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Blagdon Lake Birds

October 2020 News

Saturday 31st October [Wet & windy, drying out in the afternoon.]

Conditions were far from pleasant when I had a look around this morning. At the Lodge, Tiny's Shallow was barely showing, but all bar one of the 345 Canada Geese Branta canadensis were in the vicinity. I saw just the one Great White Egret Ardea alba, at least 90 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, counted 117 Wigeon Mareca penelope in the top half of the lake alone, saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola on Wookey Point, and from the hide noted 2 adult drake Goldeneye Bucephala clangula new in, and a surprise juvenile/1st-winter Sanderling Calidris alba.


Friday 30th October [Grey & overcast]

Just to clarify yesterday's news, because the Great Northern Diver was being reported as a 'possible'. I have no doubt that the bird I saw was a GND, it was only a couple of hundred metres away when I saw it through my 10x binoculars. I used the words 'my impression' in relation to its age not its identity. I wanted to confirm the feather scalloping through my scope but wasn't able to. However, an adult would have looked very different at this time of year, so I am happy to report it as a juvenile even though I didn't get to see the fine detail through the scope. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding about the wording I used.

Stopping at the south end of the dam I got out of the car and heard a couple of Nuthatches Sitta europaea having a spat in the Inspection House grounds but didn't spot the Common Sandpiper. Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge has become an island again as it is rapidly becoming submerged under the rising water and although a bit of a favourite with the anglers at the moment, there were Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Linnets Linaria cannabina feeding through the emergent weeds on the exposed lakebed. At Holt Bay a Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta buzzed the car, and at Top End I counted 100+ Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, watched a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti in front of the hide with Simon Isgar.


Thursday 29th October [Dismal & wet]

The birding at Blagdon just gets more and more frustrating! I worked my way along to Top End hide late morning and when I got there I was looking around when 3 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and some Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula took off unexpectedly in front of me. Suspecting an aerial threat, I looked around for a harrier but saw nothing. So, I settled back to checking the waterfowl and looked straight at a diver! My impression was that it was a juvenile Great Northern Gavia immer, but as I turned my scope towards it for a closer look, it took off and flew west down the lake. I picked it up in flight as it disappeared into the gloom and noted that it appeared to turn back towards me. As it got closer, I looked away from my scope hoping to pick it up in my bins again. I didn't! I rang Simon Isgar, who I thought was at Chew, to tell him to look out for it but he didn't reply, so I drove back along the lakeside towards the dam looking to see if it had landed back on Blagdon, but that was the last I saw of it.

I also noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, and another male at Top End, plus 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Wookey Point.


Tuesday 27th October [Wet & windy]

I had a very brief look around early afternoon and Mark paid a visit late afternoon. The place was practically deserted in the foul weather. There's not much to report other than the water level continues to rise, and I didn't see anything of real note. I counted 82 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus that were visible, noted a sumptuous adult drake Pintail Anas acuta in front of the hide, and spotted 2 female Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Flower Corner. I thought I could see a Great White Egret at Top End from Rainbow Point, but I didn't spot it again when I got there. 


Monday 26th October [Heavy rain showers & breezy]

Today was put aside for a day away birding in the event of there being anything to go and see, but as it turned out there wasn't. So, an early morning visit to the lake was followed by a walk around Cheddar Res. hoping to see the Red-necked Grebe (no sign) and then an afternoon back at Blagdon. 

On the patch, there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba early on, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus in flight, as was a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, the juvenile Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a brown head Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (possibly a 1st-winter male), 41 Pintail Anas acuta and the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola in front of the Top End hide. 


Sunday 25th October [Sunny spells]

The water level continues to rise after yesterday's rain, so the birding remains difficult with the dabbling ducks largely hidden from view unless flushed by disturbance. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and counted 149 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 33 Pintail Anas acuta. Passerine highlights were a male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Flower Corner and 2 Siskins Spinus spinus at the Lodge. A late Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta was still on the wing in the sunshine too.


Saturday 24th October [Overcast, breezy, & ultimately rain]

Today, I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba feeding at the lake and another 2 in flight high over to the west. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was at the southern corner of the dam. I spent an hour or more at Rainbow Point and in the Top End hide going through the birds I could see, but there was a great deal of disturbance from, I'm going to call it a juvenile, Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. This in some ways was a benefit, in that it kept flushing all the wildfowl out of the marginal vegetation, during which time I counted 5 Pintail Anas acuta among hundreds of Teal Anas crecca and Wigeon Mareca penelope. No sign of any rarities such as Green or Blue-winged Teal, or Garganey, that I could see though. Shortly after four young people came wading through the vegetation in front of the hide (the second time that has happened this month) I decided I'd had enough.


