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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2021 News

Monday 31st May [Hot & sunny]

I went down to the lake to bird watch in the evening, and finally caught up with a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Hellfire Corner/Bell's Bush pines. The Cuckoo Cuculus canorus could still be heard singing over on North side of the lake, and I saw at least 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo as I walked back to the Lodge at dusk. Angler Martin Cottis reported seeing a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus a few times during the day, and Mark also saw the Marsh Harrier, and a Red Kite Milvus milvus at Top End as I made my way down the hill earlier.

The Soprano Pipistrelle that Mark and I picked up from the road is doing well in care, and flew strongly enough to encourage me to think it might be close to being ready for release back near Moat Farm in the next day or so. It has been getting stronger day by day, but not capable of sustained flight up until now, so I thought it might have to go to a carer for a more prolonged rehabilitation programme at the weekend. Hopefully we'll get it back home before then.


Sunday 30th May [Hot & sunny]

I walked to Chew Stoke in the evening, via the lake, to do a bat emergence survey with Ken and Mark. On the way, I was amazed to see a male Orange-tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines still on the wing and heard my first Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing somewhere over the North Shore towards West Town. I saw a single Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting over Holt Bay but had a verbal report that there were two there a few minutes before I arrived.

The Soprano Pipistrelle roost had grown very significantly since last year, when we counted around 30-40 bats, to 170 this evening.


Saturday 29th May [Warm & mainly sunny]

They're like buses - there is a second Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood on the lake, this one of 5 cygnets at Home Bay. Two Hobbies Falco subbuteo were hunting over Holt Bay and adjacent cattle pastures.

There was pleasing news about the Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus picked up from Chew Stoke last Wednesday. We released it back on site as the other bats were emerging, and after a couple of orientation circuits it flew off strongly with them towards their feeding area. The one that was picked up in Bickfield Lane off the road continues to eat well, but it isn't flying strongly enough to be released yet.


Friday 28th May [Warm sunshine]

We have our first Mute Swan Cygnus olor brood, of 2 cygnets, in Long Bay and I counted 59 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, excluding the brood, with numbers climbing as they arrive prior to their moult. The moulting drake Gadwall Mareca strepera was in Holt Bay, as was a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and I noted my first Small White butterfly Pieris napi around the corner at Wood Bay. Further up the lake there were 2 more Hobbies hunting at Flower Corner.


Thursday 27th May [Warm sunshine] 

A walk in the evening produced 2+ Hobbies Falco subbuteo at Top End.


Wednesday 26th [Sunshine all day]

I was busy for much of the day with the Avon Bird Report and then had a call about a grounded bat. Amazingly, on the way to help with the grounded bat at Chew Stoke with Mark, we saw another flapping about on the road by Moat Farm. It was a female Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus, as was the one at Chew Stoke.

I finally got down to the Top End hide, after the glorious sunset was past its best, and saw 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo over the water.


Tuesday 25th May [Bright & sunny. Still cool in the wind.]

I paid a quick visit late morning and saw 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo and a Whitethroat Sylvia communis at Top End. There was also a single Sand Martin Riparia riparia among the hundreds of House Martins Delichon urbicum feeding in front of the Lodge. A walk in the evening didn't produce any new birds but I found another oil beetle on the road, this time at Flower Corner. I was able to photograph this one on my phone and identify it positively as a Violet Oil Beetle Meloe violaceus when I got home. It seems to be a good year for them.


Monday 24th May [Some sunshine at last!]

Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning and totted up the following: 136 (inc. 4 juvs) Coots, 44 (inc. 4 juvs) Canada Geese, 28 (inc. 3 juvs) Mallards,18 Great Crested Grebes, 15 Mute Swans, 5 Cormorants, 4 Grey Herons, 4 Hobbies, 3 Buzzards, 3 Moorhens, and just 2 Tufted Ducks and a Gadwall. The Tufted Duck count is the lowest we've made since I started doing WeBS counts in 1997. I also counted 3 Great Black-backed and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There are obviously more birds present but, wisely, they are all hiding away in the marginal vegetation trying to keep out of harm's way. I spotted another Oil Beetle during the count and moved it off the road out of harm's way. Rob took a photo with his phone of the beetle on my finger, but I still can't be 100% sure of its ID, although once again I suspect it was a Violet Oil Beetle. I believe it was a new 1km square for my records though - I must check sometime.

I may go down to Top End this evening to count Hobbies at dusk because I suspect there are more than the 4 present - I'd never have thought I'd see the day when I counted more Hobbies than Tufted Ducks at the lake! Surely a first...  evening update, I saw 5 Hobbies at Top End. Oh, and I nearly forgot, the Greylag Anser anser was back with the small flock of Canada's on Holt Farm again this evening.


