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Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2021 News

Friday 30th April [Sunshine & showers]

On arrival there were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and a female Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla collecting flies to feed young at Lodge Copse. At Long Bay I saw the 6th brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos that I saw yesterday and was able to count 10 juveniles before they hid in the emerging vegetation. At Top End I spotted a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus running along a hedge line away from the lake, and saw the single Little Egret Egretta garzetta come in to roost again at dusk.


Thursday 29th April [Sunny spells & a bit warmer]

I was pleased to see a summer-plumaged Dunlin Calidris alpina on the dam today, as well as the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and 2 Swifts Apus apus feeding with the hirundines over the water. The 6th brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos, with at least 9 juveniles, was off Home Bay Point, and a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus was singing behind me in the hedge at Long Bay, while I watched them. As dusk fell, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew in and settled to roost at Top End.


Wednesday 28th April [Rain at last, but uncomfortably chilly in the breeze.]

I had hoped the rain might have dropped some passage migrants in, especially terns, but despite visiting the lake three times during the day, I saw none. There were several hundreds of Swallows Hirundo rustica over the lake mid-morning through to dusk, and as the day wore on an increasing number of House Martins Delichon urbicum joined them - but no Swifts! I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall and, intriguingly, a pair of lingering Teal Anas crecca.


Tuesday 27th April [Warmer than of late]

The birding wasn't especially exciting, so I counted circa 50 Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio spikes on Green Lawn, and circa 45 Rook Corvus frugilegus nests at Home Bay Point (well down on last year).  I looked hard for Green-winged Orchids in All-Saint's meadow' which was opened to the public a number of years ago. Sadly, I didn't even count ten spikes in a meadow where they and Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula used to be prolific. One could just shrug and say "that's sad", but although numbers are down generally in the last few years in the better protected meadows, the public have without doubt contributed to the decline, I've seen spikes strewn all along the Butcombe Bank footpath and a friend has seen people walking back into the village with handfuls of flower spikes in recent years. I spoke to some visitors this Spring who were digging up primroses on Butcombe Bank, and there have been a number of fires lit on the meadows causing irreparable damage to the sward. Bristol Water have a duty to look after the SSSI designated meadows, and there is certainly a case to be made to Natural England that the meadow ought to be closed again to allow the meadow to regenerate - if that's possible. On the plus side, I think this spring has seen a phenomenal show by Cowslips Primula veris.

On my way home I saw a Tawny Owl Strix aluco perched on the bat house roof!


Monday 26th April [Sunny with a cool east-northeast breeze]

I ventured down to the lake in the evening but didn't see a great deal to report other than a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Holt Bay and heard my first Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis of the year at Rugmoor Gate. However, there was a stunning, fiery red, sunset that made my walk complete when a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea flew over the dam into it, silhouetted, as I made my way home.


Sunday 25th April [Sunny with a cold easterly breeze]

Mark and I had a look around the south side of the lake this morning and found 2 singing Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, and heard 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, but best of all were 8+ Swifts Apus apus, our first of the year. During the afternoon while I was at home, Mark spotted a female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus at Top End that stayed around long enough for me to get decent views of it too. In the evening we added 2 more Garden Warblers to the total, heard one or more Snipe Gallinago gallinago flight calls, and watched a Hobby Falco subbuteo fly west along the lake as it got dark.


Saturday 24th April [Sunny with a cool easterly breeze]

An evening walk produced 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus.


Friday 23rd April [Sunny & warm by day]

I was restricted to another evening only visit, which didn't reveal much as far as the birds were concerned. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I saw two new Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods, of five and six young, bringing the total to five broods so far. Mark spotted an up-ending Mute Swan Cygnus olor at Holt Bay with a darvic ring Yellow FKL, a new bird at Blagdon if my records are correct.


Thursday 22nd April [Sunny with a stiff easterly breeze]

I was out first thing this morning, and a little surprised to see a light frost on the grass. It was pretty cold walking over the dam and there was precious little bird song to be heard until I reached the relative calm of Butcombe Bank. I counted a selection of migrant songsters, totting up 32 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 26 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 5 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, 3 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, plus singles of Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti (ringed), Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, Garden Warbler Sylvia borin and Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Pochard Aythya ferina, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago and a new brood of 14 juvenile Mallards Anas platyrhynchos, plus yesterday's uncounted brood again, which was of seven. The Sedge and Garden Warblers take me up to 100 bird species for the year so far at the lake.

