Golden rain at Slimbridge

Golden Plovers fill the sky

 This weekend I could not resist the urge to return to Slimbridge. After a week of rain and very short days with hardly any decent daylight I could not wait to get some "bird therapy". My visit this time would be with my fellow birder Nev Davies. Like me, Nev is a keen blogger but he also an avid writer about wildlife.

At the moment there has been one standout species of wader at Slimbridge that has really caught my attention. Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) have been in big numbers at Slimbridge at the moment.

These Golden colored birds have been forming huge flocks of a thousand birds or more and have often filled the skies above the reserve.

The Gold really shines in the bright light of the early morning sunshine

The flock was hue and often mixed with Lapwings and Dunlins

They startle easily and then explode up into the sky swirling around the place as they do so. The plovers climb to such a height that they just become specks of black. I think they do this trying to avoid a Peregrine getting above them. When they reach certain altitudes they form a V shape flight pattern on some occasions.

Throughout my visit yesterday they were really skittish and appeared to get startled by anything causing them to go up and down into the sky all day.

Raining Golden Plovers settle down for a short time

Once they started to settle down and their perceived threat had gone they would then start to descend to the ground like a golden rain shower.

I wonder when these birds received their Latin name "Pluvialis" which is derived from the word for rain they had this in mind. The second part of their name apricaria means something like to "bask in the sun". ( If anyone is wondering where I get all this information from about the origin of birds names -it is from a great book named "Lapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks" by the author Ray Reedman, I highly recommend it).

I can watch waders all day long especially when they put on a flight display. I think the Golden Plovers are amazing to watch. This time I tried some short video to try and show my readers what the birds look like close up.

Accompanying the Golden Plovers were thousands of Lapwings and also Dunlins. I have read that Golden Plovers have a tendency to join these species in flocks. They probably all benefit from extra eyes and ears. All these waders spent most of the day causing "Mexican waves" affects on each other as they got startled and then caused panic amongst the flock.

Lapwings and Dunlins

Lapwings and Dunlins

Elsewhere on the reserve where it was not literally raining with Plovers it was "crawling" with Water Rails. These small skulking shy birds seemed to be popping out of dense vegetation everywhere.

At the Willow Hide at least two birds were seen regularly. You need to wait patiently and be quiet and they will then creep out. Nearly every time I have visited I have been fortunate to see them.
Rails also showed at the Kingfisher and Zeiss Hides.

Water Rail puts in an appearance

As close as it got all day.

The South Lake was pretty quiet yesterday. The only waders being Lapwings. The water levels were high so the birds probably decided to head out to the estuary. We had good views of large numbers of Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Black Tailed Godwits, Dunlins and Teal Ducks from Zeiss. No Bitterns though unfortunately - sightings have gone a bit quiet concerning these enigmatic birds.

Lapwings often form a "band" of birds when flocking

Black-Tailed Godwits descend

The new Estuary Tower continues to impress. I love the views from the top but the second floor is very cozy and the windows that can be opened nice and wide are great.

From the tower, I saw my only raptor of the day a distant perched up Peregrine Falcon on the mumbles.

By mid-afternoon the sky had turned grey and a new storm front was arriving. There would be more than gold raining soon it was time to travel home to Wales again. Once again another great day at Slimbridge.

I could not help when driving home thinking about one of my main passions - Goldcliff Lagoons. I hear that Flossy the Glossy Ibis has been showing again. Let's hope I can get a couple of visits there before the end of the year.


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