Slimbridge is a place that I can never get tired of. It holds a special place in my memory as one of the first reserves where I can remember feeling that birds were going to be an important part of my life. We stopped there as a family on the way back from a holiday on the south coast. I was about 12 at the time and the bird I remember most was the Long-tailed Tit. I’d never set eyes on them before and seeing them working their way through the willows was a seminal experience for me.
Today I may go for other birds, particularly in the winter months, but still the tits hold my attention and bring me back to my earliest birding recollections. The set of images here were taken this January when the fields were flooded and the waders had returned after a long frozen spell of weather. Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits flock in good numbers and produce quite a spectacle. The wintering Bewick Swans and White-fronted Geese have been back for a while by January and always pull me to such places. It’s not hard to surpass 60 species in a day here, but lists are nothing compared to the show the birds put on!
Always a difficult bird to see, but not hear, is the Cetti’s Warbler.
It’s a curious place though and in many ways too. It’s hard to feel you’re experiencing something wild, the whole site being managed for birds and by implication therefore, for those who go and watch them, very much including me! It’s peopled, to a sense of being overcrowded at times. I remember a particularly unpleasant occasion once when a Jack Snipe had been seen from one of the hides. It was full to bursting and hard to see the bird through the maze of people with telescopes and cameras, and I was one of them. What does that experience mean? On other occasions though, and in the same hide, I’ve been gloriously on my own. No ‘rare’ bird perhaps but thoroughly enjoying the antics of the more common species; a preening Green Sandpiper perhaps or a Wigeon disputing a particular corner of the pool with a Teal. So it’s with some mixed and at times confused feelings that I visit such places as Slimbridge and indeed other reserves.
As the light lowers Slimbridge carries on delivering.