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Blagdon Lake Birds

November 2021 News

Tuesday 30th November

I spotted an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in front of the Lodge when I arrived this afternoon. As I walked along the road, I noted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in the field with cattle on Holt Farm, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus hanging around above Long and Home Bays, perhaps attracted by the gathering Starlings Sturnus vulgaris preparing to roost there. At Holt Bay 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus were on the shore, and a drake Pintail Anas acuta flew in too. As usual, there were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba stalking the banks and a little group of 8 (6 adult drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off Bell's Bush.


Monday 29th November [Cool, overcast & dry]

I walked down to the lake late in the afternoon, but the access was blocked by the trees still, although there was some work being done, presumably to remove them. I turned back along Park Lane to the dam and up the hill towards Butcombe before returning along Station Road home. I could see 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and one Little Egret Egretta garzetta from the dam.


Sunday 28th November [Still & dry]

I walked to Top End hide and back this afternoon. The entrance drive was still blocked by fallen trees. There are other safety issues caused by the storm that need addressing too.

Anyway, back to the birding, which continues to disappoint... Two Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, were pretending to be cattle egrets around the small outdoor herd on Holt Farm, and a third was in Holt Bay, while 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and 8 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, were the sum total of other noteworthy birds seen this afternoon.


Saturday 27th November [Storm Arwen - cold & gales overnight & through morning. Brightening later.]

Mark came over at first light, and after a cuppa we headed down to the Lodge, but we couldn't get in. There were three trees down right across the entrance drive! I reported it to Bristol Water. 


Blocked Lodge entrance from the gate. 27th November 2021.Blocked Lodge entrance from the gate. 27th November 2021.


Storm Arwen damage. 27th November 2021.Storm Arwen damage. 27th November 2021.


We walked in and clambered around the trees to see 7 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in front of the Lodge with a handful of gulls, but then had to drive right round to the Ubley gate to access the rest of the lake. After parking at Bell's Bush, we walked to Rainbow Point and back, then Mark drove us to the Lodge to check for more safety problems. We saw 30 more Black-wits, along with the 2 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at Holt Bay, and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba on the north side. Nothing unusual appeared to have arrived overnight, although birding conditions were trying, to put it mildly.


Friday 26th November [Cold & getting windy]

I've had little time to bird watch over the last couple of days, and so it was today. However, I made time to pop down to the lake to fill the feeders given that the weather is due to be both stormy and cold over the weekend. From the dam I saw 4 adult drake Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off Butcombe Bank. Ten Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were at the Lodge and another 27 were at Holt Bay, and alongside the latter were 2 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis. I hope to have a good look tomorrow morning to see what's been blown in from the coast, and what's flown in from further north ahead of Storm Arwen. Fingers very firmly crossed!


Tuesday 23rd November

I walked from the house to Top End and back today, birding as I went. On reaching the dam, I saw what I think was a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Butcombe Bay, and heard a Nuthatch Sitta europaea calling from the Inspection House Garden. At the Lodge, I saw 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and another 27 at Holt Bay. There were 2 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis with the cattle on Holt Farm, and I saw 10 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying south from Top End towards the Mendip ridge, as I headed around Wood Bay. When I got to Top End I saw a Great White Egret, probably a second bird, and 6 (2 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.


Monday 22nd November [Chilly & dry]

I didn't manage to get to the lake today but, luckily for me, Ken Hall did, and he sent me the following report:

I walked from the Top End to Green Lawn and back this morning. Of note, a male Pintail Anas acuta at the Top End, where also a Great White Egret Ardea alba. Eleven Goldeneye Bucephala clangula there (five males, six female-type), plus another female-type at Rugmoor Bay. A Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sang by the hide plantation. I counted 33 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, mostly in a flock at Green Lawn. Two Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, one in hedge at Burmah Road, one near the hide, both looked and sounded like standard Chiffchaffs. Also, a Nuthatch Sitta europaea along the way. Nice flock of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris near Holt Farm. On the way back home (at Chew Valley Lake - or t'other place, as we know it), a male Marsh Harrier at Herriott's and the male Long-tailed Duck off the dam, so not a bad morning, especially in the sunshine. Thanks for the news update, Ken, much appreciated.


