Whooper swans – 1766
Bewick’s swans – 243
Dawn swan count
Whooper swans – 1766
Bewick’s are back
Our first Bewick’s swan flew in to WWT Welney yesterday, right on schedule and just a day after the first arrival at WWT Slimbridge. So that now we have all three species of UK swan on site for visitors to see. Water levels have peaked and currently only the Reedbed hide is closed with welly boots needed to access Nelson-Lyle, Lyle, Allport and Friends hides.
Sightings from yesterday:
Bewick’s swan – 1
Jack snipe – 1
Little gull – 1
White-fronted goose – 30
Marsh harrier – 3 (roosting in front of the main observatory)
Fieldfare (large flocks)
Norfolk through the lens – WWT Welney winners of the Autumn heat
Norfolk’s Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Centre, WWT, located in Welney has named the four regional winners in the autumn heat of its nationwide photography competition.
Albert Horton, a retired local Government officer, aged 71, from March in Cambridgeshire, was named winner in the Wetland Landscapes category, with his picture entitled ‘Welney at Sunset’.
The competition was open to visitors at the nine WWT wetland centres around the UK. Julie Ward, Centre manager at local WWT Welney Wetland Centre, said: “We received over 2,500 submissions across the country, but the quality of the entries from these four fantastic winners caught the judges’ eye and really bought our WWT wetland centre to life. The competition encourages people to get really close to all the fantastic wildlife we have here at Welney; and these stunning images show off some of the most elegant and beautiful array of birds and other animals seen within a stunning wetland landscape during the autumn.”
Young Photographer winner, Karenanne Millburn, has won the Young Photographer category for the last three years. She has been a WWT member for about five years and typically visits the centre with her Mum. “I usually take around 300 photographs every time I visit the WWT centre. I am so pleased to have won. My winning shot was taken just as the sunset was falling, the sky was moody but the sun was still trying to peep through. I really enjoy taking photos and have just secured a place at City of Norwich College doing photography A Level.”
Winter around the corner?
At last a frost and followed by a fantastic bright morning. This illuminated the collection birds especially on the Lakes and forests exhibit. Should have had my camera with me as I passed a Kingfisher perched on bramble with a fish in its mouth. Would have been tricky whilst driving the tractor though. Clues to colder weather in north eastern europe were some fieldfare and redwing feeding on berries from the 6 year old hedgerow edging wetlands discovery. Snipe numbers have climbed slowly to around 10. These birds are masters of camouflage and the true numbers out on the wild areas could be three times this. Pochard numbers took a little leap this week from the steady dozen up to 25!
The secretive water rail have slipped into the reserve from eastern europe and seem to show themselves only as light levels fall. I had some great views of these from the reedbed hide whilst watching the 400 starlings coming into roost. Four rails appeared on the channels in front of the hide, looking like clockwork ducks as they scrambled after each other into the thick cover. A fifth rail began calling from the other side of the reedbed.
This time of year has a very evocative air about it, especially as the light deminishes at the end of the day. The air is heavy with moisture and the reedbed gives off a musty loamy scent. This is the time one may see a bittern coming into roost or the distant calls of Bewicks Swans making their way to the reserve to roost over night and the calls of snipe as they fly off to feed. The familiar shape of a woodcock flying over the reserve as it leaves its woodland day time retreat is one of these moments that I have seen this week. Winter is just around the corner, but don’t be glum, get out there and enjoy the best nature has to offer at this time of year.
Migration on pause as winds switch direction
After a busy window of migration things have slowed right down here at Slimbridge. The winds have changed to a westerly direction so few birds are arriving.
In the last week numbers have grown of lapwing (4,000) and golden plover (1200).
There was also a good passage of fieldfare over the site last week.
Bewick’s swan numbers have remained about 90 for the last few days, so a lot more are still to arrive.
Two bitterns have arrived on the site and are viewable from the South Finger hides. They are likely to stick around now.
Some familiar faces
This week we’ve had local media visiting, filming the swans return to Welney and the spectacle at dusk (as it is at its best at the moment). They got some good footage of hundreds and hundreds of swans, whoopers and Bewick’s feeding in the arable land surrounding the Ouse washes, a short distance from the Welney visitor centre.
Earlier in the week one of our volunteers had gone out to see if she could find any birds with idenitication rings on their legs, or maybe even the neck-collared Bewick’s which have electronic trackers on them. She saw several individuals that have been ringed at Welney as recently as 2008, these included, L4C, L5C, L5J, L5K and L5S. But on this morning’s swans awake event a whooper swan with the indentification ring VPC was seen from Lyle hide with a mate and 5 cygnets. On looking up this number back in the centre I’ve found that it is a female whooper swans called Ouse, who is at least 18 years old!
It is amazing to think that some of these birds, like Ouse, have flown over 54,000km (43,000 miles) in their lifetime, migrating from Iceland to Welney and back again! It is worth looking out for these coloured identification rings on the swans around Welney as there are some amazing stories to these birds. If you record these numbers in our main observatory you are helping to contribute to years of research. So next time you visit don’t forget to keep an eye out for these special birds!
Bewick’s return in force at WWT Welney!
The first wave of Bewick’s have made it to their winter home.
Until now there has been a distinct lack of Bewick’s swans on the Ouse washes at WWT Welney with only four recorded in the reserve count last week where there should have been 600. These beautiful birds are the smallest swan that migrates the largest distance. But over the weekend of the Festival of swans, the first large groups of these wonderful birds arrived just in time, after a gruelling 3,000km migration from arctic Russia.
