Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Blagdon Lake Birds

January 2024 News


I have just received a copy of the 'Lakeside Newsletter 2023' from Kirsty Dunford, Conservation, Access and Recreations Manager, and asked if I might share it. There is Blagdon Lake news about the tree work that members of the public may be seeing at Butcombe Bay, the European Eel conservation initiative, work carried out by The Mendip Hills National Landscape volunteer team creating a snake hibernaculum, and a new Biosecurity initiative at the reservoirs aimed at trying to prevent the spread of invasive species into the reservoirs and watercourses feeding them. Click the link below to open the document. 

Bristol Water Lakeside Newsletter 2023


Wednesday 31st January [Overcast with a cool SW breeze]

I spent a couple of hours at the lake from 1449-1719hrs and birded on foot from Green Lawn to Top End gate and back. I also checked the dam and around the Lodge. The good news is he's back in Long Bay... The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris had relocated back to Long Bay today, and the drake Scaup A. marila was at Top End as usual. Mute Swan Cygnus olor numbers had increased again to 13, and I counted 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and one Little Egret Egretta garzetta. Dusk saw just 7 Goosanders Mergus merganser and 23 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula visible from the dam.

I finished the month on 85 bird spp. at the lake.


Tuesday 30th January [Overcast with an edge to the breeze]

I checked the bat box again at midday then walked home from the Hatchery birding my way along the south side of the lake. The 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila gave itself up, eventually, at Top End, and blow me, I found the drake Ring-necked Duck A. collaris again at Hellfire Corner. I wonder where he's been? I wouldn't be at all surprised if he'd remained unseen at t'other place given how he feeds so close to to the margins.

I noted 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flying west, saw 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.

I went back for half an hour at 1645 hrs to watch from the dam, but only counted 6 (5 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 19 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula.


Monday 29th January [Overcast & breezy]

After some light rain late morning I spent a couple of hours at the lake and birded on foot from Green Lawn to Top End and back. There was a Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus in full song in the Inspection House garden when I arrived at the dam, which was nice to hear. The 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila was still at Top End, and I noted 7 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. The female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola was in Holt Bay and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall. I had intended to go back to see how many Goosanders flew in, and Goldeneye assembled at dusk, but didn't make it today. 

I had an email from Skip H. to tell me he'd seen a Red Kite Milvus milvus over the Butcombe Bank this morning. Thanks, all news/sightings are greatly appreciated.


Sunday 28th January [A fine day]

I birded my way back from the east end of the lake early this afternoon, having checked a bat box on a tree that is waiting to be felled. Of note, I saw the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila at Top End, counted 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, had great views of a Red Kite Milvus milvus over the Lodge entrance and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall.


Friday 26th January [A glorious sunny day, if a little chilly.]

I had to check a bat box this morning, then drove back home along the south side of the lake. I saw the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila in the usual place at Top End.

Later, I met Lionel and Melanie to clean out a bird box, and then birded my way back along the south side by car and spent the last 45 mins of daylight on the dam. It was quite a good visit. I recorded 33 (10 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 42 (11 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, one Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, and the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall. On a few visits this last week or so, I've seen a drake Aythya that I suspect might be a Tufted x Ring-necked Duck hybrid - I just need better views than I've managed and, perhaps, a photo. Must carry my camera for the next few days when I go there.


Thursday 25th January [Damp]

What a difference a day makes! This evening there were only 15 Goosanders Mergus merganser in to roost before I left site at 1715hrs, but I counted 33 Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula gathered to display and roost. I also walked from Rainbow Point to Top End gate and saw 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta, plus a flock of 23 Stock Doves Columba oenas (my first of the year). I had to refill the bird feeder again, so I stood and watched it as the birds started to return. To my surprise one of the first birds in was a female Siskin Spinus spinus. 


