BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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


Monday 20th November

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, 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.

Birds noted included: 2 ♂ Black-shouldered Kites sparring, a ring-tail harrier sp., a pair of Collared Scops Owls, Scaly-breasted Munia, Ashy Woodswallow, Pied Bushchat, Red-collared Dove, Plain-backed Sparrow, Javan Pond Heron, Brown Shrike, Crested Myna, and Paddyfield Pipit (subject to confirmation).

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. 2 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.

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, Stripe-throated Bulbul, Asian Koel, and Black-winged Stilt (subject to confirmation).

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.

I met up with most of the rest of the group at the 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:

Saturday 30th September [Showers]

The lake continues to disappoint from a birding viewpoint. New in today was an Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca at Polish Water in front of the Lodge, otherwise the cast remains the same with 3 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 11 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and 17 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus. There also appeared to have been a bit of an arrival of Common Pochards Anas ferina.

We had a very interesting visit back to Studland, Dorset, last night (see Bat News) on the first weekend designated for co-ordinated NNPP coastal migration trapping that took place from Scotland, down the east and south coasts of England, and included Wexford in the Republic of Ireland.

Friday 29th September [Warm and dry]

I didn't visit the lake today. I went with a few local bat workers to Dorset to trap at Little Sea, Studland, with some of the Dorset Bat Group. While we were waiting for dusk to fall, Mark Hynam and I counted 73 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Great White Egret Ardea alba flying in to roost. An impressive sight!

Thursday 28th September [Mainly sunny]

More of the same today with a juvenile Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 205 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 24 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and a single Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis. So, I resorted to spending an hour or so going through the gulls that were coming and going in front of the Lodge, and spotted:

Wednesday 27th September [Fine early on, but rain spread in from the west during the afternoon]

I was helping Ken Anstey and Sam Olney check the bat boxes at Bickley Wood and Conham this morning, but managed an hour and a half late afternoon for a look around the lake. Again, no waders were evident, neither were there any egrets. At Top End I saw a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, 13 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, and a flock of circa 40 Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis. The 5 feral Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis were still present, and in front of the Lodge I saw:

Once again, thanks to Peter Rock for a rapid response to my gull enquiries.

Leter, when I was looking out of the back door for a calling Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita in the trees, I was gobsmacked to see a Red-legged Partridge  Alectoris rufa come wandering along the neighbours drive. I haven't seen one for many years around here.

Tuesday 26th September [Misty morning]

'Tis the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"... and I paid a mid-morning visit before the mist cleared. More Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope have arrived overnight, I made it 118 present now, and the geese were flying around, not quite sure where they wanted to go. Among the Canada Geese Branta canadensis were 5 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis again. At Top End, there was a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta and a number of Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus scattered around the shoreline. I will go back later for a more thorough search and report back, but that 'mega' hasn't put in an appearance yet. Indeed, I haven't recorded a new 'yearly' for two weeks now, which given we're in the middle of the migration season is mildly disappointing. Anyway, I'll still be trying to find the first Yellow-browed Warber later, because they're coming through in numbers now.

What a lovely afternoon by the lake. I had lots of time to go through the birds, and can only add a second Little Egret to the earlier tallies. So, I spent nearly an hour in front of the Lodge going through the forest of gull legs looking for darvic rings. Here's what I spotted:

Monday 25th September [Misty, then cloudy & drizzly.]

I enjoyed a walk to Top End hide from the Lodge at lunchtime, and counted no fewer than 21 Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus, including green L42, 5 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, 17 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 7 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, c. 75 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula. There were Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus calling in Lodge Copse, as well as a ♂ Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus displaying! Sorry, I mucked up Sat. and Sun. sightings - they're corrected now.

Sunday 24th September [Cloudy, some drizzle.]

I was out batting in Dorset all night last night (see Bat News). I left home at 1330 hrs on Saturday and got home at 1000hrs this morning. After some sleep, I met with Mark Hynam for a very brief look around the lake and saw 10 Northern Pintails Anas acuta of note. Then, I did some hand net training for bat workers at dusk.

Saturday 23rd September [Sunny and warm. Breezy.]

Before leaving for Dorset early afternoon, I had time for a look at the lake and saw 1 Great White Egret Ardea alba, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Northern Pintail Anas acuta and a juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula.

