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waterlife The magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust | 186 Oct/Dec 2013 | £4.25 |

Waterlife 186 october/december 2013

Given a headstart

Improving the survival rate of sandpiper chicks


northern delights

WWT centres across the land come alive with this winter’s visitors

in focus




ialists ec Sp e op sc le Te d an ar ul oc in B e Th

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in focus SALES EVENTS ‘Test under field conditions’ NORTH AND MIDLANDS Hauxley NR, Northumberland (Northumberland Wildlife Trust) Sun 13 Oct / Sun 10 Nov Sun 8 Dec / Sun 12 Jan Low Barns NR, County Durham (Durham Wildlife Trust) Sun 17 Nov / Sun 19 Jan Martin Mere WWT Sat 23 & Sun 24 Nov North West Birdwatching Festival Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire Sun 29 Dec Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire Sun 6 Oct Washington WWT, Tyne and Wear Sun 27 Oct Sun 24 Nov / Sun 22 Dec / Sun 26 Jan Whisby Nature Park, Lincoln (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust) Sun 3 Nov (BTO Conference Day) Sun 15 Dec Wolseley Centre, Rugeley, Staffs (Staffordshire Wildlife trust) Sat 2 Nov SOUTH AND EAST Arundel WWT, West Sussex Sun 13 Oct / Tue 22 Oct / Sun 10 Nov Tue 19 Nov Sun 8 Dec / Tue 17 Dec Sun 12 Jan / Tue 21 Jan Lackford Lakes, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Sun 17 Nov / Sun 19 Jan Lee Valley Country Park, Essex Sun 20 Oct / Sun 15 Dec Rye Harbour NR, East Sussex Sat 12 Oct / Sat 9 Nov / Sat 7 Dec / Sat 18 Jan Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent Sat 19 Oct / Sun 29 Dec SOUTH AND WEST Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire (Hampshire Wildlife Trust) Tue 8 Oct / Tue 5 Nov / Tue 3 Dec / Tue 7 Jan Durlston Country Park, Swanage, Dorset Sat 5 and Sun 6 Oct Dorset Birdfair Exmouth, South Devon (close to rail and bus station) Sun 5 Jan Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset Sat 26 Oct / Sat 21 Dec / Seaton, Black Hole Marsh, East Devon Sun 6 Oct Event Cancelled / Sun 1 Dec WALES Llanelli WWT, Carmarthenshire Sun 27 Oct / Sat 30 Nov / Sun 22 Dec / Sun 26 Jan SCOTLAND Caerlaverock WWT Sun 20 Oct / Sun 1 Dec / Sun 5 Jan A good range of optics available seven days a week at the WWT shop Caerlaverock


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in focus

ists The Binocular and Telescope Special


Given a headstart

On the cover: Bewick’s swan, WWT

Spoon-billed sandpiper

This issue 4 Front lines Martin Spray on the state of our wildlife 7 Waterways News and views from the world of WWT 14 Wigeon post Your letters answered, plus our ID competition 17 The big issue How we give spoon-billed sandpipers a headstart 22 How and why The wonders and splendours of autumn migration 28 Home from home An overview of Martin Mere and how to get involved 32 Conservation in action WWT’s role in 50 years of the Red List 36 Private life How we’re helping the red-breasted goose 41 Seasons Our ode to autumnal delights at WWT 42 Shopping We can help you get Christmas all wrapped up 45 Netlands Our new overview of WWT’s online world 46 Kids’ zone Games and fascinating facts with Steve Backshall 49 Down your way All the news and events at your local centre 66 Back chat Eileen Rees explains the magic of migration

WWT is a leading global conservation organisation committed to the protection of wetlands and all that live in and around them. WWT is the only UK charity with a national network of specialist wetland centres that people can visit. It was founded in 1946 by the late Sir Peter Scott, the renowned naturalist and artist. Headquarters Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Registered Charity No. 1030884 and SC039410 Centres For full contact details, please see page 49 WWT Arundel 01903 883355 WWT Caerlaverock 01387 770200 WWT Castle Espie 028 9187 4146 WWT London Wetland Centre 020 8409 4400 WWT Martin Mere 01704 895181 WWT National Wetland Centre Wales 01554 741087 WWT Slimbridge 01453 891900 WWT Washington 0191 416 5454 WWT Welney 01353 860711

waterlife The quarterly magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Managing editor: Katy Baird Assistant editor: Emma Stephens Editorial board: Zoe Cameron, Ray Clark, Sacha Dench, Baz Hughes, David Salmon, Rob Shore, Mark Simpson Editor: Malcolm Tait Senior sub-editor: Marion Thompson Creative director: Jes Stanfield Designer: Nikki Ackerman Senior sales executive: Sonal Mistry 020 8962 3020 Publisher: John Innes Think, The Pall Mall Deposit, 124-128 Barlby Road, London W10 6BL

Waterlife is published four times a year, and is printed by Herons, on UPM Ultra Silk 70gsm, an FSC paper accredited as coming from well-managed forest. Views expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of WWT. ISSN: 1752-7392 Average net circulation for the period Jan-Dec 2012: 94,296

october/december 2013



Paul Marshall

This cute spoon-billed sandpiper

chick is one of the most important birds in the world. It’s one of a number hatched under WWT’s care in the Russian Far East this summer, and it’s now part of the critical headstarting programme that we’re hoping will help keep the species from extinction. Numbers of spoon-billed sandpipers have plummeted because of the destruction of wetland habitats and the effects of illegal trapping. Conservationists are boosting the productivity of the remaining breeding pairs by taking eggs from the wild, hatching and rearing them in captivity and releasing them once they have fledged – a process known as ‘headstarting’ (see page 17 for more). ‘This is conservation at the edge; it’s risky work, in difficult conditions, but my colleagues have proved how incredibly experienced they are at rearing endangered birds,’ says WWT Head of Species Conservation Department Dr Baz Hughes. ‘The breeding season is brief and brutal for spoon-billed sandpipers in the wild, but by intervening like this we can help rear five times as many young and help the population stabilise.’

front lines

Digging deep for nature Martin Spray CBE, WWT Chief Executive


In May our Vice President, Sir David Attenborough, launched an important report at the Natural History Museum in London. State of Nature is the work of an extraordinary partnership of 25 organisations concerned with UK conservation, including WWT. In his introduction to the report, Sir David stated that: ‘This important document provides a stark warning: far more species are declining than increasing in the UK, including many of our treasured species. Alarmingly, a large number of them are threatened with extinction.’ He then emphasised that the report gives examples of how individuals, organisations and governments, working together, can bring back nature where it has been lost. The statistics are indeed alarming. The assessment, going back over 50 years, of more than 3,000 species shows a decline in the population or distribution of 60% of them, with 31% having declined strongly. But, looking positively, working together, as the 25 organisations did in compiling this report, we know that we can reverse much of the damage. Wetland habitats, which support a great proportion of our native wildlife, are relatively quick to establish when restored or created when compared with some other habitat types, such as chalk downland. WWT has substantial experience and expertise in wetland restoration, creation and management, developed over many years, both in the UK and overseas. The opportunity, with the Environment Agency, to create 78 hectares of new wetland habitat at our Welney centre has already been a great success in terms of numbers



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of breeding waders and wintering wigeon, whooper and Bewick’s swans. London Wetland Centre, created by the conversion of four reservoirs in the capital city, has recorded nearly 200 species of bird, is one of the most important sites for bats in the south of England, has supported the successful introduction of water voles and grass snakes, and has developed a rich wetland flora, including southern marsh orchid. This was the result of an innovative partnership involving a conservation charity (WWT), a water company (Thames Water), a developer (Berkeley Homes) and a local authority (Richmond).

The challenge for us all now is to work together to create more space for Britain’s wildlife and for people to enjoy

We are now working in partnership with

the Environment Agency on the Steart Peninsula in Bridgwater Bay to create some 500 hectares of wetland habitats through a coastal realignment project. Adjoining the Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve, Steart will become a haven for wildlife, with excellent viewing and walking access for visitors. These are just three examples of what can be achieved working with others. The challenge for us all now is to work together to create more space for Britain’s wildlife and for people to enjoy.


October/december 2013






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News and views from the world of wildfowl and wetlands


Old flamingo, new tricks

He may be 52 years old, but this Andean flamingo at Slimbridge showed some fascinating new behaviour this summer. As the weather warmed up, he did something that flamingo expert Paul Rose had never seen before: ‘Lots of flamingos go for a quick paddle, but I’ve never seen one actually floating, legs outstretched, for long periods! I think it is his way of keeping cool in the heat of the day. ‘I think it is his way of relaxing, as he seems very content. It is presumably the equivalent to a human floating in a swimming pool on a lilo.’ Watch the video for yourself at

Dredge code


Proposals to give land managers a greater licence to dredge watercourses on their land could increase undesirable flooding and damage wildlife. The Environment Agency currently oversees which watercourses are dredged so that the faster-moving water doesn’t create a bottleneck downstream and cause towns or land many miles away to become flooded,

The Andean flamingo relaxing on the water

or harm wildlife. Now, the government has suggested giving land managers greater licence to decide and carry out where dredging happens. ‘A balance needs to be reached,’ says WWT Head of Conservation Policy Carrie Hume. ‘While it’s important that farmers can produce food and raw materials, an uncoordinated and lessinformed approach to dredging risks

increasing the flooding downstream – which could cause more damage to land and infrastructure than it solves. ‘Poorly executed dredging can be destructive to wildlife as it involves scraping away the waterway bed and sometimes its banks, which removes plant life, kills invertebrates and wipes away food and homes for mammals and amphibians.’

New proposals could result in flooded land




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It’s the Patron-age Poetry corner Our poem this issue comes from Elaine Morris – many thanks, Elaine. If other readers would like to contribute to this section, please send your submissions to the address on page 14.

The Birdwatcher I enter speaking only in hushed tones Look over bobbing rushes lakeside edge Up from the swaying reeds a bunting flies While moorhen chicks come running through the sedge. A solitary sedge warbler shows itself So reference books and bins come out to check Silence goes as digiscopes start clicking And drakes chase Mrs Mallard from the beck. The silence of the hide returns until Children come in chattering, we don’t mind We whisper, look a heron and they tick They have a list of birds they want to find Now children and the digiscope have left We sit in silence hoping for the best Two mute swans and their cygnets glide along The harrier comes in slowly from the west. Our fingers pointing in excited air He’s big and beautiful with sharp bright eye With slow wing beat he searches over marsh A flock of lapwing flush into the sky We watch him scan the rushes as he flies He swoops into the reedbed out of sight The mood has changed, we quietly sit and talk It’s good to see a marsh harrier in flight.



