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Wintering Wildfowl

Hello All

I’m sitting in the office looking out at a rather dismal day.¬† It’s the last day of what has been a great half term and the weather has been kind to us so I can’t really complain.¬† Our half term event saw the ‘Batty Biologist’ pond dipping and a showcase on skulls amongst other activities.¬†¬†Today it was Lizzy’s turn to play¬†Professor Bones, the expert on Skullduggery, showing how¬†we can identify different species from the clues in their bones¬†.¬† Lizzy gets very embarrassed when anyone watches her but I was dying to listen so after she started I crept into the theatre from the projector room.¬†¬† We have an amazing collection of skeletons ranging from the tiny shrew up to a flamingo and Lizzy pointed out all sorts¬†of interesting features and adaptations using a small¬†camera to¬†magnify images¬†onto the screen.¬†¬† I watched the bit about the owl and it was great to see children¬†enjoying themselves so much without even realising how much they were learning too.¬† Lizzy is one of our¬†education assistants who works with school groups and¬†it’s easy to see why our education team get such fantastic feedback and schools come back year after¬†year.

The clocks changed today so I will be doing my last Duty Manager walk round of the ‘summer’ in the dark.¬† It can be a little bit spooky¬†out in the reedbed when the light is fading but that’s when you sometimes get to see the most stunning¬†glimpses of nature.¬† ¬†Sometimes you may catch sight of an owl swooping silently over the reedbed or see bats emerging to feed over the water.¬† Last week I stood in the Ramsar hide watching two herons roosting in the tree where the little egrets normally nest.¬† They looked like two little old men hunched up in the branches, slightly incredulous on the fairly narrow limbs of the tree.

I’ll be taking my binoculars with me tonight as the wet grassland continues to attract more birds.¬† Today there were over 30 gadwall and also shoveler, teal and shelducks.¬† All week there have been good numbers of snipe too but these will probably be well camouflaged by the time I walk round.

The wet grassland was cut this week so I’m hoping Paul will raise the water levels soon.¬†¬† The temperature has definitely dropped over¬†the past couple of weeks, I must check the sightings for last year to see when the wild Bewick’s came in but I think it was probably a bit later in the year.¬† Bewick‚Äôs have been roosting on the reserve every winter for many years (64 being the highest in recent years), probably before the trust took on the area.¬† It is hoped that the area¬†will encourage the swans to stay on site during the morning for feeding before they fly up the valley.¬† The wet grassland wasn’t¬†specifically designed with Bewick‚Äôs in mind, but wintering wildfowl generally and breeding waders including lapwing, redshank and snipe.¬†

This winter we should see good flocks of wigeon coming in to feed on the short grass.  The team are managing the area at the moment by cutting and collecting the grass to provide the short sward.  They will then make the area wetter to provide optimal conditions for wildfowl.   It may take several years for good numbers of duck, geese and swans to find and use this area, but we are always surprised how quickly things can happen. 

Wetlands Discovery is a project which exceeded everyone’s expectations and demonstrates how quickly the biodiversity of an area can improve.¬† I was stood in front of the¬†Outlook In at an event last week and¬† a little grebe was fishing right in front of me¬†and the other guests.¬† Some¬†had not visited the centre for several years and were delighted by the transformation of the area¬†which was formerly collection pens.¬† The event, led by Southern Water, working in partnership with Eco-faith and WWT, launched a new water butt campaign.¬† Southern Water are donating a water butt to local community¬†groups who apply online and we are donating a family ticket worth ¬£27 with every butt claimed!¬† Find out more on their website ¬†http://www.yourwatermeter.com/waterbutt.¬†¬†¬†

The highlight of the event (other than meeting lots of very nice local people) was meeting Mr Save-it, Southern Water’s mascot.¬† Unfortunately the laughter was shortlived as we then had to pose for photos with Mr Save-it.¬† I may post one here at a later date if they are not too awful!

Right, I have some very interesting budget work to catch up on with our Marketing Manager Pat. We have just had to estimate our visitor numbers for every single day of the 2012/13 financial year so I think we will be seeing excel spreadsheets all evening!

Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend.¬† Look out for Basil and his goslings out and about on World Wetlands this week.¬† They also have some new accommodation so hopefully they will be pleased to be out of the duckery and settle in well.

Best wishes, Liv