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Blagdon Lake Birds

February 2024 News

Thursday 29th February [Mainly dry with occasional drizzly spells]

I had planned to check and clean the bat boxes with Mark today, but we put it off thanks to the weather forecast - it was wrong again! Instead, I had to go out this afternoon and didn't get back until too late to do the birding any justice. I met Merv. P. and he told me he hadn't seen the Ring-necked Duck, nor did I, but we noted at least 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, saw a flock of over 500 Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, and singles of Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on the dam, before going our separate ways. At the dam, I counted 20 (9 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 19  Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula (having seen 10 at the Top End beforehand, which may have been a separate flock).


Wednesday 28th February [Drizzle on & off for much of the day]

He's back! The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris is back from Chew. I found him at Flower Corner with a group of Tufties A. fuligula feeding close in among the flooded vegetation. What's more, I counted 27 (7 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 11 (4 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser gathering to roost and display at the dam end, before going home at dusk. I noted 6 each Great White Egrets Ardea alba and Grey Herons A. cinerea, 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 7 Buzzards Buteo buteo, a Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclusand heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, plus all the usual suspects. A Red Kite Milvus milvus and Raven(s) Corvus corax were also reported over Top End just before I arrived.


Monday 26th February [Woo-hoo! A dry day.]

I spent the late afternoon at the lake and birded on foot from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back. Just for once we had a dry day, so I thought I'd take advantage, but the birding was unremarkable to say the least. I was checking on a Mute Swan Cygnus olor sitting against the hedge at the back of Long Bay when Martin K. rang to say he was watching 4 Red Kites Milvus milvus over the north end of the dam. After I was happy the Swan was okay I went to Green Lawn to check the dam area, but only saw 6 Buzzards Buteo buteo in the air. Martin said the Kites had drifted off north. With news that the Ring-necked Duck was back at t'other place (Chew), I looked for the Scaup, but there was still no sign. I reckon a couple of hundred Tufted Ducks have probably moved on, and I noticed today and yesterday that the Goldeneye may have also left en masse too, although Martin told me later that he thought he'd seen a drake in Butcombe Bay today. He caught up with me at Top End where we saw 2 Red Kites, but we've no idea if they were two of the four seen earlier or not. I counted 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba for certain, but suspect there were probably 7, together with 4 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea. There were no less than 7 Buzzards around the lake, enjoying the the opportunity to take to the air, and I saw 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita hawking insects in the shelter of a wood, out of the bitter wind.

I saw the swan back with the flock feeding on Holt Farm when I was on the way back to the Lodge, which was a relief. I was told later that the swans that had died in the autumn at Blagdon, Chew and Litton had been tested and proven to be clear of avian flu, and had died of other causes, mostly natural, although lead poisoning and 'trauma'  were also cited.  


Sunday 25th February [Dry early, then in came the rain & wind again...]

I grabbed a couple of hours between around 1030-1230 hrs to bird on foot from the Lodge to the Top End gate and back. Again, there was no sign of the RND or Scaup, and very little that was particularly notable - even the 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba are becoming the norm these days. The Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti is getting into regular bouts of song at Home/Long Bay as Spring approaches, and Chaffinches, Song Thrushes, Wrens etc. are starting to warm up when the monsoon-like conditions let up every now and again. However, there's more wind and rain due this afternoon and evening, so things aren't going to dry out anytime soon. Even the ducks have had enough now...


Friday 23rd February [More showers on flooded ground]

The incessant rain abated a little this morning but, as I got ready to go to the lake after lunch, down it came again! So, I decided to bird from the car after checking the dam, where I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and a Dunlin Calidris alpina, and filling the bird feeder. I could not find either the Ring-necked Duck or the drake Scaup, but there appeared to be many fewer Aythya's, although many of them may have been hidden in flooded trees or bankside vegetation. I counted 39 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 8 Goosander Mergus merganser at dusk off the dam, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola.


Tuesday 20th February [Fine, mild & dry.]

I spent a good deal of the day at the lake with Mark checking, and moving, bat boxes that were on trees that need to come down due to Ash dieback. Late afternoon we walked from Wood Bay Point to Top End and back, as well as looking out for birds on the numerous times we drove back and forth alongside the lake. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, drake Scaup A. marila, heard a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti at Long Bay, and at around 1600 hrs, a second-winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus among the throng of gulls bathing at Top End. Before I left, I saw 4 (3 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam wall.


