A spotlight on wetland wildlife - February 2021

February has been a real mix of weather on our reserves, from a week of sub-zero temperatures to the recent warm air blowing up from the south. One week we were in the depths of winter, the next was looking very much like spring; these changeable conditions showing us a real range of wildlife across this period of transition.

The month started off cool and calm

One of the first of our summer breeders began to think about moving back to their breeding territory; they likely winter around the south coast of the UK, where it’s guaranteed their feeding sites won’t be frozen over.

On the other side of the country, Welney shared some beautiful scenes with us for World Wetlands Day.

And Steart treated us to camera trap footage of wildlife on their reserve to celebrate the event.

The temperature drops

Slimbridge’s avocet were still around before the ‘Beast from the East 2’ kicked in.

And the little egrets were sheltering from the wind chill as the weather worsened.

Even with the onset of the cold weather, these Bewick’s swans looked like they were starting to think about migration. They did leave, but were turned back by storm Darcy and by 9th had returned. Read more about how the weather affects migratory birds.

There were snowy scenes at Welney as the cold weather settled.

And the Llanelli webcam was busy with siskin and woodpecker keeping fed in the cold.

The cold weather meant lots of swans were in need of an easy meal at Martin Mere.

With snowy scenes abound at Washington.

Since Storm Darcy pushed them back, the Bewick’s spent some time recovering on the Slimbridge reserve.

Along with other Russian migrants still on their wintering grounds.

The ice melts

As things warmed up little by little, an unusual sight unfolded at Martin Mere.

With the wind direction swinging from the east to the south, Llanelli saw the year’s first arrival of wheatear in the whole of the British Isles.

Up at Caerlaverock, the thaw meant that all birds could feed easy again.

Spring is just around the corner

In the last week, birds at Slimbridge have started to display and claim territory.

The weather is clearing up but there was still a strong wind blowing at Castle Espie.

With weather patterns also encouraging birds to drop in to Washington.

Remember the Bewick’s that attempted a migration but got blown back by Storm Darcy? In the end, it was another two weeks until they eventually left Slimbridge.

Join us again at the end of March for another roundup. We’ll hopefully be seeing the first summer migrants back with us, such as little-ringed plovers, sand martins and perhaps even a garganey. We’ll also be keeping a look out for the first hatchlings. Our centres will still be closed in the meantime, so be sure to keep up-to-date with wildlife news on all centres social media channels.

Take a look at what is going on for yourself on our webcams: