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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2022 News

Tuesday 31st May [Warm & sunny]

At tea time, I walked from home to the lake, where I birded my way to Top End gate, then headed via Bickfield Lane to Chew Valley Lake, and followed the new recreational trail to meet Ken and Mark in order to carry out a bat emergence survey as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) at dusk. It will take a couple of days for Mark to review the videos we made, but our impression last night was that numbers of Lesser Horseshoes Rhinolophus hipposideros were slightly down on previous years. It might just be that the relatively cold nights during the month have delayed the gathering of breeding females?

Anyway, the only bird of note seen during the whole 8+ mile walk was a Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis at Flower Corner. There were still lots of Swifts Apus apus over the lake. Melanie texted me to say she'd been at the lake in the evening, after I'd gone through, and saw 5 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting Top End at dusk. Melanie also told me that 'our' Osprey, White YA, who visited Blagdon for several days in 2013, was featured on BBC Springwatch on Monday evening (Episode 1 2022). It's well worth the watch, not just for his appearance, but also for a quite delightful short film about the bee Osmia bicolor, which is also featured on the BBC website today. It's a fascinating 6 minutes. Go on, be amazed. Thanks for the head's-up.


Monday 30th May [A changeable day with some showers]

Late afternoon saw me at Farrington Golf Club, to meet the lovely ladies who want us to put up some bat boxes on the course for them. They've purchased 10 Kent boxes as part of their mission to build more opportunities for wildlife on the very beautiful course. Mark joined us, and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours looking at the parts of the course I didn't get to see when David Cottle, Mark and I conducted a bat walk there earlier in the month. There are some lovely old trees, hedges, banks of wild flowers, ponds and grassy margins, which I am sure will prove to be very attractive to invertebrates and, therefore, a good selection of our bat species. Next step will be to chat with the course green-keepers to agree which trees, of those ear-marked, we can put the boxes on.

After a quick meal, I drove down to the lake, spotted a second brood of Mute Swan Cygnus olor (7 cygnets) at Pipe Bay, and walked the Top End where I counted 8 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at dusk.

Michael Young sent me an email today to say he'd seen 3 Red Kites Milvus milvus over fields to the south of Bickfield Lane at 1130 hrs today. Thanks for the news Michael.


Sunday 29th May  [A pleasant day]

I had a surprise start to today's visit when I spotted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall. I suspect it was a migrant because there has been no sign of the wintering bird for a while. A new Coot Fulica atra brood of 3 juveniles was in front of the Lodge, and the Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was still singing away on the North Shore. The Canada Goose Branta canadensis count had gone up to 129 (excludes local breeders and their young), and the first brood of Mute Swan Cygnus olor was at Wookey Point - I think there were at least 4 cygnets, but only one was swimming, the rest were hidden on mum's back. Two pairs of Gadwall Mareca strepera were at Top End and exhibiting possible breeding behaviour, a Barn Owl Tyto alba flew along the water's edge at Indian Country, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta appeared at dusk and probably roosted.

Mark and I went to a local church where we will be meeting up with interested parishioners to show them how to conduct roost exit counts as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme during June. It was pretty cold by dusk and although we recorded Common and Soprano Pipistrelles, Noctule, Serotine and Lesser Horseshoe bats in the churchyard, we didn't see any emerge from the church before getting too cold to continue watching (not dressed appropriately in my case).

A Hedgehog was on the garden patio when I got home from the church - a very welcome guest.


Saturday 28th May [Sunny & warm]

I had a walk late afternoon in the sunshine. Not much had changed, with the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti and Cuckoo Cuculus canorus both still singing. There had been an influx of Canada Geese Branta canadensis probably coming for a look to see if conditions are right for them to moult at the lake. I totted up 107. There were at least 3 Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus on Rainbow Point, plus I saw a male Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo and Painted Lady Vanessa cardui at Flower Corner.


Friday 27th May [Sunny & warm]

I met John on the way down Station Road, and he told me he'd had a couple of Cuckoo's Cuculus canorus chasing each other through his garden on Wednesday, although the bird on the North Shore for the last few days was still singing there this evening. The Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was singing at Home Bay again, and I only saw a single Hobby Falco subbuteo feeding among the large number of Swifts Apus apus at Top End around 2000 hrs. I also saw a Hobby chasing and mobbing a Crow Corvus corone over Bell's Bush as I walked past.


