Flooding of the Ouse Washes at WWT Welney has once again wiped out the breeding season for wading birds, with up to 70 pairs of wader chicks eaten by predators – including the precious Black-tailed Godwit chicks who hatched just a fortnight ago on the reserve.
Predators were able to strike when much of the reserve at Welney became up to 2.5m underwater, forcing the waders including Avocet chicks, Snipe, Redshank and the Black-tailed Godwits onto limited areas of dry ground. All surviving wading birds have abandoned breeding attempts and fled the area.
Hopes were raised for a better breeding season this year when, in late May, a handful of Black-tailed Godwit chicks hatched on the reserve after earlier floods were pumped away by the Environment Agency. However, crossed fingers were not enough to stem the flow of rainfall in the 8600 square kilometre catchment area of the Washes which resulted in the floodgates opening up once again. Historically, flooding of the Washes occurs between November and March but, last year high rainfall caused flooding to continue into May. And it has happened again this year.
Kevin Peberdy, WWT’s director of centre developments, said: “Seeing another year of bank to bank flooding in early summer is devastating for these nationally important ground nesting birds and further highlights the need to reduce catchment run-off. We continue to work with the Environment Agency in dealing with the flooding, but one thing we are looking at is developing alternative wetlands as soon as possible immediately outside the Ouse Washes at Welney. This could help mitigate some of the losses and particularly an important lifeline to the Black-tailed Godwits which could shortly be lost altogether from the Ouse Washes.
Despite the flooding at WWT Welney, there is still plenty for visitors to do, including trails, pond-dipping and arts and crafts available on weekends and school holidays. Forthcoming events include our Father’s Day BBQ and Family Fun Day with lots of sporting activities and crafts for families to take part in. Also, we have our National Insect Week Event, ‘In with the Insects’ on 22 June where there will be activities celebrating some of the other inhabitants of our wetlands such as a mini-beast hunt, pond-dipping, crafts and an Ugly Bug Parade.