Washington news

Mud glorious mud!

Mud glorious mud!

Today is #InternationalMudDay. We love mud here at Washington Wetland Centre, but it is something that is so often overlooked. It offers a great food source, protection and is a huge carbon store. Here's just a handful of the reasons why we think mud is truly marvellous! Mud found in wetlands is a huge carbon store and could be one of the biggest natural solutions to global warming. Carefully managed wetlands such as WWT Steart Marshes demonstrate first hand the process of saltmarshes as a 'working wetland 'and how this can can play a part in helping the climate crisis. Read more

A mighty year for new life on Wader Lake

A mighty year for new life on Wader Lake

We're very excited here at Washington Wetland Centre as we continue through what is turning to be a very successful summer breeding season around our wild reserve. There are LOTS of youngsters around pretty much everywhere you look, whether that be chirping fledglings in Hawthorn Wood to wading birds on Wader Lake. Reserve placement Kate Ferguson has given us some of the highlights with locations* if you fancy trying to spot them for yourselves: Grey Wagtail There has been a regular male and female with young around the gully and saline lagoon foxgate areas. Willow tit There are potentially three different broods seen on site which is very exciting for this red-listed species. The Orchard (6 chicks seen), gully (2 chicks seen) and the pines on the inner circle (2 chicks) Oystercatcher Currently a new adult nesting on one of the islands at Saline Lagoon. 2 broods at Wader Lake. The first brood has two chicks, which are coming into their proper black and white plumage now and are regularly seen either around the east island of Wader lake seen from Princes Trust Hide. A second brood of 3 can be seen best from Paddy Fleming hide or Northumbrian Water Hides. Lapwing There are four broods of lapwing at varying ages. The first brood has 2 chicks (these were first seen on 18th May so are getting on now!) and are best seen from Paddy Fleming Hide. The second has 2 medium-large chicks near the east island. The third has 2 very young chicks on the open mud directly opposite Paddy Flemming Hide. The fourth brood has 2 very young chicks seen very well directly outside Northumbrian Water Hide. Avocets They keep hiding but at the moment we have about 11-15 chicks regularly seen on Wader Lake at any one time, which are from 8 different broods. The oldest avocet hatched on 24 May and is starting to come into its proper plumage. It's best seen from Paddy Fleming Hide. There are also 3 new avocets nesting on the far island of Wader Lake (presuming they are going for their second attempt at nesting). Blackcap There are blackcap fledglings seen in Spring Gill Wood and Amphibian ponds areas. Tawny Owl There have been 3 chicks seen around our woodlands at the west of our reserve. Common Tern There are 5 chicks seen so far, they only recently started hatching in the last week or two so plenty more to come! Kestrels There are active with chicks on Corner Meadow and Saline Lagoon with at least 3 chicks seen between those 2 broods. Grey Heron There have been approximately 55 chicks seen in total across 37 different nests. In general the herons nesting to the left of the Heron hedge have younger juvenile herons/chicks in the nests because some of these herons had to build new nest sites due to a lot of their original nest sites been lost during Storm Malik. So there are still plenty of juvenile Herons to be seen, particularly on this half of the Hedge. Other birds thought to be nesting on site include willow warbler, sedge warbler (all at amphibian ponds) and swallow (toolstore) Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to explore Washington Wetland Centre and spot youngsters for yourself, find out more and plan your visit online. Plan your visit

