Welney Wetland Centre is now re-opened, we advise you book online before visiting. We have a smaller than normal team on site at present, but will continue to bring the reserve to you on the website and social media until you are able to visit.
There is a feel around the reserve now of well and truly being into the second half of the year. The first real signs that autumn is just around the corner with some exciting birds dropping into the reserve this week. Three spoonbill made a brief stop one evening this week, but this is the second sightings in two weeks. Local photographer, Tony Orwell, was passing the centre at just the right time to be able to get some photos of one of the three birds as they flew over the centre onto the reserve. Other irregular sightings have included cattle egret, kingfisher, bittern and hearing water rail calling around the hides.
This week we are seeing more frequent visits from the Fens crane population, as well as more of them at any one time. Fantastic views this morning (Sunday 2 August) of a pair feeding at the back of the main lagoon – so nice and close to the main hide. Keep an eye on the sightings pages for daily updates on what is around on the reserve. Hopefully these birds will increase in number as pairs with fledged young, unsuccessful breeders and birds too young to breed yet come together in post-breeding season flocks. In previous years we have had upwards of 30 birds at a time; let’s hope for a repeat this autumn.
Numbers of migratory birds are increasing on the pools with over 10 green sandpipers and at least 15 ruff. The main lagoon seems to be producing the best variety at the moment with common sandpiper, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, redshank, snipe and lapwing present most days. We have flailed the islands at Friends hide and with lovely muddy, poached edges we should see more activity from this hide in the coming weeks. Great views of great white egret and good numbers of little egret on the reserve daily. The pool visible from the visitor centre has produced greenshank, redshank and little ringed plover over the last week as well as yellow wagtail coming down to drink and preen. Other summer birds still on site include hobby and garganey although the latter is now in eclipse plumage so requires carefully scanning the flocks of shoveler, gadwall, teal and mallard to pick them out.
During the week numbers of house martins have increased as many birds have fledged from their nests, now first broods and adults can be seen roosting on the roof of the visitors centre and using this platform to come back to during the day in between feeding flights. When watching them drinking from the main lagoon, also look out for sand martins skimming the surface, then climbing back up above the hide to feed. The second broods of swallow in the north wing hide have hatched and are very small at the moment. The adults are regularly coming into the hide to feed the young birds, hopefully we will be able to watch them grow over the coming weeks. Fledglings from the first broods can often be seen perched on the footbridge as you make your way across to the reserve.
The warm, muggy nights this week have resulted in us seeing the first red underwings around the visitor centre. They visit flowers after dark to feed, more often coming to the scent traps we use at bat and barn owl events rather than the light traps. During the day, their camouflage perfectly matches the wood of the visitor centre, so they can often be found on the shaded faces of the building.
There are more caterpillars about this week, with many moth species munching away on the wildflowers, reeds and trees around the reserve. These buff-tip moth caterpillars are one of the brighter coloured species. Dragonflies and damselflies are making the most of the warm, sunny weather, sitting on tall vegetation along the footpaths in the morning to warm themselves ready for the days flying. Butterflies have also been enjoying the swathes of wildflowers with green-veined white, large white, small white, peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown and gatekeeper. This morning there was at least one speckled wood along the boardwalk to reedbed hide. The vegetation along the footpaths and summer walk are teeming with life – beetles, snail, slugs, hoverflies, bees, flies and everything in-between.