Now is the time to venture outside and witness the beginnings of new life, and water is vital for all life so where better to explore than at Welney Wetland Centre. During March enjoy the first of the summer birds returning (you may also see some of the last winter birds before they depart). We look forward to welcoming wetland specialists like Black- tailed Godwit, Cuckoo, and Avocet as well as Swallows, House Martins and Swifts. March is a great time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the reserve as well as watching the first bees looking for early flowering plants.
In April we will reopen the pond-dipping stations ready to explore over the Easter school holidays. We provide all the equipment you need to find and identify the underwater creatures in your tray.
Looking back over the past winter season, we have again had mild conditions, but with a lot more water than in recent winters. January saw a peak of 10,000 swans on the Ouse washes. However, only 867 of those were Bewick’s swans from Arctic Russia, the rest being Icelandic whooper swans. Many of the Bewick’s swans have been favouring the wetlands further East rather than making their full migration to the UK as they haven’t been forced across by cold weather. This winter for the first time some Bewick’s swans even overwintered in Estonia – something unheard of in previous years.
This winter the Ouse Washes have been providing vital flood storage as the persistent heavy bouts of rain since autumn have resulted in an excessive amount of water along the catchment of the River Great Ouse. This does mean that whilst beneficial for people, the water levels are too high for many species of bird. The swans have still been roosting on the reserve, but greater numbers have been roosting on Lady Fen (the 300 acres next to the visitor centre) and this is also where most of the wading bird activity has been thanks to the fact that it does not flood like the Ouse Washes. Great clouds of golden plover and lapwing and flocks of wigeon, teal and shoveler have been enjoyed from the comfort of the café and veranda.
What will spring bring this year? Hopefully the water levels will drop away before breeding birds start prospecting for nesting sites. But with the recent mild conditions, this looks unlikely. We look forward to breeding season as wader chicks and ducklings start to explore the reserve. One species which is getting an extra helping hand is the black-tailed godwit – you can come down to the centre to find out how we, along with the RSPB, are working to save the future of this species in the Fens. We are into the fourth year of conservation headstarting – taking some eggs (under license) into specialist care to see the young birds through the most vulnerable stages of life. At the point of fledging they are released to re-join the adult birds (and any young that have survived under the care of wild birds). This technique helps to boost the population quickly so that they can start to breed on newly created wetlands as well as those that have been used for decades before. We will be giving guided tours of this project in late May and early June and would love to see you here to find out more about this conservation project on your doorstep as well as holding out second Godwit Festival over the spring bank holiday weekend.
To keep up to date with your local wildlife happenings visit the WWT Welney website or follow us on twitter or Facebook. We post regular updates on the seasonal changes taking place on the reserve as well as sharing photos (including the fantastic ones our visitors take) and videos of footage we have captured on the reserve.