Slimbridge and Other Wet Places

by A warbler a day

I spent last weekend staying with my aunt in Gloucestershire. To break the journey down on Friday I stopped at Coate Water on the outskirts of Swindon. It had the usual selection of wildfowl and gulls, including a Pochard which joined the ducks waiting being fed by families near the kiosk. It was fun watching the bird dive close to the water’s edge. The only other bird of interest on the lake was a female Goosander.

My aunt’s house is at the end of narrow country lane, surrounded by meadows and farmland. This meant that I woke on a sunny Saturday morning to be greeted by the sight, in addition to the common finches and tits, of a large flock of Fieldfare. I spent most of the day, though, with my aunt at Slimbridge. I’ve never visited there before and it was brilliant. In the morning we walked down the eastern side of the site, visiting all the hides that looked out on the area known as Tack Piece. This is a mixture of scrapes and meadows. It held several thousand Golden Plovers as well Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits. Among the ducks there were loads of Wigeon and Teal as well as several Pintails, Shovelers and Pochards. On the meadow behind the crape was a flock of White-fronted Geese, The biggest I’ve ever seen. In amongst them was a Bean Goose, which a member of staff helpfully pointed out for me. A lifetime first! The path ended at Holden Tower, a 3 storey hide tha overlooks the River Severn. Here I immediately saw a flock of Bewick’s Swans, the most and closest I’ve ever seen. At least one Peregrine was seen flying over the marshes, and one was definitely perched on a bank. There was also a small grey wader on the edge of a creek which caused some confusion before it was eventually identified as a Sanderling. We spent the afternoon walking through the collection to the hides on the west side of the site. From one of these hides a single Avocet was spotted. A Cetti’s Warbler was heard but not seen as usual.I did have great fun spotting Pekin Robin, Java Sparrow and White-eye, but as these were in the tropical house, they don’t count for my records. similarly the only Common Cranes I saw were in an enclosure. However it was fantastic day.

In contrast to the sunshine on Saturday, Sunday was grey and very blustery. I spent the afternoon on the Malvern Hills where at times I was barely able to stand up straight. Wildlife wise it was very quiet though a couple of Ravens were flying around.

Monday I woke to calmer and brighter weather. Once again the meadow next to my aunt’s house had a large flock of birds on it, this time mostly Redwings. On the way home I stopped at Cotswold Water Park in the hope of seeing some Smew. The parks website had reported that there were several, including drakes on the lake called CWP 30. To get there I walked along the road from Neigh Bridge. In the lake next to CWP 30 I spotted some pairs of Red-crested Pochards. Then in my first look at CWP 30, from the road, through the trees I spotted a white blob on the water. A closer look though my binoculars confirmed that it was my first ever drake Smew. What a handsome bird! I got better views from the path that runs next to the lake, also seeing a female Smew and a female Red-breasted Merganser. What a great way to end a fantastic weekend!