Thursday 26th May [Overcast & windy with drizzle towards dusk]

It's been sufficiently windy for the fishing boats to have been cancelled for a second day. Nevertheless, despite the less than promising conditions, I heard the singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti at Home Bay and the male Cuckoo Cuculus canorus on the North Shore this evening during my walk. I saw a pair of Canada Geese Branta canadensis with 5 goslings at the Lodge and another pair with a single gosling in Long Bay. I don't really have any idea how many broods we have on the lake at present because the cover is affording them plenty of scope to hide from prying eyes! I counted 6 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding on insects among the Swifts Apus apus over the top half of the lake, east of Rainbow Point.


Wednesday 25th May [Drizzly rain all morning, drying out in the afternoon & getting increasingly windy.]

The Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was singing at Home Bay, and there were 3 broods of Canada Goose Branta canadensis (1+3+3 juvs.) in Long Bay and, surprisingly, a small gull at Top End. I spent some time watching it, but couldn't really make out the hood colour in the poor light. It was a 2nd-summer bird. I yomped back to the Lodge to go and get my scope, and 45 minutes later I was able to conclude it was a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus rather than a vagrant Bonaparte's - an unusual time of year to get a small gull at the lake. All this meant I was at the lake later than intended, so I had another count of the Hobbies Falco subbuteo over the water... TEN!


Tuesday 24th May [Sunny with a steady breeze]

It was a lovely evening for a walk, so I went out earlier than usual and was welcomed at the Lodge by a couple of Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus feeding on the recently cut grass. The male Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was still singing occasionally on the North Shore, and despite the earlier hour, I counted 5 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding over the Top End of the lake. Unfortunately, I came across a young Grass Snake Natrix natrix that had been run over on the south side road at Bell's Bush barrier, and counted 7 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus over a dead Pike Esox lucius  floating off Bell's Bush. 


Monday 23rd May [Quite a pleasant day. Light rain in the evening.]

I had time for a longer walk at the lake today, and was finally able to pin down the singing Cuckoo Cuculus canorus to the lakeside trees along the North Shore. Listening to it from the south side of the lake I thought it was further back in the farmland at West Town. The Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was still singing around Home Bay this evening, and the overcast and windy conditions had brought lots of Swifts Apus apus to the lake to feed. There were also 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding on insects around the Top End at 2035 hrs. Two Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flew in and appeared to roost at Hellfire Corner, and I counted 11 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula at Butcombe Bay (cf. the singleton we saw during the WeBS count on the 16th).


Sunday 22nd May [Warm & sunny]

I spent the day at the lake checking bat boxes with Mark, during which I heard the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay, saw 7 Hobbies Falco subbuteo over the centre of the lake, and spotted a Painted Lady Vanessa cardui at Rugmoor Bay.

It took most of the day to check the 70+ boxes, and we saw lots of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, some in groups, presumably females in pre-maternity roosts, and several singletons, presumably lone males, although we didn't handle any to check. Our usual group of Natterer's Bats Myotis nattereri were also back in one of their usual boxes. 40% of the Schwegler boxes have been occupied by bats so far this year. Sixteen boxes had (Blue) Tit nests in them too.


Saturday 21st May [Warm & sunny]

I walked from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this evening. As I made my way to the far end I saw a pair of Canada Geese Branta canadensis with 4 Juveniles, heard  the Cuckoo Cuculus canorus still singing on the North Shore, and the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay. I watched the sun go down from Top End hide and saw 7 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding high above the centre of the lake.


Friday 20th May [Cool & windy with showers]

I walked from home this evening to the Top End, where I met Mark who was already in the hide. On the way, I saw a roosting Common Blue butterfly Polyommatus icarus at Burmah Road and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Flower Corner (that flew off at dusk). I sat in the hide until well after the sun had gone down, and kept scanning and counting Hobbies Falco subbuteo. The highest count I saw in a single scan from the hide was eleven, although there were eight on the wing for quite a long period until I left. Again, most were feeding quite high over the lake.


Thursday 19th May [Pleasant with sunny spells]

I was greeted with the sight of two Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods on arrival at the dam this afternoon; a female with 7 well grown juveniles, and a female with 6 much smaller juveniles. A Cuckoo Cuculus canorus was singing from the West Town area of the north shore for much of the afternoon, and the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was, unusually, singing on the south side of the road from Home Bay reeds. There were 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo high over the centre of the lake at one point during my walk. Whatever they're feeding on during the day, especially, seems to be attracting them to feed up there rather than low over the water.

As I approached the gate at Top End, I came across the remains of a large Eel Anguilla anguilla on the road that had attracted a Carrion Crow Corvus corone. It was minus its head and much of the tail, but the depth was getting on for the width of my boot and the length about 20", so would have been quite a specimen. I'm wondering if it had been caught by an Otter.

