BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

A blog of sightings and up-to-date news from the lakeside


Saturday 16th December [Frosty morning]

Mark Hynam texted me to say there were 2 Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay this morning, and a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting at Top End. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus was targeting the Redwings Turdus iliacus according to Mark too.

Friday 15th December

Still unwell, but improving slightly. No visit to the lake today.

Mark Hynam found a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis in Wood Bay at 1413 hrs.

Thursday 14th December

Unwell, and didn't visit the lake today. I did get up in the afternoon and, thanks to the bird food put out by neighbours Jenny and Alastair, I spotted a Brambling Fringilla montifringilla among the garden visitors.

Wednesday 13th December [Rain in the morning, & still cold.]

I've been feeling under the weather for the last 24 hours, but I managed to spend an hour at the lake this afternoon (mainly birding from the car). The Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa seem to have reduced to just 2 birds in front of the Lodge, but there may have been others there unseen. A flock of c. 40 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus flew east down the lake and there were 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis back with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

Tuesday 12th December [Continuing cold & sunny]

A late afternoon visit produced a couple of sleeping redhead Goosanders Mergus merganser off the dam, and the flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were still hanging in there in front of the Lodge, but rapidly running out of feeding space as the water continues to rise. I think there were 20 present, but it was difficult to be sure because I had to view from Green Lawn in order to avoid spooking them. I saw one of the adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted hybrids in a brief trawl through the Aythya flocks further up the lake. There were quite a lot of winter thrushes flying around and steady streams of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris flying in to roost in the reeds.

Monday 11th December [Cold & sunny]

Despite the weather conditions, the team came from Bath and Wiltshire to do the WeBS count, so good on you guys. Thanks for the help again. I did my first WeBS count with the team 20 years ago in December 1997, but Phil and Terry have been doing them for at least 10 years more than me! Sadly, Roy Curber who has been doing counts since the late 1940s, fell earlier this month and broke his pelvis and is still in RUH Bath. We wish him a speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing him out at Blagdon in 2018.

There was a Great White Egret Ardea alba in Butcombe Bay when we arrived, but as usual it only took one dog walker and an out of control dog to move it off the lake! We didn't spot the ♂ Greater Scaup, but there were 25 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa in front of the Lodge. Neither did we see the Common or Green Sandpipers that have been around during the last week or so, but perhaps the weather has moved them on. Top count was 1547 Common Coots Fulica atra, 1272 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, 460 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and 276 Common Pochards Aythya ferina. I also picked out the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and 2 adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Ducks described last week. Full count details on the Webs Count Page.

Sunday 10th December [Cold with snow]

Mark Hynam went to the lake today and sent me the following news: 22 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and a Dunlin Calidris alpina at the Lodge, then Holt & Wood Bays. He also recorded 2 Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus with a European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis flock, Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris, Tawny Owl Strix aluco, Redwings Turdus iliacus, Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis and Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina.

Saturday 9th December [Sunny & cold]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news..... more decorating!

Friday 8th December [Sunny & cold]

I didn't visit the lake today and have no news..... 11 hrs of decorating!

Thursday 7th December [Wet this morning & sunny this afternoon. Cold.]

I didn't see any Black-tailed Godwits today, but the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila and adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck were both still present and viewed from Rainbow Point. We will be carrying out the WeBS count on Monday, and it will be interesting to know just how many Great Crested Grebes Podiceps cristatus are present. There seemed to be quite a few gathering together late afternoon. Also, there's a good number of Common Pochards Aythya ferina on the lake. At 1615hrs I watched a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting along the bank at Wood Bay, before I left.

Wednesday 6th December [Overcast]

I had a quick look for the Whooper Swan this morning, but it seems to have moved on. I saw the regular Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, 9 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at the Lodge, and a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End during my visit and I'm just about to go back for a more thorough look around late afternoon.

This afternoon there were 15 Black-tailed Godwits present at the Lodge, the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila was off North Shore, and I saw the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck in Wood Bay.

Pale phase Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, Polish Water © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Tuesday 5th December [Overcast & mild, with some drizzle.]

At 1445 hrs I spotted an adult Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus in Wood Bay as I was walking back from Top End (9th site record, and first for 5 years). I don't understand why I hadn't seen it earlier, but perhaps it arrived while I was at Top End. In front of the Lodge there were 8 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and the adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus, together with most of the 60 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus I counted today. Surprisingly, after looking for a long time yesterday and failing to see it, I spotted the adult ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila off Rainbow Point, where I also spotted the adult ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck and adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck, in Wood Bay. At Top End there was a Great White Egret Ardea alba, and I spotted another Aythya hybrid, an adult ♂ Pochard x Tufted Duck off Burmah Road. The first of the Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids in Wood Bay had a loose tuft of feathers on the back of the head and dark grey back, while the one off Burmah Road was more like a giant (Pochard-sized) Lesser Scaup with a neat tuft at the back of the head. It also had a 'dipped-in-ink' tip to its bill. Ducks, don't you just love 'em! As I walked back along Green Lawn, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus made a low hunting pass. Perhaps it had it's eye on the large flock of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris, Redwings Turdus iliacus and FieldfaresTurdus pilaris feeding on Holt Farm.

A puzzle: Yesterday, as I walked along the road past Home Bay Point, I heard a bird calling continuously as it approached me in the hedgeline. I wrote it down as a clipped 'seu-it', not unlike that of a Pied Wagtail. As it came past, within a few feet, I noted its brown colouration and buffy supercilium. Sadly, while concentrating on plumage tones, I neglected to note leg colour. I initially thought it must be an unusual Chiffchaff call, but having spent some time in the last 24 hours thinking about it and listening to recordings, I can only conclude that it must have been a Willow Warbler. Xeno-canto has a recording of Phylloscopus trochilus acredula, the so-called Northern Willow Warbler, that sounds just like the one I heard yesterday XC201505. The calls I heard resembled those heard in the middle of the recording, rather than the first one. I know Northern Willow Warblers come through the country in Autumn, but am not sure if any have been noted as late in the year as this. I had hoped to hear it again this afternoon, and would have photographed it and recorded the calls had I done so, but there was not a peep! Hopefully, I'll come across it again in the next day or two.

Mark Hynam has sent me information about the two ringed gulls we saw on Sunday - see 3rd December.

