Curlew – 25 on Bank farm feeding around the closest pool to the visitor centre
Barn owl – 1 hunting around the visitor centre
Curlew – 25 on Bank farm feeding around the closest pool to the visitor centre
Barn owl – 1 hunting around the visitor centre
Highlights from the Wetland Birds Survey which was conducted on Monday 3 December, most duck and wader numbers were down due to the extremely high water levels on the Ouse washes.
Wigeon – 6232
Mallard – 1061
Tyfted duck – 549
Pochard – 228
Pintail – 22
Shoveler – 2
Great crested grebe – 2
Egyptian goose – 2
Curlew – 19
Snipe – 5
Redshank – 2
Buzzard – 1
Barn owl – 1
Fieldfare – 50
Starling – 30
Waxwing – 5
Brambling – 1
Whooper swans – 1766
Bewick’s swans – 243
Wigeon – 2953
Mallard – 887
Teal – 561
Pochard – 174
Pintail – 107
Shoveler – 50
Gadwall – 22
Great crested grebe – 9
Black-tailed godwit – 245
Lapwing – 32
Golden plover – 22
Curlew – 12
Snipe – 12
Redshank – 2
Marsh harrier – 2
Buzzard – 2
Fieldfare – 350
The young naturalist is a dying breed, according to WWT Vice-Presidents Chris Packham and Sir David Attenborough.
When Chris interviewed Sir David for the Radio Times, the two agreed that children today generally don’t have the freedom to explore and develop a heart-felt passion for nature.
Commenting on the interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, Chris Packham said:
“”There are absolutely no young people enjoying our countryside. I feared we have turned our countryside into a dark and dangerous place for children. They don’t engage with nature. They aren’t picking up fossils, watching fox cubs in the early morning.”
WWT Director of Communications Amy Coyte commented:
“WWT wetland centres offer the perfect first step into the natural world. Over half of us now live in an urban environment, both parents often work all week and, quite understandably, have concerns for their children’s safety. In the little time that families have together, they want to be confident they’re all going to enjoy themselves and they’re going to be safe.
“At WWT’s nine wetland centres we nurture that confidence. People visit us from a really broad spectrum of interests and they come for different reasons but they all have an unforgettable wildlife encounter. They get to see nature up close. They get that feeling of wilderness, and they have the opportunity to speak with experts and learn about the wetland world.
“Of course we hope they come back to us again and again, but we want them to set out to explore more widely too. Those, surely, are the first steps to becoming the David Attenboroughs of the future.”
Birders have been gathering at WWT Welney in Norfolk this week to see an extremely rare squacco heron which arrived on the weekend. The reason why it has turned up in the UK is unknown as these birds normally spend the summer in Southern Europe.
This record is the second for the site at Welney and one of only a handful for the county. Squacco herons breed mainly in Eastern Europe with a few sporadic sites in Spain and France.
Warden, Steve Wiltshire, commented: “It is always exciting to see a rarity on site but this particular individual is a very striking bird in its full breeding plumage. The breezy weather over the weekend meant that the plume of feathers on the back of the neck has been in full flow”.
“The bird has been making itself at home in the shallow flooded washes in full view of our reedbed hide and seems quite content fishing in the ditches amongst all the other birds”.
At the end of the weekend the bird was moving further South along the reserve so the team are hoping to partially open the summer walk during the week to allow access for visitors to continue looking for it.
WWT Welney is open 7 days a week, (except 25 December) from 9.30am to 5.00pm during the summer. The centre is the perfect place to explore the open landscape of the Fens as much of the area once looked. Flooding of the Ouse washes provides essential feeding and breeding grounds for birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals such as the water vole. The eco-friendly visitor centre has an excellent cafe, gift shop with elevated views of the Fen landscape complete with family friendly and disabled facilities including buggy access, wheelchairs and mobility scooters for hire.
To check on the latest status of the heron and all our other sightings on our wildlife sightings page here.
As flooding affects the nesting season on the Ouse washes at WWT Welney, one pair of swans are towering above the lapping water.
