Field Trip Reports 2011

Martin Mere – 4 December 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

34 members arrived in time for the coach to leave from Shirehall at 8am for the journey to Martin Mere. Once past the Threlfell Viaduct on the M6, the weather decided to take an ominous turn with some heavy downpours of rain. As we neared our destination, we had to drive through some minor flooding!

A member of staff from the reserve welcomed us and gave members an overview about the reserve and what could be seen; Grey Phalarope was a possibility! A new restaurant had been built, the old one being utilised as an exhibition area. We decided to split up into small groups to enjoy the bird life.

The Swan hide, overlooks the Mere Lake. There were plenty of birds on view including: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Pintail, Pochard, Lapwing, Shelduck, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and Cormorant. A few Ruff were busy feeding, but certainly not in the numbers present on other occasions. A Marsh Harrier was seen distantly in flight, plus a flock of Golden Plover. We moved on to Harrier hide and stopped at a feeding station on the way. A few more birds were added to the day list here including Great Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting and Common Pheasant. Tufted Duck and Grey Heron were also seen from the path.

On reaching the United Utilities hide, we had lunch and it was here that we hoped to find the Grey Phalarope? Brief views were had on the pool before it flew off in the direction of Harrier hide. We saw it again a bit later as it flew around Harrier hide before heading for the Mere. Another Marsh Harrier was seen in flight plus a Kestrel hovering.

We decided to move back towards the Visitor Centre for a ‘comfort break’ before calling in at Ron Barker hide. The Grey Phalarope was in full view from here, energetically surface feeding. Whilst it did fly off a few times, we didn’t have to wait long before it returned to feed yet again. We scanned towards the western end of the reserve and a Short-eared Owl was soon spotted. It was busy quartering the territory, diving down on occasions but didn’t appear to catch anything. Nevertheless, everyone really enjoyed watching this graceful hunter! Most of the group returned to the Swan hide in time for the ritual feeding of the wildfowl on the Mere. This was really enjoyable with so many birds seen at really close quarters.

With light fading, we began to assemble back at the coach for the return journey, via the Runcorn Bridge, which proved uneventful, and we arrived back in Shrewsbury at 6.15pm. A good days birding was the conclusion, despite the weather, marred only by the diminished number of waders and not seeing the Pink -footed Geese on their return from feeding in the nearby fields.

Colemere, Wood Lane & Wall Farm – 6 November 2011 – Report by Jim Almond

The prospect of a walk around two of North Shropshire’s, prime birding locations coupled with a Sunny day proved to be irresistible to 21 SOS members, including some ‘new faces’, as we met up at Colemere.

A Sparrowhawk flying down the middle of the hedge lined access road got the day list off to a good start for the occupants of two cars! The wet flush near to the car park was stirred but failed to shake out a Jack Snipe, we had to be content with a Curlew, calling as it flew over. There were plenty of Woodland birds to be seen as we started the circular walk including Nuthatch, Treecreeper Great-spotted Woodpecker plus a number of Tit flocks. The canal section failed to yield Kingfisher but a flock of Fieldfare flew over. Jay, Green Woodpecker were added here as we entered the woodland once again. We also found a Brambling foraging in the leaf litter, a first of the season for all of us! Goldcrest were showing really well in the conifer section plus Common Gull and Goldeneye on the water. A total of 32 species were seen during the walk.

We drove the short distance to Wood Lane, where Common Snipe were found from the first hide, skulking and well hidden in the margins. There quite a few Gulls, mainly Black-headed with Lesser Black backs and Herring Gulls but nothing of excitement! A flock of 7 Curlew flew in, landing on the scrape plus Lapwing, Fieldfare and Redwing on the move overhead.

We took lunch and with the Steppe Grey Shrike still present over at Wall Farm, a decision was made to go for this rather than spending the afternoon at the Meres. Skylark, Yellowhammer and Kestrel were added as we walked from the parking area. The landowner had kindly allowed access across the wetland, so we were able to get ‘closer’ views of the Shrike from the perimeter fence. We got onto the Shrike within minutes of arrival and enjoyed an hour or so of watching this National rarity perform, catching insects along the distant hedgerow. Quite a finale to a very pleasant days birding!

