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Blagdon Lake Birds

October 2022 News

Sunday 30th October [Occasional showers. Mainly sunny & warm.]

I met, and birded with, Mark this afternoon and saw 6 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca at Cheddar Water, heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing in the reeds at Pipe Bay, saw at least 12 Linnets Linaria cannabina at the east end of Green Lawn, counted 210 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 1 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, 18 Great White Ardea alba and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Bell's Bush, and saw a drake Teal Anas crecca with a bright white bib, not unlike the aberrant female seen earlier in the month. Near the Top End hide we came across a Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus beside the road that posed while it groomed itself, which was quite enchanting, while Mark videoed it with his phone.  We also saw a Hare Lepus europaeus in one of the meadows nearby.

At the Lodge, I saw an adult Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, Yellow D:EK, and a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, probably white EH4S, also seen in October last year.


Friday 28th October [Lots of warm sunshine]

This afternoon, I decided to spend a couple of hours at the lake and saw 166 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, and 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago from Bell's Bush, and 20 Great White Ardea alba and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around the lake. I hope to find time to go through the waterfowl in the next few days. I also met, and enjoyed a chat with, fellow birders Chris and Michelle and look forward to seeing you both at the lake again soon.

I apologise for the lack of news recently. I was supposed to be going to Zambia to do some bat conservation work with friend Daniel Hargreaves and Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation in Kasanka National Park on the 20th. However, my elderly mother's vascular dementia took a turn for the worse on the 18th and I got a call inviting me to go to her bedside and call my family. My sister, brother-in-law and I have been there for almost the whole time until she passed away peacefully today. Our heartfelt thanks go out to the whole team at Gorseland's Rest Home in Clevedon for the love and care they gave mum during her time there, and the support they've afforded us throughout.


Tuesday 25th October

Mark went to the lake this morning and sent me a report of seeing a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Rugmoor Gate, 2 more at Holt Bay, 24 Great White Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.


Friday 21st October [Rain showers]

Sorry for the lack of news this week. I was supposed to be going to Zambia yesterday but had to call off due to a family illness. Mark sent me a message today after visiting the lake where he saw at least 67 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus at the Lodge, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 34 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola.


Monday 17th October [Sunny spells]

I met Mark late afternoon to finish the bat boxes check at the Pumping Station. We checked 15 of the 17 boxes and found 10 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in 5 of the boxes. This month's round of the boxes saw the last of the 63 used for the first time since I took the scheme on in 2015, and 54 of the 63 were used this year. While checking the boxes we heard and saw a Curlew Numenius arquata fly west over the dam. Afterwards, we did a bit of birding and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus hunting over Green Lawn, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay (Mark told me he hasn't bought any mealworms yet), 48 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, plus 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 17 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. We watched the Spotted Redshank fly south away from the lake yesterday and couldn't find it at the lake this afternoon.


Sunday 16th October [Mainly sunny until after dark when a band of heavy rain came through]

Mark and I checked the bat boxes around the lake (save those in the Pumping Station grounds) today. We found 36 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in 46 Schwegler boxes, and 6 probable pipistrelles in 9 Kent boxes. We hope to finish the job tomorrow afternoon. After completing the bat task at around 1500hrs we had a look at the birds. We saw 48 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, 7 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 16 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I started to count the Canada Geese Branta canadensis and got up to 234 when they all upped and flew down the lake - I couldn't be bothered to start again, I'm afraid. Mark had seen a pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at the east end of Green Lawn first thing in the morning and we saw a pair at Wood Bay later in the afternoon. I don't know if it's the same pair moving around or not at this stage.


Saturday 15th October [Sunny spells]

I didn't visit the lake, but there was a report from Andy that the Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, 3 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria and 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were still present today. He also saw a Clouded Yellow Colias croceus butterfly at the Lodge.


Friday 14th October [Drizzle all morning. Broken sunshine in the afternoon.]

Mark and I met up at Chew this morning to complete the bat box checks we started on 8th October. We found 33 more Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, in 32 Schwegler boxes, but best of all we found a Noctule Nyctalus noctula in a 2F DFP box. How on earth it squeezed in I don't know. After we finished there, we moved on to Farrington Golf Club to check the boxes we put up there earlier in the year. There was no sign of occupancy in the 10 Kent boxes so far.

