Thursday 01 January – WWT Slimbridge

Our usual leader was laid up with a bad cold but there were only twelve of us, all “old stagers”, so we took ourselves around and just about managed to stay together! Although there was no sun the light was good at the Martin Smith hide en route to the Holden Tower and the Pintail particularly were looking very spruce, also many Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler and Mallard and a few Pochard and Redshank. Behind them in the field were about 60 Bewick’s Swans and huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were wheeling around – they all went up at one point. Two Buzzards appeared and a Black-tailed Godwit flew in. We visited the Willow Hide next and admired the very tame Water Rail which was happy to walk around in full view for everyone to see. Also there was a female Reed Bunting and other small birds on the feeders. A brisk wind was blowing into the Holden Tower from the Severn in spite of the mild weather, but didn’t stop us seeing a Little Stint with a few Dunlin, good for size comparison. A Buzzard was in the field on his own and two Curlew were eventually picked up beyond the water. Many Canada Geese were present, as well as Greylags and Barnacles. On entering the Zeiss hide we were told that a Marsh Harrier was performing and soon we had very good views of it (a female) flying up and down the bank and then interacting with a Buzzard, again very good for comparison of wing shape. A Sparrowhawk was also seen and a huge flock of Golden Plover flew around in front of us. The Kingfisher hide provided Goldfinches on the feeders, attended by a family of Rats below, a Kestrel, some Gadwall and a Little Grebe, plus a Cormorant flying over. Our attention was drawn to a free-flying Ferruginous Duck which had appeared among the Collection, and we managed to see this on our way to the South Hide. Here we were shown a continental Cormorant with a white face, and three Black-tailed Godwits, one slightly coloured, just starting to go into summer plumage. 55 species in all. (Many thanks to Judy for standing in as leader.) Judy Copeland