Friday 23rd October [Overcast]

Not much to tell from my visit today I'm afraid. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and counted at least 60 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, but they and many of the dabbling ducks are pretty well hidden in the flooding vegetation around the lake. Surprisingly perhaps, there were a number of Pintail Anas acuta out feeding on the bank with the other wildfowl too. I met Paul Williams who had seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the southern corner of the dam.


Thursday 22nd October [Changeable]

I popped down to the lake, for the first time since the WeBS count on Monday, late in the afternoon and met Paul Williams who had just watched a flock of at least 16 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis fly off towards Chew as I drove in from the the Top End gate! He also saw a male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Top End. We both saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba.


Monday 19th October [Breezy but dry]

Phil, Rob and I did the monthly WeBS count this morning between 0940 and 1340 hrs. I still haven't had time to put my reconfigured WeBS counts page up yet so here are the details of today's count:

Mute Swan 50, Canada Goose 200, Teal 1318, Mallard 321, Gadwall 109, Wigeon 101, Shoveler 31, Pintail 14, Tufted Duck 690, Pochard 190, Goldeneye 1 adult drake, Coot 1720, Moorhen 69, Great Crested Grebe 31, Little Grebe 32, Grey Heron 4, Great White Egret 2, Cormorant 25, Lapwing 106, Buzzard 2, Marsh Harrier 1 (noted by Phil Delve). Black-headed Gulls c.120, Lesser Black-backed Gull 22, Herring Gull 6, Great Black-backed Gull 3, Common Gull 4. We also saw a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Bell's Bush.

The water level was around 62% by my reckoning. Thanks for your time, guys.


While we were in the Top End hide Phil spotted a bush-cricket walking in (without a mask!), that I was able to identify as a female Oak Bush-cricket Meconema thalassinum. I must try and have a look for the Southern Oak Bush-cricket, a recent colonist which, apparently, is a predator of another recent colonist the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (a moth) of which there are thousands on the few Horse Chestnut trees around the lake.


Sunday 18th October [Overcast & cool]

I met Mark at the Lodge at 0815hrs, and we birded our way to Top End and back. I'd already noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam on the way there, and we had about 40 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis to check through in front of the Lodge before starting out. There was a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, along with a large flock of about 70 Linnets Linaria cannabina, and from Rainbow Point we saw 3 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I did a count of the visible Lapwings Vanellus vanellus from the hide and totted up 62.


Saturday 17th October [Sunny spell in afternoon. Cool.]

I got down to the lake late this afternoon and joined Mark, who was already there. Between us we saw 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 Pintail Anas acuta (2 adult drakes), 2 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus, 62+ Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and heard the male Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Top End.


Mark found an adult Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus this afternoon at Top End. There were a number of Bar-headed x Snow Goose hybrids in the area some time ago, but this one looks nearer the real deal, I think, albeit condemned as an escape/introduction. A photo of a bird considered to be a Bar-headed x blue phase Snow Goose hybrid I took in 2010 at Blagdon Lake (see below) was used in the following paper: 

JÖRN LEHMHUS & C. G. GUSTAVSSON, Hybrids between Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus and Snow Goose Anser caerulescens, Ornis Svecica 24:147–163, 2014. 

You can read it at,%20147-163%20Lehmus%20Gustavsson%20g%c3%a5shybrider.pdf


Bar-headed x (blue phase) Snow Goose, Holt Bay. 21st March 2010.Bar-headed x (blue phase) Snow Goose, Holt Bay. 21st March 2010.


I suppose it's quite possible that today's sighting is the same bird I photographed at Picnic Site #1 at Chew Valley Lake on 13th March 2019, I shall have to get some photos if it's still around tomorrow:


Bar-headed Goose, Chew Valley Lake Picnic Site #1. 13th March 2019.Bar-headed Goose, Chew Valley Lake Picnic Site #1. 13th March 2019.


Bar-headed Goose, Chew Valley Lake Picnic Site #1. 13th March 2019.Bar-headed Goose, Chew Valley Lake Picnic Site #1. 13th March 2019.


