WWT Slimbridge – 6 December 2015 – Report by Sue Brealey
This coach trip which has gone to Slimbridge on a fairly regular basis was organised to leave the Shirehall at 8 am, where 22 people turned up for the day. The weather did not look good, as the first of the battering storms which December saw had arrived in the North-west during the night, which could have been a reason for several cancellations. However, although rather on the windy side, especially on the journey down, the group were rewarded for their stamina, with breezy weather but no rain. This was mentioned throughout the day, with comments of ‘how lucky!’ The group were joined by a member who lives around the Bristol area, and it was really great for her to come and meet the group and travel around with them.
As usual, once the group had entered the reserve, the members split up to go in whatever direction they preferred. The majority of the group first went onto the arm leading to the Holden hide. This two storey hide, which gives excellent views over the estuary marshes, proved to be very windy indeed, due to the height, and windblown showers proved problematic but the results were excellent. The first really significant bird were at least 4 Crane, the result of the reintroduction work carried out by the Trust. It was very satisfying to see these large elegant birds obviously in good health, feeding and flying around. There was also a large flock of Golden Plover, which flew up regularly due to the presence of a Peregrine, and they settled amongst a goodly flock of Lapwing. Also noted were a group of Barnacle Geese, and with some Greylag Geese, were some ‘European’ White-fronted Geese. Also from this hide some members saw a Marsh Harrier feeding on a carcass and were lucky enough to have a Sparrowhawk fly close by.
Starting back along the path towards the Reception Centre, the other hides along this route were visited. Amongst the birds noted were a variety of ducks, including Pochard, Pintail (looking very good), Shelduck, Shoveler and lots of Teal & Wigeon. From the Robbie Garret hide, there were brief glimpses of a Water Rail which scuttled between a couple of reed beds. Grey Heron was noted as well as some waders including Redshank, Curlew, Ruff, a Snipe flying across, and some Dunlin. And of course there were plenty of Swans, including Mute and the migrant Berwick’s (80 on the reserve).
By this time, some of group used the facilities of the reception centre for lunch while others enjoyed their picnics. Then it was a matter of walking through the captive bird area towards the arm leading to the Kingfisher hide. This proved rewarding again as, along the small river where in season Kingfisher breed (unfortunately not seen on this visit), Gadwall & Little Grebe were noted, as well as Tufted Duck. On the surrounding fields, with the help of the warden, a flock of White-fronted Geese was seen, but amongst the ‘European’ ones (Anser albifrons) were some Greenland ones (Anser flavirostris). It was very good that the group were able to distinguish between these birds which are rarely seen together. Another species seen in numbers were some Black-tailed Godwit, which moved from field to field when disturbed.
Again the group walked back towards the reception centre, visiting the hides along the way. At the feeding station the usual suspects were noted, such as Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and in the trees along the path were groups of Long-tailed Tit. A Fieldfare was seen briefly as well as Blackbird. At the Zeiss hide, quite a few of the group were rewarded again by not only hearing but seeing a Cetti’s Warbler!! Very unexpected.
Some members noted that amongst some Tufted Duck was a female Scaup, considered wild as it had no leg ring. There may have been an American Lesser Scaup (again female), with no leg ring, but smaller than the nearby Tufted Duck.
By 3.45, the members had slowly started their way to the Peng Observatory, where a Buzzard was noted on a post, for the daily feeding of the wild wildfowl (in particular the Bewick’s Swans), which proved to be enjoyed by all who watched, and in the warm!! Afterwards, the group made their way back to the coach for the return journey.
Considering the conditions, the group had had a very good day. Amongst the other species seen were Black-headed Gull, Canada Geese, Carrion Crow, Coot, Dunnock, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Mallard, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Rook, Starling, Woodpigeon, and, just for Christmas, a hybrid Goose just waiting for the table!! In all the total number of species seen was 50 ++ which was very respectable.