Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is located
on the edge of the River Severn estuary and provides an ideal location to watch
winter bird life.
Don't forget your binoculars for a bird's eye view!
|Swan lake at Slimbridge.
Photo - Wetlands and Wildlife Trust
Severn is the longest river in the UK, winding its way for 220 miles from its
source in the Welsh Cambrian mountains before finally emptying into the sea in
the Bristol Channel.
The Severn estuary and its surrounding flood plain
is a mixture of mud flats and lush wet grassland which provide ideal wetland habitats
for a vast diversity of wildfowl and wading birds.
was one of the first major wildlife conservation centres in the United Kingdom,
and is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands
Trust was founded at Slimbridge in 1946 by wildlife artist and naturalist Sir
Today there are a huge number of resident birds within this
'avian Serengeti' including Flamingos, Red-Breasted Geese and Mandarin Ducks,
as well as many British species.
At Slimbridge, the pathways leading to
the hides are hidden behind grassy banks cloaked in thick hawthorn bushes, so
you can easily reach the hides without scaring the birds.
Look out for
Wigeon, Lapwing and Grey Plover amongst a whole host of other species including
predators - birds of prey like Peregrine Falcons, Merlin, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks.
of the highlights of a winter visit to Slimbridge is watching the Bewick's Swans
with their distinctive bright yellow bills.
These magnificent birds migrate
to the Severn estuary every winter, making a 2,500 mile journey from Arctic Russia
where they breed and raise their young during the summer months.
winters are ferocious with temperatures as low as -30c so the British Winter is
mild in comparison.
These birds are amazing because they find their way
back to exactly the same spot year after year.
Researchers at Slimbridge
know this because the black and yellow bill markings on each individual bird are
totally unique, allowing scientists to tell them apart and keep records of when
they are sighted.
a few miles down the road from Slimbridge are reed beds where a daily spectacle
As the sun begins to set, as many as a million starlings gather
together and the skies go black with swirling mass of birds preparing to roost
for the night in the reeds.
In common with many of the ducks and swans at
Slimbridge, a lot of these starlings will have migrated from eastern Europe and
Russia to escape to a milder winter.
Nobody knows exactly why they perform
this 'smoking' or 'morphing' manoeuvre, although some experts believe that it
may be to confuse predators such As Sparrow Hawks.
Slimbridge photographs courtesy of Slimbridge Wetlands and Wildlife Trust.