I noted a Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus in the garden when I got home late in the afternoon, and yesterday, I saw my first Painted Lady Vanessa cardui of the summer while I was in Clevedon.


Tuesday 17th May [Early sun, late rain.]

With family staying for a few days, I wasn't able to get down to the lake until the evening. Nevertheless, I did see at least 5 Hobbies Falco subbuteo from the Top End hide at dusk.


Monday 16th May [Mainly sunny & warm]

WeBS Count 0950-1250 hrs. Water level approx 80%. Phil, Terry and I carried out the count this morning: Coot 206, Mallard 57, Mute Swan 19, Canada Goose 14, Great Crested Grebe 10, Cormorant 4, Moorhen 1, Tufted Duck 1, Gadwall 1, Common Sandpiper 1. Hobby 6, Buzzard 2, Red Kite 1. Also noted were a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus (per BW fisheries ranger and Lucy with her Bath U3A group) and a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata in Holt Copse. 

Ross texted me in the evening to say he'd seen 3 Hobbies and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End. Thanks Ross.


Sunday 15th May [Sunshine & showers, some heavy.]

On arrival at the dam the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was showing at Cheddar Water, and there were two broods of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos of 2 and 6 juvs. (both previously noted), a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus at Burmah Road and 3 or 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo at Top End.


Saturday 14th May

In the evening I made my way to Top End hide to look for Hobbies and met Mark. In lovely calm conditions, for a change, we were amazed to see none at dusk. On the way I saw Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods of 7 and 2 juvs. There was a brood of 5 Canada Geese Branta canadensis being looked after well by their doting parents.


Friday 13th May [A pleasant day, but the cool breeze kept blowing throughout.]

Another evening visit produced the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay, a single Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis with the Lag Farm cattle, and 6 Hobbies Falco subbuteo over Top End before sundown. I left for home earlier than normal though.


Thursday 12th May [A fresh breeze with sunny intervals]

I walked from the Lodge to Top End hide and back in the evening and saw 3 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis on Lag Farm with one of the dairy herds, a Fox Vulpes vulpes moving stealthily through the meadow at Burmah Road before it sat down with its ears pricked forward listening intently to something in the grass, and finally springing forward to try and catch it, and at dusk we were treated to 8 Hobbies Falco subbuteo feeding over the water, with another bird, probably, spotted on the way back to the Lodge at Green Lawn.


Wednesday 11th May [Much needed rain]

I had a quick walk at tea time today, from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate and back, and saw lots of Swifts Apus apus over the water, and hirundines over the surrounding trees and meadows. Mark reported seeing a single Hobby Falco subbuteo in the evening.


Tuesday 10th May [Sunshine & a cool breeze]

I had a morning meeting with Simon and Neil of Bristol Water to discuss Ash die-back, and how they might try and create some opportunities for bats, and other wildlife, during what is going to be a devastating change to their estate, and our local landscape, over the coming years. They are keen to work with us as they plot their way forward with the work, and we will offer what help we can to see what they already have in their woodlands, and what change occurs during and after the work has taken place to make the trees safe. Again, it's early days, but wouldn't it be great to have something positive to report while the disease rages through our woodlands?

In the evening I met Mark for a walk from the Lodge to Top End and back. At the Lodge gate, as I went in, I spotted a great example of the plant gall Puccinia urticata, a fungal gall on the leaf stem of a Stinging Nettle. I'll try and post a photo of it in the next day or two. We met Ross in the hide, and we all saw 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at last light.  


Monday 9th May [A cool breeze has sprung up again today. Some sunny spells]

I did my second BBS square visit this morning, bright and early. On the way to the start I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the wall at Cheddar Water. Most of my day was taken up with other things, but I did have a look at Top End after tea on my way to helping friend, and mentor, Dave Cottle lead a bat walk at Farrington Gurney Golf Club. I didn't see anything at the lake to add to the above.

The bat walk was with a group of really enthusiastic golfers who wanted to know if the habitat creation that they are carrying out for wildlife is benefiting the local bats. So, Dave took a group to one part of the course, and I led another group on the lower part of the course. Dave had given out Somerset Bat Group detectors for the group to use, and Mark and I used our own detectors to help guide the group members with tuning to the right frequency when we encountered bats. We quickly found a number of Common and Soprano Pipistrelles by a well established pond, and heard a Noctule pass overhead. We walked along a couple of great boundary hedges and had a couple of passes by a Myotis sp., but the best was saved to last when, as we approached the clubhouse, we encountered a Serotine which made a number of passes directly overhead, enabling a number of the group to see it in flight. Club members have already bought 10 Kent boxes, so the plan is to go back and help put them up around the course, where some of those (Soprano Pipistrelle) bats might use them. We offered to monitor the boxes, to see if they provide new roost sites for bats that, I'm sure, will undoubtedly be attracted by the improvements being made on the course for the benefit of wildlife.