Late afternoon we both drove back to Blagdon Lake where we saw a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, 53 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 16 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 2 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, and a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus at Bell's Bush. On the way through to the Lodge I counted 18 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 14 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta (most of which were in a field ploughed yesterday) and saw a pair of Stonechats at Wood Bay.

On a sad note, I can report that I've seen the following dead birds at the lake this week: a Tufted Duck and Black-headed Gull in front of the Lodge on Monday, and another Black-headed Gull and Grey Heron in the same area of the lake this evening. With bird migration in full swing and avian influenza on the increase, we have to be mindful of the need to report these sightings, although it might just be an unhappy co-incidence. Gulls can pick up all sorts of ailments, but the other deaths are a bit worrying. Update: I've reported the deaths to Bristol Water on Saturday morning. Please do the same if you see any dead waterbirds at the lakes.


Thursday 13th October [Sunny, warm & still.]

Last night's rain doesn't really appear to have made many changes at the lake, either with the water level, or the birds, although 14 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria were new in. I could only find 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, the Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 32 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. I did see the aberrant Teal Anas crecca again and counted 14 Great White Ardea alba and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.


View from Bell's Bush. 13th Oct. 2022.View from Bell's Bush. 13th Oct. 2022.


Those of you who know the lake, will appreciate how little water there is in the Top End with this view looking north taken from Bell's Bush today (which is half a mile from the Ubley entrance gate). You can barely see water from the Top End hide, and within a few days, we will be able to scan the birds from Rainbow Point.


Long Bay. 13th Oct. 2022.Long Bay. 13th Oct. 2022.


This shot was taken from the bridge over the feeder stream at Long Bay. When full, the lake would be up to the top of the bank bottom right. There is no water in the bay at all at present. Similarly, Rugmoor Bay is empty, and if you walk along the footpath from the dam, you'll see that Butcombe Bay is less than half full too.


Wednesday 12th October [Early sun turned to cloud in the afternoon & drizzle by dusk]

I had some time to spend at the lake this afternoon and spent much of it going through the wildfowl, but didn't find anything special, including the aberrant Teal or Garganey. I counted 18 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 35 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, 15 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. It was pretty quiet on the passerine front. The Wagtails and Meadow Pipits have also moved on it seems.


Tuesday 11th October [Bright, sunny & warm]

What a terrific surprise late this afternoon, when I spotted no less than 80 Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria at Rugmoor. That's more than I've seen in total at the lake since I saw 93 on 24th October 2011. What a year that was! Other notable birds I saw this afternoon included 16 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 27 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, one each of Greenshank Tringa nebularia and Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus. The gathering of egrets was still quite impressive, with 21 Great White Ardea alba and 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

This morning, I enjoyed a 7 mile walk with friends in the glorious autumn sunshine in the Chew Valley upstream of Chew Valley Lake. We took in Widcombe Common, South Widcombe, Coley, East Harptree, Harptree Combe, West Harptree and back across the valley behind Herriott's Pool to Widcombe Common. One of the pasties from Harptree shop and a cuppa with homemade lemon cake at New Manor Farm went down very well too! I'd hoped for the Osprey to still be around, but we had no such luck and had to make do with a brief Kingfisher fly-by at Litton Lower Reservoir.


Monday 10th October [A bright sunny day]

Phil, Mark and I did the WeBS count this morning between 0900hrs and midday. I don't know what the water level is now because it is below the stone facing of the dam wall - so, well under 50%, probably nearer 40%. Anyhow, it is certainly proving to be attractive to the dabbling ducks, and I picked out a drake Garganey Spatula querquedula, and the Teal Anas crecca with a white breast/collar again today. The full count details were as follows: Teal 1597, Coot 881, Shoveler 410, Mallard 338, Gadwall 269, Tufted Duck 211, Canada Goose 206, Wigeon 75, Moorhen 66, Mute Swan 53 (inc. 6 juvs.), Great Crested Grebe 52, Lapwing 25, Little Grebe 14, Black-tailed Godwit 14, Grey Heron 14, Great White Egret 14, Cormorant 12, Pochard 11, Pintail 5, Little Egret 4, Greenshank 2, Garganey 1, Spotted Redshank 1 and Common Sandpiper 1. Others included Buzzard 2, Peregrine 2, Cetti's Warbler 1 and Stonechat 1.