I had a wander around Ubley with Ken and Mark at dusk, and we saw and recorded Noctule, Serotine, Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, plus unidentified Myotis sp. bats. 


Wednesday 21st April [Sunny with a stiff easterly breeze]

I managed a walk at teatime, but the stiff breeze made for difficult birding, with no waders on the dam, and few birds singing at the west end of the lake. The only noteworthy finds for me were the first two broods of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, one of five, and the other of unknown number because they hid before I was able to count them! There are still some secretive Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall at the lake, but only a few of each. I didn't stay on until dusk to watch for Hobbies this evening but will do so in a couple of days' time - tomorrow, Mark, Ken and I are going to do a little bat detecting at a local church with the possibility of getting some boxes put up in the churchyard. 

Nigel Crocker texted me earlier in the day to tell me he'd seen a Swift over Ubley, and heard a Garden Warbler singing at Yeo Valley Organic Garden during a visit there. So, hopefully, I should be able to add both to the site list in the next day or two.


Tuesday 20th April [Warm & sunny]

I didn't get to the lake until this evening, but saw 12 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago. I heard the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing at Top End, but no new passerine migrants. Then, as Mark and I walked back to our cars at Rainbow Point watching the bats, we were witness to an extraordinary chase by a Hobby Falco subbuteo after a Noctule Nyctalus noctula. The bat escaped that time, but the Hobby was still chasing around after the numerous bats when we lost sight of it over Burmah Road.

We checked a few of our Kent Bat boxes this evening and saw quite good numbers in them - it's a design of box that's particularly popular with the pipistrelles, and a real boon to see the bats using the homes we're providing for them. Although wooden boxes don't last as long as the 'woodcrete' designs, they are easy to make and replace, at a time when ready-made boxes are like hen's teeth to buy.


Monday 19th April [Another sunny day with a variable, sometimes cool, breeze.]

I made lunchtime and evening visits today and having found 11 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam at lunchtime, I was hopeful of some new migrant passerines, but I found none. Again, there were 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta dropped in on Rugmoor Point before flying off towards Chew at dusk.


Sunday 18th April [A still, warm and sunny, Spring day.]

I did another of my singing bird surveys this morning, fully expecting to get a few new year ticks, but it was surprisingly quiet. I counted 31 singing Wrens, 28 singing Blackcaps, 22 singing Chiffchaffs, 19 singing Robins, 4 Reed Buntings, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler and 1 Cetti's Warbler of note. I saw 6 Common Sandpipers, 2 Snipe and 2 Green Sandpipers, but Mark top-trumped me again with another one of each sandpiper species making a total of 7 and 3. We both saw a Kingfisher fly across Butcombe Bay as well. I also saw my first Orange-tip and Speckled Wood butterflies when the sun warmed things up a bit.

For good measure, a Red Kite flew over the house around lunchtime.

I had a look at the lake again this evening with Mark, hoping to see a Hobby, or hear a Gropper, or something... but we had to make do with an Otter Lutra lutra!


Friday 16th April [Sunny]

There was only time for another evening walk today. I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the the dam, and at Top End a pair of Shovelers Spatula clypeata, 7 Teal Anas crecca, and 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago. There were still a few birds singing, but I didn't hear any new arrivals save for a Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus in the Phragmites at Home Bay, and I saw a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus nearby.


Thursday 15th April [Sunny]

Sorry, I didn't have a chance to visit the lake yesterday, and I didn't get to the lake until late this evening either. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam and I saw 2 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis fly east along the lake at dusk towards Chew. Steve and Carol saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba earlier in the evening, but it had gone by the time I arrived, again, probably to roost at Chew.


Tuesday 13th April [Milder & mainly sunny]

I was busy all day today so didn't get down to the lake until the last couple of hours of daylight. I walked to the Top End gate and back from the Lodge with my sister Ruth and was well pleased to come across a male Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus along the roadside hedge between the hide and the Ubley entrance. Nick Willcox-Brown was there when I arrived and had located the Osprey Pandion haliaetus which he was able to point out to us in the gloom, so thanks Nick.


