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Blagdon Lake Birds

February 2023 News

Tuesday 28th February [Sunny with a cool breeze]

I went walking on the Cotswolds around Badminton with friends today, so didn't get to the lake in time for anything other than a late afternoon drive through. I topped up the bird feeder and saw a female Siskin Spinus spinus come in while I was watching for all the usual suspects to add to the day list. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Long Bay as usual, I also saw 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and heard the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing at the Hatchery. 

Garganey have arrived at Shapwick Heath today, so the migrants seem to arriving despite the north-easterly winds.


Monday 27th February [Overcast & breezy]

I walked from the house to Ubley Hatchery and back this afternoon. There were no major surprises at the lake, but just the other side of the hill, at Cheddar Res. I hear there was a Sand Martin. So close but no banana! The usual list of goodies were noted at the lake, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola in Long Bay, up to 10 Great White Ardea alba and one Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 2 Peregrines Falco peregrinus, and the singing Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla at the Hatchery. I managed 49 bird spp. A couple of ladies I met along the way told me they'd watched a male Siskin Spinus spinus on the bird feeder for a few minutes, which I wasn't lucky enough to see when I checked it.


Sunday 26th February [Sunny & dry with a cold NE wind]

I was on site late morning and found Mark was already there. We birded our way from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back. Mark had already seen the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris earlier in Long Bay, but it was out of sight when we headed past together, although I did catch up with it later. The pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were in the grass on Green Lawn, and we saw 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and at least 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba along the south side. At the Hatchery, I heard the male Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing again today. When we got back to the Lodge, we decided to go up the hill for a cuppa and some home made soup before heading back to check and service fifteen bat boxes between the Lodge entrance and Home Bay Point. 

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall when I arrived, and was still present when we went our separate ways as the sun went behind the hill.


Saturday 25th February [Cloudy with a cold NE breeze]

During my walk from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back this afternoon, I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay, the male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, a pair of Gadwall Mareca strepera at Rainbow Point, 2 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus at Wood Bay, and 6 mobile Great White Egrets Ardea alba. At Top End, I saw the first Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis I've spotted for some while (although I've heard them in Home Bay reeds), and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta joined a couple of its larger cousins in the 'cormorant tree' at Flower Corner before I left. Mark saw 2 Little Egrets later.


Friday 24th February [Mainly overcast with some light rain]

The first migrants are starting to arrive in the country with Sand and House Martin both recorded in the last few days, but there was not much new to tell about the birds at the lake today. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was in Long Bay, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, at least 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba were scattered around the lake, the male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola was at Holt Bay, and I noted 59 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, 2 Snipe Gallinago gallinago and a pair of Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus during my walk from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back.


Thursday 23rd February [Mainly Overcast. Dry with a keen NNE wind.]

I walked from home to Ubley Hatchery and back, and was glad I put my hat and gloves on!

The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present and feeding in Long Bay. For those still wishing to come and see it, please be aware that there will be bank fishing from 6th March, with the boats starting on 13th, so it is quite likely the bird will move on then, if not before (thanks to Jeff H. for correcting the fishing dates info.).

I also specifically noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, the male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay,  2 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Top End, a male Blackcap Sylvia atricapillis among the Mistletoe at the Hatchery entrance, plus four mobile Great White Egrets Ardea alba. I listed 51 bird spp. and 3 mammal spp. on BirdTrack.


Wednesday 22nd February [Sunny & warm am & a cold front through pm]

I walked with friends this morning from Compton Martin to Bishop Sutton via 't'other place' and didn't even carry my binoculars! Anyway, it was a lovely morning, but by the time I got home, had a cuppa, and went down to THE patch, it had gone off quite cold. I met a group from Taunton RSPB group looking for the RIng-necked Duck Aythya collaris and, after a bit of searching, we eventually saw it in Home Bay. Afterwards, I had a look around with Martin, including a short walk from Top End hide to the Hatchery and back. I saw the male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, and Martin and I saw 5 each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, plus a Snipe Gallinago gallinago.


Tuesday 21st February [A beautiful afternoon]

I had a quick trot along to Bell's Bush barrier and back from the Lodge on what was a beautiful afternoon before driving down to Plymouth to meet my old college friend Nick. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, the drake Ring-necked Duck Duck Aythya collaris was showing really well in Long Bay, and I counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta. I also noted singles of Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus.


Monday 20th February [Dry, overcast & breezy.]

Phil, Rob and I did the WeBS count between 0930-1330hrs today. The water level was, let's say, 99% because it wasn't quite going over the spillway. Count details were as follows: Canada Goose 122, Mute Swan 22, Shoveler 6, Gadwall 11, Wigeon 7, Mallard 36, Teal 85, Pochard 42, Ring-necked Duck 1, Tufted Duck 297, Goldeneye 22, Moorhen 5, Coot 387, Great Crested Grebe 15, Snipe 31, Common Sandpiper 2, Cormorant 41, Grey Heron 3, Great White Egret 5, Little Egret 4, Sparrowhawk 1, Buzzard 6 & Kestrel 1.

