WWT Welcoming Back Winter Wildlife

Most of the autumn management has now taken place, and finished not too soon as the wet spells in October resulted in the Earith sluice gates opening briefly. 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. Ideally we like to see shallow flooded washes at across the far side of the reserve, but not so much water that the cover is bank to bank….. and certainly not to the extent that the wash road is flooded. After two severely flooded winters, we could do with less water sitting on the ground this year.
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 small flocks have been arriving in the Netherlands in the last few weeks. 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 – 7.30pm

Our floodlit swan feeds will be available Saturday and Sundays each week at 6.30pm (last admission at 6pm). 3.30pm swans feeds take place every day and the flight in of swans at dusk is now within our opening times as the days draw shorter.
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.
It is wonderful to have our staff and volunteer team back on site ready for winter. We have recently won the Welcome Accolade from the Visit England as part of their quality assurance scheme and look forward to welcoming new and returning visitors soon.
Swan feeds: Swan Feed – 3.30pm (November – February)
Description: Join us for our fantastic commentated swan feeds in the afternoon. The sight of hundreds of swans and ducks being fed at WWT Welney is enhanced further by the flight in of more swans at dusk shortly after the feeding time.
Floodlit Swan Feed – 6.30pm (Saturdays & Sundays each week November-February)
Description: Experience the evocative sight of swans gliding on the floodlit lagoon after dark. The commentated floodlit feed is an event that can be enjoyed by the whole family as the swans get their last feed before it is time to tuck their heads under their wings for the night.
Swan Feed – 12noon (Daily from Boxing Day until the end of February)
Description: Join us for our fantastic commentated swan feeds at lunchtime. After Christmas the swans and ducks get an extra feed during the coldest part of winter. Listen to the commentary and watch the feed as the hundreds of pochard ducks make the water bubble.
Self-guided hare walk route (Until end of February)
Walk the perimeter of Lad Fen spotting hares and overlooking the pools to enjoy the winter bird flocks. Walk loops are 3.6km and 4.6km in distance with benches along the way.
Swan’s Awake Sun 19 December, Sat 15 January, Sun 6 February
Join us before dawn breaks across the washes to watch thousands of swans wake up from their roosting sites on the reserve. With a warden, watch them take to the skies as they fly out to feed in the fields for the day. It’s worth the early start! 6.30-9am. £12 per person, £5 per child. Booking essential via the website.
Swan researchers Wed 18 Dec – Mon 6 Jan
Join us over the Christmas holidays to witness the stunning scenery and incredible wildlife that wetlands offer us at this time of year. Lots of family activities to help you get an insight into the lives of our amazing swans and ducks!
East Anglian Puddle Jumping Championships Sat 12 – Sun 20 February
Put on your wellies, get out into nature, get muddy and have a splashing time. Whatever the weather, take part in the competition, enjoy trails and activities throughout the day and watch commentated swan feeds from our heated hide.

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