Spring update – Wetland Welcome

Firstly we would like to say thank you to everyone who has come to visit since we re-opened our doors. It has been wonderful to be able to share our incredible wetlands with you again.

Where to get your wetland fix

We appreciate that the hides are often at least part of the reason for a visit, for some they give a familiar setting in which to sit and enjoy watching the activity on the pools as well as taking in the wider landscape. But the team of staff and volunteers have worked so hard over the past weeks and months to make as much access possible as we can.Clearing debris, fixing walkways, repairing footpaths and creating brand new viewpoints – and there really is nothing better than having your hard worked enjoyed as soon as possible. If you are unsure about visiting before the hides are due to re-open (Mon 17 May from current guidelines), please take a read of this blog to make sure you are not missing out – Where to see wildlife

Summer walk - wests wash viewpoint3-scr.jpgWest's Wash viewpoint from the summer walk

Wildlife at Welney

A visit around the reserve taking in all the viewpoints and benches to stop along the way could be rewarded by some of the following highlights witnessed this month. We’ve had a couple of unusual visitors, white-tailed eagle on the larger side of things and black redstart considerably smaller. Granted you might not see these exact ones again, but migration season is not over by a long way yet. Regular sightings of bittern, with at least two booming males on our stretch of the washes. Many people have heard booming even during the day, some views of bittern flying around the reserve and even a copulation caught on camera, we’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of that.

Bittern Robert Griffin-scr.jpgBittern in flight by visitor Robert Griffin

Cranes have been regularly flying along the washes with smaller groups present on the reserve feeding, calling and sometime shaving a bit of a dance. More summer arrivals in the shape of swallows, house martins, swifts, wheatear and yellow wagtail – when these cool northerly winds swing round we could be in for a mass arrival of martins and swallows – and the best way to enjoy that happening is going to be stood outside beneath it. Migratory birds passing through have so far included ruff, greenshank and spotted redshank. Our eagled-eyed volunteer, Clive Baker, managed to get the colour ring combination on the spotted redshank to find it was a bird ringed whilst passing through Norway in August 2019 and since then has visited RSPB Titchwell once and RSPB Frampton Marsh several times, but this is the first confident sightings in spring.

Spotted redshank Clive Baker2-scr.jpgSpotted redshank by Clive Baker

Despite the cool start to spring which had seen several hundred Icelandic godwits pausing at Welney rather than continuing north the first breeding attempts are being made by limosa black-tailed godwits, snipe have been heard drumming across the washes and the first broods of moorhen chicks and greylag goslings have been seen. Marsh harriers have been sky-dancing above the reserve – definitely something you cannot fully appreciate from inside a hide.Breeding bird surveys will be kicking off soon, so we’ll keep you posted on activity. We are yet to have the first damselfly or dragonfly spotted – could you be the one to find them?

Marsh marigold-scr.jpgMarsh marigold by Leigh Marshall

Project Godwit team update

After so many cancellations in 2020, we are over-the-moon that the project is back in full swing this season. We see the return of Nicola Hiscock, Lynda Donaldson and Tony Durkin to oversee the Project elements at WWT Welney (monitoring of the wild population and headstarting chicks for 2021). They are joined by two new members of the team, Alex Brighten and Charlotte Ashby. The RSPB have also seen two seasonal staff added to their team for monitoring of the wild population at the Nene Washes.

Godwits started arriving in late March but the nesting season has had a slow start at all three project sites, possibly because of the cold snap in April. But nonetheless nesting has begun at all project sites now and hopefully many more in the next couple of weeks. With preparations completed the team are now in the first stage of headstarting – collecting eggs, under license, for the first cohort of 2021 chicks.

Godwit - Tom YN-WLE-scr.jpgProject Godwit - Tom, class of 2018 by Kim Tarsey

28 headstarted birds have been spotted in the Fens so far this season, 20 of which have been seen at Welney, including faithful visitors from previous years like Anouk, Lady, Lil, Delph and Benwick. Two birds we haven’t yet seen are Nelson and Denver – fingers-crossed they’re still on their way. Any reports of ringed birds are so helpful for the team – Lynda is watching over the Welney population, but the more eyes looking for ringed birds, the better we can understand what is going on this season. If you spot a ringed bird with a telescope (or if lucky enough for it to be close – with binoculars) take your time to check it’s legs, get the full combination of coloured rings from each leg and if one of those rings is a lime E, it is a Project Godwit bird. Any birds recorded should be submitted onto the Project Godwit website, ideally by the person who spotted the bird. We will update further as the season progresses.

Report a ring sighting


Godwit - Lil WG-GLE-scr.jpgProject Godwit - Lil, class of 2017 by Clive Baker

Grassland managers return

Over the last week we have had the first few herds of cattle making a welcome return – with some super cute calves in the herds on Lady Fen and the riverbank beside the centre.

Cattle 2021.6.-scrJPG.JPGCalves and cows by David Tough

Grazing Officer, David Tough, will be overseeing the arrival of more herds in the coming months as we move into summer. Numbers can increase as water levels continue to drop, breeding birds fledge their young and the grasses get really growing. A small herd of store cattle are grazing the Hundred Foot River Bank, North of the centre, these are a mix of South Devon and Aberdeen Angus which are both native breeds. Having carried out surveys across Lady Fen, a small herd of South Devon Cows with South Devon or South Devon x Aberdeen Angus calves have been put into a fenced section. Once the ground nesting birds have fledged their broods of chicks, the herd sizes will increase and be allowed to graze the entire reserve.

Cattle 2021.2-scr.jpgHerd of store cattle going onto the bank by Emma Brand

Complete your visit

The gift shop is open with plenty of fantastic gifts for yourself or friends and family and the café is currently serving takeaway drinks, our range of coffees, teas, hot chocolates as well as cold drinks. Pasties, sausage rolls, crisps, ice creams and packaged cake slices are also available for now, we hope to increase this once we get indoor seating, restrictions allowing, later in May. We will also be welcoming some new members to our team over the coming weeks, so if you are a Welney regular please do come and say hello.

Cakes-scr.jpgOur range of delicious cake slices and plastic-free butterfly takeaway cup

Until next month, take care from the Welney Team

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