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WWT Patrons make our most important work possible through their commitment to wetlands, and the wildlife and people that depend on them. It is about going that step further and becoming part of the WWT family. Together this dedicated band of supporters provides vital funds to support WWT’s core work – protecting wildlife reserves, saving endangered species and delivering education programmes to inspire the next generation of conservationists. Patrons commit to giving £500 or more a year to WWT – either as a single gift or in instalments. And what do they get in return? Just the small feeling that they have made it all possible. And not forgetting invitations to special events and exclusive behind-the-scenes updates. If you would like to find out more about becoming a WWT Patron, please contact James Byron on 01453 891145, or Alternatively, you can visit our website

Mo’s tale As the WWT Patron scheme enters its seventh year, we caught up with Mo Warren to ask what she loves about the charity she has been supporting for 60 years. ‘It was 1953 and my first visit to Slimbridge. I was 14 and keen to extend my knowledge of birds. The reserve was fairly new, and visitor “facilities” were little more than wooden huts, but a haven for many species of waterfowl. ‘I noticed a man feeding a beautiful, but unfamiliar little goose from his hand and, thrilled at the prospect, asked him if I may do the same. He filled my cupped hand with grain and I offered it to the goose. To my delight, the bird was instantly attracted and gently fed from my hand, with my fingertips touching its velvety, soft throat. I was hooked for life! ‘The bird was a Hawaiian goose, the man Peter Scott!

‘I joined as an Associate member with 10 shillings of my first month’s salary! Over the years, I became more and more involved and saw the creation of new centres across Britain, eventually visiting all of them and their wonderful wildlife. ‘When I became a Patron, there were many very interesting opportunities to meet and talk with the folk at the sharp end of conservation and I really began to gain an insight into the dedication and integrity of the conservationists and aviculturists working to save our beautiful waterfowl. Being a Patron has made me feel like “one of the family”.’

Get crafty with cranberries Throughout December and January, WWT, with the farmer-owned Ocean Spray cranberry cooperative, will be hosting the first-ever Craneberry Fest. This will be a celebration of our favourite wetland fruit, the cranberry, and an iconic wetland bird, the crane, after which cranberries are named. From 30 November until 26 January, WWT wetland centres across the country will be buzzing with festive cheer. You can visit at the weekends and during school holidays in the run-up to the festivities to make beautiful cranberry decorations for the tree, and then again after Christmas and into the New Year to make cranberry bird feeders. And while you’re here, why not drop into the restaurants? Try delicious cranberry muffins, paninis and cranberry juice drinks, all using Ocean Spray products, for a taste of Yuletide’s favourite berry. Throughout Craneberry Fest, each WWT centre will also have a special Craneberry Fest Trail. This will lead you on a walk among the wildlife, learning about cranberries, cranes and the importance of wetlands as nature’s floodplains. Just as WWT is helping preserve wetlands for British flora and fauna to thrive, discover how Ocean Spray farming families nurture their cranberry crops and work with nature to care for their own wetland environments for the generations to come. Find out more about Craneberry Fest at For more about the farmers of Ocean Spray, go to

Harvesting the cranberry crop

Of tannins and toxins This is the world’s most poisonous frog… and it’s being reared in a cup of Redbush Tea at Slimbridge! The Colombian golden poison frog can carry enough poison in its skin to kill between 10 and 20 humans, or up to 10,000 mice. So Jay Redbond, WWT’s amphibian keeper, is rearing the tadpoles in tea from the Redbush Tea Company. Redbush Tea contains a number of antioxidants, which are claimed to help fight infections, as well as minerals including zinc, which helps the renewal of skin cells. ‘Redbush Tea is really helping to ward off the skin infections that these endangered little frogs are very vulnerable to,’ says Jay. ‘In its native South Africa, redbush is often clinically prescribed for skin conditions. It seems that its healing powers extend to these beautiful frogs, and we’re delighted to be able to help with this fantastic programme.’ As well as providing free tea, the Redbush Tea Company has funded the purchase of two new tanks in Toad Hall, part of one of the biggest amphibian collections in the UK. Such captive populations are important as a safety net for species threatened with extinction.

Higher Hi-ya! This pair of Eurasian cranes shows that certain skills are innate and there is no shortage of exuberance among adolescents. As part of the Great Crane Project, the flock was being prepared for life in the wild at Crane School at Slimbridge, before being released onto the Somerset Moors and Levels in September. WWT aviculturist Amy King has played ‘mum’ to the cranes and took the photograph while exercising them. ‘We are surrogate parents to the birds and try to teach them all they need to survive, but some things they just pick up on their own,’ she says. ‘Here the young cranes are sparring, as many young animals do. Once in the wild, they’ll use these skills to determine their place in the pecking order and, if they need, to battle potential predators.’ The Great Crane Project is a partnership between WWT, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, and aims to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK.

october/december 2013



Martin Birchall

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Between the lines

Fabulous day out

‘Dreaming, when it’s on this scale, is close to genius’: the words of screen legend and environmental campaigner Joanna Lumley, as she described Sir Peter Scott’s vision for London Wetland Centre and the outcome. The Absolutely Fabulous star visited the centre in July to promote the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation, which, like WWT, was founded by Peter. It was Joanna’s first visit, and she was truly inspired, as you can see for yourself by visiting

The safety of tens of thousands of swans and geese in the UK could be improved as a result of new research into collisions with power lines, which started at the end of August with the installation of more than 150 special bird diverters near Martin Mere. Flying accidents are the most commonly recorded cause of death for swans, whose size means they have poor manoeuvrability in flight. Bird diverters are attachments to the lines that help make them more obvious to the birds particularly when flying in poor light conditions at dawn and dusk or in fog. For the first time, a partnership between Electricity North West, Lancaster University and WWT is studying the efficiency of different types of diverter, in addition to the effects of weather and landscape factors that may influence the birds’ flight patterns. ‘Tens of thousands of migratory geese and swans make the UK’s wetlands their winter homes,’ says Eileen Rees, Head of UK Waterbird Conservation for WWT. ‘Collisions with power lines are a major cause of death for these species, so WWT is delighted to be working with Electricity North West and Lancaster University to make NW England, and the UK as a whole, a safer place for them.’ Throughout this winter, the study will closely record in detail the flight behaviour of geese and swans in and around Martin Mere.

Steart date We now know when it will be: in autumn 2014, hundreds of hectares of nature reserve at Steart on the north Somerset coast will be opened up to the sea, creating new salt marshes to benefit wildlife and reduce flood risk. The final stage in one of the largest projects of its kind in the UK will be to breach the existing sea wall. Earthworks to create the reserve are complete and



october/december 2013

will now be given time to allow vegetation to grow and strengthen the new embankments protecting the village of Steart and its main access road. The new reserve, called Steart Marshes, is being created in partnership with the Environment Agency. WWT will take on its management later this year. ‘Steart Marshes will be one of the UK’s largest new wetland reserves,’

says WWT Project Manager Tim McGrath. ‘Parts of the site will be open while the vegetation develops, so we can all enjoy the birds that are already making themselves at home here. And we’re looking forward to next autumn, when Steart Marshes will be opened to the sea, demonstrating how wetlands can help wildlife and people adapt to the challenges of climate change.’




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Winged garden An area of land at Slimbridge has been transformed into a beautiful butterfly garden thanks to the generosity of Avon Metals. The Gloucester company donated £3,500, enabling the Slimbridge horticultural team to clear the land and create beds planted with a wide range of plant species, which are attractive to butterflies and insects.

Schools out WWT has welcomed recent government proposals to reform the subject content of science GCSEs, but says they would be enhanced by including fieldwork outside the classroom, because good science is based on collecting good evidence. ‘WWT is one of the world’s leaders in wetland conservation,’ says WWT Learning Adviser Carolyn Robertson. ‘Our scientists work around the world monitoring the health of wetlands and flyways used by migratory

I’ll be seein’ ya! An Abyssinian blue-winged goose has hatched at Washington for the very first time. The young gosling was incubated and hatched by aviculture expert Owen Joiner at the reserve’s specialist duckery, after being the only fertile egg to be laid by its mother. ‘I’m really excited about successfully breeding and hatching this species for the first time,’ says Owen. ‘The adults arrived at Washington two years ago as young chicks and this was their first attempt at producing young, so I’m very proud of them.’



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birds. That fieldwork is an important part of the scientific process. Without it, we wouldn’t have good evidence with which to identify problems and create solutions. ‘Using primary evidence to make decisions is an important skill to develop when learning about science, and also when learning about tackling problems in life generally.’ Visit to find out about WWT’s Inspiring Generations Free School Visits Scheme.

Puzzle answers

Wigeon Post Crossword solution Across: 7. Severn 8. Grieve 9. Coot 10. Pretence 11. October 13. Firth 15. Otter 17. Redneck 20. In demand 22/21. Arctic tern 23. Elated Down: 1. Heroic 2. Newt 3. Snapper 4. Egret 5. Limekiln 6. Avocet 12. Omelette 14. Reedbed 16. Tundra 18. Curlew 19. March 21. Toad Kids’ Zone Ducksearch: 1. Mallard 2. Teal 3. Shoveler 4. Pochard 5. Pintail 6. Wigeon Ho ho!: It’s a bandicoot (bandy coot), which is a small Australian marsupial. Double vision: The middle crane is missing a leg; the pack behind the first crane is missing; missing food in bottom right corner; missing fence post; right-hand crane has different-coloured leg ring.