Monday 4th December [Sunny and mild]

There was no sign of the 4 Greater Scaup, seen by Mark Hynam and I yesterday, when I went for a look around this afternoon. The 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus were still present, in Home Bay, and I saw 4 more Black-tailed Godwits at Burmah Road. Also present, were the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, Great White Egret Ardea alba, Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, the ♂ Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, and I counted 53 Mute Swans Cygnus olor, 24 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 17 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula. The water level is slowly rising and it will only be a couple of days before Tiny's Shallow is inundated. I reckon the level to be about 66% at present.

Sunday 3rd December [Mainly overcast & milder than of late]

I met up with Mark Hynam this afternoon and we birded our way along as far as Rainbow Point in the couple of hours before dark. There were 4 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and an adult winter Common Redshank Tringa totanus from the Lodge, with a mobile Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca on Holt Farm, a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, and the adult ♂ and 3 adult ♀♀ Greater Scaup Aythya marila from Rainbow Point. I expect the 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup was still present, but I didn't spot it in the throng. I counted 6 Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula between the dam and Rainbow Point, and saw circa 50 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, plus an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis in the small gull roost. Mark was looking through the gulls on Tiny's Shallow as I arrived and picked out:

Saturday 2nd December [Cold]

No news from the lake today.

Friday 1st December [Sunny & cold]

I met up with Paul Williams and his wife, and Mark Hynam at the lake this afternoon and between us we found a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta (Mark), a Dunlin Calidris alpina, a Common Redshank Tringa totanus (Paul), a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, 2 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, a ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila, a probable 1st-winter ♂ Greater Scaup, a ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid, a pair of Northern Pintails Anas acuta, at least 5 Common Goldeneyes Bucephalus clangula, and several (c. 10) Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. All in all, it made for quite an exciting start to the month.

Thursday 30th November [Sunny & cold]

I didn't get to the lake until 1618 hrs, when it was nearly dark, after running around during the day. I saw an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca and a Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus in front of the Lodge. There was a curious distribution of waterfowl in several tight flocks for no apparent reason. Strange. Perhaps, I might get an opportunity to see what's going on tomorrow.

I received a phone call from Mike Bailey at CVRS this morning; he'd found a bat in the kitchen sink there. I went over at lunchtime, saw that it was underweight and dehydrated, so gave it a drink of water and took it to Kiri Green, our local carer, who gave it more water and a couple of mealworms. Hopefully, it'll pull through, but I wasn't too hopeful when I first saw it.

Wednesday 29th November

Travelling home today and looking forward to visiting my patch again tomorrow.

I've been adding photos to the blog, taken in Thailand, that can be viewed by scrolling down the page. These will be added to over the coming days and will feature birds from the last two days and mainly bats for the preceding days. Enjoy!

Tuesday 28th November

No news from the lake today.

Thailand

JoEllen and I were picked up by Nick Upton at 0500 hrs again for another day of birding in the Phetchaburi District, but concentrating on inland birds today. We initially headed to a patch of half-decent woodland where we saw Black-headed Woodpecker, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Puff-throated Babbler and Greater Necklaced Laughing Thrush among others, before we headed out towards the rice paddies. Unfortunately, the area was pretty severely flooded which made finding birds there extremely difficult for Nick in his usual hotspots. However, we gradually amassed a pretty decent day list that included Asian Golden Weaver, Oriental Reed Warbler, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Yellow-bellied Prinia among many others. We had a good day, and Nick looked after us well on our two excursions, serving up up some great birds to round off the trip in an amazing country.

Asian Spotted Owlet & Black-headed Woodpecker, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Brown Shrike, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Monday 27th November

No news from the lake today.

Thailand

Four of us went out with Nick Upton today, leaving Bangkok at 0500 hrs for a visit to the saltpans and coast of Laem Pak Bia - Pak Thale. Our first port of call was to see the Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Pak Thale among the hundreds of Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Kentish, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers. We moved on to look at the several hundreds of Great Knot, (some) Red Knot, 1 Far Eastern and lots of Eurasian Curlews, Black-winged Stilts, Nordmann's Greenshanks, Common and Spotted Redshanks, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns. Then another move to see Pacific Golden Plovers, Asian Dowitcher, Long-toed Stints, Common and Wood Sandpipers, 1 Bar-tailed and hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits. There was also an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Richard's and Paddyfield Pipits along the salt bunds. After a Thai lunch stop, we had a boat trip out to the sand spit, almost flooded by the high tide, and saw Black-crowned Night Heron, Brahminy Kite, Malaysian and White-faced Plovers, Great Crested, Little and Common Terns, Chinese Egret and Pacific Reef Heron. When we got back we went to look at some Painted Storks, singles of Spot-billed Pelican, Temminck's Stint and Grey-headed Lapwing in flight, among the many species I could also add. But you get the flavour of what's on offer at this excellent site. A great day out with the shorebirds.

Long-toed Stints, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Marsh Sandpiper, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Pacific Golden Plover & Red-necked Stint, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Spotted Redshank, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Temminck's Stint, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Ruff, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Asian Dowitcher & Black-tailed Godwit, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Whimbrel in the Mangroves, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Malaysian Plover, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Great Knot, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Pond Heron, Pacific Reef Herons & Great Egret, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Painted Stork, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Spoon-billed Sandpiper with assorted shorebirds, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Sunday 26th November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

We had a lovely group BBQ beside the pond at the hotel last night, with a few beers and the odd Brandy or two, before heading off to bed. This morning was a more leisurely affair as the batting had finished, we saw a Purple Heron on the pond, and after breakfast at Starbat, we were driven back to Bangkok to the fabulous Ariyasom Villa where myself, JoEllen Arnold, Ross Baker and Lynn Whitfield are staying for three days to do some guided birding with Nick Upton of ThaiBirding. Tomorrow morning he's picking us up at 0500 hrs for the 2 hour drive to Laem Pak Bia - Pak Thale to look at some shorebirds. We're 7 hours ahead of you guys in the UK, so you might get to see some pictures later, now that Iain has lent me a lead to download shots off my camera for storage.