Celebrating our wetland superstar dads

Celebrating our wetland superstar dads

Fathers come in many forms and the natural world is full of wonderful examples of dedicated dads at their most loving, protective and nurturing.This Father’s Day we pay homage to some of our wetland superstar patriarchs and give thanks to all of the amazing father figures in our lives who show support, guidance and are there for us when we need them most. Happy Father's Day!New dads on the blockThis Father’s Day is an inaugural affair for our male common crane, following the arrival of our first ever common crane chick this May. After months of nest building, prospecting and laying low towards the back of their enclosure, our 15-year-old adult pair finally laid and incubated a precious egg and are now settling into family life incredibly well. Dad in particular is relishing his new role and living up to his 007 ring number by using all of his innate Bond-like skills to protect his young charge from anything or anyone coming within a few feet. Hands-on dadding at it’s best! Round the corner in Close Encounters, another first-time father – our male black swan – has also been finding his (webbed) feet these last few weeks. Having only been introduced to his mate in May last year, the three-year-old cob has proved a natural at bonding well with his partner and helping to raise their cygnets. As well as showing the youngsters how to up-end for food and preen their developing feathers, he has taught them to enthusiastically ‘shout’ at our keepers for breakfast during the morning feed round, which has been endearing to watch (if a little noisy to listen to!) If you’re visiting this summer, be sure to spend some time at the stream channel and in Close Encounters to see the progress of these amazing bird families. Forward-thinking flamingos The person who coined the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child” might well have been observing flamingos. Flocking together in their thousands in the wild, these enigmatic birds mate for life and rear their young as part of a colony, where the males are most definitely equal opportunists when it comes to parenthood. Not only does the excited dad-to-be help select an ideal nesting site, he also gets stuck into constructing the mud volcano-shaped nest that will help keep their single egg safe and secure from the masses of moving legs surrounding it Once it is laid, the father shares responsibility for incubating the egg, and the pair takes turns sitting on the nest for equal amounts of time. The young chick – or ‘flamingling’ as we like to call them! – is then cared for equally by both parents. WWT Washington’s Chilean flamingo flock typically hatches chicks in late summer, although as a long-live species they won’t breed season after season like some birds. Sit awhile on the seating opposite their enclosure this July and August and let us know if you see the signs of any egg laying!We are family Musa, the patriarch of our Asian short-clawed otter family, is something of an expert dad, having fathered an amazing nine pups while in our care: Ruby (born in May 2015), Ash, Tod, Pip and Sam (March 2016) and Rita, Irene, Shirley and Buster (March 2017). In the wild, a litter of ASCO pups will stay with their mother until the next litter is born, at which point they move on to start their own families. Here at WWT Washington, 12-year-old Musa has been much more involved in rearing his offspring, giving us the chance to see first-hand how doting an otter dad can be. While partner Mimi was nursing and caring for their newborn youngsters, Musa was observed frequently carrying food into the holt to sustain her, as well as fresh straw to keep their home dry and cosy. He now lives happily alongside Mimi and their youngest son Buster, who certainly isn’t too cool to be seen hanging around with his loving parents! Catch them throughout the day rolling around in mud, dexterously juggling pebbles and greeting the public with squeaky cries. Commentated feeds take place daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm.Please dad, can I have some more? In shorebird species, such as oystercatchers, mothers commonly depart before the chicks fledge, meaning fathers often provide parental care for longer. The hides at Wader Lake offer unrivalled views of this behaviour in action, with oystercatcher dads spending the long summer days showing their youngsters how to fish and feed for themselves. Research has shown that this extended period of bonding may explain why, despite being able to fly and feed independently, juvenile oystercatchers have been observed begging their dads for food several months after fledging. Oh, we know that how feels Mr Oystercatcher!Role reversal It is well-documented that swans mate for life, but did you also know that they have each other’s backs when it comes to parenting? Mute swan mothers are typically in charge of rearing their cygnets, teaching them to feed and guiding them as they explore, while the male is known for being fiercely protective and on constant high alert for any threats to his new family. But mute swan dads are also incredibly nurturing; carrying their babies on their backs and spending time with them as they grow, particularly during the annual moult, when the female steps into the role of protector while her partner is flightless but able to spend more time with the kids.‘Common’ have a go if you think you’re hard enough! Each summer, the shingle islands of Wader Lake become a hub of activity, with numerous wading bird species hatching and raising chicks. Much of the cacophony can be attributed to our common terns, which, at more than 100-pairs strong, form a key local breeding colony. Their annual return is very much a seasonal highlight and the commotion created by the defensive common tern dads as they ward off potential predators is an indication of their natural fathering instinct. As the season rolls along, the rapidly growing tern chicks add their eager cries for food to the daily din across the water, making for an incredible spectacle for the eyes and ears that’s not to be missed!All together now Swallows are never short of a helping hand – or beak – when it comes to raising young. Older siblings and other adults of both sexes all act as parental figures, assisting with nest-building, incubation and brooding, as well as seeing off predators by defending the nest. Feeding time is an extended family affair too, with brothers, sisters and cousins taking turns bringing insects to the hungry baby chicks. Now that’s a family unit that a dad can be proud of! Keep an eye out from early summer onwards for signs of swallow activity in the barns, hides and buildings around our wetlands. The café veranda is a particularly popular spot for sightings of these beautiful birds zipping back and forth with food to their nest, tucked away in the rafters of the sedum roof above. Now that’s a brew with a view!Ready to visit?If you've been inspired to visit our wonderful wetlands to see the incredible bonds of some of these fathers and their young ones up close, find out more and plan your visit online.Plan your visit

