The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire is an important site for many water birds. It is perhaps best known as the winter home of a substantial number of Bewick's swans, however there are many other bird species that live here or visit during the year many of which are rarities in the UK. For example, in recent times it has been a very reliable site at which to see common cranes.
The hides on the eastern side of the reserve look towards the west and on sunny mornings the light there is very good (you can view a map of the reserve on the Slimbridge website - see the link on the right of this page). On winter mornings the Rushy hide provides a good location from which to photograph the Bewick's swans and northern pintail ducks. On the south side of the reserve I like the south lake discovery hide. Most of the hides have plenty of room for tripods.
One challenge with photography at Slimbridge is that the wild birds are often some distance away from the hides. You will need the longest lens you have. I often use a focal length of 600mm, for instance all of the photo's on this page were all taken using a 2x teleconverter on a 300mm lens mounted on my Canon 7D (a 1.6x crop camera).
There are a couple of areas at Slimbridge where there are feeders setup and these provide the opportunity to photograph some more common birds like blue tits, great tits, greenfinches, chaffinches and gold finches. The feeders that are on the left of the path that leads up past the Robbie Garnett hide towards the Holden tower lets you get quite close to these birds.
The Slimbridge website is updated daily with news of the latest bird sightings so you can check what has been around before your visit. Members of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust can access a limited are of Slimbridge from 8:30am using the side gate, for non-members the reserve opens at 9:30am.
Slimbridge also run a number of specialist photography events. I have been on their 'Landrover Photo Safari' a couple of times. This costs around £60 for which you get a long morning out on the reserve with one of the wardens taking photo's from a landrover. The wardens are extremely knowledgeable about birds and this is a good way to see some of the areas of Slimbridge not open to the public. Photographically I've had mixed success on these trips, it's a bit hit and miss whether you'll get good photo opportunities.
In addition to the wild birds there is an extensive collection of captive birds at Slimbridge including several species of flamingo. There are lots of good photo opportunities amongst these captive birds.
There is a cafe, shop and toilets on site as well as extensive car parking.