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Blagdon Lake Birds

April 2024 News

Tuesday 30th April [Driving drizzle showers, drying up, then rain in the evening.]

This my second attempt at posting this news, the last one disappeared into the ether, rather frustratingly, having posted it when I got home in the morning!

I was up early to do one of my BBS-style lakeside passerine surveys between 0630-0925hrs, in rather inclement weather, counting singing birds or pairs apparently on territory. The counts were as follows, with those on 13th April in brackets for comparison:

Wren 45 (48), Blackcap 30 (23), Robin 26 (24), Chiffchaff 18 (22), Chaffinch 18 (20), Blackbird 15 (16), Woodpigeon 15 (11), Reed Warbler 14 (1), Crow 9 (14), Blue Tit 9 (12), Garden Warbler 8 (0), Great Tit 7 (11), Song Thrush 7 (11), Pheasant 6 (8), Cetti's Warbler 5 (4), Dunnock 4 (6), Reed Bunting 3 (2), Sedge Warbler 2 (0), Stock Dove 2 (1), Whitethroat 1 (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (4), Jay 1 (1), Coal TIt 1 (2), and Mistle Thrush 1 (0). Other birds of note included 2 Common Sandpipers and a Little Egret. I believe the count of 5 singing Cetti's Warblers to be a site record. My day list was 45 bird species.


Monday 29th April [Overcast & breezy]

I spent an hour and half at the lake this afternoon, birding on foot at Top End, then checking the rest using my car. I saw 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a decent flock of hirundines including over 100 Sand Martins Riparia riparia around the Lodge. There wasn't too much too much else to report in the rather depressing conditions for the time of year.


Sunday 28th April [Sunny, but the breeze gradually increased throughout the afternoon.]

There was another fishing competition on today (national qualifier I believe) so the Top End was stuffed with boats again. I decided to bird on foot from the Lodge to Rainbow Point and back. I racked up a decent list without seeing anything special, with the pick probably being the 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam wall. However, as I arrived back at my car, I received a call from Chris C. to tell me 2 Cranes Grus grus had just "flown through" at t'other place and were probably coming west.  I got in my car and drove to Rainbow Point where I started scanning the skies between the lakes. There was no sign of them at first, but about 15-20 minutes later I picked out two birds that 'looked good' heading towards me but still a long way off. I ran to the car to get my scope, set it up, and after more scanning through my binoculars picked them up alongside the Mendips close to Compton Martin. I scoped them for about a minute as they turned and rose over the hill and out of sight, east of Compton Wood, no doubt heading for the Somerset Levels. Thanks Chris, I wouldn't have got them on my year list for Blagdon Lake without the call, but I don't think I can really claim them as being at Blagdon Lake for record purposes. It's a similar situation to the infamous Booted Eagle that we had at CVL all those years ago - I scoped it with my Questar from the lake on one occasion, but as far as we know it didn't actually make it here (although one lady contacted me to say she'd seen a big bird of prey at the water's edge eating something during the eagles stay - I couldn't rule out the possibility of a Buzzard scavenging a dead fish though, and no record was ever submitted to my knowledge). Day list was 39 bird species.


Saturday 27th April [Cool in the breeze today]

I didn't go to the lake until the evening, hoping to see the Hobby at dusk - I didn't. I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End and back having already counted 5 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the south end of the dam wall. I saw Mark, who was working, for a quick chat and he told me he thought he'd heard a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus singing at Holt Bay, which was still chuntering away when I got there, and he'd seen a third brood of Mallards Anas platyrhynchos at the boat quay, while I saw a fourth at Holt Bay (a total of 17 ducklings between them). The only birds of note were a couple of Little Egrets Egretta garzetta that flew up the lake and away towards Chew Valley at dusk.