News from Graham Roberts about the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, black 75, that I watched yesterday: "Many thanks indeed for this record.  Black 75 was ringed as a nestling (female) on 26th May 2017 in the Arun Valley, West Sussex by Jon Franklin.  No doubt Jon will be in touch for further information & to provide you with any further details of this individual." That was a bit of a surprise, to put it mildly.

Friday 22nd September [Sunny until tea time, then the rain set in.]

I spent a lovely 2 hours by the lake late afternoon, with over an hour of it being entertained by a large juvenile (surely a ♀) Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. It spent about 20 minutes drinking and bathing at the lake edge, right in front of Top End hide, not 80 metres away. The views through my scope were eyeball-to-eyeball stunning! While I was watching it, I realised it had a darvic ring on its right leg, which I was able to read as Black 75. Three Grey Herons Ardea cineria sidled towards it, so it took off scattering the waterfowl at Bell's Bush and Wookey Point, but about 5 minutes later it came back and settled on the middle of the point. A very cautious Carrion Crow Corvus corone started to circle it, but the Peregrine wasn't having any of that and saw it off. Then it spent time preening while a number of very nervous Common Moorhens Gallinula chloropus that had been frightened onto the water tried to make their minds whether to make a dash for the shore and cover, or sit it out. I left them struggling with their dilemma.

I counted the Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope again, 23 today, and saw over 500 House Martins and lots of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica high over the lake. While I was watching the Peregrine, a Great White Egret Ardea alba and 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta flew in to Top End, presumably from Chew. And, I spotted a juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula on the shore at Burmah Road. At the Lodge there were hundreds of gulls and I managed to read two rings as follows:

Again, as has been the case for several days now, there were hundreds of Herring Gulls Larus argentatus on the lake.

Thursday 21st September [Rain in the morning & sun in the afternoon. Breezy.]

Rebecca Jones at APHA sent me the following information about the gull with the gps pack on its back, Red AF (2016), that I saw on Tuesday: "This gull was ringed in May 2016 at its nest site on Waring House in central Bristol, when it bred successfully – it returned to the same roof to breed (again successfully) this year. The tag is a GPS tag that takes location fixes every ten minutes and beams them to a base station on a roof in Bristol when it comes near enough. This one is a bit of a home bird – never goes too far from Bristol."

I was at WWT Steart this afternoon meeting with Alys Laver the site manager to try and find some suitable bat trapping sites for us to use during the next month as part of the National Nathusius' Pipistrelle Project, but I didn't really see anywhere close to a decent body of freshwater that the bats might forage over, although this will change as the reserve is flooded during the coming weeks. I also stopped at Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park in Burnham-on-Sea on the way back to see if there was anywhere suitable there as well. It looks like we could trap there, but I'll have to get the permissions sorted first.

Back at the lake this evening, I saw absolutely nothing of note! Eurasian Teal Anas crecca numbers are building (albeit still very low), and more Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope are also dropping in - we have 21 now! I might count Mute Swans tomorrow....

Wednesday 20th September [Warm & dry until rain & wind arrived late afternoon]

More news from Pete Rock about yesterdays gull sighting:

I spent the morning at the lake with Ken Anstey to finish checking the bat boxes started last Friday with Georgie Hayworth. Over the two sessions we found over 100 bats and a Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus in the boxes. We made a quick stop at the Top End hide and saw 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. I made another visit this evening in the rain and wind but don't have anything to add.

Tuesday 19th September [Warm & sunny]

I spent the morning on the Mendips checking dormouse boxes with Ken Anstey, Georgie and Dan. We even found a Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius which was really pleasing because the site has been really poor in the last few years.

Unfortunately, a late afternoon visit to the lake continued the dire autumn migration season we're having; I didn't find either the Black-necked Grebe or Great White Egret, and only have 19 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Northern Pintails Anas acuta and 9 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope to report, aside from another ringed gull:

News from Pete Rock about recently sighted gulls:

Monday 18th September [Autumnal]

I met Colin Hunt this afternoon at the Lodge, so we had a quick look around together. The gulls on Tiny's Shallow included:

There wasn't much to see before reaching Top End when we saw the Great White Egret Ardea alba, just one juvenile Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, 21 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus, 8 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Northern Pintail Anas acuta, but there was no sign of the Black-necked Grebe that I could see from the hide.

