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Blagdon Lake Birds

December 2023 News



Saturday 30th December [Overcast, wet & windy.]

I had two messages to tell me the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present in Long Bay today. Thanks.

I went for a brisk walk around the village at lunchtime to look for birds and berry bushes - you may have heard there has been an influx of (Bohemian) Waxings this winter, with three as close as Woodford Lodge at Chew Valley Lake for the last few days. I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised to have found virtually no native berry bushes in village gardens, save for a few Hollies, some of which have hosted a small flock of Redwings. With all the hedges on the farmland already cut, or about to be cut, it's little wonder there are few birds out there in the valley hedgerows. It's time we did something about it and provided natural food out in the countryside for our feathered friends. There were some truly spectacular hawthorn bushes festooned with bright red berries on top of the Mendips during late autumn, but the valley farmland is a desert. When I'm at the lake at dusk, I see flocks of Redwing, Fieldfare, Wood Pigeon, Rook & Jackdaw fly in to roost from the top of the hill, but they'll fly up there again in the morning to find the food they so desperately need at this time of year. During the hour and a quarter I took to cover just over two and a half miles looking around the village, I saw 14 species and another I didn't manage to identify as it shot across the road (Wren or 'crest I suspect).  Conditions weren't great for birding, but the pick of the very poor bunch were a pair of Greenfinches in my neighbours trees that were visiting our bird table (we no longer use hangers in order to cut the risk of passing on life-threatening infections). My complete list was: Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Pheasant, Redwing and a pair of Herring Gulls on the cricket pitch.


Friday 29th December [Sunshine & showers]

I drove to the dam late this afternoon and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, then checked the ducks from the gate at Pipe Bay and the Fishing Lodge, filled the bird feeder, then drove to Top End and back birding as I went. I noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck in Wood Bay, and the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila off Bell's Bush.


Wednesday 27 December [Storm Gerrit - wet & wild]

I had to go to Chew Magna at lunchtime, so I drove back home via the lake even though the conditions were awful - trees were shedding small twigs in the wind and there was some flooding. I didn't have any binoculars either, but I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris.


Tuesday 26th December [A fine day]

I didn't visit the lake today, but the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola were reported again.


Sunday 24th December [Windy. Wet at times.]

I didn't go down to the lake today, but Andy M. did and reported seeing the adult drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay and the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila at Top End.


Saturday 23rd December [Windy, with drizzle in the afternoon.]

It started to rain as soon as I left the house to go to the lake! Anyway, rather than walk in the unpleasant conditions, I birded from the car. It was a repeat of yesterday's offerings (see below) plus the presumed drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck. One stand out moment, was watching a Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus swallow a Pike Esox lucius that was the same length as the grebes outstretched neck - it took a little sip of water after to wash it down.


Friday 22nd December [Still breezy. Dry.]

I met Melanie & Lionel P. this afternoon to clean some bird boxes rather than to do any birding as such. On the way to our rendezvous, I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, filled the bird feeder, noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay and spied 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba.


Thursday 21st December [Storm Pia. Very windy. Mild & mainly dry.]

I had a look a bit earlier today, between 1130-1330 hrs, and combined birding from the car with a walk from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate & back. There were some impressive white horses running up the lake on arrival, so checking the wildfowl was going to prove difficult, nevertheless, I saw an adult female Goosander Mergus merganser at Cheddar Water, from the dam, and a large flock of Aythya ducks between there and the Fishing Lodge. I checked the ducks as well as I could from the Lodge but didn't spot the Scaup, however, on driving around to Long Bay I was pleased to see the drake Ring-necked Duck A. collaris showing well. At Holt Bay, I spotted 3 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca over the hedge on the farm, and the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck was on the Wood Bay side of Rainbow Point, as usual. I parked at Wood Bay Point and birded on foot from there, adding 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Red Kite Milvus milvus to my notebook, and saw a small flock of 11 Siskins Spinus spinus in flight at Bell's Bush barrier. 

During my visit, I met Mark, who is now a full-time Fisheries Ranger, and he told me the team have had to pick up and dispose of several Mute Swans Cygnus olor, adult and juvenile, from Chew, Litton and Blagdon in recent weeks. There have been no reports of sickly-looking birds, so they're not sure if bird flu is the cause of death at this stage (some are being tested, I believe), but if you see sickly or dead swans, please report them to BW staff and don't touch them. Thanks. He also told me the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus appears to be over-wintering again at the Pumping Station - I've belatedly added it to the WeBS count as a result.


Tuesday 19th December [Wet and miserable overnight & this morning, clearing & drying up in the afternoon.]

