Autumn and Winter events at Welney WWT

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Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is holding a series of fascinating wildlife and rural crafts events and workshops – wildlife photography, garden and willow structures and Christmas decorations, and watching, feeding and learning about swans from October to April. All of this is happening at the Welney Wetland Centre, Welney, Hundred Foot Bank, Norfolk, PE14 9TN. Take a look at these posters, take your picks and enjoy!

WWT Welney wildlife photography workshops 2014:

Welney WWT wildlife photography

Welney WWT wildlife photography

Willow workshops at WWT Welney poster:

Welney WWT willow and garden and decoration workshops

Welney WWT willow and garden and decoration workshops

WWT Welney Swans awake events 2014-15:

Welney WWT swan watching at dawn

Welney WWT swan watching at dawn

WWT Welney Swan feeds 2014-15:

Welney WWT opportunities to feed and learn about swans

Welney WWT opportunities to feed and learn about swans

 

A Walk On The Wash Side

We (Myself, Jono and Abby) took ourselves out for a few hours to see (and lunch at!) a major reserve, WWT Welney Reserve, that is within the OWLP area and on the Ouse Washes to experience part of what we are promoting…

We were not disappointed! We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It is a direct experience on the washes itself that is only possible during the summer because in the winter it is flooded and flocked with birds.

LogosWe hadn’t even got out of the car park – with its good samples of their wetland wilderness – before we coincidently bumped into and chatted to Carolyn Ash, who is one of the artists working on the Ouse Community Murals Project as part of the OWLP scheme, and Carolyn was also with a colleague from Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire which is a key partner in the Partnership. We were also lucky to see a beautiful example of Carolyn’s large damselfly mural. After crossing a sustainably-made bridge and pond, we entered the airy building that afforded fantastic views of the landscape beyond and met a few of the friendly WWT staff team.

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

Carolyn Ash is working on the Ouse Community Murals Project

As we crossed the large foot-bridge we saw the introductory interpretation for children. There were sizable hides – one barer and more serious and the other family-friendly and informative with fun displays and colourful artwork. The landscape was filled with bodies of water, wildflower and greenery, and featured various species of wading birds and cattle in the distance. The lake itself had interesting banks, and trees dotted the scenery, so the diversity on the land under the large Fenland sky is immense.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind. We followed the “Summer walk” route.

As the Welney website says: “Immerse yourself in pathways of wildflowers at the heart of the washes, leaving the stresses of daily life behind.
We followed the “Summer walk” route. Source:  https://ousewasheslps.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/wwtwelneymap.pdf

 

You can download a pdf copy of the Welney map here: WWTWelneyMap

We ventured out on the tracks – the wilderness of medium to tall vegetation and trees surrounded us for the first part. We came across several features of interest – a few tiny, combat-like hides, a vegetation-rich dragonfly pond area (with a table and seating), a popular and well-equipped pond dipping platform, a bird-ringing net structure and sticks with woven ends holding useful information.

It was Charlock!

Wildflowers such as Charlock and Purple Loosestrife were spotted, and the verge was varied into patches of Nettles and Reed. The path soon became a grassy drove populated with Silverweed and an occasional Forget-Me-Not and continued. Great blocks of different species like Reeds dominated our scenery, which was peppered with other species like Water Mint and Meadow Sweet. Butterflies like Gatekeeper

Sunbathing on a leaf

Gatekeeper sunbathing on a leaf

and Red Admiral fluttered past and rested, a possible grass snake slithered past, evidence of mammal browsing persisted and a dragonfly couple mated as we walked and talked.

Love in the air!

Love in the air!

The Summer Walk we took wiggled onto dense, enclosing surroundings that consisted of Reeds, some Sedge and a patch of scrub where a bench is, and the immediate landscape variegated into tall vegetation, water and trees. We reached the loop at the end of the walk, saw the wilderness beyond and around then strolled back as we discussed our work and other things, we took the opportunity to sit in a hide and then on our return to the centre, browsed in the shop which held a wide range of wildlife-related merchandise.

We reluctantly left the centre glorying under a hot sun, having seen a handful of other visitors whilst we were there, and returned to the office more knowledgeable and enthused about our work.

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

Goodbye lovely wildflowers

50th Swanniversary!

LogosThe Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is celebrating its 50th Swanniversary!

This is the celebration of 50 years of successful research on the Bewick’s swans, one of the WWT’s iconic animals.

Sir Peter Scott’s great idea

The study started on 11 February 1964 when the conservationist Sir Peter Scott started painting the swans on the lake outside his window, close to the salt marshes near Slimbridge.