Sunday 17th September [Mainly dry with sun in the afternoon]

Fourteen BOC members came for a guided walk at Blagdon with me this morning and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll from the Lodge to Top End and back. Bird highlights included a late Common Swift Apus apus with the hirundines over the Lodge before we set out, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Great White Egret Ardea alba, 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, a flyover Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and circa 20 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus at Top End, 6 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta feeding alongside the cattle on Lag Farm, a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos in Long Bay, and two or three groups of Eurasian Siskins Carduelis spinus along the south side of the lake. I noted over 40 species on what was a very enjoyable visit.

Mark Hynam, who had a look around in the afternoon added a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo to the day list.

In the evening, I met up with a few bat workers to trap at Litton Lower reservoir, where we had brilliant session (see Bat News for details).

Saturday 16th September [Mainly dry, but heavy rain at dusk.]

This evening, just before the rain set in, there were 40 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road, one Great White Egret Ardea alba, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wookey Point and 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on the point.

I will be leading a walk for Bristol Ornithology Club at 0930 hrs in the morning, and bat trapping at Litton Reeservoirs in the evening.

Friday 15th September [Mainly dry with some late afternoon showers]

I was at the lake for much of the day, firstly birding, then checking bat boxes this afternoon, and trapping this evening. There were a few gulls in front of the Lodge this morning but nothing of import, however, at Top End I saw 2 mobile Great White Egrets Ardea alba, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Rugmoor, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 3 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point. During the afternoon I spotted an adult Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis on Tiny's Shallow at the Lodge, and two more ringed gulls:

Georgie Hayworth and I checked a few of the boxes this afternoon and found lots of Soprano Pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, and, amazingly, a ringed ♂ Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii in a box at the Pumping Station, that was fitted with his bling on 24th September 2011 on Butcombe Bank, and not seen since. Results of the trapping session are on the Bat News page.

Thursday 14th September [Sunny & windy]

I ventured down to the lake this afternoon and saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba at Bell's Bush, 4 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point and a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at Burmah Road/Holt Copse, but it was pretty wild and windy still.

Tomorrow, I will be checking bat boxes and trapping in the evening but will, of course, be looking for migrant birds too. Sorry postings have been brief this week, I have been moving everything over from my old laptop to a new one with my brothers not inconsiderable help.

Wednesday 13th September [Sunshine & showers]

Another overnight blow last night but I didn't get down to the lake until dusk because I was away with my brother, Ross, driving a steam engine on the East Somerset Railway all day.

I saw the 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point, but couldn't spot the Black-necked Grebe in the gloom, after I'd spent most of my time going through the gulls. There were about 1000 Herring Gulls Larus argentatus gathered at the dam end; more than I've ever seen at the lake before. They probably out-numbered the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus this evening.

Tuesday 12th September [Mainly dry & sunny with occasional showers]

Roy Curber, Terry Doman, Phillip Delve, Rob Hargreaves and I carrried out the WeBS count this morning and saw 6 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, a Northern Pintail Anas acuta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wookey Point, the Great White Egret Ardea alba at Top End, 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea, 2 Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo, a Common Swift Apus apus, a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, and a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, aside from the regular waterfowl. The WeBS count has been put on the WeBS page.

Monday 11th September [Very wet & windy overnight, with blustery showers throughout the day.]

I got down to the lake reasonably early this morning, but was only able to find one sheltering Great White Egret Ardea alba of any note. The Black-necked Grebe didn't appear to be in its usual feeding areas. I then spent the rest of the day around Chew Valley Lake getting three more Osprey nest poles put up, only to find I'd missed 2 Manxies there. Bummer! We will be doing the WeBS count at Blagdon in the morning.

Sunday 10th September [Wet and increasingly windy]

This evening I saw just a single Great White Egret Ardea alba sheltering at Hellfire Corner, and the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis feeding close to the bank at Burmah Road.

With the wind rising and threatening to be gale force early tomorrow morning I think I'll get down to the lake as soon as possible to see what may have been blown in. Grey Phalaropes are on the move and would be a welcome find.

Saturday 9th September [Sunshine & showers]

Mark Hynam and I checked some bat boxes with Ken Anstey this morning on the east side of Bristol, then met again later at Blagdon where he'd seen 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, 2 Great White Egrets Ardea alba, and a Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. The Wheatear was a first for the lake this year and I was pleased to connect with it, thanks to Mark.

