Trip reports

Slimbridge - 01/12/13

Slimbridge - 01/12/13
Bewick's swan - Cheryl Delaney

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A cloudy but dry day was in prospect for our trip down the M6 & M5 to Slimbridge. The sightings began at our comfort stop at Hilton Park Services - 2 mistle thrushes sounded out their football rattle call from the top of a floodlight.

We made good time, arriving at the reserve at around 10.15. After we had all signed in, we headed out to the hides. First stop was Peng Observatory which overlooks a small pool. You can also see Peter Scott's house and the large sitting room windows where his detailed study of the wintering swans began. Bewick's swans are the main attraction here with over 100 wintering every year. These swans are much smaller than the ubiquitous mute swan and look very dainty by comparison. Winter ducks were present in good numbers throughout the reserve - teal, tufted duck, pintail, pochard, wigeon, shelduck, gadwall & shoveler. A cormorant was fishing in what appeared to be very shallow water in front of the hide and the swans were interspersed with many greylag geese. A buzzard was seen sat on a fence post.

Onto the Martin Smith hide which overlooks a marshy area. Here we saw the first waders of the day - a good sized flock of golden plover which was frequently flushed skyward with a group of dunlin by a roaming buzzard. A good number of white-fronted geese were at the far reaches of the marsh, picked out by the characteristic white blaze on their face and black bars under their belly. A lone black-tailed godwit probed the mud while a sparrowhawk zipped through, low, in front of the hide and into the scrub at the side of the hide.

On leaving the hide, a number of alder trees were inspected with one of the group declaring there was bound to be a siskin or redpoll around - I dutifully found a lesser redpoll, hanging upside down and feeding on the tree with some goldfinches.

The next hide we visited has a good number of feeders so great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit and reed bunting were all added to the day list. We then got word that a small group of cranes were on view at Holden Tower so all haste was made and we got there to find 3 of the 4 had flown off, but one remained. Slimbridge has been involved in The Great Crane Project which aims to reintroduce cranes to the Somerset Levels. Birds reared at Slimbridge have been released in the Somerset Levels and some have returned to breed. These majestic birds are always a fantastic sight and their bugling call is simply fantastic to hear. This hide had further delights in store for us though. A flock of barnacle geese could be seen on the River Severn and another two, stranger looking birds, were also spotted. Scrutiny through the various scopes in the hide revealed these to be ruddy shelducks! Other birds spotted here included skylark, linnet, fieldfare and curlew.

Lunch was calling and we departed to the café for a pit stop. The afternoon began at the Lathbury hide which overlooks small areas of water bounded by reeds. A small bird flew into a section of reeds and began skulking at the base of the reeds, eventually coming out into the open - Cetti's warbler! A hen harrier was also spotted quartering the fields before landing just out of view.

The last sightings of note were from the Zeiss hide - 2 water rails feeding out in the open.

I have only visited this reserve twice and I have to say it is one of my favourites. I think everyone enjoyed their day and I know a number of the group saw a couple of species they had never seen before. A total of 62 species were seen.