Third time lucky

Having booked another long weekend off work, Chris and I decided ‘not’ to plan to go to Slimbridge last Monday as the last 2 times we’ve planned to make the (rather long) trip overnight snow put paid to the idea. This time though, the weather was on our side, and I have a confession. For the first time, Chris out-birded me both in enthusiasm and staying power.

Part of the reason for our journey was to visit the In Focus opticals shop for us both to choose some new bins (I’ll let Chris fill you in). Short version is that we are very pleased with our new purchases- the clarity is just amazing.

Before leaving home, I’d been keeping my fingers crossed that Spring migration was not yet in full swing. Slimbridge is a haven for wintering wildfowl (in particular huge flocks of Bewick’s Swan) and as the temperature is rising I was worried that they’d head off before we managed to fit a visit in. Whilst one of the wardens informed us that a large flock of Bewick’s Swans had left the night before, there were still large numbers still in residence. I know Chris isn’t particularly moved by Swans, but for me a field of grazing swans is mesmeric and absolutely beautiful. They are such graceful birds, and I have a real soft spot for Bewick’s- somehow being smaller than the other 2 species they seem more regal and elegant. I particularly enjoyed watching a large feeding flock of Wigeon (fast becoming my favourite duck) guzzling away on the grass as well as a distant flock of White Fronted Geese which after Barnacle Geese added another tick to the yearlist for us both (we’ve been so competitive so far…).

Here’s a taster of what the podgy Wigeon are like- let me know if you’re sharing the love:

What really made the day for me though was a self found Lesser Scaup. Whilst I already had Tufted Duck on my yearlist, since becoming competitive I’ve really started looking twice at things- finch flocks for something unusual, double checking every distant pigeon in case its a Stock Dove. Whilst looking at one particular group, there was one bird that just didn’t seem like a Tuftie and met all the criteria for a Female Scaup– different white patch on the bill, different head shape. What also made this bird stand out was seeing it alongside the female Tufteds for a direct comparison. Whilst I was fairly convinced, the likelihood seemed to improbable and whilst Chris was convinced with my discovery, I was doubting myself. On returning to the visitor centre and checking the sightings board, to my absolute amazement there it was- Lesser Scaup ♀. I’d managed to find an unusual bird without even knowing it was there- a first for me!

Distant Swan Flock

Wigeon Feeding

Another achievement, was me being the one to want to go home first. Being fairly obsessed, I can normally bird until it gets dark- totally boring my companion in the process. On this occasion, I was wilting by lunchtime. Even Slimbridge’s collection of World Wildfowl (Hooded Merganser– absolute legend!) couldn’t lift my spirits as my energy had been completely sapped. In hindsight, I really wasn’t myself all day although on the day it took me until lunchtime to realise I was definitely under the weather and hit by my first full on cold this Winter. I kept going so Chris could enjoy his day, but I think when I slumped on the comfy chairs facing the feeders in the Kingfisher hide, no longer bothering with binoculars he realised it was time to call it a day.

Warming up with a Hot Chocolate

One thing that did make me smile- Eider Ducks. These make the best noise ever and sound like a group of gossiping Grannies cooing 'Ooooohhhh'!

All in all, a brilliant destination- I only wish I’d felt a bit more human to enjoy it!

Jo

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