Bedroom view at dawn, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Saturday 25th November

News from Mark Hynam today: 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Top End, an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca, and 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. Thanks Mark.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

What an awe inspiring spectacle awaited us this morning as the bats came back to roost from their overnight foraging. We spent quite some time with them in the cave and added two new species to our trip list, Intermediate Roundleaf Bat Hipposideros larvatus and Ashy Roundleaf Bat H. cineraceus, as well as seeing Black-bearded Tomb Bat Taphozous melanopogon again,and Asian Wrinkle-lipped Bat Chaerephon picatus in the hand. I climbed to the temple on the top of the hill with our guide, and after an afternoon exploring the paddy fields around the hotel with my binoculars and camera, we went back to see the bats emerge from the cave from a different viewpoint.

Intermediate Roundleaf Bat, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Black-bearded Tomb Bats, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Wrinkle-lipped Bat, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Long-tailed Macaque with Tamarind fruits, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Red-wattled Lapwing, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Black-winged Stilts, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Friday 24th November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

This morning we checked one last cave before leaving the Kanchanaburi district by walking along a short length of the railway line. To everyone's delight we found Lesser False-vampires Megaderma spasma; a bat that mainly eats large insects, unlike its bigger brother the Greater False Vampire Megaderma lyra that will also eat lizards and small birds, the feathers of which we've found in several roosts without seeing the bat, unfortunately. There were also a few Kitti's Hog-nosed Bats Craseonycteris thonglongyai (aka the Bumblebee Bat) in there too. Afterwards we set off for our next destination, Ratchaburi district, stopping for lunch along the way in Kanchanaburi. The streetside restaurant had a couple of Pied Fantails hawking insects in it! I now have a super room, next to Iain Hysom, overlooking a small lake full of Lotus flowers with Bronze-winged Jacanas on it. Nearby, we also saw Asian Koel, Green Bee-eater, Pied Fantail, Brown Shrike, Asian Pied Starling, Red-collared Dove, Flame-backed Flowerpecker, Oriental Magpie Robin, Coppersmith Barbet and, of course, egrets and pond herons while having a drink at the wonderfully named Starbat Cafe. As dusk fell we visited the temple grounds to witness the emergence of nearly 2 million Asian Wrinkle-lipped Bats Chaerephon picatus from the two caves in the grounds, then visited the night market for a stroll. We've got permission from the temple monks to go into the cave tomorrow morning while one of the local community co-operatives are also in there collecting bat guano for sale as fertiliser. They share the profits with the monks. It'll be a very early start, at 0530 hrs, before first light to see the bats come back to their roost.

Lesser False-vampire, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Pied Fantail, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Flame-backed Flowerpecker, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Javan Pond Heron, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Thursday 23rd November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

This morning we headed downriver to visit a cave in the jungle. I didn't make it to the cave because I chose not to wade a river with all my gear. However, Daniel sent us a Great Roundleaf Bat Hipposideros armiger to have a look at, while those who went across the river also saw Kitti's Hog-nosed Bats Craseonycteris thonglongyai again. Duuring the trip downriver we saw about a dozen Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus, a couple of Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, as well as Black-capped Halcyon pileata and White-throated Kingfishers H. smyrnensis. While some of us were waiting outside the cave we saw Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus and an unidentified blue and white Flycatcher. There were lots of butterflies coming to the water's edge to drink and no end of dragonfly spp. Afer lunch, we headed upriver by minibus to a new cave, where we tried to do some flight shots of Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat and look for new species. We didn't trap in the evening.

Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat (aka Bumblebee Bat), Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Wednesday 22nd November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

Today we drove for another 3 hours to Kanchanaburi to visit the Bridge over the River Kwai to do our tourist bit. Then, we headed out further long the railway line to visit a cave where we saw Kitti's Hog-nosed Bats Craseonycteris thonglongyai (aka the Bumblebee Bat which weighs only 2 grams), and Black-bearded Taphozous melanopogon and Theobold's Tomb Bats T. theobaldi with a couple of rangers from Sai Yok National Park. Then, on reaching our hotel, we walked across the road to do some trapping in an area of cultivation. We caught 15 bats of 6 species, I think it was. Tomorrow is more of the same, as we're going on the river by dragon boat into the National Park to survey some more caves, away from the tourist areas with Park Rangers.

Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Black-bearded Tomb Bat, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Tuesday 21st November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

Lyle's Flying Fox in a Tamarind Tree, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Lyle's Flying Fox, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

We spent virtually the whole of the day driving from NE Thailand, through Central Thailand towards West Thailand today before stopping overnight in the ancient capital of Ayutthya. We did stop at a private property to see a camp of Lyle's Flying Foxes Pteropus lylei and take some pictures before moving on, to one only 11 Buddhist Temple sites used by the bats (where they are protected). Daniel reckons there are probably no more than 20 camps of this species in Thailand. We had a quick look around a street market before retiring to bed absolutely shattered.

Birds noted included: Black-collared Starling, Asian Pied Starling, White-breasted Waterhen, and Oriental Magpie Robin.

Oriental Magpie Robin, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Monday 20th November

No news from the lake today.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

We've had a busy day here in Northeast Thailand. We were up at 0600 hrs for a shower and some breakfast before heading out to the Painted Bat village. We spent the morning looking under Banana leaves for roosting bats and found a few Painted Woolly Bats Kerivoula picta, and I found a Tomb Bat sp., possibly Long-winged Tomb Bat Taphozous longimanus, roosting on a palm trunk. We stopped for some lunch in the field, then continued looking for more bats before going back to the village in the early afternoon where we went to a lake and found some Horsfield's Myotis Myotis horsfieldii in a culvert. Various diversions to look at birds, invertebrates and tree frogs eventually found some of us back at the farmers house where his wife and mother were weaving silk. We asked if they could show us the process from silk worm to cloth, which was fascinating. After a short break, we headed out again to plant some Banana trees as part of the conservation effort to provide more homes for the bats, then we went back to the fields to set up some nets and a photo studio where we photographed a couple of the bats we'd found earlier in the day, before releasing them. We didn't catch any bats in the nets, so packed up and went back to the farmers home where we were treated to a fantastic spread and group photos, bought some silk, and then headed back to the hotel for the night.

Painted Woolly Bat, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Painted Woolly Bats roosting in a Banana leaf, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Common Tree Frog in a Banana leaf, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

♂ Yellow-striped Flutterer aka Yellow-barred Flutterer Ryothemis phyllis, Thailand © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Birds noted included: 2 ♂ Black-shouldered Kites sparring, a ring-tail Pied Harrier, a pair of Collared Scops Owls, Scaly-breasted Munia, Ashy Woodswallow, Pied Bushchat, Red-collared Dove, Plain-backed Sparrow, Chinese Pond Heron, Brown Shrike, White-vented Myna, and Paddyfield Pipit.

