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Blagdon Lake Birds

March 2024 News

Sunday 31st March [Dry and mainly sunny]

I birded from the Lodge to Top End gate and back this afternoon. Aside from the usual suspects, I saw 5 Pochard Aythya ferina, 2 adult Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus, a Snipe Gallinago gallinago, a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti at Top End, plus heard another at Home Bay, counted 5 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, and 7 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita (there were many others calling). A handful of Sand Martins Riparia riparia were feeding high above the lake, but I didn't see any House Martins, Swallows, Goldeneye, Great White Egrets or Ospreys, unfortunately. Still, with heavy rain forecast for part of the night tonight, maybe something new will drop in to be found tomorrow.


Wednesday 27th March [Sunshine & showers]

It was a very busy day today, but I managed a quick look along the south side of the lake from my car. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was back on the dam, and I counted 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 4 Gadwall Mareca strepera, 4 Buzzards Buteo buteo and saw a few Sand Martins Riparia riparia.


Tuesday 26th March [Dry with high cloud & a watery sun]

I spent a couple of hours or more birding between the Lodge and Top End on foot after checking the dam area. There were a few birds singing, including 13 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, 4 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapillis, and 2 Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus. I saw about 20 Sand Martins Riparia riparia at Top End, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 8 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, plus one each of Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and Snipe Gallinago gallinago, of note, in a list of 45 species.


Monday 25th March [Dry with a cool breeze & sunny spells]

It was supposed to be a wet day, but it didn't turn out like that. I didn't get to the lake until late afternoon because I'd changed my plans, but I did manage a walk to Top End from Rainbow Point. News was similar to yesterday with 400+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia feeding over the top half of the lake in the lee of the trees. I saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba again, 4 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and heard the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing. Hopefully, I'll get more time and some new arrivals to report about tomorrow.


Sunday 24th March [Dry with sunny spells. A keen breeze.]

I didn't get to the lake yesterday, but today was the first day I'd seen a large arrival of Sand Martins Riparia riparia at the lake - I reckoned there were at least 300 over the water this afternoon. I spotted a single Swallow Hirundo rustica among the martins too, but couldn't pick out a House Martin, so that will have to be for another day. Having not seen any egrets on friday, I was pleased to see a Great White Egret Ardea alba today, as well as singles of Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and Goosander Mergus merganser (both females) in a list of 41 species.


Friday 22nd March [Mainly dry with localised showers. Breezy.]

I birded on foot from the Lodge to Top End gate and back early afternoon. Although I recorded 42 bird species, it was a little underwhelming. I saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, heard a Cettis Warbler Cettia cetti and a Blackcap Sylvia atricapillis singing, and saw a single Sand Martin Riparia riparia. What was most surprising though, was that I saw no Great White Egret(s) for the first time in a long while. 

Later in the afternoon, I met with Mark, to check bat boxes with Pat and Jane of the 'Flora' team at Farrington Golf Club. Disappointingly, we've found no evidence of uptake in their boxes so far, and now there are plans to redevelop the site. We will check the boxes again during the summer, before deciding what to do with them going forward. The ladies wrote Mark and I a lovely letter of thanks for helping them with their project, and made a very substantial donation to Somerset Bat Group. We hope to use at least some of that donation for a bat box scheme somewhere on the Mendip Hills, although we will discuss this with SBG and the Flora ladies when we've put together some ideas. It'd be nice if some good comes out of the disappointment the ladies obviously feel about their efforts to improve the environment for wildlife on the golf course. 


Thursday 21st March [Dry, & sunny on & off.]

Late this afternoon, I birded from the Lodge to Top End gate and back, after having checked the dam first. I saw 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, heard 2 singing Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla, saw a drake male Goosander Mergus merganser, and 2 Siskins Spinus spinus in another poor list of 38 species. I'd probably do better getting to the lakeside earlier in the day, especially now the migrants are starting to arrive.