An update on adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor with a ring yellow BNI (see 7th Sept.): Ringed as a cygnet on 15th September 2013 at Charminster just to the west of Dorchester, Dorset, by Terry Coombs.

Friday 8th September [Wet in the morning, drying out later.]

I took a slow drive through early this evening and had a quick look from the Top End hide, from where I saw a Great White Egret Ardea alba. I bumped into Fishery Manager Alan Dymock who told me he'd seen the egret at the hatchery for a day or two. I didn't spot any waders, or the Black-necked Grebe, but wasn't carrying my scope so can't say definitively whether either were present or not.

We did some bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake in the evening. Results to follow when I have time to go through them.

Thursday 7th September [Some drizzle]

Late this afternoon the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was off Wookey Point viewed from the Top End hide, and the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was still in front of the Lodge, with a juvenile Common Redshank Tringa totanus feeding on Tiny's Shallow. There was no sign of any Black-wits or Little Egrets. Among the throng of gulls on Tiny's Shallow, I picked out:

Wednesday 6th September [Warm & mainly sunny]

I spent most of the day over at Chew Valley Lake checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey (see Bat News).

I had a text from Chris Stone who had a look around the lake this afternoon and saw 4 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula, including 2 probable juveniles, a Black Tern Chlidonias niger in front of the Lodge, and a Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope. This evening I saw the Black Tern until dusk, the Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis off Wood Bay Point, the juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius in front of the Lodge, 5 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Tuesday 5th September [Drizzly]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis had moved up to Burmah Road last night and was still there this morning, as were just 2 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa. The juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was in front of the Lodge and 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula were on Wookey Point, with a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

Monday 4th September [Overcast & grey early with sunny spells later. Warm.]

The Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis was still feeding around Wookey Point this morning and viewable from Top End hide, as were 3 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula. There were 10 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa feeding along Burmah Road, viewed distantly from the hide, and 2 juvenile Ringed Plovers in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow.

This evening, I saw what was presumably the same juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius that I saw yesterday in front of the Lodge, plus 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

During the day I was at Thurlbear Quarrylands with Robin Williams and John Mason. We had the great good fortune to see a Brown Hairstreak Thecla betulae (only the second I've ever seen), plus several interesting invertebrates including Volucella zonaria, Tachina fera, Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor among a host of others. During lunch we were entertained by a couple of Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata. Here are a few pictures:

Comma & Brown Hairstreak, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Ichneumon sp. ovipositing & Tachina fera, Thurlbear Quarrylands, Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Sunday 3rd September [Miserable, wet & windy]

I had a look around this morning with Mark Hynam, having decided not to do the planned bat box check, and found a (probable juvenile) Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis feeding close to Wookey Point and visible from Top End Hide. There were 3 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on the point, as well as another family party of 2 adults and 4 juveniles in front of the Lodge on Tiny's Shallow, where a juvenile Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was also sheltering in the blustery conditions. At least one Little Egret Egretta garzetta and 2 juvenile Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo were at the lake, and I spotted two gulls with darvic rings:

Over the lake and surrounding fields were over a thousand hirundines, mainly House Martins Delichon urbicum, with quite a few Sand Martins Riparia riparia and a few Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.

The Black-necked Grebe was still present this evening off Wookey Point.

Saturday 2nd September [Sunny & warm]

I didn't realise I hadn't posted the news today - apologies. It wasn't terribly exciting which might explain why...

There were 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa flying high above Top End which settled on Wookey Point and promptly fell asleep, the 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point (seen yesterday), and 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Friday 1st September [Sunny & warm]

This afternoon there were 11 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and 2 Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula (I'm fairly sure) on Wookey Point, and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta scattered around Top End. A few more Eurasian Teal Anas crecca and Northern Shovelers Anas clypeatus have arrived too. Then, late this afternoon Chris Stone kindly rang me from Chew to say an Osprey Pandion haliaetus was heading west and I'd no sooner arrived on the dam at 1700 hrs when I spotted it flying west down the centre of the lake at about 100-200 feet. It didn't fish and flew low overhead and off to the west.

Thursday 31st August [Mainly sunny & warm]

I enjoyed a walk with friends this morning, before family arrived to stay. I didn't have time to visit the lake.