History-making common crane chick is thriving one month on

History-making common crane chick is thriving one month on

Last month we celebrated the arrival of our first ever common crane chick and, one month later, it’s still thriving! Hatching on 9 May, the common crane chick was welcome news for the 15 year old adults who have been at the wetland centre since 2008. The exciting news of our first chick followed years of unsuccessful breeding attempts for the pair, who came from WWT’s headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, during the early stages of the pioneering Great Crane Project, which has now seen the common crane successfully reintroduced to the UK to record levels. The common crane family was taken to an off-show area for the first two weeks, allowing them time to bond in a safe environment. The chick was feeding incredibly well and learning how to feed with its parents. Crane chicks can grow up to 4 feet in just 3 months so it was important that the chick got the right amount of exercise to strengthen its legs, so on 1 June it was put back into its Stream Channel exhibit. Collection manager, Rhys McKie, said: “We’re thrilled at how well the chick is doing and how amazing the adults have adapted to life as parents. “Since the chick hatched, we’ve been doing regular health checks on the chick to make sure it was growing at a healthy rate and was as strong as possible for going into a larger exhibit. “Crane chicks can grow up to an inch and put on a pound of weight every single day in the early stages. The decision to put the family back out in their exhibit was as the right one and at the right time, allowing the chick to explore its new environment, forage in the open and get that all important exercise.

Top tips to IDing juvenile birds in Hawthorn Wood

Top tips to IDing juvenile birds in Hawthorn Wood

Summer sounds and fledglings galore in Hawthorn Wood Hide can cause some ID confusion - Blog written by reserve volunteer Melissa Young Hawthorn Wood hide has to be one of my favourite places out on the reserve, and whilst it goes a little quiet during the spring as birds concentrate on nesting, summertime sees it come back to life with lots of feathered visitors. However, this can also be quite a confusing time as a variety of different fledglings come to visit along with their parents. So how can you tell the young birds apart? Youngsters can often be seen nosily begging for food from the adult birds, stretching their heads forward and fluttering their wings to make sure they get mum and dad’s attention. You can also spot some species by their distinct plumage - the young birds look quite different from the adults until they undergo their autumn moult and get their adult colours. The Key Species To Look For Bullfinch Young bullfinch probably cause the most confusion as they lack that distinctive black head you’ll see in adult birds. Both male and female birds start out with the colouring you’d expect from an adult female, but that dull reddish colour extends all the way over their heads. As they start to moult in the autumn it is easier to spot which ones are the males as they sport more pink or grey feathers over time. Chaffinch As with bullfinches, all chaffinches start with the colouring of an adult female. However, they look almost identical to an adult so the only reliable indicator that the chaffinch you’re looking at between June & August is a fledgling is if it is begging for food and being fed. Goldfinch These gregarious birds are often seen in larger numbers at Hawthorn Wood as summer progresses. Goldfinch fledglings have those marvellous black, gold and white wing markings but they lake the striking red and black colouring on their heads. It’s not uncommon to see a charm of young goldfinch busily tucking into the nyger seeds with a couple of adults alongside, providing a great opportunity to spot those differences. Greenfinch As with many of the finch species, the juvenile greenfinch has colouring reminiscent of the adult female, however, it tends to be a bit streakier than the fully grown birds. This difference is quite variable, and it is subjective, so if you want to be certain it’s a fledgling look out for that begging behaviour. Blue tits and great tits For me, these are probably the cutest fledglings. I describe them as looking like adults who’ve faded in the wash, with their blacks being more dusky and the yellows, blues and green having a more pastel tone than the vibrant colours of the adults. They are also probably the nosiest fledglings, constantly demanding food from the adults in the days and weeks after leaving the nest. The juvenile great tit pictured below is being fed by one of its parents - you can see the smoother fluffier plumage of the youngster compared to the darker more deshevaled look of the adult (clearly working very hard!). DunnockJuvenile dunnocks are quite similar to robins but are streakier all over. They also have a duller grey/brown head compared to a young robin. I think they are a little less brave than the robin and prefer to stay slightly secluded, so you are more likely to see them under the cover of shrubs and bushes than hopping around in open areas.