I walked back from Top End after the count, and went back to the lake again towards dusk for an hour and added 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, a pair of Goosanders, 30 (10 drakes) Goldeneye, a male Stonechat, and estimated the gull roost counts as (minimum figures) 800 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls, 400 Herring Gulls, 300 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and, earlier in the day, no less than 1200 Common Gulls, although most of those did not roost at Blagdon. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris remained faithful to Long Bay all day. I totted up 58 bird spp. and 3 mammal spp.


Sunday 19th February [A fine sunny day with a cool breeze]

I got out during the afternoon, and walked from the house to Ubley Hatchery and back. Mark caught me up at Rainbow Point so we birded together from there. I noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay, counted 6 Buzzards Buteo buteo, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 22 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, and at Ubley Hatchery heard a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing again. The recent mild and sunny days have brought out the first golden Lesser Celandine and Primrose flowers that I've seen at the lake this year. Spring is around the corner...

We will be doing the monthly WeBS count in the morning.


Saturday 18th February [Windy & overcast]

Mark came over this morning and we headed up to WWT Slimbridge hoping to see the 1st-winter White-rumped Sandpiper that's been present for a few days. Thankfully, it showed well enough at Rushy Pen when we arrived, and later at South Lake albeit further off. There was a nice selection of birds to back up the American peep, including Avocet, White-fronted Geese, Common Cranes, a 1st-winter drake Scaup, Bewick's Swans, etc. and some great views of wildfowl close to the hides. We met Colin H. and my old birding buddy Steve P. while we were there too.


Redshank, ,WWT Slimbridge. 18 Feb 2023.Redshank, ,WWT Slimbridge. 18 Feb 2023.


However, being patch birders at heart, Mark and I decided to leave Slimbridge mid-afternoon and dash back to Blagdon for a brief drive through before it got dark. We saw the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay, the male Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, 7, possibly 8, Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta before calling it a day.


Friday 17th February [A bit wild & windy. Mild.]

I had a wander from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this afternoon. The Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was showing well at Long Bay again, and the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were at Holt Bay. With white horses racing up the lake, the Great White Egrets Ardea alba were seeking out shelter to feed and roost. Nevertheless, I managed to spot nine, but there was no sign of the Little Egret present for the last couple of days. I saw a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier and a female Goosander Mergus merganser again just off the dam wall in a list of 48 spp. in two hours.


Thursday 16th February [Wet & miderable before brightening a little with some late sun]

I arrived at the lake in some pretty miserable weather, with drizzle driving up the lake. Mark turned up as I opened the gate, so we walked to Top End and back together. There wasn't much to see in the conditions as we walked to the Ubley end although the weather dried and improved as we headed back to the Lodge, thankfully. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was asleep in Long Bay and we found 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, most with their heads down in the conditions. We saw the male of the Stonechat pair Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay.

Ken Hall emailed me: This morning I walked from the hide to Long Bay, where thanks to your heads-up, I had excellent views of the Ring-necked Duck. So thanks for the info on its latest whereabouts. Along the way, I saw a Red Kite heading west along the Nempnett ridge, and over Butcombe Bay it joined a second bird, quite low down, but they didn't seem to hang around, and presumably continued west. I counted at least 6 Great White Egrets plus one Little Egret. There was a male Stonechat at Bells Bush, and a second male at Wood Bay, two male Reed Buntings near the hide and a Kestrel at Rugmoor (perched on the fishermen's hut). I couldn't find anything exceptional among the several hundred Common and Black-headed Gulls in the fields near Holt Farm. Quite a bit of birdsong, including a brief snatch from an unseen Chiffchaff. Spring is on its way! Thanks for the information Ken


Wednesday 15th February [Dry & sunny until lunchtime, when cloud rolled in & brought light rain.]

My old mate Alan B. came over to see the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris today, and after spending another 45 minutes looking for it from the hide mid-morning, I elected to walk to the Lodge and back. Blow me, the duck was back in Long Bay and showing very nicely. It does lead me a merry dance each day!

Aside from the duck, I saw 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita of note, plus a flyover Skylark Alauda arvensis to add to the site year list.


Tuesday 14th February [Dry & sunny]

For most of the day I was out walking with friends in The Cotswolds around Sherston & Luckington. We saw 2 Red Kites and a Buzzard over Sherston when we got back to the car, which was a nice surprise. We strolled through quite a few stubble fields, notable for their complete absence of birds. We did, however, see quite a few flocks of Fieldfares Turdus viscivorus.

