Year Birds, Blagdon Lake

On Friday a grey phalarope was showing well, as they do, off the fishing lodge. Harder to spot, and rather more thrilling really, was a juvenile arctic tern, which I would have missed, or dismissed as common, if a helpful chap hadn’t mentioned it. He also highlighted the bird’s white secondary tips as its distinguishing feature. Now I know. The rump is all white too and the species has a dark primary bar, so the difference between the ‘commic’ terns is principally about upperpart patterns.

Now, I can’t believe I’ve not seen an arctic tern for over five years. Not since I moved away from Angus in Scotland. Five years! No wonder I’m rusty about identifying them.

Just to mock me for driving so far, the same two species have blown in to Portbury Wharf so they, and a common tern, have occupied me this afternoon.

All these sightings were in North Somerset. At Blagdon the district boundary with Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) runs a complicated line down through Butcombe Bay, then across the middle of the water and south again at about Wood Bay. This puts Top End, at the east of the lake, in BANES, which had never mattered until Friday when a Good Species turned up there.

It was distant from the southern shore but quite distinct from the little grebes around it. The bird’s fine bill and pale cheeks stood out to make it all black-necked grebe, which is not yet on my North Somerset list. It wasn’t yet on my 2011 list either so the day added three to a year that’s not going to be anything remarkable at 163.

Lunch called and I found to my dismay that the Crown at West Harptree has joined the 21st-century by no longer having my cheese roll and coffee combo for three quid. Instead I forked out £4.95 on a bacon and brie panini, which predictably took off the roof of my mouth. (Is the inside of my mouth alone in being regularly scraped, burnt or bitten?) The coffee was still good though and still only £1.50.

Then the day took its deathly downturn ⇒

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