Sunday 21st November [Chilly]

I was joined by Mark while looking around the Lodge area, so we decided to bird our way to Bell's Bush and back, leaving enough time to go through the gull roost before dark. We saw a flock of circa 100 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus in flight over Green Lawn, as we approached from Long Bay, and when we got to Holt Bay we found 34 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. However, there was no sign of any Cattle Egrets today, just the one Great White Ardea alba at Top End. Quite a lot of Starlings Sturnus vulgaris were flying into the Home Bay roost during the afternoon, and we saw a large flock gathering at Holt Bay on our way back to the Lodge. I had a look at the gull roost from the Lodge, but with the north-easterly blowing, most of them were facing away from me, which made identification quite a challenge. I didn't go around to the dam for another go, like I should have really, I suppose. Just before leaving, I noticed there were 3 Black-wits in front of the Lodge, so perhaps the 37, counted on Thursday, were all still present today.


Saturday 20th November [Overcast. Early drizzle & mist.]

Lucy and the Bath RSPB Group had an excellent visit this morning, and my thanks go to her for sending their sightings for inclusion on the blog. A flock of 20 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis, and a female Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus were the pick of the bunch, but they also recorded the flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, some Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 9 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, and a single Great White Egret Ardea alba of note.

Mark picked me up at 0630 hrs and we went for an away day to Weymouth, principally because he was hoping to see the Little Auk that had been in the harbour for the last few days. We drove straight to RSPB Radipole and parked, then walked along the quayside into town. It didn't take long to catch up with the little guy and got our day off to a good start. As we'd bought a 2hr parking ticket we had a leisurely stroll around part of the reserve and had great views of a confiding Cetti's Warbler, some Chiffchaffs and a female Blackcap. We moved on to Ferrybridge, on hearing news that the Red-breasted Flycatcher in Portland Observatory garden hadn't been seen early in the morning, so had a look through the waders and geese on the falling tide. There was a nice selection, with hundreds of Mediterranean Gulls and some Red-breasted Mergansers, and over the road we saw, distantly, 5 Black-necked and one Slavonian Grebe in Portland Harbour. We moved on to the obs. but there was still no sign of the flycatcher, so, after a late breakfast at the Lobster Pot, we trundled down to Fleet Lane for a walk to Butterstreet Cove where 2 Black Brants, and a Great Bustard, had been reported earlier. It was a 1.5 mile walk to the point where we could overlook the goose flock, most of which were miles away, but we bumped into two birders we'd met earlier a couple of times during the day, and they put us onto the bustard, and I returned the favour by spotting the Brants. It was a bit of a tired trudge back up the hill to the car, we'd covered 6.5 miles during the day, but we set off home pretty happy with the days birding.


Little Auk, Weymouth Harbour, Dorset. 20th November 2021.Little Auk, Weymouth Harbour, Dorset. 20th November 2021.


Friday 19th November [Dull until late afternoon]

I had a busy time today, so my trip to the lake was rather too late in the day. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba but didn't spot the Black-tailed Godwit flock which may, I suppose, have finally moved on. Bath RSPB Group are visiting tomorrow morning with leader Lucy, perhaps they'll find something...


Thursday 18th November [Overcast, sometimes with mizzle.]

This morning I met friends for a 7 mile walk at Leigh Woods & Ashton Court. I did venture down to the lake in the car late in the afternoon and saw 37 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba of note.


Red Deer, Ashton Court Deer Park, Bristol. 18th November 2021.Red Deer, Ashton Court Deer Park, Bristol. 18th November 2021.


