WILDLIFE lovers are expected to converge on Slimbridge again next week as the 2014 Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre’s (WWT) Festival of Birds prepares to open.

The two-day event on Saturday, February 1 and Sunday, February 2 is held when the Slimbridge centre’s bird numbers are at their peak counts and the reserve is looking its most beautiful.

Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike will have a head start spotting species thanks to Guides in Hides who will be pointing out the highlights on the wetland reserve.

Over both days traditional decoy events will run, demonstrating how a dog can herd up ducks in water so they can be captured.

Smaller birds will also be caught for research using mist netting techniques in public demonstrations.

Inside there will be the chance to shop for wildlife themed goodies, such as bird food, art and optics at a range of stalls.

Talks and exhibits include WWT’s current conservation projects such as a live link to the Spoonbilled-Sandpiper chicks being reared off-site.

A drop-in swan bill sketching session is also planned, where you can learn how our experts record Bewick’s swans patterns using a simple sketch pad and binoculars.

Both days will finish with a commentated wild bird feed at 4pm.

Dave Paynter, reserve manager, at the site, said: “Winter at WWT Slimbridge is when our Reserve is at its best so the Festival of Birds gives us a chance to really showcase it.

“This year we have introduced a really good value weekend ticket so that people can come for both days to catch all of the events on offer.”

The festival is free for WWT members or a special e-ticket is available for the Festival of Birds online, costing £13 an adult.

Visit www.wwt.org.uk/slimbridge for more information.