Monday 10th March
Aaarrggghhhh!!! I am so far behind in relating the tales of the days but will try to catch up. So much has happened and as I am now alternating camping out one night with an indoor accommodation now it's harder to get all this to you. I'll do my best. Meanwhile I am now in the absolutely brand new youth hostel in Cardiff. It opened last Friday and used to be a 4 star hotel. It has even got TVs in each dormitory. Good bunk beds though and great staff.
So what have I been up to for the last few days since Steart WWT Reserve?
The following day was a long cycle to get as close as possible to Slimbridge WWT. Along the A38, excepting for a few miles along the lovely Strawberry Way old railway line and also getting somewhat confused by the plethora of cycle paths in central Bristol. Now speaking of getting lost what's the chances of this. On asking a couple, Neil and Wendy it turned out, for directions. Neil said that he had met someone like me a few years ago who had slept one night in a disabled toilets in Suffolk. With a puzzled expression on my face, for I didn't believe what I was hearing, I told him, that was me. Neil had repaired my bike when he worked for a cycle shop in Ipswich back in 2010. He had then moved to Bristol. Small world? I got out of Bristol by using the Concorde way cycle route, after having asked the Sustrans people how do I get out of here?
Slimbridge! One of my favourite places on the planet, I have been going here for many decades and seen so many changes. I arrived early and met James, the warden on the way in. He famously found 5 American waders here in one afternoon! Then it was a meeting with Eleanor Wise, a wonderfully enthusiastic WWT staff member who had been emailing me before my arrival.
She was fabulous as we went to the crane hide and birdwatched over the large expanse there. I call it the crane hide as Monty and Chris, two amorously attached cranes tried to raise young there last year. Indeed they were there now in front of us with Monty attempting to get a display going but Chris being the reticent woman.
Last year's breeding attempt by the pair was not without it's seriously dramatic moments as Eleanor ( I prefer to think of her as Ellie) told me of an encounter with a fox that hit the news across the media. Have a look at the Daily Telegraph's account. Also note on the page that a recipe for duck is given!
After an hour or so of conversation with this born to be a wildlife lover, Eleanor left and the rest of the day was spent birding. No time for lunch with only 7 hours of birding possible, I visited every hide and searched every corner of both the natural habitat areas and the 'zoo; part as I think of it.
Barnaby Bear, he of Primary School Geography curriculum fame, came with me and together we saw over 50 species, including a new bird for my Slimbridge list, a treecreeper. I visiting bird photographer sent me a photograph of it late. Thanks Ken.
On walking back towards the centre I met Dave Paynter who has been the reserve manager at Slimbridge for over 50 years. A true legend of the place and the WWT, Dave is a fantastic guy and a real privilege to know. Last time I was the Biking Birder back in 2010 Dave and his wife put me up for the night at his house and the evening was full of fascinating stories of Slimbridge and Sir Peter Scott. Wonderful. Thanks Dave.
Highlights at Slimbridge are always so many no matter what time of year but a new bird for my year list was a pink-footed goose in with a flock of 74 white-fronted geese. Surprisingly to me there wasn't a Bewick's swan as they had all left for colder climes.
A distant peregrine was seen from the Holden Tower overlooking the Dumbles adjacent to the massive river Severn. How many years have I been climbing this treble decked hide? Memories of taking so many school parties here from Wolverhampton's Coppice High School including The Birding Clams; some of those students who still bird every day they can.
I also took photographs of the WW2 pillboxes here for Paul Hayesmore who I met in Kent earlier in the year. Eleanor had said that they are going to get a path built for access to one of them to enrich the visitor's experience with tales of its history. By the way, she also said that Slimbridge would be 70 years old next year! Celebration time.
Talking with a lovely couple of Brummies (all Btummies are lovely aren't they?), we saw a water rail under some feeders.
Barnaby Bear insisted at one point that we go into the tropical house and fater demisting the camera and bins a few times we enjoyed the tropical birds in there and the pair of very tame black-winged stilts. These came within a couple of meters of us at times.
Otters, large white cranes, ducks, geese, swans and flamingoes from around the world were all enjoyed and the captive European cranes whooped for us as we passed.
Into the huge visitor's centre again, a new soft play area has been made for children, replacing the worn out tunnel area. How my own two children, Rebecca and Joshua loved visiting Slimbridge when young. They still talk of it and I do so hope that the present generation have opportunities to visit this most wonderful of places.
Now please have a look at my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015
Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.
Thanks to Paul Grennard for the donation to the WWT. Also thanks to Phil who handed a donation over the counter for me at WWT Llanelli. That was given straight to the WWT there. Phil. Thanks so much. Brilliant.
All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx