Would two dowitcher species have been too good?


A lazy flock of Black-tailed Godwits and Northern Lapwings with Black-headed Gulls on the South Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today I spent all the day with Elis and Rick Simpson for a very good reason. For birding! I have been planning to make a visit to WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre together with László Musicz, the Hungarian wild goose expert and one of the very best friends of mine. Unfortunately today he was not with me but I could manage to have a promising birding day with my new Friends from Milton Keynes. Kea and Andi was not with us neither as it could have been a long day for Kea without much of interests for them.


WWT Visitor Centre in Slimbridge. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The ‘zoo-like‘ WWT wetland centre is quite attractive. It is not necessarily for a keen birdwatcher but in general. The connection between birds and humans are pretty unique as they just walk among visitors like people in the streets.


Very tame European Moorhens were everywhere. Nice place to get good images of common birds. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Birding wise it was also promising as in the morning the 3rd ever Long-billed Dowitcher for Gloucester was reported. Weather was nice and pleasant though the light direction wasn’t perfect from the South Lake discovery hide. After failed to pick up the dowitcher from the flock of Black-tailed Godwits we moved to the Zeiss Hide where a Red-necked Phalarope was also reported. The hide actually provided a nice view to the River Severn and the adjacent wetlands. The phalarope was actively feeding by making those uncountable typical tiny circles. Ellis was happy to see her new lifer and and as a gratification she gifted us with some chocolates. I wish we had more lifers for her…


The view to the River Severn and surrounding wetlands. The Red-necked Phalarope is on the image… somewhere. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Species seen from the hide was as follows:

Barnacle Goose 150,
Canada Goose 25,
Common Shelduck 1,
Eurasian Wigeon 250,
Common Buzzard 3,
Northern Lapwing 120,
Common Ringed Plover 1,
Eurasian Curlew 2,
Common Redshank 10,
Red-necked Phalarope 1.


I liked this ‘discrimination’. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Before meeting and chatting a WWT worker on Rick’s Wader Quest project we checked the South lake again for the dowitcher. It was not there. Black-tailed Godwits and Northern Lapwings were dominant.

Waders counted by WWT staff in the morning:

Northern Lapwing 167
Black-tailed Godwit 276
Common Redshank 72
Spotted Redshank 1
Common Sandpiper 1 (we did not see it)
Green Sandpiper 2 (we did not see them)
Ruff 8 (they were not present). 

After we left the centre I checked the BirdGuides reports for possible updates on the Long-billed Dowitcher. Of course it was relocated but not exactly in the wetland centre but on the northern side of the River Severn. We have been too far for returning back as we headed south to Dorset for something else!

We excitedly entered the RSPB Lodmoor Reserve at Weymouth, Dorset in pouring rain. Rick and Elis has seen the Short-billed Dowitcher weeks ago but they hoped to see it again. The bird was not visible at the usual location at the time of our arrival though it was reported from the morning time. Luckily we had to wait not too long for the bird to appear as it suddenly landed in the middle of the pool and started feeding. The juvenile bird provided an amazing view, showing all the important characteristics through the spotting scopes.



The Dorset Short-billed Dowitcher. © Elis Simpson


Black-headed Gulls. © Gyorgy Szimuly




Canada Geese were continuosly moving over the reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly


Dunnocks flocked at the entrance of the reserve. These are record shots only and taken by a Nikon V1 compact. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Other birds seen around:

Canada Goose 150,
Eurasian Teal 15,
Mallard 15
Northern Shoveler 6
Northern Lawing 10,
Short-billed Dowitcher 1,
Common Sandpiper 1,
Mediterranean Gull 5,
Black-headed Gull 120,
Dunnock 6,
European Robin 4,
Meadow Pipit 3,
European Goldfinch 6,
European Greenfinch 4.

We almost managed to get two dowitcher species on the same day out their original migration routes. It would not have been an everyday experience. Anyway I have been more than satisfied to have a new lifer and specially because it was a shorebird. Short-billed Dowitcher became the 134th species on my shorebird life list. My total life list jumped to 2,176.


After leaving the reserve we quickly checked the bay for some potential seabirds. ‘Only’ three Northern Gannets and a few European Herring Gull was seen.

On our way back to Buckinghamshire a Eurasian Woodcock was flying over the highway A34 just northwest to Newbury at dusk. Another new bird to my British list.

Here I would like to say a big thanks to Rick and Elis who made this day unforgetable… in many ways!


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