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Blagdon Lake Birds

February 2022 News

Monday 28th February [Dry am & wet pm]

Not much to report from a wet lakeside this afternoon. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still on the dam at the south end, and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba brightened up an otherwise grey outlook. I didn't spot the Common Scoter, unsurprisingly, I'm sure it will have moved on quickly at this time of year.


Sunday 27th February [Sunny]

Andy Mears found a drake Common Scoter Melanitta nigra at the lake this morning. It was still present until at least 1015 hrs, although viewed distantly from the Lodge. He also saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at the dam. Thanks for the heads-up Andy. Bri Thompson told me he'd seen a Brimstone butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni at the Lodge entrance gate too.

I went back to the lake during the late afternoon and saw the Scoter with a few people, and it was still feeding way out from the Lodge at 1615 hrs. I walked with Mark to Wood Bay Point and back and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Indian Country and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago  in front of the Lodge this morning.

The male Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus, that I have been nursing back to health, has been eating well and has flown/landed well both yesterday and today. The evening forecast is 8 Celsius at 1800 hrs, so cooler than yesterday's forecast, but I think I'll release it where it came from this evening, as we have a few mild nights ahead. Evening update: the bat ate 14 more meal worms and then decided, yeah, it's time to get back home. One of the ladies in the mews, very kindly  donated £10, which I will pass on to Avon Bat Group, and I've got plenty of meal worms left that our garden birds will very likely tuck into tomorrow morning!


Friday 25th February [A beautiful sunny day]

I walked from the house to Top End gate and back this afternoon, it was lovely to see the sunshine. There isn't that much to tell about the birds though. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and enjoyed watching the Rooks Corvus frugilegus starting to build their nests at Hellfire Corner. That's it!


Wednesday 23rd February [Sunshine & light showers. Breezy.]

I walked the south side this afternoon and only saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba of note. Although the bill is still yellow (so not in full breeding regalia), it has got a fine set of aigrettes over its back. I think it's fair to assume the Black-necked Grebe has moved on, which is surprising so early in the year, and a shame because we won't get to see it in its breeding colours. I saw 6 Pochard Aythya ferina and 10 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula today in the more clement conditions (cf. yesterdays count), and my eye was drawn to several clumps of flowering Primroses Primula vulgaris in the sunshine.

One of the fishery rangers, Henry, told me he'd seen 2 Red Kites Milvus milvus circling together over the Pumping Station yesterday, which is a nice record and one I'm sorry I missed. There were quite a few Buzzards Buteo buteo up in the sunshine this afternoon, no doubt happy the gales have abated somewhat, and it's time we should all be keeping an eye out for the start of the Osprey and Sand Martin passage when at the lake. It might be getting quiet with regards to waterfowl, but all things being equal, the spring migrants are probably only a few days away.

The Pipistrelle is continuing to make progress and ate well this morning although, once again, it took quite a while to encourage it to eat. However, when it got going...


Tuesday 22nd February [Some rain & wind in the morning, clearing later.]

Water level 82%

Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning from 0940-1210 hrs: Coot 499, Tufted Duck 270, Wigeon 149, Canada Goose 128, Mallard 56, Teal 40, Gadwall 34, Shoveler 22, Mute Swan 17, Moorhen 11, Goldeneye 7, Little Grebe 7, Pochard 4, Cormorant 4, Great Crested Grebe 3, Grey Heron 3, Snipe 1, Great White Egret 1, Buzzard 1, Common Sandpiper 1. Common Gull c. 350, Black-headed Gull c. 100, Herring Gull c. 30, Lesser Black-backed Gull c. 10, Mediterranean Gull 1 adult. I couldn't find the Black-necked Grebe.

I thought the bat collected yesterday was going to die in my hand this evening when it woke. However, after 2 hours or so careful warming and hydration, I got it to take 19 meal worms. I boxed it again for the night and we'll see how it's recovered in the morning. Fingers crossed.