Flowers galore at our wonderful wetlands

Flowers galore at our wonderful wetlands

A bit of sunshine and a lot of rain means the plant life around our wetlands has completely come to life! There are thousands of flowering plants to look for with spectacular blooms to admire. Many last all summer, while some last only a few weeks. Here's some of our favourites to keep an eye out for: Bee orchid These magnificant plants are incredibly intricate and small. They are very clever mimics in that they resemble a female bee - males are enticed to mate and instead leave having pollinated the plant. The particular bee that it mimics isn't from the UK and so this plant has become self-pollinating! Where to see: A less common find in the north east so one to keep an eye out for in grassy areas. Yellow flag iris Standing tall with bright yellow flowers, the yellow flag iris or simply 'flag iris' is fairly common throughout the UK. The petals have a distinct 'droop' to them making them easily recognised. Where to see: Look out around ponds, wet woodlands and long waterways. They're nice and vibrant in lots of places around site including forgotten meadow (opposite Hawthorn Hide) and our Working Wetland Garden. Oxeye daisy One of the first flowers you will see when you arrive at Washington Wetland Centre is the sea of fabulous oxeye daisies that carpet our stream channel. These large bright daisy-like flowers are very easy to identify and are a common sight from May to September. Another name for them is 'moon daisy' as they are so vibrant they appear to glow at dusk! Where to see: Most grasslands and meadows, they are incredibly vibrant in our stream channel. Bogbean Coming to the end of their seasonal bloom, bogbean are a very detailed and intricate flowering plant. They get their name from their leaves which are shaped like broad beans! Their star-shaped spikey-looking bright white flowers bring ponds to life. Where to see: Found in shallow ponds, bogs and marshes. There can be some often seen at our dragonfly ponds. Field scabious Rich in nectar and popular with many pollinators, field scabious has very long 'hairy' stems with small and graceful lilac flowers. Each flower head has many florets and attract lots of bees, butterflies and pretty much any other pollinator, if you stand for long enough you're sure to see something pay them a visit! Where to see: Thrives on grassy verges, meadows and well-drained hedgerows. Lots alongside the oxeye daisies on our stream channel. Red campion Another favourite with lots of woodland insects and even a selection of moth species, red campion is an ancient woodland indicator often seen from May to September time. Male and female flowers grow on seperate plants. It has lots of links to mythology said to be bad luck to pick! Where to see: Lightly shaded areas of woodlands. Spring Gill and our insect garden are great places to see this flower! Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to search for summer flowers and explore Washington Wetland Centre, find out more and plan your visit online. Plan your visit

Cockchafer beetle getting to know our local moths

Cockchafer beetle getting to know our local moths

Cockchafer beetles are known for their noisy slightly clumsy flight and 'feathered' antennae, but they were also once on the decline due to the use of pesticides in the 1900s. Also known as a May bug, doodlebug or if you want to go really fancy, melolontha melolontha; these beetles are thankfully on the rise again following new regulations introduced in the 1980s. But although they are more of a common find in south England, they aren't a common critter we find here in the north east. Adult cockchafers favour field, grassland and meadow habitats where they feast on plants and flowers and search for a mate during their short lived adult lives of 4-6 weeks. This one had managed to get into our moth trap earlier this week here at Washington Wetland Centre, much to the delight of staff and volunteers! This handsome beetle can grow up to 30mm in length, quite a size and you can imagine what that would look like flying, especially as they are known to be a little uncoordinated, often hitting into windows and even people. They have distincive vibrant antennae that fan out displaying 6 (female) or 7 (male) 'feathers'. You can see that this one has 7 'feathers' and so we had a nice large male to admire. While they appear to have a long sharp point at the rear, they don't sting. Females use this tip, called a pygidium, to poke into soil and lay their eggs. Once hatched, the larvae spend between three and five years growing underground, a much longer cycle that the adults! It seems they are emerging from now so keep an eye out as there may be a number of them spotted in the area. We'd love to hear from you if you do manage to spot one! Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to explore Washington Wetland Centre this summer, find out more and book your visit online. Plan your visit