Sunday 18th February [Overcast with fog descending late afternoon]

I had only intended to spend half an hour at the lake this afternoon, so birded from my car, in the main. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and a single drake Goosander Mergus merganser nearby. I filled the bird feeder, then made my way slowly to Top End where I saw the male Scaup Aythya marila, but missed the RND. The lake was very coloured at all points where water comes in and many of the waterfowl had moved to different areas to feed as a result. I counted 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and came across 6 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis at Burmah Road, though had a verbal report of 8 that flushed at Top End before I got there (presumably the same). Apart from hearing a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing, there wasn't much else new to report, other than the Goosander numbers had swelled to 5 by the time I got back to the dam, as the fog closed in. 

In the 34 years I've lived in Blagdon, I have rarely seen the roads as awash as they were this morning on my way to Weston-Super-Mare and back. I still get automated phone messages from the Environment Agency, as a result of my role before retirement, and there is a warning in place for flooding downstream of Twerton, Bath along the Bristol Avon, unsurprisingly - could be some good gull watching opportunities along the floodplain in the coming days.


Saturday 17th February [Dry until the afternoon then another deluge]

I didn't go down to the lake today, but I had news that the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present in the morning and viewable from Top End hide.


Friday 16th February [Dry & relatively mild]

I birded on foot from Top End gate to Wood Bay Point and back, then used the car to the dam where I had a look before going back up the hill. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila were both still present, and I counted 41 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 4 Grey Gerons Ardea cinerea, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, and 4 (2 drakes) Goosander Mergus merganser.


Thursday 15th February [A pleasant, dry, morning turned increasingly wet as the afternoon wore on.]

A call from Chris G. meant I spent most of today's visit at the east end of the lake. I birded on foot from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate and back, and the dam end from the car, including a check of the dam area twice. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall, and I managed to spot the RIng-necked Duck Aythya collaris at Flower Corner, and the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila where the feeder stream opens out into the lake. There were no fewer than 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba dotted about, and a small flock of Shoveler off the dam on the way home brought their total to 16. I didn't stick around until dusk as the rain got heavier.


Wednesday 14th February [Overcast with frequent drizzly showers]

After checking the dam, I birded on foot from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back, then checked the dam area again at dusk on the way home. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris off Hellfire Corner, but didn't spot the Scaup. The Common Actitis hypoleucos and Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus were on the dam when I arrived, and I noted at least 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba during my walk then,  at dusk, I counted 32 (12  adult drakes) Goldeneye Bucepahala clangula, and 12 (3 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam. There were a number of Goldeneye at Top End, long before dusk, as well as 4 Goosanders (one drake), but I assume these all flew to the roost gatherings at the dam end while I was walking back. I left at 1730 hrs, by which time there were very few gulls in to roost. Perhaps they're already starting to move back to their breeding areas - some come a long way to winter in the area e.g we have ringing records from Poland and Norway, and the larger Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls will be coming north during March.

Incidentally, I heard Common Frog(s) Rana temporaria croaking at the lake today, for the first time this year - a very dangerous thing to be doing with all the egrets and herons around I should imagine.


Monday 12th February [Wall-to-wall sunshine with a cool breeze]

Phil Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I did the WeBS count today between 0930-1400 hrs, then Phil and I walked back from the Top End gate to the Lodge when it was completed. We had a fabulous start to the count when 2 Red Kites Milvus milvus flew low over the dam and perched in a tree overlooking the Spillway. Phil grabbed some digiscope images in the sunshine.

We counted at Butcombe Bay together and saw a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis for the first time this year, and there were one each of Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. The counts were as follows: Canada Goose 33, Mute Swan 18, Gadwall 2, Wigeon 2, Mallard 50, Teal 13, Pochard 113, Ring-necked Duck 1, Tufted Duck 474, Scaup 1, Goldeneye 25, Moorhen 17, Coot 393, Great Crested Grebe 32, Little Grebe 1, Snipe 17, Common Sandpiper 1, Green Sandpiper 1, Black-headed Gull 12, Common Gull 211, Great Black-backed Gull 2, Herring Gull 2, Lesser Black-backed Gull 10, Cormorant 40, Grey Heron 6, Great White Egret 8, Red Kite 2, Buzzard 8, Kingfisher 1, Grey Wagtail 3.


Ring-necked Duck & Pochard © Phil Delve, 2024.Ring-necked Duck & Pochard © Phil Delve, 2024.


I also saw 2 drake Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, and heard a Nuthatch Sitta europaea.


Sunday 11th February

Brian T. reported the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and Scaup A. marila, and he also saw a Red Kite Milvus milvus.


