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Why the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands matters more than ever

Why the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands matters more than ever

Wetlands are precious. They soak up floodwater, store huge amounts of net carbon globally, provide food and jobs, and at least 126,000 species rely on freshwater ecosystems beyond the simple need for water itself.

Fall for autumn on our wetlands

Fall for autumn on our wetlands

As the days begin to shorten and the blackberries begin to ripen, a feeling of rest descends over the countryside. The busyness of the spring and summer is over and the natural world is beginning to think about rest and recuperation.

Ten fascinating facts about WWT founder Sir Peter Scott

Ten fascinating facts about WWT founder Sir Peter Scott

Discover the fascinating story of Sir Peter Scott's life and learn about some of his more unusual achievements and passions, from his interest with the Loch Ness monster to the fish that shares his name.

Why WWT Slimbridge is called the birthplace of modern conservation

Why WWT Slimbridge is called the birthplace of modern conservation

On a bright December morning in 1945 two men watched a large flock of geese feeding on the banks of the river Severn in Gloucestershire. As they watched they noticed that the flock contained several different species of geese.

Inspiring the next generation

Inspiring the next generation

WWT Learning Managers Joanne Newbury and Chris Whitehead treat us to their infectious enthusiasm.

An emergency and an opportunity: a message from WWT's chair

An emergency and an opportunity: a message from WWT's chair

WWT's Chair, Barnaby Briggs, reflects on his first experience at WWT Slimbridge and the last 75 years, and looks forward to the future of the charity.

Inspired by ducks

Inspired by ducks

Hannah Lane’s childhood visit to WWT Slimbridge has led to a lifetime as a conservation volunteer.

Finding the spark

Finding the spark

Discover how a TV programme about WWT fired Angela Hewitt to set up a nature reserve of her own.

More indoor and outdoor nature-themed family activities to try during the school holidays

More indoor and outdoor nature-themed family activities to try during the school holidays

The summer holidays are reaching their end, and come rain or shine you might be looking to nature to keep your young adventurers entertained. Running out of ideas? Your local wetland is the perfect playground.

Walk on the wild side: the best walks around our wetland centres

Walk on the wild side: the best walks around our wetland centres

With glorious views everywhere you turn and a harmonious soundtrack of birdsong, our wetland centres are ideal spots for a stroll. And if you’re taking a staycation near any of our sites, you'll want to stretch your legs in the surrounding areas too.

Wetland wonders for your next staycation

Wetland wonders for your next staycation

Get closer to nature on a wetland adventure this summer. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and scents of the natural world while cooling off next to the water at our centres.

Lake of life: the biodiversity of Lake Sofia

Lake of life: the biodiversity of Lake Sofia

Around 200,000 species are known to be found in Madagascar, with many endemic to the island. Here we explore some of the biodiversity of the Lake Sofia site, and why this ecosystem is so important.

How wetlands help keep rivers clean (and how you can too)

How wetlands help keep rivers clean (and how you can too)

How healthy is your local river? Would you know just by looking at it? Find out how what you can do if you suspect your stream has seen better days, and the role of wetlands in keeping our waterways clean.

Wetlands throughout the seasons: summer sights

Wetlands throughout the seasons: summer sights

As the mercury rises and the long days draw out over our wetland landscapes, we know that summer is here. Spring bird migration is over but we’re now in the thick of new life emerging, with some real jewels to be seen. Even the smallest pond can be a magnet for wetland life during the summer months. Having spent months or even years as aquatic, predatory larvae, the nymphs of our dragonflies and damselflies are now emerging. Take a look at the stems of yellow flag iris or bulrush and you might spot these mini-beasts emerging into the daylight, or at least the empty cast that they leave behind once on the wing. Male large red damselfly One of the earliest that can be spotted is the hairy dragonfly (a small hawker), patrolling still water bodies, flying at low-level, zig-zagging in and out of the reeds. They have a relatively short flight season, just into July. One of our most widespread damselflies is the large red – they can be seen on the wing as early as March and as late as September. Another family to look out for are the chaser dragonflies – the four-spotted chaser is widespread and often one of the earliest to be seen. These are superficially similar to the female broad-bodied chaser – but you won’t be confused by the males, which are bright blue! Get out soon because both species won’t be on the wing much after the end of July. Male broad-bodied chaser Download a dragonfly spotter sheet These glittering insects are voracious predators in their own right, but of course provide a welcome food source for flourishing bird life. June is the month where many of our wetland birds, both resident and migratory, have young hatching out or fledging. This means the parents have got their work cut out with feeding growing mouths; the abundance of aerial insect prey is very welcome. In amongst our reedbeds, the sedge and reed warblers are busy providing for new families. For a few, efforts might be spent on an imposter – the cuckoo often parasitizes warbler nests, their giant young hatching first, pushing other eggs out of the nest and being fed until many times the size of the warblers. The adult cuckoos themselves are now coming towards the end of their stay here. Some will have arrived in April; come July most will have laid their eggs and will be off migrating south, eventually to winter in central Africa. Common cuckoo chick with reed warbler Similarly, now is a time when passage migration begins for birds that breed further north than us – you can pretty much bet on the first returning green sandpiper to be seen in the second week of June. These birds and other waders will most likely be non-breeding birds from Scandinavia and Arctic regions. However, you’re in with a good chance of seeing the young of wader species that have bred on our reserves; lapwing, oystercatcher, avocet and little-ringed plover to name a few. Not to mention the plethora of other waterbird families that will be dabbling, diving, upending, grazing, fishing and flying over the wetlands. One of those is a special visitor – the garganey – being our only duck species to visit just for the summer breeding season. They are scarce and favour shallow wetlands in the south of England. You’d be very lucky to see a duckling but do keep an eye out – if your local wetland had adults visit in the spring, there’s a chance that they have bred – even if you haven’t seen them in months! Male(R) and female(L) garganey Largely ignoring the avian species that they share their habitat with, mammals such as water voles are territorially guarding their burrows and eating everything they can get their paws on with the lush green plant growth in order to fatten up for winter. Water vole As night falls, another group of mammals emerges to feed. The glut of insect life is a boon for bats; if you’re lucky, the Daubenton’s can be seen scooping up prey from over the water. Sunset is a great time to be spotting bats flitting around, but blink and you’ll miss them. A guide to bats And how can we wax lyrical on summer wetland life without thinking about the plant species that fill the wetland landscape with colour. Sedges, grasses and bulrushes are now putting on growth and taking in energy that they’ll need later in the year. The bulrush produces new cigars; this is the female flower before the more feathery male flower. Wet grassland will now be a riot of colourful wildflowers – keep a look out for orchids such as marsh, pyramidal, common spotted and bee. Summer wildflowers - a quick guide Wildflowers and orchids Seize the summer The summer is the perfect time to get out to your nearest wetland centre and see for yourself the joys it has to offer. Visit

