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Fenland people, like everyone else, may be in lockdown but we can still enjoy nature on our daily walks or in our own back gardens



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Whilst it is a highly unusual time for people, nature is still able to go about getting ready for one of the busiest seasons – spring.

Birds are returning to the UK to breed, insects and plants are emerging as warm, sunny days are the signal they need to become active.

Emma Brand, events and marketing officer at Welney Wetland Centre, run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said: "This constant in our lives is what we need during such a strange time to give us focus.

The main lagoon at Welney Wetland Centre. Photo: Emma Brand. (33933496)
The main lagoon at Welney Wetland Centre. Photo: Emma Brand. (33933496)

"Despite being closed essential conservation work continues at WWT Welney, water levels have been dropping since the winter flooding, making the wet grassland ready for all the ground-nesting birds that rely on wetlands to breed.

"Wading birds such as black-tailed godwit, lapwing, snipe, redshank, avocet and little ringed plover are setting up territories and laying eggs, ducks like garganey, shoveler, teal, tufted duck and mallard are finding safe locations to nest.

"We are now making sure that water is retained in the ditches and pools so that muddy areas can be kept wet and insect-rich, ready for the chicks to feed in once they’ve hatched.

Black-tailed godwit chicks have been hand-reared at Welney for the past few years. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933487)
Black-tailed godwit chicks have been hand-reared at Welney for the past few years. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933487)

"You may have seen signs of spring yourself in your garden or whilst out taking your daily exercise walk. If you live along the many waterways that criss-cross through the Fens listen out for sedge warblers singing from their reed perches, enjoy watching pairs of great crested grebes dancing for one another or scan the skies for common terns.

"As the warm weather continues also look out for the first dragonflies and damselflies out on the wing.

"If your daily walk takes in the Fen farmland you probably enjoy the songs of skylarks, corn buntings and yellowhammers. Fields of flowering crops and wildflower margins are very attractive to pollinating insects so look out for butterflies and bees, busy collecting nectar and refuelling as they too get ready to breed.

Avocets can be spotted at this time of year at Welney. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933480)
Avocets can be spotted at this time of year at Welney. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933480)

"There is also a great wealth of wildlife in the gardens and parks of villages, towns and cities too.

"Provide for wildlife with bird feeders, bird baths, pollinator patches of wildflowers or build bug hotels, and the watch the wildlife come to you. Share your wildlife sighting online and even if you are unsure of what you have seen, there will be others willing and able to help.

"Watch the airspace above your garden for migrating birds of prey high in the sky, and the first swallows, house martins and swifts arriving."

Welney wetland centre takes in 1,000 acres of the northernmost part of the Ouse Washes – Britain’s largest area of seasonally-flooded land and the setting for one of the most magical events in the UK’s nature calendar - mass winter gatherings of many thousands of wild ducks, geese and swans.

Common carder bees can be found buzzing on farmland walks. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933514)
Common carder bees can be found buzzing on farmland walks. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933514)

But while Welney may be renowned for cold weather wildlife watching, the reserve also supports breeding populations of lots of other birds during the spring and summer months including black-tailed godwit

The centre has run a successful 'headstarting' project over the past few years where staff have hatched and hand reared black-tailed godwit chicks as part of a conservation initiative to help the birds.

In summer, the site is also carpeted with wildflowers, among them rarities such as the hair-like pondweed and the greater water-parsnip. More than 300 species of butterfly and moth have been recorded.

Corn bunting's enjoy life on our farmland. Photo: Bob Ellis. (33933519)
Corn bunting's enjoy life on our farmland. Photo: Bob Ellis. (33933519)

The scarce fish, the spined loach, and a Red Book-listed mussel, are in the waterways, and there are three kinds of fly-killing snail.

Grass snakes live in the reed-beds and different species of bats, dragonfly and hawk are often seen hunting overhead.

Avocets are present, too – the descendants of a population which settled here during World War Two, re-establishing a species which had been extinct in Britain for around 100 years.

Corn bunting's enjoy life on our farmland. Photo: Bob Ellis. (33933521)
Corn bunting's enjoy life on our farmland. Photo: Bob Ellis. (33933521)

Sadly the centre is currently closed, but its visitor facilities are contained in buildings specially designed to make the lightest possible impact both on the stunning local landscape and the global environment.

It also has exhibitions including one explaining how and why the Ouse Washes were created in the 17th century, and how WWT is managing water levels to benefit native and migrant wildlife.

It is hoped that once lockdown restrictions are lifted visitors will once again enjoy the wide variety of wildlife WWT Welney has to offer.

Common tern are often seen around our rivers. Photo: Tom Hines (33933504)
Common tern are often seen around our rivers. Photo: Tom Hines (33933504)
Listen out for the sedge warblers who live along our rivers and waterways. Photo: Roger Rawson. (33933507)
Listen out for the sedge warblers who live along our rivers and waterways. Photo: Roger Rawson. (33933507)
You might be lucky enough to spot great crested grebe like these on your riverside walks. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933500)
You might be lucky enough to spot great crested grebe like these on your riverside walks. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933500)
Hummingbird hawkmoth's love the flowers in our gardens. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933525)
Hummingbird hawkmoth's love the flowers in our gardens. Photo: Kim Tarsey. (33933525)
Goldfiinches are among the birds you can attract to your garden with a bird feeder. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933529)
Goldfiinches are among the birds you can attract to your garden with a bird feeder. Photo: Georgette Taylor. (33933529)
Building an insect hotel like this one is an activity families can enjoy, and will attract wildlife to your gardens. (33933527)
Building an insect hotel like this one is an activity families can enjoy, and will attract wildlife to your gardens. (33933527)


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