Sunday 19th November

Mike O'Connor sent me news of 2 Goosanders Mergus merganser in Butcome Bay this morning. Thanks Mike.

Mark Hynam sent me the following too: "I’m at the lake now, it’s been a cracking afternoon weather wise, but not much change on the bird scene. 3 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Top End, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula." There was a large flock of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis, and no egrets in Butcombe Bay, "just lots of people with loose dogs." He also recorded a couple of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus there later.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

I sat by the river in Bangkok as the sun came up and did some more birding. Then, after breakfast, we drove 450 km northeast along route 2 to Khon Kaen, where we spent the late afternoon with the farmers in the rice paddies (as seen on the Thailand documentary shown on the BBC recently) looking for and finding a number of Painted Woolly Bats Kerivoula picta, including a ringed ♂ in his mating roost with a ♀ under a banana leaf (see Merlin Tuttle's account and superb photos, taken on trip with Daniel a few years ago, of this stunning bat). We took some roost photos and hope to trap and photograph one or two in a flight cage tomorrow evening, after searching for more, plus any other species present during the day. I'm beginning to build a decent bird list as well, but unfortunately I can't share any photos while I'm away because I didn't pack my card reader.

Birds noted included: Black-capped Kingfisher, Coppersmith Barbet, Peaceful Dove, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, Asian Openbill, Streak-eared Bulbul, Asian Koel, and Black-winged Stilt.

Saturday 18th November

Mark Hynam spent some time at the lake today (not trying to grip me off, or so he says), and only had 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Top End, and 3 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula off Rugmoor to report. Thanks Mark.

BatThai 2017 Expedition:

I met up with most of the rest of the group at Bangkok airport before going to the hotel nearby, where we stayed for our first night. It was beside a waterway so there were bats and birds present. I went to bed after dinner and fell asleep until midnight. I eventually dropped off again and was woken by music and noise from the next room at 0230hrs. I gave up trying to sleep and got up. Jet lag rules!

Friday 17th November

I'll try to upload daily bulletins with a few photos from Thailand, and will post any lakeside news I receive, when I have internet connectivity, so keep your messages coming in. I have an overnight flight tonight from Bristol, via Amsterdam, to Bangkok, meet up with the others on Saturday, and set out on the bat expedition on Sunday morning (while keeping an eye out for birds and other wildlife, of course).

Thursday 16th November [Bright & sunny, before clouding over later.]

The WeBS team of Roy, Phillip, Terry, Robert and myself carried out the count this morning and saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, singles of Little Egret Egretta garzetta and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, the first Goosander Mergus merganser of the autumn, and a probable ♂ Tufted x Pochard Aythya hybrid that looked superficially similar to a Greater Scaup, and was probably the bird I saw in the drizzle on Tuesday. Ringed birds included one of the Great White Egrets and a Herring Gull:

There was also a ♂ Tufted Duck that appeared to have a red/orange nasal saddle that puzzled us for quite a while off Rugmoor Point - way too far away to read though. Top counts were 1366 Common Coots Fulica atra and 1160 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula (full details on the WeBS Page).

Wednesday 15th November [A very pleasant day]

This afternoon there were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta around the lake, and a Dunlin Calidris alpina in front of the Lodge at Polish Water. Tomorrow, we will be carrying out the WeBS count.

Tuesday 14th November [Grey with some rain & drizzle]

I had the pleasure of a visit with Bristol Savages today, but the weather wasn't too kind to us. Having had a look from the Lodge and along the road at Home Bay we drove to Green Lawn and went for a walk from there. It rained by the time we got to Rainbow Point! I saw 3 Dunlin Calidris alpina before everyone arrived, and spotted a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis at the Lodge. A few of us got to the Top End hide and had a look through the host of wildfowl. There were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, that were joined by a 5th later in the afternoon, as well as 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 4 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and 20 (13♂♂) Northern Pintails Anas acuta. I thought I spotted one of the Greater Scaup in the drizzle, but despite going back for another look this afternoon, I couldn't find either bird later. At the Lodge I spotted a ringed adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus:

Monday 13th November [Sunny & cool]

Great to hear from Paul Williams this morning, and he reported seeing 5 Great White Egrets Ardea alba and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. He looked for, and found, the 2 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, saw a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis with the Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock, and also saw a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus and a ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. I didn't get down to the lake until the end of the day and saw one Little and 5 Great White Egrets, as well as the Barnacle Goose and 3 Goldeneye. There are hundreds of duck still present though.

I have a visit arranged with a group called Bristol Savages tomorrow, so we'll have a good look around. Then, on Thursday, we'll be carrying out the monthly WeBS count, slightly early, because I'm off to Thailand on Friday to do some batting with Daniel Hargreaves and friends for 8 days, followed by a couple of days birding, before coming home towards the end of the month.

Mark Hynam had a reply from Chris Perrins about Mute Swan Yellow CYL as follows: "Yellow CYL (BTO ZY7384) was ringed as  an unsexed “5” (= hatched the previous year, 2013) on 27/10/2014 at Abbotsbury. It was there are again at the July roundup in 2015, when its original darvic ring (Yellow CSY) was replaced, but was not there at the one in 2017)."

Sunday 12th November [Sunny with a bitter north wind]

I had a bit of a half-hearted look around late this afternoon, and saw a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta, the 2 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, 18 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and 9 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Saturday 11th November [Wet & drizzly]

A visit at lunchtime wasn't especially productive and was quite damp! I didn't spot any egrets or Scaup, but counted 2 ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula (adult and 1st-winter), 15 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and 19+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There were a number of Mute Swans Cygnus olor out of the water at Wood Bay Point, two of them with darvic rings:

Mid-afternoon, I had a call from Simon Isgar at Chew (thanks Simon), to say a Great Northern Diver might be heading my way, but sadly it didn't. However, I had a another look for the Greater Scaup Aythya marila and found both asleep off Rainbow Point.

I also saw another ringed Mute Swan on Wood Bay Point:

Friday 10th November [Sunny spells, cool, & windy.]