The Chew bird looks less like an obvious hybrid than the Blagdon bird from 2010, but I wonder about the bill colouration and shape, plus the white feathers admixed in the black stripes on the head, for example. I have photographed birds in India (their natural range) and will try and look some out for comparison.


Friday 16th October [Mainly cloudy. Dry & cool.]

Mark Hynam spent much of the day at the lake and, of note, saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 20-25 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola ,and heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing to the right of the Top End hide.


Thursday 15th October [Sunny spells. Cool.]

I spent most of the morning and early afternoon working at Conham 'Bat Cave' with fellow Avon Bat Group members Jim and Ken, installing some new internal roost features and a new entrance baffle to cut down light penetration and provide a more stable internal environment. It is the first of two baffles, but we'll do the other one in the Spring.

Late afternoon, I had a quick look at the lake on the way back from Ubley, and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 22 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a fine adult drake Pintail Anas acuta. Viewing of dabbling ducks is getting really difficult as they are feeding in the flooded emergent vegetation largely hidden from view. There were plenty of Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Common Gulls Larus canus in groups around the margins too.


Tuesday 13th October [A cool wind, but mainly sunny.]

Not much to tell today I'm afraid, my visit was a bit last minute, during which I saw 1 Little Egretta garzetta and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. The Little Egret flew to roost on its own. I also saw 2 Redwings Turdus iliacus. Mark and I may have seen about a dozen fly past on Sunday during our walk, but we couldn't be sure of the identification.


Sunday 11th October [Sunny with a light, cool, breeze.]

I met Mark at 0800 hrs this morning, as we continued our vain search for a first Yellow-browed Warbler at the lake. Another blank! I did get my first Skylark Alauda arvensis of the year, in flight over Long Bay, calling as it flew east. And, by the time we gave it best around midday, we'd totted up 2 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola (Holt Bay & Peg's Point/Rugmoor Bay), 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 20 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 9 Pintail Anas acuta, and several small groups of Swallow Hirundo rustica.

In addition, while Mark checked out Rugmoor, he spotted a live Jackdaw Coloeus monedula hanging from a fishing line with a fly attached in a Willow tree at Peg's Point/Paradise. With the use of a rope, he managed to pull the branch low enough to be able to grab the Jackdaw, unhook it from the size 6 or 8 fly that was through its lower mandible and release it - great work mate!

NOTE TO BIRDERS: From Monday you will be required to wear a face mask in the bird hides on BW property. Also, having seen three birders drive onto meadows in the last week, we would like to remind you that if you visit by car, you must only park in designated areas, and keep vehicles off the hay meadows.


Saturday 10th October [Sunny spells. Cool.]

Mark and I were both at the lake this afternoon, but despite spending a combined 6-7 hours looking, we didn't manage to find anything exciting. There were no egrets today, but we saw at least 15 Linnets Linaria cannabina at Green Lawn, a female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at Top End, and I saw 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Hellfire Corner, while Mark picked out a distant Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Rugmoor.

My visit was bookended by WWIII starting at 1400 hrs as the pheasant shooting got underway on the Wills Estate, frightening every duck from Butcombe to Green Lawn into the air as I arrived, and finished with a young couple walking along the water's edge in front of Top End hide just as Mark and I were about to go in and look through the birds from there. Of course, there was nothing to see by the time we did get in.


Friday 9th October [Sunshine & showers]

I paid a brief visit to the lake just before lunch, but with the lake continuing to rise fairly rapidly, many of the dabbling ducks were obscured by emergent vegetation on the flooding lakebed. There were healthy numbers of Teal Anas crecca, and I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Thursday 8th October [Early rain clearing]

I had a brief hour and a half visit late afternoon, that started with an adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus, blue JBB, on Tiny's Shallow. I parked at Rainbow Point and walked to Top End and back, seeing the female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus shortly after just about all the waterfowl between Rainbow and Ubley Gate had been put to flight at least once. From the hide, I saw a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, and a pair of Pintail Anas acuta, and with one last scan around back at Rainbow, the lone Great White Egret Ardea alba had suddenly become 3. I understand the Lapwing Vanellus vanellus flock was still present pre-Marsh Harrier, but I missed them.