Friday 26th April [Some sunshine on a generally cloudy day]

I spent a couple of hours at the lake this afternoon, during which I heard 2 Garden Warblers Sylvia borin singing at Top End, then I spotted a Hobby Falco subbuteo which flew overhead at Bell's Bush before appearing to fly off North, but I saw one over the centre of the lake a little while later, so assumed it hadn't departed after all. Two tiny Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ducklings were with mum (and a drake keeping close attendance) at the dam end. I saw mum bring a broken eggshell out onto the water and dispose of it too, so maybe there are more tiddlers to come - this is the second brood I know about at the lake this year. Best sighting of the day, was the 13 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, with a Nuthatch Sitta europaea on the feeder another contender, not forgetting the Hobby of course.

There have been boats all over Top End for the whole week, and with the number of competitions increasing year on year, I guess we will have to get used to it. But it's not great creeping down to the hide, opening the shutters, to find half a dozen boats immediatley in front of you with barely a bird to be seen. And, it would be nice if boat anglers remembered that birders may be using the hide close by, before emptying their bladders in full view! Just sayin'. 


Thursday 25th April [Overcast & cool]

Finally, I saw my first Swifts Apus apus of the year today. Two over Wood Bay and then 4 from Bell's Bush, which may have included the original 2, made me settle for a count of 4. Aside from the Swifts, it was very quiet in the cool breeze, although I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and was thrilled to see a Siskin Spinus spinus, a Greenfinch Chloris chloris and a Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis on the feeder at the same time. There were no butterflies flying in the cool and sunless conditions.


The colour of the lake on 25th April 2024.The colour of the lake on 25th April 2024.


Tuesday 23rd April [A largely sunny day with a chill northerly breeze.]

I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End gate and back after checking the dam. I saw/heard most of the regular species that I have been reporting recently, with the addition of my first Garden Warbler Sylvia borin of the year singing at Holt Copse as I made my way back to the Lodge. A surprise was seeing 5 Gadwall Mareca strepera in the middle of the lake, and there were a number of Buzzards Buteo buteo in the air enjoying the sunshine.

However, on the down side, with the breeze blowing across the lake it was a bit shocking to see the amount of blue-green algae around the lakeside margins. Infact, although the sky was blue, you couldn't fail to notice that the water was an aquamarine hue and highly coloured by the algal bloom and, what was worse, areas where the algae was being washed onto the shore smelled quite unpleasant. With the extremely wet winter and spring that we've had, one would have thought that the lake (a drinking water reservoir) would have benefitted by the turn over of water. Sadly, it seems that just the opposite is the case, and yet more sewage overspill and/or farmland run-off has provided extra nutrients causing the amazing algal bloom now the sun has come out.


Blue-green algae. 23rd April 2024.Blue-green algae. 23rd April 2024.


Monday 22nd April [Overcast with drizzly rain]

With the weather forecast set for some rain, I thought there would be a good chance I might get the long-awaited Swift year tick, but it wasn't to be. There were just a handful of House Martins Delichon urbicum and Swallows Hirundo rustica over the dam end of the lake. I did, however, hear and see my first Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus of the year at Home Bay. I also saw a newly fledged Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and a family party of Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea. The parents of both broods have done remarkably well to bring off young in the cold wet Spring we've been experiencing so far. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was sleeping on the dam in the still conditions. At Top End 3 Snipe Gallinago gallinago flew up from the flooded grass next to the road. The water level is beginning to drop a little, and hasn't been going down the spillway for a week or more, but the shallow margins look awful with a bloom of blue-green algae accumulating where it gets blown onshore. Keep your dogs away from it please - for their sake!


Sunday 21st April [Sunny, but there was still a chill in the breeze.]

I enjoyed a glorious evening birding along the south side of the lake, and came across a small flock of 5 Linnets Linaria cannabina in the hedge at Holt Bay, my first of the year. The north easterly breeze was blowing waves up the dam wall, but I spotted 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos making a short flight by the pipes. There has been a quite protracted movement of large gulls moving through this Spring and there were quite a few Lesser Black-backed Larus fuscus and Herring Gulls L. argentatus on the water when I arrived, although most had moved off by dusk, and there was a steady stream of gulls flying north off the top of the Mendips as the sun was going down.