Our team's quick action helped otter mum Mimi

Our team's quick action helped otter mum Mimi

When it comes to animal care, our living collection team are second to none at picking up when something is just a little bit off. So when Asian short-clawed otter mum Mimi wasn't acting herself, they jumped into action to investigate... During the normal daily routine in mid-May, it was noticed that Mimi seemed quite sluggish and lethargic. As time went on she was routinely not coming out of the holt at feed time and when she did come out it was for very short periods with no interest in food. This is very unusual for Mimi and so our keepers closely observed her and saw that she appeared to be having difficulty passing urine and was still disinterested in food, so after a discussion with the WWT vet team, the decision was made to take her to our local vets for blood tests, x-rays and fluids. Tests showed that Mimi had a severe infection known as Pyometra, an infection of the womb. She was given antibiotics and returned to the exhibit where keepers kept a close eye on her and continued with medication to treat the infection. Unfortunately, she was disinterested in her feed which contained her ongoing medication and so to reduce any further risk to Mimi, our vets arranged with local vet Dr Andrew Henfrey of Dragon Veterinary Centre to undertake an operation to remove the infected womb. Surgery is not an option we would ever take lightly, but all evidence pointed to an urgent need to get on top of Mimi's infection. As we suspected it did turn out that this was the best option for Mimi due to the severity of her infection. Mimi's operation Mimi went in for her operation on Wednesday 18 May. The operation went incredibly well and once the vet team could see what they were looking at they established that the area was incredibly inflamed and three-times the size it should have been, something which if left untreated could have been detrimental. Following the operation, Mimi was held in our off-show isolation unit under heat and constant observation. She picked up quite quickly and was noted eating more regularly and taking additional medication to help with her healing and recovery. She spent 10 days in isolation and, following final checks from our keepers and WWT vets, she was introduced back to a very eager Musa and Buster earlier this week (Monday 30 May) where she is thriving. In addition to spending extra time with Mimi, the team gave Musa and Buster extra attention and enrichment to keep them occupied, such as hiding their feed, keeping a close eye on them during the time they were without Mimi. Isolation When we isolate an otter, the team closely monitors them throughout each day and evening (and indeed throughout the night if they are particularly poorly). These isolation holts have a larger rest area, bigger heat source and don't have a pond area, should they need to stay away from the water for any period of time. You may have noticed that we've been doing some building work next to our main otter exhibit. This is going to be our new isolation unit. As you can imagine, being isolated for any period of time can be very difficult for any animal (and for us humans, as lockdown showed us) as well as the rest of the family. Introducing a new isolation unit right next to our exhibit allows the team easier and quicker access should the time come that we need to monitor one of our otters. It also means that our otters can still communicate visually and verbally so they can support and reassure each other - this will have a huge positive effect on their wellbeing and we're keen to get this up and running as soon as possible. Our team Our keepers Alex, Ptoli and collection placement student Chandani are led by collection manager Rhys. This is an incredibly strong team and they dedicate each day to the wellbeing of our animal collection. Their knowledge and close bonds to many of the animals here is highlighted by this fast action and is what potentially saved Mimi's life. The WWT vet team based at our head office in Slimbridge is always on hand for advice and guidance. And we have a very close relationship to the fantastic local vet team at Dragon Vets in Concord, Washington, who are very knowledgeable and supportive and work brilliantly with our own vets to treat our animals when needed. Fully recovered Mimi is foraging, swimming and generally back to being head of the otter household which is fantastic to see - she's been through a lot but has made a full recovery thanks to the quick action of our team. Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to visit our otters and explore Washington Wetland Centre, find out more and plan your visit online. Plan your visit