This afternoon there was a Great White Egret Ardea alba and a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at the head of Butcombe Bay. When I got to Wood Bay Point and was going through the Aythya flock something seemed to spook them all resulting in most of them flying up closer to me. This gave me the opportunity to look for the Greater Scaups Aythya marila and, having found them, I have decided that they're an adult ♂, and a juvenile/1st-winter ♂, so probably not a ♀. I have amended my earlier sightings accordingly. And, just to eat a little more humble pie, it occurs to me that the ♂ Aythya hybrid may infact be a Common Pochard x Ferruginous Duck, rather than Pochard x Tufted Duck. I'll need to have a closer look at it when I get another chance. I wasn't able spot the cause of the disturbance, it wasn't aerial so far as I could see, so may have been Otter(s) perhaps. Dunno!

At Top End, when everything had settled down again, I counted 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta. I really must count the Gadwall Anas strepera, because there are quite a few still present. No Bewick's yet though, despite the first arrivals touching down at Slimbridge a couple of days ago (pers. comm. Steve Heaven, WWT).

Thursday 9th November [Overcast]

I went for a walk with friends this morning that took rather longer than expected, and what with having to go to Devizes early evening for the Wiltshire Bat group AGM, I ran out of time to get down to the lake. I saw that Rare Bird Alert reported a single Great White Egret and 2 Greater Scaup which I assume refers to today.

Wednesday 8th November [Sunny but cool]

There were 266+ Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, mostly at Top End, at lunchtime but they were frequently being spooked by agents unknown! Also noted, were the 2 Greater Scaup Aythya marila, a Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, a Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and 2 Dunlin Calidris alpina (both adult winters, compared with yesterdays 5 juveniles and single adult winter). The gull flock was also spooked off Tiny's Shallow, just before I got out of the car to look through them. Presumably, there was a hungry Peregrine or Sparrowhawk checking the fare out.

Tuesday 7th November [Rain most of the day]

I had a look around during the afternoon and saw a single Great White Egret Ardea alba and just the one Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Butcombe Bay. In front of the Lodge there were 6 Dunlin Calidris alpina, and 8 of 14 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus among the gulls, two of which were ringed as follows:

I spotted the ♂ Aythya hybrid off Wookey Point, when peering through the rain from the hide, but couldn't see the pair of Greater Scaup which, if present, were probably too far away.

Monday 6th November [A lovely sunny, though cool, day.]

Well it took me a while, but I eventually found the Greater Scaup Aythya marila again, but this time it was a juvenile/1st-winter. It was swimming quite quickly and eventually met up with the adult ♂ we saw yesterday. They're best looked for from Wood Bay Point. There were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba feeding along the Indian Country bank, and 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at the head of Butcombe Bay. Just off Wookey Point were 3 gorgeous adult ♂ Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and a ♂ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, while on the point itself were 42 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Sunday 5th November [Cold wind with some bright spells]

Mark Hynam got to the lake really early this morning and saw 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba fly in, apparently from over Blagdon village. They stayed for 15 minutes at Top End and then flew off towards Chew, so I'm expecting a record count from there today. When I arrived at 0900 hrs we both thought there had been a significant drop in duck numbers since yesterday, but we decided to count anyway. I totalled 1381 Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, Mark counted 392 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, and we saw a ♂ Greater Scaup Aythya marila (off Rugmoor Point) and ♂ Tufted x Pochard hybrid (Green Lawn/Long Bay). There were probably up to 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta dotted about, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam, and 114 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Saturday 4th November [Sunny spells with a cool breeze]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam at lunchtime, and a ringed adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor, Yellow CTN, on Tiny's Shallow. This is another one for the BTO database. While there were quite a few waterfowl around the Lodge and in Butcombe Bay, the vast majority were east of Rainbow Point, and the numbers seemed to have grown again compared with yesterday. Mark Hynam and I will attempt to count the Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula and Common Pochards Aythya ferina tomorrow morning because it seems to me we have the highest numbers of the year so far, although it's possible firework displays may frighten a few off the lake tonight.

At Top End I counted 101 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 19 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and at least one Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, and there was just a single mobile Little Egret Egretta garzetta present today.

Friday 3rd November [Cooler & remaining dry]

It was late afternoon before I got down the hill to the lake, but having seen the vanguard yesterday, it came as little surprise to see 9 Great White Egrets Ardea alba today. I watched 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fly in from the west as I was leaving, bringing the total to 4 of them, 6 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 47 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There are now several hundred diving ducks, mainly at Top End, and I might count the Tufteds Aythya fuligula and Common Pochards Aythya ferina over the weekend. I couldn't find any rarities lurking among them though!

Much of the day before my visit was spent at an Environmental Stakeholders Workshop run by Bristol Water, as a representative of Bristol Ornithological Club and the BW Bird Wardens group. It was interesting to meet some of the representatives of the multitude of groups out there in BW land, and I hope that this will be the forerunner for more public engagement by the company in helping to shape and deliver their environmental strategy. I will feed back more when the notes have been circulated.

A couple of people have raised the issue of repairs being required to the boardwalk to Stratford Hide at Chew Valley Lake, and Steve Smith kindly reported back to me that works are scheduled to be carried out on 26th November by the conservation volunteers. They will be replacing the planks, and it is likely that this will require more than one day of work, so it is possible that it may be carried over to the following week, meaning that the hide may be out of action for 10 days to 2 weeks, although, of course, one must also bear in mind that the work may uncover more serious issues that will need to be addressed, resulting in a longer closure.

Thursday 2nd November [Mainly sunny]

Ken Carruthers and I finished the last Osprey nest platform this afternoon. Now to get it put up...

BOC Chairman, Ken Carruthers, with the final Osprey platform © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Afterwards, I visited the lake and saw 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba at Indian Country, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, 11 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and 257 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. A young Peregrine Falco peregrinus flew in front of the Top End hide putting up the Lapwings and a single wader, probably a Green Sandpiper or Common Snipe. The wader climbed steeply while being pursued by the Peregrine, and may well have escaped, although they both flew over the hide and out of view. There were lots of waterfowl east of Rainbow Point, finally providing some interesting viewing from the Top End hide.

Wednesday 1st November [Warm in the sunshine]

I spent a good deal of the day working with Ken Carruthers on another nest platform overlooking the lake today. When we finished our work, I went down for a look around and, although there were a fair number of waterfowl, it is still hard to find anything out of the ordinary to report. This afternoon I counted 125 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 6 Northern Pintails Anas acuta. While looking for ringed gulls at the Lodge (I didn't spot any) a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealed in Pipe Bay reeds, and I watched 5+ Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata diving for food again while I was in Top End hide.