Sunday 23rd May [Windy & increasingly wet]

I had a good look around this morning and, aside from an Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus  that flew around the dam end calling while I made my way towards Butcombe Bay, I saw very little in the windy conditions. I confirmed that Adder's-tongue Fern Ophioglossum vulgatum was still extant at Top End after a little searching and spotted a lone Gadwall Anas strepera off Rugmoor Point, which was a surprise having thought they'd all moved away. During my walk, I met a photographer (Steve Mac?), who told me he'd been watching 7 Hobbies at Holt Bay yesterday afternoon, but neither of us saw one this morning before I left site.


Saturday 22nd May [Increasingly windy with showers]

In the evening the Greylag Anser anser was with Canada Geese Branta canadensis again, and at Top End I counted 5 Hobbies Falco subbuteo at dusk, plus another over Holt Copse briefly. 


Friday 21st May [Wild & windy with heavy rain]

The Greylag Anser anser was on Holt Farm again, and I saw around 40 Canada Geese Branta canadensis. Aside from them, I only have a single Hobby Falco subbuteo to report, but in all fairness, conditions were pretty dire.


Thursday 20th May [Wild & windy]

The adult Greylag Anser anser was still on Holt Farm, this time with 28 Canada Geese Branta canadensis. The brood of Canada's is still intact despite the weather and predators. Having already seen a dead Oil Beetle Meloe sp. on the road a few days ago, I saw a live one today which I moved out of harm's way - I suspect it was a Violet Oil Beetle Meloe violaceus, but I didn't have my glasses with me so couldn't be sure, although it's the only species I've seen at the lake to date.


Wednesday 19th May [Dry & sunny. Breezy.]

I walked the south shore early evening to listen to birdsong and look out for passerines in the main. The only thing I have to report was the adult Greylag Anser anser on Holt Farm with Canada's Branta canadensis. It was a more pleasant experience than last night though!

When I got home Ross Fairley texted me to say he'd seen 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo and an Otter Lutra lutra at Top End towards dusk. Thanks Ross.


Tuesday 18th May [Showers with light rain setting in later]

I met Mark at the lake in the evening, and we walked the south side of the lake in the light rain. The Greylag Anser anser was on Holt Farm again, and just a single Hobby Falco subbuteo was hunting off Wood Bay Point. The most remarkable sighting was a Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus buck that swam across the lake from Rugmoor to Hellfire Corner with quite an impressive turn of speed given it doesn't have much by way of paddles. And, while we were in the Top End hide, we saw two separate instances of predation; a Crow Corvus corone flew down off a tree into the marginal vegetation and grabbed something that we couldn't identify as it flew away across Top End directly away from us, followed by another Crow that dived into an unguarded nest and grabbed an egg (probably a Coot or Moorhen), before repeating the action a minute or so later. Sometimes it's a tough watch...


Monday 17th May [Mainly dry & sunny with some light rain showers]

Things are settling down as migration draws to a close for the spring. A pair of Canada Geese Branta canadensis were on Green Lawn today with their new brood of four goslings (1st brood of the year), while an adult Greylag Anser anser was with a flock of 15 non-breeding Canada's on Holt Farm. Lingering migrants included a single Sand Martin Riparia riparia and a Hobby Falco subbuteo seen over The Island at dusk.


Sunday 16th May [Mainly dry with a few showers]

Mark and I arranged to meet for an early morning look at the lake with the view to possibly going somewhere else later to catch up with some new birds for the year, but in the event we watched the 7 Hobbies Falco subbuteo again, saw the Greylag Anser anser, and had the good fortune to be on Rainbow Point when I heard an Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus calling, just in time for us to see it fly east up the lake, thereby adding a new bird to the Blagdon year list, which has stalled somewhat for the last two to three weeks.


Saturday 15th May [Sunshine & showers. Cool.]

A day with time spent watching the Hobbies Falco subbuteo at Holt Bay again. We reckon there were 7 today, and they put on a great show feeding over the bay and occasionally whipping around Rainbow Point right in front of us. They are clearly finding lots of food judging by their full crops. Mark spotted the Greylag Anser anser on Holt Farm fields with some Canada Geese Branta canadensis and I saw a dead Oil Beetle Meloe sp. on the road that had, unfortunately, been run over.


Hobby, Holt Bay. 15th May 2021.Hobby, Holt Bay. 15th May 2021.


Thursday 13th May [Some torrential rain showers. Cold afterwards in the evening.]