Wigeon post

Send your letters on all things WWT or Waterlife to Wigeon Post, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, or email

waterlife The magazine of the Wildfowl


& Wetlands Trust | 185

July/Sept 2013 | £4.25




Our photo competition winner’s polar pics

LEARNING WITH HEART Exciting new developments for school children




ishing tale of two cranes, an egg and a return to Slimbridge

Dear Waterlife I am delighted with the new look of Waterlife. It has a real buzz about it. I especially enjoyed the very exciting story of finding the egg and nest of the cranes. I am looking forward to the day when I see my first British crane in the wild. Many thanks again for Waterlife magazine. It’s great.

unforgettable summer holiday memory for myself and the children. What a fantastic free activity – thank you. Nicola Gwilym, via email

Dear Waterlife My wife and I have just returned from a visit to Slimbridge where we had this very humorous experience. I was taking a photo of a spoonbill with my 500mm lens, when this goose poked its nose through the hide window, right into the lens! My wife had her camera with her and took this shot. We had quite a time persuading it to give up its quest for fame! Thanks for the ever informative Waterlife magazine. Tom and Avril Tomlinson, via email

Sheila Kelly, via email

James Lees; Alamy

Dear Waterlife I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed the latest edition of Waterlife (185) more than any previous edition. I found the articles more interesting than usual, especially the story of the photography winner in the Antarctic. I feel that you have made the magazine more accessible to less ‘expert’ birdwatchers, such as myself, and it makes me more interested in visiting the centres around the country. As a family, we enjoyed our annual visit to the Llanelli centre last week and hired bikes for the first time – an



october/december 2013

A Hawaiian goose moves in for a close-up

Dear Waterlife With regard to your last request in the ‘Wigeon Post’ section about the total numbers of birds seen in a day, I do keep a list on all my birding visits as I submit them to BTO BirdTrack. My regular WWT reserve is Martin Mere and the largest day list I have is 60, which was at the end of April. Sheelagh Halsey, via email

Editor’s reply: Can anyone beat Sheelagh’s day total of 60 species at a WWT reserve? Do let us know. Dear Waterlife I live in Worcester and I have had for the past 20 years a large koi and orfe pond. I have always had frogs and frogspawn, but last year I had no


spawn, and none this year. I recently found a live frog upside down on the garden path, but having turned it upright, it eventually died. Within two days I spotted two frogs dead in the pond. I suspect I only have one frog left in the pond. I can spot it after dark with a torch, and the poor thing has now started croaking as though it is lonely. Perhaps this helps to confirm the possible spread of amphibian disease, which is very sad. Jean Hickton, via email

WWT amphibian expert Jay Redbond replies: Many tests have been conducted recently, and they have suggested that the chytrid virus does not cause mass fatality of common frogs or any of our other native amphibians in the UK. Sadly, there is another common disease, known as red leg, to which our common frogs are very susceptible. I haven’t seen the frogs you refer to, of course, but the chances are that if you have one remaining healthy frog, and have had young over the years, the pond should, I hope, eventually repopulate.


Spotting skills

Many thanks to WWT member Tim Bonsor who has sent us this excellent crossword with a true WWT flavour. You’ll find the answers on page 12. Tim also provided us with cryptic clues to the same crossword – if you fancy a tougher challenge, you can find them on our website at

We received such a great response to our ID quiz last issue, that we’re running another one. We asked you to identify a bird from just a detail of its plumage: it was a male pintail (below) – or northern pintail, to give it its full title – and the first name drawn after the closing date was Steve Starling. Congratulations.

Across 7. River renowned for its bores! (6) 8. To mourn or lament. (6) 9. ‘Bald’ waterbird. (4) 10. An act of makebelieve. (8) 11. Many birds migrate from the UK in this month. (7) 13. Caerlaverock is on

the Solway –––––. (5) 15. Mammal which lives in a holt. (5) 17. Farm labourer from American south-west. (7) 20. Popular with consumers. (2,6) 21. See 22. 22/21. This bird follows a migration path from pole to pole. (6,4) 23. On cloud nine. (6)

Down 1. Gallant, like Superman. (6) 2. Garden pond amphibian. (4) 3. Type of turtle in genus Chelydra. (7) 4. White waterbird that is starting to establish itself in the UK. (5) 5. Observatory at Castle Espie. (8) 6. Black and white bird with upturned bill. (6) 12. Savoury dish made of eggs. (8) 14. There is a boardwalk path through this habitat at Arundel. (7) 16. Arctic ecosystem which is a common destination for migrating birds. (6) 18. This wader can be confused with the whimbrel. (6) 19. Many birds migrate to the UK in this month. (5) 21. He drove a motor car in The Wind in the Willows. (4)

And so on to this issue’s puzzle. Can you identify the species below from the detail shown? The first correct answer drawn out of the hat after the closing date of 30 November wins a copy of Watching Waterbirds.

october/december 2013



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The big issue


quarters In the race to save the spoon-billed sandpiper from extinction, WWT has found a way to give the tiny wader a 25% head start

Fancy a spot of maths to kick off with? Here we go. Each pair

of spoon-billed sandpipers manages one clutch of four eggs per season, and of each clutch an average of 0.6 chicks is successfully raised. Right then, here’s the question. If, as is believed, there are 100 pairs of spoon-billed sandpipers left in the world, how many chicks do they successfully raise between them in one breeding season? Let’s cut straight to the answer: it’s 60. Just 60. The best annual boost that the species can hope for is a mere five dozen. Now, if those 60 were guaranteed long and healthy lives, then there may be potential for a slow, but steady increase in the bird’s population. But life for a spoon-billed sandpiper has no guarantees at all. Those 60 birds that survive their initial weeks on the Russian tundra still have a long and arduous migration down the East Asian flyway to their winter grounds on the coastlines of Myanmar and Bangladesh to negotiate. They then have two years there to get through, followed by a return journey to Russia before they’re ready to breed.

Wild male spoon-billed sandpiper that nested 300m north of the release site and reared three chicks to fledging. As a result of headstarting, him and his mate produced six fledged spoon-billed sandpipers

The big issue

Young chicks blend in with their background, but they’re vulnerable to predation. Bad weather can be disastrous, too. It’s only once the birds can fend for themselves that their chances of survival dramatically improve – and that’s where headstarting comes in

The release site in Meinypil’gyno in Chukotka

During this time, several will die, not just from natural causes, but as bycatch in the nets of hunters who are looking for larger fare, such as plovers, curlews and godwits. Few are likely to make it back at all. As regular readers of Waterlife will know, WWT, along with

several partner organisations, is working hard to keep the species alive on several fronts. We’ve developed a conservation breeding programme, and now house 27 ‘spoonies’ at Slimbridge – around 6-9% of the world total. All going well, the descendants of these birds will build into a sizeable population that can potentially be released back into the wild down the line. We’re working with international and local groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh to tackle the problems the birds face during winter by reducing the threat of hunting. We’re also building essential protection for the wetlands the birds rely on for food and refuge during migration, which are under severe pressure from economic development.

32 18


october/december july/september 20132013

These are vital measures that have been designed to benefit the spoon-billed sandpiper in the long term. The only question is: can they survive the short term? In order for the programmes to bear fruit, we need to do all we can to help this tiny bird get through the next few years. If only there was some way to improve that annual figure of 60 chicks. If only there was a method to get more through those dangerous early days of life. If only there was a way we could give them a head start. Well, there is and, appropriately enough, it’s called ‘headstarting’. The reasons that only about one out of six eggs make it through to fledged chicks are natural, rather than man-made. The sandpipers are ground-nesters and, although their eggs and rough nests are well camouflaged, the sharp eye of a skua or the keen nose of a stoat can pick them out. Young chicks blend in with their background, but they’re vulnerable to predation. Bad weather can be disastrous, too. It’s only once the birds can fend for themselves that their chances of survival dramatically improve – and that’s where headstarting comes in.

Roland and Nikolai collecting the first clutch of eggs (above); young sandpipers in the pre-release pen (below)

For the past two summers, we’ve been keeping an eye on the sandpipers and watching to see which ones nest first – we’ll come to why that is, later. Once we’ve identified five nests, we quickly collect the eggs – 20 in all – and bring them back to our incubators at our Russian headquarters. Once hatched, we rear the young, keeping them in a release aviary where they’re able to learn how to fend for themselves while remaining protected. Having helped them through this difficult period, we put them back fully into the wild. The statistics bear out the success of the process. While an unprotected clutch averages 0.6 of a chick from four eggs, we’re able to raise an average 3.2 chicks – more than five times the natural result. In one stroke, we’ve improved that global average of 60. But it’s even better than that. Spoon-billed sandpipers lay only one clutch of eggs per season, but if they lose their eggs early enough, there’s a good chance they’ll have another go, which is why we target the earliest layers in the season. This year, we know that three of the five pairs whose eggs we took laid a second clutch. That means that in the case of those particular nests, our 3.2 chicks per clutch isn’t just

Teamwork Leica Camera AG is WWT’s exclusive optic partner for this key conservation project. The company is generously providing a range of camera and optic equipment for use by WWT staff in the field. This high-quality equipment will be of immense value to the team as it works in Russia’s Far East, continuing its efforts to find and protect the few remaining spoon-billed sandpipers in the wild. To find out more about Leica, visit or

october/december 2013



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Roland Digby; Nicky Hiscock; Anastasia Sestnova; Martin McGill

The big issue

Get involved We still need vital funding if we are to protect this little bird for years to come. You can sponsor a ‘spoonie’ by visiting

A fledgling spoon-billed sandpiper released in 2012

Headstarting is adding almost 15 chicks per year to the average 60 that make it through fledging – a 25% increase! an improvement on nature’s 0.6, it’s an addition! All this means that headstarting from just five nests is adding almost 15 chicks per year to the average 60 that make it through fledging. That’s an astonishing 25% increase! Now, upping a year’s generation by a quarter is not in itself the long-term solution. But it’s a great way to increase the chances of the sandpiper’s survival until the long-term solutions are finalised. And that’s just the result we’re looking for. The headstarting project is funded by SOS – Save Our Species. Save Our Species is a joint initiative of IUCN, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank. Its objective is to ensure the long-term survival of threatened species and their habitats. The spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo and the RSPB working with colleagues from the BTO, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force.

