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Blagdon Lake Birds

March 2022 News

Thursday 31st March [A biting wind with sunshine & occasional snow flurries.]

I went down to the lake twice today, first time late in the morning when I saw a small flock of Swallows Hirundo rustica and one or two Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End and, when I went back in the evening for a couple of hours, I saw what was probably the same group of hirundines and a single Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the hide.


Wednesday 30th March [A lovely warm morning, then a cold front & rain came through in the evening.]

I had time for a brief look in the morning on the way to meeting friends for a 7 mile walk around Chew Stoke, Regil and Chew Magna, but I didn't see anything of note. However, after an early evening meal I went back to the lake as the weather turned for the worse and my expectation of hirundines being forced down was duly rewarded as 7 Swallows Hirundo rustica showed at Top End late on. It's possible they may have roosted at Top End overnight. I also saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago from the hide before deciding to leave in the cold, wet, conditions.


Tuesday 29th March [Cooler than of late & overcast]

I spent the afternoon at the lake hoping to see an Osprey and went down the road at about 1330 hrs. An hour later I had notification from a friend that someone had reported an Osprey north over the lake at about 1330 hrs! I knew I shouldn't have taken my camera with me... it's always the same outcome. Anyway, 3 hours spent there did produce a Red Kite Milvus milvus, 3 Greylag Geese Anser anser, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 21 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm.


Buzzard, Top End, Blagdon Lake. 29th March 2022.Buzzard, Top End, Blagdon Lake. 29th March 2022.


Monday 28th March [A day which became increasingly overcast]

I walked from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this afternoon, and saw 11 Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, a couple of groups of Buzzards Buteo buteo, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 3 pairs of Shoveler Spatula clypeata, and 8 Snipe Gallinago gallinago when I went back in the evening, although I heard quite a few more at dusk, as well as a Barn Owl Tyto alba calling but not seen.


Sunday 27th March [Another beautiful day]

I arranged to meet up with Mark at sunrise this morning, before I surveyed Butcombe Bay and the north shore, while he did the south shore. Between us we counted 36 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 14 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, and no Willow Warblers! I saw 2 pairs of Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa (Station Road at the Inspection House gate and Park Lane at the entrance drive), 7 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris on North Shore, flowering Cowslips Primula veris, 22 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm, and we both heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing at Home Bay (where Mark he'd thought he'd heard one yesterday and a few days before). In the evening I popped back, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water, a female Pochard Aythya ferina at Long Bay, and over 12 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End.

The coming week will undoubtedly see Ospreys migrating northward over the country, so I aim to be out looking for one, and new migrants such as Swallow and House Martin, hoping to get the site list up to 100 spp. in the next few days (I've seen/heard 94 of 95 recorded thus far).


Saturday 26th March [Beautiful]

Mark was at the lake at dawn this morning and saw a sparkling white frost. He told me "there were Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs everywhere." 


Friday 25th March [Beautiful]

During the morning 2 Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus were reported in front of the Top End hide (first of the year).

I walked from the Lodge to Top End gate and back early afternoon but the only thing worth noting were 3 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, the gulls had moved on.

In the evening I met Mark just before dusk, and we walked to Holt Bay and back from the Lodge with his bat detector. We recorded Common, Soprano and Nathusius' Pipistrelles, Noctule and Lesser Horseshoe.


Wednesday 23rd March [Another cracking day]

I decided to go for a potter along the lakeside from the Lodge to Top End and back early this afternoon. There were 2 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla having a singing match in Lodge Copse, the only ones I came across, and quite a few Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita heard along the way. However, by far the most glorious sound to reach my ears, was the call of a Curlew Numenius arquata flying around over the dam end of the lake at about 1410 hrs. It's the archetypal call heard over wild upland moors in summer. I watched it try to land among the Canada Geese on Rainbow Point three times, but it finally settled on Green Lawn, I think, at around 1430 hrs. There were 20 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm, and a pair of Jays Garrulus glandarius showing well at Bell's Bush, but little else to relate. On my way back, an angler flushed the Curlew off Green Lawn and I watched it gain considerable height over Aldwick, but instead of heading off west as expected, it turned and came back and settled on the east end of the lawn at around 1600 hrs. Such unexpected encounters are what makes bird watching at the lake so magical!