A determined pair of mute swans are refusing to lose their nest to the flood waters at Welney. Gathering what vegetation they can find, they are trying to weather the rising waters to continue incubating their eggs and hopefully hatch the cygnets inside.
As a result of the flooding on the Ouse washes this spring the breeding season at Welney has come to a standstill. But one of the many pairs of mute swans which breed on the reserve is not giving up without a battle. Since the waters came on they have increased the height of their nest from its origins on the banks of the ditch next to the footpaths.
Mute swans are native to the UK and remain close to their breeding territories all year round. Visitors can see the mute swans up close in the winter at the swan feeds, during which time the reserve is home to an additional 10,000 swans migrating from more northerly breeding grounds. But during the summer the whooper swans from Iceland and the Bewick’s swans from Arctic Russia are absent leaving the whole wetland site for the mute swans to use to hatch and raise their cygnets.
‘The water levels have now started to drop, relieving the pressure on this particular pair of mute swans’ says Marketing and Events Officer, Emma Brand. ‘We hope the levels will continue to drop over the next week or two so that we are ready for the June half term activities, which include pond-dipping, moths on display and biodiversity blitz sessions’.
The water levels are now decreasing with hopes that the reserve will start to open up again to visitors and provide feeding areas for the birds once more. Updated information on the access on the reserve and what activities are available can be found at www.wwt.org.uk/Welney .
These eye-catching new photographs of Britain’s wonderful wildlife show some of the amazing array of wildlife and stunning landscapes that can be seen at WWT’s Welney centre through the seasons.
These are a selection of images from the ever popular Wetland Wildlife category as well as the winning entries from the previous winter heat of the WWT Photography Competition 2011-2012, held in celebration of the Scott Antarctic Expedition Centenary and in association with Canon.
WWT Welney is most famous for the thousands of wintering wildfowl which use the reserve during the coldest season of the year but as is shown in the spring entries now is just as exciting a time.
Despite the popularity of the Wetland Wildlife category we would like to see more entrants in the other three categories which are: Wetland Landscapes, People & Wildlife and Young Photographer.
“Wetlands are well known for their abundance of wildlife”, Julie Ward, Centre Manager of WWT Welney said. “but in the heart of the Fens we also have some amazing landscapes and ‘skyscapes’. The reserve at Welney allows a whole range of visitors to connect with nature and in such a safe environment, this can be done from a young age. So I would urge anyone with an interest in photography to visit and capture what our reserve means to them and enter before the spring heat closes”.
With only two weeks to go until the spring heat closes there are not many opportunities to capture the changeable nature of wetlands at WWT Welney. This will also be the last chance for those that are new to the competition to be in with a chance of winning a trip to Antarctica by entering at least two of the four seasonal heats.
All the heat winners go through to the competition final which will be judged once the winter, spring and summer heats are complete. The whole competition closes on 31 August 2012. There are £50,000 worth of prizes up for grabs for the national winners, including wildlife photography and activity holidays.
Entrants who submit images to more than two of the seasonal heats automatically go into the Portfolio Photographer of the Year category, and therefore could be in with a chance of winning the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Antarctica courtesy of Exodus in partnership with Quark Expeditions.
The summer heat is just around the corner, so now is the time to submit spring stills; photographers can enter their prized pictures taken at WWT Welney online at www.wwt.org.uk/photo until 31 May 2012. Then the summer heat opens 1 June – 31 August 2012 which is when the 2011-2012 competition closes. There will be a prize-giving and winners day at a WWT centre in the autumn.
Thousands of pounds funding has been announced to adapt school buildings and grounds to soak up rainfall and create wildlife-rich wetlands that mimic the natural water cycle and help to improve streams in an area of North London.
Ten schools will be selected to work with water and wildlife experts to create features such as interconnected ponds, reedbeds and living green walls and roofs.
Pupils will get involved with the design and, once built, the wildlife-rich wetlands will be outside spaces for learning about real-life science.
