Hatchling season has officially begun, and with it our collection team’s annual search for nests. Each year, we carefully remove our birds' eggs and place them in incubators at our duckery, where the youngsters are looked after by our specialist breeding team until they’re big enough to be returned to our wetlands or moved to another site. Right now, the incubators are full of eggs from barnacle geese, white-fronted geese, Philippine ducks and smew, with many more species laying eggs in nests around the grounds, ready for gathering. But first…we need to find out where! Some species make this task a lot easier than others. For example, our gentle Hawaiian geese – or nenes – practice ‘nest fidelity’, meaning that within a season, and even year on year, they will return to the same site. Others are happy to settle in obvious locations, such as Ross’ geese and oystercatcher, which have both been known to build nests within easy view in Ganderland. Rosybill females make a lot of noise when you approach their nests, so easily give themselves away. And some of our birds are more likely to nest if we provide them with nest boxes; recreating natural areas such as hollows in trees, dense vegetation or crevices in riverbanks. On the flip side, some species make things rather more difficult. White-headed ducks, for example, like burrowing deep within sedge and reed beds (instead of using the lovely floating platform we created for them, which the red-crested pochard are now sunbathing on - pictured top!). This is a great strategy for avoiding predators but doesn’t help when we are trying to locate them! Don't forget to pay a visit to our duckery in the coming weeks to see what our team has been busy collecting and hatching.All tickets must be pre-booked, including members, carers and children under-4 >> https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/washington/...
Washington Wetland Centre turns 46...
Rediscover nature on your doorstep with a visit to WWT Washington Wetland Centre this May half-term. Come rain or shine, our 103-acre site is the perfect place to begin safely exploring the great outdoors once more, with unforgettable animal encounters, wild wetland walks and stunning scenery to suit all ages and needs. PR and marketing executive Leanne McCormella said: “With spring life blooming all around, families visiting this half-term will find themselves in the perfect place to reconnect with nature after a difficult few months. “They can enjoy wide open spaces bursting with wetland wildlife, including fluffy goslings on our waterways, colourful butterflies and flora emerging in our meadows and wild otters or roe deer using the Saline Lagoon. “Our newly reopened bird hides also offer stunning close-up views of breeding waders such as avocet and common tern in action, with elaborate courtship rituals, nest building and hatching young on Wader Lake."And our resident Asian short-clawed otters and pink Chilean flamingos can be seen throughout the day, as well as our wonderful collection birds, some of which can be fed by hand with corn. “During this past year, we’ve never felt more acutely our absolute need to be connected with the wild world – and we know our returning visitors feel the same. “Being able to welcome them back has been such a joy and we – and our wildlife! – can’t wait to see even more happy, smiling families enjoying our beautiful site.” Washington Wetland Centre has been accredited with the ‘Good to Go’ stamp of approval, which means the site is operating within government guidelines and public health guidance for managing coronavirus risk. Visitor numbers remain restricted and a booking system is in place for all visitors, including members, essential helpers and children under 4. Plus: ✔️ Hides are open with restrictions/management in place ✔️ Play area is open and cleaned regularly ✔️ Café is open 10am - 4pm daily serving soups, pasties, cakes and ice creams with limited seating indoors, outdoor seating on the veranda and picnic benches throughout the grounds. A new Kiosk offer is also available at weekends and during school holidays ✔️ Gift shop is open ✔️ Hand-feeding our birds has restarted, with corn purchased from the admissions team ✔️ Accessible portable toilets are open near the play area ✔️ Wheelchair hire is available ✔️ General cleaning regime has increased and hand sanitiser is available across site ✔️ Guaranteed outdoor fun for everyone!
Everything you need to know for a great day out at Washington Wetland Centre
Wildlife watchers can see nature up close and in comfort once more, as the hides at WWT Washington Wetland Centre reopen to visitors. With government restrictions lifting on 17 May, the hides at Hawthorn Wood, Wader Lake and the saline lagoon will welcome people back for the first time since last summer. Social distancing, limited numbers, mask wearing and Perspex screens dividing the hides into household areas will be in place, keeping everyone safe and allowing you to use the shared space with confidence. And right now, with spring blooming all around our 103-acre site, there’s never been a better time to witness wildlife in action, including elaborate courtship rituals, nest building and hatching young. Centre manager Gill Pipes said: “We know how important the hides are to so many of our visitors – from birdwatchers and photographers to young first-time enthusiasts or just anyone wanting to escape the unpredictable British weather – and we can’t wait for people to return to them. “We have traditional wooden hides looking out onto habitats crammed full of spectacular wildlife at Wader Lake and Hawthorn Wood, as well as the larger discovery hide at the Saline Lagoon for a more panoramic view. “As spring turns to summer, this is a fantastic time to spot birds such as avocet and common tern on Wader Lake and our hides offer stunning close-up viewing opportunities as well as some of the best chances to get great wildlife shots.” Washington Wetland Centre has been accredited with the ‘Good to Go’ stamp of approval, which means the site is operating within government guidelines and public health guidance for managing coronavirus risk. Visitor numbers remain restricted and a booking system is in place for all visitors, including members, essential helpers and children under 4. There are also hand sanitisers all around site and accessible outdoor toilets and baby change facilities. The cafe is serving food and drinks to help fuel your wetland adventure - including soups, pasties, cakes and ice creams - with a small amount of indoor seating, plus a variety of picnic tables and benches across site on which to enjoy them surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.
After months of being unable to see our visitors and members, our wetlands are once again starting to welcome people back – and we could not be happier to have you!Amidst the long days of lockdown, we tried to bring the wonder of the outdoors directly into your homes instead.Maybe you watched one of our Facebook Live videos – offering virtual walk-throughs of areas such as Hollowood and Close Encounters – or enjoyed a ‘Monday Mindful Minute’, a simple 60 seconds of footage from site, designed to bring a sense of calm and encourage you to take a moment out of your day https://www.facebook.com/wwtwashington/videos/?ref...During this time, what soon became apparent was that, as humans – and more importantly, as isolated ones – we had never felt more acutely our absolute need to be connected to nature and we gained a whole new appreciation of its powerful health benefits.In fact, during spring 2020, 85% of adults reported that being in nature makes them very happy and this was consistent across different population groups (The People & Nature Survey for England 2020). So now, as the world slowly returns to a new normal, why not get closer to nature in person once again?With spring life blooming all around, our 103 acres of beautiful wetlands, woodlands and meadows provide a safe, healing haven to those who need somewhere to relax, be uplifted or just simply ‘be’, with a myriad of quiet spaces, hidden spots and open vistas to explore.Below are just a few areas of site that our team finds special and would like to share with you. Plus, read more about how nature can make us feel better here https://www.wwt.org.uk/news-and-stories/blog/natur..."Spring Gill has got that ancient feel, lots of statuesque trees, mature old woodland, bubbling stream sounds, plenty of nooks and crannies for birds, bats and beetles! I love that it is almost untouched and that’s how nature has matured and thrived. Chance encounters could be squirrel, deer, buzzard, even kingfisher! It’s a place where the seasons show off their best - be it bluebells, autumn hues or a frosty serenity."Joanne Newbury - Learning Manager"One of my favourite spots is Wader Lake. I'm so lucky that I get to manage and monitor the habitat and wildlife here, regularly getting the opportunity to be out on the meadow or the lake itself. For me this is always a thrill as I see the site from a different point of view. One of the biggest highlights for me is watching the hundreds of curlew coming in to roost on the lake each evening during the winter."John Gowland - Reserve Manager"I love the river view point. Especially at high tide and when the tide is going out. I like to watch the power of the river and think about what might be going on under the water. How many animals are invisible under the surface, getting transported by this huge unstoppable force, just going with it, knowing that eventually they’ll stop somewhere and just start again wherever they stop. Then there’s the bird life using the path of the river as a flyway. You never know what you’re going to see. I also like the thrill of that first peep over the railings at the mud below to see if there are any otter tracks or air holes in the mud from worms or molluscs."Gill Pipes - Centre Manager"The picnic benches behind the pondzone get my vote. You get a nice view over the whole site and it’s generally quiet up there. It’s my go to place when I need 5 minutes to myself! It’s also a bit of a sun trap up there so there’s always the chance of a bit of bug spotting in the summer as well."Dan Barker - Grounds & Facilities Manager"I love the path point between the river facing the saline lagoon. Especially at sunset as the orange willow emulates the colours of the setting sun as it goes down past the saline lagoon meadow. Often you can also see the golden eye on the river as well as the kingfisher in the gully. With mute swans coming off wader lake so low that you almost feel like you can touch them. It’s a very special place to me as with the fluctuation of the tide it always looks a little different every day."Tonisha Lawrence - Reserve placement student