Wednesday 24th January [Mainly sunny with a cool breeze]

Storm Jocelyn brought down another tree or two at Blagdon overnight, and I had planned to move a bat box that is on a tree that has to come down, to one nearby, but the bats had other ideas! It was occupied before the cold snap, then there were none in on Monday but it was too windy to work safely up a ladder, so I went to move it today and there's two back in there. Anyway, the result was I ended up walking back home from Top End, and Ce drove the car back. I couldn't find the drake Scaup again, so perhaps it's gone to t'other place. I saw 4 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 22 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (there may have been more), 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta take a sizeable jack Pike, and counted a remarkable 42 Goosanders Mergus merganser at the dam end at dusk. I was thinking this may have been one of the highest counts at Blagdon Lake from memory, so I checked it out and came up with three higher counts as follows:

  • 79, January 1979
  • 57, November 1999
  • 50, 18th January 1997.

In recent years there have been regular counts, at this time, in the 20s, and occasionally in the 30s, but I think tonights count was the highest I've made at the lake.  


Monday 22nd January [Windy with showers]

Storm Isha went through last night and I should have gone to the lake at first light really, but I didn't get there until late afternoon on my way home from Chew Magna. I drove through from Top End to the dam birding from the car, so my list wasn't exactly thorough. Anyway, I couldn't spot the Scaup, but that shouldn't be taken as it's having moved on - virtually all the waterfowl were hugging the south shore after last night's southerly gales and quite difficult to see as a result, especially at Top End. I noted 30 spp, including a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and 29 (12 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser.    


Sunday 21st January [Finally it has warmed up, but it is the calm before the storm.]

I spent a couple of hours at the lake between 1230-1430hrs. It was all the usual suspects including the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, the adult drake Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola and a flock of 23 Siskins Spinus spinus.

The water hasn't been going down the overspill in recent days, but I guess it's quite likely to be after the storm tomorrow.


Saturday 20th January [The freeze has broken & Storm Isha is on the way]

There was still some ice on the lake but it is rapidly melting as things warm up. I ventured down in the afternoon to see if conditions would allow me to do the WinGS Gull Roost Survey a day nearer to the alloted day of tomorrow, when I know there'll be no chance. Perhaps, I was right about the gulls having moved to the coast yesterday with the lake edges icing over, tonights roost was much bigger and closer to what I'd have expected at this time of year. I'd hoped for a Mediterranean Gull and wanted to photograph the Yellow-legged Gull I saw yesterday near the dam, but it wasn't to be.

Roost Count: Black-headed Gull 698, Lesser Black-backed Gull 78, Herring Gull 32, Common Gull 3, Great Black-backed Gull 1.

A drive to Top End and back beforehand produced the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, the presumed adult drake Pochard x Ferruginous hybrid, 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita all from the car, and after I'd counted the gulls I counted the gathering Goosanders Mergus merganser and made it 11 adult drakes and 21 redheads all in full display/mating mode. Quite a spectacle.


Friday 19th January [Fine after a hard overnight frost]

The extent of the ice on the lake had increased significantly today and most of Long Bay, for example, was iced over, although the main body of the lake remains ice free. The weather conditions have brought about some bird movement and 190+ Teal Anas crecca, 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were testament to that. I did a preliminary WinGS Gull Roost survey, and while the light breeze was southerly, the roost was extremely small by Blagdon standards - perhaps most of the gulls have moved to the coast in the prevailing conditions?

Roost Count: Black-headed Gull 171, Lesser Black-backed Gull 26, Great Black-backed Gull 1, Yellow-legged Gull (2nd cal yr) 1. Over 70 Common Gulls present during the 2 hours before dusk all flew off towards the CVL roost. 

Other counts included 3 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, two feeding on the steps of the overspill, 164 Canada Geese Branta canadensis, 20 (9 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser, 7 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and at least 800 Jackdaws Corvus monedula in to roost at dusk.


Thursday 18th January [A fine, still, day, but still very cold.]

I spent a little over an hour at the lake this afternoon and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, at least 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and, at last light, 15 (6 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser. The lake has iced over a bit more than it was on my last visit, with most of the sheltered margins under quite a thick sheet. I'm sure the herons, egrets and dabbling ducks will be glad of the promised thaw at the weekend.


