Trip reports

Slimbridge WWT

Slimbridge WWT
Water rail - Reg Cox

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Having almost a full coach for this trip says a lot about this reserve, and blessed with a glorious cold sunny day, it turned out to be a most wonderful day's birding.

From the visitor centre we headed to the nearest hides which looked out east across scrapes and grasslands to the Tack Piece and Rushy Lake. Here were a large number of ducks which included shelduck, pintail, shoveler, teal, tufties and wigeon. Several Bewick's swans were also present. Flocks of lapwings and dunlins occasionally took to the air without any obvious presence of a raptor, although we could see a buzzard perched on a post. Other waders consisted of a number of redshanks, a couple of oystercatchers, a few ruffs and common snipe, which were fairly close in. One of the ruffs was already developing its breeding plumage "ruff" around its neck.

Further along the track at the Willow Hide, we saw two water rails out in the open boldly feeding with a moorhen. Next stop was the replacement for the Holden Tower - the Estuary Tower, a new construction with a lift and an open top deck giving panoramic views out to the River Severn. Sadly with fixed glass panels you needed to be nearer 6ft tall to see over the top of these with a telescope! It was nice to see a pair of common cranes. Increasing in number, these birds overwinter on the Somerset Levels and regularly visit the reserve. Out on the grasslands leading down to the river were large flocks of Canada, greylag and barnacle geese with a single bar-headed goose amongst them. A small number of white-fronted geese could be seen at some distance in a field beyond the reserve but there was no sign of the pink-footed geese that had been reported a couple of days ago. A stonechat and chiffchaff were also seen by some from the tower.

After an early lunch we called in at the South Lake just in time to see the return of a cattle egret that had frequented the reserve over the past few days. These birds are increasingly being seen on the Somerset Levels and recently as many as 70 were seen roosting together. With one half of the lake still frozen over, the few remaining birds were tucked into the edges. A single avocet stood motionless on one leg, two Egyptian geese were preening while a few pochards fed beneath the overhanging trees. At the very far end of the lake we could see several black-tailed godwits with the aid of a telescope.

Looking out from the Zeiss Hide at the far end of the reserve, lots of teal were on the water and a marsh harrier flew in and perched for about ten minutes some distance away. A kingfisher was also seen by some of the group and in the trees and scrub surrounding the area a treecreeper, goldcrest and bullfinch were seen.

A return walk back for a final look out onto the Tack Piece was rewarded with views of about 20 curlews and a few dunlins and golden plovers hidden in the shallow pool edges some distance out from the hide. Surprisingly today for me no view of a peregrine although one was seen by a member of the group.

A great day's birding with about 68 species seen by the group.

Reg Cox