Monday 12th April [Sunny spells]

Phil, Rob and I carried out the WeBS count this morning. Close to the start point we spotted a pair of Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca in the trees above our heads along Butcombe Bank! Notable birds included a drake Garganey Anas querquedula at Flower Corner, an Osprey Pandion haliaetus, and 2 Greylag Geese Anser anser. Other count details: Coot 194, Tufted Duck 170, Lesser Black-backed Gull 108, Mallard 50, Great Crested Grebe 21, Herring Gull 14, Mute Swan 12, Canada Goose 8, Gadwall 6, Moorhen 6, Cormorant 5, Grey Heron 5, Great Black-backed Gull 5, Buzzard 4, Little Grebe 4, Teal 1, Great White Egret 1, and a mixed flock of Common and Black-headed Gulls c. 35 in total and all 1st-summer (majority Commons).

As I left site Rob caught me and said he'd heard that another Pied Flycatcher had been seen at the Lodge.


Sunday 11th April [Sunny spells]

I was up with the sun this morning to carry out a singing bird survey at the lake while Mark had a mooch along the south shore for migrants. Pick of my counts were: 35 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes, 29 Robins Erithacus rubecula, 30 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 23 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 14 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 2 Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti. I saw 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Siskins Spinus spinus, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a Great White Egret Ardea alba and the Osprey Pandion haliaetus, while Mark, spotted not one, but two, Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca, both 1st-summer males and the male Garganey Anas querquedula. That's a good morning by anyone's standards. I think the Willow Warbler count is the highest I've had at the lake, and the Pied Flycatchers are the first for 5 years.


1st-summer male Pied Flycatcher, Flower Corner. 11th April 2021.1st-summer male Pied Flycatcher, Flower Corner. 11th April 2021.

1st-summer male Pied Flycatcher, Flower Corner. 11th April 2021.1st-summer male Pied Flycatcher, Flower Corner. 11th April 2021.


Note the brown primaries indicative of age, the different face patterns of the two birds, and that the bird in the bottom picture is ringed.

I went home mid-afternoon, but I couldn't stay away, so rang Mark who was still at the lake and suggested we meet and go for a walk down the stream from Butcombe back to the lake via All Saint's Meadow when most of the Sunday afternoon crowds had gone home. You could have knocked me over with a feather! We found another male with a female in All Saint's Meadow with a load of Phylloscs. working the waterside bushes and walking back along Butcombe Bank what should pop up in front of us but another male! That was 5 Pied Fly's for the day... I have only seen five at the lake since 2000, until today. Absolutely amazing!


Saturday 10th April [A pleasant sunny day until this evening when the temperature just plummeted, and sleet set in]

I got up at 0700hrs but decided against a singing bird survey at the lake in the prevailing conditions. Mike O'Connor did get out though and saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Top End, and the Osprey Pandion haliaetus, that stayed around all day, showing on and off. At lunchtime Nigel and Beryl Crocker let me know they'd seen a male Garganey Anas querquedula at Flower Corner. I was well pleased to see it (thanks guys) and showed them the Osprey quietly perched in a tree through my telescope in return. I had an early tea and met Mark to look for the Garganey again, but we couldn't find it in the perishing cold and wet, so we beat a retreat as the sleet drove across the lake. A decent-sized flock of hirundines was still over the water, trying to find some sustenance, as I headed back up the hill. 


Friday 9th April [A cool morning with sunny intervals]

I was on site at 0730 hrs this morning and saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and the Osprey Pandion haliaetus fly along the North Shore at about 0800 hrs. I got a couple of very distant shots which suggest it is the same bird that I posted photos of a couple of days ago after all. I went for a walk to Holt Copse and back and was struck by the number of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus that I heard singing, there has clearly been something of an influx overnight. Late morning, I drove up to Top End and had a little wander there too, more Willow Warblers, and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a flyover Peregrine Falco peregrinus, and the male Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti still in song. I tried to get a decent shot of one of the Willow Warblers to show the comparison with a Chiffchaff but wasn't happy with the results, so I'll try again. Here's a Chiffchaff, note the dark (black) legs and short primary projection:


Chiffchaff, Lodge Copse, Blagdon Lake. 9th April 2021.Chiffchaff, Lodge Copse, Blagdon Lake. 9th April 2021.


