BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

2011 News

January February March April May June July August September October November December


Juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata, Pipe Bay © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

Review of the Year

A Black-necked Grebe dropped in on New Year's Day and the wintering Greater Scaups stayed on to get us off to a flying start and a redhead Smew found by Colin Hunt and 1st-winter Eurasian Greater White-fronted Goose arrived in February. The earliest ever Sand Martin and Common Chiffchaff were noted on the 4th March, followed by two near misses with a probable 1st-winter Bonaparte's Gull distantly in the roost on the 5th and a near-certain 3rd-summer Caspian Gull on the 6th which flew off before I could write conclusive notes or take any photographs. Both would have been firsts for the lake. Barn Swallows arrived on the Vernal Equinox and an Osprey flew over on the 1st April. On the 5th, I found a Marsh Fritillary larva and saw a Helmeted Guineafowl wandering about on the north shore and on the 8th I heard a Eurasian Reed Warbler singing at Pipe Bay. In the second half of the month, Daniel Hargreaves visited to do some bat trapping and monitoring of a radio-tagged ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle and Richard Mielcarek started looking out for flowering orchids and heard a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Alan Bone and I got the moth recording off to a good start during the month as well.

May brought strong winds and the summer warblers. Excellent numbers of Blackcaps in April, were followed by Common Whitethroats in May, with 3 or 4 singing ♂♂ lakeside, for the first time in years. Ian White spotted a ♀ Marsh Harrier on 8th and grabbed a nice fly-by shot, while I spent much of the month trying to record invertebrates. June started quietly on the bird front, but during the WeBS Count on 11th we spotted the first ever Great White Egret at Top End. We continued adding to the moth list and lots of young birds were appearing on the lake during the remainder of the month. As July came around, I was off walking across England on Alfred Wainwright's coast-to-coast path, but when I got back I got the first taste of the autumn migration that was to follow, when I found a ♂ Ferruginous Duck on 13th and before the month was out we had visits from a pair of Red-crested Pochards, a Black-necked Grebe and a number of Common Pochards with nasal saddles, that had flown in from France. The ♂ Ferruginous Duck stayed on into August, another Black-necked Grebe joined the the other one on the 3rd, a juvenile Marsh Harrier dropped in briefly on the 8th and on the 13th we had a fantastic night bat trapping, 53 bats of 9 species, two of which were new to the lake; Brown Long-eared and Whiskered. On the 18th, a ♂ Ring-necked Duck appeared at Top End alongside what we thought was a ♀ Ferruginous Duck as well. The latter subsequently turned out to be a ♀ hybrid that didn't consort with the ♂ Fudger. An adult Black-necked Grebe arrived before the end of the month.

September saw the gold rush commence when Dave Northover rang me to say he'd found a Grey (Red) Phalarope at the Lodge on the 7th and while looking at that, angler Simon Kidd came in off a boat and said he'd seen what he thought was a shearwater sitting on the water off Green Lawn. Blagdon's first Manx Shearwater was quickly located and although gone the next day, Daniel Hargreaves emailed more exciting news of several Otter sightings while carrying out bat surveys. On the 13th, as wader numbers started to build, Mervyn Pearce found what I think was a second Grey Phalarope off the north shore. WeBS Count day, on the 17th, brought another first for the lake in the shape of a Great Skua which circled around over the lake before flying off west again. Migration slowed a bit in the second half of the month at Blagdon and I headed off north to the Shetland Isles. Mervyn Pearce said he'd keep an eye on things and true to his word spotted a couple of Dowitcher sp. late on the evening of the 9th October that Richard Mielcarek and Keith Vinicombe were able to identify as LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS the following day. On the 13th John Harris got in touch about a strange duck he'd seen in front of the Fishing Lodge and Mervyn Pearce drove over to identify a juvenile Long-tailed Duck. Golden Plovers came and went while the Dowitchers kept the crowds of tourists entertained at Bell's Bush, on-and-off, to the end of the month.

November started with a bang, when a Richardson's Cackling Goose arrived (origin unkown, but it's timing couldn't have been better for a genuine vagrant) on the same day as a ♂ Red-crested Pochard. As the month rolled on, I was looking for plant galls and checking Yellow-legged Gulls, when I spotted another ♂ Ring-necked Duck (a 1st-winter) on the 8th. Geoff Dring found a Slavonian Grebe on the 11th, the same day the first of the autumn's Bewick's Swans flew in, then on the 17th some continental Greylag Geese with rubrirostris characters dropped in for the day before all hell broke loose on the 18th, when I found the first local SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER creeping about in front of the Fishing Lodge. It had gone the next morning, but luckily for all the visitors, only over to Chew where it stayed up to the end of the month before returning to Blagdon for the day.

The water level began to rise as December wore on and the Dowitchers came and went. On the 10th, 4 Pink-footed Geese arrived and on 12th and 13th the Sharpie and Long-billed Dowitchers gave the closest views, over the gate at Pipe Bay, since they arrived. That was the last day we saw the Dowitchers and although the Sharpie hung on to the 16th, it was flushed by a Peregrine and flew off with a flock of Dunlins. Just when I thought it was all over for the year, a call from Richard Mielcarek on the 23rd put me onto the first Whooper Swan at the lake since 1965 and my cup runneth over! As the year drew to a close the 1st-winter ♀ Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe appear to be wintering and the flock of Bewick's Swans are just about finding enough food, as the water rises, to hang on into the New Year.