Most of the autumn management has now taken place, and finished not too soon as the wet weather throughout October has resulted in the Earith sluice gates opening early. Fingers crossed we won’t have to take on excessive quantities of water before winter has properly begun, but it all depends how much water comes down the River Ouse.
As the Bewick’s swans have begun their migrations, leaving Arctic Russia this month, the first whooper swans are arriving back. The daily flights to and from the reserve have resumed and it won’t be long before you see them out in the surrounding area during the day starting to feed on harvested fields. We have also been enjoying the sight of lapwing, golden plover and black-tailed godwit flocks increasing in number. These wading birds create the impression of shoals of fish in the sky as they try to evade birds of prey – marsh harrier, peregrine and merlin all play a hand in stirring things up.
With the mild conditions of recent winters we have been recording peak numbers for Bewick’s swans of around 1000 birds. We are yet to see our first Bewick’s back for winter this year, but reports have come in of birds flying over Great Yarmouth of the Norfolk coast, so it surely won’t be long before we see them. The Ouse Washes are still a stronghold for this species in the UK and these wetlands are still the best place in the UK to see all three swan species – Bewick’s, whooper and mute. Staff and volunteers at the centre are happy to help with swan identification and our Swans Awake mornings are a great chance to show visitors the winter wildlife spectacle.
This winter we have new opening times as follows (November-February):
Mon-Fri 10am – 5pm
Sat & Sun 10am – 8pm
Our floodlit swan feeds will be available Saturday and Sundays each week at 6.30pm (last admission at 6pm), and we will also be putting on swan supper evenings on selected Fridays from November-February (dates in the events listing). We hope that these events will be supported by local residents as well as members and visitors from further afield.
Over the coming weeks we will be starting our winter bird monitoring with Wetland Bird Surveys, swan roost counts and more. We expect to see numbers of birds increasing as the season progresses – wigeon, teal and pochard being the most numerous and most obvious of the duck species. Then in January we will be taking part in the International Swan Census (a count which takes place every 5 years) so that numbers of whooper and Bewick’s swans on the Ouse Washes feed into the populations of these two species.
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