From Russia with love Want to know more about how the birds are raised? The team has been keeping a fascinating, and often entertaining, blog. Here’s an extract – for more, visit ‘All the eggs hatched OK in the end. One chick was badly positioned in the egg and needed assistance once it became apparent that it was not going to be able to hatch on its own. However, it went on to hatch and began feeding and drinking without problem and is still doing well. Another chick hatched with bent toes, but the toes straightened as it grew and now the foot has made a full recovery. ‘There have been no problems whatsoever with the chicks feeding and drinking. The period when we were rearing them indoors went like clockwork. The close hatching dates and having one more staff member than last year meant we were able to provide a supply of fresh live food every three hours, which helped the growth of the chicks and their development. ‘Putting travel towels down for them to walk on helped prevent foot conditions, and once the chicks were three days old, we wetted a strip of non-slip matting and placed this at the far end of the coops away from the heat source.’

october/december 2013



How and why

Whooper swans




n o i t a r g i M They’re on their way. For wildfowlwatchers, autumn is perhaps the most exciting time of the year, because the migratory swans, geese and ducks that grace our wetlands over the winter months are making their final preparations for the long trip to these shores. And what journeys they are. From northern Russia and the Arctic cold of Scandinavia, from Iceland and the vast expanse of Greenland, even from as far afield as Canada, powerful wingbeats will be carrying thousands upon

derful ay n o w w of ands re on their nd s u o h a ft la Tens oing wildfow ight now… c as the r i r winte T centres just as ep y arrive e W r to W urneys a e when the o their j they’ll mak sights

thousands of impressive birds across countries and continents. Finally, they will arrive, often exhausted, on our own comparatively tiny islands. The reason for the journey is simple: they’re flying south for the winter. Just as many of the birds that breed in Britain and Ireland disappear to Africa and other warmer climes come the colder months, so the wildfowl that breed in more northerly nations are escaping not only the cold, but a lack of food and water as their summer haunts freeze and become covered with snow.

The distances they travel are mind-boggling. Barnacle geese, which come from Svalbard in the Arctic via Norway, cover a distance of nearly 3,000km, while Greenland white-fronted geese, which use Iceland as a stopover, exceed that distance, as do the Bewick’s swans that make their way from Russia. The light-bellied brent geese that come all the way from the Canadian High Arctic in search of peace at Castle Espie manage a staggering trip of more than 4,600km. OCTOBER/DECEmber 2013



how and why

Migration by navigation We’re still discovering the precise means by which birds find their way from breeding to wintering grounds and back each year. We do, however, know that most use a combination of aids:

Barnacle geese (above); Bewick’s swan (below)

Many species are resident in this country all year round, but their numbers are swelled during the winter as further birds fly south to join them For the birds that have vast

expanses of water to cross, keeping up a steady pace is essential to their success. WWT tracking studies have shown that both swans and geese when flying with following winds can reach ground speeds in excess of 100kph, which means that they can reach the wintering grounds from their breeding areas in just 36 hours in the case of barnacle geese or less than 12 hours in the case of whooper swans. The Greenland white-fronted goose can keep up a similar pace in good conditions, but when weather is harsh across the Greenland ice cap, they often slow down, sometimes even dropping to the ground to walk rather than fly. The European white-front, which breeds in the Russian Arctic and winters in Western Europe including at Slimbridge, has a long but perhaps easier journey as there are no large mountains in its path. That Greenland ice cap is a challenge for the hardiest of birds, its size forcing brent geese to fly at heights of more than 2.4km in order to overcome it. Impressive though this is, it’s by no means the record for high-flying migration among wildfowl: the barheaded goose, which does not come to Britain, but migrates across the

Himalayas from Mongolia and China to South Asia, has been recorded as high as 8km above sea level. Not only are their feats to be marvelled at, so are their numbers, and the massed ranks that congregate at WWT centres provide breathtaking sights. Between them, Bewick’s and whooper swans arrive in the UK to the tune of some 20,000 individuals, their wings carrying a total of around 150 tonnes’ worth of swan – that’s the equivalent of about a dozen London buses. Geese appear in even larger numbers.

At Martin Mere, in excess of 33,000 pink-footed geese have been recorded, while similar numbers of barnacle geese can be seen on the Solway Firth in and around Caerlaverock. The light-bellied brent geese of Castle Espie number nearly 30,000. In the case of these geese and swans, the winter period is the only time you’ll be able to see them, before they return to their breeding grounds next spring. It’s a somewhat different case with ducks. Many species are resident in this country all year round, but their numbers are swelled during the winter as further birds fly south to join them. There are only a few hundred breeding

Blue-sky thinking Birds use the detail of the sun’s arc through the sky to help them on their way. Their ability to pinpoint their route by the position the sun, and at night the moon, holds in the sky suggests they may possess an internal time-measurement system. On clear nights, birds are even able to use the constellations to guide them, using the permanently fixed Pole Star as a key landmark. Magnetic personalities Rather like having a compass built into your body, birds can instinctively know which way is north and which is south. Some birds have a mineral called magnetite embedded in their skulls, which picks up on the Earth’s magnetic forces. It is thought that they perceive magnetism as two bright spots in their vision, the intensity of which provides them with their directional clue. Follow the leader A much simpler method of getting to where you need to go is to follow someone who knows the way. Young geese and swans tend to migrate with their parents on their first trip, which helps to correct any youthful navigational errors. Site sights As the final destination approaches, birds start to use visual landmarks, such as rivers, hills, woods and, in recent centuries, buildings. It is thought that sound and smell can even play a role in the last few miles.




how and why

For many birds, the habitats carefully maintained and created for them by WWT are invaluable

Get involved

Pink-footed geese; white-fronted goose (inset)

To help support WWT look after the exhausted swans, geese and ducks when they arrive for the winter, please turn to the carrier sheet accompanying this issue.

Winter warmers Every centre sees its bird count boosted each winter by arriving wildfowl. Here are a few highlights. And wherever you can see wildfowl, you can hear them, too: the sound of geese calling as they arrive is truly wonderful

›S  limbridge is famous for the Bewick’s swans that arrive from Arctic Russia. Welney is another good centre to look out for them.

› F or the whooper swans that make their way from Iceland, visit Caerlaverock, Martin Mere and Welney.

› C  aerlaverock enjoys sights of thousands of barnacle geese that arrive from Svalbard.

› Your best chance of seeing European white-fronted geese is at Slimbridge. › A large number of the world’s population of East Canadian light-bellied brent geese winter at Castle Espie.

›M  artin Mere is a prime spot for pink-footed geese. › Good numbers of teal, shelduck and pochard winter at Arundel. ›U  p to 50,000 wintering waterbirds fill the estuary at National Wetland Centre Wales each year, including pintail, shoveler, shelduck and teal.

Nature PL ; FLPA; NHPA/Photoshot

pairs of wigeon in the UK, for example, but their ranks are filled out to some 440,000 during the winter. Numbers of teal multiply from a couple of thousand breeding pairs to over 200,000, while pochard rocket from fewer than 700 pairs to nearly 40,000 wintering birds. These numbers are staggering, particularly when you see large concentrations of birds at one centre. But the importance of these arrivals isn’t just a fascination with statistics. For many birds, the habitats carefully maintained and created for them by WWT are invaluable for their long-term populations. After their gruelling journeys, they need safe havens where they can recuperate during the cold months. Water levels, food and security all play a role in helping ensure they not just survive the winter, but end it in good shape for their tough return journeys. At WWT, they find these benefits in abundance. Around two-thirds of our reserve land – over 1,700 hectares – has a designation, from Ramsar to Special Protection Area. Throughout the year we use a combination of techniques, such as cattle grazing, water-level management and reedbed construction, to create ideal habitats. These serve a host of wildlife during spring and summer… but once October comes around, and the first of the migratory wildfowl come honking, quacking, bugling and whooping over the horizon, they really come into their own. At a time of wetland decline around the world the reserves have never been more vital. Whatever you do in the months ahead, come and visit the reserves as they fill with the wintering wildfowl that need them. For anyone who loves birds, it’s what winter’s for.

› Pintail are among the many waterfowl species that use Washington as a vital refuelling station during their autumn migration.

› Wigeon are a true highlight of the new Lady Fen and Bank Farm expansions at Welney, and a winter favourite at Washington.

› T here are good numbers of gadwall and shoveler that overwinter at London Wetland Centre.




White beauty

Richard Taylor-Jones

Bewick’s swan

On 10 February 2014 it will be 50 years since Sir Peter Scott discovered that each individual Bewick’s swan could be identified by its unique bill pattern, and one of the longest-running single species studies in the world came into being and a life’s work began. To mark this special occasion, we would like to offer our readers the chance to adopt a Bewick’s swan, giving an insight into the world of these fascinating birds and helping us to ensure their long-term protection.

Choose from six adoptable Bewick’s and you’ll be helping WWT to: › Carry out health checks to assess body condition, and X-ray for shotgun pellets › Address the issue of illegal shooting at both a national and international level › Continue our study of this species, enabling us to tackle the threats it faces › Provide a safe haven and highenergy food for exhausted swans

From as little as £5 per month you can adopt a Bewick’s, for yourself or a loved one, and help us to protect these majestic birds

As a thank you, we will send you: › A personalised 24-page book › A certificate › An exclusive car sticker › A photo of your swan › A complimentary ticket to visit any WWT centre › Twice-yearly newsletters › Winter updates on your swan’s arrival and departure

Adopt a Bewick’s swan today at or call 01453 891195



october/DECember 2013


Links toLancs Several decades ago, Sir Peter Scott

e l i F t c a F

took part in ringing studies of pinkfooted geese that would winter on a site near Ormskirk in Lancashire. There were, at the time, only a few hundred birds there each year, but Peter realised that the site – known as Martin ere Mere – had great potential. Martin M entre C d There was plenty of work n a tl We to be done, however. When the 1975 land was purchased in 1972 Opened: ectares h 0 9 1 : Size there was no open water there, 0 Hides: 1 ns: 120 hectares and farm buildings on the site tio a n cial ig Des ite of Spe e were in disrepair or derelict. S s a d te it designa amsar s R t, s re One area had even been used as te In rea Scientific tection A ro P l a dump. But through vision and ia c e and Sp hlights: ig h hard work, just three years later, r fe li fo t d Wil ortan nally imp in 1975, Martin Mere was opened Internatio geese, teal and d to the public. pink-foote nally important tio a n alls c e Today, Martin Mere is a haven th pintail; ; s per swan y drop for whoo e for wildlife, providing a refuge th s a l fow l of the wild rve are wonderfu for migratory birds in the winter e s into the re and breeding species in the summer. And now, each winter more than 30,000 pink-footed

geese arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland. A survey in 2002 recorded well over 2,000 different animal species living in and around the mere, which is an ideal habitat for many traditional Lancashire plants, such as the uncommon whorled caraway, early marsh orchid, tubular water dropwort and purple ramping fumitory. The centre’s year-round attractions include a beaver lodge, otter enclosure, pond-dipping zone, eco-garden and a huge collection of waterbirds from around the world. But what makes Martin Mere truly world class are the carefully created habitats which are now home to many thousands of migrant wetland birds and other animals. Now, you can help ensure the survival of this wonderful habitat and the wildlife that depends upon it. By adopting an area of the reserve that’s close to your heart, you will be supporting wildlife that won’t survive without wetlands. To find out more, simply turn the page. October/DECember 2013



Graham Catley

Continuing our series on WWT reserves, we turn to Martin Mere, where a new scheme is under way, enabling you to play a part in the reserve’s long-term protection

A few of Martin Mere’s highlights The mere The mere is situated in the basin of the historic lake at the site. This was once the largest lake in Lancashire, formed during the Ice Age and historically the reason for the overwintering species that flock to Martin Mere each year. The combination of open water and islands means the mere has proven to be one of the most successful sites for breeding avocets in the north-west in recent years. It’s where most waterfowl roost, too. The top mere and reedbed filter and naturally treat the water from the centre to ensure the site doesn’t damage its surroundings. The mere requires the specialist care of our team to ensure it provides the perfect environment for wildlife and remains as a historically important site.