I did pop down to the lake for 45 minutes between 1645-1730hrs and spent most of it in the Top End hide. There were an amazing 10 Great White Egrets Ardea alba around the lake and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flew in to roost to join the one present when I got there. I also saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Long Bay, and although there were quite a lot of ducks at Top End, I didn't manage to pick out the Ring-necked Duck in the failing light.


Monday 13th February [Dry & sunny. Keen SE breeze by the water.]

What a glorious afternoon! I walked from the house to Top End and back and saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris right up against the flooded trees at Top End from the hide. Additional notes were made of a female Goosander Mergus merganser at Cheddar Water, about 50 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Lodge Copse, the wintering Stonechat Saxicola rubicola pair at Long Bay, 17 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Green Lawn, 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush, 5 Great White Ardea alba and 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and a raft of 62 Pochard Aythya ferina also at Top End.


Sunday 12th February [A lovely soft, still albeit overcast, day.]

Well, the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris finally came out of the Top End trees while I was watching this morning. Amazingly, apart from a few Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula there were also 56 Common Pochard Aythya ferina in there. However, seeing the 'Ringer' wasn't the highlight for me because I heard a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla singing from the trees at the Hatchery while opening Top End gate, and when I went back there after Mark arrived, we saw no fewer than 3 Backcaps (two females) up there eating Mistletoe berries. As usual, Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus and Nuthatch Sitta europaeus were in the trees as well. As there were yesterday, I reckoned there to be at least 8 and, more likely, 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba lakeside before I went home to watch the rugby.

After the rugby, I went back to the dam to check the gulls and saw 6 (2 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and lots of Herring Larus argentatus and Lesser Black-backed Gulls L. fuscus. Mark told me he'd counted 205 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris (he said there were more) gathering to roost at Holt Bay, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flying in to roost and the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Rainbow Point.


Saturday 11th February [Mild & overcast. Light breeze.]

A much milder day encouraged me to spend the afternoon beside the lake again, and I wasn't disappointed. I logged 56 bird and 3 mammal species. It does appear that the Ring-necked Duck has finally moved on because I couldn't find it again today, even with good viewing conditions. There were no fewer than 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba actively moving around the shore and interacting with one another and, as the light started to fade, I saw 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fly in to roost. Early in my walk I came across 23 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at the water's edge on Green Lawn then, around the corner, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola using the hedge and wooden pilings of Holt Bay as lookout points to catch winter midges. I saw Grey Herons Ardea cinerea back in the heronry that they deserted last year (due to angler disturbance), so will keep a close eye on their progress in the coming weeks. Three Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita were catching midges off the hedges at Top End in the still conditions too. Mark turned up as I got back to my car and after a chat and another look for the 'Ringer' that I thought I might have seen with my bins over at Rugmoor/Indian Country on the way back, I checked the dam before going up the hill and saw one each of Green Tringa ochropus and Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the wall, and 9 (three drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the tower.


Friday 10th February [A milder day with hazy sunshine.]

I spent the afternoon at the lake having a good look around and logged 55 spp. I probably saw the Ring-necked Duck at a distance where I couldn't be sure of its ID. It was feeding where and how I expected it to be, so I'm hopeful it's still present, but I didn't include it on my day list. I struck Patch Work Challenge 'gold' when I confirmed a female Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla in the tops of the trees at the Hatchery feeding on mistletoe berries, that I suspected I'd seen last Sunday. Aside from that nugget, I saw a female Goosander Mergus merganser off the dam, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 21 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 2 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and 3 Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus of note. I thought the Wigeon Mareca penelope and pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola had moved on, but I saw the Stonechats again today at Holt Bay and some of the Wigeon at Paradise on the North Shore.


Thursday 9th February [Another cold night followed by a dry & sunny day.]

It was another glorious afternoon by the lake, and while I was there I suddenly realised the Wigeon had gone overnight. Anyway, there wasn't much new to tell, the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present and there were at least 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba poking around. I counted 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita during my walk to the Hatchery and back from the Lodge, 6 Snipe Gallinago gallinago at Top End, a flock of noisy House Sparrows Passer domesticus in the bramble bush at the entrance to the Hatchery, where I also saw 4 Siskins Spinus spinus again briefly.


Wednesday 8th February [Cold overnight. Dry & sunny with a keen breeze.]

I didn't get to the lake until the sun had gone behind the hill this afternoon, so I wasn't expecting to see many of the usual passerines. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was at Top End again, and I saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba (being big and white helps). The only other notable sightings were a Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, 9 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 2 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus.


Tuesday 7th February [Frosty overnight. A glorious day.

I walked with friends on the Mendip plateau today, and didn't get home until late afternoon. I drove down to the lake for a quick look and saw 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and, as they went to roost, at least 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta that joined them. I went on to the Top End hide and saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in a large raft of Pochard Aythya ferina and Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula that gathered as it got dark, there was also a group of 28 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula nearby. At the dam I didn't see the Common Sandpiper, but there was a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser.


