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Blagdon Lake Birds

May 2023 News

Wednesday 31st May [Mainly overcast, some afternoon sun. A cool breeze.]

May has been extremely quiet from a birding point of view for me, partly because of my having to rest my foot, but also because there's been very little to see at the lake. I managed to add just a single species to my year list. I haven't even felt too bothered about going for a look during the last two days to be honest.

I have been using the BTO BirdTrack for saving my records this year and this allows you to do some nice quick analysis of your observations. To put my birding year and May into context here are two quite telling graphs:


The Number of Bird Species I've Enetered onto BirdTrack for Blagdon Lake in 2023The Number of Bird Species I've Enetered onto BirdTrack for Blagdon Lake in 2023


The Number of Bird Records I've Enetered onto BirdTrack for Blagdon Lake in 2023The Number of Bird Records I've Enetered onto BirdTrack for Blagdon Lake in 2023

Monday 29th May [Dry, sunny & breezy.]

Encouraged a little by my stroll yesterday, I set out to walk from the house to Chew Stoke to meet Mark in order to carry out another bat emergence survey in the evening. I went via the lake, where I noted that the pair of Coots Fulica atra that had nested by the southern corner of the dam have had their nest destroyed by wave action yet again, having nearly completed the brooding period. I heard a Cuckoo Cucuclus canorus singing on the north side of the lake and saw the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba. One is in breeding condition, but the other is an immature with yellow bill, and they are not showing any signs of making a breeding attempt - in case you're wondering! At Breach Hill, I came across 6 Ravens Corvus corvax, that I presumed to be a family party, and our emergence survey in Chew Stoke saw 319 Soprano Pipistrelles leave the roost. Aside from our general interest, Mark and I are monitoring large, local, Soprano roosts to see if we can find any Nathusius' Pipistrelles that may be present too. He runs the cameras and I am monitoring and recording the emergence calls. The few breeding Nathusius' Pipistrelles found so far in England have usually been found associating with Soprano Pipistrelle roosts, hence our interest in them around the lakes. Nathusius' Pipistrelles are present all year round locally, but we haven't been able to establish breeding either by monitoring roosts of Soprano's or by radio tracking yet. There is, strangely, a breeding population in Northern Ireland, so our search continues... 


Sunday 28th May [Dry, sunny & breezy.]

I wanted to test my foot today, so birded my way from the Lodge to Top End hide and back in the evening (1950-2145 hrs). I heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay, counted 61 adult Canada Geese Branta canadensis plus two pairs each with six goslings, saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo, and 3 Brown Hares Lepus europaeus on adjacent land.


Saturday 27th May [Dry & sunny]

I didn't do any birding at the lake today, but I did join Mark to carry out a bat emergence survey at the lake. We used infra-red video cameras to monitor two bat roosts, and saw none come out of one and 128 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus emerging from the other. This spell of warm weather has seen the bats move from pre-maternity roosts/gatherings to their maternity roosts already, so they are likely to be getting on with co-ordinating their synchronised parturition.


Friday 26th May [Dry & sunny]

Continuing foot problems meant I drove to do my birding at the lake this evening. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, some mammals I've not seen for a while (but I'm not going to name due to their persecution), and 3 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus.

Footnote: It is great to be able to share sightings of wildlife on the blog, but I am also conscious that by putting information into the public domain there will be those who have a different agenda that may also be reading this. So, please understand that I do not publish everything I see and hear, especially at this time of year. I am, however, willing to share information with those people I trust and who share similar values when it comes to wildlife conservation, so if you see me out and about please feel free to ask me about things.


Thursday 25th May [Mainly sunny. Dry.]

I went to the lake this evening and walked from Rainbow Point to Top End gate and back, birding as I went. I saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and what I assume was a pair of Hobbies Falco subbuteo of note.


Monday 22nd May [Sunny & dry. Breezy.]

Phil, Rob and I dutifully carried out the WeBS count this morning from 1000-1330 hrs. We counted: Coot 79 (13 nests), Mallard 53 adults & 10 juvs., Great Crested Grebe 27, Canada Goose 12 adults & 3 goslings, Mute Swan 15 adults, Tufted Duck 12, Gadwall 8, Moorhen 4, Cormorant 4, Grey Heron 3, Little Grebe 2, Common Sandpiper 1 and Great White Egret 1 (non-breeding plumage). Also recorded were Cetti's Warbler 2, Cuckoo 1, Buzzard 4, Azure Damselfly and Beautiful Demoiselle, Orange-tip, Small White, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood butterflies.


Sunday 21st May [Warm & dry]

I went down to the lake at about 1930 hrs and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water and Mark at the Lodge seeing the boats in. I went to Top End and had a short birding walk between Bell's Bush barrier and Top End gate, where I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba in non-breeding plumage before heading back up the hill at 2100 hrs. Ross F. texted me earlier in the day to say he'd seen a Red Kite Milvus milvus over the Inspection House at 1336 hrs - thanks Ross.


