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WWT Slimbridge - January 2018

Our visit began at the Martin Smith hide, the first of two that offer good views of the birds attracted to the Tack Piece.  A few Bewick’s swans were noticed amongst a plethora of wildfowl and waders present on the flooded fields. The large flocks of lapwing, golden plover and dunlin were impressive especially when they all took to the air.  Other birds seen included many species of wildfowl and a sizeable group of black tailed godwits.  One of the Bewick’s swans wore a neck collar with a satellite tracker and we learnt later that she had been named ‘Maisie‘ and had arrived at Slimbridge on 06/01/2018 after a gruelling flight from Arctic Russia.

From the Robbie Garnet hide, we were treated to a memorable few minutes watching a peregrine tearing into its unfortunate prey.  Two crows were worrying the falcon, one tugging at the carcass repeatedly, so strongly that it slid a few inches with it as the falcon struggled to continue feeding and retain its meal.  Before long, both crows worked together persistently eventually forcing the peregrine to fly off.

Good views of both redshanks and ruff were enjoyed from the Stephen Kirk hide.  Here a lone spotted redshank was keeping company with its cousins in a group hiding behind a roosting Bewick’s swan. A ruff wandered causing some of these waders to hop sideways on one leg, and when this occurred we were able to admire the star bird.

At the Holden Tower, three common cranes were seen on The Dumbles.  The birds’ legs were adorned with various coloured rings which identified them as being some of the individuals involved in the release on the Somerset Levels.  Two additional birds were then seen a little further east.  A peregrine sat out on the marsh, and a large flock of 194 Barnacle geese were grazing.  The red breasted goose that had been associating with the flock all week was only seen by one lucky individual.  A flock of European white fronted geese were seen a little later on the Tack Piece, and birds that left the water and wandered on to the grass revealed their strongly barred bellies in good light. 

Six blue tits and four great tits were visiting the feeders outside Kingfisher hide, but of more interest were two large rats that were helping themselves to spilt sunflower seed beneath the feeders.  A kingfisher was then spotted near the stream, but most of the party just witnessed the blue streak zipping away over the water and around the bend.  In comparison to other areas, it was fairly quiet at this end of the reserve, so we moved on to the South Lake Discovery Hide.  A large flock of lapwings were assembled in the shallows of the right hand lake, and feeding amongst them were at least four dunlin.  Six avocets, 20 shelducks and 27 shovelers were present.  Two oystercatchers were on the muddy area that divided the two lakes and several herring gulls were gathered nearby.  A pair of lesser black backed gulls were sat on the water of the left lake and eight cormorants occupied the shingle island.  One of the main spectacles of the day was the large flocks of lapwing that frequently took to the sky, wheeling around before landing again. Twice this occurred whilst in this hide, the first panic initiated by a circling sparrowhawk, the second by an approach from a buzzard.

The day ended in the Peng Observatory watching the swan feed on Rushy Pen.  As it neared 4.00 pm, several Bewick’s swans and Canada geese arrived to join the birds gathered.  A family troupe of five Bewick’s landed very close to the observatory window and with others and several voracious shelducks initially dominated the feed.  A few pintail, tufted ducks, greylags and Mute swans also played their part in the performance.


Stockers Lake February 2018

A quick look at Springwell Lake before we set off rewarded when a female kingfisher was noticed perched amongst some tangled branches of waterside scrub.  The bird appeared to be warming itself in the early morning sun and was obviously reluctant to leave its position as it was still there when we moved 15 minutes later.  A pair of shovelers was foraging close to the reeds nearby and coot, mallard and tufted duck were also seen.  Eight tufted duck, a great crested grebe, a shoveler, 12 coot and two common pochards accompanied several black headed gulls on Inn's Lake

 Initial glances over Stocker’s Lake revealed eight lapwings and a lesser black backed gull on a small island.  A second lesser black back was on the tern nesting platform nearby, and three great crested grebes and a pair of goldeneye were seen.

From Tern Hide, 29 lapwings were counted on the island opposite.  An Egyptian goose was in the water and two more were on the island.   A few siskins feeding in alders preceded arrival at Kingfisher hide which overlooked the heronry.  A red kite could be seen circling over some distant woodland, and shovelers, gadwall and 16 cormorants were also seen.

Better views of the heronry became possible from a special viewpoint.  There were at least twelve herons but probably others hidden from view.   Three red crested pochards were resting amongst the exposed roots of some bushes on a small thin island just offshore.  The two males looked truly splendid when revealing their red bills and orangey brown heads.  Eight wigeon were amongst a group of 18 tufted ducks loafing close to a larger island further from the bank, and a single drake teal was swimming nearby but quickly disappeared in to the tangled roots of the vegetation growing on it.

Near the farm jay, ring necked parakeet, green woodpecker, house sparrow, nuthatch and magpies were seen before re-joining the path around the lake.  Sixty six tufted ducks were then counted on Stocker’s Lake whilst 48 coots were on Bury Lake despite the sailing activity.

With the exception of a great spotted woodpecker, very little was then seen before stopping by a wooden jetty opposite Kingfisher Hide.  Viewing the islands from the other side now revealed the presence of five Egyptian geese, whilst checking the birds on the water confirmed two pairs of goldeneye, the drakes now beginning to display to their partners.  At the Northern end of the lake, three drake and two female red crested pochards showed fleetingly before swimming through a narrow gap between two small islands.

Back at Inns Lake, we confirmed the presence of three male and two female common pochards, but nothing new.  Amazingly, the kingfisher was still present on Springwell Lake when we returned but had moved a few feet nearer.