As water levels drop away and the change of winter birds for summer takes place, we have can focus on making the reserve ready to receive visitors again. We have made great progress thanks to our team of staff and volunteers clearing the debris left after winter flood and repairing much of the visitor facilities ahead of re-opening.
As flood water doesn’t just come from the rainfall on the reserve, a whole manner of items get carried in on the water from further up the Ouse Washes and beyond. So the first task in clearing the paths is to move cut vegetation from the path and grass verges, to create piles of plant matter in amongst the willow trees on the screen bank – this mulches down becoming a home and food source for insects and in turn small birds. Any plastics or non-natural materials are collected to be disposed of back at the centre.
Once this has taken place, a digger can come onsite to remove the layer of sediment which has settled along the path, and move any larger items back to their original location, or ready to be collected by tractor and trailer. Viewing points along the screen bank have also been created to give more landscape views across the washes, between the hides. Then the finer detail of edging and relaying can begin on the surface of the paths, so that access is possible to the hides and benches for all.
Repairing gateways and stock fencing alongside the paths can be completed whilst water levels are still dropping across the rest of the reserve. The power of water to carry some of the larger structures like this quadbike bridge is impressive, but it takes time to relocate. Alongside these tasks the grounds around the centre are getting their first proper haircut of spring, we keep a variety of lengths of vegetation around the reserve and centre grounds, so that flowering plants and invertebrates can thrive.
It is wonderful to welcome back out volunteers to help us with these tasks as well as to give them the chance to reconnect with the reserve after such a long time away. We all missed out on spring 2020, which makes the arrival of summer birds all the more exciting this year, from avocets and black-tailed godwits to garganey, yellow wagtail and swallows.
Coming towards the end of March, we have seen the first Project Godwit birds touching down over the last few days. Avocet numbers are on the increase, oystercatchers, redshank, ruff and snipe are busily feeding up ahead of breeding season, whilst lapwing are already on nests. We've got a busy few weeks ahead of us with the final preparations for re-opening, welcoming back the Project Godwit team to Welney to set up for this season and then re-opening itself and welcoming back the first visitors. We appreciate it will be a while yet before some of our members and visitors are able to come back in person so we will be putting a monthly roundup onto the website to continue bringing you the latest news. Our latest sightings pages will also return to being posted daily once we have reopened - until then we will bring you the seasonal highlights as frequently as we can.