Wednesday 20th March [ Dry & sunny]

Mark and I spent the late afternoon at the lake checking & cleaning bat boxes, after the winter storms. I don't have too much to share by way of bird news other than 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 15 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis that flew east up the lake.


Tuesday 19th March [A pleasant, if mainly overcast, day.] 

There was something of a red theme going on today. Mark texted late morning that he'd seen a couple of Red Kites Milvus milvus, and I saw one later in the afternoon as well. However, I found a Redshank Tringa totanus on the dam when I arrived, and saw a Red-legged Partridge during my walk too - both new birds for the year. Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita numbers are going up rapidly as migrants arrive and start singing in new territories, but it seems the Ring-necked Duck has moved on (possibly the bird found at Torr Reservoir?), as have most of the wintering ducks. Siskin(s) Spinus spinus were in Ldoge Copse again today and visiting the feeder, but I will have to get some sunflower hearts tomorrow as I'm completely out now. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos and 1, probably 2, Great White Egrets Ardea alba were noted this afternoon in a list of 46 species.


Monday 18th March [Mainly dry & sunny. Mild.] 

As it was a lovely (nearly) dry afternoon, I birded on foot from the Lodge to the Hatchery and back. Again, I didn't see the RND, but that was mainly because the viewing conditions weren't good rather than it probably not being there. Sightings included 2 Red Kites Milvus milvus, 2 drake Goosanders Mergus merganser, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 20+ Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula, the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, and 3 Sand Martins Riparia riparia, of note in a list of 44 species. I also saw a number of Pipistrelle bats at dusk, and a Mink Neovison vison. A Little Egret was found dead at Chew and collected by the fisheries team.  


Sunday 17th March [Mainly dry & sunny]

After a visit to the East Somerset 50th Anniversary Gala this morning, I went to the lake and birded on foot from the Lodge to Bell's Bush barrier where the road was flooded. I turned back and got my car to check the Top End, but the view from the hide was poor due to having to look into the low sun. I didn't spot the Ring-necked Duck today. I noted the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall and just 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, counted 5 singing Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, in a poor return of 34 species.


Saturday 16th March [Afternoon rain after a dry morning]

I have to hold my hand up, as soon as I arrived at the lake down came the rain. I though it was just the odd light shower so set off on foot from Wood Bay Point to Top End, but got stuck in the hide for over half an hour as it poured down. In the end I made a run for it and got quite wet. As I pulled up in the driveway, you guessed it, the rain stopped! Need less to say, the birding was not that good under the circumstances, although I managed to spot a flock of 27 Sand Martins Riparia riparia, the adult drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 2 Great White Ardea alba and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 22 Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and saw a male Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla in Holt Copse.


Friday 15th March [No let up with the monsoon-like conditions]

More fields and paths flooded around the lake perimeter today. When will it let up?

I spent an hour and a half at the lake this afternoon and noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 2 adult drake Goosanders Mergus merganser, 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and no hirundines, in a list of 41 species. It was a pretty stiff breeze sweeping up the lake, making viewing conditions difficult from the hide.

Ken H. contacted me by email to tell me he'd seen 2 or 3 Red Kites Milvus milvus and 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and heard one each of singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti and Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita on Wednesday morning. He returned again this morning, and saw the RND, heard a singing Chiffchaff and Siskin Spinus spinus in flight, plus 2 Red Kites and a ringed Great White Egret, Red ABF, among the four he noted. Thanks Ken.


Thursday 14th March [Pretty dismal & wet]

I had to go to Chew Stoke this morning so combined it with a short look at the lake on the way home. There were boats all around the edges of the Top End of the lake, which obviously caused some disturbance to the waterfowl, but the Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris hadn't been flushed to t'other place, thank goodness! I saw 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and 18+ Sand Martins Riparia riparia over the dam end, plus the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall - it wasn't a day for spending much time waterside to be honest. When I drove in from the Ubley end, I watched a Grey Heron Ardea cinerea trying to swallow a sizeable Tench Tinca tinca that it had caught. I don't think it managed it in the end.