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Bust of Sir Peter Scott, founder of the WWT, at WWT Welney. Photograph: Cambridgeshire ACRE.

He noticed that the swans can be recognised individually as they each have a unique bill pattern of black and yellow markings. He meticulously recorded each swan that visited.

He appreciated that natural markings could be used as a powerful tool for the study of the migratory Bewick’s swans. Scott’s research has formed the basis for a very unique study which has grown into an important international population study in a collaboration that continues to this day.

As a result of the collaborative studies, the Nenetskiy National Nature Reserve in Russia, an important breeding area for the swans, was also given protected status in the 1990s.

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Unique bill patterns of Bewick’s Swans: original 1960s drawings as recorded by Sir Peter Scott. Source: https://www.wwt.org.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/bill-patterns.jpg

Even though more traditional tagging of the birds and – more recently – GPS tracking are also used in the study of the Bewick’s swans, the bill pattern recognition is still of utmost importance in this study – all down to Peter Scott’s original idea.

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Unique bill patterns of Bewick’s swans. Information panel at WWT Welney. Photograph: Cambridgeshire ACRE.

Swanniversary celebrations at WWT Welney Reserve

This Wednesday I was invited for a celebratory event at WWT Welney Reserve. Besides the delicious muffins in the WWT Welney café (do try them!) we were also treated with informative presentations from the WWT’s Chairman Sir George Russell; The Centre Manager at WWT Welney, Leigh Marshall; the Head of UK Waterbird Conservation, Eileen Rees; and Dafila Scott, WWT Vice President (who is Sir Peter Scott’s daughter). Dafila explored her personal memories of her childhood at Slimbridge, how she helped to paint and name dozens of swans, and her subsequent life-long interest in swan migrations and family patterns.

Recent changes at the WWT Welney Reserve

Leigh Marshall gave an overview of all the major, positive changes that the WWT Reserve has seen in just the last six years, since the new eco building was erected: two new hides, almost all footpaths having been resurfaced and made more accessible, and a dragonfly pond has been installed. In addition only in the last few years new land has been acquired to the east of the reserve centre: Lady Fen and Bank Farm, together accounting for c 200 ha of new wetland.

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Lady Fen to the east of WWT Wetland reserve centre, hugely important for swans and wader birds. Source: http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/welney/dont-miss/lady-fen-and-bank-farm/

Currently, works are taking place to convert the adjacent 100 ha of former farmland into wetland; a new hide is also planned. Although still very much developing, these new wetlands have already proven to be vital for such rare wader species as the Black-tailed gotwit of which 45 of the 50 UK breeding pairs breed at the Welney Washes [More about this great story in a separate post to come].

The future of the Bewick’s swans

Bewick’ swans numbers have gradually grown until they peaked in 1995 around 30,000 internationally. since then, there has been a rapid decline in numbers: currently there are only c18,000 Bewick’s swans left in the world.

In order to counteract this decline, international efforts have been stepped up: the last few years saw, for instance, the production of an international Bewick’s swan Action Plan which will be implemented over the next few years. This Action Plan has been drawn up with conservation colleague in numerous countries, including The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Russia, and was adopted by the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement in 2012. It is hoped that, through combined efforts, the population will reach healthy numbers again in the future: the aim is to halt the decline and maintain the population at 23,000 birds or above.

Changing weather patterns: lower numbers of Bewick’s swans at Welney

One of the changes that have been affecting the Bewick’s swans is the rapidly altering weather pattern we have been experiencing lately. With milder winters, fewer birds migrate all the way to the UK to overwinter, from their breeding grounds in Siberia.

As a result, this winter the lowest number of Bewick’s swans have been recorded at Slimbridge since 1965. At the Ouse Washes, where most of the UK Bewick’s swans congregate in the winter, this year has also seen a record-low number of c1,000 only whereas in a ‘normal’ year c5,000 turn up.

As a result of the internationally co-ordinated research we know that this winter many birds did not migrate any further than Germany: also The Netherlands, usually the last ‘stop’ before Bewick’s swans move on to the UK have seen record low numbers: whereas the Netherlands usually is host to 70% of the total Northwest European population they have only counted 4,800 Bewick’s swans this winter, down from the usual c13,000.

All of this may not be as bad as it seems: as the birds do not have to fly as much and do not experience harsh weather this winter, the birds are likely to remain stronger and thus, when back in Siberia in their breeding grounds, may actually turn out an above-average numbers of young. We will find out next year…

Further information

For further information about the Swanniversary, also see the following links:

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