Saturday 20th April [Sunny]

A pleasant day resulted in me not visiting the lake until early evening for a brief look around. I birded on foot from Bell's Bush barrier to Top End gate and back, then used my car, before going for a run through the woods when I got home.

I only saw the usual birds in the hour I spent at the lake in a list of 34 species.


Friday 19th April [Sunshine was followed by cloud/showers on a strong NW breeze]

A mid afternoon walk from the Top End hide to Wood Bay Point and back in the strong wind and overcast conditions wasn't very condusive to finding passerines, and the best were a Greenfinch Chloris chloris and pair of Jays Garrulus glandarius. There were 4 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.


Thursday 18th April [Early sun, clouding over with a cold wind.] 

I saw a couple of Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and heard a couple of Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti of note in a list of 38 species late afternoon. However, my most pleasing find were Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula  in the cherry trees behind Top End hide - they've been hard to come by over winter and into the Spring.


Wednesday 17th April [Sunshine & showers, turning cold.]

I only had the time (and will) to check the lake from my car late this afternoon having been out with friends for much of the day. I managed to spot 37 species, including 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, saw all three common hirundine species over the lake, and heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti sing as I drove past Home Bay reeds.


Tuesday 16th April [Sunshine & showers. Breezy]

A small fall of waders meant I saw 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus and 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos (although 7 were also reported) on the dam wall, and there was a good flock of hirundines feeding high over Butcombe Bay, but I couldn't find that elusive first Swift of the year. I forgot to report that angler Jeff H. reported seeing a Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and 2 juveniles yesterday (which may have been the same brood seen the previous day with more young). Aside from there being more singing Reed Warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus in the reed beds and hedges today, I didn't see anything else of particular note, other than my first Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major and the first flowering spikes of Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa raising their heads. I logged 44 bird species during my visit.


Monday 15th April [A gale, with four seasons in a day.]

I checked the dam, drove to Rainbow Point where I parked, chatted to angler Jeff. H., then birded on foot to the Hatchery and back. I saw 6 Arctic Terns Sterna paradisaea from the dam, and closer from Green Lawn. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam as usual, but I saw little else until Steve C. and Carol R. pulled up beside me. We had a lovely chinwag until the hail started in earnest. I made my way back to my car, but had to pull up behind Steve and Carol who I assumed were watching the terns, which they were, but they had also spotted a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus on the edge of Green Lawn. Yay! Year tick! Which reminds me - if you are out around the lakes, be mindful of the risk of tick bites. I've picked up three already this year... 


Sunday 14th April [A warm sunny day]

I spent most of the day at t'other place checking bat boxes with Mark, and a small group from Avon Bat Group who were helping us. We found 113 Soprano Pipistrelles and a single Natterer's. We saw a few Cattle Egrets and 2 Egyptian Geese, plus my first Speckled Wood of the year.

I popped down to the lake after tea and had a quick look around before darkness fell. The usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was joined on the dam by a sleeping Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, and I counted 5 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus in a list of just 29 species in the hour.  


Saturday 13th April [Early cloud breaking to give a warm sunny day.]

I carried out a BBS-style survey at the lake this morning between 0700-0930hrs. I've given up doing the official BTO surveys after 25 years due to a deterioration with my hearing, which means I inevitably miss certain species unless I see them. Highlights were 4 singing Cetti's Warblers, and my first Reed Warbler and Whitethroats of the year. Results were as follows -

Singing birds (s) or pairs (p) on territory: Wren (s) 48, Robin 24 (s), Blackcap 23 (s), Chaffinch 22 (s), Chiffchaff 20 (s), Blackbird 16 (s), Crow 14 (p), Blue Tit 12 (p), Woodpigeon 11 (s), Song Thrush 11 (s), Great Tit 11 (p), Pheasant 8 (s), Dunnock 6 (s), Cetti's Warbler 4 (s), Goldfinch 4 (s), Green Woodpecker 4 (s), Great Spotted Woodpecker 4 (p), Magpie 3 (p), Nuthatch 2 (s), Reed Bunting 2 (s), Coal Tit 2 (s), Collared Dove 2 (s), Whitethroat 2 (s), Reed Warbler 1 (s), Greenfinch 1(s), Jay 1 (p), Stock Dove 1 (s), and Shoveler 1 (p).