Monday 21st February [Gales dying down & late sunny spells]

I went to the lake to replenish the feeders early afternoon, and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Pipe Bay from over the small gate in Park Lane before the storm had blown over. There has been more tree damage overnight and I reported the fallen tree over the path to the Top End hide while I was having a look around. Please be careful if you visit. Rob and I are going to do the WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Just after I'd got in from an early evening run, I had a call-out to a bat that had been found swimming in a sink in a house in Clevedon. It's a Pipistrelle that I've brought home to check over and roost overnight. Hopefully I'll be able to take it back and release it in a day or two.


Sunday 20th February [Gales & rain] Storm Franklin

Another thoroughly miserable day, and as Mark went down to the lake before me this morning, and reported seeing very little other than 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, I didn't bother. We have a bat box to rehang, but that will have to wait until the winds abate somewhat.

In the afternoon, we went to Bristol City Museum to the Bristol Moth Group Meeting where, among other things, we heard about some of the latest research being conducted by Bristol University into the ways moths have evolved wing structures that confuse bat echolocation to avoid being captured. They are also looking at how some of this research may have practical uses with noise amelioration.

We were due to do our WeBS count tomorrow, but with continuing gales being forecast (Storm Franklin), we are going to put it off until Tuesday -  a bit late, but better than not at all.


Saturday 19th February [Wintery showers & a strong westerly wind]

The lakes were opened to birdwatchers with permits again today. There was quite a lot of tree damage in evidence, including a broken branch hanging over the south side road at the west end of the copse where Top End bird hide is, and there's a tree that's blown over resting against another over the path to the hide. So please be careful if you visit tomorrow.

At the dam the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was pottering around as normal, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Pipe Bay with a group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula (usually a clue to finding it), and a mobile Great White Egret Ardea alba was seen several times (unless there were two). Most of the passerines were keeping their heads down.


Friday 18th February [Storm force winds. Some hail.] Storm Eunice

Bristol Water have announced that they have closed all permit only areas and car parks at the local reservoirs today until further notice due to the dangers likely to be brought by the incoming storm. Please stay safe folks.


Thursday 17th February [Breezy]

My mate Alan Bone spent some time birding at the lake yesterday but didn't see the  Black-necked Grebe or any egrets. He said conditions were pretty difficult for spotting things like the grebe on the very choppy water. 


Wednesday 16th February [Breezy, with drizzle setting in at lunchtime.] Storm Dudley

I took the opportunity for a walk in the dry this morning, before the storm was due to come in during the afternoon. I walked from the house to Holt Copse and back, and it was business as usual, with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Cheddar Water and a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Long Bay. There were several hundred gulls on the wet meadows of Holt Farm, mainly Black-headed Chroicocephalus ridibundus and Common Larus canus, with quite a few larger gulls out on the lake.


Tuesday 15th February [Very wet in the morning, dry later.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis has elected for a change of scenery and moved to Holt Bay, and the single Great White Egret Ardea alba was quite mobile this afternoon. At Top End, I saw a Brambling Fringilla montifringilla with a small flock of Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam wall. There appeared to be lots of Wood Pigeons Calumba palumbus about, and I even saw a few Redwings Turdus iliacus, both perhaps, on passage.


Monday 14th February [Windy. Sunny spells.]

I went for a run in the morning, but had a look at the lake in the afternoon. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Long Bay, and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta from Top End hide. Waterfowl numbers continue to drop.


Saturday 12th February [Sunny early then rain later. Chilly.]

I had a brief look at lunchtime and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Top End.

Water level 77%


Friday 11th February [A glorious sunny day - if a little chilly]

I walked from the house to Top End gate and back birding as I went, and added Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus, a transitional adult with partial hood, to the site year list from the dam when I got there at lunchtime. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still present between Green Lawn and The Fishing Lodge, a mobile Great White Egret Ardea alba was first noted on the North Shore, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita was calling at Long Bay, but remained unseen. When I got back to the dam, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was toddling about on the wall as usual. It was nice to see a few birders about too!


