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Spend a wonderful winter day out in nature at WWT Slimbridge

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre Observation Tower

Whether it’s the sights and sounds of scores of Bewick’s swans touching down for their daily feed or the thousands of waders filling the skies, winter at WWT Slimbridge is the perfect time to engage with nature and spot some truly spectacular species.

The crisp, bright mornings at this time of the year, along with some sensational sunsets, provide the perfect conditions for nature watching. With the backdrop of beautiful light and an expanse of open skies, visitors won’t have to look too far to witness some wonderful winter wildlife.
Being out in nature is widely known to be an uplifting experience and at this time of year when things can often feel frenzied, escaping into the wild, even for an hour, can bring both comfort and joy.

At this time of year, wild bird numbers are growing at WWT Slimbridge and are at their peak in January, with up to 30,000 wild wintering ducks, geese, swans and waders feeding and roosting on the reserve. Garden birds are plentiful on feeders, with water rails taking advantage of their leftovers.

Whether you’re a seasoned spotter or just looking for a day out with a difference, there is so much to see and do. While WWT Slimbridge has plenty of glorious evergreens, which give the landscape a truly festive feel while also providing wildlife with much-needed shelter and sustenance in the colder months, many deciduous trees have shed their leaves which means spotting birds and mammals is a little bit easier.

In the bare branches of the wintery skeleton trees, a range of birds can be seen busying about to find their daily food supply. And while binoculars are great addition, visitors will still be able to spot an array of species from tree sparrows and blue tits to winter visitors like fieldfare and redwing, alongside WWT’s beloved waterfowl and waders.

It’s not just the sight of birds that can warm the coldest of days, because while the glorious dawn chorus doesn’t return until spring there’s still plenty of noise going on in nature. The sounds of geese and swans are particularly prominent at WWT Slimbridge at this time of year – you can listen to their distinct calls here and of course, the beautiful, evocative song of a robin is never far away.

And if lucky visitors time a visit right, there is nothing like witnessing the phenomena of a murmuration, when a shape-shifting flock of birds come together to form an art installation in the sky before dropping down into their roost for the night. And although it’s mainly starlings that are known for doing this, geese, corvids, waders, wagtails and even gulls can flock together en-masse and put on a spectacular show.

Identifying bird calls can add something extra special to a day out in nature and apps like Merlin or ChirpOMatic can help beginners learn what bird is making which sound. WWT Slimbridge shops also stock a bounty of books that will help enthusiasts get better acquainted with our feathered friends.

At this time of the year the ever-changing weather can catch people out, so the best advice for a wintery day on a reserve is to prepare for any eventuality. Sturdy boots to keep feet dry, thick socks to stave off cold toes and layers are always the best way to keep warm and dry. And take a tip from snowmen who know all-too-well that a hat, scarf and gloves are essential accessories in winter. Though if it does get too chilly, WWT Slimbridge hides are the best place to make a hasty retreat to. Not only can visitors shelter from the dropping temperatures, they also offer prime viewing spots. The accessible Estuary Tower Hide gives breath-taking views of the Severn estuary, with the Peng Observatory providing the perfect spot to warm up and see the Bewick’s swans up close at daily Wild Bird Feeds at 4pm. While at the opposite side of the reserve at the Kingfisher Hide, there has been lots of recent sightings of wild otters! There is always something new and surprising to encounter at WWT Slimbridge.

Watching wildlife is a great way to spend some time outdoors and WWT is encouraging visitors to share what they see on social media using the hashtag #SpottedAtWWTSlimbridge whether that’s birds and mammals or trees and plants. WWT Slimbridge is open every day throughout the holiday season, except for Christmas Day. So, wrap up warm, raise your eyes to the skies and see first-hand why winter can be the most wonderful time of the year.

Explore Gloucestershire
23 December 2023

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