I took a fairly brisk walk this afternoon and managed to dodge the heavy downpours. I didn't see much until I got to Holt Bay, but there was an adult Greylag Goose Anser anser there, which briefly attracted my attention away from the 7 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding low over the water. I rounded the corner at Rainbow Point and was confronted with another 5 Hobbies feeding off Wood Bay Point, making a total of at least 12 present. While at Top End I counted 7 Hobbies feeding along the Indian Country bank, but it turned out later that they were probably the same ones, displaced by a fishing boat moving into Holt Bay and anchoring up. While at Top End I saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis wondering where it was going to fish with all the water coloured in the feeder streams! Mark came over for a look after work, hoping to see all the Hobbies, but hadn't seen one before I arrived back in the evening. I think they were all perched up in trees after the rain, and even though we did see 4 later, I think the cold front that came through at dusk supressed any fly life on the wing, so the birds didn't bother hunting. I noted at least one Sand Martin Riparia riparia was still present among the hirundines and plentiful Swifts Apus apus, and the usual Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew in from the west to roost.


Wednesday 12th May [Sunny & warm, then clouding over with rain at teatime.]

I enjoyed a walk in the warm sunshine early this afternoon, hoping to find a Spotted Flycatcher, or hear a Lesser Whitethroat, but no luck with them. However, Blagdon was certainly 'Hobby Heaven' with no fewer than 13 birds over the lake. I think there may have been up to sixteen, but I'll settle for the maximum count in one sweep with my bins from Peg's Point. I had seen three other birds shortly beforehand, over the Top End, that I didn't see during the aforementioned count. The damselflies, and perhaps St. Mark's and mayflies could have been the attraction, but the one group of eleven over the centre of the lake were feeding quite high up among the Swifts Apus apus for much of the time, only occasionally coming down to feed low over the lake and its margins. It was quite a spectacle. The Little Egret Egretta garzetta was in Top End before flying up towards the Hatchery, and while I was at Top End, I saw a female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus in flight around Burmah Road and then high over Rainbow Point. Before it clouded over, I also saw my first Green-veined White Pieris napi butterfly of the year.


Tuesday 11th May [Breezy with sunshine & showers]

I had a couple of messages during the day from Ross and Jeff to say there were up to 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at Pipe Bay/Lodge so went down for a look:


Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.


Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.


Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.Hobby, Pipe Bay. 11th May 2021.


They were certainly putting on a display, catching insects and making the occasional dart at one of the vigilant hirundines feeding alongside them. Thanks for the heads up, guys. I managed a short walk before rain set in, and while hurrying back to the Lodge I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in one of Holt Farm fields where they were injecting slurry.


Monday 10th May [Breezy with sunshine & showers]

It was blowing pretty hard at the lake, and the boats were not allowed out for the third consecutive day at least. I managed a walk dodging the showers, but in truth didn't see or hear anything new. There were still some Sand Martins Riparia riparia among the hirundines, and I heard a Whitethroat Sylvia communis singing from one of the hedges. Disappointing.


Sunday 9th May [Breezy, but sunny & warm]

The first day of the year I've been able to go birding without wearing a coat, and what a difference a bit of sun and warmth makes! I saw my first Grass Snake Natrix natrix, a large female I'd guess from her size, and Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, Comma Polygonia c-album, Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines, Peacock Aglais io and Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae butterflies on the wing. There were 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo over the lake, and I heard one Whitethroat Sylvia communis and 2 Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing in the hedges along the south side of the lake. Other notable firsts were the first Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa spike poking its head up, fair numbers of teneral damselflies making their maiden flights away from the water, and lots of St. Mark's (aka Hawthorn) flies Bibio marci hanging on the breeze.

In the evening Ken, Mark and I checked the Chew Valley Lake bat boxes were all okay and not about to fall, before checking a couple at Blagdon. I'm glad we did, the year of inactivity on the bat work front (imposed by the authorities due to the Covid-transmission risk) has left us with some housekeeping to do.


Saturday 8th May [Windy]

Today was the first day with a decent number of Swifts Apus apus over the lake this year - certainly over 100. There was also at least one lingering Sand Martin Riparia riparia and 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo. 


Friday 7th May [Mainly sunny & slightly warmer]

Another evening walk saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo at dusk (two at Bell's Bush and one at Green Lawn). Oh, nearly forgot, I saw a Sand Martin Riparia riparia again today - their migration seems to be over a very protracted period this Spring.


Thursday 6th May [Sunny, but the breeze had an edge to it still.] 

I only had time for another evening visit, but was thrilled to watch 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo chasing each other, before what was probably a fourth flew after them in the same direction. A single Swift Apus apus and several Sand Martins Riparia riparia were over the lake with lots of the two common hirundines. I also saw 2 Hares and a Fox while I was out.


