Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2023 News

Sunday 30th April [Overcast with some drizzle]

I spent the afternoon birding at the lake and then went back at dusk and spent half an hour in Top End hide. I noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, heard a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus singing, 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin singing and watched another feeding silently, spotted a third brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos (of what looked like 11 ducklings), and saw a couple of Rabbits Oryctolagos cuniculus, one of which was black. I totted up 51 bird spp.


Saturday 29th April [Warm & dry]

It was a very busy day, so I didn't get to the lake until the evening. I birded my way to Top End hide and back and saw a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, heard a Tawny Owl Strix aluco and 2 male Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti singing, spotted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and noted the first brood of Canada Geese Branta canadensis (four goslings).

Mark told me on Sunday that he'd heard a Cuckoo Cuculus canorus singing in the vicinity of Butcombe Bay about half an hour before I arrived at the lake.


Friday 28th April [Warm & dry]

I got to the lake at 0830 hrs for a quick nose about before Mark arrived to check bat boxes with me. There were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. We checked 28 boxes during the morning and found 3 species, including over 100 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, which was a bit unexpected.

I saw my first Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus of the year during the bat work, and eight boxes had Blue Tits sitting on nests in them. We also saw 5 Great White Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.  With the sun out as we finished at lunchtime we also saw 2 male Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines and one female Brimstone butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni on the wing at Top End before leaving.


Thursday 27th April [Steady rain & cold]

I popped down to the lake for half an hour at lunchtime, and struck lucky with my first Swifts Apus apus of the year among the many, many hirundines of all three common species. I didn't have time to do a complete list of all the birds I saw, but did note 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam, a pair of Teal Anas crecca at Top End hide, plus 2 Little Egretta garzetta and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. 


Wednesday 26th April [Overcast with a light breeze]

I spent the afternoon at the lakeside and finally heard my first singing Whitethroat Sylvia communis of the year between Rugmoor Gate and Peg's Point. I also heard 3 singing Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti, 4 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, and a single Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still at Top End, as were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and scattered around the lake I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 5 Grey Herons Ardea cinereria, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Orchard Bay, a pair of Shoveler Spatula clypeata at Burmah Road, 5 Stock Doves Columba oenas on Holt Farm, and a Hobby Falco subbuteo at Rugmoor Bay. I also spotted a female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a green/turquoise nasal saddle that I couldn't read through my binoculars, however, I'm going back later and hope to catch up with her again to see if I can get the details (couldn't find her later). 


Tuesday 25th April [Dry & sunny all day]

An afternoon visit between 1515 and 1730 hrs produced a Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima and 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos at the dam, the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, a couple of singing Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti, 5 Great White Ardea alba, 11 Little Egretta garzetta and one Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, and my first female Orange-tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines.


Monday 24th April [Cool and overcast with showers - some heavy.]

Phil, Rob and I met to do the WeBS count this morning and, choosing to do it on foot, Phil and I got something of a soaking for our troubles. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present despite the big boat angling match over the weekend (England eliminator), we saw a Common Tern Hirundo rustica fly west, 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hyloleucos at the dam end, and Phil spotted an Otter Lutra lutra while Rob and I checked the Top End from the hide to the gate. The full count was as follows (after a couple of late additions): Tufted Duck 137, Coot 135, Mallard 48, Great Crested Grebe 22, Mute Swan 21, Cormorant 11, Gadwall 10, Canada Goose 10, Common Sandpiper 5, Moorhen 5, Great White Egret 4, Snipe 3, Teal 2, Little Grebe 2, Cettis Warbler 2, Ring-necked Duck 1, Little Egret 1, Kestrel 1, Buzzard 1, and Common Tern 1. Gull estimates were: Lesser Black-backed 30, Herring Gull 5 and Great Black-backed 3, although they were coming and going all the time.