A local birder emailed me to say he'd seen 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 3 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis from the Top End hide, which I also saw, but forgot to add to my account. Thanks Martin.


Tuesday 22nd March [A beautiful spring day]

I paid a short visit to the lake as the sun was going down and saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush/Flower Corner, and counted 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm. I was hoping for Little Gull, some of which had been seen earlier at Cheddar Res.

I spent most of the day in Wiltshire, walking with friends for 6.5 miles around Castle Combe. I don't suppose I've been there for 30-40 years. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll as far as West Kington and back, along the Macmillan Way and Broadmead Brook, across Cotswold farmland and through riverside woods. I was amazed to hear no singing Chiffchaffs until we'd walked some 4-5 miles and were along the brook.


Monday 21st March [Overcast & cool early, but a lovely Spring day followed.]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning and counted: Coot 291, Tufted Duck 126, Canada Goose 70, Mallard 31, Mute Swan 23, Gadwall 21, Moorhen 15, Great Crested Grebe 9, Shoveler 9, Little Grebe 6, Teal 4, Cormorant 4, Grey Heron 4, Buzzard 1, Sparrowhawk 1. At the time of the count we had Lesser Black-backed Gull 8 and Great Black-backed Gull 5, but their numbers change markedly throughout the day. Also noted, were 3 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, one singing, and one quietly feeding in the lakeside bushes at Burmah Road, 3 Dark-edged Bee-flies Bombylius major on the wing, plus Sweet Violet Viola odorata and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa in flower. Spring is gathering pace!


Sunday 20th March [Another beautiful sunny day] Spring Equinox

Mark and I met at the lake this morning for a quick look around, prior to spending much of the day at t'other place (Chew Valley Lake) cleaning and checking bat boxes with Ken along the west side. Mark found a Greylag Goose Anser anser before I arrived, but it stuck around long enough for me to catch up with it before it flew off east at around 0920 hrs. We walked from Wood Bay Point to Top End and back, during which we heard a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing, but not the Cetti's Warbler. Mark reckoned there to have been 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba present before I arrived, but I only saw the one.

It's WeBS count day tomorrow.


Saturday 19th March [A beautiful sunny day. Breezy.]

I arrived at the lake at 0800 hrs and surveyed clockwise while Mark, who arrived a few minutes later, walked the south side. I counted 15 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita before we met at Top End and Mark had counted 10, making a total of 25 around the lake perimeter. My final tally was 23, but by the time we got back to the Lodge, things were quietening down as the wind got stronger. As we walked around Holt Bay he spluttered "Brent Goose" Branta bernicla which was just just over the hedge! It was a cracking find; the last records at the lake being in 2015. As we arrived back at the Lodge, we had a look for a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla that Mark had seen earlier in the copse, but it eluded me.


Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Holt Bay. 19th March 2022.Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Holt Bay. 19th March 2022.


We stuck around until after 1300 hrs, having another attempt to locate yesterdays Cetti's Warbler and this mornings Blackcap, but drew a blank on both. Strangely, despite the sunshine, we didn't see any raptors up in the clear blue at all. There seem to be a few Garganey around the area now, but we have little chance of seeing one at Blagdon at the moment. Since the boat anglers went out, the Wigeon and Goldeneye have gone, and for the last few days there have been no fewer than 10 boats anchored in front of the hide with the occasional bank angler there too! 


Friday 18th March [A beautiful Spring day with an easterly breeze]

With the glorious weather, I decided to do a survey of singing migrants around the lake, albeit around the middle of the day. I counted 18 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and, surprisingly, a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus. Funnily enough, Mark told me he heard a Willow Warbler singing on the Somerset Levels today as well. I saw a handful of 5-10 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, and counted a few Rook Corvus frugilegus nests on my round. There were lots of butterflies on the wing in the warm sunshine, mainly Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae and a few Commas Polygonia c-album.

Mark arrived at the lake, and walked the north shore with me, during which he said he'd heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing by the Top End gate -gripped again!


Thursday 17th March

I walked at dusk today so wasn't really expecting to see too many birds, although the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam. There were 15 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm and the water level is continuing to rise so they have to get off the lake to forage. Other sightings included a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus, flowering False Oxlip Primula veris x vulgaris, and lots of bats.