Sunday 9th October [A pleasant day with sunny spells]

I've had a nightmare last 24 hours with the website, including sitting up to 0400hrs and working on it until 1500hrs today to restore everything. Ugh! Anyway, it meant I didn't get to join the mycologists during their visit or get to the lake until teatime. Mark beat me to it, and when I rolled up at Bell's Bush, he was quite excited at having found a very unusual female Teal Anas crecca. It had a significant white band on the breast narrowing to form a complete around the neck. I'll need to do some reading up about it, but there is an unusual morph that looks at least something like the bird we saw. Mark found the following article of a recent study that looked at the white neck ring in Teal and concluded "While the same variation occurs in many other species of the tribe Anatini, none of these cases clearly suggested the occurrence of hybridization, progressive greying, environmental causation or another kind of locally frequent mutation. It is most likely this plumage trait is a form of leucism or the expression of an ancestral phenotype, possibly occurring in different populations within the species’ range."

Andrea Galimberti, Roberto Basso, Paolo Galeotti, Robert E. Wilson, Matteo Seno & Giovanni Boano (2018) The white neck-ring of the Eurasian Teal Anas crecca: rare mutation or stable morph? A first genetic and heuristic analysis, Bird Study, 65:4, 533-543, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2018.1561647

I'll be counting the dabbling ducks on the WeBS survey tomorrow morning, so I'll look out for it again and, if I can, get a few pictures.

At Top End, I counted 21 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 19 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 2 Greenshanks Tringa nebularia, a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, 12 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.


Saturday 8th October [A beautiful sunny day]

It was a long day today... It started with a few members of Avon Bat Group meeting at Nempnett Thrubwell to do a voluntary clean of the church, as part of the 'Bats In Churches' Project. I've been monitoring the bats there for a few years and asked if it could be included in the project to help the local community. Five of us spent 3 hours cleaning, polishing, and vacuuming the building in preparation for the Harvest Celebration. After a cuppa and piece of cake at New Manor Farm, we spent the afternoon checking bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake. We saw lots of Soprano Pipistrelles. Then, as the sun sank towards the horizon, Mark and I popped back to Blagdon Lake in time to have a look at Top End. We heard a Greenshank Tringa nebularia call as we walked across the meadow at Bell's Bush and saw 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, but the light faded too quickly for us to pick out anything else.

It is another busy day tomorrow with a visit to the lake by North Somerset Fungus Group.


Friday 7th October [A sunny morning followed by afternoon rain]

Mark came over at tea-time and found a drake Garganey Spatula querquedula on Tiny's Shallow at the Lodge, I joined him and spotted 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula right in front of us. We spent some time there and heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing in Pipe Bay reeds, before making our way to Bell's Bush to look over the Top End before it got dark. We saw a Greenshank Tringa nebularia and 6 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa among the throng of dabbling ducks, and by this time there were just 5 each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta to be seen.


Thursday 6th October [Pleasant & sunny]

I had a meeting first thing this morning with Bristol Water contractors at Butcombe, then had a look at the lake. At the Lodge some anglers told me there'd been an Osprey Pandion haliaetus on the ground in front of the Lodge just before I arrived. I questioned this, but they convinced me to look, and I spotted it on the very perch in an Ash tree at Pipe Bay that I photographed one in last year. I ate humble pie and offered them a look through the telescope. I drove to Top End and back, birding as I went, and saw 20+ Great White Egrets Ardea alba and watched the Osprey hunting over the lake until 1125hrs when it gained height and apparently drifted off NE, although I didn't stop to watch until it was lost from sight.

