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WEATHER: blustery winds, dull overcast to start with them brighter later.

A beautiful male  'white-spotted' Bluethroat, which normally breeds in central and northern Europe, has returned to the reedbeds of Slimbridge for its fourth year!! It sits out and sings for weeks on end hoping to attract a mate (which isn't going to happen) and eventually returns south to its wintering grounds in Africa. Last year Guy and me saw it well during June, this year we left it a little late, but according to recent sightings the bird was still out there singing away.

an Avocet chick

I collected Guy from his house in Yeovil at 6:30am  and drove directly to Slimbridge, we arrived at 8am just before the 'birders side-gate' opened at 8:15. We had a coffee in the car park before walking onto the site. What I like about Slimbridge is the number of easily accessible hides which overlook 'real, wild-bird' habitat and whatever time of the year you visit, there will be a good selection of species to see.

 a group of Common Shelduck chicks

The Rushy Hide is one of the first hides you come to, we watched several pairs of Avocets with chicks, also Common Shelducks with chicks. There was also Oystercatchers, a few Lapwings, lots of common duck species (mainly Mallards) and the usual gulls, coots, moorhens etc.

adult Avocet

Far fewer species were seen from the Martin Smith, Robbie Garnet & Stephen Kirk Hides, all three of these hides overlook wader scrapes, some surrounded by reedbeds and others just sit in open grassland. I think we saw  Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Avocets, Oystercatchers and not a lot else other than Geylag & Canada Geese.

Green Sandpiper

We skipped past the Tower Hide in order to get to the 'Summer Walk' trail and out to the Shepherd's Hut Hide. This hide is on wheels, it sits on a raised enbankment which overlooks vast reedbeds and the River Severn Estuary. Along this trail we found some shelter from the blustery wind and a bit of sunshine brought out a few butterflies. 

Marbled White

Marbled White

Marbled White, Green-veined White, large Skipper and lots of Meadow Brown butterflies could be seen. This was a nice surprise as you all know that Butterflies in the UK have had a drastic year! During June I hardly saw a single butterfly. Buddleia plants are in full flower now and are bereft of butterflies.

Large Skipper

Also along this stretch of the track we found a Sedge Warbler singing away, it was Guy's first one of the year!! Reed Buntings flitted about in the reeds and hedgerows and Skylarks sang above us. One or two juvenile Pied Wagtials dashed about along the footpath. 

Green-veined White

We found the Shepherd's Hut Hide closed!! Apparently the locking mechanism was broken, so we had to stand outside feeling the full force of the wind, blasting in from the direction of the huge River severn Estuary, it was quite chilly standing there. The chances of a our little Bluethroat popping up on a dead twig to sing to us were as good as the Tory Party winning today's general election!!

A picture of the Bluethroat from last year's Blog, in wet and windy conditions the bird still sang to us!

Nevertheless, we stuck it out!! A couple of people said that they had had brief views of the bird as it flitted from reedbed to reedbed. We lasted about 1 1/2 hours, I started to get very cold and Guy was very windy both internally and externally. We scoped some birds on the estaury, mainly gulls, but also Shelducks, Oystercatchers, Little Egret, a young, male Marsh Harrier flying over the reedbeds was nice to see and a single Common Crane fed in the fields behind us.

Common Cranes have bred at Slimbridge once again

Around 11am we decided to give up on the Bluethroat, we walked back onto the main site and visited the Hide that overlooks the South Lake. The 'lake' was full of birds, lots of waders and ducks. The scrape and shallow wader-lagoons held a flock of Black-tailed Godwits, 35 Redshanks, a few Green Sandpipers, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and Guy got onto a Spotted Redshank still in summer plumage (the Redshank not Guy!). 

Spotted Redshank

The Spotted Redshank worked its way along the muddy lagoon and came within a few meters of the hide, wowza!! That was brilliant!! Bird of the day without a doubt. 

We listed Eurasian Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck, also Egyptian Goose, Avocets, Oystercatchers and Lapwings.

Black-tailed Godwit

Little Ringed Plover

We never visited the Kingfisher Hides, where we knew that a pair of Kingfishers were actively feeding young from thier second brood of the year, we never had the time.

Egyptian Goose with chicks

After buying a nice hot chocolate at the cafe we walked outside to the car park where we sat on a picnic bench and shared our picnic lunch with the local Jackdaws.

Driving back to Yeovil along the M5 nearly turned into a disaster!! The Motorway had been closed by the police near Taunton, a 15 mile tail-back was looming ahead of us!! We just about managed to get off at the Burham-on-Sea junction, we could see the tail-back just passed the junction, we had just made a lucky escape from a two-hour stand-still. Furthermore, its gets better!  Guy noticed a signpost to a place on the levels that he knew, it turned out to be a wonderful short-cut across the levels and we got home quicker that the usual way!!