On Saturday 2nd December we gathered at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Slimbridge near Gloucester. We were there principally to see the wild wildfowl that gathers there. However, the collection of pinioned ducks, geese ands swans provided an opportunity to see up close their stunning plumages. The huge variety of species present in the collection shows well the great diversity that is to be found in these bird families throughout the world.
We visited most of the observation hides that overlook the surrounding pools and flooded fields, and the salt-marshes of the Severn estuary that when combined, form an extensive sanctuary area. Here hundreds of wild birds of many species gather, many having flown from their breeding grounds in Arctic Russian to spend the winter, or are stopping off on their migration to places further west and south. Most well known are the Bewick’s Swans that arrive during November and December to spend the winter at Slimbridge.
During the day we had some fantastic sights and in perfect light conditions, with low, raking winter sunlight highlighting the not often seen subtle variations of plumage colour, especially among the waders and ducks. Lapwings showed strong metallic, sheens of mixed greens, bronze and purple. Pintail drakes their rich chocolate browns, wigeon their soft oranges, yellows, pinks and greys.
Birds seen included: 25+ Bewick’s Swans, 16 White-fronted Geese, 400+ Greylag Geese, 250 Barnacle Geese, 1 Red-breasted Goose (with the Barnacle Geese), 25+ Shelduck, 300+ Wigeon, 200+ Teal, 30+ Pintail, 10+ Shoveler, Pochard and Tufted Ducks, 7 Common Cranes, 3 Water Rails, a Little Stint (very close to), 1000+ Lapwings, 20+ Golden plover, 20+ Black-tailed Godwits, 350+ Dunlin and 5+ Snipe.
It was a much enjoyed day out, the fine weather making it especially good.