Mark Hynam has had a reply to his BTO enquiry about the Mute Swan Cygnus olor with the darvic Green XW9 that reads as follows:

"The Mute Swan you saw at Blagdon Lake recently with the colour ring XW9 was one that had been ringed by us at the RSPCA wildlife centre at West Hatch near Taunton. It was admitted to us on 03/02/16 from a school grounds in Braunton in Devon where it had crash landed in the playground.  After a clinical examination and treatment to deal with the wounds from the crash landing, it was ringed and released, along with some other swans, at Chew Valley Lake (ST5758) on the 30/03/16.  It weighed 9.6 kg at release. This is the first reported sighting of this bird since release.  It is good to know it is doing well and interesting to note that it has not traveled far from the release location. Many thanks for reporting your sighting. Kind regards, Paul Oaten, Wildlife Centre Supervisor, RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre."

And, I've just received an email from Paul Roper of North Thames Gull Group with information about Black-headed Gull Yellow 2RBB:

Black-headed Gull ringed with metal ring EZ58015 fitted on 2nd April 2016 at Pitsea Landfill site in Essex. At ringing it was aged as Euring code 6 (third calendar year or older).

Tuesday 31st October [Overcast. Remaining mild.]

My apologies for the late report. Today, I made a record count of 83 Mute Swans Cygnus olor which is, I suppose, noteworthy in itself. There were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta feeding along the Indian Country bank opposite the hide, just 7 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a ♂ and 2♀ Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata diving for food again, while the Water Rail Rallus aquaticus was still squealing in Pipe Bay reeds.

Monday 30th October [A beautiful sunny day]

I spent quite a bit of the day at the lake with Mark Hynam, who arrived at dawn, but it was unnecessarily frustrating as the ducks were continually being pushed around the lake by thoughtless boat anglers who continually drove into the large flocks, flushing them rather than giving them time to swim out of the way. Thankfully, the boat season finishes tomorrow, and perhaps the increasing number of diving ducks will get some peace and quiet. Most of the dabbling ducks, especially Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata and Pintails Anas acuta have been driven off during the last week. We noted 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Indian Country, 2 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, 14 Golden Plovers Pluvialis apricaria (site year tick), and 182 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, and about 20 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina at Wood Bay.

We also saw:

During the afternoon, we went over to Chew Valley Lake to finish checking the bat boxes we didn't have time for last week. We didn't find any bats.

Sunday 29th October [Sunny]

I spent much of the day recovering from a very late night batting, and then tidying up some of the kit. I met Mike and Jackie at the lake when I went for a quick look for the Red-crested Pochard, but none of us found it. Just as I arrived, a boat put up all the gulls on Tiny's, so Mike and I didn't get much of a chance to go through them, although I heard a Water Rail Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds. As we were about to walk away from Bell's Bush a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus flew in high from the south, calling, and appeared to land at Top End. I have a bit of free time tomorrow, so I'll spend it having a decent look around.

Saturday 28th October [Windy & changeable]

I didn't visit the lake during the day, but Mark Hynam told me he'd seen a ♀ Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, a single Northern Pintail Anas acuta and 10 Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina, with a sprinkling of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis. He looked for the Red-crested Pochard again later but couldn't find it, so it may have moved on.

He also saw:

Having worked on a YACWAG event for most of the day, I got to the lake at dusk for our 'Last Hurrah' bat trapping session of the year. We had an exciting re-capture, which made the long wait worthwhile (see Bat News). While setting up the traps, I saw a flock of about 10 Redwings Turdus iliacus at Lodge Copse on a couple of occasions.

Friday 27th October [Sunny]

I spent much of the day checking bat boxes for YACWAG, but got down to the lake late in the afternoon. Quite a few of the boats were in Top End and most of the waterfowl, especially diving ducks and coots, were tight to the North Shore. However, there were at least 104 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus visible from the hide, as well as 3 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 3 ♂ Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata diving for food, as noted yesterday. At the Lodge I heard 2 Water Rails Rallus aquaticus squealing in Pipe Bay reeds.

Thursday 26th October [Overcast drizzly morning, brighter in the afternoon.]

Not much to report from a late afternoon visit, with just 7 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 36 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus of note. The Common Pochard flock, noted on Tuesday, appears to have moved on and I'm left wondering if they had come to Blagdon as a result of disturbance at either Chew or Cheddar. Although the less common migrants are steering clear of Blagdon so far this autumn, you sometimes see things that turn your head nevertheless. While I was sitting in the Top End hide scanning the wildfowl, I noticed a group of 6 or more Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata diving for food. I don't recall seeing this before and was prompted to have a look through the literature for previous observations of this behaviour, to find that it is said to be rare in dabbling ducks, but has been noted with Shovelers on a number of occasions. Tim Sharrock wrote in Wildlife Through the Year about seeing Shovelers diving, and Ducks, Geese and Swans (ed. Janet Kear) states that "Dabbling ducks take a wide variety of animals and plants during the year. Most are largely vegetarian or omnivorous, with the exception of the Shovelers and Blue-winged Teal that take mainly small particles of animal matter (Krapu and Reinecke, 1992)." The group comprised both sexes, and I reckoned the dives to be typically 3-6 seconds in duration. The birds slightly opened their wings in the act of diving, in a similar manner to auks, so I presume they used them to propel themselves under water. When they surfaced they invariably had a food item in their bill which they swallowed there before diving again. I can't be sure about what they were eating, but suspect it may have been molluscs. The bills were slightly open with food in, and there was no sign of weed. I didn't see the start or finish of the activity, but was aware of it continuing for at least 15 minutes while I was there.

Wedensday 25th October [Fine & warm]

I did not visit the lake today, as I was at Chew Valley Lake all day checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey and three trainees, then trapping in the evening (see Bat News for more).

Tuesday 24th October [Overcast but warm]

I spent much of the day walking on the Somerset Levels with friends and saw some of the usual suspects including Great White Egrets, and met Alan Ashman, Jeff and Kay Hazell, among others, which was nice.

