Migration Stories: Wintering Birds at Welney

Heritage Lottery FundFollowing on from my previous post, I did go to Welney Wetland Centre on Saturday to find out what was going on for World Wetlands Day.

The midday swan feeding session was, I was reliably told, certainly not as it turns out normally. Where only a week ago there was dry land, this had now turned into a choppy and rather deep lake, coming right up to the base of the main observatory.

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Sam Lee, WWT’s Public Engagement Officer feeding birds in rather high waters

I felt sorry for Sam Lee, the Public Engagement Officer at the Welney Wetland Centre who carried out the swan feeding this time: she was in quite deep water, meanwhile miraculously keeping a wheelbarrow afloat whilst also skillfully feeding the birds. Despite the difficult circumstances she did a great job. See also this news item in the Cambridge News

Due to the choppy northwestern beating against the shore, fewer birds showed up than would normally have been the case. We were nevertheless treated at several hundred Pochards and tens of Swans. In addition, a couple of Cormorants flew by and a Marsh Harrier was busy hunting in the distance. I am sure that people with the right gear spotted many more species – loads of bird species are being recorded at Welney throughout the year.

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Wheelchair access paths have been temporarily suspended at Welney- the swans don’t seem to mind

The Ouse Washes hold the UK’s largest roost of Whooper and Bewick’s swans. These birds have gone through incredible migrations from their breeding grounds in Iceland (Whooper Swans) and Arctic Siberia (Bewick’s Swans) to arrive at their winter refuge. In a good year, up to 5,000 Whooper swans and 3,000 Bewick’s swans make the Ouse Washes their seasonal home.

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Plenty of Polchards around

The Ouse Washes support numerous wintering and breeding bird species. The area is well-protected through several designation systems: not only are the Ouse Washes a Ramsar site, as explained in the previous post,  it is also an SPA (Special Area of Protection), a designation focusing specifically on birds; SPAs form an important element of the European Natura 2000 network. Furthermore, it is designated by the national SSSI designation (Site of Special Scientific Interest). If you would want to know more about these designations, look here for the information on the Ouse Washes SSSI and look here for information on the Ouse Washes SPA.

The fact that the Ouse Washes are so well protected, both nationally and internationally, does not necessarily mean that it all works perfectly fine. In fact, only 19% of the Ouse Washes SSSI is deemed to be in ‘favourable condition’ or ‘unfavourable, but recovering condition’. See for all stats on the condition of the Ouse Washes SSSI here. The Government’s Public Service Agreement (PSA) target is to have 95% of the SSSI area in the UK in favourable or recovering condition. The 19% for the Ouse Washes compares with the current 94% for all East of England SSSIs taken together.

The reasons why most of the Ouse Washes SSSI is deemed unfavourable are multiple and complex. It is something I will be reporting on over the next few months in various future posts.


This entry was posted in Area descriptions, Biodiversity, Designations, Events, Flooding, Theme 1-Water Everywhere, Theme 2-Hidden Heritage, Theme 4-Migration Stories, Wetlands and tagged , , , , , , , , , by markatousewasheslps. Bookmark the permalink.

About markatousewasheslps

I am currently coordinating a partnership-led bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (for a circa £600K Heritage Grant bid) focusing on strengthening the unique yet vulnerable natural heritage in the Cambridgeshire Fens surrounding the Old west River, the new 'New Life on the Old West' project. Until recently I was the Programme Manager for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, leading on the 1-year development and 3-year delivery phases of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme (from Dec 2012 until March 2017), on behalf of and in close cooperation with a wide range of local, regional and national partner organisations. The Ouse Washes LP's portfolio of 51 projects have focused on: conservation works to historic and natural environmental assets; improving community participation & engagement with the landscape and its heritage; increasing access and learning opportunities; and providing more opportunities for training in traditional land management skills. The overall aim has been to leave a long-term legacy for this fascinating and unique landscape, in the process creating tangible improvements to social, economic and environmental aspects of this landscape, its heritage and communities.

2 thoughts on “Migration Stories: Wintering Birds at Welney

  1. Pingback: European, African, Asian birds spring migration | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Good Dutch Bewick’s swans news | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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