Saturday 07 May – Blagdon Lake Leader: Nigel Milbourne

Nine members met up with warden, and club member, Nigel Milbourne at the Fishing Lodge. With access to all areas, we were able to go through the conservation barrier at Butcombe Bay, and complete a walk right around the lake – not usually possible under normal access arrangements. We headed out in an anti-clockwise direction, listening to the songs of Blackcaps and Garden Warblers at Lodge Copse, and practising our identification skills. We also had a quick look at Merlin Bird ID on Nigel’s smartphone to see the sonograms and confirmation of our guesses. We heard the resident singing Cetti’s Warbler at a couple of points around Home Bay, and Gareth agreed to keep a tally of the songsters as we heard or saw them (focussing mainly on the migrants). May is an especially wonderful time to visit Blagdon Lake to see the SSSI meadows that are full of wild flowers (and rare non-flowering plants too). When we walked over the bridge at Long Bay we saw our first orchids, probably Southern Marsh, although there are hybrid swarms all around the lake to confuse positive ID, and on reaching Green Lawn we took a look at the locally abundant Adder’s-tongue Fern growing in the sward there. There was also the opportunity to compare the flower spikes of Early Purple and Green-winged Orchids on the lawn.We saw a few water birds, although May is the month when fewest birds are counted on the monthly Webs. Most are able to hide away in the marginal vegetation thanks to the naturalised shore line of what is after all an old reservoir, but Nigel explained that despite this, the productivity and number of regularly breeding species has been steadily declining over the last couple of decades. Exiting Top End gate we made our way along the lane to Rugmoor Gate where we joined the north shore. There was some excitement here as we saw four Hobbies, high up, hawking insects. As we made our way along the north side we listened to Reed Buntings, a Whitethroat, and the many resident songsters. When we reached Owl Box field, we had a look at a white spike of Green-winged Orchid and several other colour morphs growing nearby. A few other flowers, including Heath Spotted and Common Spotted Orchids, were identified and pointed out, thanks to Jean’s expert knowledge, as we continued on around Butcombe Bay and back to the dam. Here, we saw a Common Sandpiper feeding along the wall, before we strolled back along the lane to the Lodge. Gareth logged 43 bird species, including 45 Blackcaps, 27 Chiffchaffs, eight Garden Warblers, eight Reed Warblers and five Reed Buntings, and, best of all, we had enjoyed some lovely sunshine and a very pleasant morning getting to know the site a bit better. (Thanks to Nigel for leading). Nigel Milbourne