Late in the afternoon I visited the lake and saw 204 Common Pochards Aythya ferina that looked as if they'd just arrived with a larger flock of flock of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula. Then a small flock of waders flew through my scope view and eventally settled on Wookey Point; it comprised 5 Dunlin Calidris alpina and a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. I only managed to find 4 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, while at Holt Bay there were 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

It's getting toward the time when the first Bewick's Swans will be arriving in the country, and with the water level as it is, I'm hoping that some of our regular birds will make it back to the lake. Julia Newth at WWT will be keeping us up to date with a regular blog, and you can follow the progress of satellite tagged birds by following a link on her page.

Tomorrow, we're doing the Chew Valley Lake bat boxes for the last time this year and, possibly, trapping in the evening.

Monday 23rd October [Warm, with mizzle late afternoon.]

I had a free afternoon, so went for a leisurely walk to Top End and back. I didn't see too much, but was looking forward to going through the increased number of waterfowl at Top End as the level is still dropping. However, as I got to Hellfire Corner, boat #15 came straight up the lake through the birds putting about 80% of them up. I went out to Bell's Bush for a look anyway, but the anglers had run aground off Wookey Point (of course), so they motored back out and drifted right up to the trees. When they started their motor again the remaining 20% of the birds went up, and I was left staring at nowt! Not happy, to put it mildly... I think there is a very good case to be made for making the Top End, east of a line from Wood Bay Point to Rugmoor Point out of bounds for angling if the water drops below an agreed level, say 65%. It's so shallow it's barely worth fishing anyway.

What did I see? Well, there were still 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 29 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a couple of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta, and the following ringed gulls:

Sunday 22nd October [Sunny spells & breezy]

Mark Hynam spent 4.5 hours at the lake and had very little to report when he came to see me. We went back down together late afternoon and I saw 2 (feral) Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, but then got 'top-trumped' when Mark told me he'd seen 3 earlier! We had a look through the gulls; the Commons Larus canus have been arriving this week, but there was nothing else to report other than a Little Egret Egretta garzetta seen by Mark earlier in the day.

News from Viola Ross-Smith of:

Saturday 21st October [Gales and some heavy rain]

Not a great deal to report from my lunchtime visit. The first Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, a ♂, had arrived off Bell's Bush, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis dropped briefly onto Wookey Point. Aside from those two new birds, I saw just 3 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 19 Northern Pintails Anas acuta. A young angler, full of enthusiasm, ventured out on to Tiny's Shallow and put up all the large gulls before I had a chance to go through them. It'll be interesting to see if Storm Brian brings anything in from the Channel overnight.

Mark Hynam reported:

Friday 20th October [A fairly pleasant day as it turned out - but Brian is coming!]

Yay, they're coming thick and fast now, and I don't mean the storms! There was a Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge early this afternoon, another year tick to the site total - that's three in three days. Also noted were 17 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 44 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago, and a large ♀ Peregrine Falco peregrinus that 'buzzed' the gulls and dabbling ducks in front of the Lodge while I was checking through them. I found the following ringed gulls:

Thursday 19th October [Very wet & rather miserable]

I got a good soaking this morning when I went over to Portbury NR to look at the bat boxes with Sarah Dale and Iain Macfarlane. We found just one Pipistrelle sp. (couldn't see which, and didn't wish to disturb it given the conditions). After drying out and changing my wet clothes, I ventured down to the lake late this afternoon. The dabbling ducks were having a great time feeding out on the wet mud, and there were lots of very full-looking crops. I saw a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Holt Bay, just one Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus on Wookey Point, counted 13 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 73+ Mute Swans Cygnus olor, and finally added Skylark Alauda arvensis to the site year list, when I heard one flying over calling while checking out the gulls at the Lodge.

Wednesday 18th October [Grey & misty with drizzle. Cool.]

I spent all day at the lake checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey. At Home Bay, I heard a singing Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti, my first here for several years. I also spotted 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta around the lake and there appeared to have been a mini-fall of Meadow Pipits Anthus pratensis.

For an update on the box checks see Bat News.

Tuesday 17th October [Mainly cloudy & cooler than yesterday]

The only bird of note that I saw this afternoon was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos on the dam.

I'd spent the morning checking Dormouse boxes (under licence) with Ken Anstey, during which we found a single ♂ weighing 29 grams, and this evening I was due in Worcester for a meeting with BCT and NE who are reviewing the Voluntary Bat Roost Visitor Service, that was until I was confronted by the M5 closure (again) at Clevedon. I turned around and came home!

Monday 16th October [Breezy, sunny & warm.]

With the remnants of hurricane 'Ophelia' battering Ireland today, it was a little breezy by the lake but not too bad. There were 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, a juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta, a juvenile Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 13 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 46 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End. A number of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus were roaming around and visiting Alder trees along the south side of the lake while I was there too.

Sunday 15th October [Sunny & warm]

There was good news that the 1st-winter ♂ Rock Thrush was still on Gilwern Hill near Blaenavon in South Wales when I got up, so I went on a 'twitch' with Mark Hynam to see it. I had to drive up the famous cycling climb 'The Tumble' in order to get there, the first time I'd seen this fearsome hill. While we were watching the thrush, we also saw a number of Northern Wheatears, a Black Redstart, Phillip Delve, Chris and Theresa Stone, and Gary Thoburn. We got back at dusk and had a brief look in front of the Lodge but saw nothing other than a few anglers who had been out for a day's fishing in memory of former Blagdon Fisheries Ranger, and friend, Mike Gleave.

Saturday 14th October [Cloudy & mild]

As I'm on night shift with the bat work again tonight, at a swarming site in Wiltshire, I don't have time to visit the lake today.

Friday 13th October [Pleasant enough but mainly cloudy]

I didn't visit the lake today, having gone down to RSPB Ham Wall in the morning, and then having spent the rest of the day at Chew in preparation for a bat trapping session in the evening.

The evenings trapping at Chew along Moreton Bank was pretty slow, but we didn't do too badly in the final analysis (see Bat News).

Thursday 12th October [A pleasant warm & sunny day]

I started birding at the dam end this evening, and hadn't got further than the Lodge when Mark Hynam came along from Top End and said he'd seen nothing to report. Neither had I until we spotted a Little Egret Egretta garzetta on Home Bay Point. The waterfowl have been moved around the lake fairly significantly this week avoiding angling disturbance.

Wednesday 11th October [Another grey & dismal day]

There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos at Cheddar Water this afternoon, and 19 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End. While at the Lodge, I saw few gulls on Tiny's Shallow because 2 Common Buzzards Buteo buteo were feeding on something at the point, however, I spotted:

Martin Cottis told me he'd seen a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting at Top End this morning while he was fishing.

