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Visit to Slimbridge 19 January 2022

David Roberts writes:

Reg Cox, Roy Jackson and myself took advantage of the reasonably forecast day and drove down to Slimbridge. On the approach road to the reserve we parked before the Canal Bridge at Shepherd’s Patch and walked over the bridge to the field beyond. On the right there is a barn and in this field, a little way in, was a Glossy Ibis, looking resplendent through the telescope.

This Ibis had been here for well over a week. Once a rare vagrant to the UK, numbers have increased in recent years and they are now recorded in all months in the UK, but are still relatively scarce.

They nest in the South of France, Southern Spain and in South East Europe. They are found throughout the world but Africa is their location of origin and their lifespan is up to twenty six years. They are about the size of a Curlew with similar sized and shaped down-curved beak; the sexes are alike. They look black at a distance but neck, upper mantle, shorter scapulars, shoulders and underparts are a rich chestnut. The head, rest of the upper parts, wings and tail blackish glossed with purple and green, looks lovely in sunlight. It is thought possibly these birds will breed here within the next few years. Look at the amazing Little Egrets which breed here in large numbers now, being followed by Great White Egrets increasing in numbers and now increasing numbers of Cattle Egrets, particularly on the Somerset Levels where over 300 birds were seen recently.

In the field on our side of the road was a flock of over 70 White-fronted geese.

In the car park at Slimbridge we met up with Christo Impey, who had just driven down from London to join us. We spent our first spell of birdwatching in the Martin Smith Hide marvelling at the wonderful sight of massed Lapwings and Golden Plovers, Dunlins and notably Bewick and Mute Swans, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Pintails, Black-tailed Godwits, and Redshanks. It was magical when from time to time the large flocks were disturbed and the Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Dunlins all took off en-masse and caught the light in varying degrees, swirling around in large murmurations before they settled back down again.

We carried on down the path to the Holden Tower by way of the Robbie Garnett Hide. From the top of the Tower we were able to see quite clearly out to the Severn and beyond. We saw notably seven Cranes, a lot of Barnacle Geese, a Ross’s Goose, more White-fronted Geese, and a distant Curlew amongst others.

After a great morning of birdwatching we fortified ourselves with a good lunch in the cafe.

During the afternoon we headed along to the Zeiss Hide and then to the Kingfisher Hide before finishing up at the South Lake Discovery Hide. Here we saw quite a number of Pochard and one Gadwall, that had eluded us so far. There were quite a few Snipe also and a couple of Avocets.

We went for a cup of tea and cake before heading home.

At home on my back garden feeder pole I have four different feeders, positioned on the edge of a large Berberis bush to give the birds a certain amount of protection when visited by a resident Sparrowhawk. For the last couple of weeks a male Blackcap has taken over the bush for much of the day and chases off some of my visiting birds at frequent intervals. Birds like Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Robins, and particularly Gold Finches which it seems to have taken a particular dislike to. He is a real bully! Before that the Blackcap had been a very infrequent visitor and I have noticed the female Blackcap, with the gingery head, drinking from my pond occasionally. I never seem to get Greenfinches now and very rarely Chaffinches.