Kingsbury Water Park – 16 October 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of five members met at the main entrance of the Water Park before moving on to the Broome Croft entrance, which is where the reserve is accessed. We opted for an anti-clockwise walk around the reserve which features several pools. At the first pool, there were plenty of Canada Geese, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and Great Crested Grebe with Juveniles. The second pool held more wildfowl, there were quite a few Gadwall plus Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Teal. Black headed and Lesser Black backed Gulls were also present and pulses were raised by the blue flash of a passing Kingfisher. The third pool was viewed from the ‘second’ hide where a large flock of Greylag Geese were seen grazing on a field opposite with an assortment of the birds already seen plus a Lapwing, Little Grebes, Grey Heron and Cormorants.

We walked on, enjoying views of a distant flock of Fieldfares, the first of the season for some. A pair of Jays were seen flying around plus Carrion Crow and Magpie. We reached the third hide where the view over the same pool was restricted due to the surrounding trees. Nevertheless, we managed to find four Common Snipe and were delighted to get excellent views of a Kingfisher again but this time fishing from nearby perches. A Tit flock was on the move in this area, mostly Long tailed Tits with other common species. At this point, we decided to move onto the fourth hide, which included a short walk along the towpath of the canal. We had lunch at the hide, enjoying great views of at least four Little Grebe, plenty more Cormorant, a Reed Bunting and finally, wonderful views of a Green Woodpecker flying past on two occasions.

The day was still young, so we decided to move onto RSPB Middleton Lakes next, which was only about a mile away. This new reserve was easily found and we walked along a new walkway to find a very active feeding station where Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Coal Tit were noted. A further walk along a bridleway, through a wooded area and over a canal bridge brought us to the reserve proper. We had visited the reserve visit years ago, before it was officially opened and it was interesting to note the developments which have occurred since that time, the future looks good! The main pool was scanned from the comfort of a bench and Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Shoveler were noted in good numbers. While scanning the base of the reed beds, in addition to Moorhen and Coot, we spotted a smaller bird which proved to be a Water Rail. This kept to the edges, but occasionally showed really well, we all had really good views of this elusive bird. We added a Kestrel and Common Buzzard to the day list here, plus Nuthatch and Great spotted Woodpecker on the woodland walk to the car park. It had proved to be a really enjoyable day!

Hilbre Island & Inner Marsh Farm – 11 September 2011 – Report by Jim Almond

Eleven members assembled at the Dee Lane car park at 8.00 am, welcomed by grey skies and a brisk Southerly breeze. The wind direction was not ideal but at least it was not offshore, we stood a chance of some decent seabirds?

The walk out produced the only shower of the day (thank goodness) and the creeks held plenty of waders, mostly Oystercatchers plus Bar-tailed Godwits and Redshank. As we neared Hilbre, a Peregrine flew by us before settling on a rock, contemplating the now mobile flocks of waders. There were quite a few Grey Seals basking in the water nearby as we climbed the slipway, to enjoy the bleak solitude of Hilbre – our home for the next 5 ½ hours!

We crossed the island to the old lifeboat house and spent a couple of hours sea watching. There were predictably plenty of Cormorants, Sandwich Terns a few Guillemot and Gannets coming reasonably close with Manx Shearwater much further out. At least three Red-throated Divers were seen in flight and as the tide began to rise, things got a little more exciting with a Great Skua coming on the scene. It proceeded to attack a juvenile Gannet before settling on the sea to feast on the disgorged stomach contents! We saw at least three Bonxies but there were clearly more Arctic Skuas, probably double figures in number, well out towards the wind turbines. The Arctics were strictly scope work only, they were clearly visible chasing Terns, often working together in two’s. A Whimbrel dropped in briefly as we prepared to walk off at 3.00pm.

It was wet socks for some as we reached the car park and decided to end the day at Inner Marsh Farm. This proved to be a good decision with quite a few different birds to be seen! We saw four Wheatear, in the field adjacent to the access path, as we made our way to the hide. There were plenty of waders on view from the hide, the highlight being two Curlew Sandpipers. There were at least ten Ruff, 40+ Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Snipe. Wildfowl included Common Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler, a couple of Little Egrets were present but mobile. We had hoped to see the Spotted Crake, which had been showing off and on at the reserve but it was a ‘no show’ for us sadly! Minor consolation was provided in the form of a juvenile Water Rail showing occasionally at the edge of the reed bed down below the hide. A pair of Stonechats with young, Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk ensured we had all seen in excess of 50 species for the day!

Cannock Chase – 25 June 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

With mixed weather reports in prospect, a group of 17 Society members gathered at Seven Springs Car Park at 2pm for the start of this field trip. Our initial walk was through the surrounding woods, hoping to see as many Warblers as possible plus Spotted Flycatcher.