Wednesday 7th October [A calm & sunny day]

I enjoyed another walk this afternoon in the pleasant conditions, though I didn't see much bird-wise until I got to Bell's Bush, where I was able to scan the Top End. There were one each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, plus 24 Pintail Anas acuta and 26 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. While I was standing under some birch trees, I heard the unmistakable call of a Lesser Redpoll Acanthis cabaret which landed in the adjacent stand giving good views. I stayed in the hide for about three quarters of an hour before walking back towards the Lodge and met Diana from Ubley whom I haven't seen for some time, and while we were catching up, Mark came along in his van. He stopped for a brief catch-up then went to the hide, where a few minutes later he rang to say there were 2 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria right in front! I went back for a look, being only 200 metres away, but by the time I got there they had vanished! We couldn't relocate them either. Sadly, Golden Plover sightings at Blagdon are something of a rarity these days. When I got back to the Lodge, I counted 253 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus in the roost, which was still building as I left.


Tuesday 6th October [Heavy downpours & blustery]

It was nice to get out of the house for a walk this afternoon, and I even had the added bonus of picking a two-hour slot with no rain! Anyway, to the birding - there's even less to tell than previously! Mark's pet Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe was still on Tiny's Shallow, and I saw 3 Linnets Linaria cannabina (a site year tick) there too! That was about all there was to report because the waterfowl, by and large, have dispersed and I'll need a telescope, rather than just my bins, to go through those that are left more thoroughly. I might even be forced to go through the Coots Fulica atra to look for an American! I did, however, notice that the gull roost was pretty large this evening, but I was called home for tea before I could go through them. Maybe tomorrow...

The three days of rain has swollen all the feeder streams and the lake is brick red as a result. Many hundreds of dabbling ducks have gone. The tide has come in at Top End, and the floodwater has brought a few small trees and broken branches into the lake. By my reckoning, the level has risen from about 50% to 57% over the weekend and that's a lot of water!


Monday 5th October

I'm still feeling under the weather, but Mark spent quite a bit of the day trying to find some interesting birds at Blagdon - and failed! He saw the Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe on Tiny's Shallow at the second attempt, and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba fly in to Top End, for five minutes, before heading off to the 'other place' (where, incidentally, the Lesser Yellowlegs and 50 Great White Egrets were seen today). I stayed in bed...

Ken Hall didn't let the weather deter him and he had a look at Top End this afternoon too. He reported 6 Pintail Anas acuta, and a Sand Martin Riparia riparia among lots of House Martins Delichon urbicum. Thanks for the news, Ken.


Sunday 4th October [Rain for the last two days]

Mark went to the lake today, I was still feeling under the weather, and saw 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, a Garganey Spatula querquedula, 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 12 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, 73 Pied Wagtails Motacilla alba yarrellii, 1 or 2 Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. While watching the Wheatear he also spotted what looked like a Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus and called me. I went to have a look with him but didn't see it. However, Mark had some very distant video footage which seems to indicate that that is what it was. A quick scan through my records shows I last saw one at Blagdon in 2002. I added the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos to the day list.


Friday 2nd October [Torrential rain & wind]

Despair is setting in! There were 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, a Great White Egret Ardea alba and a Pintail Anas acuta of note this morning. Lots of Teal Anas crecca though...

It sounds like Mark made a better fist of his afternoon visit than either Paul Williams or I did this morning. Mark found Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe at the Lodge and Top End, plus a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola and Garganey Spatula querquedula also at Top End and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. A good effort in terrible conditions!


Thursday 1st October [Showers turning more persistent at dusk]

Still nothing to set the pulse racing at Blagdon so far this autumn. Mark saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in front of the Lodge, while at Top End we both saw 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa (the one that was limping badly yesterday appears to have gone), 3 Stonechats Saxicola rubicola, 4 Pintail (1 adult drake) Anas acuta, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba. Mark also saw a Hobby Falco subbuteo from the hide at dusk. The weather is set to be wet for the next few days, so we might have something drop in with a bit of luck. We'll be watching and listening for our first site Yellow-browed Warbler as well - it's about time we got one.

Peter Rock got back to me about the two ringed Herring Gulls Larus argentatus noted on 29th September:

  • White B+A, ringed on 24th June 2011 in Bath. Since my last sighting at Blagdon on 3rd December 2017 there have been many records at Lower Compton landfill site 14th December 2017 to 22nd July 2020, Shortwood June 2018 and Bristol July 2019.
  • Yellow A+P, ringed 21st June 2013 in Bristol. Only one sighting since my last sighting at Blagdon Lake on 22nd August 2018, at Shortwood on 17th May 2019.
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