The team at WWT Welney hope that everyone in Littleport has kept safe and well through what have been some very testing times. For this article we will let you know how the reserve and wildlife has fared this spring, giving suggestions for lots of online resources and some ideas for how you can enjoy watching the wildlife in your own gardens.
We started March coming out of one of the wettest winters we’ve had in a few years with prolonged flooding, and were just getting ready to jump into spring with both feet when everything came to a grinding halt thanks to coronavirus. As the pandemic picked up speed we started to see volunteers and staff beginning the process of self-isolating and as increasing guidance came out about social distancing we had to employ several different tactics to maintain the safety of our remaining staff, volunteers and visitors. As of Sun 22 March we could no longer safely remain open to the public during the pandemic, and as it happened lockdown began for the general public from that Monday. Since then a much reduced team worked on essential tasks, making sure that the site was secure and trying to bring the wildlife and reserve to people through the website and social media, whilst people could not come to the reserve in person.
The onsite team have been sending out weekly updates to the team of staff and volunteers throughout who cannot be on site, and these also appeared on the news page of the website. Progress on the reserve has also been shared with followers on social media, follow us online if you don’t already so that we can share our wildlife and reserve with you. During April water levels dropped on the reserve, revealing the wetland habitat which is so important for our ground-nesting birds. Spring and summer arrivals included wheatear, yellow wagtail, sedge warbler, ruff, little ringed plover, garganey, sand martin, swallow, house martin, greenshank, spotted redshank, ringed plover, little gull and whimbrel. Cattle were brought onto the reserve from Easter Monday to begin grazing and fertilising the grassland. Once the water levels got to the ideal level for spring breeding season, the remaining water needed to be moved around the reserve through the network of ditches to make sure it was in the areas our wading birds most need. The first insects were emerging in April with the warm, sunny conditions. Butterflies and bumblebees were busy pollinating flowers and moth trapping could begin with the warmer evenings and the first dragonfly was spotted on Sunday 26 April.
Due to restrictions on conservation projects during coronavirus Project Godwit is having to take a physical break this year, no headstarting for birds or engagement with visitors and local groups through on site events and school sessions. However, there are plenty of new resources on the website this year. Visit www.projectgodwit.org.uk to find downloadable activities for homeschooling in the classroom pack as well as a blog update from Jess Owen. The onsite team have tried to spot as many ringed birds as possible, whilst carrying out essential checks. By the end of April at least 12 birds from previous years of headstarting had returned so far this spring.
WWT have launched two new areas on our website, the home learning hub, home-schooling resources tailored for parent-led teaching – www.wwt.org.uk/ homelearning. A new primary-curriculum lesson is released each Monday focussing on the science of wetlands and the natural world, as well as lots of family fun activities available at all times.
The bringing nature to you section of the website does just that – https://www.wwt.org.uk/bringing-nature-to-you. From giving you ideas about what you can do in your garden and home, family activities, news articles about wetlands to webcams and videos there is some fantastic content available to keep you occupied and inspired.
Although we were unable to speculate when or how we would reopen, we have been pleased that our members and supporters continued to show their support for us throughout this situation. We have missed our team of staff and volunteers dearly, and of course missed seeing all those who visit us, members and nonmembers too. Please check the website for the latest information on what we are able to do at the centre and when we will be welcoming visitors.