Tuesday 16th January [A fine day with a chilling wind in the afternoon]

There was ice forming along the sheltered margins of the lake this afternoon. I saw the usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, 8 Great White Egrets Ardea alba from Rainbow Point, 4 Goosanders Mergus merganser, and a family of 5 Mute Swans Cygnus olor dropped in at Top End but moved on again while I was there. 


Monday 15th January [Sunny with a cool breeze]

Phil, Rob, Matt, Lucy and I did todays WeBS count. The lake is full. We can say that the Ring-necked Duck is not present with a degree of confidence now, but the drake Scaup was still at Top End. We reckon there were 9 Great White and 1 Little Egret, plus a female Marsh Harrier, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Meadow Pipit, 2 drake Goosanders and 2 Stonechats, of note.

The WeBS count details were: Coot 699, Tufted Duck 518, Pochard 233, Wigeon 68, Mallard 66, Great Crested Grebe 50, Canada Goose 48, Cormorant 39, Snipe 35, Gadwall 21, Moorhen 20, Goldeneye 16, Shoveler 11, Great White Egret 9, Grey Heron 5, Grey Wagtail 3,  Buzzard 3, Mute Swan 3, Stonechat 2, Goosander 2, Pied Wagtail 2, Common Sandpiper 1, Pintail 1, Marsh Harrier 1, Little Egret 1, Little Grebe 1. Common Gull 300+, Great Black-backed Gull 3, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2, Black-headed Gull present. Waterbirds: 1878 of 23 spp. Total: 2192 of 31 spp. input to WeBS.

I did the count on foot with Phil Delve and my day list on BirdTrack was 60 spp. at the lake, including 3 new species for the year: Meadow Pipit, Marsh Harrier & Feral Pigeon.


Sunday 14th January [Fine & cool]

I didn't get to the lake until 1600 hrs, way too late, but wanted to check and top up the feeder and have a quick look around by car before darkness fell. No sign of the RND, and didn't get the Scaup either, although most of the Aythya ducks were already gathering to roost rather than feeding where I usually see it. I counted 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again today and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall. It's WeBS count day tomorrow, so there will be a full update mid-afternoon, after we've finished.


Saturday 13th January [Fine & still. Cold.]

I was at the lake from 1100-1310 hrs birding today, but using my car as transport rather than walking. I scoped most of the lake and despite looking carefully, I failed to spot the Ring-necked Duck, so am beginning to think it has probably moved on. We will be doing the WeBS count on Monday, so that should tell us one way or another. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, heard Jays Garrulous glandarius making a heck of a racket by the Inspection House, scoped at least 3 Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcombe Bay, counted 20 or so Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula, 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 1 Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and saw a pair of Kestrels Falco tinnunculus chasing each other, and the drake Scaup Aythya marila at Top End. 47 spp. logged and two patch year ticks.


Friday 12th January [Overcast & a little warmer]

I went to the lake at 1515hrs and checked the dam, where I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, then met a couple looking for the Ring-necked Duck. We joined forces, but there was no sign between the dam and Green Lawn. They left disappointed and I just had time before darkness fell to drive to Top End hide for a quick look there. I saw the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and heard a couple of Water Rails Rallus aquaticus squealing near the hide. There seemed to be fewer Pochards at the lake in the last few days and I wonder if a few waterfowl are on the move - although the RND stayed well into Spring last year, perhaps it's moved on? I'll have another look in the morning. Might be worth checking t'other place too?


Thursday 11th January [Another fine, but cold, day in the biting wind.]

I drove to the lake, checked the dam and Lodge area, then birded from the car to Rainbow Point where I parked and explored on foot to the Top End gate and back. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the drake Scaup A. marila, 2 male Goosanders Mergus merganser, at least 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. New birds for the site year list today included a Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus and male Blackcap Sylvia atricapillis in the same Poplar tree at the Hatchery, presumably looking for what few berries there are left now, and House Sparrows Passer domesticus from the dam. The full trip list is on BirdTrack.