I also spotted a couple of Great Crested Grebes 'dancing' at Holt Bay and grabbed a couple of shots of them to share, note the male has longer feathers on the head which helps to sex them:


Great Crested Grebes, Holt Bay, Blagdon Lake. 9th April 2021.Great Crested Grebes, Holt Bay, Blagdon Lake. 9th April 2021.

Great Crested Grebes, Holt Bay doing the weed dance. 9th April 2021.Great Crested Grebes, Holt Bay doing the weed dance. 9th April 2021. 


For those of you who have been following the Blagdon Lake blog since 2013, you will remember the fun we had with a male Osprey White YA that got caught in the nets over the Blagdon stock ponds 3 times in a few days, requiring us to release him on each occasion. Well, I've just taken a look at Joanna Dailey's Kielder Osprey blog and see that White YA touched down on his nest platform on 28th March. He has since been joined by his partner 1A as the various nests get busy with returning birds. Fantastic news!


Thursday 8th April [Sunny morning, overcast afternoon. Milder than of late.]

The Osprey Pandion haliaetus is still about today. It was seen early this morning by fisheries staff and ex-neighbour Martin, and while I walked the south side road looking for migrants, it flew down the lake towards me at 1206 hrs and literally right over my head at less than 30 ft. I didn't carry my camera because of the prospect of rain as I set out, but I noted that the underwing is clearly different from the male that has been photographed many times in the last few days at Herriott's Pool, Chew Valley Lake. As I left Top End, after chatting to Tina Bath who was hedge-laying in her field, the bird came drifting back up the lake at 1320 hrs and headed off to the east towards Chew. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall as well.

As an aside, I came across this seemingly authoritative paper published in Dutch Birding on the ageing and sexing of Ospreys, including subspecific differences, on the internet that will help you try and age and sex your sightings, which is more useful than just reporting Osprey. Note, however, the caveat that not all are straightforward without experience: Ageing, sexing and subspecific identification of Osprey, and two WP records of American Osprey by Roine Strandberg .

I went back to the lake for an hour and a quarter this evening, and saw 3 Common Sandpipers on the dam, before driving slowly to Top End hide (it will open for business on 12th April) where I parked and walked to the Ubley entrance gate and back. As I walked back, I spotted an Osprey through my binoculars over the middle of the lake being harried by Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus. It circled while being chased, then drifted over Rugmoor, flew west along the ridge to the north of the lake when I lost it to sight. I had another look when I got back to the dam end, and briefly saw it over Butcombe Bay before it seemed to head off low to the north. I can't be sure because the views were far too distant, but I rather suspect this was a different bird to the one photographed yesterday and seen again earlier today. NEWS UPDATE: Nigel Crocker went round to Rugmoor after I rang him when the bird was over the centre of the lake. He saw the Osprey in the water with what he felt sure was a large Eel, which it couldn't take off with, so abandoned the catch. An interesting observation.


Wednesday 7th April [Dull & overcast, but warmer.]

A call from Ross as I was on my way out of the house, alerted me to this extraordinarily confiding Osprey Pandion haliaetus that perched in a tree beside Park Lane nearly all the morning. There were people walking and driving along the lane within a few metres of it perched in the tree, and it was completely unfazed. It was nice to share some super scope views with villagers and visitors alike who chanced by.


Osprey, Pipe Bay, Blagdon. 7th April 2021.Osprey, Pipe Bay, Blagdon. 7th April 2021. 

Osprey, Pipe Bay, Blagdon Lake. 7th April 2021.Osprey, Pipe Bay, Blagdon Lake. 7th April 2021.


It looks like a female. The eye wasn't that bright, but then the light was awful (I had to expose shots at +3 I think it was), but it's likely to be an adult. I hope to get back to the lake later, for a more general look around. There were lots of hirundines early this morning, and we are just about due for a Hobby around now...