Deep channels in the reedbed allow fish to thrive, which in turn attract wintering bitterns

Pat Wisniewski Reedbed




october/DECember 2013

Named after the popular former centre manager, this reedbed was created to support wildlife. Originally carrot fields, the area was developed to provide a haven for birds and mammals. Deep channels in the reedbed allow fish to thrive, which in turn attract wintering bitterns. The lush vegetation of the reedbed provides the perfect habitat for water voles. For the UK’s fastest-declining mammal, sites like this are a vital refuge. The privacy of the reedbed also encourages water rails, and marsh harriers have bred at this site. The largest of the harriers, they were once driven to extinction in the UK by habitat loss and persecution. The careful management of vegetation and water to protect this delicate ecosystem requires much work from the reserve team. By adopting a wetland you can help it continue this important work.


The carum field

Michael Colquhoun; Dr Richard Bullock

WWT reserves don’t just protect birds and mammals. The carum field is the best botanical site at Martin Mere and is home to several notable species, including northern marsh orchids and the locally important plant whorled caraway. Martin Mere is the whorled caraway’s only site in Lancashire and the reserve team is ensuring not only that it remains, but also spreads to other areas of the site. Hay cut from the field is strewn over other areas so that the seeds of the whorled caraway can spread. As with all vulnerable species on the site, without the reserve team’s meticulous planning and management they simply wouldn’t be there.

The carum field is the best botanical site at Martin Mere

Whorled caraway (above); early marsh orchid (right)

Adopt a Wetland ( Without your support we simply could not provide constant care to make sure WWT reserves are working as hard as possible for wildlife. By adopting a wetland you’re helping to fund the essential year-round work of our wardens and conservation team. From creating the perfect pasture to feed exhausted whooper swans as they arrive after their gruelling migration from Iceland to creating and maintaining reedbeds to purify water and provide the perfect habitat for water voles, our work continues round the clock. Your support means we can carry out world-leading research to save species on the brink of extinction, and show future generations the beauty of the natural world.

Get involved To find out more about WWT’s brand new Adopt a Wetland scheme, simply visit

october/DECember 2013



co nservat i o n i n act i o n

Red danger for

As the Red List turns 50, we look at WWT’s involvement in this important classification of endangerment over the years

Of the 10,000 or so species of bird in the world, how

many would you say are endangered? Twenty? A few dozen? A few hundred? And doesn’t it depend on what ‘endangered’ actually means, anyway? Fortunately, there’s a guideline. Capitalise the word ‘endangered’, and it gains a particular definition: ‘Very high risk of extinction in the wild’. It’s one of several categories that help to determine the extinction risk of the world’s wildlife, and these categories have for decades played a major role in standardising the increasingly complex business of global conservation. These categories form the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which is 50 years old this year, and has enjoyed WWT involvement from the very beginning. Half a century or so ago, it was difficult to know how to categorise animals. Conservation was still largely in its infancy, and words such as ‘rare’ and ‘common’ were used as fairly general terms to describe an animal’s abundance. Yet even these simple words can be confusing. Animals that, for example, live on a single island are certainly rare in global terms, but within their own habitat they might be thriving. Should we therefore be worried about them? Similarly, animals that are declining in numbers around the world, but which are still reasonably abundant, could potentially still be regarded as common, even though they’re struggling. America’s passenger pigeon, for example, is believed to be, at one time in the 19th century, the

Annual updates of the Red List reveal improvements in the status of some animals, declines in the fates of others – and thereby provide a global picture of the state of our wildlife Various stages of danger (clockwise from bottom left): nene (Vulnerable); lesser flamingo (Near Threatened); Eurasian teal (Least Concern); and the poor passenger pigeon, now Extinct

world’s most abundant bird. It was therefore massacred in huge numbers, and no one worried about its future. By the 1920s, so great had the carnage been that only one remained. If coordinated conservation was to work, a system of measurement needed to be devised, not to look at the current abundancy of wildlife, but the potential direction of its population trends. Sir Peter Scott, founder of WWT and already

heavily involved in conservation breeding of struggling species such as the nene, helped come up with the solution. Under the auspices of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), he and others devised the Red List. The idea was to create categories that would more accurately represent the true risk of extinction faced by a species. The population data and threat assessment, he concluded, could be continuously updated by fieldworkers around the world, so true patterns could emerge over the years. Fifty years later, those categories have become invaluable to the world of conservation, its methods of prioritising its work and its ability to communicate its messages to the wider public. Annual updates of the Red List reveal improvements in the status of some animals, declines in the fates of others – and thereby provide a global picture of the state of our wildlife.

With some 60,000 species of all types of animal appearing on the list, it’s a pretty good picture, too. The status of birds is managed on behalf of the IUCN by BirdLife International. It pulls in data from conservationists around the world, which it uses to annually reassess the status of species. Having come to its conclusions, it then sends its suggestions out to specialist organisations such as WWT for comment and response. In the case of waterbirds, upon which we’re consulted, we then use our own expertise to help confirm or otherwise, whether an elevation in category from, for example, Vulnerable to Endangered for a particular species is valid. It’s not all bad news. The Brazilian merganser, for example, which is a species WWT works closely with, is being considered for an adjustment from Critically Endangered to Endangered due to a combination of conservation work and research. Should this happen, it would be exciting to know that we’ve played a hand not only in protecting this species, but in discovering more about its habitats. The brown teal, meanwhile, which is Endangered, has seen an improvement in its fortunes thanks partly to a conservation breeding and reintroduction programme by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation in which WWT collaborated and provided avicultural expertise. october/december 2013



co nservat i o n i n act i o n

Danger signs Every species in the world fits into one of the following nine categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

Spoon-billed sandpiper (above) and Madagascar pochard (below) are Critically Endangered, and each is a focus of intensive programmes by WWT

These are among the successes, and over time we hope to help improve the status of the Madagascar pochard and spoon-billed sandpiper, both currently Critically Endangered, through our conservation breeding programmes, as well as many other species. Yet the Red List provides constant reminders that there’s still so much more to do. The Baer’s pochard, for example, classified as Vulnerable only six years ago, is now Critically Endangered. Very little is known about this bird, which breeds in China, except that its numbers have plummeted to just a few hundred or even fewer. A shift to the category Extinct in the Wild is a very genuine possibility in the coming years, which would leave the 50 or so birds that currently live at WWT’s centres among the last of their kind. So although the Red List reveals, on an annual basis, that conservation work such as that by WWT is moving in the right direction, it also shows that there’s still so much more to be done. Over the next 50 years, we would be hoping to see many more of the wetland animals we work with improve their status. We must also do all we can to ensure that as few of them as possible end up in the designation at the top of the list that, once reached, is truly hard to come back from. To help WWT save struggling species, please visit

No known individuals remaining.

› Extinct

in the Wild

Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalised population outside its historic range.

› Critically


Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

› Endangered Very high risk of extinction in the wild.

› Vulnerable High risk of extinction in the wild.

› Near

Corbis; NHPA/Photoshot; Alamy; FLPA; Nature PL, Chris Schenk / Foto Natura

Although the Red List reveals, on an annual basis, that conservation work such as that by WWT is moving in the right direction, it also shows that there’s still so much more to be done

› Extinct


Likely to become endangered in the near future.

› Least


Lowest risk.

› Data


Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction.

› Not


Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria.

october/december 2013



What’s in a name?


WWT has teamed up with NFU Mutual to give you the opportunity to name a Bewick’s swan; a remarkable and heroic bird that embarks every year on a 3,000km migration from Arctic Russian breeding grounds to WWT centres, including Slimbridge, Welney and Arundel. Don’t miss your chance to name one of these magnificent creatures online, or using the form below. The competition will close on 25 October 2013, and the winner drawn at random. The winner and their guest will also be invited to a floodlit swan supper. From the comfort of our heated observatory at Slimbridge, with a glass of mulled wine, they will hopefully be able to spot their named swan and then afterwards will enjoy a delicious three-course meal in our restaurant.

Would you like to name a swan? Pick a great name for a Bewick’s swan and you could win an amazing prize!

To be in with a chance to win, visit or complete the form below and send it to: Swan Competition, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT. Ts&Cs apply, available at You must have an email address to enter this competition.

