Sunday, April 07, 2013

Birthday Weekend!

One of Nine Cranes @ Slimbridge Today!
Having barely recovered from what felt like a bout of pneumonia the wife pulled off another one of her many surprises with a 3-day fun packed birthday weekend. This consisted of a superb 4* hotel, a day at RSPB Ham Wall, the Gloucester and Warwickshire Steam Railway and a visit to WWT Slimbridge on route home.

Little Egret
RSPB Ham Wall is a new reserve to me and so I was quite excited when we arrived on Friday around mid morning. The only downer despite being a reasonably sunny day was the still biting easterlies! Ham Wall is a newly-created wetland of over 200 hectares and lies in the northern part of the Somerset levels about 3 miles west of Glastonbury. As one of the largest reedbed establishment sites in the country, the reserve is now a rich patchwork of reedbeds, wet scrub and open water, with peripheral grassland and woodland.

There are no hides but several viewing areas and walks offer some great views across the reedbeds. Within minutes of our arrival it was clear to see that some spring migrants, thus far absent locally, had in fact made it this far north. Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were in good numbers, with several of the latter in good song. As we arrived at the first viewing platform a Bittern could clearly be heard booming over the constant wind and our first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year was also on the wing.

Black-tailed Godwit
Good numbers of waterfowl were on offer including, Gadwall, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck. A distant Great White Egret dropped into the far reeds, shortly after followed by a Bittern in flight. Also seen during our walk were Little Egret, Little Grebe, ♂♀Bullfinch, several Common Buzzard, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. Despite high hopes no Swallows or Sand Martins were to be found and typically several attempts to locate the current Pied-billed Grebe proved fruitless, with the strong bitter wind full in your face it was just impossible.

Not being everyone's cup of tea Dee and I really enjoy our visits to WWT Slimbridge and so we spent the best part of today on site.

The main treat of the day were the nine Common Crane reported, Dee and I managed six of them and had some great views from the Lathbury Hide, including the above photo. Also of note was my first Swallow of 2013 when one flew low over the water near the Zeiss Hide. A Peregrine made an attempt at a flock of Black-tailed Godwit at one stage and further of note during our visit: Mediterranean Gull, Redwing, Snipe, Bewick Swan, Little Egret, Goldcrest, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Wigeon, ♂♀Pintail, Shelduck and Cettis Warbler.