BLAGDON LAKE BIRDS

Daily News

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


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 juvenile Herring Gull Larus argentatus, green A+T.

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 adult Herring Gull Larus argentatus red A+F, a gps-tagged bird, and Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus yellow D:BX. 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 Egrets 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 a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus with a darvic ring yellow D:BJ (probably another ringed on Flatholm). There was also a Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus with a black ring B:K, and an adult Mute Swan Cygnus olor with a ring yellow BNI (previously noted on 7th October 2016). Update: Ringed it as a cygnet on 15th September 2013 at Charminster just to the west of Dorchester, Dorset, by Terry Coombs.

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 Point Bay 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 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.

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):