Places to see birds


Gavin Black

Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve is situated on the east bank of the River Severn between Frampton-on-Severn and Sharpness.
Founded by Peter Scott, the reserve's pools and grassland and nearby estuarine mud are an important over-wintering and passage stop-off for wildfowl, waders and other wetland species. Bewick's Swans and White-fronted Geese are major wintering species which were the spur that encouraged Peter Scott to create the Trust. In the early days up to 7,000 White-fronts would winter here from Arctic Russia but now most stay in Holland whilst up to 500 still come to Slimbridge. They sometimes begin to arrive in September but mostly wait until mid-October. The Bewick's Swans also breed in Arctic Russia but are more punctual in their arrival at Slimbridge i.e. 22nd October to 1st November.
Autumn migration begins in July and may see the arrival of Ruff, Sanderling, Little Stint, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Greenshank, Ringed Plover and Dunlin with possibly Wood Sandpiper. As autumn progresses Curlew Sandpipers may arrive as will Wheatears, Redstarts, Whinchats and Spotted Flycatchers and Teal. Possibles include Pectoral Sandpiper, Osprey and Marsh Harrier. Rarer visitors during this season have included White Stork, Ring-Billed Gull, White-tailed Lapwing, Aquatic Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Wryneck, Kentish Plover, Semi-palmated Plover, Baird's Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Teminck's Stint, Dotterel, Red-necked Phalarope, Bonaparte's Gull and, in July 2012, Long-billed Dowitcher.
From late October Jack Snipe can be seen with Common Snipe and Water Rail from the Martin Smith hide. Pintail, Pochard and Gadwall will be found on the reserve and Barn Owls, Short-eared Owls and occasionally Long-eared Owls can be in the vicinity. During strong south westerlies, marine avifauna may be pushed through the Bristol Channel and into the Severn Estuary. Storm Petrels and Leach's Petrels, Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skuas, Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwakes, Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills or Shags may be seen passing by the Holden Tower hide.
Sometimes Pink-footed Geese, Barnacle Geese, Tundra Bean Geese or Brent Geese may join the others in winter. Starling roosts can number up to 250,000 birds which may draw-in raptors such as Peregrines, which are frequently around the reserve and foreshore in winter, and Sparrowhawks. 12,000 Lapwings, 8,000 Wigeon, 6,000 Golden Plover, 2,000 Dunlin and 800 Curlews spend the winter on the reserve and the estuary as do Spotted Redshank, Little Stint and Ruff. Bitterns often give prolonged, close views from the Zeiss hide and Water Rails feed in the open at the Robbie Garnett hide.
Rarities have included American Golden Plover, Snow Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Richard's Pipit, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Snow Bunting and Lapland Bunting.
Spring passage may see Mediterranean Gull, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and Hobby.
May brings another opportunity for some passage species. Grasshopper Warbler may occur, Bar-tailed Godwits prefer the estuary whilst the Black-tailed Godwits prefer the lagoons. Whimbrel may also arrive and another chance of Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Common Sandpiper, Common and Arctic Terns.
Rarities at this time have included Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill and Whiskered Tern.
In 2012 two pairs of Avocets bred on the reserve. This was a first for the county. Other breeding species include Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats along with the commoner Warbler species, Water Rails and four pairs of Kingfishers.
Apart from the wild birds which we have mostly been concerned with here, there is a large international collection of rare species and important conservation projects such as the Common Crane breeding project for release on the Somerset Levels (11 of which, from the 2010 and 2011 releases, found their way back to Slimbridge in 2012) and the raising of seriously endangered Spoonbilled Sandpipers.
Access; from the M5 -leave at junction 13 or 14 and follow the brown duck signs. Or from the A38 Gloucester to Bristol road -turn off at the roundabout at the brown duck sign, through the village of Slimbridge. For public transport -check the WWT website via the attached link.
Opening; the reserve is open from 9.30am until 5.00pm -last admission 4.00pm (winter) and until 5.30pm -last admission 4.30pm (summer) Christmas eve openings until 3.00 pm -last admission 2.30pm.
Parking is free but there is an admissions fee to non-WWT members. See attached website link for details.