Wednesday 13th March [Overcast & very mild]

I birded on foot early afternoon from the Lodge to Top End hide and back. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was off Burmah Road with a flock of Tufties A. fuligula and Pochard A. ferina. However, the big difference between today and yesterday was how few Great White Egrets Ardea alba were around -  I only counted three. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam wall and a couple of Snipe Gallinago gallinago flushed from Long Bay as I passed. I heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti and 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita singing, and saw a very smart male Siskin Spinus spinus on the feeder in Lodge Copse.

It was nice to catch up with a few more of the regular anglers who were out on the bank. Tomorrow is the start of the boat fishing season.


Tuesday 12th March [Early rain, drying out midday, but remaining overcast. Mild.]

This morning Phil D., Rob H., Lucy M., and I carried out the Webs Count. The lake level was 100%.

Details as follows: Canada Goose 40, Mute Swan 20, Shoveler 2, Gadwall 3, Mallard 33, Teal 8, Pochard 20, drake Ring-necked Duck 1, Tufted Duck 319, Goldeneye 21, Little Grebe 2, Great Crested Grebe 34, Grey Heron 5, Great White Egret 12+, Little Egret 1, Cormorant 35, Moorhen 23, Coot 166, Snipe 43+, Common Sandpiper 1, Common Gull 7, Great Black-backed Gull 6, Herring Gull 4, Sparrowhawk 1, Red Kite 2, Buzzard 4, Kestrel 1, and Cetti's Warbler 2.  

In addition to the above, I saw 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, and another was heard singing briefly at the Lodge (although not by me), but none of us saw any hirundines during the 4 hours we were there. The Great White Egrets Ardea alba were extremely mobile and difficult to count, so much so, that we consider the count of 12, given above, to be an absolute minimum. Two were noted flying off south over the Mendips. There were still Redwings Turdus iliacus, Fieldfares Turdus pilaris, and Starlings Sturnus vulgaris feeding at Top End in the fields, and if you missed it above, the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was also present. I listed 52 bird species today, and saw a couple of lovely patches of Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa in flower.


Monday 11th March [Overcast & grey]

I'm sorry I have no news for the last 3 days, I've been with family, doing other things.

Late this afternoon, I birded on foot from Rainbow Point to Top End & back. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris plus 8 Great White Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta of note, in a total of 45 species recorded.

Tomorrow, we'll be doing the monthly WeBS count - hopefully, we'll get our first Sand Martins of the year.


Thursday 7th March [Dry with sunny spells. A cold breeze down the lake.]

I couldn't find any Sand Martins again today, even though I spent an hour and a half at the lake around lunchtime. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present, and I counted 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 3 wintering Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita in my list of 38 species. I also noticed my first flowering Cuckoo-flower (aka Lady's Smock) Cardamine pratensis of the year at Top End, as Spring marches inexorably towards us. There was very little bird song in the cold wind, and there were very few anglers at the lakeside by the time I arrived, I guess the thought of standing up to your middle in cold water in the prevailing conditions put anglers off too - although Phil K. braved it until just before I left site at 1430 hrs. A good effort!


Wednesday 6th March [A beautiful sunny day]

I spent the last three hours of daylight at the lake today, birding on foot from the Lodge to Top End gate and back. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a small flock of 7 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, and 2 Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita. It was nice to catch up with Merv P. too.

I had to go to Chew Magna around midday, and saw a male Brimstone butterfly Gonepteryx rhamni as I was going through Ubley Village - my first butterfly sighting of the year. Merv told me he'd seen one in his Whitchurch garden this morning too.


Tuesday 5th March [A sunny day with little breeze]

I didn't have much time to spend at the lake today, but grabbed a couple of hours mid-afternoon in the welcome sunshine. It was nice to see some familiar faces back at the waterside and have the chance to chat with a few too. I birded on foot from Wood Bay Point to Top End gate and back and saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, 6 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a Red Kite Milvus milvus high over the centre of the lake, and heard a Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti singing at Lodge Copse, in a poor list of just 39 species.