Name a swan competition Your name Address Postcode Email (required) Tel number Your swan’s name

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every step you take WWT and partners are keeping an eye on the red-breasted goose. A very, very close eye. Anne Harrison explains why As I write, I’m watching the movements of a red-breasted goose. I can see that throughout much of the afternoon on a chilly Thursday in a Bulgarian field back in the early spring, it was moving slowly forward and slightly to the left – probably grazing. At about 3pm it took off briefly, but settled again seconds later a few hundred yards away. It resumed grazing for another couple of hours, before taking off to fly back to its roosting grounds. It settled there, and apart from a brief flight after midnight as the result of a disturbance, it sat still until dawn. I can’t wait to see what it did the next day. Well, I don’t have to, because it’s all been recorded for me. Every few minutes, each step to the left, to the right and forward of this goose, each movement up and down, for weeks on end, has been diligently recorded. And the bird is not alone. We also have every ‘Dear Diary’ moment and movement of several other red-breasted geese in our databank. How on earth did we achieve this… and, more importantly, why? Red-breasted geese breed in Siberia, but spend their winters mainly on the north-western shores of the Black Sea. Each year, at least half of the world’s known population spends time in eastern Bulgaria, congregating around two main lakes – Durankulak and Shabla – and surrounding areas in the company of white-fronted geese. 36



The thing is, that population has been in free fall. Estimates suggest that there may be only 40,000 redbreasted geese left in the world – that represents just half of the population as measured at the turn of the century, and the 50% crash has now classified the bird as Endangered. Hunting is among the threats faced by the geese at their wintering grounds, as are the pressures of tourism and development. Change in agriculture is another factor; changing climate or economic conditions may mean farmers plant different crops, replacing the winter wheat upon which the bird is so dependent. Furthermore, a proliferation of wind farm developments in Eastern Europe could pose new threats in the birds’ flight lines and feeding areas. With such a cocktail of problems, ensuring that these wintering grounds are protected is therefore vital for the bird’s long-term future. Much of eastern Bulgaria is rich in agriculture, and if the farmers who own and manage much of the land that the geese depend upon can be encouraged to live alongside and even look after the birds, then the first, key step has been taken. These, remember, are the very farmers whose wheat the geese eat. So, as part of the EC LIFE Project ‘Safe Ground for Redbreasts’, we are developing an agri-environment measure. This will pay the farmers to endure the damage by the geese to their crops, in return for adopting goosefriendly farming practices, such as ensuring enough wheat is provided and not scaring the birds from their fields.

Estimates suggest that there may be only 40,000 red-breasted geese left in the world – that represents just half of the population as measured at the turn of the century

Red-breasted goose

Map: John Plumer Photographs: Nature PL


Red-breasted geese in flight

Our partner, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), has signed up 11 farmers to a trial scheme this winter to develop a measure that works for geese and farmers. Addressing the issue economically will hopefully ensure that sufficient farmland remains in the face of development pressures from golf courses, hotels and villages. The questions are: which farmers are eligible for the scheme, and how much should they be subsidised? The only way to know is to build a bank of data that shows exactly where the geese feed, and their precise feeding patterns. And that’s why I’m looking at a day in the life of a red-breasted goose. Back in February, we and BSPB managed to catch a staggering total of 93 red-breasts. We ringed most, and fitted 11 with tracking devices – two were equipped with solar-powered satellite tags, while the other nine were fitted with GPS dataloggers. Satellite tags are expensive, but they mean we can follow the birds’ movements over vast distances, and find out more about their migration routes. The GPS tags are cheaper because they don’t use satellite technology, which means we have to scour the fields to download the data from the tags. Each GPS datalogger is fitted with an accelerometer. Rather like the sensors found in game-playing platforms such as Wii, they measure movement every few minutes. As often as we can, we then

We’ll know which are the good fields for the geese, in which areas the geese suffer most disturbance, which contain the right type of crop and crop rotation, and more return to the fields where the birds are congregating and, holding an antenna within direct line of sight to the tag’s aerial, we can pick up the data: plenty of goose movement instantly transferred to our databank. We’re analysing that data, planning

further tagging next year, and we’ve also got observers on the ground recording where the geese go and where they avoid. We’re also measuring the effect that grazing has on the crops so that we can decide how best to account for any crop damage in the subsidies. We’ll know which are the good fields for the geese, in which areas the geese suffer most disturbance, which contain the right type of crop and crop rotation (redbreasts particularly like wheat sown over maize, we’ve discovered), and more. With the right farmers, each being paid the right subsidy, we’ll effectively have on-the-ground allies as we move on to the next stage – tackling hunting issues. You’ll be able to read more about our work to protect the red-breasted goose in future issues of Waterlife. It’s a long-term process, but, rather like the data I’m looking at, if we follow it step by step, we’ll get there. Anne Harrison is WWT’s Senior Species Recovery Officer.

‘Safe Ground for Redbreasts’ LIFE09/NAT/BG/000230 was funded by the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community.

The region to the right of the red line is the main study area of the ‘Safe Ground for Redbreasts’ project. WWT’s field station, the funding of which was so generously supported by WWT members, stands near the major roost site at Lake Durankulak. The geese tagged this winter were caught just north of Lake Shabla. Red-breasts feed in fields of winter crops throughout this area. Much of the southern part of the area is now riddled with wind farms, and a large wind farm just west of Durankulak is also planned.




Have your will written or updated FREE this November. See enclosed leaflet for more details

What will your gift be? Our founder, Sir Peter Scott, passionately believed that the future of the natural world lies in the hands of people, and their actions to preserve and protect it. His lifelong dedication lives on through our conservation work and wetland centres that give thousands of people every day the chance to get close to and be inspired by nature. Together, we are already achieving so much, and leaving a gift in your will is the perfect way to continue protecting the

wetlands and the wildlife that you care about for future generations.

Inspired by this, WWT has a new booklet, My forever gift, and as a valued member we would like to give you the opportunity to receive a free copy. This booklet features stunning photographs of much-loved WWT wildlife and wetland landscapes, and inspiring stories about what has been

achieved through your support and that of those who have kindly remembered WWT in their wills. To receive your free copy of My forever gift, please send the completed form below to the freepost address. Alternatively, you can contact our Legacy Manager, David Salmon, on 01453 891150 or by email at You can also visit

Please send me WWT’s My forever gift booklet Your name Address Postcode Email Tel number

Return to: David Salmon, WWT, Freepost GR1228, Slimbridge, Gloucester GL2 7BR (no stamp needed) Registered charity in England & Wales, no. 1030884 and Scotland, no. SC039410


Awesome autumn After a summer of extremes, how will the weather be for the autumn, as we welcome back our overwintering birds, and anticipate other highlights, too?

Warden’s pick Siskins breed in Britain, particularly in Scotland and Wales, but during the winter their numbers are beefed up by an influx of birds from Europe, and this is the best time of year to see them. Smaller than greenfinches, and closer to goldfinch size, male siskins have black crowns and streaked greenish backs. The streaks are more prominent on the females, which lack the intenser black of the males. A forked tail helps to confirm the bird you’re looking at is a siskin.

Prickles in a pickle

You’re not likely to see many hedgehogs now, as they’ll be finding somewhere warm and safe to curl up in through the winter months. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look out for them, particularly if you’re clearing your garden. Piles of wood and leaves are attractive to hedgehogs, so if you can leave areas of your garden such as this alone, they’ll be fine. If not, do check them thoroughly, especially if those piles are being prepared for a November bonfire. Make sure they’re hedgehogfree before lighting them.

This is a great time to sort out your brents, as they’re now arriving from various parts of the world to spend winter with us. The vast majority of overwintering brent geese are of the dark-bellied race (main pic, below), and can be seen near coasts across much of the south of Britain. They come from the east, while the light-bellied race (inset), which winters at Castle Espie in huge numbers, comes from Canada. There is a further population of light-bellied birds that breeds in Svalbard and Greenland, and winters in Denmark and north-east England.

FLPA; Nature PL

Brent bellies

Fun with fungi October and November are great months to look out for fungi, and at many centres you can join in with the fungal forays to find out more about these fascinating organisms and their equally amazing names. Keep an eye out for meadow, pestle and grey puffballs near pathways, while grasslands can be given a splash of autumn colour by waxcaps. Pleated inkcaps are smaller and found among the grasses, where field mushrooms lurk, too. For something impressive, see if you can find a shaggy parasol (above).




Christmas Get

al wrapped up

We’ve got all sorts of cracking gift ideas for Christmas this year… and to make the seasonal run-in even easier for you, we’ve got these great monthly reader offers, too!

Heather Tait

For wetlands, for wildlife, for Christmas...

WWT gift membership and adoption For the perfect present this Christmas, treat someone special to WWT membership. Call 01453 891198 or email For an animal lover who cares about wildlife, you can adopt a feathered friend or cheeky otter. Call 01453 891195 or email For Christmas delivery, orders must be received by 6 December 2013.

reader offers






15% off at wwt shops Do your Christmas shopping with WWT and receive 15% off on production of this voucher when you spend £30 or more.

Terms and conditions: One voucher may be redeemed against one transaction in WWT visitor centre gift shops. Offer valid from 1-30 November 2013.

free feeder Spend £25 or more in a WWT visitor centre gift shop and receive this free ready-filled goldfinch feeder worth £3.75.

FREE BAG Free WWT jute bag worth £4.99 when you spend £20 or more in a WWT visitor centre gift shop.

Terms and conditions: One voucher may be redeemed against one Goldfinch Finder feeder. Voucher is not redeemable against any other product. Offer subject to availability. One transaction per voucher. WWT Trading reserves the right to substitute an alternative product to the value of £3.75 if necessary. Offer valid from 1-31 October 2013.

Terms and conditions: One voucher may be redeemed against one WWT large shopper or tote bag. Voucher is not redeemable against any other product. Offer valid from 1-31 December 2013, subject to availability. WWT Trading reserves the right to substitute an alternative product to the value of £4.99 if necessary.






50% off at centre cafés 50% off when you buy any hot drink and a muffin. Purchase 2 hot drinks and 2 muffins to receive 50% off.

Terms and conditions: One voucher may be redeemed against one transaction in WWT visitor centre cafés. Offer valid from 1-30 November 2013.

25% Discount off your food Present this voucher to receive 25% off your bill when you spend £20 or more.

Free Hot Dessert Spend £6.50 or more on a hot meal and receive a free hot dessert.

Terms and conditions: One transaction per voucher. This offer is subject to a maximum transaction value of £50 per voucher and may not be used in conjunction with any other offer. Offer valid from 1-31 October 2013.

Terms and conditions: One transaction per voucher. This offer is subject to a maximum transaction value of £50 per voucher and may not be used in conjunction with any other offer. Offer valid from 1-31 December 2013.

october/december 2013



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Visit for much more

A round-up of WWT’s growing presence on the WWW

Out and about


WWT rarely sits still in its pursuit of the best film and photography for your delight and edification. In recent months, adventures have included flying in a microlight over Steart and the Severn, wading through Scottish highland bogs following WWT’s research team as they investigate the secret lives of scoters (below), and using hidden cameras to capture the movements of a female Baer’s pochard, one of the world’s rarest birds. You can follow their antics, and enjoy the fruits of their labours, on Twitter, simply by following @wwt_filmcrew.

