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Blagdon Lake Birds



January 2022 News 

Sunday 30th January [A beautiful day]

Mark kindly came over and picked me up and took me to the lake for a walk. I needed to recover my car which had been there since my fall as well. It was so nice to be back out in the fresh air birding, and after spotting the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis from the Lodge, the drake Scaup Aythya marila in Wood Bay, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, we had a wonderful fly-past at Top End hide by an adult female Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. After it put up a few Snipe Gallinago gallinago, it appeared to fly off towards Chew Valley Lake. My 81st bird species at the lake in January.

 

Thursday 27th January [A lovely sunny day]

A very enjoyable walk was marred by a spectacular fall at Bell's Bush when I fell off the edge of the road into a hole in the adjacent grass mid-afternoon. Before that abrupt end to my birding for the day, I'd seen a female Goosander Mergus merganser at Cheddar Water, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Indian Country, the drake Scaup Aythya marila in Wood Bay, and a male Brambling Fringilla montifringilla at Hellfire Corner.

The fall resulted in my being taken to South Bristol Hospital by Bristol Water Rangers, and then transferred to the BRI by ambulance with mild concussion and a possible skull fracture that needed to be checked. Thankfully, some 9 hours later, I arrived back home with a terrific black eye, swelling and bruising to my forehead and face, and still feeling distinctly under the weather. I was told to rest for 48 hours. I should like to put on record my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the lady from Ubley who was birding at the lake and who came to my immediate rescue, Alan, Dan, Ben and Martin of Bristol Water, and the staff at the hospitals who treated me. Of course, thanks also to Celia, my dear wife, who I put through a deal of worry and stress.

 

Wednesday 26th January [Grey then sunny]

There was a lot of activity with hedge cutting which made the birding a little less enjoyable. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis out in the centre of the dam end of the lake, the drake Scaup Aythya marila in Wood Bay and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Rainbow Point. Needless to say, the passerines were elsewhere, or, keeping their heads down.

 

Tuesday 25th January [Cold & overcast]

I walked from home to Hellfire Corner and back, but didn't spot the Black-necked Grebe, Scaup or Common Sandpiper!

 

Monday 24th January [Grey & chilly]

Phil, Terry, Rob and I carried out the WeBS count this morning between 0930 and 1250 hrs. The water level was approx 80%. The count details were as follows: Coot 1319, Tufted Duck 926, Wigeon 476, Gadwall 326, Canada Goose 195, Pochard 136, Teal 117, Mallard 82, Great Crested Grebe 23, Mute Swan 21 (16 adults & 5 juvs.), Cormorant 21, Shoveler 19, Goldeneye 19, Moorhen 15 (probable under count), Little Grebe 3 (under count), Grey Heron 3, Scaup (drake) 1, Black-necked Grebe 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Great White Egret 1, Snipe 1 (under count), Water Rail (heard) 1, Sparrowhawk 1, Buzzard 1. The putative adult drake Ferruginous Duck x Pochard was also noted.

 

Sunday 23rd January [Cool, overcast, and still.]

I walked again today, and heard a Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita calling by the Lodge, and saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis out in front again. At Green Lawn there were 23 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus scattered along the water's edge, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba on the other side at Ash Tree. I counted circa 30 Siskins Spinus spinus in the Alder trees at Hellfire Corner.

 

Saturday 22nd January [Grey & overcast]

Mark picked me up this morning and drove us down to Burnham-on-Sea to see the German colour-ringed Kentish Plover at the mouth of the Brue. We also saw 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, and a Peregrine while we were there.

Back at Blagdon, we found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in front of the Lodge, saw 4 Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and found an adult drake Scaup Aythya merila off Wood Bay Point. A flock of 11 Siskins Spinus spinus and a male Brambling Fringilla montifringilla with Chaffinches Fringilla coelebs entertained us at Hellfire Corner on an otherwise quiet walk.

