Tripping over snails, and gazing at godwits

I did not think that it was possible to get excited about snails. Nevertheless, I managed it twice in the last couple of weeks. I’d known that Leckhampton Hill is a good habitat for the rare Roman snails, but despite going there many times over the years, I had never seen one. Then one evening a fortnight ago I stumbled across one – almost literally! – and a week later saw a second.

Roman snails on Leckhampton Hill

As snails go, these are huge! – much bigger than the small garden snails we’re all familiar with. They are a protected species throughout the EU, largely because there are some who regard them as a gastronomic delicacy.

Spoonbill on the South Lake at Slimbridge

I went to Slimbridge last week and saw the spoonbill which has been hanging around for about three weeks. Yet what continued to impress me even more was the large flock of about two hundred black-tailed godwits, which were looking particularly spectacular in bright sun-light with their brick-red plumage. They are large waders (though not as big as the spoonbill) with long, straight bills for probing the soft mud of lake and river margins. I’ve seen them elsewhere before but in far smaller numbers, and generally not in breeding plumage.  This time I found a hide from which I could get much better photos of them.

Black-tailed godwits at Slimbridge

What puzzled me was that so many have been residing, in the breeding season, without any young being around. I’ve since learned that non-breeding adults tend to gather in large flocks – hence the hundred or so earlier in the month – and that these are then joined by other adults once their young have fledged, prior to their autumn migration. They’ll winter in places like the floodplains of Lake Chad, where they flock in huge numbers. Nevertheless, their status as a species is ‘near threatened’ because of a decline in global population of about a quarter in twenty years, mainly because of threats to their wetland habitats.

July 20: It appears I’ve oversimplified things here… if you’re interested, check out this page.

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