A spotlight on wetland wildlife - January 2021

We’re back with our first reserve roundup of 2021 and we find ourselves well and truly in the middle of winter. Days are short, everyone is cold and there’s often been snow on the ground. This means that wildlife at our sites are doing their best to keep fed, warm and safe – they’ve picked a good spot in our wetlands! Let’s see what they’ve been up to…

Many Bewick’s swans have been visiting the Rushy Pen at WWT Slimbridge. It’s the perfect place to spend the night, out of the reach of predators.

Once they’ve been fed by Reserve staff, it’s time for a good old stretch…

It’s a chilly time for everyone – even the sparrowhawks at Llanelli need to fluff themselves up every once in a while to keep warm!

Another creature keeping itself warm this winter is the December moth – amazing that they are still on the wing but you can see that they are well adapted to the chill with their fluffy coats.

The camouflaged snipe is well suited to foraging during winter, melting in with its grassy surroundings – but it proved no match for our reserve staff and a camera!

What says mid-winter better than swans in the snow? Naturally, these guys are just fine to sit it out, actually seeming to be able to keep warm on their own accord!

It may be pretty, but too much snow and ice and the wildlife will start to suffer – these waders needed to find open water to feed, which we make sure they always have.

Small mammals are rarely featured in the round-up because well, they’re small and rarely seen! Field voles will have been struggling through this cold weather as they don’t hibernate, and in turn are key food for predators like larger mammals, raptors and even birds like herons.

The big sleep

Who hibernates and who doesn’t in the UK?

Find out more

Using trail-cameras at night time is a great way to see what is happening on our reserves. Can you spot the otters in this clip from Steart Marshes?

And we couldn’t help but share this trail-cam footage from December – such bold mammals at Slimbridge!

Poor daytime weather can give better cover to predators than a clear night can – the mist allowed this fox the opportunity to get very close to this flock of teal.

Staying with the ducks, this pair of scaup have been spending the winter at Castle Espie. They look a little like tufted ducks but notice the male has a light-grey back.

When conditions are just right, a winter sunset over our wetlands is a spectacular sight. It’s views like these that we all need right now.

It also brings another dimension to those previously snoozy swans…

A quintessential sound of the Fens in winter, these beautiful swans are flying out from their roost sites to the fields for breakfast at dawn. What an experience!

And staying with the wild swans, this large whooper family have turned up at Caerlaverock. Incredible that they manage to stick together as a family unit, all the way from Iceland.

Learn more about swans

Everything you ever wanted to know about our migratory swan species

Find out more

We’ll be back at the end of February with another round-up, when winter will nearly be done with us and spring is just around the corner – we might even be starting to say good bye to some of our winter visitors. In the meantime, be sure to keep up-to-date with wildlife news on all centres social media channels. You can take a look at what is going on for yourself on our webcams:

WWT Caerlaverock webcam

WWT Slimbridge webcam