 

Friday 21st January

On my walk down to the lake I heard my first Nuthatch Sitta europaea of the year calling near the Pumping Station, and found the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Pipe Bay. A female Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, was a welcome first for the year too at Hellfire Corner and 10 (5 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser completed the bird sightings worthy of note. I also recorded Grey Squirrel and Brown Hare.

 

Thursday 20th January [Mainly sunny]

I enjoyed a 9 mile walk with friends from Winscombe to, and around, Cheddar Reservoir along the Strawberry Line today. I saw the drake Red-crested Pochard near the Axbridge entrance on the way around the res. I also saw a Little Egret in a tree opposite the Plume of Feathers at Rickford on the way to Winscombe in the car.

At the lake the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in Home Bay, and a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus had caught one of the Starlings or winter thrushes feeding on the meadows by Long Bay. I saw just the one adult drake Goosander Mergus merganser at Cheddar Water on my way home. 

 

Wednesday 19th January [Mainly overcast, brighter later in the day.]

Not much to report today. The usual Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam wall, and Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay. I saw the Peregrine Falco peregrinus again, an adult, and probably a male.

Mike Moxon sent me the following news: "...could see BN grebe & 2 female Goldeneye in Home Bay from dam, 2 male & 1 female latter in bay on other side of dam as well, 1 Raven flew along dam & was calling in trees to north before heading off SW after another pair, Buzzard was feeding on the pike (with 2 Crows in attendance)." Thanks Mike.

 

Tuesday 18th January [Mist early, then sunshine.]

The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the south end of the dam, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay today. I added Peregrine Falco peregrinus to the site year list, seen over Pipe Bay, and I counted 9 (6 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

I have started to use the Mammal Society smart phone app to record mammals, a very quick and easy thing to do if you are confident with their identification, and added Brown Hare Lepus europaeus (seen) and European Mole Talpa europaea (photo of molehills) to their record database during my walk.

 

Monday 17th January

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still in residence, and Rob Hargreaves told me he'd flushed (inadvertently) 10 Snipe Gallinago gallinago in front of the Lodge while looking for it. There were 2 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Green Lawn, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Ash Tree, and I counted 86 Teal Anas crecca (almost certainly not all of those present), and back at the dam I totted up 15  (7 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser at dusk.

There have been what I assume to be contractors on site for the last few days flailing the hedges again. This appalling practice on a SSSI has led to yet more degradation of the meadows, the grassland fringes at the base of the hedges has been removed making their refuge value to invertebrates, amphibians and small mammals worthless, and will undoubtedly lead to more loss of biodiversity, something the company keep asking us, as stakeholders, what they might do to improve! Yet, year after year, the hedges get in worse and worse a state (they used to be laid properly on occasion), their value to wildlife diminishes, and significant areas of grassland are damaged by ever bigger and heavier tractors with inappropriate tyres on them driven over the soft ground. I despair. 

 

Sunday 16th January [Milder with some sunshine]

A very pleasant afternoon walk saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flying along the bank at Burmah Road, 28 Siskins Spinus spinus at Hellfire Corner, male and female Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla and a Linnet Linaria cannabina with the finch flock, and a count of 308 Wigeon Mareca penelope from the Top End hide. Back at the dam on the way home, I saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta on The Island, and 9 (6 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

I had an intriguing verbal report of a flock of circa 100 Kittiwakes flying west over the dam too.

 

Saturday 15th January [Cold & dry]

Mark picked me up at 0800 hrs this morning and we trundled down to RSPB Greylake for another attempt to see the Baikal Teal a bit closer than last Sunday. After two hours we gave up and headed back to Blagdon where we logged the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay and a Great White Egret Ardea alba.

 

Friday 14th January  [Sunny & cold]

A late afternoon walk produced the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, an adult drake Pintail Anas acuta, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, and at dusk 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and at least 10 (4 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser in to roost. The site year list moves on to 73.