Tuesday 15th March [A warm still day with light cloud]

The only bird of note during a walk from the house to Bell's Bush barrier and back, was a Red Kite Milvus milvus that I watched from the lakeside flying east along the northern side of the Mendip ridge between Blagdon and Compton Martin before I lost it to view at about 1730 hrs.


Monday 14th March [A warm sunny day - at last]

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon, and I saw my first butterflies of the year, a male Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni and a Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae beside the lake. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall, and there was a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita singing in nearly every patch of woodland - I heard 10 between the Lodge and Top End gate. A Nuthatch Sitta europaea was unusual in Holt Copse, and the seemingly resident Great White Egret Ardea alba was roving around Top End, no doubt looking for the loved-up amphibians returning to the water at this time of year. I saw my first Cuckoo Flower/Lady's Smock Cardamine pratensis in flower beside a ditch, and walking back up Dark Lane at 1630 hrs, I was surprised by a Tawny Owl Strix aluco calling from an ivy-covered tree as I went past.


Sunday 13th March [Overnight rain, sunshine & showers by day.]

A walk from the Lodge to Top End gate and back was pleasant enough in the afternoon sun, that was until I got soaked between Long Bay and my car! The birding was pretty uneventful with just 3 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita of note.


Saturday 12th March [Wet overnight, sunny spells by day.]

Mark and I met this morning to finish checking and cleaning the last 7 bat boxes, which we did. We heard 3 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus over the centre of the lake at 1330 hrs and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.


Friday 11th March [Wet morning, showers in afternoon.]

I walked from home to Bell's Bush barrier and back late this afternoon. I saw 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Long Bay, and counted 12 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm meadows feeding on the grass, because the water level is going up and making what weed there is out of reach to them. The weather forecast is better for tomorrow and I shall be hoping to hear my first Chiffchaff song in the morning, and maybe see some more Sand Martins born on the southerly winds.


Thursday 10th March [Mainly cloudy. Milder than of late.]

I was busy until late afternoon, and walked from home to Wood Bay Point and back at dusk. I saw a couple of small bats along Dark Lane at around 1800 hrs, probably Pipistrelles. Then at Wood Bay Point, I watched a number of small bats flying around the edge of Holt Copse, also probable Pipistrelles. Perhaps it's time for a walk with the detector.

My old mate Alan popped in this morning to find out directions to see the Penduline Tits at Weston, and duly texted me later that he'd seen all three. He also went on to Sand Point where he saw 2 Wheatears.


Wednesday 9th March [Mainly cloudy & breezy]

Spring has sprung! I saw 2 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at the lake today. Other sightings included a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Long Bay, 11 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm, 5 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 3 Redwings Turdus iliacus and a Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End.

Boat angling kicks off at the lake tomorrow.


Tuesday 8th March [Sunny most of the day & a bit milder]

I walked from the Lodge to Top End hide and back this afternoon, and didn't record anything at all on the way out. It was pretty dire. Luckily, on the way back I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Flower Corner, 12 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Bell's Bush, 10 Mute Swans Cygnus olor on Lag Farm fields, and 10 Shovelers Spatula clypeata in Holt Bay.

The day was saved when a female Brambling Fringilla montifringilla came in to the patio feed that I'd put down. The first of the winter, in the garden, that I've seen.


Monday 7th March [Sunny, but still a little chilly in the wind.]

Ken and I managed to check and clean, where necessary, all but 7 of the 78 bat boxes today. We saw a few Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, we also found a Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii (not ringed) in one of the boxes too, but we left them all without further interference. We also rehung one of the boxes that came down on a tree in the storms. I tried to keep an eye out for any birds that might be around during the day, and saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at the bottom of the Spillway, and what was probably the same bird later in the afternoon towards Top End. I also saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba in flight over Rugmoor as I made my way back home.


Sunday 6th March [Mainly sunny with a chilly wind]

I met up with Daniel and Mark for breakfast and a catch-up. It was also an opportunity to discuss the coming bat season as it seems likely that we may be able to start doing some work again. After I got home, I walked down to the lake, met up with Mark again, and walked around to Butcombe Bay and back to Rugmoor gate. From a birding point of view it was very quiet again. A Coot Fulica atra seemed to be well advanced with nest building at Long Bay, 8 Mute Swans Cygnus olor were feeding on Lag Farm, a Great White Egret Ardea alba was noted at Bell's Bush, and I heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling at Top End, while Mark heard one at Rugmoor. He drove me back along the south side of the lake, and as we went through Lodge Copse, 2 Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa flushed from the roadside. Tomorrow, Ken Anstey and I are going to be checking the bat boxes, to ensure they are all okay after the winter storms, and to clean them ready for occupation this year.