No Hobby this evening, but 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and I forgot to list the Great White Egret Ardea alba that flew up the lake, and the Little Egret Egretta garzetta that flew down the lake this morning while I was on Osprey Watch.


Tuesday 6th April [Cold with a few snow/sleet flurries]

I had some time free around lunchtime, so walked from the Lodge to Top End and back. I was pleased to see a pair of Kestrels Falco tinnunculus over Bell's Bush, I only get a handful of sightings each year these days, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, and heard a couple of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus in song. There were still quite a few hirundines high over the lake and surrounding farmland, mainly Swallows Hirundo rustica.

Ross Fairley emailed me this evening to say he had an Osprey Pandion haliaetus over the Inspection House at 1915 hrs. A nice garden tick if ever there was one! 


Monday 5th April [A cold northerly blast, but sunny most of the day.]

I would like to say it was an excellent day birding at the lake, but the truth was somewhat different. The cold wind suppressed bird song, and although I was at the lake for six hours, I had very little to record. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and a late, lone, adult Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus in summer plumage hawking insects over the water. I heard 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, and this evening there were about a hundred Swallows Hirundo rustica and about the same number of Sand Martins Riparia riparia, plus a House Martin Delichon urbicum over Top End. Things were so desperate, I even went over to 'the other place' to see if I could see the reported Osprey, Garganey or Slavonian Grebes - I didn't see any of those either!


Sunday 4th April [A frosty start, but warm & sunny later.]

Mark and I surveyed the singing birds around the lake this morning while looking for migrants. We had our first Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus singing at The Island reed bed, and recorded 27 singing male Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 19 singing male Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 2 singing male Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 1 Swallow Hirundo rustica, and at least 10, probably 20, Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major and a first Comma Polygonia c-album butterfly of the year. Of the resident birds, a count of 31 singing male Robins Erithacus rubecula was good, but just 18 Wrens Troglodytes troglodytes was well short of the usual 50-60 I would have expected - perhaps the cold night depressed early song?


Saturday 3rd April [A cold breeze, but increasingly sunny.]

I drove down to the lake for a quick look around at lunchtime. I saw a small flock of hirundines, mainly Swallows Hirundo rustica, over Bell's Bush that included my first House Martin Delichon urbicum of the year. Mark and I will be back later for a proper look and may possibly do some bat recording, if there are any out, at dusk in the cold wind. I've watched good numbers of Noctules Nyctalus noctula this week and even saw a Peregrine probably take one!

There were some of the smaller bats out, but no sign of the Noctules this evening. The only bird to add to my notes was a Great White Egret Ardea alba in non-breeding plumage at Indian Country.


Friday 2nd April [Overcast & chilly to start but the sun came out]

Mark and I spent 4 hours at the lake this morning having a proper look around, but it wasn't terribly exciting. All 3 wintering Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos were on the dam wall together, and a fourth was on the overspill. There was a Peregrine Falco peregrinus at Indian Country, an adult drake Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula in Orchard Bay, and a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus in Lodge Copse. We spotted the female of a pair of Mute Swans Cygnus olor in Wood Bay with a yellow darvic ring BJB on her right leg - a regular.

Welcome news from Andy Mears of 4 (3 drakes) Garganey Anas querquedula mid-afternoon stirred me into action again but despite two visits, before and after tea until dusk, but I couldn't find them.

Some of the Green-winged Orchids Anacamptis morio are in bloom already, although it's early days yet. There should be plenty more as things warm up.


Thursday 1st April [Mainly overcast, with a cool and fairly strong easterly breeze]

The weather was a bit of a contrast to yesterday, but when I got out of the car at the Lodge, I could hear the unmistakeable calls of Siskins Spinus spinus in the copse, and saw 8, but I'm sure there were more judging by the calls. As I walked along the road at Holt Bay, I saw 9 Swallows Hirundo rustica that flew out over Rainbow Point, with another a few minutes later over Holt Copse. As I approached Flower Corner, I saw 4 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis flying in from the Top End, and eventually had great views of 15 that had settled down to preen and wash before they were disturbed by a pair of anglers in a boat who motored to within 30 metres of the tree (probably unwittingly to be fair), but the result was that all the egrets took off, circled a couple of times, and flew off.  A shame.

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