Wednesday 10th January [A fine day with a cold breeze]

I wrapped up warm and enjoyed a lovely afternoon birding at the lake. I checked the dam, then walked from Home Bay to Top End and back. Then, having met up with Martin K. we checked the dam area together for Goosander at dusk. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay, 6, possibly 7, Great White Egrets Ardea alba, at least 2 Siskins Spinus spinus in the alders at Hellfire Corner, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End (Martin saw 2 there later), 4 Pintail Anas acuta that flew overhead and away to the SW over the village, 2 Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula, my first of the year, at Home Bay and Bells' Bush barrier, and 7 Goosander Mergus merganser, 5 adult drakes and 2 redheads off The Island at last light. Mark stopped and told me he'd seen the wintering Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus again today, and Martin saw a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, a bird that has still managed to elude me so far this year. I logged 51 spp. on BirdTrack.


Tuesday 9th January [Another fine but perishingly cold day]

I took a half-hearted look at the lake from my car this afternoon. The south side road hedge has been beautifully thoroughly manicured and the ground close by made to look a bit of a mess, but the Redwings Turdus iliacus, Blackbirds Turdus merula and Robins Erithacus rubecula were working the deep tyre tracks looking for food, at least, given the new opportunity. I saw a female Stonechat Saxicola rubicola at Long Bay, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, but neither the drake Scaup or Ring-necked Duck although, as I said, I didn't spend much time looking for them.


Monday 8th January [A fine day with a biting ENE breeze]

I had to check a bat box this morning that is on an Ash tree earmarked for felling in the near future. A quick glance (under licence of course) was enough to ascertain that at least one Soprano Pipistrelle was present, so it will have to be left for the time being - at least until the weather warms up a little.

After that I birded from the Top End gate to Holt Copse and back on foot, before driving through to the dam birding as I went. Notable sightings included the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a couple of Snipe Gallinago gallinago. I didn't add any new species to my year list unfortunately. 

I'm sad to report that even after meeting with BW last year and pleading the case for leaving the hedges around the lake to get some structure back for the wildlife, the recommendation appears to have fallen on deaf ears again. Huge tractors are busy flailing the hedges along the south side of the lake again today and damaging protected grassland. This is likely to be the case for at least a couple more days.


Sunday 7th January [A fine but cold day]

I went to the lake hoping to catch up with a few of the resident birds that I haven't seen yet, but came away early after calling BW to come and help manage the walkers who were strolling around the lake, some with their dogs, and making it difficult for me and a couple of other birders, with permits, to enjoy our visit.

I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Long Bay at the second attempt, and 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba before I threw in the towel. 


Saturday 6th January [Another fine day, with hardly a breath of wind.]

I birded from the Lodge to Top End & back this afternoon. There was a Siskin Spinus spinus on the bird feeder which was a good start, but when I got to Long Bay there was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck. I steadily accumulated species including 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, a squealing Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, and the 1st-winter drake Scaup Aythya marila of note. On the way back I was hoping to catch up with the Ringer, but I didn't see it. There were a few gunshots ringing out next to the lake from Holt Farm again at dusk! 


Friday 5th January [A pleasant sunny day, though cooler than of late.]

I was about to go to the lake at lunchtime when I received a call to help a friend, so I didn't make it today. However, I've had an email from Jeremy V. though, who saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, a Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and Green Woodpecker Picus viridis. Thanks.


Thursday 4th January [A dreary morning with rain setting in early afternoon]

After an outing to do some shopping this morning I went down to the lake just before the rain set in after lunch. I added Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii to my year patch list, but despite birding around the Lodge and walking the Top End, I wasn't able to add anything else before the rain got too heavy and made the birding unpleasant. Noted were the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the adult drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, a Stonechat Saxicola rubicola, and a large flock of no fewer than 150 Redwings Turdus iliacus. I didn't spend any time looking for the drake Scaup at Top End.  


Wednesday 3rd January [Sunshine & showers. Breezy.]

After meeting up with friends at lunchtime, I birded at the lake late afternoon until dusk. Due to the risk of getting caught in one of the showers, I had a look around the Lodge area on foot and filled the feeder, then drove slowly to Top End, stopping at strategic points, before walking from Bell's Bush barrier to the Ubley gate and back. The areas around the lake are under water and the footpath through farmland along the south side is impassable, even in wellies I should think. I noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila and 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba in a list of 47 bird species between 1500-1645hrs (see BirdTrack).


