Given the weather, the reserve was light on people and heavy on birds. The best combination!
After buying some ace Christmas-but-not-Christmas cards from the shop (and a new feeder), I headed out first to the South Lake. Most of the water was iced over, but there were two oases of water for the birds to use. A good selection of wildfowl - Gadwall, Pintail, Teal, Pochard, Wigeon, Greylags, many Mute Swans with a few Bewicks for good measure.
Having enjoyed the luxury of a South Lake hide free of mothers and young children (!!!) for a while, I moved onto the walkway that takes you to the Holden Tower. There was very little (actually, nothing) to see from the Robbie Garnett or Stephen Kirk hides, but the feeders on the other side produced close-up views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a decent flock of Long-tailed Tits. All the other usual suspects were present, but I didn't see a Brambling.
The Woodpecker stayed for a good five or six minutes, but was eventually - and annoyingly - bullied off by...
Onto the Holden Tower itself, which was surprisingly pretty full (or perhaps not surprisingly!). There were, apparently, two small (c.20 and c.10 birds) flocks of probable Snow Buntings observed to the right of the Tower. Unfortunately I didn't see them when others did. I did infact see a small flock of something moving North along the Dumbles, but could not claim them as Snow Buntings. I kept up a vigil when the hide emptied, but did not see them again.
Still, Lady Luck certainly didn't abandon me as shortly after the 'Snow Buntings' showed an adult Gannet was seen flying upriver with the tide. Remarkable, and a first for me at Slimbridge - indeed in Gloucestershire. Everyone in the Tower observed the bird flying upriver, but when I was alone I watched it land on the water and begin to (in the main) float back downriver. I tried to photograph it, and although I got nothing of any real worth I was fortunate enough to catch it once with wings outstretched. I've messed about with the image something rotten in Photoshop, and you can clearly see a black tip to the left wing:
Best was yet to come, though... As I watched the Gannet floating along, Dave Paynter dropped into the Tower to let anyone inside (just me!) know that a Woodcock had been found near the Knott Hide. Dave provided access, and stunning views of the bird were had at a distance of about five yards. Beautifully camouflaged, it didn't move. Behold:
The picture doesn't do the colours justice. Through a telescope it was just gorgeous.
And with that I realised I was really feeling my toes, and so went home to warm up.