A touch of the Disney magic has arrived at the WWT Wetland Centre thanks to a calf with very distinctive markings.
The calf earned the nickname of Minnie thanks to her distinctive white forehead with a black mouse silhoutette.
‘Minnie’, her mother and the rest of their herd are grazing an area of wetland recreation at WWT Welney over the summer months. The herd plays an important role in the management of the wetland as they munch grass, attract insects for birds and spread seeds by fertilising the land.
Managing wet grasslands with livestock has happened on the Ouse Washes for more than 400 years and is something which cannot be replicated artificially.
Today up to 600 cows, calves and bulls make the wetlands at WWT Welney an internationally important habitat for some of the rarest species of bird, insect and plant life.
Reserve warden Louise Clewley said: “The cows do a fantastic job, creating a mosaic of grasses that provide the ideal habitat for a wide variety of birds. Species like the lapwing and the rare black-tailed godwit prefer short grass so that they can easily spot predators; whereas snipe and redshank rely on their camouflage and so prefer tussocks of longer grass.
“This year has been an awesome year for breeding birds on the reserve and the cattle are getting it in great shape.
“One of my favourite things is digging around in cow poo, the pats provide a great habitat for lots of amazing insects which become a food source for birds and bats.
Local farmer Chris Jackson said: “This local grazing is important to me, as it enables me to graze without having to take valuable arable land out of production. The system provides nutritious grazing for my livestock and complements the wildlife that inhabits these wetlands.”
Visitors can watch the herds of cattle from the wetland centre and the hides out on the reserve, often catching sight of the yellow wagtail that like to feed around their feet.
Early visitors may see wardens carrying out their daily cattle checks, as they go from herd to herd by motorbike. For more information about WWT Welney go to wwt.org.uk/welney