Living in the pointy end of the country means an eternal drive just to get to a motorway these days, so long distance ‘twitches’ have long since been off the agenda. However, a planned weekend away to Devon with Brad and Jake turned in to a venture a little bit further away.

So Saturday morning (6th) saw us on the road at 5am and heading for a small pool at the side of the road at Horsebere, Gloucestershire. By 9am we were stood in the rain with a few other hardy souls watching two superb PENDULINE TITS at close range in the bull rushes. The weather and light was very poor, hence the crap record shot below!Penduline Tit, Horsebere, Glos. 06022016It was then on to the Forest of Dean, a new site for me and a very wet one at that! We eventually found Parkend Church and were lucky to see a single Hawfinch fly from a holly bush into nearby Beech. It was seen again very briefly as it flew between the trees. By now we were all getting soaked through so after a brief cuppa we were back in the car and on our way to Slimbridge WWT.

We arrived at Slimbridge around lunchtime and after a quick look at the bird sightings book headed for the café for food and to plan the afternoon. The majority of birds (wild ones!) were seen from the north side of the reserve and there were certainly plenty to go through! Thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwing, Pintail, Gadwall, Pochard, Wigeon and Teal and Shoveler graced the open water and flooded fields. HIghlights included, Common Crane, 117 Bewick’s Swans, 150+ Barnacle Geese, Ruddy Shelduck (not from their collection!), 3 Ruff, 150+ Black-tailed Godwits, 10 Greenland White-fronted Geese, 2 Scaup and a Little Stint! The latter proved very hard work and after sifting through hundreds of Dunlin spread over a large area, I located it right in front of the hide! This was my first visit to Slimbridge and I was very impressed. The hides, facilities and birds were all excellent.

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After an overnight stay in Bridgewater, the following morning we were amazingly bathed in sunshine! By 9am we were at the RSPB’s very impressive Ham Wall reserve in Somerset. The main path was closed which meant a muddy detour, so if you are visiting before April, I suggest you take your willies! Since my last visit in May 2015, the RSPB have constructed a small visitor centre and toilets in the car park and the super new Avalon Marsh hide. If you’ve never been it’s certainly worth a visit. Marsh Harriers showed well over the reed beds and at least four Great White Egrets were around the reserve. We were also lucky to have great views of the GLOSSY IBIS in flight and on the deck whilst we waited in vain for a Bittern to show. After making our way back to the car for a quick tea break we walked across the road to Shapwick Heath in hope of better views of Bittern. One alighted briefly from the reeds in the distance but while the other two saw it, I couldn’t get onto it before it dropped out of sight. Cetti’s Warblers were in good voice along the track but apart from Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel and further Marsh Harriers, it was relatively quiet.

We then headed toward Devon but after a fruitless search for Egyptian Goose at the very disappointing Darts Farm reserve, the weather beat us and we headed home.

So all in all, not a bad few days with 10 extra year ticks leaving me on 154. Still a long way to go yet and still a few birds in Cornwall to catch up on including RC Starling, Chough, Redpoll, Black-necked Grebe! Hope the weather picks up so I can get out again soon!

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