Others of note: Great White Egret 1, Common Sandpiper 1.


Friday 12th April [Hooray! A beautiful day.]

I birded from the Lodge to Bell's Bush barrier and back this afternoon. It was great to meet long time birding friend Pete (aka Sid) and partner Jean, but we spent too long catching-up, so I only got as far as Flower Corner before having to turn back for the Lodge. Best birds were 2 Common Sandpipers Acitis hypoleucos, 2 Cetti's Warblers Cettia cetti and 2 Siskins Spinus spinus. But, the sunshine sure brought the butterflies out, and I saw no less then 5 species: Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green-veined White, and Orange-tip - the last of which were in quite good numbers.

I spent the evening at SWT Hollow Marsh with Mark and warden Andrew looking at the reserve with a view to putting up some bat boxes. Mark ran his detector at dusk and picked up Soprano Pipistrelle and a probable Serotine before we left. 


Thursday 11th April [Some rain but mainly dry. Warming up.]

There was no sign of the Arctic Tern today, so it was back to the usual contenders - the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 9 Buzzards Buteo buteo, and a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti in a list of 38 bird species between 1600-1800 hrs.


Wednesday 10th April [Another miserable day in Paradise]

The Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea was still present today, but I couldn't find the drake Scaup Aythya marila, as I couldn't yesterday evening when I went back to the lake with my camera. There were probably 200 or so hirundines over the lake and adjacent fields, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam. As I drove back along the lakeside, I spotted a Peregrine Falco peregrinus hunting over Hellfire Corner which made a pass at a bird on Ubley Farm. It was pretty quiet with very little bird song in the drizzly conditions. Just when are we going to get a nice sunny, dry, day?


Tuesday 9th April [Very windy but dry with sunny spells]

I waited until the sun came out a bit before heading to the lake today, just after lunch. I parked at the south end of the dam, poked my head over the wall and saw a drake Aythya with a grey back only a few metres away! As it turned out, it was an adult drake Scaup A. marila, and I didn't have my camera with me. Ugh! Also close by, was the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. I looked out over the lake and way across towards North Shore was a tern feeding over the waves and white horses driving up the lake. Careful scrutiny led me to conclude it was an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea, which I confirmed later when I saw it closer at Green Lawn among the large number of hirundines. I birded Top End on foot but it was pretty wild and seeing or hearing any birds was far from easy. 


Monday 8th April [Overcast with rain showers in the afternoon.]

Phil, Rob and I did the WeBS count this morning from 0930 - 1315hrs, then I stayed on for a while looking for a couple of birds that had been reported to me (no sign though). The lake is still full, with water going down the spillway. Bird of the day was a first-winter Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus which was still present when I left site at 1530 hrs. The count numbers were as follows: Canada Goose 22, Mute Swan 13, Shoveler 4, Gadwall 5, Mallard 23, Tufted Duck 180, Goldeneye 1, Moorhen 8, Coot 100, Great Crested Grebe 34, Snipe 9, Common Sandpiper 4, Black-headed Gull 2, Little Gull 1, Great Black-backed Gull 5, Herring Gull 1, Lesser Black-backed Gull 8, Cormorant 13, Grey Heron 4, Great White Egret 1, Red Kite 1, Buzzard 10+, Cetti's Warbler 1. Of note, I also counted 4 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 3 House Martins Delichon urbicum, and 4 Ravens Corvus coraxWith my WeBS counts, I listed 55 species today. Phil and Rob also saw an Orange-tip and 2 Brimstone butterflies during a brief sunny spell.