Tuesday 2nd January [Storm Henk: Very windy with some rain showers]

I went to the lake after the morning rain and before the arrival of Storm Henk. By the time I left, nearly two hours later, the wind blowing down the lake was so severe it was blowing spray off the waves running up the lake and making it all but impossible to see any waterfowl at all. It was wild. I spent a few minutes trying to find the Marsh Tit that Melanie saw yesterday, but it was a pretty hopeless task in the conditions, but I recorded the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, the 1st-winter drake Scaup A. marila, 4 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a 'patch silver' on the bird feeder - a male Greenfinch Chloris chloris. I got Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus back, but didn't see the Siskins Spinus spinus that Chris C. reported as visiting the feeder earlier in the day. Unsurpisingly, most small birds were keeping well hidden (apart from at the feeder) in the prevailing conditions, and I have to admit that with twigs and small branches breaking off the trees, I wasn't minded to spend any more time in the copse looking. Having said that, while I was watching the feeder, the number of birds coming in and out was quite exceptional - there were so many, they were queueing all around it for the opportunity to steal in for a sunflower seed or two. Regulars you can expect to see on the feeder include: Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Robin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Regulars underneath it include Dunnock, Pheasant and Grey Squirrel. With Siskin and Greenfinch coming in today, perhaps we might hope for something more exotic in the coming weeks?


Monday 1st January [A fine morning with rain setting in mid-afternoon]

I was at the lake by 0715hrs this morning and heard 2 Tawny Owls Strix aluco calling (one distant & one by the Inspection House). I birded, mostly on foot, until 1400 hrs when I went home. During that time I equaled my best ever New Years Day patch list of 66 pecies, or so I thought, but I had written Starling in my notebook twice by mistake. Still, I mused, if I pop back down late afternoon I might find something in the gull roost or, perhaps, a Goosander - and so it proved, an adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser was in Butcombe Bay when I looked over the dam wall at 1530 hrs. 66 after all. 

As I was walking back to my car earlier, Ross F. texted to tell me he'd got a Red Kite Milvus milvus above the Inspection House but, unfortunately, I dipped it even though I was at Rainbow Point with a reasonable view back that way. Nevertheless, thanks Ross.

I was about to leave around midday when, as I was trying to see a Coal Tit Periparus ater on the feeder at the Lodge, Martin K. arrived and started staring up into the birch trees nearby. I duly saw the titmouse and met Martin who told me he had been watching a flock of Lesser Redpoll above him. Sure enough, after a few minutes we both saw a few above us again which, when they flew out, looked to have been 8-10 birds. Great find Martin, they were an unexpected bonus.

Mark, who was working, texted to tell me about a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus he'd seen, so Martin and I went for a look, before seeing the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. Thanks Mark and Ali. 

Martin said he had come down to "ambush me" and spend some time birding together, so we both jumped in my car and drove along to Top End again, birding as we went, stopping to scan and scope at various points. We saw the Scaup Aythya marila I'd missed earlier, and had great views of a Red Kite over Hellfire Corner - phew, got it back! As we headed back to the Lodge, the rain really set in, so we both decided to call it a day. Thanks for the company Martin.

I was sitting at home with my 'smug mug' on when I received another text, this time from Melanie P., in which she told me about the Red Kite over the Inspection House too, a Sparrowhawk at the Lodge entrance, and my BIG DIP - a Marsh Tit Poecile palustris at the north end of the dam! I haven't seen one of those at the lake for years... Guess where I'm going to be in the morning?




Postscript: The list of species that I know about at the lake this year can be accessed by clicking on the News link > 2024 page. If you record something that is not on the list so far this year, please let me know. Additionally, I add a complete list of my sightings to BirdTrack when I get home after each visit, together with any counts that I have made, before I write the blog.

Nigel Milbourne © 2009-24. All Rights Reserved.