I made an abortive attempt to drive down Station Road, which turned out to be closed for what reason we don't know. There were signs and a road block before getting to the dam but nothing going on and nobody there - local resident, Christine, had no idea what was going on either. She told me it's supposed to be closed for three days early in the New Year, so Park Batch and Lane may be the only access from the village at the moment (turn down by the school).

I went to the dam and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, filled the bird feeder which had a female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major on it when I arrived, and refound the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris feeding in the reed bed in Long Bay (yay, it's back from Chew). I drove my way along the south road, birding as I went, and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck in the hour I had before darkness fell.


Monday 18th December [Overcast & breezy with some showers]

Phil D., Rob H. Matt H. and I did the WeBS count today, which turned out to be quite eventful. On the disappointing side, it appears that the Ring-necked Duck has been kidnapped and taken to Chew overnight, but on the plus side we saw the 1st-w drake Scaup Aythya marila, 3 Red Kites Milvus milvus and had an excellent count of 266 Pochard Aythya ferina. Totals were as follows: Coot 1016, Tufted Duck 631, Pochard 266, Mallard 88, Wigeon 75, Canada Goose 75, Teal c. 60, Great Crested Grebe 45, Cormorant 34, Gadwall 34, Goldeneye 19 (9 drakes), Moorhen 13, Snipe 9, Shoveler 6, Mute Swan 5, Grey Heron 5, Great White Egret 5, Little Egret 3, Little Grebe 2, Water Rail 1, Common Sandpiper 1.   Gulls on the water when I counted them (so no account of all the birds coming and going or flying over) Common Gull c. 140, Black-headed Gull c. 100, Lesser Black-backed Gull c. 35, Herring Gull c. 25 and Great Black-backed Gull 2. Raptors included the aforementioned Kites, Buzzard 3 and Sparrowhawk 2. Also of note were a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola and the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck.


Sunday 17th December [Overcast]

As we're doing the WeBS count tomorrow, I decided to use my car at the lake rather than go on foot this afternoon. At the dam, there were 6 (2 adult drakes) Goosander Mergus merganser off Cheddar Water, one of which flew off east almost as soon as I spotted them. There were still lots of waterfowl near the Fishing Lodge and I spent some time looking through them but it wasn't until I got to Long Bay that I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. However, although I spent some time searching, I didn't spot the Common Scoter that visited yesterday. I made my way to Top End and spent about half an hour in the hide where I picked out the drake Scaup Aythya marila sleeping well out from the bank among a group of feeding Pochard Aythya ferina. At one point I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in the air together over Top End, and with a bird having been noted at Holt Bay already, I can be reasonably sure there were at least 4 birds at the lake today.


Saturday 16th December [Overcast]

Merv P. called me just as I was about to go to the lake at lunchtime and we met at the dam where we saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. I'd just completed my fourth scan of the dam end with my scope when Andy M. parked up and joined us. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he said "Common Scoter" - it had just come around the point at Cheddar Water into view! We scoped it and discussed its age and just as soon as it arrived it went back around the corner towards Pipe Bay and out of view again. Eventually, Andy relocated it way out in the middle and we watched it from the Lodge. However, it was extremely mobile and swam away up the lake just as Gary T. arrived. He headed off in the car to see if he could get a photo from Green Lawn. I birded on foot to Flower Corner and back and met Gary again at Holt Bay. He'd seen the Scoter fly towards Top End, but couldn't relocate it there. I'd spotted it off Ash Tree just before he came back, but after speaking to him I couldn't relocate it again either. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris had been seen by Merv in Long Bay before we met, and that's where it was when I walked by too. I didn't see the Scaup today though. Merv had seen 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba before we met, and I located two in Butcombe Bay, so although I only saw 4 for sure, there may well have been as many as 6 present this afternoon. Merv had also seen 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta which he watched fly north, but I saw one later at Flower Corner which may have been one of Merv's, or, a third bird. I noted 45 bird spp. during my leisurely walk.


Friday 15th December [Overcast with a hint of rain at dusk]

It's been a busy week and I decided to pop to the lake at 1500hrs for an hour or so. I birded from the dam to Top End and back in the car, which is a less than satisfactory way of trying to find birds, but needs must after the sun has already dropped behind the hill. I didn't see the Ring-necked Duck, but came across 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and the drake Scaup Aythya marila - the latter at Flower Corner.


Monday 11th December [A glorious afternoon]

I enjoyed a very pleasant birding walk this afternoon between 1400-1630 hrs. I was surprised to see the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris back in Long Bay but didn't see the drake Scaup.  I also saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, but little else of special note. However, there were lots of waterfowl to look through and I enjoyed spending some time checking. At the hide I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing again.


