Yesterday, after busy weeks when everything managed to conspire against me, I finally made it to WWT Slimbridge. Whilst I always enjoy visiting, this time I was specifically interested in seeing their new exhibit: Wader Shore.
My first impression was…. Where is it? For a new exhibit I’d expect a sign or two, but those were sadly lacking. An enquiry of a volunteer had elicited the response of “Oh it’s just over there” accompanied by a pointed finger, which didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. Soon enough though, I discovered it beyond Welly Boot Land (which contained most of Gloucestershire’s under tens) and to the left of the flamingos.
My second impression was… I love it! Wader Shore isn’t huge, but that means you’re really close to the birds. Thus far there are avocets and redshanks, though I understand there are plans to add other species in the future. The aviary is enclosed with mesh so the birds are free flying – no wing clipping here.
It’s absolutely ideal for photographers and wildlife artists. Despite notices requesting people to be unobtrusive, the birds didn’t seem to be bothered by nearby strimmers, a screaming toddler, a WWT guided tour or mobile phone ringtones. A rope fence keeps visitors from getting too close but you’re still close enough for really good views.
An added advantage is that you’re close enough to see details such as the birds’ feet, which is often impossible in the field.
I was also surprised by just how tiny redshanks really are. When you view through a telescope or camera it’s easy to get a false sense of size as you tend to try to get your view of the bird as large as possible. At Wader Shore, because you’re so close to the birds, the actual size seems more apparent.
So in Wader Shore Slimbridge has a hit on its hands, especially as far as this wildlife artist is concerned. Now I just can’t wait to go back.