Slimbridge has been hosting huge numbers of waterbirds throughout the winter, particularly waders, and it was due to this that i decided a trip down was in order!
Immediately obvious, even from the car park was the huge flock of around 2000 Golden Plover which were feeding and flying around the Tack piece. With the early morning sun behind us, it was a pleasure to sit and watch the numerous waders, ducks and Swans scattered across the flooded meadow.
Moving onto the Holden tower, everything started to happen at once. The White-Fronted Goose flock was unfortunately not playing ball, and had decided to feed along the seawall to the north, and was unviewable.
So, i concentrated on scanning the hundreds of Dunlin looking for a scarce wintering bird. At least 800 were scattered across the flooded Dumbles, no doubt still exploiting the food rich soils that had been deposited by the very high tides on many occasions throughout the year. With some scanning, i picked up one of the LITTLE STINTS feeding way out on the Dumbles, but it soon flushed with every other bird, and once they resettled, it (or another) was re-located! Feeding on the pool in front of the hide!
I always enjoy this stunning tiny wading bird, their restless activity and subtle beauty in winter, and indeed every plumage is just irresistible. I am always amazed when these stunners stay to winter in the UK, as they really should be in southern Europe/ Africa at this time of year!
Against this Lapwing, you can clearly see just how small these birds are, tiny little gems, and one which always brightens up a day!
But it was soon back to scanning Geese, and while scanning the Barnacle goose flock which had been pushed up onto the Dumbles by the tide the Dark-Belled Brent Goose appeared. Sadly however, my first 'decent' view of it over the winter revealed that its wing was really not in good shape, and the bird was constantly dragging it behind and along the floor. A sad fate for any migratory bird, but luckily for it, there aren't too many places too much better for Geese to reside than at Slimbridge.
Somehow i can't see this bird leaving, so you would presume that this bird will become a permanent fixture of the feral Barnacle Goose flock.
Meanwhile, the White-Fronts flew up, and flew slightly further out onto the Dumbles to allow some viewing. A short while later, and i picked up the TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE as it happily fed alongside its Russian friends.
Now, i understand i may have caused some controversy by agreeing with the Slimbridge wardens about this bird being a Bean Goose, but out in the field, it really did look convincing as one, despite its smaller than average size (but which still fits within variation of the species). The 'worrying' features mentioned by some were not obvious like they were in some photos that seemed to suggest characteristics of a hybrid origin.
Scoping from the Holden revealed a singe Avocet roosting on the Top new piece, and also rather surprisingly a flock of 37 Grey Heron perched out on the estuary edge where the Little Egrets usually perch, which, upon enquiring, i was informed was a new record for the site!
With the superb Siberian gem still present in the beautiful Shire valley not much further to the south, it would have been rude not to have visited for seconds!
And a short while after, we were again watching the stunning 1st winter male RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL, and luckily, in much more enjoyable circumstances. A small gathering of around 10 birders/ Photographers, and a Bluetail playing hide and seek in a Hawthorn in the sun!
What is not to love!
With the obviously more relaxed surroundings, the bird often would perch up regularly for long periods of time, a massive contrast to it being constantly harassed and pushed around the first time i saw it. It really gave me the chance to admire its beauty as it commuted from 'its' Hawthorn and the ground where mealworms had being placed.
Do i need say any more?