Yesterday, we awoke to a glorious dawn at Welney. A fitting opening to World Wetlands day. Visitors were at the centre early for a special Dawn Flight event, seeing the Bewick’s and whooper swans come off their roost.
However, it had been a bad night for Mike. Sleeping over in the visitor centre, his cold had gone to his chest and, having struggled through the previous night’s talk, he’d suffered the last in a long line of sleepless nights. So, the first stop we made on our way to London was at the doctor’s surgery.
Remedies on board, we set course for the London Wetland Centre. Mike’s challenge for the day would not normally be terribly challenging: open the new Headley Discovery Hide – specially designed to be as welcoming as possible to those new to wildlife-watching. But, with his vocal cords hanging on by a thread and his last talk of the tour to do in the evening, speaking to a crowd became a Hercluean task.
A large crowd gathered to see the new hide. As Mike declared it open, we were asked to raise our thumbs silently in the air, not to clap, so as not to startle and flush all the wildfowl away from in front of the hide. Once inside, the hide is a glorious, light and inviting space, with large picture windows, tasetefully painted walls, binoculars and scopes provided and a high definition remote camera.
The crowd squeezed in to spend some time with Mike, birdwatching and chatting about the wetlands. The highlight was seeing a kestrel being mobbed by crows towards the back of the lagoon, with backdrop of the London skyline. London Wetland Centre really is a city oasis, somewhere to unwind and nurture a lifelong love affair with nature.
Mike was back in front of a crowd at 6pm as he kicked off the last of his series of evening talks to another sell-out audience. It was a really fun evening and Mike’s voice held out – just – till the end of the evening. The staff, volunteers and visitors were all hugely supportive of Mike and the mission to raise money for the spoon-billed sandpiper appeal.
So…why Day 10? We’ll we are currently in a TV studio in West London, where Mike is waiting to go on Channel 4′s Sunday Brunch to speak all about the Big 9 Challenge, spoon-billed sandpipers and World Wetlands Day. What a great end to the trip!
Joining Mike on the programme are two very special guests: a natterjack toad and a common toad, accompanied by WWT’s Amphibian Keeper Jay Redbond. The toads usually spend their time at Toad Hall – a special exhibit at Slimbridge Wetland Centre that allows visitors to get close to amphibians from the UK. Sadly both common and natterjack toads are in trouble in the UK and natterjacks are now found at only 60 places. They illustrate why wetland conservation is so necessary.
Mike has just been called to stand by for his appearance on Sunday Brunch. Here’s hoping his voice holds out to tell hosts Tim and Simon all about our adventure. Then, we’ll be home for a rest and, in Mike’s case, recovery. It has been a grand adventure.
When we’ve totted up how much money has been raised and how much further the message has been spread, we will report back here. For now, this is the Big 9 Challenge signing off.