We started off with common woodland birds including Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Goldcrest were seen in the conifer plantation and we lingered here for a while to ensure everyone had good views. Raven were heard calling and two were seen flying overhead. A Grey Wagtail was spotted by a stream and then our first Warblers, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were seen. We had great views of a Spotted Flycatcher, near its nest. It flew off to catch more insects and we left it in peace. The final target bird of this walk, Wood Warbler, were finally seen as we neared the car park.

We drove in convoy up to Freda’s Grave next, from where we walked over the heathland with hopes of other target birds such as Hobby, Tree Pipit and Woodlark. Although the weather remained dry with clear skies, it was getting rather windy and birds were hard to come by. Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Skylark, Long tailed Tits, and a Swift overhead were all seen here plus very good views of Yellowhammer.

It was now getting on for 7pm and the group retired to the ‘Barley Mow’ at Milford Common, where we were joined by two more members. A very enjoyable meal was had by all. It was a good time for catching up with friends not seen for some time, and discuss current news!

At about 8.30pm we moved off to park at the Katyn Memorial where another three members joined in (a total of 22 for the day!). Sadly, the weather was beginning to deteriorate with steady drizzle falling. Our main target on the Chase was Nightjar, and the prospects did not look good. At dusk, we finally heard and saw a singing Tree Pipit and once in the Valley, we heard the characteristic reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler. Despite knowing roughly where it was, seeing it was another matter! The drizzle was now falling heavier and we had virtually decided to give up and return to the car park when something stopped us in our tracks. We could hear the distinctive churring of Nightjar, not just one, but two! With much excitement everyone listened attentively and we were eventually treated to a fantastic display of Nightjars in flight, hunting for moths and other insects; the perfect finale.

On the way back to the car park we found ourselves surrounded by bats at one stage which flew incredibly close! Many thanks to Andy Latham for his excellent leadership and ensuring the Nightjars showed in spite of the rain!

Scotland – 11-15 May 2011 – Report by Jim Almond

17 members assembled during the evening of Wed 11th May at the Grant Arms hotel in Grantown–on-Spey, which was to be our base for the next four days. The food was excellent, service efficient and rooms very comfortable, plus knowledgeable staff on hand armed with local wildlife ‘information’.

Thursday started with a pre-breakfast Capercaillie watch at Loch Garten. We didn’t have the best of views from a busy hide but the tree resting male did move occasionally to assure us he was real! Fuelled by a hearty cooked breakfast, Lochindorb came next, the highlight being a pair of Black-throated Divers. Common Sandpiper and Redshank were seen at very close range whilst cruising slowly around the shore by car. We dove to the coast next with hopes of seeing White-billed Diver at Burghead? This rarity had been seen by a small ‘recce’ group on the Monday but had sadly flown or moved out too distant to view on the day. Nevertheless, we saw Red-throated Divers, Arctic Terns, an Arctic Skua, Black Guillemot, Eider, Fulmar and flyby Puffin whilst scoping the sea. There were plenty of Common Scoter, Gannet and Razorbill on the move plus Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Ringed Plover on nearby rocks.

With rain setting in, we had lunch and most of the party made their way to Chanonry Point. This has to be the premier place in the UK for Dolphin watching and we were treated to awesome views of Bottlenose Dolphins, hunting in the tide race a mere 30m offshore. There were females with young and exhilarating jumps to enjoy, it was an amazing spectacle! A quick call at Lochindorb on the return journey added Red Grouse to the list and a pair of Red-throated Diver were also seen.

Friday dawned and saw the group working up an appetite with a pre-breakfast stroll in Anagach Woods. Capercaillie are possible here but we didn’t drop lucky and had to settle for a good variety of alternative birds including Crossbill, Redstart, Tree Pipit and one of the key target species – Crested Tit! The Cresties were hard work, constantly mobile but we all ended up with decent views. We had atmospheric views of Red Deer in the early morning mist and our first Red Squirrels of the trip near to the golf course.

Breakfast was taken in a hurry as we had an appointment at the Mountain station on Cairngorm! Jim and Yvonne had ‘recced’ the mountain by foot on the Wednesday and found three Ptarmigan plus 7 Dotterel. Given the unsettled weather however, using the train seemed a safe/sensible option this time, but lessened the chance of seeing these species as we would be unable to leave the mountain station. Sadly, no Ptarmigan or Dotterel were found from the station viewing platform but as we surveyed the landscape through two periods of snowfall, perhaps we had made the right decision!

Residents of the Grant Arms Hotel have exclusive access to a hide adjacent to Avielochan and we spent the early afternoon here enjoying great views of Slavonian Grebe. Goldeneye, Little Grebe and Common Sandpiper were also present and late morning saw us witness a memorable Osprey fishing display. The Osprey circled overhead before plunging into the water quite close to the shore, it was clearly struggling to take off due to an underwater wrestling match with a huge trout. After what seemed like an eternity, it did attempt to take off, eventually dropping the fish before flying off. We also discovered later from images taken that it was a blue ringed ‘local’ bird!

For our next stop, we drove the short distance to a site near Skye of Curr for a walk in a stretch of the ancient Caledonian forest. Our target species here was Crossbill and amid much debate as to the validity of Loxia splitting or lumping, we had no doubts as the identity of the Crossbills we came across a group of several adult males and females with juvenile birds. With their bulky thickset deep distinctive bills, these were clearly Parrot Crossbills! We also saw Siskin but despite hearing Crested Tit, failed to locate the bird(s) here.

Saturday’s breakfast warm up was spent ‘cruising’ without success for Caper and then checking for Black Grouse on Tulloch Moor, where we saw 5 males! With raised cholesterol and expectation levels, we drove to end of the Findhorn Valley road. At least two Dippers were seen from the cars. The main target species was Golden Eagle of course. We didn’t expect to be scoping two of these after the first half hour! Despite the distance we had good views of the Eagles interacting and then much closer, a pair of Peregrines. After lunch we took the Farr road over the Mountains and approaching Loch Ruthven had amazingly close views of summer plumaged Golden Plover. Loch Ruthven predictably delivered Slavonian Grebes (we saw 3), a pair of Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser. A Red Kite was added to the raptor list before we opted for a slow drive around the adjacent lochs and valleys. Not everyone managed all the birds seen in this area as the convoy became a little fragmented. Hooded Crows showed extremely well, the grey of birds here was tinged pink! Great views of Red Grouse were had here and there, Cuckoo in flight / perched and we also saw the first Stonechat of the trip! Twite are possible in this area but none were seen, Linnets kept us on our toes however!

Sunday was mainly about the long journey back and everyone went back under their own steam with strategic stops for ‘comfort’ and more birding on the way. With just two missed target species for most of the party (Ptarmigan and Dotterel) it had been a very successful trip and the hotel accommodation was first class. The weather was ‘mixed’, but on the whole pretty good, no-one got seriously ‘bitten’ and the combined group species tally was in excess of 100.

World’s End – 9 April 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

At 5.30am (!!) a group of 12 members gathered at the agreed car park on the upland moor. Some of the party had stayed locally overnight, it was a very early start for the rest! The weather was cold but with clear blue skies

After a short walk up from the car park, we could hear the distinctive sound of leking Black Grouse. Taking a path to the right of the road, we were eventually able to view the magnificent male birds strutting their stuff in an attempt to attract the ladies. It was felt that to deviate from the path would not be a good policy. As the sun began to rise we could hear the bubbling sounds of the Grouse, coming from various directions.

Other birds seen in this area included Whinchat & Stonechat, perched on top of the gorse. A super male Ring Ouzel was seen really well, sat in a nearby tree! It stayed there for some time, giving everyone great views and time for close study. Bird of the day however was the Dartford Warbler, which had taken up residence in the area. Andy explored quietly further up the path to search for it and after he successfully located the bird, we joined him to view the bird. Unfortunately, it was rather skittish in behaviour and only a few of the party got brief but good views before it disappeared out of view.

There were plenty of Meadow Pipits flying about plus a very obliging Wheatear. A lovely surprise was in store after checking across the valley, a Great Grey Shrike, perched on a dead tree! Other sightings included good numbers of Warblers including: Willow Warbler Chiffchaff and Blackcap, Raptors included Common Buzzard and some good views of a Merlin

After about three hours of good quality birding we decided to move off. A few of the party went home, but the main party made their way towards the Horseshoe Pass for Breakfast. On the way a Redstart was heard singing. We were all ready for breakfast and had a really good fry up at the Ponderosa Café.

We returned to the quarry in the hope of finding other good birds. Another Ring Ouzel was sighted and also some nesting Ravens, but the wind had now strengthened and not much else was seen. By late morning we decided to call it a day. Despite the crack of dawn start, the trip proved very enjoyable for all concerned and thanks to Andy for the expertise and fieldcraft in finding such a splendid quality of birds to watch.