At this time of year, birds are migrating from their wintering grounds all over the world, heading back to their summer breeding grounds throughout the UK.We are very fortunate at WWT Washington to see an array of bird species converging on our woodlands and wetlands, whether they return to breed or are just passing through as they stop to rest before the end of their journey. Many birds choose our reserve as the place to find a mate, build their nests and claim their territory. It's also here that they lay, hatch and raise their young - an incredible feat to witness and something that can inspire budding naturalists to first develop a love of nature. Over the summer months, various areas of our site become home to these incredible birds, some of which fly thousands of miles to get here. Here's some hints and tips of what to look for and where:Sand martin, swallows and amber-listed house martins travel up to 8000 miles from their over-wintering grounds in Africa, arriving in the UK from April. They can often be seen flitting over our amphibian ponds to the east of the reserve, hawking for insects in the air. Sand martin in flight © WWTWarblers take cover around the amphibian ponds too, camouflaged in the tall reeds and grassy vegetation. Sedge, willow and reed warblers are incredibly vocal here and are regularly heard before being seen.Avocet arrive from late February to the shores of Wader Lake. Here, they forage for food and set up their nests on the shingle islands, where youngsters hatch and grow. The first avocet pair arrived at WWT Washington in 2006, with a successfully hatched and fledged youngster. Since then, numbers have steadily increased to over 50 adult birds. Their distinctive upturned bill makes this regionally rare species instantly recognisable. Avocet group on Wader Lake © WWT / Ian HendersonA boisterous colony of amber-listed common tern lands in April, travelling from the subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America to Wader Lake. Their noisy arrival signals the definite start to the breeding season. Watch from the viewing screen next to Diageo hide as they begin to build their nests and mate on the shingle islands or marvel at their aerobatic antics as they swoop and dive for fish to feed their youngsters from June onwards. Other warblers including chiffchaff, blackcap and whitethroat are incredibly active along the path of Wader Lake, where the pollarding and coppicing of dominant trees has created hedgerow and scrub regeneration, allowing these species to thrive. Their distinct calls, including the notable *chiff chaff* sounds, will give away their rough location and patience will allow you to spot these busy birds.Ringed plovers and their smaller cousins little-ringed plovers begin their migration journey in East Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. They seek shelter on Wader Lake; their plumage perfectly hidden within the stones on the shingle islands. Observe them from the Diageo Hide screen as they feast on insects, worms and invertebrates just below the surface of the nearby mud scrapes.Little ringed plover on Wader Lake mud scrape © WWT / Ian Henderson
While the wet weather can be a little off-putting, our wetlands are perfect for a rainy day adventure! With lots of things to see, smell and listen out for, there's really so much to explore in our woodlands and wetlands - and you can guarantee it will be very quiet so you can enjoy much of the outdoor spaces to yourself! So if you're planning a visit and the heavens open, see it as an opportunity...Here's some fun 'rainy day' activities to try while you're here...Watch our cheeky Asian short-clawed otter family as they swim and play. These entertaining animals can regularly be seen enjoying a mooch in the rain before heading to dry out in the warmth of their holt.Damp days are the perfect time to see a range of insects. Venture into North Wood or Hollowood and see if you can spot any hard-shelled woodlice (did you know they shed their skin as they grow!?), leggy millipedes, wriggly earthworms or slimy slugs on your travels. Our reedbed shelter has a gorgeous view towards Penshaw Monument, but there's also lots to hear around there too. Listening ears on for moorhen, mallard and coot amongst the reeds.Lots of our collection birds are hunkering down onto nests. Why not count the number of birds on nests you can spot safely from our paths? Remember to be quiet so you don't disturb them!There is also lots of new life around, so see if you can spot any young birds around such as young moorhen, mallard ducklings, greylag goslings and even grey heron chicks! Spring Gill wood has lots of different flowers and plants around the path edges, offering the opportunity to go on a flower hunting expedition! See if you can find 3 different flowers and ID them. Wader Lake footpath is a great place to listen for warblers such as common whitethroat, blackcap and chiffchaff. Their calls are quite distinctive and can give you a clue to where they like to hide - see if you can spot them!Our amphibian ponds are a great place to explore during wet weather. Amphibians are often on the move, so be on the lookout for toads, frogs and newts as they go about their journey - remember not to touch or move these delicate creatures! Tadpoles are around too, and can be seen swimming around the shallows of the ponds looking for food.Our dragonfly ponds are full of life and the rain doesn't deter these cool creatures. See pond skaters and water spiders just on the water's surface, while water boatman and daphnia (water fleas) swim just below.Try your hand at photography, looking for ripples in the water and reflections that give your work an edge (and share these with us... we'd love to see them!)Make some natural art - this could be using leaves and sticks to make shapes and patterns or adding leaves to puddles and making them dance - the natural world (and your creativity) is your oyster!And of course, everyone's favourite activity... throw on your wellies and see who can make the biggest splash! Then, warm up with a well-earned brew or tasty hot chocolate from our cafe before you head home. So when the weather gives you rain, splash in puddles!