Saturday 20th May [Dry & warm]

I met up with Daniel H. and Charley B. to finish checking the April/May bat box round (some 50 or so boxes) at Chew Valley Lake today. At Heron's Green, Daniel and I watched a Red Kite Milvus milvus while we waited for Charley to arrive at 0930 hrs. Then, at the end of the round mid-afternoon, a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus flew past, or off of Nunnery Point as we headed back to the car. We saw 23 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in the boxes and 30 Lesser Horseshoes Rhinolophus hipposideros in a roost we monitor. There was a marked contrast to a couple of weeks ago or so, when we found loads of Soprano's in the boxes, presumably congregating in maternal groups prior to heading off to their birthing roosts over the coming weeks. That was a long enough day on my feet, so I didn't get to Blagdon later.


Friday 19th May [Dry & sunny. Warm.]

I paid two visits today - one very early morning, just after sunrise around Butcombe Bay, and the other at dusk on the south side, mainly at the Top End hide. It was lovely to be by the lake as usual, but in terms of birds to report it was just the 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo as the sun was going down I'm afraid. 


Thursday 18th May [Dry & sunny]

I'm experiencing less foot pain since being put on stronger anti-inflammatories, but still don't think it wise to spend a great deal of time on foot at the lake while I'm trying to recover, which is seriously restricting my time birding I'm afraid. I did manage a short walk at Top End at dusk, but this didn't turn up anything new. I noted 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in flight over Butcombe Bay when I got out of the car to check the dam wall, saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba at Flower Corner, and watched 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo hunting at last light while sitting in the car at Rainbow Point on my way home.


Wednesday 17th May [Dry & sunny. Warm.]

I made two trips down to the lake today, one for an hour early morning, and the other at dusk. I birded early on between the Lodge and Hellfire Corner and came across a singing male Whitethroat Sylvia communis at Burmah Road, a singing male Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus shoenobaenus at Wood Bay, saw Reed Buntings Emberiza shoeniclus nest building, and a Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus mum and fawn. In the evening, I noted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall and saw a single Hobby Falco subbuteo briefly over Top End.


Tuesday 16th May [Warmer & mainly sunny]

Another slightly earlier evening visit in the warm sunshine saw a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta catching the last warm rays on the road at Lodge Copse, but despite spending nearly an hour at Top End, I saw just one Hobby Falco subbuteo and a male Tawny Owl Strix aluco of note, as well as a glorious sunset, so it wasn't all bad.


Monday 15th May [Sunny with a coolish wind]

It was a lovely evening and I stayed until quite late to see if I'd been going home too early to see feeding Hobbies Falco subbuteo, but no, I saw two appear out of nowhere, hurtle past the hide & disappear just as quickly as they'd appeared, and that was it. Also noted were 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Flower Corner, and 2 broods (4 & 6) of Canada Goose Branta canadensis.


Sunday 14th May [Dry & warm after early mist]

Charley B. joined Mark and I checking bat boxes today, firstly at Blagdon, then at Chew. I arrived a little early, at the south end of Blagdon dam, and spotted a female Mallard Anas platyrhynchos with 3 growing ducklings and the female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with the blue nasal saddle diving nearby. 12 boxes checked at BL produced 6+ Natterer's Myotis nattereri in a box, and at least 5, possibly 7, sitting Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus. We also saw 2 Oil Beetles Meloe sp. (probably M. violaceus). At t'other place, we checked 13 boxes and found 2 Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus in one box, a Hornet Vespa crabro in each of two boxes, and another box that looked like it's had recent occupation by Daubenton's Bats M. daubentonii, and no boxes with sitting Blue Tits in them.

In the evening I spent 50 minutes at the lake, driving through to Top End hide where I watched for a while before driving back along the lakeside home. I saw a flock of 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Hobby Falco subbuteo of note.


Thursday 11th May [Dry & mainly sunny. Warm out of the wind.]

I ventured down to the lake again today and took a very steady birding walk from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate and back during the late afternoon. There was lots of bird song with the sun shining and I heard Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti singing at Lodge Copse and Top End. Circa 130 Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus were bathing at the dam end with a sprinking of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus among them, but I have little else to report other than the regular birds one would expect at this time of year. I met another birder who'd walked from the Lodge entrance gate to Bell's Bush and back, and he also told me he'd seen nothing out of the ordinary other than a couple of new broods of Coot Fulica atra that I've yet to catch up with.

There were a few butterflies on the wing in the sunshine and I noted Green-veined White, Large White, Orange-tip, Brimstone and Peacock.

Melanie P. sent me a text to say she'd seen 2 Hobbies Falco subbuteo over the lake at dusk. As ever Melanie, thanks for the news.


