The Life Of Ponty Cyclops

By pontycyclops

Slimbridge - Early Birders Walk

It's been a very long, but very pleasurable day!

I thought the silly o'clock starts were behind me, but Dawn had other ideas!

When we visited Slimbridge a week ago, we saw advertised an Early Birders Walk, where you go around with the warder as he opens up the hides before the reserve opens to the public.

This meant we had to be in Slimbridge before eight thirty in the morning, and as we live an hours drive away, this meant a 6am alarm call. To be fair, if I had worked to my end date, I would have been up at five twenty today anyway!

After a small panic when I realised I had left my camera in the hallway just after we left, and negotiating the treacherous roads off the estate twice, we headed off the Gloucester. It was a crisp, cold, but glorious morning, and despite my forgetfulness we arrived with the minutes to spare.

It was the same warder who did the swan feed the Saturday before and when I met up with my brother and mum on the 30th of November. So he must have been well used to seeing me by now!

The walk itself was brilliant. It seemed very odd walking around when there was no one about, the last minute Christmas rush had deterred a lot of visitors as well, as it never got busy there to be honest.

We managed to see a whopping fifty four species of bird during the rounds. The highlight being these Snipes near the Rushy Pen. There was a moment of high drama, when a Heron landed right next to them. Fortunately he did not notice them, and a Heron would take a Snipe given half a chance.

The female Blackcap was still feeding on the berries on the same tree near the Rushy Pen hide.

The one bird that eluded us, was, of course, the Bittern. I just knew it would. But after a complimentary hot mug of tea, and one of the best bacon baps I have had in a long time, me and Dawn decided to have another go at seeing if we could spot the Bittern.

The Zeiss hide was packed again. Suddenly, someone exclaimed: "Got it!"

There was a buzz of excitement in the hide now. We all crowded around the side of the hide where the person had spotted it. All our binoculars trained on one tall reed. It was the most famous reeds in the bed for the next half hour, because preening itself underneath, barely visible due to it's incredible camouflage, was the Bittern!

It had taken me a frustratingly long few minutes to spot it, and even after you did, trying to find it again even when you knew where to look was surprisingly difficult!

Sadly, not a hope of a photo, as it never came out of the reeds. Maybe next year, if they stay.

We left Slimbridge very happy pair of bunnies!

But our day was not over. We called in Newport Wetlands on the way home, for one last visit for the year.

There was also the slight attraction of 70,000 Starlings.

What a way to finish the day! It was the biggest murmuration I have seen to date. A few more spots took the species count to 59 for the day. My best ever!

Species Seen

Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel, Jackdaw, Lesser Scaup, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pintail, Mute Swan, Bewick Swan, Woodpigeon, Peregrine Falcon, Widgeon, Cormorant, Rook, Mallard, Black Headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black Back Gull, Greater Black Back Gull, Heron, Snipe, Golden Plover, Ruff, Dunlin, Lapwing, Black Tailed Godwit, White Fronted Goose, Greylag Goose, Redshank, Curlew, Canadian Goose, Shelduck, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, Robin, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Blackcap, Long Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Bittern, Teal, Stock Dove, Dunnock, Cetti Warbler, Magpie, Grey Wagtail, Starling, Gadwall, Stonechat.

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