My ready reckoner suggests that the water level is about 61% and has dropped very slightly over the last month.

Tuesday 10th October [A bit grey & dismal]

We didn't count the Canada Geese Branta canadensis yesterday because they were in a field on the North side of the lake and we couldn't see them all. I counted 144 today. The juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta was on Tiny's Shallow, as were the two gulls:

At Top End I counted 57 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

Monday 9th October [A pleasant warm & sunny morning, although it got a bit cooler later in the day.]

Roy Curber, Phillip Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I carried out the WeBS count today between 1030-1400 hrs. The juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta was on Tiny's Shallow, and a juvenile Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe was on the eastern corner of Green Lawn. We also saw a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas butterfly at the Lodge. There wasn't anything else of particular note save for 3 Common Gulls Larus canus, and a count of 48 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End. See the WeBS Page for full count details.

Sunday 8th October [A sunny war day]

Having got up late after bat trapping all night, I didn't have time to visit the lake before driving off to Wiltshire to do some more bat trapping at a swarming site run by friends Dani Linton and Keith Cohen. We will be carrying out the WeBS count in the morning.

Saturday 7th October [Misty, cold & wet in the morning. Some sunshine & warmer later in the day.]

Starting at the Fishing Lodge, I saw the juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta on Tiny's Shallow, along with the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. There was a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay, and at Top End I saw the juvenile Ruff Calidris pugnax, a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, and counted 37 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus.

In the evening, we went bat trapping at Portbury Nature Reserve (see Bat News for results) and stayed out until 0400 hrs when we packed up.

Friday 6th October [Sunny]

There was an unexpected juvenile Little Stint Calidris minuta on Tiny's Shallow this afternoon, which was a pleasant surprise and the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was on the dam wall. I walked to Top End and most of the way back with Mark Hynam who had spent much of the day at the lake. He'd seen the juvenile Ruff Calidris pugnax at Top End earlier, and it was still there when we had a look together. There were 20-30 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 101 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and Mark counted 114 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. Just before leaving, we had another look through the gulls on Tiny's Shallow and saw a new ringed gull:

Other notable sightings inlcuded, a Comma Polygonia c-album, and a Grass Snake Natrix natrix with a bright yellow collar at Long Bay, so presumably of the sub-species N. n. natrix, the Common or Eastern Grass Snake, rather than the Barred Grass Snake N. n. helvetica which has a dull yellow collar. Therefore, our sighting referred to the introduced rather than the native sub-species, if the work of the German scientists is correct (see blog for 7th & 18th August).

The first day of Pike fishing saw a 32 pounder and several 20+ pounders boated, but none of the 'big 'uns' yet. I think the anglers were finding it a bit harder today according to Martin Cottis at lunchtime. While chatting, he told me he'd seen 3 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo in the air at Top End one day last week while he was fishing.

Thursday 5th October [Sunny & warm after mist & rain early morning]

I took a leisurely walk in the sunshine with friends around the lake today, with stunning views from the hillside above Nempnett Thrubwell looking across the lake towards Blagdon and Black Down. I saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Top End, and a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting at Indian Country while walking, and later when I went back with my telescope I spotted a Ruff Calidris pugnax and 38 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, with a Dunlin Calidris alpina and White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow.

Wednesday 4th October [Dry, cloudy & increasingly breezy]

Late this afternoon there was a Ruff Calidris pugnax that I saw in flight at Top End and caught up with in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow later. I saw one ringed gull in front of the Lodge, also on Tiny's Shallow:

Tomorrow is 'Black Thursday' - the first day of public Pike fishing at the lake. It is limited to fly fishing on a restricted number of dates throughout October to be fair. However, with a boat price of £400 per day, and £800 per day if guided, not to mention rumoured auction prices of over £1000 per day, the 'bean counters' at Bristol Water will be pressing for more next year you can be sure. Not only them, of course, but I've already overheard a conversation between an angler and staff member speculating that lures might be allowed next year, followed by bait fishing shortly after, which will no doubt bring the bivvy brigade camping out on the banks during the winter months (although in truth they are already here by all accounts, poaching at night). Of course, Natural England have to be consulted if changes in fishing pressure and timing are proposed, but money talks and I see tomorrow as the not too thin end of the wedge. I fully expect some huge pike, perhaps in excess of 40lbs, to be caught during the month, but (along with Mink, Otters, Carrion Crows and large gulls) they are, in my opinion, responsible for the near collapse of successful breeding by waterfowl since their introduction - probably by selfish angling interests. There is no doubt there are some pretty profound changes going on in the lake that are being reflected in the number and mix of breeding, passage and wintering water birds. Blagdon is, or rather was, a world famous trout fishery. Sadly, 'the times they are a-changing' and Pike surely won't benefit the existing wildlife. I'll continue to try and improve the lot of the wildlife around the lake, in my own small way, as long as I am able and welcomed by BW, but I fear tomorrow and what it means for 'my patch' going forward.

Tuesday 3rd October [Dry with sunny spells]

Would you Adam and Eve it, I found my first new species for the year since 12th September, a Ruff Calidris pugnax, together with a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at Top End this afternoon. Also counted were 27 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. The number of larger gulls has dwindled over the past week, and I only found one ringed bird in front of the Lodge:

Monday 2nd October [Mainly dry & windy]

Oh boy! What a boring autumn's birding at Blagdon. I resorted to counting Mute Swans Cygnus olor today - I made it 73, my highest count, and not far short of the record 80 on 16th Agust 1958. There were 74 Common Pochards Aythya ferina, 28 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 7 Northern Pintails Anas acuta. I think Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope numbers are continuing to grow too, but with little angling pressure today, they were quite widely spread.

News from Julia Newth at WWT Slimbridge today that the Bewick's Swans are well on their way, with large flocks arriving in Estonia last week. I'm looking forward to their arrival and hoping they don't decide to go to Chew like everything else has this autumn!

Sunday 1st October [Pretty miserable]

At Top End there were 2 voiciferous Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo, and a handful each of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and Northern Pintails Anas acuta. There was a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis, and John Harris told me the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca was in front of the Lodge before I arrived. I spotted circa 10 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica there, and among the gulls was: