Whooper swans – 1766
Bewick’s swans – 243
Dawn swan count
Whooper swans – 1766
Witness a flurry of feathers this half term at WWT Welney!
See some feathery favourites at the floodlit swan feeds such as Baldur, Wimble and Toby Two! As well as catching up with our Welney hatched whooper ,‘Junior’, along with parents Romeo and Julietta.
Thousands of wintering swans will be preparing for their spring migrations by catching a feed at WWT Welney. Spectacular evening floodlit feeds at 6.30pm (Thurs-Sun) as well
as daily 12noon and 3.30pm feeds, offer chances to get close to these amazing birds. Some of which are well know to staff at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Welney.
This winter there have been plenty of familiar faces amongst the swans including Toby Two, ringed at Welney in 2008 and Wimble who was ringed in Iceland in 2000. Amongst these individual swans there are whole family groups jostling for a place at the feeds including Baldur and his mate with this year’s brood of five cygnets. As well as the whooper pair Romeo and Julietta and their Welney hatched cygnet, ‘Junior’, who has been mixing with the migratory swans at the feeds. A question that we all would like the answer to is will this cygnet take to the skies this spring and follow the migration to Iceland – its
first ever migration!
Samantha Lee, Public Engagement Officer at Welney comments on the half term activities on offer next week. ‘The swan feeds are a really unique experience and in this cold weather, with the birds brought closer to the hides you really don’t need specialist equipment to be able to enjoy them. It’s incredible to see swans returning to Welney each winter and to get to know some of the birds really well is a privilege.’
‘During half term there is also the chance to learn more about our winter migrants with our discovery trail out on the reserve. Or if visitors need to take a break from the cold and warm up in the visitor centre there will be led sessions on how to make fat-feeders for garden birds from 1.45-2.45pm with activity stations available throughout the day.’
The Ouse washes wetlands site at Welney is the UK’s largest winter roosting site for whooper and Bewick’s swans. Add to this, thousands of wintering duck and you have one of the best winter wildlife spectacles in the UK right on the doorstep. The swan feeds are a great way to learn about these fantastic birds and the amazing migrations they undertake to get to the UK each year.
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.”
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.
Festival of swans
More whooper swans have been arriving. The water level at the moment (no extensive flooding yet) means that all of the whooper swans (2800+) are roosting on just three or four pools. Watching all these birds fly in at dusk has been spectacular for the last few days. Hundreds of swans are squeezed onto the lagoon in front of the main observatory – it’s an amazing sight and sound. Later on, as the water level increases, it means that the birds will be more spread out and less concentrated in these areas. So, right now is a perfect time to watch whoopers; the observatory is open into the evening throughout this ‘Festival of Swans’ weekend.
Wild Svalbard Barnacle Geese migrate 3000km from Svalbard Island in the High Arctic to winter on Scotland’s Solway Firth, with thousands feeding at WWT’s Caerlaverock Wetland Centre. These magnificent animals may fly the entire distance in two days.
At Martin Mere a small wintering flock of around 50 – 70 Barnacle Geese have just arrived. The question is, are these new visitors even more epic migrators than our Pink-feet and Whoopers who have flown the 800km from Iceland?
No these geese have made their extraordinary migration all the way from Knowsley in Liverpool, which is around 20 – 25km from Martin Mere. They are a feral flock (descended from captive birds) but they seem to have kept the urge to migrate. If you’re lucky you will see these feral Barnacle Geese which are just as striking as their wild cousins, joined by another feral Red-Breasted Goose (sorry it’s not a wild one).
More details of the awesome migration of the wild Svalbard Barnacle Geese can be found on our website.
The current weather is dominated by south westerly winds. These mild conditions have seemingly put migration on hold, with Whooper numbers levelling out at 800 for the last couple of days and the Pink- feet staying at a constant 15-16000. Hopefully the rumours of a cold snap coming our way, will drag in the rest of the wildfowl. Who knows, maybe a rare bird or two to join the Knowlsley Barnacles.
Click here to take a look at what I got upto on the morning of my birthday.
It still feels like summer.
The shortening days of autumn signal a shift in the season; this combined with a change in the weather prompts birds to migrate. But today, the last day of October, there are southerly winds and visitors are still wearing T-shirts - I saw a swallow two days ago! I’m looking forward to a cold snap that will really get the birds moving, pushing them across from the continent to spend the winter here at Welney.
There are still birds to be seen though and good numbers of whooper swans have arrived despite the mild weather: there are about 1500 now.