Sunday 7th April [Windy & mild. Some showers.]

Another wet & windy afternoon as soon as I arrived at the lake! I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End and back but didn't do very well, recording just 38 species. It was the same old, same old, although there was a decent flock of 300+ Swallows Hirundo rustica and Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the lake. The 2 female Goldeneye Bucephala clangula are hanging on too. Tomorrow morning, we will be doing the monthly WeBS count - it shouldn't take too long, but probably will, lol.


Saturday 6th April [Windy & mild. Dry.]

Whilst it's all happening along the coast (and at t'other place apparently), it was very quiet at Blagdon this afternoon. I saw no fishermen, just two other birders, and no new birds that may have arrived overnight on the southerly winds from the tropics. The Common Sandpipier Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam, a small mixed flock of Sand Martins Riparia riparia and Swallows Hirundo rustica were noted at both ends of the lake, a single Great White Egret Ardea alba is lingering, and a pair of Siskins Spinus spinus were on the feeder. I totted up 47 bird species during my visit. 


Friday 5th April [Mild, mainly dry, but some occasional drizzle on the breeze.]

With the appalling weather we've had for the last few months/weeks/days, it has been hard to plan one of my usual BBS-style lakeside surveys in ideal conditions, so after looking at the forecast last night I decided to give it a go this morning, albeit later than I wanted to (0845-1123hrs). I counted 34 singing Wrens, 30 Chiffchaffs, 25 Robins, 18 Blackcaps, 13 Chaffinches, 12 Great Tits, 10 Blue Tits, 8 Dunnocks, 5 Song Thrushes, 5 Blackbirds, 5 Pheasants, 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Nuthatches, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Woodpigeons, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Long-tailed Tit, and 1 Greenfinch. Also noted were 5 Buzzards, 1 Great White Egret, 3 Swallows, a Grey Wagtail, and the first flowering Green-winged and Early Purple Orchids (which look like they will have been out since the beginning of the month, at least). 


Thursday 4th April [Mainly overcast with showers]

I spent two hours late afternoon birding at the lake, mainly on foot between Rainbow Point and Top End gate. I didn't see any egrets or hirundones today, and the day list wasn't very good at 40 species because the passerines were keeping their heads down in the unpleasant conditions. There were still 2 female Goldeneye Bucephala clangula present, and at least 7 Great Black-becked Gulls Larus marinus were at Top End, with small numbers of passage Lesser Black-backeds L. fuscus and a handful of Herring Gulls L. argentatus on passage.


Wednesday 3rd April [Rain early on, but drying up around lunchtime.]

There was a 10 minute spell of sunshine during todays lunchtime visit, during which I saw my first male Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines of the year. Happy days! The birding also turned up a first of the year, a single House Martin Delichon urbicum in a flock of Sand Martins Riparia riparia and Swallows Hirundo rustica off the dam before I left for home. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall in the strong westerly wind, and I saw a 1st-calendar year Common Gull Larus canus among the larger Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls. There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti in a list of 44 bird species.


Tuesday 2nd April [A dry morning & wet afternoon & evening]

We took delivery of some furniture this morning so, unfortunately, I had to stay in during the dry part of the day. As I arrived at the lake, the rain started. I wanted to walk, but by the time I'd checked the dam and the feeder, driven along to Top End hide, the rain was too heavy to make that a pleasant option. So I spent a while in the hide before giving up and going home. I noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a flock of about 20 each of Swallow Hirundo rustica and Sand Martin Riparia riparia and, most exciting of all, a Nuthatch Sitta europaea visiting the feeder. The wait for my first House Martin goes on...


Monday 1st April [Sunshine & showers]

I decided to go to the lake after an early tea this evening. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam,  and there were about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia high over Top End. There were still 2 (at least) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula at the lake, and 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba were in evidence as well, after I missed both species yesterday, and I counted 7 Pochard Aythya ferina - two more than yesterday.


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