Saturday, March 05, 2011


Slimbridge WWT
The last time I visited Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands I was cruising the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal in 2007. Today Dee and I decided to make the journey by road and arrived in hours as opposed to days, personally I prefer the cruise to the drive!

For those who've not visited this 3 square kilometer reserve, a little history: The reserve exists to care for and study ducks, geese and swans of the world. To cater for the many bird and duck watchers sixteen hides overlook the fields streams and lakes which border the River Severn and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.

The reserve was the first WWT reserve to be opened in 1946 thanks to the vision of artist and naturalist Peter Scott. Winter is a great time to visit with large flocks of White Fronted Geese, sometimes with the rare Lesser amongst them. Bewick's Swans are a main feature in Winter, arriving from Russia to enjoy the milder climate of southern England.

The weather was reasonably kind for our visit today, dry with the occasional sunny interval. For a wildfowl lover it's difficult not to get swept away with the hundreds of specimens from every continent, and so the camera got a real bashing before I finally managed to drag Dee away to the hides.

The first 'wild' bird of note was the recently arrived Spoonbill which was showing well from the Zeiss Hide. Here we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and during this we had good numbers of White Fronted Geese, several Bewick's, and before moving on made contact with 2-Ruff, which arrived with a small flock of Lapwing, Curlew and several Pintail were also on the pools.

Bewick's in Flight
After visiting the remaining hides, checking out the various bird feeders and a good scan of the Severn Estuary, we achieved an excellent haul for the day. Both the female Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup, which have been around for a while, were showing well, and I also managed my first Redshank of the year.

The White Fronted Geese were in excellent numbers, so too Wigeon and Pochard, plus several Oystercatcher were also seen. If your planning a visit, I would suggest sooner rather than later, as the Bewick's are now heading back towards the continent and the weather conditions are looking perfect for the coming weeks migration. If your on Twitter you can follow James and Martin two of the reserve wardens for the latest updates.