Wednesday 17th November [Sunny with a chilly breeze]

I arrived at the Lodge just after lunch and saw a dead Canada Goose Branta canadensis at the water's edge. I had a scan through the gulls, then spent a bit of time checking the trees at Lodge Copse. I saw a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, but it didn't call, so I'm still waiting for my first Siberian Chiffchaff at the lake. At Home Bay I briefly saw a dragonfly in flight, but despite waiting for a while, I didn't see it again so it too will have to remain unidentified. At Holt Bay, I counted 33 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeal. I spotted 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Rugmoor Point, but angler Jeff Hirst told me he'd seen 30-40 there during the morning. As I walked back to the car from Top End, I came across a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Long Bay and saw and heard a small flock of 7-8 Siskins Spinus spinus fly overhead at Lodge Copse. Many of the trees have been dropping their leaves during the last week or so, although the Oaks are still clothed in their finery.


Tuesday 16th November [Overcast & mild]

There's been a curious spread of waterfowl over the last few days, with the vast majority at the dam end. The Top End was virtually devoid of ducks. A lot of small birds were moving around at Lodge Copse, but they were so mobile it was hard to pick out any unusual visitors among them. I thought I heard Siskins calling when a small flock of finches flew over the central space between treetops, but I couldn't eyeball them when they landed. Frustrating! Anyway, as I got to Home Bay I did manage to pick out a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeal in the reeds. At Green Lawn, a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus flew up and off west, and at Holt Bay several small groups of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa flew out - I counted fifteen. Scanning Top End from Rainbow Point, I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and despite walking to the Ubley gate, I didn't note anything else other than lots of Jackdaws Corvus monedula flying east to roost.

Monday 15th November [Still & overcast]

It was a beautiful, calm, late afternoon when I finally got down to the lake. There were still some small groups of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa around The Lodge, Long Bay and Green Lawn. I counted 18, but there may have been others that I missed. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing at Home Bay, while I watched several hundred Starlings Sturnus vulgaris fly to roost in the reeds. There were no aerial acrobatics, they just came in waves and landed straight into the roost. I left the lake to walk up the hill to the sound of a male Tawny Owl Strix aluco proclaiming his patch to all potential rivals.


Sunday 14th November [Sunny start turned overcast. Mild & still.]

I didn't visit the lake yesterday because I went to east Bristol to check & rehang some bat boxes with Ken and Mark. However, Mark came over today, and we looked around the lake this afternoon.  Quite amazingly, there were 26, at least, Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa still hanging on at the lake, and probably over 100 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus with, curiously, many standing on the remnant weed beds dotted across Top End as if they were standing on the water's surface. Never seen that before! Two Great White Egrets Ardea alba were over from Chew, and 8 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris were back at Holt Bay and, as usual, they roosted in the lakeside bushes. While I walked on to Top End gate, Mark stayed in the hide and heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, and a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing, while I heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita call at Bell's Bush.


Friday 12th November [Overcast with some showers]

A longer birding walk of 10km from the house to Top End and back was somewhat marred by steady rain catching me out while I was at the furthest point from home. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam, and two groups of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa (19 and 7). Then, just before the rain started, a Red Admiral butterfly Vanessa atalanta flew past me. After that, it was hood up and head down, as I headed home getting soaked!


Thursday 11th November [Mild & overcast]

Another afternoon birding at the lake, and I was joined by Paul Williams who arrived as I was about to set out from the Lodge. I'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam and had a look through the gulls in front of the Lodge with my scope but couldn't see anything unusual there. As we walked along Long Bay, Paul spotted the Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa on Home Bay Point. I counted 24. We saw 4 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba of note, and that was about it.


Wednesday 10th November [Mild & mainly overcast]

Another afternoon by the lake hoping to see something different, but it wasn't to be. I recorded 4 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with 264 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 37 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti from the Top End hide.


Tuesday 9th November [A mild & moderately pleasant day]

I had a walk around the lake, in my capacity as warden, today. The birding is terribly slow again though. I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and there were 4 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in front of the Lodge with the gulls. As I walked towards the bridge at the head of Long Bay I could hear Redwings Turdus iliacus chattering in the Poplars, and while scanning the bay I saw a blueish darter (dragonfly) fly across the feeder stream. I quickly lost sight of it, but can only assume it was probably an over-mature female Common or Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sp. with it being so late in the year. I have seen Common Darter as late as 3rd Nov. at the lake previously, so I fancy this was the likely candidate. At Green Lawn, the flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa went up when flushed by an angler, and I noted 34 later, in front of the Lodge. I counted 298 Canada Geese Branta canadensis in Holt Bay, and saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, 4 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and heard a squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus from Top End hide. The only passerine of interest was a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier. I am puzzled, again, by the arrival and immediate departure of Goldeneye. There was a feeding flock of 20 last Saturday with another group of 4 elsewhere. Monday's count had a completely different mix of ages and sex to those seen previously, and today I didn't see any! As they say 'round yer - summat's up.


