A MORNING VISIT TO SLIMBRIDGE AND A SHORT AFTERNOON STOP AT GREEN DOWN
WEATHER; heavy rain to start, cloudy later with patches of sunshine. Top temp 22C
I met up my local birding buddy Guy Campbell for the first time in a couple of months, we both really wanted to see the ‘showy’ Bluethroat at Slimbridge and also three other target species: Black-winged Stilt, Garganey and Spotted Redshank.
I collected Guy from his house at 6:30am, it was pouring with rain, but it had eased off since the heavy downpour around 4am. We made good progress on free-flowing roads and arrived at Slimbridge at 8:15am. Only common corvids and a drenched Common Buzzard were noted along the way.
the view from the Rushy hide
We entered through the ‘memeber's only’ side gate and walked to the Rushy Hide for a quick squint at the birds in the open lagoon there, the Spotted Redshank was supposed to be there. We saw Redshanks, Avocets (with well grown chicks), lots of common ducks: Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallards. Greylag and Canada Geese, Common Shelducks were everywhere, with Coots, Moorhens, Little Egret and Grey Herons dotted about.
Moving on we made brief stops in one or two other hides, noting Green Sandpipers, Lapwings, fly-over Curlews and more ducks. We wanted to get down to the ‘Summer Trail’ to look for the Bluethroat in the reedbeds by the shore of the River Severn so we wasted little time gettinmg there.
one of the three Green Sandpipers seen from the hides
It was still raining when we reached the open reedbed and it was quite windy out there too. We had bumped into one of the wardens who told us that the Bluethroat had been showing despite the weather conditions. Inspired by this news we stepped up our pace reached the ‘railway’ carriage hide shortly afterwards, some birders were already in the carriage and they told us roughly where the bird had been showing.
Over the next two hours, it stopped raining and brightened a little and bird showed extremely well many times. We saw it in flight, sitting up singing, performing flight displays and dashing very close at times. What a fantastic bird, I have never seen a bluethroat so well for so long, a real cracker. Guy was besides himself with excitement and passed wind several times in celebration!!
this bird was quite distant in poor light, it was windy and raining - record shot of Bluethroat
other shots taken from a video of the Bluethroat
During our Bluethroat-watch we also saw Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Linnet, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Skylark (heard), Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Little Egret and Grey Heron.
a view of the tail pattern of the Bluethroat
We reluctantly moved away from the Bluethroat site, it hadn’t showed for the last 40 minutes and a small crowd had gathered. We had three other species to look for, we tried for the Spotted Redshank for a second time at the Rusky Pen Hide but it was still not showing.
At the hide which overlooks the South Lake we found the BLACK-WINGED STILT, sitting right out in the open and easy to see, thanks for being so obliging! We also picked out 4 Little Ringed Plovers, over 80 Avocets, a couple of dozen of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, a single Greenshank and lots of Lapwings. We added Wigeon to our ‘wild duck’ list.
From the Zeiss Hide we found one of the Garganey, a male with very faded plumage, we couldn’t see any of the other two that were supposed to be there. A warden told us that the Spotted Redshank was definitely viewable from the Rushy Hide but often disappears from view, we gave it one last try.
record shot of the Garganey with Redshank and Lapwing in the foreground
This time, after several minutes we found the bird, but it didn’t stay in view for very long and promptly disappeared again behind a mound on an island. Well, that was job done, the Bluethroat, Garganey, Stilt and Spotted Redshank all in the bag.
Redshanks on South Lake
It was after 1pm when we left Slimbridge, but before we drove off we sat near the car park and ate our picnic lunch whilst feeding the local Jackdaws and a Rook with crumbs from our lunch.
summer plumage - Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank surrounded by Shovelers
Luckily for me Guy slept for an hour on the way back, it was nice to get a bit of ear relief and contemplation time whilst driving on the relatively traffic free motorway. We decided to drop into Green Down at Somerton to look for Large Blue butterflies, Guy had seen them a few days ago and could lead me straight to the correct site.
the habitat at Green Down
It was still cloudy when we arrived, in fact, rained threatened! We persevered and walked up the long track to the reserve. A steep, south-facing slope with open grassy areas and bramble scrub was the habitat of the butterfly reserve site at Green Down. Guy took off his Birding Guru hat and put on his Butterfly Whisperer’s hat and found the LARGE BLUE after a few minutes.
this speciemen is a bit tatty but you can see that its a Large Blue
As the sun wasn’t shing not many blues were on the wing but Guy found at least three which was good enough. We also saw plenty of Marbled Whites, Common Blue, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Large Skipper. We also saw Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff and Goldfinches.
bird of the day without question - Bluethroat
The last leg home produced Common Kestrel and Guy pointed out a Red Kite just as we were approaching Yeovil. All in all, it was a good day out, but a little windy in more ways than one!