Specific spotting Visiting Arundel this autumn? Or Welney this winter? Whichever of our nine centres you visit, make sure you take your very own wetland bird spotter sheet with you, specially devised by WWT’s learning teams for schools. If you’re visiting with a school, simply visit, type in the centre and season during which you’re visiting, and the selection of likely birds to spot will be made for you to print off.

A medal film-maker

Last year, he directed programmes during Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games, and this year he’s turned his camera towards WWT. Paralympic swimming medallist Andy Gilbert, founder of Gilbey Films, has put together an excellent film showcasing the disabled access facilities at WWT centres, and it makes for inspired watching. From wheelchair-accessible boat safaris to sensory gardens, the full range of facilities is covered, backed with imagery of the wildlife and vistas themselves. To see the film, simply visit

Up close and personal

Can you tell what this is? Fur? Tree bark? One thing is certain, it’s quite beautiful, and it’s one of a series of images made by the WWT film crew in August using some very special equipment. Emilien Leonhardt from the BBC’s Miniature Britain brought his fantastic microscope to spend the day at Slimbridge filming wildlife, and the results were amazing. The day captured stunning footage of dragonfly larvae on the hunt, and bloodworms fleeing for their lives, as well as close-ups of kingfisher feathers, vole teeth… and this gorgeous detail of a gold spot moth found feeding on water mint. Many of the 50,000 school children who visit our centres will be treated to this sort of close-up wildlife watching as part of their pond adventures… and in the meantime, if you’d like to test yourself on more wetland ID detail, simply visit

Bird tweets

‘We’ve been told Colombian dart frogs love laying their eggs in @Pringles lids. Going to try it.’ Fond of surprising facts? Follow @WWTworldwide on Twitter.

OCTOBER/December 2013




Steve Backshall

Adam White; Alamy; FLPA; James Lees

Hello again Winter is approaching, and it’s not alone. As you read these words, a huge number of ducks, geese, swans and more are on the wing, heading for a WWT centre near you. If quantity is what you want, then there’s no better time for birdwatching – thousands and thousands of birds make wonderful sights. The reason they come here for the winter is that their summer breeding grounds, which are usually north of where we are, become too cold for them. Whooper swans, for example, fly about 1,000km from Iceland to be with us, while Bewick’s swans come all the way from chilly Arctic Russia, a distance of some 3,000km! The white-fronted goose sets off from Greenland with a trip of around 3,200km ahead of it before it reaches the safety of UK shores, while lightbellied brent geese fly a staggering 4,600km on their way here from Canada. So come along this winter and see these hardy souls. They’ve come a long, long way… it’d be a shame to miss them.

Who will win the family challenge? This winter, when you visit your local WWT centre, why not complete our tracking challenge? If you spot a track first you’ll get three points and if you’re second you’ll be awarded two points. Everyone else can then get one point if they spot the track later in the day. Fill in the grid below to see who wins what. Meanwhile, Kate Humble and Martin McGill’s great book Watching Waterbirds, available in our shops, will help you identify even more birds this winter.



ts 3 poifinrst) (Saw

ts nt 2 poisnecond) 1 poiit too!) (Saw

D uck O tt er Coot r Wat e vole Heron Swan w Sparro

Until next time…

How did you do? 18-21 points: WOW! You’re an animal expert. 12-17 points: So close! Time for another visit? 7-11 points: Not bad, but there’s lots more to find. 0-6 points: Oops! Better luck next time.





kids’ zone



One of the great winter pleasures at many WWT centres is the swan feed. It’s a great way to get to know more about these brilliant birds, in the company of a warden who explains all about them. To find out more, check the events listings towards the back of this issue.










F eeding friends-y


4 5

Ho ho! 6

There are several types of duck that you can find at WWT centres this winter. Six of them can also be found in this grid. See if you can find all six, and then match the names to the numbered pictures. The answers are on page 12.

Double vision Here’s a repeated picture of young cranes being fed at Slimbridge. As you can see, our crane ‘Dad’ is carefully disguised, so that the youngsters don’t bond with humans, which would be of no use to them in the wild. There are five differences between the two photos, however. Can you tell what they are? Answers on page 12.

This bird with strange legs is a clue to the name of an animal. Answer on page 12.

Get in touch! Send your letters to Explore, Waterlife, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, or I’d love to hear from you.




Winter and Spring

For Wildlife Breaks in the Highlands ©Richard Pegler

©Phil Smith

©Greg Morgan

©John Betts

©Howard Birley

There are wildlife watching opportunities in the Scottish Highlands throughout the winter and spring periods. Thousands of geese will be present at local lochs, numerous seaduck and waders can be found along the scenic Moray Firth coastline and Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting and Mountain Hare can be encountered on snow-capped mountains. Heather-clad hillsides, dramatic valleys and enchanting forests are home to Golden Eagle, Red Deer, Red Squirrel, Crested Tit and Capercaillie, with spring bringing the return of breeding Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers. A stay at the historic Grant Arms Hotel, home of the Bird Watching & Wildlife club, in the country town of Grantown-on-Spey provides the perfect base. • All rooms are en-suite with tea/coffee making facilities, TV, hairdryer and toiletries DOG FRIENDLY • Early birder breakfasts available for those catching the early birds • Complimentary Newspaper • Comfortable Bar and Public areas • Fine Scottish Dining using local produce • Free WiFi and use of Guest Computer • Boot wash/Drying and Laundry rooms • Access to the BWWC Club Room and Library • Participation in the BWWC Programme of Events TARiFF 2013/2014—pRicEs pER pERson DB&B DB&B 4 NIGHTS 7 NIGHTS

Nov–Dec 2013 £195 £325

Jan–Mar 2014 £220 £365

Apr–Oct 2014 £350 £540

Nov–Dec 2014 £195 £325

Price per person. Excludes Christmas, New Year and other Special Breaks. Other lengths of stay are also available. • Single, Twin, Double, Family and Wheelchair Accessible Rooms available. • Room supplements £pppn: Club Room £10, Superior Room £20, Four Poster £30. • Special Rates for Clubs, Tours and Conferences. Terms and conditions apply.

To BooK: cAll 01479 872526 or E-mAil

GRANT ARMS HOTEL, 25 THE SQUARE, GRANTOWN ON SPEY, PH26 3HF By Road: Grantown is situated just off the A9 Edinburgh– Inverness road. By Train: The nearest station is Aviemore (14 miles) on the First ScotRail Edinburgh–Inverness line. By plane: Inverness (30 miles)—flights from most major UK airports. Other destinations available from Aberdeen airport (75 miles). To make the most of the wildlife watching opportunities, we recommend you have a car.

The local knowledge of the BWWc Team ensures you make the most of your holiday whilst remaining free to create your own itinerary. BWWc Guests receive free maps and guides beforehand so they can plan their stay. When you get here the BWWc Team can provide information about local wildlife and where’s best to see it, as well as giving you suggestions for great days out. If you want an escorted trip, the BWWc Team can recommend local guides. All Guests have access to the Club Room (our wildlife information centre), our Natural History Library, the Osprey Suite (our lecture theatre) and can take advantage of the BWWc’s free programme of Guided Walks, Talks, Wildlife Briefings, Quizzes and Film screenings.

SPECIAL BREAKS CHRISTMAS IN WONDERLAND (23rd Dec – 27th Dec 2013) Come and celebrate Christmas in this most beautiful of locations and enjoy a BWWC programme of Christmas and wildlife events. 4 nights from £399pp (standard room)

HOGMANAY IN THE HIGHLANDS (30th Dec 2013 – 2nd Jan 2014) Come and celebrate New Year in true

Scottish style with a full BWWC programme of New Year and wildlife events. 3 nights DB&B £399pp (standard room)

BURNS WINTER BREAK (23rd Jan – 27th Jan 2014) Come and celebrate Burns Night with us and enjoy a BWWC programme of full Burns and wildlife events. 4 nights DB&B from £220pp (standard room) Also coming up in 2014

Valentines Break (12th Feb – 16th Feb) 4 nights DB&B from £220pp Special Easter Break (18th Apr – 22nd Apr) 4 nights DB&B from £245pp Red Deer Rut Break (26th Sep – 3rd Oct) 7 nights DB&B from £540pp

D own your way WWT centres will be alive with activity over the winter, with some stunning migration spectacles. For more information on migration and what you might see at centres, see page 22 For the full list of centre events, information and news, find your local centre at

2 3

1 Throughout December and January, all nine WWT Wetland Centres will be holding Craneberry Fest! Make beautiful cranberry Christmas decorations or birdfeeders, try delicious cranberry treats and learn more about the iconic wetland fruit – the cranberry – and its link to our cranes. For more information on Craneberry Fest, see page 9.



WWT’s centres: 1 Castle Espie (brent goose) 2 Caerlaverock (barnacle goose) 3 Washington (otter) 4 Martin Mere (whooper swan) 5 Welney (barn owl) 6 Llanelli (sunset) 7 Slimbridge (Bewick’s swan) 8 London (shoveler) 9 Arundel (water rail)


7 8



Mill Road, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9PB 01903 881530

WWT Arundel Wetland Centre Background Arundel is a 65-acre reserve in an idyllic setting, nestled at the base of the South Downs National Park. Gliding through the reedbeds in silent electric boats provides the opportunity to glimpse a rare water vole or see vividly coloured kingfishers. Another prized resident is the nene, the goose saved from extinction by WWT founder Sir Peter Scott and still one of the world’s rarest waterbirds. Wide, paved walkways lead you through a collection of wildfowl from around the world and six bird hides from where you can watch the wildlife. The boardwalk offers an enchanting stroll through one of the largest reedbeds in Sussex. Springtime fills the valley with wildflowers and warbler songs; summer brings exciting pond-dipping discoveries; as winter starts, Bewick’s swans return and water rails emerge. News There has been great excitement at Arundel as the new Discovery Hide, installed as part of the Arun Riverlife Project, opened on 16 June. It’s aimed at beginners and is equipped with binoculars and ID panels. Staff and visitors alike are really looking forward to watching the habitats develop. Spring and summer were also a fantastic time for our visitors as new life sprung up everywhere! You could barely move for cygnets, goslings and ducklings, and if you looked very carefully you might even have spotted baby water voles taking their first swim along the reedbeds.