Monday 6th February [Cold overnight, but a beautiful sunny day.]

It almost felt like Spring today and I saw my first butterfly, a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta at Top End, having come out of the hide where I'd seen the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris glowing in the sunshine with a couple of visiting birders from Ross-on-Wye. There were 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba scattered around the lake, 4 redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser at Rugmoor, a flock of 60 Fieldfares Turdus pilaris at Home Bay Point (plus a few more with Redwings Turdus iliacus at Top End), and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, that were all worthy of note. I only totted-up 51 spp. but it was a lovely afternoon to be out in the countryside.


Sunday 5th February [Overnight frost. Sunny & dry.]

After a morning get together to discuss the upcoming bat work this year over a 'big breakfast' with Daniel and Ken, Mark and I decided to head to the lake for the afternoon. I spotted 2 redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos when I arrived at the dam, and having met Mark again near the Lodge, we heard the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay, saw the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Green Lawn, noted 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, before settling in the hide to look for the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris which showed on and off, disappearing into the flooded trees at times. We also saw 2 sleeping Snipe Gallinago gallinago and 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba from the hide. I got my patch year tick House Sparrows Passer domesticus at the Hatchery, before we turned and made our way back to our cars at the Lodge. I logged 60 spp. during the walk, but didn't see the drake Scaup this afternoon.


Friday 3rd February [Overcast & breezy]

There was quite a sight when I arrived at the dam late this morning, because the dam end of the lake was covered in gulls. I parked at the Lodge and got my scope out and was amazed to see that the vast majority were Common Gulls Larus canus. I did a quick (rough) count of the Common Gulls and reckoned there to be about 1500 sitting on the water. I went through the birds, but rather surprisingly didn't find any Mediterranean Gulls, or other goodies. A pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser were feeding just out from the dam wall, but there was no sign of the Common Sandpiper. While I was going through the waterfowl, after counting the gulls, they all suddenly exploded into the air calling. Lots of ducks started flying about, and a large flock of circa 350 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus also took to the air, but I couldn't see what was causing the disturbance. The pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola were at Holt Bay, and at Rainbow Point, I counted 51 Wigeon Mareca penelope, and saw the drake Scaup Aythya marila that has been back at the lake for several days (presumably returned from Cheddar Res.). As I set off around Wood Bay I was really pleased to see 3 Shelduck Tadorna tadorna flying down the lake, and saw 3 Common Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita at Bell's Bush barrier, before popping into the Top End hide to see if I could spot the ever elusive drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris. I eventually picked it out tucked right into the bank along Burmah Road, but had failed to spot it while walking along the road there. There was just a single Snipe Gallinago gallinago bouncing around on the floating vegetation in front of the hide, as more and more of it is being swamped by the waves being driven up the lake on the winds of the last few days. I think there were just the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at the lake today.


Thursday 2nd February [Overcast & breezy]

I spent my first hour or so today looking around some areas of the site I don't visit very often, but didn't see anything new. Then, as it was overcast, I thought I'd go back and have another session with the camera and chiffchaffs, but I didn't see anything other than 3 Common Chiffs P.c. collybita, and heard another two elsewhere. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still around the Bell's Bush / Hellfire Corner area this afternoon on the couple of occasions I saw it. Other notables included 3 (one drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 52 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, the pair of Stonechats Saxicola rubicola at Holt Bay and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in a day list of 54 species (which didn't include the drake Scaup that was reported after I'd gone home).


Note olive tones of this Common Chiffchaff, Top End. 2nd Feb 2023.Note olive tones of this Common Chiffchaff, Top End. 2nd Feb 2023.


Wednesday 1st February [Light cloud & blustery]

I walked from the house to Ubley Hatchery and back this afternoon. It was pretty windy at the lake and it got steadily worse during the afternoon. After searching for two days, what should be just off the bank at Bell's Bush but the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris again, mind you, it had disappeared again by the time I made my way back! At Ubley Hatchery I heard Siskins Spinus spinus calling and saw 3 before they disappeared. On the way back, I looked for the Chiffchaffs and saw 3 Common Chiffs P.c. collybita but there was no sign of the Sibe or the puzzling bird pictured yesterday. In the strong wind they might just have relocated nearby, we'll see. The Stonechat Saxicola rubicola pair were at Holt Bay perching on the wooden pilings and hedge to sally-forth for insects, and when I got back to the dam the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was pottering along the waters edge and there were 2 Goosanders Mergus merganser nearby.

I've received an email from Rich M. to say he saw the Sibe Chiff yesterday at lunchtime, along with some correspondence and photos he's shared with me and Andy D. Thanks for including me in the discussion Rich.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.