Sunday 23rd April

Sorry I haven't added any news for a couple of days, Mrs M and I were at my nieces wedding in the amazing Winchester Cathedral, of all places! Mark sent me news of 2 Little Egretta garzetta and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba yesterday, but I don't think his heart was in it, a little birdy tells me he was teaching buzzers to swim rather than using his binoculars.

Anyhow, I had time to spend a couple of hours at the lake when I got home, albeit from 1845 - 2045 hrs, so I wasn't expecting to list lots of passerines etc. Best sighting was a Hobby Falco subbuteo that came out over the water as soon as the sun went below the horizon in time-honoured fashion. On the dam I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and one Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, and by the time I left I reckoned I'd seen 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Thursday 20th  April [Dry & sunny. A strong north-easterly breeze.]

I did a three hour survey around the lake starting at midday, and recorded 49 bird spp. 8 butterfly spp. and 4 mammal spp. Star of the show was a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus at Green Lawn, backed-up with the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, a single Great White Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Of the singing birds, I recorded 20 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, 13 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 3 Willow Warblers P. trochilus, 1 Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, and a record 3 Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti. A drake Pochard Aythya ferina and 10 Linnets Carduelis cannabina were less expected on the day list. Butterflies included 1 male Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, 4 Peacocks Inachis io, 1 Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, 1 Large White Pieris brassicae, 4 male Orange-tips Anthocharis cardamines, 1 Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria2 Holly Blues Celastrina argiolus and 1 Comma Polygonia c-album. It's amazing what a little spell of sunshine can do. Nice to meet Peter and Sian (was it?) too.

Mark texted me to say he'd seen a Grass Snake Natrix natrix at the Fishing Lodge and 6 Little Egrets at Top End.


Wednesday 19th April [Dry with sunny spells. A strong easterly breeze.]

I finished my rookery survey, during which I saw a Red Kite at Litton along the B3114, then I went to the lake. Amazingly, there were 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam with the waves crashing up it. I had limited time, but made it to the Top End gate and back to the Lodge. At Long Bay there was the quite extraordinary sight of a bird with a long bill on the water in a small flock of Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula in the middle of the bay. When I got a bit closer I could see it was a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, and as I walked along the road it flew up and off the water, but I didn't see where it went. Other birds of note included the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 2 Great White Ardea alba and one Little Egret Egretta garzetta. 

Mark told me later in the day he'd seen a group of 5 Little Egrets at Top End, while driving through in the Fisheries 'Landy', just before I arrived.


Tuesday 18th April [Dry & mainly sunny. A strong easterly breeze.] 

It was quite chilly early on, but the day warmed up and I decided to survey singing migrant around the lake between 1100-1400 hrs. I heard 1 singing Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, 14 Chiffchaffs P. collybita and 21 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, but still no Sedge Warblers, Garden Warblers, Whitethroats etc. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was at Flower Corner, and I saw 2 Great White Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Five species of butterfly were on the wing in the late morning sunshine; Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, Peacock Inachis io, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Large White Pieris brassicae, and my first Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines of the year. In total I recorded 49 bird spp., 2 orchid spp., 5 butterfly spp., and 4 mammal spp.


Monday 17th April [Mainly overcast. Early drizzle but dry later.]


Drake Garganey, Top End. 17th April 2023 © Mike Moxon.Drake Garganey, Top End. 17th April 2023 © Mike Moxon.


I should have been out earlier but did, eventually, bird from the Lodge to Top End and back this afternoon. Best for me were 3 Greylag Geese Anser anser that headed over to the west. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present, and I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos as usual. There seems to have been a bit of a 'fall' at Portland Bird Observatory today so, perhaps, a few of those migrants will filter through in the next few days. 

Mike Moxon sent me news of a pair of Garganey Spatula querquedula that he saw and photographed today. Unfortunately, the news didn't reach me for a couple of days but I'm grateful for the heads-up and record Mike, so thanks very much.