Thursday 10th February [Sunny spells. Chilly.]

I had a walk around East Harptree, Coley and Litton this morning, including the reservoirs. There were a staggering 24 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis on the Lower res. and 3 on the Upper res. I planned to visit Blagdon during the afternoon but events took over. So, I'm sorry, no news today.


Wednesday 9th February [Overcast with mizzle. Mild.]

I took a leisurely stroll down the hill to the Top End hide and back today. I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba right in front of the Lodge, and spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis from Green Lawn looking back towards the dam end. I wrote yesterday that I didn't see any winter thrushes, but today I saw the flock of about 50 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, but no Redwings. Walking back, I saw a large raptor with long wings flying away south from Hellfire Corner as I approached, which eventually gave itself up when it turned over the Yeo Valley factory - my first Red Kite Milvus milvus at the lake this year. I was so chuffed, I missed the gate where I was going to join the public footpath and walk back home over the fields! I scoped the waterfowl, and looked for the Chiffchaffs again, but there's nothing to report on either front.


Tuesday 8th February [Dry & mild]

For a change, I walked this morning, from the Lodge to Top End and back. The usual culprits were noted, the wintering Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis out in the middle of the dam end, and the adult female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus putting up about 20 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End. Waterfowl numbers are dropping pretty rapidly, as they move away to their breeding grounds, and I realised last night that the Black-necked Grebe may be the same one that dropped in last Spring. I don't know why that hadn't occurred to me before. Perhaps it may become a regular winter visitor? They are often site faithful. The wind direction had changed slightly today and there were no midges flying in the shelter of the hedgeline where I saw the Chiffchaff group yesterday, consequently there were no Chiffs there today, and I didn't see any flocks of winter thrushes on Holt Farm meadows either.


Bristol Water have announced the dates for the start of the Blagdon trout fishing season as follows:

  • 1st March - Season ticket holders
  • 3rd March - Bank angling starts
  • 10th March - Boat angling starts


Monday 7th February [Dry until I went for a walk - driving drizzle followed]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was right out in the middle of the dam end this afternoon, and the putative Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid was in Home Bay. A Snipe Gallinago gallinago flew at Wood Bay as I walked along the road, and I spotted a Great White Egret Ardea alba stalking the flooded margins at Indian Country. My best sighting was a little group of 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita catching insects aerially from the same hedge line, one of which showed no green tones that I could discern, while the others were clearly Common Chiffs P. c. collybita. Maybe better light, and a photo or two, might help with identification.


Sunday 6th February [Overnight gales & rain. Windy by day.]

Still 'alive and kicking', so I walked from the house to the Top End hide and back this afternoon. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was at Cheddar Water, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, a Great White Egret Ardea alba was initially in Long Bay, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Flower Corner. A couple of counts included a reduced flock of 137 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 42 Carrion Crows Corvus corone at Holt Bay, and 3, or more, Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the hide. The best spectacle was the flock of Redwings Turdus iliacus and mixed finches behind the Top End hide. I couldn't pick out anything special among them though.


Thursday 3rd February [Some early drizzle but otherwise dry]

I enjoyed a 7.6 mile walk with friends, from Dundas Aquaduct to Bathampton and back, along the K&A canal today. While they enjoyed a coffee and something to eat in the George, I popped along to the Titfield Thunderbolt Studio to pick up a couple of railway books I'd ordered, and have a chat with owner Simon. Of course, I came away with more books than I'd intended, but hey, who's counting? I saw a flock of Redwings near the pub, in trees by the canal, but nothing much else of note bird-wise. I didn't visit the lake.


Wednesday 2nd February 

I drove down to the lake and walked to Top End and back. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis thanks to Derek Angell, who was watching it in Home Bay, but I didn't spot the Scaup. I haven't seen Derek to chat to for several years, since I've been concentrating my birding effort at Blagdon, so it was nice to have a chinwag and chew the cud.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.