Sunday 8th May [Warm & sunny]

Mark and I walked the south side to Top End and back around tea time after spotting a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. The Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was singing at Home Bay, but aside from the regular migrants we didn't see or hear anything new.

However, I did look at a few of the Kent boxes and spotted a ringed bat in one of them. This was a (probable male) Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii ringed by us as part of the national project. Interestingly, I heard a couple of weeks ago that a female Nathusius' Pipistrelle that I ringed at Blagdon Lake on 26th Sept. 2018 was recently captured at RSPB Minsmere reserve in Suffolk on 13th April 2022.


Saturday 7th May [Warm & sunny]

A busy, and long, day at the lake today starting with a BBS square visit at 0600 hrs, then a quick trip back up the hill for a cuppa, before leading a four hour walk for BOC during which we spent time listening and sorting out the songs of the many Blackcaps and Garden Warblers and other songsters around the lake. I showed the group how helpful the Merlin Bird ID app is as well. We racked up 45 species of bird including Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti and 4 Hobbies Falco subbuteo. In addition to the birds, we took in some of the flora, including Adder's-tongue Fern, Early Purple, Green-winged, Southern Marsh and Heath Spotted Orchids. It was a very enjoyable morning, with good company.

In the evening I met Mark and Martin at Top End hide, where we were surprised to see just a single Hobby, but were treated to a prolonged spell of 'song' by a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus.


Friday 6th May

I understand there were 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo showing well at Top End today. I was busy elsewhere.


Thursday 5th May [Warmer than of late & sunny. Breezy.]

On my walk down to the lake I came across a Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa on Mr & Mrs Smythe's front garden wall in Station Road. It flew across the road into the field opposite on my approach. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was still present on the dam, and the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was back singing in Home Bay today. There were 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo flying around Top End at dusk catching insects.


Wednesday 4th May [Overcast early, with a cool breeze blowing up & sunny spells by afternoon]

I surveyed on my own this morning (0630-0925 hrs) and came up with the following counts of birds apparently on territory (singing individuals or pairs noted in suitable habitat): Wren 42 (43), Blackcap 41 (32), Robin 28 (33), Chiffchaff 26 (35), Woodpigeon 20 (19), Chaffinch 14 (21), Blackbird 14 (13), Garden Warbler 10 (0), Blue Tit 9 (10), Reed Warbler 8 (0), Crow 8 prs, Song Thrush 7 (5), Great Tit 6 (12), Pheasant 5, Goldfinch 3, Dunnock 3, Reed Bunting 3 (3), Long-tailed Tit 2, Pied Wagtail 2, Green Woodpecker 2, Whitethroat 1 (0), Cetti's Warbler 1 (1), Goldcrest 1 pr,  Jay 1 pr, and Magpie 1 pr. Other birds of note were a Great White Egret Ardea alba, a Hobby Falco subbuteo, and 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. Numbers in brackets are comparison figures for selected species on the survey of 10th April. Conditions started okay, although there was no sun, but it got steadily more breezy and cool by the time I finished.

In the evening there were 3 Hobbies hawking insects at Top End.


Tuesday 3rd May [Overcast. Still & a bit muggy.]

There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam this afternoon and the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was still singing at Home Bay. I saw the Coot Fulica atra brood noted a few days ago in Long Bay and there were 5 young, not the 4 I'd seen then. Also noted were a Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, a Great White Egret Ardea alba and a Hobby Falco subbuteo.


Monday 2nd May [Mainly cloudy with a breeze that felt cool at times]

Like yesterday, I drove through slowly looking for birds at lunchtime, before returning in the evening for a birding walk from the Lodge to Top End hide and back. There was the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing at Pipe Bay reeds, and at least 20 Swifts Apus apus over Rugmoor above a sizeable flock of hirundines on the first visit. It was pretty quiet in the evening after I left Lodge Copse, but Mark, Jane and I saw 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo and a pair of Foxes Vulpes vulpes from Top End hide at dusk.


Sunday 1st May [Light rain & cloud]

I met Mark at the lake this evening, and we birded our way to the Top End gate and back. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti was singing at Home Bay, there were hundreds of hirundines, mainly Swallows Hirundo rustica, feeding all over the lake, at least 3 Swifts Apus apus, and a lone Hobby Falco subbuteo hunting insects at dusk.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.