Sunday 16th April [Overcast & fairly mild]

I took a turn around the lake counting singing migrants again this afternoon and totted up 16 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 2 Willow Warblers P. trochilus and 16 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla. Unusually, there was a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Long Bay, as well as the one at Home Bay, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a flock of finches containing 37 Linnets Carduelis cannabina and the long-staying drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. I saw two Mallard Anas platyrhynchos broods today; the nine first seen on the 13th, and two at Top End. 

I didn't add anything much to the day list during the last hour of daylight when I went down later.


Saturday 15th April [Dry & sunny at last!]

I was away in Devon for much of the day today, but had an hour of daylight when I got back for a look at the lake. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present, as were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti. A Shelduck Tadorna tadorna flew up the lake and off east towards Chew.


Friday 14th April [A wet morning & dry afternoon, then drizzle in the evening.]

I decided to have a look around the lake this afternoon and I'm glad I did because I spotted a 2nd-calendar year Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus in front of the Lodge, which didn't stick around for long, and after pointing out the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris to a couple of visiting birders, I found a flock of about 30 Linnets Carduelis cannabina, my first of the year at the lake. I counted 4 singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 2 Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti, and saw reasonable numbers of all three common hirundines, and a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in a total of 50 spp.  


Thursday 13th April [Mainly dry & sunny with a stiff westerly'ish breeze]

I wanted to spend some time having a thorough look around today, but I wasn't too keen to get up with the lark given the unpredictable conditions. I made it to site for an 0900 hrs start, and spent the next 3.25 hrs looking and listening for something new to add to the site year list. It was not to be, which was surprising given the recent poor weather, but 6 singing Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus will probably be the biggest count I get of them at the lake this year. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was at Flower Corner at around 1130 hrs and I counted 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again today. Other observations included 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 9 ducklings (the 1st brood of the year - but under close scrutiny by Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus with an eye for the main chance), the first flower spikes of Green-winged Anacamptis morio and Early Purple Orchids Orchis mascula poking their heads up, and I heard several Reed Acrocephalus scirpaceus and a single Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti  at Home Bay reeds.

I made another short visit during the last hour of daylight and upped the Great White Egret count to 5, and I forgot to note earlier that there were, easily, 500+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia, 100+ House Martins Delichon urbicum, and 100+ Swallows Hirundo rustica. Simon Harris emailed me this evening to say he'd seen a Cattle Egret and 6 Little Egrets at Top End today when he was looking, unsuccessfully, for the RND - it's a nightmare Simon! Thanks for your news though. In recent weeks I've seen it most often when viewing between the Top End hide and where the water is running across the road at Bell's Bush barrier. Where it disappears is something I haven't managed to suss out yet, but it is almost certainly close by, feeding or sleeping, amongst the flooded trees.


Wednesday 12th April [Storm Noa came through at lunchtime. Rain, hail & strong gusts of wind.]

As per normal, my alloted visit coincided with the arrival of today's storm. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it didn't bring any new water birds in. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and even heard a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus sing briefly at Lodge Copse. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris did its usual thing playing hide-and-seek. I saw it sheltering at Flower Corner with Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula on the way to the hide, but it had disappeared by the time I drove back. There were hundreds of hirundines over the lake in the rain, with respectable numbers of House Martin Delichon urbicum among them, but no Swifts yet. I will, in all probability, go back later today for another look.


Great White Egret, Top End. 12th Apr. 2023.Great White Egret, Top End. 12th Apr. 2023.


Tuesday 11th April [A pleasant start to the day then increasingly wet & windy]

As I drove down the hill, the raindrops started to hit the windscreen after a dry morning! I did the usual today and checked the dam then decided to drive through slowly birding my way to the hide. I stayed there for half an hour then in heavy rain decided to go home. I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, no sign of the RND or Little Gulls, just a few Swallows Hirundo rustica over Top End with a large flock of martins feeding much higher over the centre of the lake. All a bit gloomy and no real opportunity to search out the migrants in the lakeside bushes and trees today. With strong winds and rain forecast for tomorrow as well, it might be another day with little to report.