Monday 8th November [A pleasant day]

Phil and I carried out the WeBS count this morning between 0930 and 1250 hrs. The highlights included 38 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, a 2nd-winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. The actual count was quite a task, with over 4000 waterfowl, and the totals were: Coot 1970, Tufted Duck 571, Teal 565, Mallard 269, Canada Goose 217, Wigeon 136, Gadwall 120, Pochard 92, Black-headed Gull c. 85, Black-tailed Godwit 38, Shoveler 36, Common Gull c. 35, Mute Swan 33, Moorhen 24, Cormorant 16, Great Crested Grebe 15, Little Grebe 11, Goldeneye 9, Pintail 8, Herring Gull 6, Lesser Black-backed Gull 5, Great Black-backed Gull 3, Grey Heron 3, Buzzard 3, Great White Egret 2, Egyptian Goose 2, Mediterranean Gull 1, Common Sandpiper 1.


Sunday 7th November [Dry]

Another away day to Yorkshire was on the cards today, and when Mark got news on his way over to Blagdon early this morning, we decided to go for the sixth time this autumn! I wanted to see the Taiga Flycatcher (a British tick, but seen previously in India), and he wanted to see the flicker and the Red-flanked Bluetail, both at South Landing, Flamborough. We didn't even have to walk 200 metres from the car park and saw the flycatcher in the ravine, and the bluetail in the wood behind us. As my mate Paz would say - boom, boom! A voice from over my shoulder turned out to be none other than Andrew Duff, with Ann Lawson! We enjoyed a catch-up (we last met at the Grey Catbird twitch at Land's End) and watched the flycatcher some more, before Mark and I headed into Bridlington where we enjoyed haddock and chips, washed down with two cups of tea before setting off for home. Mission accomplished. Here's a couple of 'record' shots - not my finest work, but you get the flavour...


Red-flanked Bluetail, South Landing, Flamborough, Yorks. 7th November 2021Red-flanked Bluetail, South Landing, Flamborough, Yorks. 7th November 2021

Taiga Flycatcher, South Landing, Flamborough, Yorks. 7th November 2021.Taiga Flycatcher, South Landing, Flamborough, Yorks. 7th November 2021. 

 It's the WeBS count tomorrow - I think Phil and I will have our work cut out.


Saturday 6th November [Breezy. Changeable.]

I arrived at the Lodge at 0800 hrs this morning and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam at the bottom of the hill. I birded around the Lodge area waiting for Mark to arrive and heard, but didn't see, Siskins Spinus spinus calling, also a Redpoll (presumed Lesser) Acanthis cabaret which I did see as it flew off calling. Nineteen Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew in, and several groups of Redwings Turdus iliacus flew over. Birds were certainly on the move. By the time Mark arrived I still hadn't seen the Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. While we walked the south side to Bell's Bush and back, we heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay reeds, saw a single Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis fly overhead at Long Bay, then the flock of Black-wits (it looked like the same number as yesterday) at Holt Bay, Mark spotted the 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca with the Canada's on Holt Farm, I spotted a group of 20 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off Rugmoor Point plus another 4 at Bell's Bush, a Great White Egret Ardea alba was ranging around, and 3 Pintail Anas acuta and an Otter Lutra lutra were at Top End. There are lots of Aythya ducks arriving now, but no sign of the Lesser Scaup... yet!


Friday 5th November [Overcast & warmer.]

I had a brief look around at lunchtime, but there wasn't a great deal to report after yesterday's excitement! I noted a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Holt Bay and 35, mostly sleeping, Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in front of the Lodge at Polish Water. The island in front of the Lodge has finally been inundated so it seems unlikely that I'll get any more gull ring records this autumn.