Wednesday 30th August [Some periods of steady rain]

Early this morning there were 3 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road, a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago in the open on Wookey Point, and a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta in Rugmoor Bay. I sat in the hide for an hour pondering the lack of birds at the lake, and before I left, both the Snipe and Black-wits had departed. The grey-backed Aythya hybrid was still at Top End though.

In the evening four of us ran a short bat trapping session along Butcombe Bank (see Bat News).

Tuesday 29th August [Overcast with sunny intervals]

I've a busy day ahead, so paid a quick visit to the lake this morning and saw 6 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road, the 2 (adult & juvenile) Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Wookey Point, and 4 mobile Little Egrets Egretta garzetta. Aside from the Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus and a few Lesser Black-backeds Larus fuscus, there were no fewer than 15 (10 adult & 5 juvenile) Great Black-backeds Larus marinus.

This evening a huge black cloud came over when I had time to go back down to the lake, but I did manage to add 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos that were on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge.

Monday 28th August [Hot & sunny]

A visit this evening resulted in my seeing a new species for the year at the lake viz. 2 adult Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis on Wookey Point at 2000 hrs until dusk when they flew off west with the loafing Black-headed Gulls Chroicocephalus ridibundus. There were 2 (adult and juvenile) Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on the point too and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Hellfire Corner and Holt Bay.

Sunday 27th August [Sunny & warm]

The Black-wits have moved on and been replaced by 16 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus that have chosen Wookey Point to rest on. There were 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 2 Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis among the rest of the birds. I may be wrong, but it seems like there may have been a clear-out of Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula overnight too. In August in recent years it hasn't been unusual for us to have 5-7000 waterbirds on the lake but, like last year, the numbers are significantly down this year at less than 2000, the majority of which are Common Coots Fulica atra. If the water level drops a few more inches then Top End will, hopefully, become increasingly attractive to dabbling ducks and, perhaps, passing waders. I can wish!

With the weather set fair, we will be bat trapping at Litton Reservoirs this evening. See Bat News for results.

Saturday 26th August [Warm & still]

There were at least 32 (possibly 36) Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road today, but they are extemely difficult to view due to the cover and distance, and I also saw 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta dotted about.

Friday 25th August [Warm & mainly sunny]

I didn't manage to get down to the lake until this evening, before we started a bat trapping session. I saw some Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at Burmah Road and counted 12 birds flying off. A little while later Mark Hynam saw some Black-wits and 3 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus in front of the Lodge, which I'd already checked. So, there were 3 Redshanks and either 9 or 12 Black-wits. As happened Wednesday night, I saw 2 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta fly through west at dusk.

We had a good evening trapping, and there was exciting news from Patty Briggs of a Nathusius' they caught at Stocker's Lake, Rickmansworth, last night too (see Bat News). We also saw a young Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus foraging under one of our traps during the evening.

Thursday 24th August [Warm & sunny]

Let's start with the bird news. There were 11 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa feeding long the Burmah Road bank this afternoon, a Garganey Anas querquedula, 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta were spread around Top End, the ♂ Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope was on Rugmoor Point, Sand Martins Riparia riparia were still present, and a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis was with the Canada Geese Branta canadensis.

I decided to search for Roesel's Bush-Cricket Metrioptera roeselii on the North Shore using my bat detector and hadn't walked 5 metres before I heard the 'electric buzzing' of a ♂ advertising. I managed to spot it and got this photograph of what I believe to be the first site record:

♂ Roesel's Bush-Cricket Metrioptera roeselii, North Shore © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Not content with the Roesel's, I could hear lots of Coneheads advertising too, so decided to grab a few shots of them. Here's a Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor (note the straight ovipositor):

♀ Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor, North Shore © Nigel Milbourne, 2017

Having previously found Short-winged Conehead in 2006, I suppose I ought to try and get pictures of them and the other grasshoppers and crickets I've recorded on site and put some species pages up online this coming winter.

Wednesday 23rd August [Warm & mainly sunny]

I had a look at the dam and in front of the Lodge at 0900hrs before going to Barrow Tanks, but there wasn't much there because the boats were already out.

