Sunday 20 April 2014

Slimbridge Wetland Centre UK

         April 17 2014 Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Nr Bristol and Gloucester UK Sunny
The 800 acre Ramsar site attracts a diverse range of birds that winter and summer there. There are ponds, fields, hedgerows and shoreline. Here the Skylark can be found on undisturbed grassland and during migration the Severn Estuary acts as a funnel attracting a myriad of species to Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties.

A full description of the site can be found at

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
This is one of my favourite UK birds. The goldfinch was brought to dangerously low numbers at the end of the last century  by extensive trapping for the cage bird trade.
In 1860 132,000 were trapped near Worthing in Sussex. A flock is referred to as "charms" of Goldfinch. They can be found feeding on the heads of thistles is similar fashion to the American Goldfinch. UK Populations can be either sedentary or migratory.
This picture was taken at the Slimbridge car park while I waited  and waited for the centre to open at the outrageously late 9.30 a.m.

To visit, the closest local airport is Bristol but both Heathrow or Gatwick 9 are only two hours away. The site is similar to Vancouver's Reifel but in addition has a captive bird area where one can see such rarities as the Redhead Duck, Smew and Chilean Flamingos. Outside of that enclosure are a variety of habitats that contain the wild birds such as the Avocet, Common Eurasian Crane and Little Egret.
As I arrived I quickly let behind the "exotics" and headed for the South lake where I found the Cranes that have now returned to the UK after 400 years of absence. A pair were nesting in the middle of the lake. A pair of Greylag Geese were defending their territory while three Shelduck rested on the mudflats. Three 'Lifers" in five minutes can't be bad but more was to come. A fellow birdwatcher pointed out a Sandpiper then an Oystercatcher.
Eurasian Common Crane. (Wild Birds)
These cranes were re-located to the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury, they have however returned to Slimbridge. I saw eight or nine cranes during the day. Note the radio transmitters on the legs to monitor their locations. As I have just arrived in the Uk I will have to do some more research but their return to the Severn Estuary has been a major success story.
The cranes were absent from the UK for nearly 400 years before a small population re-colonized the Norfolk Broads in 1979. A breeding program is bringing these birds back from the brink.
A Little Egret forages in the Slimbridge wetlands. 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
The Little Egret  can be found in estuaries on the English south and east coast
and winters in the Mediterranean. Recently the bird is spreading its range to the west coast of the U.K.

Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos)
This head-bobbing sandpiper, about the size of a Starling breeds in Europe, Asia, winters
 in Africa and even Australia.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
The Black-tailed Godwit uses Britain as a staging post on their spring and autumn migrations. They can often be seen with Knot and Oystercatchers. They nest and breed in northern Russian and Scandanavia.

A very distant shot of an Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
The last UK breeding colony of Avocets at Salthouse in Norfolk was wiped out
in 1825.
The feathers were use for fishing flies, their eggs to bake cakes. They returned to the east coast of the UK just after the the Second World War probably dislodged by wartime bombing in Holland. By 1957 a 100 pairs were breeding in East Anglia. The birds now breed down the east coast of England, Slimbridge and elsewhere.

A Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) being chased by a Crane.

The Tufted Duck (aytthya fuligula) is a common bird in the UK. Most birds winter south of their
breeding range, some reaching as far north as Africa and Asia.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
A Chiffchaff that nests by mid-April and stays in the UK until the autumn. Found throughout the UK and most of Europe.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
A common summer visitor to the UK. The Cuckoo finds the Sedge Warbler one of the more accessible victims in the same manner as the Brown-headed Cowbird. It winters in marshy regions of tropical Africa.

This Great Tit (Parus major) was feeding on seeds in the same reed bed as the warblers above.
They are sometimes referred to as the 'gardeners friend" as they eat thousands of caterpillars and insects.
In the afternoon I found a bird feeding station and was able to get a few close-ups of some common birds.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
The Reed Bunting feeds mainly off marsh plants, including snail, beetles, caterpillars and insects. 

Green Finch (Carduelischloris)
This beautiful bird is widespread in the UK except the Shetlands.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
The Jackdaw is a very common bird at Slimbridge and the UK. At the house I am saying at in the Wye Valley there are two pairs nesting in the chimneys. They are a very social bird and use the same nest every year. British Jackdaws are mainly sedentary.
Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
The British farmers greatest enemy. The Wood-pigeon  feeds on newly sown seed and ripening grain. Despite being shot at the bird has adapted itself to gardens and parks. It is the largest  of the UK's pigeons and doves.

The first day of my UK birding trip began with a 5 a.m start at Slimbridge. After leaving the sights and sounds of Vancouver it took me a little while to find my feet .With all the new birds to be ticked off it was a perfect way to shake off the jet lag. Eventually, I ended the day 14 hours later with 20"Lifers" and a total of 36 Species.

Greylag Goose

Eurasian Common Crane
Common Sandpiper
Barnacle Goose
Lesser Black-headed Gull
Black-tailed Godwit
Little Egret
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Reed Bunting


My next post will be from the Royal Forest of Dean with Ruardean birder Tim Fletcher, until then,

Good Birding

John Gordon 


  1. John, hope you have a wonderful holiday! Have a pint for me!

  2. Hi John, as usual very good photos, your years of experience shows. Have a good time and see you when you return. AG