Sunday, 24 January 2016

Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool and some other stuff

Today we headed south west, into Gloucestershire to look for the penduline tits which have recently been at Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool on the east side of the city. We found the place easily enough, straight down the M6 / M5 to junction 11 then onto the A40 / A417 for a couple of miles and park in the layby opposite the Premier Inn. Even better, the birds were showing well when we arrived, a bit of a relief because they have been prone to disappearing for a couple of hours at a time. I say showing well, good decent views through the scopes and not bad through the bins, but not good enough for photography for me, and nowhere near as close as the birds we saw last year in Devon. After watching them for about 20 minutes, they flew high and away over the Premier Inn.

This was our cue to leave because we had other places to get to, including our next stop, Slimbridge WWT just 16 miles to the south. Wildfowl numbers had picked up since our last visit in November, and there were now 150 European white-fronted geese and 140 Bewick's swans (though we only saw about 68). Also here, five Greenland white-fronted geese, six common cranes, peregrine, female scaup, 600 golden plover  and thousands of wigeon, teal and lapwings. A very impressive spectacle. The Greenland white-fronted geese were with their European counterparts and weren't quite so easy to pick out as I expected. They were clearly darker birds with a more powerful orange bill compared to the pink billed Europeans, and when the flock took off they looked larger birds, but not a lot in it to my eyes.

Having seen these birds so well and so quickly, we decided to head back to Gloucester for another look at the penduline tits, and I was glad we did. Once again we were lucky because the birds had been missing for nearly two hours since we left them, but by the time we arrived back they had also returned. This time they were a little closer but spent most of their time out of view and right down at the base of the bulrushes, only occasionally popping into view. A real pain in the backside! However, eventually one did climb a little higher and I got excellent scope views before both birds flew into a hawthorn bush near the layby. They were a bit more distant here but stayed on full view for a couple of minutes allowing us to get a good look at them. Still not great for photography though.

We could have hung around longer and probably could have got some good photos eventually, but we wanted to try for the overwintering hoopoe in Staffordshire at Hinksford. Our luck held again and we  dropped right onto the bird showing at less than 10m, albeit largely obscured by long grasses. Eventually though it flew and landed for a few minutes on the fence at fairly close range, before flying again further away. An excellent end to the day.

Year: 139 (Penduline tit, hoopoe etc.)

Penduline tits.

Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool.

Bewick's swan.


Common cranes.


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