At dawn on Saturday about 40 Bewick’s swans were seen flying out from the reserve to the surrounding farmland accompanied by the thousands of whooper swans that had already arrived for the winter from Iceland. Throughout the day they returned to the reserve to wash their feathers and take a drink before returning to the arable land to feed in what was left of the daylight hours. New arrivals are being seen each morning, with numbers now up to several hundred, so it won’t be long until this number increases to 4,000 individuals, the largest roost of Bewick’s swans in Europe and the most important wintering site for the species.
‘It is great to have our furthest reaching swans return in force’ said Reserve manager, Leigh Marshall, ’as they are a flagship species for the WWT Welney and are one of the reasons that the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s founder, Peter Scott, saw the need to protect such an important wetlands site. It is really encouraging to see family groups at this early stage of the winter. The sooty-grey cygnets have undergone a huge migration, made all the more amazing by the fact that there are only a few months old when they have to do this for the first time’.
Normally visitors would have a bit of a challenge viewing the Bewick’s swans out on the reserve at this time of the year, as they are heavily outnumbered by the whooper swans who start arriving at wintering sites a month before the Bewick’s. But water levels are such that only a few pools are available to these birds right in front of the hides so all are
jostling for the same space. This resulted in all three swan species being present at the 3.30pm and 6.30pm feeds over the weekend, a spectacle that may continue for the next few weeks.
A combination of mild temperatures and westerly winds have slowed the migration of the Bewick’s swans to the UK but their arrival was expected as the winds turned north-easterly encouraging some of the 3,000 swans that had gathered in the Netherlands, making themselves ready for the final leg of the journey.
The full complement of three species of swan can now be seen at WWT Welney, which are – the UK’s resident and property of the Queen, the mute swan, the loudest and largest migrant, the whooper swan and the small and delicate Bewick’s swan. Nowhere can you get closer to these incredible birds in comfort than from the warmth of the centrally-heated observatory at Welney. For the visitor who wants the ultimate experience of the swans flying out at dawn or the Bewick’s flying in at dusk the Swan’s Awake and Bewick’s flight in events will have to book places fast. Details on the dates of these events as well as our other Winter at Welney events can be found on our website at www.wwt.org.uk/welney or by contacting the centre on 01353 860711.
Swan spectacle gets underway at WWT Welney
Swan roost provides stunning autumn spectacle.
As the natural spectacles of autumn get underway, our region plays host to one of its own, now at its best! Thousands of migratory swans are roosting in front of WWT Welney’s main observatory each night. The flight in at dusk and the floodlit feeds are currently an experience not to be missed.
Each day at dusk visitors are able to watch these majestic birds fly onto the reserve to roost, falling out of the darkening sky like snow, gliding down to settle on the water’s surface. Then at 6.30pm every Thursday-Sunday, the floodlit feed can be enjoyed from the warmth of the centrally heated observatory accompanied by an informative talk.
The recent arrival of a second wave of swans from their breeding grounds in Iceland
has ensured good numbers of birds for the Festival of swans event taking place this coming weekend. There will be activities and things to see for all, from beginners birdwatching and Welney wetland detectives to new activity stations for children. Or for adults there will be artists and photographers with their works on display showing how they have been inspired by the spectacle of the swans at Welney. And of course there will be swan feeds at 3.30pm and 6.30pm each day where visitors will get a chance to see these birds for themselves and learn a little bit more about them.
The swans that the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Welney are famous for only spend the winter in the Fens as they escape the cold weather of their breeding grounds. A count this week has revealed that 4,739 whooper swans are now on the Ouse washes. Recent arrivals can sometimes be identified by the rusty red colour to their head feathers and can often be seen resting on the lagoons during the day before the start to venture further afield.
The whooper swans will shortly be followed by nearly 4,000 Bewick’s swans migrating to Welney from Arctic Russia. Currently we only have 4 Bewick’s swans on the Ouse washes which is some way behind the 600 or so that is normal for this time of year. A combination of mild temperatures and westerly winds have stalled their movement to the UK but their arrival sounds to be imminent as a change in the weather has brought over 3,000 swans into the Netherlands, ready to make their final leg of the journey.
‘The reserve is looking fantastic at the moment, thanks to the hard work put in during the summer by our staff and volunteers,’ said reserve manager, Leigh Marshall, ‘When everything comes together like this, with the reserve it top condition and perfect water levels, the swan spectacle is at its best. Hopefully the Bewick’s swans will arrive in large numbers soon to make this picture complete’.
Nowhere can you get closer to these incredible migrants in comfort than from the warmth of the centrally-heated observatory at Welney. For the visitor who wants the ultimate experience of the swans flying out at dawn or the Bewick’s flying in at dusk the Swan’s Awake and Bewick’s flight in events will have to book places fast. Details on the dates of these events as well as our other Winter at Welney events can be found on our website at www.wwt.org.uk/welney or by contacting the centre on 01353 860711.
Bewick’s numbers begin to grow
This morning I witnessed our first group of 40 Bewick’s swans leaving the pools on the reserve amongst the thousands of Whooper swans. When driving to and from Welney, make sure that you look out for large flocks of swans feeding on the arable fields, several barn owls along the drains and even a little owl this week.