By storing more rainwater within these features, the schools will act like sponges, slowing the flow of water to the Pymmes Brook – the stream that runs through the area. Besides supporting a wide range of wildlife, the features will improve the health of the Pymmes Brook by filtering pollution, dirt and debris.
Project coordinator Sue Pritchard is experienced in the principles behind the project. She said:
“I’ve worked in Australia where water scarcity is the norm. Ideas that are commonplace over there, like rain gardening and sustainable drainage systems, are just starting to hit the mainstream here now.
“It really is the technology of the future – simple, natural solutions to environmental problems. Pupils in the Pymmes Brook area are among the first to get the chance to learn from it. It’s a really exciting opportunity and it’s totally free, so I recommend that anyone who is interested get in touch to see if their school is eligible.”
Funding is available to primary and secondary schools within the water catchment for Pymmes Brook. Schools are invited to submit expressions of interest.
The SuDS for Schools scheme is a partnership between the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). The term Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) covers all ways of managing rainwater by mimicking natural processes. They slow down the flow of water once it hits our roofs and the ground and filter out pollution by catching it in the roots and stems of water-loving plants. The result is that rainwater reaches our streams more slowly, lowering the risk of flooding, and cleaner than if it had run straight down the drain.
New laws encourage the use of the SuDS approach in all new developments. The benefits are particularly useful in built up areas.
To find out more visit the project page.
It’s week six of my trip now and the last few weeks have been eventful. Unfortunately it’s not all good news. The cannon netting team left empty handed on 2 February after a month of setting and re-setting nets in the hope of a successful catch.
As I talked about in my January post only very small numbers of geese were here during the first half of the month. Luckily the onset of colder weather marked the arrival of more birds, so the odds of a successful catch looked set to improve. Nets were dug up and re-laid in a different field – a known favourite feeding area and the location of a successful catch last year. Things were looking up and the geese came within only a few metres of the nets, but no closer…
Then came the cold…
Heavy rain, followed by blizzards, strong gales and extremely cold temperatures down to minus 18 degrees – so cold that the spray from huge waves crashing onto the Black Sea cliffs at Tyulenovo froze into huge icicles! Likewise, the cannon nets froze solid. We awaited a thaw, but this came too late, after the team had returned to UK soil. Digging up those cannons and packing away the nets in the howling icy wind was somewhat exhilarating, despite the fact we didn’t catch.
Fingers, toes and wings crossed for better luck next winter.
The good news is that fitting tags is just one of many aspects to the fieldwork we’re doing for the Safe Grounds for Red-breasts project. I’m here to make sure the methods are put into practice properly, so that we collect good scientific data on which to base conservation measures.
One aspect is to learn how disturbance, particularly from hunting, affects their ecology. Hunting red-breasts is illegal, but greater white-fronted geese are legal quarry and, as the two species usually occur in mixed flocks, disturbance of one inevitably affects the other.
Studying how their distribution changes daily and over the course of the winter, and what types of crops they are selecting to eat, lets us quantify the factors that are important to geese, as well as the effects of disturbance. The data will also be used to map important areas for geese, which could be used as a tool to inform future development in the area, especially of wind turbines.
One of the best ways of looking at how many geese have used one area compared to another is to count their droppings! Because geese eating a particular stand of crop will poo at regular intervals, the number of droppings can be related to the time spent by geese in an area.
We’re using this simple method to get an idea of how much damage geese cause to winter wheat crops in the area. By preventing access to some plots using cages or ‘exclosures’ and leaving others open for grazing, we can compare the final harvest of the crop when exposed to different grazing pressures. Does heavy grazing lead to reduced yield?
We’re also looking at whether there is a correlation between goose use – again measured by counting poo – and proximity to wind turbines, to investigate whether geese avoid feeding in areas close to turbines.
Safe Ground for Redbreasts is a partnership between BSPB, WWT, RSPB, Kirilovi Ltd – an agricultural cooperative – and the Shabla Hunting and Angling Association. It has been made possible with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community (No. LIFE 09/NAT/BG/00023)