Wednesday 5th May [A pleasant evening, if a little chilly in the breeze.]

I walked the south side of the lake in the evening and was joined by Ross. I'd noted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and counted 7 Swifts Apus apus with several Sand Martins Riparia riparia before we met, as well as an 8th brood of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, comprising just 2 juveniles, at Green Lawn. As dusk fell we counted 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding over the lake. The best sighting was an Otter Lutra lutra, spotted by Ross, as we watched the Hobbies. It swam from the nearside of the lake in front of us towards the other side, occasionally 'porpoising' as it went.


Tuesday 4th May [Wintery squalls with some hail].

It was a bit wild this evening with squalls and rain blowing over. As I walked around Long Bay there was a Little Egret Egretta garzetta sheltering from the weather alongside a couple of Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo and a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. I counted 5 Swifts Apus apus among the hirundines from Green Lawn, and noted several Sand Martins Riparia riparia among them too.

Ross Fairley told me he'd seen 3, possibly 4, Hobbies Falco subbuteo this evening after I'd gone home.


Monday 3rd May [A fine day turned increasingly wet & stormy]

I located 3 Whitethroats Sylvia communis along the south side of the lake this morning, and spotted a new brood (7th for the lake in 2021) of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos at Green Lawn. There were hundreds of hirundines that I looked through again just before tea, hoping for that rarity, but no such luck... just one Swift Apus apus, and a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water.

There are two emails that I've received that are particularly interesting:

Firstly, Blagdon Lake has had a second visit from a White-tailed Eagle, this time one of the wandering birds from the Isle of Wight introduction scheme. Richard Mielcarek kindly copied me with the following information from Stephen Egerton-Read "I can also confirm there was an IoW bird on the 13th April, this is a male G461 he was present from 1417 to 1517, I have also attached a map of his flight."


Track of White-tailed Eagle on 13th April 2021Track of White-tailed Eagle on 13th April 2021


Secondly, Mark received information, that I shared on 23rd April, from Steve Groves, Swanherd at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset about the Mute Swan, Yellow FKL, as follows: "Thank you for reporting Mute Swan Yellow FKL. This bird was ringed at Abbotsbury Swannery during our roundup of moulting swans on the 20th of July 2019. It’s BTO is XY3640. It was aged as ‘code 5’ (so definitely hatched in 2018 but not at Abbotsbury). It was sexed as a male. Its moult score was 3. It weighed 8.8 kg. Best regards." It'll be interesting to see if the bird sticks around because Mark and I thought it looked like a female - perhaps this is due to immaturity?


Sunday 2nd May [Sunny spells with the wind turning west]

I went for a walk this evening and saw just the one Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and very little else until I turned back from Top End gate, when a Little Egret Egretta garzetta flew overhead and landed in the trees to roost again. While pacing out in order to get home before dark, I noticed an Otter Lutra lutra swimming and diving along the water's edge at Wood Bay keeping pace with me. I watched it for a couple of minutes before it swam towards me and under the bank where it was lost to view. Although I waited for a few minutes, I didn't see it re-appear.


Saturday 1st May [Mainly sunny, but with a chilly breeze still.]

I carried out another early morning survey around the lake counting singing birds, with a special emphasis on migrants, and totted up the following: 31 Blackcaps, circa 24 Reed Warblers, 19 Chiffchaffs, 10 Garden Warblers, 2 Common Sandpipers (not singing), 2 Sedge Warblers, and 2 Whitethroats, plus the following selection of 36 Wrens, 30 Robins, 27 Blackbirds, 12 Song Thrushes, 9 Reed Buntings, 4 Mistle Thrushes, and a Cetti's Warbler. Mark walked the south side and found a male Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca at Top End by the Ubley gate, and although apparently not ringed, it was investigating the Schwegler bat boxes as if it was used to recognising them as nesting boxes. Of course, it was unable to access the small slit entrances in this instance. On the walk back to the Lodge, we came across a newly fledged Rook Corvus frugilegus as well.

In the evening we met back at the lake for another look around but weren't able to add any more bird sightings to share, other than a Hobby Falco subbuteo, but did spend some time watching bats at Holt Copse with Nick Willcox-Brown, including a Serotine Eptesicus serotinus hunting around the edge of the wood, and a Greater Horseshoe Rhinolophus ferrumequinum foraging backwards and forwards along a short stretch of the water's edge at Wood Bay Point. It was flying really low over grass and emerging sedges, occasionally appearing to drop onto prey items, which is something I've never seen one do before, although I'm aware that this is their modus operandi.

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