Monday 10th April [Very windy. Mainly dry after overnight rain.]

I had an early evening meal and was at the lake by 1730 hrs where I met John B. on the dam, the first time we've met in ages. We had a long catch-up before I drove to the Lodge & birded my way to the Top End gate and back. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall, as was a resting Sand Martin Riparia riparia, with hundreds of other hirundines out over the lake batttling to feed in the gale. The 2 adult Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus were still present and feeding off Green Lawn with some Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. I think there were 4 Great White Ardea alba and one Little Egret Egretta garzetta around the lake, and although the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was reported earlier, I didn't see it during my visit. Like yesterday, I was surprised by another fly-by Tawny Owl Strix aluco as I arrived back at the Lodge.

I was sent some video footage of an Osprey Pandion haliaetus that was over Butcome Bay yesterday, shared by Ellie W. with the Avon Birds team. It looks like the time stamp was for early afternoon, so I was disappointed to have missed it during my two visits, but that's birding for you!


Sunday 9th April [Dry & sunny]

There was a cool breeze blowing when I arrived to start a singing bird survey around the lake at 0730 hrs this morning, and I felt it might have suppressed some song but I recorded: 37 Wrens, 32 Robins, 30 Blackcaps, 28 Chiffchaffs, 18 Woodpigeons, 12 Blackbirds, 12 Pheasants, 12 Great Tits, 12 Blue Tits, 9 Chaffinches, 6 Song Thrushes, 5 Dunnocks, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 2 Nuthatches, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Greenfinch and 1 Stock Dove.

In total I recorded 49 bird spp., the pick of which were the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. I also noted 3 mammal spp. and a butterfly sp. on my BirdTrack entry. I've also hit 100 spp. for the Patchwork Challenge.

I went back to the lake at dusk and sat in the Top End hide for the last hour, and I'm glad I did, because a Curlew Numenius arquata flew over calling and I picked out 2 adult Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus over the water between where I was sitting and Rainbow Point. As I opened the Lodge gate to leave, a Tawny Owl Strix aluco flew past me. It appeared to have come down Dark Lane and flew into Pipe Bay wood.


Saturday 8th April [Dry & sunny]

Back from Cornwall, I managed to squeeze a late trip down to the lake before darkness fell. I birded from the Lodge to the Top End gate during the remaining daylight, but had to walk back as darkness fell. I counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and added Tawny Owl Strix aluco to the monthly species total. There were quite a few bats on the wing as well.


Great White Egret, Top End. 12th Apr. 2023.Great White Egret, Top End. 12th Apr. 2023.


Thursday 6th April [Sunshine & showers]

I was going to go to Cornwall for a couple of days later in the day, so I popped down to the lake for an hour between 1100 hrs and midday, checked the dam, and birded from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate and back. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and at Holt Copse I saw the first of the Bluebells Hyacynthoides non-scripta in flower. During the rest of the walk I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 10 Common Gulls Larus canus and the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris at Flower Corner at 1120 hrs.

Andy M. reported an immature Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla at the Lodge later in the day.


Wednesday 5th April [Grey, misty & damp.]

I took a trundle around the patch today in the hope of, perhaps, seeing some migrants that might have dropped in with the change of weather. Sadly, it wasn't to be. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was at Flower Corner with Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, and I counted a minimum of 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. The single Lapwing Vanellus vanellus remains on the north side, as were a flock of 1 Redwing Turdus iliacus and 17 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Ash Tree, and I saw 3 species of mammal. With conditions somewhat less than favourable for singing birds, I didn't set out to count them for comparison with last Monday.


Tuesday 4th April [Sunny & dry. Getting warmer.]