Saturday 10th February [Sunshine]

I spent most of the morning gardening, but after a false start due to not being able to connect to the BirdTrack app. I went back to the lake mid-afternoon and birded on foot from Rainbow Point to Top End gate and back, after checking the dam and around the Fishing Lodge.

I couldn't find the Ring-necked Duck today, but the Scaup Aythya marila was at Top End. There wasn't much else to report bird-wise, just 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus that may have taken a Pipistrelle sp. foraging by the Top End hide in the sunshine, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, and a Red Kite Milvus milvus reported to me around midday over the Inspection House by Ross F.

I saw my first Primrose and Lesser Celandines in flower at the lake today. I usually expect to see the first Hawthorn leaves opening around the end of the first week in March, but have been seeing some out over the last few days - quite a bit earlier than normal.  


Friday 9th February [More rain...]

I was on the road early this morning to attend the funeral, near Poole, of our dear friend Helen B. I saw lots of Red Kites, depite the weather, while I was driving along the A350 on the way there and back.

I managed a late visit to the lake in the car, in the pouring rain. I'd read that Andy M. had seen the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and Scaup A. marila earlier in the day, and sure enough, I saw them late this afternoon, the Scaup in the usual spot where the feeder stream opens out into the lake, and the 'Ringer' off Bell's Bush. I counted 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, plus roost gatherings of 33 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and 9 (3 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser, plus a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus on the dam wall.


Thursday 8th February [Overcast with showers]

By'eck it's wet around these parts! I had to pop over to Chew Stoke this morning along very wet and flooded (in places) roads, so I decided to bird my way back along the lakeside using the car. Many of the wildfowl were quite flighty, no doubt due to the very coloured water flooding into the lake, but I did manage to pin down the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila towards Top End along the south shore. There was a bonus pair of Pintail Anas acuta among the throng too. I counted 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos asleep on the dam wall, and actually saw 3 species of raptor in the 50 species of bird logged on BirdTrack.


Wednesday 7th February [Overcast & cooler today]

I had to go out last night through the deluge and when I came home the roads were flooded in many places. Sadly, there were a lot of Toads Bufo bufo that had been run over as we came back through the Chew Valley from Litton and along the A368 to Blagdon.

Today, I birded on foot from the Lodge to Bell's Bush barrier and back, the road being impassable without suitable footwear at that point. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 18 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 60 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, and 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser, before walking back to my car and driving to Top End to check there on foot too. I saw the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and while scanning the feeder stream, a drake Ring-necked Duck sailed into view. I drove, fairly sharpish, to see if the one I'd already seen was still there, but it wasn't, so panic over - there's just the one. On the way home, I caught up with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.


Tuesday 6th February [Overcast]

It was a fairly busy day, but I found time to visit for an hour or so this afternoon and managed to bird on foot at Top End. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, but neither of the Scaup A. marila, although the ducks at Top End were mostly hidden behind trees along the bank. Of note, there were 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a pair of Goosanders Mergus merganser on the dam wall along with the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and  3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major - the two females having a contratemps at the feeder. 


Monday 5th February [Overcast with occasional drizzle]

I did the same walk as yesterday this afternoon and, unsurprisingly, saw many of the same birds. However, today, there were 2 drake Scaup Aythya marila, an adult drake and the wintering 1st-winter drake. The adult drake Ring-necked Duck A. collaris was at Burmah Road, and I saw 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, a Siskin Spinus spinus, 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 105 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 15 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, and at dusk, 17 (6 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 32 (10 drake) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off the dam.


Sunday 4th February [Very windy & overcast]

I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this afternoon. It was really windy, so I wasn't able to make out many of the waterfowl on the far side of the lake, but most of them were sheltering on the south side anyway. I counted 84 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 15 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, saw the drake Scaup Aythya marila in the usual spot at Top End, eventually found the drake Ring-necked Duck A. collaris while walking back, saw 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita feeding together in the lee of a hedge, spotted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, heard a male Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Home Bay reeds, and saw just one female Goosander Mergus merganser off the dam before I set off back up the hill. 


Friday 2nd February [Overcast, damp & breezy]

After checking the bat box at the Hatchery again, I birded my way home on foot along the south side of the lake. I saw the 1st-winter drkae Scaup Aythya marila at Top End, the adult drake Ring-necked Duck A. collaris at Burmah Road, and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus flying up the lake with Common Gulls Larus canus towards t'other place, presumably, to roost. I also counted 6 (3 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, a Red Kite Milvus milvus, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita plus a male Greenfinch Chloris chloris on the feeder. 


Nigel Milbourne © 2009-23. All Rights Reserved.