One of WWT Washington's most diverse habitats marks 10 years in the making
Enjoy using these woodland and waterbird spotter guides when you're out and about in nature!
Some useful hints and tips for you to make the most of your time here when spotting wildlife
WWT Washington plans to re-open it's doors on Monday 12 April, with bookings to go live on Tuesday 6 April.
Making a mini wetland in your garden can not only bring a diverse range of animals and insect life, but can also help with the distribution and transfer of rain water. Warden Cath shares her very own mini-wetland
Winter is the busiest time of year for our reserve team as they prepare the whole of site for the upcoming breeding season. Our reserve team is usually buzzing with our fantastic volunteers to help with the mammoth task of chopping, mowing, raking and general tidy up needed to help the birds that choose our site for breeding thrive. This year is of course a little different, and although we don't have the usual flurry of volunteers to support our reserve team, we've still been busy preparing the site for the imminent arrival of grey heron, avocet and later in the season, common tern, Around the path lines of Wader Lake is a big focus for our team to coppice and pollard trees, which not only encourages further growth of the trees for increased biodiversity, but it also helps to guide the birds down to the lake safely. We caught up with reserve manager John Gowland. So John, what is the difference between coppicing and pollarding? Coppicing is a pruning technique that cuts trees and shrubs to ground level, causing new shoots to grow rapidly from the base. Pollarding is when trees are cut to the main stem or trunk, ultimately controlling the height of the main stem itself. Why is this type of vegetation management important? By Coppicing and pollarding on a regular rotation, this will help biodiversity. Cutting small areas of the woodland or hedgerow creates new open areas or glades, and due to the extra light level this will stimulate ground cover below. This results in other plants flourishing such as grasses and wildflowers. Within woodlands and hedgerows, butterfly caterpillars can feed on the wildflowers and grasses that have been stimulated to grow due to the coppicing and pollarding, and so the number of individuals or species of butterfly can increase. The regrowth can create a micro-climate and diverse plant life that creates cover for a host of wildlife such as insect life. This in turn provides food for small mammals and birds. Birds such as blackbirds, robins and wrens will nest in the dense regrowth, and the older trees provide the perfect conditions for nesting willow tit who carve out nest cavities in old rotten tree trunks. When the low vegetation starts becoming dense below the tree, this helps to attract species such willow warbler, blackcap and chiffchaff - regular visitors will know these birds can often be seen during the summer months flitting around our reserve paths! What do you do with the material that has been cut off? Some of the willow that is coppiced and pollarded we propagate - pushing a stem into damp ground will quickly root and become a tree of its own. We also use the cut material to create dead hedges around all of our reserve and within our inner circle, which are great natural barriers or fences, and fantastic habitat corridors for many wildlife. What will happen to those trees after they are cut? It will regrow new shoots will grow rapidly from the base, often have vivid colours and giving a new habitat and nesting potential for many birds.Keep an eye out when you return (hopefully soon!) and you'll soon notice all of the wildlife taking advantage of the coppiced and pollarded trees. You may even notice where the cuttings have been used as fence lines and get to see the diverse range of birds and insects that take advantage of these natural habitat corridors!
Our area has moved into tier 4 of government restrictions from Thursday 31 December. Here's the key information you need to know when visiting WWT Washington during this time.