Exploring our wetlands in the rain

Exploring our wetlands in the rain

Have a wild adventure whatever the weather

Happy birthday to us! WWT Washington turns 47

Happy birthday to us! WWT Washington turns 47

It’s not quite as impressive as a platinum jubilee, but today our wonderful wetlands turn 47-years-old. Happy birthday to us! When our doors opened that spring morning in 1975 – at a cost of 40p for adults and 20p for children – we wonder if the team greeting those first visitors could have even begun to imagine the amazing things our site would go on to achieve in the ensuing decades? Or perhaps they did have an inkling, because they had the very same drive and dedication that makes the people who work and volunteer here now so special? Today, our 103-acre site welcomes more than 70,000 visitors each year and the success of the past continues to build. Be it new habitat creation or conservation species breeding; enthralling schoolchildren of all ages with vibrant learning experiences or helping showcase wetlands through enthusiastic public engagement…there are highlights too numerous to mention, so here’s a select few to enjoy… 1977 – Hawthorn Wood feeding station is established. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip visit site as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations (the Duke of Edinburgh would make a return trip in October 2005). 1980 – the round table ponds are excavated. Today, the reedbed is a great spot for sedge and reed warbler, while water rail have bred there. 1986 – the centre’s first Chilean flamingos, a flock of 16 birds, arrives. They will go on to breed for the first time in 1992. 1989 – grey herons hatch their first chick on Wader Lake. The hedge overlooking the lake is now home to one of the UK’s largest heronries each spring and summer, with numbers regularly reaching 25 pairs. 1996 – the Discovery Centre extension is unveiled to the public in February, followed by the opening up of ancient Spring Gill Wood in April and the new duckery building in May. 13 May 2000 – the Diageo Hide at Wader Lake is constructed in one day. Spring 2001 – tarmac footpaths are improved following a grant from County Durham Environment Trust (CDENT). In September, Tern Island on Wader Lake is enlarged after a donation from Banrock Station. September 2002 – opening of the Paddy Fleming Hide at Wader Lake. 2 February 2003 – creation of Northumbrian Water Hide at Wader Lake (built in one day as part of World Wetlands Day celebrations). July 2006 – a pair of avocets arrives and breeds for the first time on Wader Lake, the most northerly breeding record ever in the UK at the time. These charismatic waders continue to breed here and reached a record 50 adult birds in April 2019. March 2007 – the stream channel and filter reedbed areas are officially opened after a project funded by CDENT. 14 July 2008 – four Eurasian cranes are released onto the stream area. On 11 August, the first Andean gosling hatches at the duckery. February 2011 – clearance work starts on the saline lagoon, funded by SITA Trust and individual donors. In June, great crested newts are recorded in the amphibian ponds and the new Asian short-clawed otter exhibit – home to brothers Rod and Musa – opens. 14 February 2012 – male otter Musa is introduced to female, Mimi (and Rod moves to WWT London). 12 January 2013 – Wader Lake curlew roost site record of 1,220. In May, the centre is ‘highly commended’ in the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year category at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. Between September and March the following year, the team hatches and hand-rears 24 Chilean flamingos. 23 June 2014 – Playscape play area opens. In July, the first Chilean flamingo egg in seven years arrives (proof that boosting the flock with the hand-reared chicks worked!). The same month, Yorkshire Bank Spirit of the Community Awards funds a lowland meadow restoration project. 24 April 2015 – first recorded sighting of a roseate tern on Wader Lake. Musa and Mimi welcome Squeak (later renamed Ruby) on 22 May. They will go on to have eight more cubs – Ash, Tod, Sam, Pip, Irene, Shirley, Rita and Buster – who remains with his parents in their enclosure today. In September, the Shingle Islands project (funded by Biffa Award) is completed and Ganderland bird hand-feeding area opens in October. 4 March 2016 – avocets nest on the extended shingle islands! More than 14,000 visitors enjoy the LEGO trail later that month and the new Lagoon View Hide is unveiled in May. July 2017 – the Working Wetland Garden and Waterlab opens (transplanted from the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, where it clinched a gold medal and the Best Show Garden title) with funding from HSBC’s Water Programme. In November, money is secured through the M&S Energy Fund to create Europe’s first solar-powered flamingo house. August 2019 – the first flamingo chick in four years safely hatches (thanks to the improved conditions in the house and from an egg laid by a 23-year-old female flamingo, which hatched at WWT Washington in 1996!). 2020 – Covid19 restrictions close the centre for months but behind-the-scenes, a hardworking team of skeleton staff ensures the site is well kept, the collection animals are cared for and the wild reserve thrives. April 2021 – we welcome visitors and members back once more and it’s overwhelmingly lovely to see lots of old faces, as well as some happy new ones! Summer 2021 – we hatched many youngsters at the duckery including our falcated ducks who now reside in Close Encounters. Easter 2022 – the LEGO® Brick Wetland Safari launches, with two new impressive models. May 2022 – the first common crane chick in WWT Washington’s history hatches to parents 005 (mam) and 007 (dad), who were part of the first stages of the pioneering Great Crane Project Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to explore Washington Wetland Centre, find out more and plan your visit. Plan your visit

Black swan cygnets are thriving

Black swan cygnets are thriving

Our black swan cygnets have gone from strength to strength since they hatched in March. At about 5 times their original size, the cygnets are thriving and looking more and more like their parents. Their downy feathers are now displaying tell-tale signs of that famous black plumage showing through too! They are learning everything from mum and dad up-ending for food and preening, and have even started enthusiastically 'shouting' at keepers during the morning feed round, something you'll regularly see the parents doing (but in a much less scary way!). This black swan pair were only introduced in May last year and have clearly bonded very well and surprisingly quick. The 12 year old female is a dab hand, having raised youngsters previously. However, the 3 year old male is a first time dad and has proved to be a natural in raising the cygnets and protecting the family in their home in Close Encounters. Our black swan family live alongside a variety of ducks in Close Encounters. Enjoy the sights and sounds of smew, eider, Chiloe wigeon, falcated ducks and more as you mindfully weave through exotic plants, over bridges and near running water. Come and see our cygnets If you've been inspired to explore Washington Wetland Centre and visit our black swans, find out more and plan your visit online. Plan your visit