Thursday 4th November [Sunny & dry. A chilly breeze.]


Whooper Swan, Top End. 4th November 2021.Whooper Swan, Top End. 4th November 2021.


Paul Williams found a Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus this morning and alerted me. Many thanks Paul. This is, I reckon, the 10th record for the lake. I also met Ken Hall who was having a look around, and he'd seen 3 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, all brown heads, and 16 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. I saw a couple more Black-wits in front of the Lodge. During the afternoon I walked the south side of the lake and actually saw circa 30 Black-wits in Holt Bay, so we'll go with that as a total. 


Black-tailed Godwit, Polish Water. 4th November 2021.Black-tailed Godwit, Polish Water. 4th November 2021.


I also saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 6 Pintail Anas acuta, and counted 53 Mute Swans Cygnus olor. Tufted Duck and Pochard numbers are rising, but there was no sign of the Lesser Scaup that was at Chew. Finally, Mark arrived at the lake from work at about 1715 hrs just in time to see the Whooper Swan, before it flew off east at 1719 hrs. One for the Chew guys, and Wayne at Newton Park, to look out for tomorrow. As I'm writing this, it sounds like WWIII outside as the fireworks parties get under way.  No doubt the next few days will see quite a turn over of water birds coming and going as a result.


Cormorant, Polish Water. 4th November 2021.Cormorant, Polish Water. 4th November 2021.


Wednesday 3rd November [Mainly overcast]

Most of my time today was taken up with retrieving the 2 bat detectors I put up last week, one at Blagdon Lake Pumping Station, and the other in a garden in the village at Street End Lane. They were up for 6 nights again, although as we know now, we had a terrific amount of rain during this deployment.  At Street End Lane, despite the weather, I obtained records of 10 species of bat (although this will likely be reviewed and potentially reduced to, perhaps, eight) and Pygmy Shrew. At the lakeside, I put a recorder up at the Pumping Station, and recorded 10 species of bat (that, again, may be reduced by two) and Speckled Bush-cricket.

Late in the afternoon, I walked from the Lodge to Top End and back, birding as I went. I didn't carry my telescope because I didn't have time to go through all the birds with it before dark, so I made do with my binoculars. In truth, I probably didn't do as thorough a job as I'd have liked, but I did count 27 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, about 35 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, a single Great White Egret Ardea alba, and spotted 2 brown head Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, the first to arrive this winter season.


Tuesday 2nd November [Sunny & still, with an autumnal nip in the air.]

It was a glorious afternoon for a walk and very different from yesterday. The water level continues to rise and I've little doubt Tiny's Shallow will be just that in the next couple of days, instead of the point of land it has been for the last few weeks in front of the Lodge. There were a few gulls and cormorants gathered on the last little bit of an island, and 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa directly in front of the Lodge with the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca (a pair and their youngster), and 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis. As I walked, I only saw the one Great White Egret Ardea alba at the lake today. Scanning through the waterfowl and around the margins, I counted 8 Pintail Anas acuta, and 24 more Black-wits, although just as I started counting one group of sleeping Black-wits one of two Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus approached too close and put them to flight. It was quite a large group, and may have accounted for the rest of the 40 or so, that have been present at the lake over the last week or two. At Top End hide, I heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing in front of me, and spotted a fourth, adult, Egyptian Goose in the top end trees.


Monday 1st November [Heavy rain showers in the morning after more overnight rain]

I walked to Top End hide and back this morning, trying to dodge the showers. I only carried my binoculars, so didn't really count anything, but I was surprised to see that the Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were still present, and although spread around the lake a bit (including two in front of the Lodge), I suspect most of the 40+ plus were there. The fishing boats have finished for the year now, and the diving ducks are spreading out over the lake, but bank angling will continue until the end of November, so dabbling ducks will be increasingly restricted with their choice of places to feed as the water level continues to rise. There were lots of winter thrushes in the trees at Cheddar Water/Inspection House when I left mid-morning.

The water level is about 66% after the last few days of rain, so has come up about 6% since the WeBS count on 11th October.


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