Sunday 10th December [Wet & windy in the morning, dry, breezy & sunny in the afternoon.]

I dapped down to the lake in my car late this afternoon and drove along to Top End and back, with a quick stop to check around the Top End with my scope from Bell's Bush with Chris C. We saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba of note. The drake Scaup was reportedly present in the morning as well, but neither of us saw that.


Friday 8th December [Mainly dry & mild, with an occasional shower.]

I spent a couple of hours at the lake this afternoon, concentrating my effort mainly at the Top End having not seen the drake Ring-necked Duck last time out. I didn't see him today either. I did see the drake Scaup Aythya marila, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a flock of over 30 Siskins Spinus spinus, the drake Pochard x Ferruginous  Duck and, of course, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. 43 spp. added to BIrdTrack.


Wednesday 6th December [Fine, early mist to sunshine & rain after dark. A piercing wind by day.]

I went to the lake from about 1300-1430hrs . I drove through to Wood Bay Point birding as I went, then walked to Bell's Bush and back. The water is still flowing over the road there but passable in wellies. With the cold easterly wind blowing onto the dam there was no sign of the Common Sandpiper there, and the Aythya flock had moved to Top End in the main where I was unable to make the Ring-necked Duck out through my binoculars. I did, however, see the drake Scaup Aythya marila feeding at Flower Corner, the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck at Wood Bay, and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba dotted around the lake. I didn't have time to drive to the hide after the walk because I got called home. 


Tuesday 5th December [Dry & mainly overcast. Mild.]

After yesterdays deluge and flooding, I found the surface water on the roads had subsided by the time I made a mid-morning sorty (1030-1230hrs). The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall when I stopped there. I parked at the Lodge and birded on foot as far as Bell's Bush barrier, but couldn't go any further owing to the depth of water running across the road. So, I scoped the Top End from Bell's Bush before turning back.

I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, and close by was the Aythya I'd first seen last Saturday evening. It was a 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila - dark iris, barred mantle feathers coming through, and a spreading black tip to the bill. Andy M. had called it as a Scaup, in all fairness, when he saw it on Sunday morning, but my views hadn't been conclusive (to my satisfaction) until today.

Other birds of note included 4 Pintail Anas acuta, 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a couple of Goldcrests Regulus regulus that had come through the cold snap, a couple of redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser flying east over Bell's Bush, the female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola on her own (haven't seen her partner for a while) at Rainbow Point, and the returning drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck back in Wood Bay for another winter. 43 spp. added to BirdTrack.


Monday 4th December [Rain overnight & all day. Flooding.]

I drove down to the lake at 1400 hrs but abandoned the idea of birding. The worst flooding I've seen at the bottom of Station Road and along Park Lane makes it hazardous to small/low vehicles. There was a torrent coming down Park Batch from hedge to hedge and I had the wonderful experience of meeting a large curtain-sided lorry half way up! I had to reverse back into the flood...

The torrent coming down the lane went into the Lodge entrance drive. However, I'm guessing the south side road will be all but impassable and BW probably wont want people trying and getting stuck, so my advice would be to give it a miss today. The local Fire Brigade engine is already out in the village - presumably in response to flooding.


Sunday 3rd December [Positvely tropical - well, warmer  than the last two days, with showers.]

This afternoon, I spent a couple of hours looking for an Aythya drake I saw yesterday evening but it kept giving me the slip after I eventually spotted it. I suspected it was a drake Scaup Aythya marila when I saw it, but there was something about it that gave me cause to say nothng publicly until I'd checked it out today. My brief view today at half mile range didn't help me make my mind up either! I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and heard at least 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus while I was there.


Saturday 2nd December [Sub-zero again & fog over lake much of the day. Sunny late afternoon.]

For at least the second time this week we had a spectacular temperature inversion in the Yeo Valley and the lake was shrouded in mist for much of the day. However, late afternoon the mist lifted and I drove down to fill the bird feeder before having a look around between 1515-1630 hrs, including about half an hour in the Top End hide. I didn't see the Ring-necked Duck there today, but did hear Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squeals. Once again,  I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall and counted 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba as I drove slowly through to the hide. 


Friday 1st December [A sub-zero start & cold all day]

Although I had cause to be in Chew Magna for a dental appointment at 0845 hrs this morning, I chose not to go to the lake on the way back. So, it was late afternoon before I drove down to the lake for a look between 1530-1630 hrs. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, took a look at the visitors to the feeder, then headed along to Top End hide, during which I counted 14 Teal Anas crecca. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris from there and, as I drove home, I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. There was some ice in front of the hide and around the more sheltered margins of the lake, and some Shoveler Spatula clypeata  have come in overnight, as they often do in icy conditions.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.