Ken Anstey and I checked the bat boxes at Barrow and didn't even find a dropping in a box, much less a bat! I think the time has come for a rethink there. Move the boxes elsewhere, move some of the boxes away and leave some elsewhere on site, or leave them all in situ for a while longer. Having refurbished most of them in winter 2014/15, and added some new ones, we have yet to find any indication of use except by birds and Hymenoptera. We cleared 9 bird nests from 23 boxes, so if we do move the bat boxes, we ought to replace at least some of them with bird boxes.

This evening, there were 5 adult Common Terns Sterna hirundo in front of the Lodge among the gulls, just a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Flower Corner, and 2 more that flew in from Chew and off to the west at dusk.

Tuesday 22nd August [Mainly overcast, warm & humid]

Yay! A Great White Egret Ardea alba finally made it to Top End today. Also noted this evening were 9 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

Monday 21st August [Dismal & drizzly early. Sun in the afternoon.]

Late news from Sean Davies of sightings made mid-morning yesterday that included 10 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus at Burmah Road where I saw one on 15th, and 2 young Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo being fed. Cheers Sean.

A mid-morning trip to the lake revealed 2 adult Common Terns Sterna hirundo in front of the Lodge, 4 mobile Little Egrets, and the ♂ Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope at Top End. While in the Top End hide, my heart skipped a beat when I turned my scope onto a sleeping ♂ Aythya with a grey back, but it was a Lesser Scaup-like hybrid, and presumably the bird that has visited the lake for the last few autumns. The back was grey rather than barred, and the bill pattern wasn't right. The Eurasian Hobbies were still present too.

Mid-afternoon, when the sun came out, I went back to the lakeside with my bat detector and headphones to listen to the cacophony of sound produced by Grasshoppers and Crickets in the meadows and hedgerows. Unfortunately, I'm unable to hear most Orthoptera unless I'm really close to them, so using a bat detector makes their stridulations and wing-rubbing sounds more accessible. It was fascinating to listen, and hear the absolute wall of sound coming from the hay meadows, while the hedgerows were much quieter with just a few bush-crickets. What was especially noticeable was that as soon as I walked into woodland or along the road away from the hay meadows the noise stopped almost in its entirety. I wasn't able to add any new species to the site list, but I just wanted to try out the methodolgy as a means for trying to find new species that might be present such as Long-winged Conehead and Roesel's Bush-Cricket.

Among the noise, I picked out:

Mark Hynam told me some time later that he'd visited the lake at dusk and seen 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and watched a Barn Owl Tyto alba hunting.

Sunday 20th August [Continuing changeable]

I was in bed for much of the morning and due to family commitments couldn't get to the lake until early evening, when I saw 2 adult (Common) Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula on Tiny's Shallow in front of the Lodge, several Sand Martins Riparia riparia, 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, the ♂ Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, and a Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis among the large Canada Goose Branta canadensis flock.

The evenings bat work in Wiltshire was cancelled due to the forecast of rain.

Saturday 19th August [Changeable & breezy]

I met Mark Hynam late afternoon at the lake. He told me he'd seen very little of interest and I only noted 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and a Sand Martin Riparia riparia. We then went over to South Wales to join friends bat trapping at RSPB Newport Wetlands (see Bat News).

Rain stopped play last night, as it inevitably would, but we managed 2-3hours of bat trapping at Shapwick NNR (again, see Bat News).

Friday 18th August [Changeable with heavy rain showers & breezy]

I spotted a ♂ Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope during my visit mid-morning. It may have been present since the WeBS count. Other than that, there were just 4 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta worthy of mention. There have been lots of boats out for the last two days practising for a national angling competition that is being held over the weekend (both days). Most are fishing near the dam, and the majority of wildfowl are at the Top End as a result. It also means that any waders dropping in overnight onto the dam or the island in front of the Lodge are also likely to be disturbed as the boats go out - so if you're coming birding, do so early in the morning. The changeable weather, so often good for bringing migrants down, hasn't done so when I've visited over the last few days.