RSPB Newport Wetlands – 20 March 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

RSPB Newport Wetlands. 20th March 2011. Report by Sue Brealey On a rather drizzly day a group of 34 members left the Shirehall, for the journey to Newport Wetlands. The weather improved during the journey and by the time we arrived the sun was shining. Quite a few members complained that they had put too many layers on!!

Newport Wetlands is a relatively new reserve, with a Visitor Centre recently opened in 2008. The group split up to go their own ways around the main reserve but planned to regroup later and visit an area about 4 miles away, where there were lagoons which could prove to have some good birds to watch.

After leaving the visitor centre, we walked up to the main reserve area where there is a large reed bed with viewpoints over the water between the reeds. On these areas there were plenty of duck, mainly Pochard, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, together with Little Grebe and one Great crested Grebe. Some Mute Swans flew over, scattering the Coots as they landed. A further walk brought us to an old Lighthouse and a view over the sea view from the reserve. The tide was out, but there were disappointingly few birds on offer, mainly Curlew and Shelduck with various Gulls amongst them. A Common Snipe was seen flying off plus a Reed Bunting in this area.

The group walked through the woods towards an area where a Little Owl had been reported. On the way, past another stretch of water, we added Shoveler to add to the list. Through the woods Chiffchaff was heard, plus Chaffinch and then after leaving the woods, a Kestrel was seen hunting with Goldfinch and seen at the top of the trees. Despite a good search of this area, we did not find the Little Owl!

After returning to the Visitor Centre, we set off for the lagoon area at about 1.15pm, parking up at a disused Public House. It was a short walk to the lagoons, served by viewing points only but the rewards were there to see. Sand Martins were seen, the first of the season for some. In the first lagoon, there were plenty of Redshank, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were also noted. It was really great to see all the Shanks in one place. Also present here were Lapwing, Teal, and Little Egret.

The angle of the light was much better from the second viewing platform and we had excellent views of several Avocets, Wigeon, Shelduck, an Oystercatcher, Moorhen and Gadwall. A pale raptor was seen on a telegraph pole, after discussion we decided it was a very pale morph juvenile Buzzard. The group returned to the coach and drove back to the main reserve. After a break for a cup of tea and collecting all the party, the coach left around 4pm. We had thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the venue is well worth another visit, maybe at a different time of year.

Parkgate and New Brighton – 20 February 2011 – Report and photos by Jim Almond

The presence of 26 members at Parkgate baths for the highest Spring high tide of the year was testimony to the potential of this particular day out. The early assembly time of 8.30 had ensured we held pole position by the wall and as the crowds eventually numbered into the 1,000’s later in the day, a good decision!

It was a slow start but as the water began to rise, so did interest levels! Large numbers of Pink-footed Geese were soon on the move plus wildfowl including Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shelduck and Red-breasted Merganser. Waders included a flock of Golden Plover overhead, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Knot, Redshank and Dunlin were more distantly seen. A couple of Little Egrets were continuously in front of us, Linnets and Pipits including one Water Pipit!

Merlin, Parkgate

Merlin, Parkgate

Short-eared Owl, Parkgate

Short-eared Owl, Parkgate

The raptor show is of course the main event here and it wasn’t long before we had Merlin (2) and Hen Harrier (at least 2) on the list, a Sparrowhawk shot over our heads and Common Buzzard plus Kestrel were added too! Peregrine activity was a little laid back with two distant birds remaining static on distant posts. It needed the now fast approaching tide to get the star birds into action and eventually, rather than getting their talons wet, Short-eared Owls were spurred into action. At one stage we had two on the wing right in front of us, one of the birds eventually perching on a log surrounded by the rising water. Almost as exciting was the sight of the water eventually lapping the wall beneath our feet, a ‘first’ for some of the assembled. We took a hasty lunch and then headed for New Brighton area.

Bar-tailed Godwit, New Brighton

Bar-tailed Godwit, New Brighton

Mediterranean Gull, New Brighton

Mediterranean Gull, New Brighton

An initial call at the lifeguard station added more waders: Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit, not long with this world if the unhealthy looking growth dangling from it’s neck was anything to go by? There weren’t too many waders roosting here and with the tide starting to fall, we checked out the Marina. Just in time too; the pontoon included at least 10 Purple Sandpiper in a still sizeable roost with numerous Redshank plus Turnstone, Dunlin and Knot too. An adult Mediterranean Gull in full Summer plumage was on the Marina too giving excellent flight views!