It is time for me to do the BTO Rookery Survey for ST55 (N. Somerset & B&NES), so today I drove down to the lake parked at Rainbow Point and birded my way to Top End, then on to Compton Martin and Breach Hill before returning and birding my way back to the car. Best find for me was a drake Garganey Spatula querquedula at Top End, which was backed up by 3 Great White Ardea alba and one full breeding plumage Little Egret Egretta garzetta. The insects were really starting to get on the move too, and I counted 6 male Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni and 2 Peacock Inachis io butterflies, and my first Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major of the year. Angler Jeff H. told me he'd seen a Red Kite Milvus milvus fly over him at Rugmoor Gate earlier in the day, and I saw a Stoat run across Bickfield Lane in front of me at near Woodbridge Farm. A nice day to be out, during which I checked eight rookeries and have another six to do tomorrow.


Monday 3rd April [A late overnight frost followed by a largely clear & sunny day]

I was up at 0630hrs with the intention of carrying out my first migrant survey around the lake, but decided to put it off for an hour when I drew the curtains! It was still pretty cold when I set out, and I was immediately startled by a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti on the field side of the road through Lodge Copse. I even caught sight of it moving between bramble patches. I counted Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita and Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, and at Burmah Road I saw one each of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Little Egret Egretta garzetta and Great White Egret Ardea alba (although I counted four Greats during the evening visit), on the north side I came across a Lapwing Vanellus vanellus on the track, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. Other wildlife sightings included Wood Anemonies in flower, a Fox Vulpes vulpes, Comma Polygonia c-album and Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni butterflies. I counted 31 singing Chiffchaffs and 11 Blackcaps, but no definite Willow Warbler for me today, although Martin K. heard and recorded one according to the Merlin app.

In the evening I went back for the last hour of daylight at the Top End hide. I was horrified to see two balloons over Ubley village, with ducks flying around the lake in panic. It was not looking good for my hopes of seeing the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, but there he was on the other side at dusk where I've seen him for the last couple of days. Also worth pointing out that there was no sign of any Goldeneye or hirundines at the lake today during my two visits.


Sunset from Top End hide. 3rd April 2023.Sunset from Top End hide. 3rd April 2023.


Sunday 2nd April [Dry, with a chilly light north-easterly breeze. Sunshine in the afternoon.]

I enjoyed a pleasant afternoon's birding, checking the dam and walking from the Lodge to Top End and back. It got off to a good start with two breeding plumage Redshanks Tringa totanus on the dam then, as I made my way through Lodge Copse, there was the unmistakable song of a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla ringing out. I'd heard two more Blackcaps before crossing the bridge at Long Bay, so can safely surmise the summer migrants have arrived. There were certainly 4, possibly 5, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and Mark saw 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End before I got there. I eventually spotted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris alongside Rugmoor Point, but had no sooner told Mark when it flew. I watched it come over to Bell's Bush where we relocated it and were able to show another couple of birders who'd just turned up at the hide. Other birds noted included a calling Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, 3 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Holt Copse, a singing Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus at Holt Bay and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major on the bird feeder.


Saturday 1st April [Rain overnight and through the morning until mid-afternoon.]

I was out all day and didn't get home until early evening when I managed to spend the last hour or so at the lake. I'd received a message from Andy M. during the day to say he'd seen 6 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis, two of which had bright pink bills. Thanks for the record Andy. The same birds may have been seen later in the evening at Heron's Green at Chew.

I didn't see anything at the dam of note when I got there, but was told a Barn Owl Tyto alba had been seen before I arrived. Mark was in the hide when I got there, so we watched until last light. My first few scans turned up 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a roosting group of 10 (2 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula then, amazingly, I spotted 'Harry (Houdini)' the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris opposite the hide swimming out from the Indian Country bank where I'd last seen him on the 26th March. I got him in Mark's scope and he had a look then, just a couple of minutes later, neither of us could refind him. A fiery orange sunset was, I hope, a sign of better weather to come tomorrow and over the next few days - goodness knows, the place needs to dry out a bit after the recent deluge.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.