpolls this morning but didn't find them.


Tuesday 7th January [Grey & dreary with mizzle]

I had time for an afternoon walk which turned out to be quite productive. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos walking along the sill of the overspill, saw a Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula at the Inspection House in Park Lane, watched a small flock of 7 Lesser Redpolls Acanthis cabaret in the Birch trees at Lodge Copse, and 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier. The bird scarer at Holt Farm also put up a flock of Feral Pigeons Columba livia that had gathered around the farm buildings and, while sitting in Top End hide for a few minutes I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba back on site, albeit being chased around by the Grey Herons Ardea cinerea.


Monday 6th January [More rain]

I managed an hour towards the end of the afternoon and added two resident species to the site year list, but there's still no sign of the Common Sandpiper which we last saw on the 30th December!


Sunday 5th January [The weather was till pretty miserable this weekend]

Both Mark Hynam, a fellow bird warden, and I spent time at the lake both days this weekend, but we added no new species to the site list. While we were chatting at 1635hrs this evening though, we heard a bird call, looked at each other and I immediately said to him "play the call of Whimbrel." He did immediately, and we were both convinced this was what we'd just heard... It's a bit of a strange one for this time of year and at an inland site especially, so we won't be claiming it, but what other explanation can there be?


Friday 3rd January [Some sunshine]

I managed another walk at the lake today and with the promise of sunshine I was hoping to catch up with the low-profile local Buzzards Buteo buteo - I saw three. However, there was little else to report.


Thursday 2nd January [Grey & dreary]

I spent an hour at the lake late in the afternoon and added two new species to the site list for 2020; 5 (2 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, and I heard a number of Snipe Gallinago gallinago calling as they flew out of the marginal vegetation at Top End and Burmah Road. I still haven't seen the wintering Common Sandpiper or a Buzzard though. From the Lodge and Green Lawn I counted 10 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula then drove to Rainbow Point where I met two fisheries rangers. After a chat I scanned the east end of the lake and counted 19 Goldeneye. Could there really have been 29 on the lake today, or was it 9 more plus my original 10? If it turns out to be 29 when I check tomorrow, it will be the highest count count since Feb. 2016 (32).


Wednesday 1st January [Foggy, dreary and damp.] HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I was lakeside by 0659 hrs this morning. I had hoped to pick up Tawny Owl Strix aluco before it got light and I did, seven were calling within earshot at Park Lane. Mark and I more or less repeated our Monday walk plus trudging over the dam to Butcombe Bay in the steady drizzle/rain at first light. It was horrible. Needless to say, we logged fewer species than Monday so, given the conditions, our total of 54 wasn't too bad before going our separate ways at 1225 hrs. The Lesser Redpolls seemed to have gone, and we didn't even manage to find a Buzzard. The best birds for me were 7 (3 drakes) Pintails Anas acuta and 6+ Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. Amazingly, although we saw just the one Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, we probably heard no fewer than ten squealing at various points along the south shore. This is our (half-)day list: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.

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