After a trip to Clevedon and Portishead in the afternoon, I went back after tea, met Mark, and we watched events from Bell's Bush until dark. There were fewer Great Whites than earlier, some of which flew off to Chew and some of which stayed to roost in the pines. Mark found a Redshank Tringa totanus, and I counted 14 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 7 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 3 Greenshank Tringa nebularia, and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Neither of us could find anything unusual among the wildfowl.

Late News: I had a report from angler Brian of an Otter Lutra lutra off Green Lawn this morning, and angler Jeff told me two Welsh anglers said they'd seen an Osprey dive in and catch a fish off North Shore on Tuesday, making that a credible report too.


Wednesday 5th October [A breezy day with occasional heavy showers]

It brightened up a little this afternoon, so I decided to walk after tea to try and dodge the showers. It nearly worked! Anyway, bird numbers seem to be steadily going down, and so is the lake. The water is pretty coloured, and seems to be proving unpopular with the Great White Egrets Ardea alba now, there were just 9 this evening, and only 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. There was one Greenshank Tringa nebularia and 15 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa still hanging in there, despite the unwelcome attentions of a Peregrine Falco peregrinus. That's about it for the notable birds I saw today. 


Tuesday 4th October [Mainly overcast]

I went to the lake after tea, and counted 14 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 1 Greenshank Tringa nebularia, 26 Great White Ardea alba and 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 9 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea and saw the 'weird wigeon' again. I noticed the gull roost is beginning to build as well.


Monday 3rd October [Sunny spells - drizzle at the end of the day]

I walked from Top End gate back home, birding as I went late afternoon. Big news of the day was the arrival of 4 Greylag Geese Anser anser that stood in the shallow water at Top End for the whole hour Mark and I were watching them, looking alert and ready to fly off again at any time. This was highly uncharacteristic behaviour for the odd few Greylags we get at the lake, usually they spend their time loosely associating with the Canada Geese. On the one occasion I've seen a few arrive and behave like this, they were apparently rubirostris, that were of continental origin and migrating south towards Iberia. Keith Vinicombe also noted some at Chew on the same day, that were part of a small national influx. However, it is safe to say that these were not rubirostris, their bills were the characteristic chunky orange bills of the nominate race.

Today, I counted 29 Great White Ardea alba and 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 20 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 2 Greenshank Tringa nebularia, and an adult Common Gull Larus canus among the gathering Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus at Top End.

Earlier in the day, I met with Kirsty Dunford of Bristol Water to bring her up to date with our bat work around the lakes, and while I was there, we had a look in the Pumping Station at some bats in one of the machinery storerooms, that turned out to be 4 Lesser Horseshoes Rhinolophus hipposideros in a dark corner, and a single Brown Long-eared Plecotus auritus clinging on to a smoke detector!


Sunday 2nd October [A lovely sunny afternoon]

Feeling a little better again today, I went for a walk at the lake this afternoon. Mark turned up just after me, and after I'd had a chat with some local anglers honouring the memory of ex-fisheries ranger Mike Gleave, and a visiting Gary Thoburn, we walked the south side road. We saw a male Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus at Long Bay and met Sean at Green Lawn who told me he'd seen a Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. We heard a handful of calling Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita but no Yellow-browed Warbler, sadly. At Bell's Bush, I saw the Yellow Wagtail, and counted 18 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 16 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 4 Greenshank Tringa nebularia, 30 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. There were a good number of Pied/White Wagtails Motacilla alba and Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis also working around the lakeside. When we arrived back at the Lodge, we heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing briefly at Home Bay.


Saturday 1st October [Sunshine & showers]

I was up with the lark this morning and headed straight down to Bell's Bush hoping to see the wader I'd watched last night. Despite overnight rain, it appears to have moved on and will have to go down as a 'probable' given the viewing conditions and short time I had with it last night.  What a disappointment!

While I was there, I counted 27 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 4 Greenshank Tringa nebularia, 25 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and an odd-looking Bar-headed Goose with a small group of Canada Geese Branta canadensis. I didn't pay it too much attention while I was looking for the wader, and it flew off before I decided to look at it more closely. There were lots of Pied/White Wagtails Motacilla alba, and Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis on the exposed lakebed at Top End, and hundreds of House Martins Delichon urbicum over the water.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-23. All Rights Reserved.