Each spring brings with it the excitement of birds nesting and rearing young. The habitats on the nature reserve at WWT Welney provide ideal nesting sites for our regular summer visitors, including avocets, black-tailed godwits, reed warblers and swallows. This spring has been extra special as it saw common cranes successfully breed for the first time at Welney.
In March a pair of common cranes, a species which until recently had been absent from the Fens for several years, arrived and visitors, volunteers and staff watched in awe as the birds built their nest, incubated their eggs and successfully hatched a fluffy chick. A visit to the café should offer a view of the chick as it grows into adulthood.
Visitors over the Easter period also saw the Ouse Washes carrying out one of its important roles of storing rain water. The unusually wet spring led to the Ouse Washes flooding for a longer period than customary. This water storage is vital, however, in preventing flooding of the local area.
The wet weather did delay the nesting attempts of black-tailed godwits, but at the time of writing the Project Godwit team have been busy setting up in readiness of eggs arriving. Fingers crossed for another successful godwit year. For updates on the project go to www.projectgodwit. org.uk, follow @projectgodwit on Twitter or visit www.facebook.com/ projectgodwit.
So what is there to see on a summer visit to the reserve?
Sunny summer days in June are perfect for watching flying insects. A walk along the paths or Summer Walk trail can offer sightings of different types of butterflies including, peacock, meadow brown and comma. Amongst others, the reserve is home to the scarce chaser and hairy dragonflies, both uncommon species which really do well along the network of ditches found on the Washes. Take a moment to listen and watch the busy buzzing bees collecting nectar and pollinating the wild flowers. Also listen out in the tall grasses for the chirping of bush crickets and field grasshoppers.
July sees the reserve carpeted with bright wild flowers, among them rarities such as the hair-like pondweed and the greater water-parsnip as well as the more widespread yellow (flag) iris and water mint. These flowers are perfect nectar sources for all those insects. The management of the wet grassland, through a combination of grazing livestock and water level control makes this an ideal habitat for specialist wetland flowers.
If you want to find out what wildlife inhabits the reserve at dusk why not come to one of our Bat and Barn Owl Evenings? Have the chance to look out for our resident barn owls as they hunt over the wet grassland. We will be using bat detectors to listen for these nocturnal mammals; eight species of which have been found on the reserve. See for yourselves how colourful moths can be as we check our light stations and have a go at identifying them. Dates and times for these evenings can be found at www. wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/welney/ whats-on/
For young ones there is the opportunity to become one of Dusty Duck’s Wildlife Rangers during the summer holidays, Wed 25th July – Wed 5th September. Take part in fun activities and explore our wetlands while learning essential spotting and surveying skills with a FREE log book.