Monday 4th March [A dry morning becoming wet & windy on the afternoon]

I spent the morning with Mark checking bat boxes, two of the the first five of which required some work. One had been damaged during tree work and will require a repair, the other had been knocked off its tree by another one falling against it, so we re-hung it on a tree nearby. Not a great start! However, we saw a number of Soprano Pipistrelles in a couple of Kent boxes, and all the other boxes checked and cleaned were in good shape. 

While I was at the lake, I noted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris and a single Great White Egret Ardea alba. After entering yesterday's sightings onto BirdTrack, I came a cross a reported sighting of 3 Snow Geese, of all things, at Blagdon Lake yesterday - bizarre! There are three white domestic geese in fields at Rickford, which may have been incorrectly identified as Snow Geese, and the location misrepresented. It's the only possible explanation I can think of.


Sunday 3rd March [Blue sky & sunshine]

I woke this morning and started thinking about the lake, in particular the changes I've noted over the 60+ years I have been visiting. I recently volunteered to be a site guardian for Bristol Water at Blagdon Lake as part of the Bristol Zoo AQUA water quality awards scheme to monitor and prevent the spread of invasive non-native species. You can read more about this here National expansion for Bristol-led scheme to conserve and protect UK’s waterways - Bristol Zoo Project. I went to an introductory training event at BW HQ a couple of weeks ago and look forward to finding out more about their work, especially at the lake as we aim to get biosecurity accreditation for the site.

This also got me to thinking about the Congresbury Yeo catchment and the environmental issues that impact upon the river, which I have known since I was a lad back in the 1960s. I took a look at The Rivers Trust website as a starting point, and drilled down to find the 'Sewage Map' - it makes shocking viewing to be honest. I've raised concerns a number of times about issues I've seen around the lake catchment over the years and lay in bed thinking about why I don't see the shoals of Roach I used to fish for back in the day between Wrington and Congresbury when I walk along the riverside these days? Why are there no longer large areas of exposed mud for migrating waterbirds to feed on instead of banks of rotting water weed when the lake level drops? So many questions...

Still, the sun is shining, so it's time to get off my behind and get out there and see what the day brings - for now. What a beautiful day - it even felt warm in the sun!

I walked from home to the Hatchery and back between 1130-1450 hrs, birding as I went, then checked the dam again at 1745 hrs. The drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris was still present, as were 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, a Siskin Spinus spinus on the feeder,  20 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 4 Goosanders Mergus merganser and a single drake Wigeon Mareca penelope, in a total of 54 bird species. I also noted that Sweet Violet Viola odorata was in flower, and I saw my first hoverfly of the year Eristalis sp. 


Saturday 2nd March [Rain this morning, with some sunshine late afternoon] 

After the rain finally stopped, I drove down to the Lodge and birded on foot from the there to Top End and back. I saw the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in the same place as yesterday, at Flower Corner. There were 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba again today, and I heard Bullfinch(es) Pyrrhula pyrrhula calling at Lodge Copse, only the second occasion I've noted them at the lake this year. The best came last though, when I stopped off at the dam as I went home, I'd seen the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos there earlier, but I counted 23 (10 drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 40 (11 drakes) Goldeneye Bucephalus clangula gathering to display and roost as darkness fell.


Friday 1st March [Four seasons in a day]

After spending 3 hours trying to do a job that should have taken a few minutes, I only had time for just over an hour at the lake this afternoon - and even then, I wasn't too keen to get out of the car! I spotted the drake Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris from the Top End hide, counted at least 7 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and saw the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam and a drake Goosander Mergus merganser just off the wall before going back home up the hill. I noted 39 species in total.


Nigel Milbourne © 2009-23. All Rights Reserved.