Saturday 5th March [A gradually improving day with sunshine late afternoon. A biting northerly wind.]

What a difference a day makes! The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was at Cheddar Water, and I saw 1, or 2, Great White Egrets Ardea alba. Apart from 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and seeing 7 adult Mute Swans Cygnus olor feeding on Lag Farm, there wasn't anything else to report.


Friday 4th March [Sunshine, then a cold front with some hail late afternoon.]

I walked from the house to Top End gate and back this afternoon. It was sunny and warm-ish until shortly after 1500 hrs, during which I had the following sightings of Red Kites Milvus milvus:

  • 1406 hrs, 2 flew low west over the Fishing Lodge, the leading bird carrying something in its bill,
  • 1427 hrs, 1 flew south overhead at Green Lawn (videoed on my phone),
  • 1435 hrs, 4 noted in the air together over Holt Farm,
  • 1451 hrs, 1 flew north over the central part of the lake,
  • c. 1515 hrs, 1 distant bird flew west along the ridge north of the lake from Nempnett Thrubwell towards Butcombe.

It's quite possible these were all different birds, but it's also possible that the bird that flew south then north was the same, and may also have been one of those over Holt Farm. I'm confident there were at least 7 different individuals, but there may have been 9. I was sitting in Top End hide when the last bird showed up, but by that time the weather had deteriorated significantly, and probably resulted in any moving birds setting down. I also noted two local pairs of Buzzards Buteo buteo displaying while all the kite activity was going on. Aside from the kite extravaganza, I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Wednesday 2nd March [A grey day]

Today, I checked the bat boxes after the recent storms had wreaked havoc around the lake, birding as I went, of course. I had a close encounter with a low-flying Red Kite Milvus milvus over Holt Bay, that flew off towards Butcombe, and met another birder in Top End hide! One huge pine tree had come down with a box on it, and a Kent box had also been torn off another tree. So, we've got a little bit of maintenance to do in the coming days, as we prepare for the bats to come out of their winter slumbers. There was a small flock of about 10 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Long Bay, and the wintering Starling Sturnus vulgaris  flock of 150-200 birds was on Holt Farm. I also noted an early sign of spring at Top End gate where a Hawthorn bush was coming into leaf.


I spent some time yesterday taking a look at my records of wintering Common Sandpiper(s) Actitis hypoleucos at Blagdon Lake. I'm fairly confident that we've had a single bird wintering since 2011/12. It frequents the same places on the lakeside and has become reasonably tolerant of close human approach. Its dates are as follows:

  • 2011 to 5th May & back 2nd July 2012 then overwintered
  • to 14th May & back 23rd June 2013 then overwintered
  • to 11th May & back 20th June 2014 then overwintered
  • to 12th May & back 29th June 2015 then overwintered
  • to 10th May & back 29th June 2016 then overwintered
  • to 9th May & back 29th June 2017 then overwintered
  • to 13th May & back 25th June 2018 then overwintered
  • to 17th May & back 3rd July 2019 then overwintered
  • to 30th May & back 26th June 2020 then overwintered
  • to 7th May & back 15th June 2021 then overwintered into 2022.

It isn't ringed, so I can't be SURE it's the same bird, but it seems highly likely. If it is, then it is has exceeded the normal lifespan for the species which is said to be 8-10 years, with a longevity maximum recorded as 14 years 6 months (Sweden) and just over 14 years in the UK.


Tuesday 1st March [Dry, then wet, with a stiff easterly breeze.]

I walked from home to Top End gate and back late morning, and heard a Nuthatch Sitta europaea calling along the Lodge entrance drive and it, or another, calling in Lodge Copse a bit later. There was a single Great White Egret Ardea alba in Long Bay, and 11 (3 adult drakes & a 1st-winter) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at Top End. A male Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus along Burmah Road, was the first of the year.

There were quite a few anglers lining the banks, on the season ticket holders invitation day, with opening day on Thursday 3rd, and the boats out a week later on 10th.

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