Lets talk about invasive species - crassula helmsii

Lets talk about invasive species - crassula helmsii

This week is invasive species week and we wanted to highlight a key invasive plant species that we actively manage here at WWT Washington. Crassula helmsii (also know as New Zealand pigmyweed) is a non-native invasive plant oringinally found in Australia and New Zealand. It's an aquatic species of succulent which, in 2014 along with 4 other plants was banned from sale in the UK! Crassula helmsii is a highly adaptable plant which can tolerate many different growing conditions. It can grow below the water's surface or at the edges or margins of water. It's even semiterrestrial meaning it can also grow on land if the ground is damp enough. The species is one of the biggest threats to Wetlands in the UK and if left untreated it can completely cover the surface of the pond. Once established, it can outcompete native plants forming a dense mat covering which shades out other plants. It can also cause issues for our wildlife. If left to it's own devices, it can even cover exposed mud, which is a vital habitat for wading birds. We have this on our reserve at Washington Wetland Centre We have an ongoing management plan that targets this species, as well as a variety of others. We monitor all of our reserve areas for crassula throughout the year, making sure it does not get the chance to spread and take over our wetlands. This is done in a variety of ways: We fluctuate the water levels at various points throughout the year. During winter we flood it, while during the summer we expose the crassula when the water level is lowered. This helps to reduce it spreading by changing its growing conditions several times during the year - this makes it harder for the crassula to thrive. In more sensitive areas, we block out the sunlight by placing a black pond liner over the top of the crassula. Crassula can't survive without sunlight and it therefore dies. If we're doing work on Wader Lake, we dig and bury the crassula which has the same impact as covering with pondliner. Crassula can grow from a tiny fragment that has been left untreated. It can be transferred to boots and wellies so if people have been walking around infected areas it can move it from place to place. Biosecurity of footwear is really important and we are very careful to thouroughly wash our footwear when working with this invasive species. There are things you can do at home to reduce the impacts of non-native plant species - read more

Become part of our wetlands family this spring

Become part of our wetlands family this spring

Late spring is a glorious time to become part of the WWT family. The warmer weather, longer days and new life emerging all around our wetlands, woodlands and meadows make them the perfect place for an outdoor adventure. As a WWT member, you can visit us as often as you like to watch the season and its wonders unfold, while also seeing the difference your membership money is making to our habitats and their wildlife. So why not join us and... ...bring your brood to meet ours. Watch a winding trail of waddling ducklings following their mother around our stream channel or see gangly grey heron chicks in the tree tops opposite Wader Lake hides, as dainty avocet chicks hatch on the shingle islands below. Our black swan cygnets are also raising youngsters in our Close Encounters area - don't miss the chance to see them before they're all grown up. …spot a bee fly! With their fuzzy bodies, patterned wings and unusually long proboscis (sucking mouthpart), these quirky looking insects can be found basking in sunny spots or feeding on nectar-rich flowers throughout spring. …get to know our playful Asian short-clawed otter family – Mimi, Musa and their son Buster. They can be found frolicking and foraging all day long in the spring sunshine, with keeper talks twice a day at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Don’t be shy to ask our experts difficult questions and expand your otter knowledge! …take a sneak peek at amphibian life on a stroll along the river footpath to our ponds where, just below the surface of the water, you’ll be rewarded with close-up views of wriggly tadpoles (and possibly even froglets) exploring their surroundings. …enjoy the vibrant colours of the newest floral life, including violet-hued bluebells carpeting Spring Gill Wood and the happy yellows of marsh marigold and gorse flowers dotted around site. Wetlands are not only spectacular to visit at this time of year, they’re also lifelines... They provide water, food or habitat for almost all species, including over a billion of us humans. What’s more, as carbon stores and natural flood defenders, they are one of our best protectors against climate change and its disastrous effects. And yet, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests – 35% have disappeared since 1970. So yes, by becoming a member you enjoy free visits 364 days a year to WWT Washington and our nine sister sites across the UK, plus a host of fantastic events. BUT, you are also helping protect and restore vital wetlands for generations to come. Isn't that amazing!? If you are already part of our family, we thank you so much. If you think you might want to be, head here https://www.wwt.org.uk/join-and-support and let’s restore our planet’s wetland ecosystems together. Want to visit us first? We get it - it's a big commitment! Visit us, and if you decide you’d like to become a member, your admission cost will be deducted from the membership price when you join on the day. There’s no need to pre-book a visit, but if you'd prefer to pay online and save time at the till, click below. Plan your visit