Ken Hall pointed me to the recent article in Nature magazine about a potential new species of Grass Snake that was alluded to on the BBC website (see 7th August blog). Having read it, my take is that there is a proposal by German workers, based on DNA analysis of animals taken from two zones of hybridization in Europe, for a new species of Grass Snake. Their work suggests three Grass Snake clades exist across Europe, and that the one in Germany and much of NW Europe contains several sub-species including the one native to Britain Natrix natrix helvetica. If their proposal for this clade to be accorded specific status is accepted, then our Grass Snake will become a sub-species of the new species viz. Natrix helvetica helvetica. During the course of the analyses, they tested a fair number of snakes from Britain and found one example from Surrey that had a DNA sequence which they attribute to one of their 'Eastern' clade of sub-species with a likely origin in, I think I'm right in saying, Northern Italy or the Balkans. This would be morphologically different to the native species, as suggested in the BBC website article, but is most likely to be an introduction. It hardly means we have two species of Grass Snake in Britain, although there is the possibility that an introduction could become more widespread. I'm sure British herpetologists will be investigating the situation going forward. Meantimes, it's as you were.

It's a busy weekend of bat work ahead, with a trapping session tonight at Shapwick NNR, tomorrow a Bioblitz at Newport Wetlands, and a swarming survey in Wiltshire on Sunday.

Thursday 17th August [Mainly sunny]

The Little Egret Egretta garzetta count continues to rise with 9 present this morning.

Wednesday 16th August [High cloud with sunny spells]

I only had time for a brief look around today and saw 8 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta and 10 (including 4 juvenile) Great Black-backed Gulls Larus marinus.

Tuesday 15th August [Warm and sunny]

I spent most of the day at DWT Fontmell Down Nature Reserve looking at invertebrates, and saw 3 Red Kites Milvus milvus together in the air overhead at lunchtime. I didn't see any of those 20 years or so ago when I last visited the reserve. I also feel there has been a significant reduction in the grassland which seems to have been invaded by more scrub, but memory is a fickle thing!

Back at Blagdon this evening, I saw an adult Dunlin Calidris alpina (partial summer plumage), 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 3 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and a Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. The water level is dropping quickly, so I guess it's being pumped again. Perhaps, it might provide the opportunity to spot a passage Spotted Crake - it's been a long 21 years since the last, and only, accepted records.

Monday 14th August [A few sunny spells]

The WeBS team carried out the count this morning (see WeBS Page for full details). There were 6 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, and at least 7, probably 8, Little Egrets Egretta garzetta present. We saw 3 Common Swifts Apus apus and a number of Sand Martins Riparia riparia at the dam end, and I saw a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus at Lodge Copse on the way back home. Warwick White texted me from Blagdon to tell me he'd heard and seen 2 Eurasian Curlews Numenius arquata in flight high over the village while we were counting, but none of us heard them down at the lake, unfortunately.

This evening I met Mark Hynam to check some bat boxes at Chew Valley Lake, before we drove over to Herriott's for a last look at dusk. There were 4 Great White Egrets Ardea alba roosting at the back of the pond, and a Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus, 5 Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and a Common Sandpiper there as well.

Sunday 13th August [Mild]

I did not visit the lake today, but we will be carrying out the monthly WeBS count tomorrow morning.

Saturday 12th August [Dry and changeable]

News from Mark Hynam today, who saw 2 Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus in Long Bay and 5 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta.

Later, we had a super bat trapping session at Chew Valley Lake (see Bat News), where we also saw a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos working the north shore of Villice Bay, and enjoyed a fantastic display by the Perseid meteor shower throughout the night thanks to a near-cloudless sky.

Friday 11th August [Dry, bright morning, then clouding over with rain later.]

I spent a couple of hours this morning having a look through the birds on the lake but, disappointingly, there were no shorebirds. I counted 6, possibly 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and saw 4 each of Common Swift Apus apus and Sand Martin Riparia riparia, the first (juvenile) Common Gull Larus canus of the autumn, and the Canada Goose Branta canadensis with neck collar orange 'JX'. The water level is getting interesting now, with Tiny's Shallow appearing in front of the Lodge as an island where gulls spend time loafing as they moult; so, perhaps an opportunity to find some of Pete Rocks ringed urban breeders, or, birds from further afield.

Tomorrow evening we will be bat trapping at Chew Valley Lake again.

Thursday 10th August [Dry with sunny spells]

A visit this evening turned up 7 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta at Top End, our first real autumn influx. With 3 Great White Egrets currently at Chew, I suppose it's likely we'll see numbers of both at the lake as the days start to shorten. The Canada Goose Branta canadensis with neck collar orange 'JX' was still among the growing flock on Holt Farm.

Wednesday 9th August [Wet early, then slowly drying out.]

