A group of four set off at 05:00 on the 17th of February and following a city pick up of two more we started the journey south. The roads were quiet and we made good timing, with time to stop for breakfast on the way.
Our first stop was at Longford, Gloucestershire, to try and twitch a male Penduline Tit- a rare visitor to the UK- which had been present at the site for some time. We arrived to find a few people with cameras but unfortunately the bird had carried out a magnificent disappearing act despite being seen at first light. There was some consolation as a Stonechat (below) was constantly feeding on the rushes and showing very well. After waiting for a while it was time to move on to our next location; WWT Slimbridge.
A previous ConSoc committee member is on placement at Slimbridge so we met him there and were able to be given a tour of the site. We started by walking around the bird sanctuary with many exotic species but then went out to the hides which overlook the river Severn estuary. We spent a few hours here and had a look in some different hides. This resulted in some impressive records including; Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Common Crane (below), Eurasian White-Fronted Geese, Common Snipe. Other highlight species were; Water Rail, Common Buzzard, Ruff, Redshank and Avocet.
After this the group split with some going to a campsite while the rest went with another student on placement to her house at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Somerset. After pitching up tents and having a walk around the reserve respectively, we all joined together for a nice and relaxed evening.
We woke up early again on the Sunday morning and it was time to make bacon sandwiches for the morning ahead. Despite the hick up of setting off the smoke alarm, the sandwiches were made and we travelled to RSPB Ham Wall and neighbouring Shapwick Heath NNR where we met up once again. We spent a few hours at the reserves and visited a number of hides, seeing and hearing many species, including; Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Great Egret (below), Kingfisher, Cettis Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Snipe, Treecreeper and large numbers of waterfowl.
The group then travelled to Westhay Moor reserve via the campsite so that tents could be taken down. Westhay Moor was a fairly small reserve and we only had about an hour and a half here, but this didn’t stop us from seeing some great birds, like further views/sounds of Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Water Rail and Cettis Warbler. We were about to head back to the bus when Mr. President heard the ‘ping’ call of a Bearded Tit (below). We were able to locate the bird feeding low in the reed which was a lovely treat.
The journey home began but with our luck in we kept an eye out in the fields for any other birds of interest. A few minutes later some Little Egrets were spotted on the left and almost immediately after the excitement really started when a Glossy Ibis (below) was seen feeding in a field next to the road. In the further field was a group of Egrets, where at least two Cattle Egrets could be picked out from the Little Egrets. This was a really cracking end to a good trip.
We managed to scope out some good reserves and hopefully we will get lucky on the 3rd/4th March and see some more cracking birds!
Looking forward to seeing everyone who has signed up for the trip.
By Owen Beaumont.