5 November 2009

White-fronted geese and family fun

Slimbridge is a family day out par excellence for a birder. Every year there seems to be more and more for young children to do, while dad (or mum as appropriate) can slope off to enjoy the views over acres of rough grasslands and marshes leading down towards the Severn Estuary. There's also plenty of opportunity to get close to the captive collection - hence the photos here, goldeneye, teal and goldfinch from top to bottom.

Late autumn and winter is the real time to go, when the reserve attracts thousands of white-fronted geese, bewick's swans and other over-wintering wonders. This year the mild weather and prevailing winds seem to have set the Bewick's arrival back a bit, but there were plenty of geese around including barnacle and white-fronted. 'Herds' of shelduck wandered out over the mudflats, little clusters of wigeon whistled everywhere you turned, and big skylark flocks (100+) erupted out of the tussocky grass every few minutes.

As you would expect with all of this birdlife around, there were plenty of raptors in view as well - two buzzards around Holden Tower, followed by a sparrowhawk fly-by. Looking out across the rough ground I then found a peregrine falcon, its briliant white chest and 'moustache' vivid even at long distance. I watched for half an hour, but sadly it wasn't going to move - a pity, because there is nothing more thrilling in nature than a peregrine hunt.

Other sightings including lots of teal and pochard, a good number of pintail, a water rail, great spotted woodpecker, cettis warbler, a close up snipe, and a lot of late, late dragonflies - testimony perhaps to just how mild October has been (it was in fact 17C as I drove home just before 4pm).

Bird of the day: White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons), a grey goose with significant areas of white around the base of the bill and black bars on the belly. The birds at Slimbridge have migrated in from Siberia, and have pink bills. Others, Greenland birds with orange bills, come in to other parts of the country at this time of year, notably to Ireland and West Scotland.

No comments: