On Sunday our group visitied the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Welney in Norfolk. Situated on the Ouse Washes it is the winter home of thousands of ducks, geese and swans. Some of us quickly found a tree sparrow amongst the house sparrows on the bird feeders by the visitor centre. Others were lucky to meet up with a WWT volunteer who showed us the prints of an otter in the mud by the side of a ditch. Our first stop was the large (heated!) hide overlooking the main scrapes and floods. From here all of the bird species that we were likely to see on the reserve could be watched in comfort (Neville grabbed a lounge chair and may have only briefly left it to enjoy a meal in the restaurant!). Whooper swans, mallard, pochard, pintail, shovelar, gadwall and thousands of wigeon were just some of the wildfowl and the wading birds were represented by black tailed godwits, ruff and several thousand lapwing. Even those parts of the flooded fields that looked empty of birds would suddenly come to life as a marsh harrier flew over and put up the hidden birds.
The real birdwatchers amongst us left the heated hide and made our way around the reserve in search of more species. Our lunch was taken sitting on a hard wooden bench in a draughty hide – as Paul said “it all adds to the ambience”. In total the group saw 55 species of bird during the day.
At 3.30pm we all returned to the main hide to see the feeding of the swans. One whistle from the warden and the birds know that he will appear in front of the hide with a wheel barrow full of grain. The mute swans muscled to the front of the queue but they were closely followed by whooper swans and then the various ducks. As he fed the birds the warden gave us a live commentary. He told us of the importance of wetlands for wildlife and about the conservation needs of different species. Although the whooper swan is doing well , the other yellow billed swan, the bewick swan, is in steep decline (only one was seen today).
The highlight of the day for me was easily the arrival on the flood of two adult whooper swans with their five young. What a noise, what a display! Well worth the trip just to see that. (Sorry, Sally’s video of this did not work so we can’t show you the scene). Anyone else got one?
Thanks to Sally for the photographs and, of course, for making our trip possible.