Tuesday 9th May [Weather: rubbish]

I had a look around the meadows late morning, all the while birding of course, and found 4 species of orchid flowering: Green-winged Anacamptis morio, Early Purple Orchis mascula which were going over, Southern Marsh Dactylorhiza praetermissa, and Heath-spotted Dactylorhiza maculata. I noted 38 spp. of bird including the welcome song of 2 Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and the sight of a hunting Hobby Falco subbuteo.


Sunday 7th May [Sunny & warm]

After several months of pretty severe heel pain, and not being able to to sort it myself, I've decided I need to severely reduce the time I spend walking (and running) on it to try and get it better while seeking medical help. As a result, I won't be able to spend as much time beside the lake on foot as I'd like. I will still try and visit in the car to keep an eye on things, but that can't make up for time on foot looking and listening as every good birder will know.

I drove down to the lake this evening and spent some time at Top End, where I saw my first Cuckoo Cuculus canorus of the year, but no egrets at all. The reliable Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam, although if it follows the usual pattern it is likely to leave for a month or two at anytime. I think I can say with some degree of certainty that the Ring-necked Duck has finally gone too - I saw it for the last time on 1st May. However, it's that time of year when anything can drop in , so keep looking, you just never know what you might find.


Saturday 6th May [Wet early then drying with sunny spells late afternoon]

Nick W-B contacted me at teatime to say he was watching 3 Hobbies Falco subbuteo and an Osprey Pandion haliaetus at Rainbow Point. He kindly tried to put me onto the bird while I scanned from my patio, as I was in the middle of my evening meal, but it wasn't to be. I missed it. I arrived not long after for my look around and saw a Common Sandpiper Actits hypoleucos on the dam, a female Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula with a nasal saddle that I managed to read (and will send the details to Alain Caizergues), a Hobby, a non-breeding plumage Great White Egret Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta in a total of 45 spp. logged.


Friday 5th May [Dry, but mainly overcast.]

I didn't go birding until 2030 hrs this evening, so it's hardly surprising I don't have much to report. However, I did record 32 spp. of bird including a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a Great White Egret Ardea alba, plus a Frog Rana temporaria, a hunting Serotine Bat Eptesicus serotinus and 4 Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus.


Thursday 4th May [Increasingly overcast. A cool wind in the evening.]

A busy day today started at a meeting with Bristol Water, then a trip over to Chew Valley Lake to look at some trees, an hour and a half checking bat boxes back at Blagdon Lake early afternoon, then an hour birding in the evening from 1930-2030 hrs. As I went to the lake to check boxes, I saw the first of the Swifts Apus apus back over our house. In the 15 bat boxes Mark and I checked, we found 23+ Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, a sitting Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus and our first Hornet Vespa crabro of the year.  Then, in the evening I saw 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba (non-breeding pumage), 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and counted 33 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula gathering - with no sign of the Ring-necked Duck again.


Tuesday 2nd May [A cool breeze & overcast in the morning. Warmer in the afternoon.]

I carried out a singing bird survey around the lake this morning from 0745-1030 hrs and counted: Wren 39, Robin 36, Woodpigeon 21, Chiffchaff 20, Chaffinch 17, Blackbird 17, Blackcap 15, Blue Tit 12, Garden Warbler 11, Song Thrush 9, Reed Warbler 9, Pheasant 6, *Crow 6, Great Tit 5, *Long-tailed Tit 5, Goldfinch 4, Stock Dove 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker 2, Reed Bunting 2, Willow Warbler 1, Mistle Thrush 1, Dunnock 1, Whitethroat 1 (* pairs in suitable habitat). I also noted a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, a Canada Goose Branta canadensis family with 6 goslings (probably the 2nd brood of the year), 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, heard a singing Greenfinch Chloris chloris at Selways on the way past, and found 2 Violet Oil Beetles Meloe violaceus (one alive and moved off the south side road and one dead on the road). The first Southern Marsh Orchid (or hybrid) spike was up too.

Angler Jeff H. told me he'd found a dead Grass Snake Natrix natrix beside the road at Wood Bay yesterday too.


Monday 1st May  [Sunny spells & dry]

I've just added news of a pair of Garganey seen and photographed by Mike Moxon on 17th April. I'm sorry for the delay and thanks Mike.

This evening I birded from the Lodge to Top End hide & back after seeing just a single Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam. I heard two singing Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti, one of which gave me pretty good views. When I got to Holt Bay, I unexpectedly saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris with a small group of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula in the middle of the lake. I was told (by Mike Moxon?) it was still in front of Top End hide a few minutes earlier, then the reason why became apparent as the fisheries rib came blasting around Rainbow Point from Top End! At Burmah Road I saw a single each of Great White Ardea alba and Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and at the hide I saw the 4th brood (3 juvs.) of Mallard Anas platyrhynchos for the year. I didn't see any hunting Hobbies Falco subbuteo, but did hear two calling while on the way back to the Lodge. I was also told about a Red Kite Milvus milvus sighting made at Top End.

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