Redshank, New Brighton

Redshank, New Brighton

Our final call of the day was at Leasowes; more waders including: Sanderling, Grey Plover, Knot, Ringed Plover. It really was an exciting day out – 50 odd species ticked for the day including some top notch birds amongst them!

 

Slimbridge – 23 January 2011 – Report by Sue Brealey

On a rather cold and cloudy day, which eventually provided clear skies, a group of 32 members gathered at Shirehall to leave at 7.30am for this delayed trip to WWT Slimbridge. This coach trip should have taken place in early December 2010 but to due the snow and more importantly the really icy conditions at that time the trip was cancelled for safety reasons.

After a good trip down the motorway, the group arrived at about 10.15 at Slimbridge. On the way into the reserve, the coach had to wait while a barge travelled on the canal, and the swing bridge return to its position in order for us to go across. Some members spotted a Sparrowhawk flying past, and then plenty of Lapwing in the fields of the reserve. After the initial booking in, the group split up into small groups to wander round the grounds at their own pace. As we entered the Reception Centre, a Feral Pigeon was sitting comfortably on its nest by the front door!

A small group decided to go along the arm which ended with the Kingfisher hide. First though they wandered through the captive bird section, noting the various ducks, geese and swans from the Americas on they way through. After this the group carried on passing a Flamingo house, where Andean & Chilean Flamingos were and the colours of their incredible plumage were admired. The group ended up in the large Zeiss hide, which overlooked the vast fields of the reserve where countless birds were to be found.

The most notable were the thousands of Wigeon present – in fact later it was noted on a board near the reception centre that there were 6818 Wigeon present. Of course there were plenty of Bewick’s Swans on their wintering grounds feeding up well before their migration to their breeding grounds in Russia later in the year. There were plenty of duck species present including: Common Teal, Pochard, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, and Mallard. Geese included Greylags and the inevitable Canadas, plus plenty of Mute Swans as well. As we veiwed over the distant fields, there were plenty more Lapwing noted as well as a good number of Dunlin. A small bird seen on top of tree was discovered to be a Reed Bunting, and in the middle of another tree a Common Buzzard was seen, where it stayed for a considerable time.  During the time in this hide a rather tame and cheeky Robin wondered around the stools provided looking for dropped scraps!

After leaving Zeiss hide, the group gradually moved up the arm stopping at hides on the way to the Kingfisher hide. On this part of the walk, Long tailed Tits were seen moving through the tree and Goldfinch, Great Tits and Blue Tits were noted. It was about 4 years since a Shropshire group had been to Slimbridge and the surprise was to find that the old hide had been removed and replaced with another more roomier hide, which was open in the centre, overlooking the sand bank where Kingfishers breed, reed beds where if one is lucky Bittern can be seen and also a good feeding station. From this hide, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Pheasant, were added to the list at the feeding station. Then, Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker plus plenty of Bewick’s Swans were seen in the surrounding fields, flying over the hide on several occasions. Just as the group were leaving a was seen in a nearby tree.

By this time the temperature had dropped quite a bit so it was decided to return to the Reception Centre for a small break and warm up. On the way the group saw a Heron, and also noted further captive ducks which included Goosander, Goldeneye and Eider Duck, the males looking really good.

After the break, the group slowly made its way up the other arm of the reserve towards the Holden Tower hide. From the Robbie Garnet hide, a solitary Black tailed Godwit was noted as well as a Redshank and a Curlew. The group commented on the apparent lack of Waders except for the large groups of Lapwing and Dunlin. In the back of the field a group of four grey geese were seen and they were identified as White-fronted Geese, which were a nice tick. After passing another feeding station the group arrived at the Holden Tower hide. From the top the Severn river at low tide was clearly seen, and a collection of gulls were seen including Black headed Gull, Lesser and Great Black backed Gull and Herring Gull. In a pool to the side of the hide a solitary Pink-footed Goose was seen.

By mutual agreement the group returned to the Reception Centre for a well earned warm drink, prior to the traditional feeding of the wild ducks from the Peng Observatory. This proved interesting in that it was noted on the commentary that there were approximately 140 Bewick Swans present. The previous Sunday, when the temperatures had been higher there had only been five or six. Before the feeding started those present were shown a Great Scaup which had been present on the Rushie for few days.

On arrival back at the coach other members of the group were discussing what they had seen, including the real treat of seeing Otters being fed, and the unexpected sight of one climbing a tree! It was concluded that an estimated 50 to 55 birds had been identified by the group. As such it was a tired but satisfied group which made their return to Shropshire.

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