Sunday 16 January 2011

Winter Wildfowl and Wader Wonderland 15th January 2011

Today was my yearly trip to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire with the Plymouth RSPB Group. The group run the trip yearly and it is the cheapest and easiest way to get to Slimbridge for me although we only get around 5 hours there with a 7 hour return coach ride. The trip didn't run in 2010 as the 2009 trip in February was cancelled due to the snow and ice at the time and rearranged for Novemeber 2009 so I have really been looking forward to it. Unfortunately my mate Mavis could not make the trip this year.

Swan Lake at Slimbridge

I swear Slimbridge is the coldest place on earth, everytime I have been there it has been so cold but this trip was very mild and pleasent, I didn't feel cold at all. The sky was grey and overcast with occassional drizzle and the wind was quite strong at times but it was a great day.

There are loads of birds out there! View from the Kingfisher Hide
With the cold weather in December and all the recent rain the reserve was flooded and there were thousands of ducks, swans, geese, gulls and waders eveywhere on the flooded fields, an amazing and noisey spectacle.

I spent some time scouring the flocks of tufted duck but as usual dipped out and could not find the female lesser scaup nor the 2 immature male greater scaup amongst them.

Star bird of the day was a female marsh harrier that flew across the reserve causing complete panic amongst the feeding birds. Originally I thought a peregrine was around as the birds took to the air and then I saw what I assumed to be a buzzard before noting its creamy buff crown and plain brown plumage. I've never seen a marsh harrier at Slimbridge before and it showed really well for around 3 minutes before drifting off out of sight.

Bewick Swan with wildfowl

 The Bewicks swans were a joy as usual with quite a few juveniles around, they have not been having very successful breeding in the last few years as the warden explained in his commentary at the floodlight feeding so it was nice to see their dirty grey plumage amongst the crisp white plumage of the adults. Also showing well was a pink footed goose, the warden again explaining that it was a juvenile that appeared alone in September and hooked up with the only grey geese around at that time, the greylag geese. This has resulted in it becoming quite tame and it showed very well at the floodlight feeding, having been seen earlier feeding in the flooded fields with the greylag geese and not the white-fronted geese.

5 ruff were found in one of the flooded fields, 4 males and 1 female, the female being noticeably smaller than the males, almost half the size. A lone black-tailed godwit was found roosting amongst the ducks.

A group of barnacle geese were seen distantly feeding on the salt marsh. A suspected group of wild barnacle geese were seen earlier in the season when the cold snap started so presumably they had joined the group of feral birds and were amongst this group.

An excellent day with my year list total now 92. Looking forward to next years trip already!

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