Build your own den

Build your own den

As the summer holidays draw nearer, it’s good to have a list of activities to entice your little ones away from their screens and into the fresh air. Children of all ages love creating spaces where they can escape and create imaginary worlds, away from the real world outside. So why not help them create their very own place? Somewhere they can do their own thing, whether that’s reading, diving into an imaginary or virtual world. Or maybe they’re an avid birder watcher and they want to create a wildlife hide, a place from where they can spend hours spying on the natural world around them. Building a den is easy. All you need is a little imagination. You can create a den in the smallest of spaces. You can make it indoors or outdoors, under a bed or under a tree. Follow our easy steps to create that perfect space for your children and who knows, maybe even one for yourself, after all, we’re all children at heart. Everyone will have his or her own idea of the perfect den. Imagine your perfect den Get the creative juices flowing by starting off by getting your den builders to draw a picture of their perfect den. They could label the different materials they need. Get them to think about what they could use to make it waterproof. What are they going to use for structure, what is going to be covered with, how do they want to decorate it inside and out? What do they want to do in it once it’s complete? What would be their perfect snack they’d like to eat inside to celebrate its completion? Have fun finding your den building materials. Delve into the attic or those cupboards under the stairs and you’ll be amazed by what you might find. Maybe you’ve got some old rope and some bamboo sticks in the shed, a couple of old blankets in the cupboard or some old sheets or duvet covers that have seen better days. Be prepared for a bit of chaos as strange things come to light. But from chaos comes creativity. Start with the structure As every good den builder knows, you need to start with a solid structure. If building outdoors, garden chairs and tables are a good bet and if building indoors, even a sofa can be a quick way to create a solid structure. Bamboo canes from the garden shed, or maybe you’ve got some bendy sticks or fallen branches lying around all offer possibilities. Could you re-purpose materials from your camping holidays? You can build your den from natural materials that have fallen off trees – just don’t break off branches Tying it all together You might have some spare string or rope. If you have any old clothes destined for the second hand shop or recycling, cut them up and create rags to help tie the structure together. Even old bicycle inner tubes, cut into strips 2.5 cm wide make great ties and with many bike shops staying open, this could be a great option. Save any large bits of material like olds sheets and duvet covers, dustsheets and old curtains to cover the shelter with. Time to decorate If you want to use your den in the rain, you’ll need to make it waterproof. Plastic sheeting, tarpaulin, or tent materials are all good options. Or you could just use a variety of old waterproof coats draped over the structure. If it doesn’t need to be waterproof, why not decorate old sheets with felt tips or fabric paint and create your very own fantasy palace, castle or camouflaged hide. Staying safe, stuff to avoid building with Before your little ones set off on their creative adventures it’s good to get some ground rules in place. Agree the materials that are best avoided, like glass, big bits of wood or anything heavy that could cause damage if it lands on someone’s head. Make it clear that tins of paints and chemicals are off limits as they’re bad for you and the environment. And make it clear that they’re only to use fallen branches and leaves and not to cut anything off living trees or plants. For your own sanity Agree before you start if there’s anything off limits that you don’t want your den builders to use in their dens. After all you don’t want your favourite table cloth ending up in a muddy pile in the garden. Make sure that everyone knows it’s their job to tidy up after themselves and put things away neatly when it’s time to dismantle the den. You can get up to all sorts of adventures from your den base Now you’ve got your den... It’s time for the adventure to begin! Inspired by forest schools, our range of outdoor crafts and creative activities will keep them busy and active in their den all day. Browse the range Your wetland adventure Come to our wetlands this summer and take part in a range of outdoorsy wetland adventures including den building (selected centres only). Visit