 

Thursday 13th January [A hard frost & beautiful sunny day]

Shaded areas were still frosted over late this afternoon, but it was a beautiful day. The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still present in Home Bay, and I saw 3 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 14 (6 adult drakes) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

 

Wednesday 12th January [A hard overnight frost, fog, then a sunny afternoon.]

Another pre-dawn start, and Mark and I were back in the hide at RSPB Greylake by 0715 hrs. A bit of a late start because we both had to scrape ice off our cars and warm them up. Anyway, as the dawn broke, the Baikal Teal was keeping itself out of sight. Then, the fog rolled in... and by lunchtime and another four hour freezing wait, it was still blanketing the reserve so we decided to give up and head back to Blagdon for a cuppa, or two, and an afternoon at the lake. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we found the ruby-eyed Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, and saw Siskins Spinus spinus and a Lesser Redpoll Acanthis cabaret in Lodge Copse before setting out for Top End. In the event we only made it to Bell's Bush barrier, where we saw more Siskins, because the sun sank quickly below the hill, and we turned around in time to look through the depleted gull roost and count the Goosanders Mergus merganser - just 2 drakes and a female - before we went our separate ways. We also noted 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba during our walk.

 

Tuesday 11th January [Misty & damp am, brightening later.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was over Tiny's Shallow (now flooded) in front of, and slightly right of the Lodge late this afternoon. I walked to Wood Bay Point and back, but didn't see anything else to add until I got back to the dam at dusk. Unfortunately, the Goosanders Mergus merganser were right over by The Island in the gloom, and it was difficult to make out the females. There were at least 14 birds in total, 9 of which were adult drakes.

 

Monday 10th January [Grey with showers]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still showing from the Lodge, in Home Bay, when I arrived late morning and, despite walking to Top End gate and back, that was about my only notable sighting of the avian kind. However, as I made my way back to the Lodge, I saw a large group of waterfowl scatter, and stood ringside as an Otter Lutra lutra grappled with a large Eel Anguilla anguilla, before it finally subdued it and swam to shore to enjoy its meal. What an absolute treat!

 

Sunday 9th January [Mainly dry]

Mark and I decided we'd see if we could connect with the Baikal Teal that has been at RSPB Greylake down the road, near Street, this morning. He rolled up at 0600 hrs to pick me up, and we were sitting in prime position in the hide on our own at 0640 hrs... only an hour to wait before it got light enough to see anything! As things transpired, it was seen a couple of times briefly from the open shelter and out of our view, until at 1115 hrs or so, a Marsh Harrier put up all the Teal again after a two hour wait, and a huge flock re-assembled at the back of the visible open water. I was lucky enough to pick it out when it put its head up preening, and got Mark and a few others in the hide on to it. Yay! Just one BOU list (cats. A&C) duck to get now for the full set in the UK - although I've seen them all somewhere in the world.

We left so that others might get a sighting, and headed back to Blagdon for a warming cuppa. We were both perished after the five hour vigil in the hide. When we warmed through, we headed down to the lake and saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 2 Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, and when I got to the Lodge, I immediately spotted the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Home Bay, after not being able to find it at all yesterday. We walked to Top End gate and back and noted a couple of Lapwings Vanellus vanellus on Green Lawn, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Rainbow Point, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba from the hide. As we left, we both stopped at the south corner of the dam and counted 14 (8 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser before heading home.

I reckon the water level has risen to something like 79% over the last few days.

 

Saturday 8th January [More rain & some flooding]

Woo! The lake has certainly come up a bit over the last day or two. I went down this afternoon and searched for the Black-necked Grebe, but couldn't find it. I saw one, possibly two, Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. Then, when I got back from Top End, I had another look from the dam and saw a gathering, a dopping, of 17 (10 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser.

 

Friday 7th January [Light rain & sleet for much of the day]

I didn't go to the lake today, but the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was reportedly back in Home Bay. There was also a separate report of 15 (9 drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos seen from the dam.

There were lots of birds coming into the garden feed today in the cold conditions, at one point there were at least a dozen Blackbirds on the patio for sunflower hearts and dried meal worms. There were also lots of Chaffinches and Goldfinches as well.

 

Thursday 6th January [Wet & breezy]

I had a mildly uncomfortable walk late morning through lunchtime in the driving rain. I saw the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Cheddar Water, but missed the Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (subsequently reported), and that was about it! I looked through the Teal Anas crecca that I saw for vagrants, but had no luck with that idea, and although there were plenty of Common Gulls Larus canus sitting on the water, I couldn't find a Med. Gull among them either.

 

Wednesday 5th January [Sunny spells. Cold.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was in the Home / Long Bay area again today, and continuing to draw birders to Blagdon for a peek. I wandered from the Lodge to Top End gate and back, albeit a bit late in the day as the sun sunk over the hill. I did see a few Siskins Spinus spinus, around Hellfire Corner, and counted 31 (14 drake) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula from the dam while I was looking for Goosanders at dusk. I didn't see any Goosanders before I left, and didn't add any year ticks today.

 

Tuesday 4th January [Grey early, then sunny. A bitter wind.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis remained faithful to Home Bay again today. I walked from the Lodge to Rugmoor Gate and back, but have little else to add to the news. I saw about 30 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and either one, or two, small flocks of about half a dozen Siskins Spinus spinus, some of which were positively glowing in the late afternoon sun. I also heard a Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula calling near Top End gate, so that was added to my site year list.

 

Monday 3rd January [Mild & dry]

I enjoyed an extremely pleasant walk with Martin, my ex-neighbour today. We birded our way from the dam to Top End and back, and spoke to quite a few local birders who were still whizzing around building their year lists - nice to see Dean and Karen, and Steve and Carol among the familiar faces - all checking in for the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis which was still in Home Bay by the boat quay. If you are coming to see it, please don't venture out onto the concrete quay, life jackets are required, and the area is covered by CCTV. Aside from the grebe, we saw about 75 Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, and a larger flock later, but not sure if they were the same. The Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos was on the dam as usual, mid-morning, when I arrived, a flock of about 40 Siskins Spinus spinus were at Hellfire Corner in the alders, we scoped a Stock Dove Columba oenas, and saw 3 adult drake Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam before driving back up the hill around 1530 hrs. While Martin and I were walking along the road at Long Bay, I spotted a hole in the grass, which looked like it was a wasp nest that had been dug out by a Badger after the comb, although that looked quite old and not exactly nutritious.

Carol has just texted me to say Steve saw a Bullfinch while they were at the lake (I'm gripped big time - ha, ha), so the site list is building nicely.

 

Sunday 2nd January [Mild. Sunny spells.]

I met up with Mark and Ken this morning to do a little bat work, which carried over into the early afternoon with the moving of two of our Kent boxes that haven't been used, to replace one that does get used, but that had been attacked and damaged by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Another that has been damaged nearby currently has 3 bats in it so we can't repair that one and rehang it at the moment. While we were doing the bat work, we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major drumming at the Inspection House/Cheddar Water.

Afterwards, Mark and I went to the Lodge and spent some time chatting to the stream of birders that were coming to see the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis for their year lists. Moreover, there was a great display by 8 (7 adult drakes and a female) Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, which made me wish I hadn't left my camera at home. While at the lake I added three more resident species to the 2022 site list. 

 

Saturday 1st January [Very mild & grey]

A Happy New Year to one and all.

I walked down the hill at 0700 hrs and got back home at around midday. In that time I managed to list 58 species, including the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (in Home Bay, and possibly viewable from the middle of the dam with a scope, if you don't have a permit), a surprise adult Shelduck Tadorna tadorna in front of the Lodge, and a silent Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita at Top End. A couple more hours this afternoon with Mark, and I added another 3 species bringing the total to 61 for the day. A Great White Egret Ardea alba, and 8 (4 adult drake) Goosanders Mergus merganser that flew in to roost were the notable additions. That's quite respectable - I'm happy with that!

The water level is about 75% currently.

Nigel Milbourne © 2022. All Rights Reserved.