Breeding first - common crane chick hatches at WWT Washington

Breeding first - common crane chick hatches at WWT Washington

WWT Washington Wetland Centre is celebrating the arrival of a tiny common crane chick – an incredible first in our 46-year history. The youngster hatched late on 9 May under the careful watch of its protective parents, who have been part of the centre’s animal collection since 2008 and not successfully bred, until now. The pair came from WWT’s headquarters in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, in the early stages of the pioneering Great Crane Project, which has now seen the common crane successfully reintroduced to the UK to record levels. The exciting news of their first chick follows months of nest building, prospecting and laying low towards the back of the centre’s stream channel exhibit, where they finally laid and incubated their precious egg. WWT Washington’s collections team kept a close eye on the nest and monitored the first-time parents’ behaviour to ensure things went as smoothly as possible – which thankfully they did. Collection manager, Rhys Mckie, said: “We’re unbelievably thrilled to see our common cranes become parents for the first time. And it’s even more thrilling that this pair of cranes came from the Great Crane Project. “The adults have been here since they were just one year old, arriving in 2008; so at the age of 15, this is a pretty big moment for them and for us all. “Visitors may have noticed that the cranes have been less visible lately – something that happens every spring for this pair. But this year we’re so pleased to see they have been successful with their breeding efforts.” The new family is currently off-show to allow them time to bond in a protected environment and enable the team to closely monitor their health and behaviour. “While there are still hurdles this family has to get over, we’re giving them the best possible chance to thrive,” added Rhys. “They’re doing all the right things and are bonding as we would hope, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that everything continues to go smoothly for this very special species, with visitors hopefully able to see them back in their enclosure this summer.” DID YOU KNOW? With their astonishing trumpeting call and dramatic courtship dance, common cranes are a truly iconic wetland species. Standing at an impressive 4ft, they are the UK’s tallest birds. They were once plentiful and widespread in the UK, but were lost as a breeding species around 400 years ago as a result of hunting for food and the subsequent draining of their wetland nesting sites. Cranes are members of the “Gruidae” family – a very ancient bird family that has been around for about 40 million years. Despite having characteristics of the heron and stork families, cranes are actually unrelated to these birds and are much more closely related to moorhens and coots. Common cranes rarely breed before they are four years old, and it may take several attempts before they succeed in rearing a chick. They were once frequent fixtures at medieval feasts. Henry II’s chefs cooked up 115 of them at his Christmas feast in 1251. In 2010, the Great Crane Project – a partnership between the RSPB, WWT and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company – was set up to create and improve existing habitat, as well as hand-rearing young birds for release on the Somerset Levels and Moors. This conservation effort has yielded impressive results, with around 56 pairs known across the UK in 2019. Of these, up to 47 pairs attempted to breed that year and raised 26 chicks. The total population is now believed to be more than 200 birds - a new record. Find out more about WWT’s involvement in the incredible Great Crane Project here Ready to visit? If you've been inspired to explore Washington Wetland Centre, find out more and plan your visit. Plan your visit

Last chance for a visit filled with Lego fun!

Last chance for a visit filled with Lego fun!

Lego lovers - there's just one month left to see the UK’s only LEGO® Brick Wetland Safari, right here at Washington Wetland Centre.Join us for a wild day out with a difference as you meet 16 GIANT colourful Lego brick animals, forming a fun interactive trail around our wonderful wetlands.Past favourites including Lottie the Otter, Fred the Frog and Katie the Kingfisher are back, as well as newer additions Percy the Pelican and Sam the Short-eared Owl, plus Camille the Curlew – BRAND NEW for 2022 and on show for the very first time!Here are our Top Tips for building even more fun into your visit while you’re here this spring…Go on a Lego safariPick up a LEGO® Brick Wetland Safari trail leaflet at admissions and explore our wetlands, woodlands and exhibits to learn more about the creation of these unique large-scale Lego models, as well as the real-life species they’re sitting alongside.Complete the questions and enter our prize draw to win an awesome Lego goody bag!(