Free Swan Researcher Workshops with WWT Welney

logosWould you like to become a trained volunteer with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust? Look no further!

 

As part of the WWT Welney Wetlands Centre’s project within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnerships scheme, called ‘Species Identification & Monitoring’, a series of workshops are now being organised so that you can also become a trained swan researcher – join the WWT Welney at 21 or 22 November:

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Or download the poster here: Swan ring reading workshop 1

 

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Have your own Ouse Washes Experience! 21st September 2014

logosFancy an active but charitable weekend out in the Ouse Washes?

Join The Ouse Washes Experience on the 21st September 2014 and raise money for the emergency medical charity Magpas amongst other local charities.

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Welney Nature Reserve

Walk, Run or Cycle. It’s your experience, it’s up to you!

The Headline Charity: Magpas

Founded in 1971 Magpas is a unique charity which offers support to the ambulance service. The charity heavily relies on public donations to provide the Magpas Helimedix Air Ambulance and rapid response cars. The Magpas Specialist Medical Teams attend to cases of life threatening illness and major trauma throughout the East of England. Operating 18 hours a day the teams are staffed by highly trained Pre-Hospital Doctors and EEAST Paramedics who volunteer their own time to work with the charity.

Get Involved- all are welcome!

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OWE Poster. Source: The Rotary Club of Ely-Hereward Website

The Ouse Washes Experience is organised by The Ely-Hereward Rotary Club in cooperation with the OWLP Scheme, WWT, RSPB, Environment Agency and Cambridgeshire County Council. It is a sponsored event with 3 routes of varied lengths running adjacent to the Old Bedford River between Welney and Welches Dam. For cyclist there is an extended route.

It is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the unique and beautiful landscape of the Ouse Washes. Come and enjoy the wildlife and many other attractions the area has to offer, take in the fresh air, keep fit as well as raise money for charity through your sponsorship.

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Team will be there to provide information on the OWLP Scheme as well as participating. So take the opportunity to learn about projects going on within the area.

Whether you are a keen walker, runner or cyclist, or if you just want to get out and about… join in! Whether you are participating individually, as a family or as part of a group come and experience the Ouse Washes!

For further information or to register for your own Ouse Washes Experience please visit The Rotary Club of Ely-Hereward website.

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

New job for Ouse Washes LP scheme with WWT Welney – apply now

LogosA new job with the Wildlfowl and Wetlands Trust has just been put online!

The post is for a 30 hr/wk position based at the WWT Welney reserve, for 14 months. This position is paid for through the Heritage Lottery Grant funding the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme.

The Project Officer will be responsible for delivering one of the two WWT’s projects within the OWLP scheme, the ‘Great Ouse Wetland Engagement Project’ which has at its main aim to ‘help develop the Great Ouse Wetland (GOW) as part of the OWLP area, in order to form a unified destination for local and visitor audiences interested in enjoying and engaging with the natural heritage of the area and the human history that created and maintains it’.

This is a key project within the OWLP scheme as it links in with other OWLP projects and the wider OWLP scheme ambitions of promotion of the area’s landscape and significant heritage to a wide audience.

This will be an exciting project as it will contain, amongst others, the installation of new exhibition materials, a Green Screen, the creation of wildlife films together with volunteers and visitors, and working across all nature reserves and other conservation organisations in the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership area. A range of community engagement and outreach work, including working with local schools and community groups, will also be part of this project and position.

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The main purpose of the job is described as such: ‘Working within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP), supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to run and deliver a wildlife media production project promoting the Great Ouse Wetland and the Ouse Washes LP landscape as a wildlife destination, through showing changing wildlife throughout the year and involving characters from the community as presenters. The role is also responsible for the marketing of the project and the content to media and the tourism industry’.

‘WWT is seeking an enthusiastic videographer to join our team, producing a series of engaging short wildlife videos, depicting the story of a year in the life of a stunning wetland region. Our ideal candidate will be a persuasive and engaging communicator, very interested in wildlife and happy to work around its schedules, and will have good news & media sense’.

How to apply?

To apply for this exciting new job, please go to the WWT’s website, http://jobs.wwt.org.uk/vacancies/388/media_production_officer_great_ouse_wetland_project_fixed_term_contract/ where you can also download the job description and apply online. The closing date for applications is 12 July 2014.

You can also download the job spec here: Media_Production_Officer_Great_Ouse_Project2

 

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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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Fen Drayton: an Oasis of Tranquility

Heritage Lottery FundAfter a meeting with the RSPB at their office in Swavesey late last week, I took the opportunity to explore the southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area, in and around Fen Drayton lakes.

This is a surprising tranquil area. Besides the numerous birds singing, there really are hardly any background sounds – a very rare and beautiful tranquil place. Tranquility is what sets a great part of the Ouse Washes apart from other landscapes, and can certainly be experienced here.

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Fen Drayton lakes

The Fen Drayton lakes, and nearby Ouse Fen – the former quarries near Needingworth -, both located alongside the river Great Ouse, are managed as nature reserves by the RSPB. Together, they provide for a bewildering variety of lakes, river meadows and other wetland habitats, attracting in particular huge numbers of birds.The Fen Drayton and Ouse Fen nature reserves form key elements in the Great Ouse Wetland Vision, a strategic programme jointly managed by the RSPB, WWT and WTBCN.

Like those in the Ouse Washes washlands further north, the nature reserves here have man-made origins. This is another key feature of the whole of the Ouse Washes LPS: engineered or otherwise man-made structures having become a haven for wildlife.

There will be several projects as part of the delivery phase for the Ouse Washes LPS project which will join up with the strategic Great Ouse Wetland programme: helping with improvements to conservation works, interpretation and access facilities in and around the wetland sites. This will include training volunteers to deliver these projects. I will let you know more about these projects in due course.

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Guided Busway stop in the heart of Fen Drayton, with cycle parking facilities and information shelter

The great access facilities at Fen Drayton mean that this southern end of the Ouse Washes LPS area can function as a prime area for community engagement activities throughout the three years of the delivery phase. The Guided Busway, which runs through Fen Drayton, has a stop in the heart of the reserve, from which several long walks can be made to explore the varied landscape and its wildlife. And with the cycle route (part of Sustrans Route 51) parallel to the guided busroute, a day out here can even be entirely free for people living in Cambridge or St. Ives.

Check out the events programme at Fen Drayton here: amongst others, guided walks and activities for children are held here regularly