I was at the lake from mid-morning until tea time, before going over to Chew Valley Lake until dusk, checking bat boxes with Ken Anstey (see Bat News).

At Blagdon we saw a Little Egret Egretta garzetta at Rugmoor Bay, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis fly past us at Long Bay, and a Peregrine Falco peregrinus high over the lake being given a hard time by a gull. There were also 6 Common Swifts Apus apus still over the lake among the martins and swallows. There was also a Pygmy Shrew Sorex minutus in Home Bay Point hide that we saw several times.

Then, at Chew we saw a Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus flying around calling for some time at dusk.

Tuesday 8th August

I didn't visit the lake today, having spent it at Wytham Wood in Oxfordshire bat working with Dr Dani Linton, Ken Anstey and Nick Tomlinson.

Monday 7th August [Overcast & mainly dry]

During an evening visit I saw a Sandpiper sp. on the dam. It was probably a sleeping Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, although it had quite a dark back. I didn't see any other waders around the shoreline and nothing unusual in a perusal of the ducks. One of the Canada Geese Branta canadensis was wearing a neck collar orange 'JX' which was fitted at Cotswold Water Park and only seen once by me at Blagdon on 10th Sep. 2016.

Surprising news today that German scientists working on Grass Snakes have split them into Common or Eastern Grass Snake Natrix natrix and Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica. The Common Grass Snake is olive green with barely noticeable dark barring along its length and a bright yellow collar, while the Barred Grass Snake is grey with dark barring along its length and a dull yellow collar. The two new species were formerly thought to be sub-species. Time to start looking at those old photographs to see which have been recorded around here - both are likely to occur. See BBC website news.

Sunday 6th August [Sunny spells]

I didn't go to the lake today, but Mike O'Connor sent me news of a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis on the dam.

Saturday 5th August [Mainly sunny & breezy]

After a bit of a lie-in having not got into bed until 0430 hrs, I had a brief look at the lake and saw just a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos of note, on the dam.

Later, we went bat trapping at Shapwick Heath NNR with permission from NE (see Bat News). While we were waiting for the first bats to come out, we were treated to the sight of an adult Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax flying towards the Decoy Hide. Could it have been one of the Westhay NNR breeding pair? I've notified Brian Gibbs the Somerset Bird Recorder.

Friday 4th August [Sunshine & showers]

I didn't get down to the lake until this evening to run a bat trapping session, and two Robinson moth traps. Mark Hynam arrived before me and reported seeing 2 Common Kingfishers Alcedo atthis, 3 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos, 6 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca, a Little Egret Egretta garzetta, and 2 (adult & juv.) Peregrines Falco peregrinus.

The bats weren't playing ball this evening (see Bat News), and similarly the moth catch wasn't exactly up to expectations either. Thanks to Phillip Delve for his work running the two Robinson traps and providing me with a list of his records on the night, supplemented with those that I've subsequently determined as follows:

I visited Chew Valley Lake earlier this afternoon and John Harris showed me a reptile that had been found alive and well by a BW engineer on the spillway that was one of the caiman/crocodile/alligator group! I suppose it's likely to be a Dwarf Caiman, or similar, that has been released into the wild by someone... Could give you a nasty nip though. The pet trade has a lot to answer for.

Turns out that the reptile was a Spectacled Caiman Caiman crocodilus, which grow to around 2 metres in length, and it has been taken into care.

Wednesday 2nd August [Wet and windy]

It was bat box check day at Chew Valley Lake, so my whole day was taken up with dodging showers and checking boxes with Ken Anstey, sister Harriet, Hannah Bates, Dani Smith and Stephanie Bentham-Green. Consequently, I had no opportunity to check Blagdon Lake. Of note at Chew, we found a Nathusius' Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii in a box for the first time (see Bat News), and an Old Lady Mormo maura moth in Moreton bird hide.

Tuesday 1st August [Sunny intervals]

I spent the morning working in the Chew Valley again, and had planned to go to Dorset to photograph invertebrates afterwards. However, in the end I spent the afternoon at Blagdon with my sister looking at invertebrates instead. We had an amazing time, and actually found not one, but two of Britain's largest hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, the first site record. We also saw a Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis at Cheddar Water/Park Lane, the second site record, I believe. I'm still working through all the other photos to see what else I can identify. While there, we checked out the birds but could only see a single Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

Other invertebrates recorded (so far):