Water vole

Behind the scenes

‘Jason, Mum, Dad and Auntie Deb had a lovely time in the new hide. We even saw our first oystercatcher!’ Feedback from the Discovery Hide visitor book

Arundel Events (key below. For further information, please visit Every day In Focus Sales Test binoculars and scopes under field conditions. Free. UAA BE Sat 5 October Photographing Birds Workshop with David Plummer A one-day workshop specialising in the art of bird photography. 10am-4pm. £89. IA BE



Sat 26 to Sun 27 October Family Pumpkincarving workshop Carve and take home a Halloween pumpkin. Workshops begin at 10.30am; last one 4pm start. Free. UAA BE Sat 26 October to Sun 3 November October Half-term Create creepy crafts and pond dip for minibeasts! Free. UAA

Sat 9 November Further your Skills in Wildlife Photography A follow-up to the Core Skills course with David Plummer. 10am-4pm. £89. IA BE Sun 10 November In Focus Sales Test binoculars and scopes under field conditions. Free. UAA Sat 16 to Sun 17 November Photography A weekend of photography displays,

wildlife photography talks and walks. 10am-4pm. Free. UAA Tues 19 November In Focus Sales Test binoculars and scopes under field conditions. Free. UAA Thurs 5 December Winter Wildfowl Photography This workshop by Robert Canis will assist you to produce breathtaking wildlife images. 10am. £89. IA RI BE

Saturdays 7 & 14 and Sundays 8 & 15 December Sail to Santa Ride our elf-powered boats! 10am-4pm. Free. UAA BE

Sun 8 December In Focus Sales Test binoculars and scopes under field conditions. Free. UAA Tues 17 December In Focus Sales Test binoculars and scopes under field conditions. Free. UAA

Weds 1 to Mon 6 January 2014 Tick ’n’ Twitch Junior See what’s wild onsite! Pick up a Birding Spotter card for kids, free at the admission desk. 9.30am-4.30pm daily. Free. UAA Mon 13 January 2014 Winter Wildfowl Photography Workshop This workshop by Robert Canis will assist you to produce breathtaking wildlife images. 10am. £89. IA

BE Booking Essential RI Refreshments Included M/F Member/Friend IA price Includes Admission cost WA included With Admission cost UAA Usual Admission rates Apply WP Weather Permitting OAA Overnight Accommodation Available PC/PP Per Child/Person

Centre events are subject to change. Please phone for further information or visit the WWT website /caerlaverock /castleespie /llanelli /london /martinmere /slimbridge /washington /welney


october/december 2013

d ow n yo u r way Caerlaverock

Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire DG1 4RS 01387 770200

WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre Background Caerlaverock has a stunning nature reserve where the wild world still has the power to touch, thrill and inspire. Experience year-round wildlife spectacles from observation towers, comfortable hides and secluded avenues. From October, Caerlaverock is alive with wildfowl, huge flocks of thousands of barnacle geese, whooper swans and other wintering birds. And you can actually book the farmhouse in the reserve for overnight stays. In spring and summer you can wander through wildflower meadows filled with orchids, butterflies and dragonflies. News The eagerly anticipated new Sir Peter Scott Observatory is nearing completion and it looks amazing. It really will have the WOW factor and be a true window on wildlife, and the views of the daily swan feeds will be better than ever. It will be open in time for the birds arriving this autumn and will feature a multilevel viewing area, with a tower and a lift to each level. It will also feature an exhibition space and learning room. The observatory is being generously funded by the Scottish Government and the European Community, Dumfries and Galloway LEADER Programme, along with numerous kind trusts and individuals. After two years at Caerlaverock, Centre Manager Dave Fairlamb is migrating south to take over at our Arundel centre; we all wish him well. He has been replaced by Brian Morrell, previously Learning Manager at Caerlaverock. The two osprey chicks have now fledged. Both females will hopefully make it to Africa where they will spend the next couple of years. More than 28,000 people watched them on the WWT webcam from all over the world. After some unusual goings-on in the nest loft, the two barn owl chicks have also fledged, causing great interest and concern from the thousands of webcam viewers.


Behind the scenes

‘The sight and sound of the barnacle geese at dawn flighting in from their night-time roost on the Solway mudflats to feed on the reserve at Caerlaverock is an experience not to be missed’ Brian Morrell, Centre Manager (above)

Caerlaverock Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Sundays 13 October (6.45am), 10 November (6.30am), 8 December (7am), 5 January 2014 (7.15am) and 2 February 2014 (7am) Dawn Flights Experience the dawn flight of the geese. Free. UAA

Sun 27 October Dusk Flight Experience the dusk flight of the geese. 4.30-6pm. Free. UAA

Sun 3 November What’s that Goose? Learn to identify the different species of wintering geese. 1-4pm. Free. UAA BE

Sun 3 November In Focus Try before you buy the latest binoculars and telescopes from the huge range available today. 10am-4pm. Free. UAA

Sat 9 November Learn to Digiscope A beginner’s guide to digiscoping. 11am-3pm. £20. IA BE

Sat 30 November and Sun 1 December Wildlife Photography Wildlife Photography weekend courses at Caerlaverock with experienced wildlife photographers Tom Langlands and Bob Fitzsimmons. TBC. £170. IA RI BE

october/december 2013



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d ow n yo u r way Castle Espie

Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down BT23 6EA 028 9187 4146

WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre Background Castle Espie’s tranquil setting offers the best views of Strangford Lough, and introduces adults and children to the wonders of wetland birds and their habitats, alongside nose-to-beak encounters with some of the world’s most dramatic and rare birds. The centre has the most significant habitat improvement of its kind in Ireland, including restored lagoons, grasslands, salt marshes and reedbeds. The centre is a magical place for all ages, offering wild woodland walks, soft play areas, events and workshops and art exhibitions. After your visit you can relax in the Loughshore Café over coffee or lunch. The outdoor duckery is open year-round to visit. In summer it’s home to new hatchlings and later in the year it keeps young birds safe and healthy. In autumn, visitors can witness almost the entire population of migratory brent geese. News There was great excitement at Castle Espie on 29 July as the Mayor of Ards, Councillor Stephen McIlveen, officially opened the newly refurbished natural woodland play area formerly known to visitors as ‘Stoat Town’. The new development includes swings and a tubular badger sett system with tunnels that children can enjoy exploring. There is also a rope wall, super-fast slide and climbing frame that will keep the kids entertained. Some of the world’s largest wild ducks also arrived at Castle Espie. The comb ducks are very large birds and have a wingspan approaching 1.5 metres wide. Grounds and Reserve Manager Kerry Mackie highlighted: ‘Unlike ducks, which dabble and dive, comb ducks are grazers. Seeing the size they grow to, we’re going to need plenty of grain to keep them fed!” We also had a bumper year for ducklings and saw an improvement in butterfly numbers from previous years.

Comb duck

Behind the scenes

Volunteering in just 25 words: ‘Beautiful Castle Espie abounds in wonderful people, staff, volunteers and visitors. Most importantly, though, is the natural world, birds, butterflies, damselflies and wetlands. Love it.’ Castle Espie volunteer Michael Graham

Castle Espie Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Every Saturday and Sunday in October The Brents are Back Witness the most epic wildlife spectacle Ireland has to offer. 12 noon and 2pm. Free. IA Sun 6 October Guide in the Hide Castle Espie Bird Watch Club will be in

the Brent Hide to share its expert bird knowledge with visitors. 2-4pm. Free. IA Sat 12 October Brent Dusk Event Join us for an evening with the brents. Includes walk, evening dinner and slideshow. 6-9pm. £20. IA RI BE

Sat 26 to Sun 27 October Spellbound Bird Feeder Workshop Learn the best way to feed birds as the Halloween weather approaches. 12 noon. Free. IA Sat 2 November Food From the Wild Join our resident expert

in a search for food around the grounds of Castle Espie. 2-4pm. Free. IA BE Sat 2 and Sun 3 November Treelightful Weekend Join us for an afternoon of treemendous fun at Castle Espie. 2-4pm. Free. IA BE

Saturdays, 7, 14, 21, Sundays 8, 15, 22, and Monday 23 December Here Comes Santa Have a magical time at Castle Espie this Christmas. 10am4.30pm. £5. IA RI BE

Thurs 26 December Boxing Day Walk Head out for a refreshing walk with good company this Boxing Day! 12 noon and 2pm. Free. UAA Wed 1 January 2014 Tick and Twitch Come and get your New Year’s bird list off to a flying start! Free. IA

october/december 2013



d ow n yo u r way Llanelli

Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA14 9SH 01554 741087

WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre Background The award-winning Llanelli centre is situated on the northern shore of the Burry Inlet, with stunning views over the estuary and Gower. Whether you’re a serious birdwatcher or just looking for fun and relaxation, you can enjoy a day of discovery, whatever the weather. Wander among the beautiful, tranquil mosaic of lakes, pools, lagoons and reedbeds, home to countless wild species as diverse as dragonflies and little egrets, plus some of the world’s most spectacular ducks, geese, swans and flamingos, many so tame they feed from the hand. We also have seasonal canoe safari and bike trails. Mobility scooters are available and we have a licensed café and gift shop. News Summer and autumn bird highlights included our firstever lesser yellowlegs, as well as a record number of 61 Mediterranean gulls. Other highlights have included a great white egret, a male ruff in full breeding plumage, plus a garganey and spoonbill. We have been awarded a Trip Advisor award of excellence and we have also recently been assessed by Visit Wales and have maintained our status as a quality assured visitor attraction. We also held our very first Bioblitz event in June and for the first time recorded a common twayblade orchid in the Discovery area.

Lesser yellowlegs

Our ‘Monday Munchkins’ sessions are also proving extremely popular with our very young naturalists who attend 11am to 12 noon during term time. Here you can see Oliver bug hunting (right). Behind the scenes

Leeanna Rotondo (far right), our talented cook, has built up a big reputation with our visitors (and staff!), who make a special visit just to enjoy her range of delicious homemade cakes.

Llanelli Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Saturdays 5, 12 and 19 and Sundays 6, 13 and 20 October October Weekends Halloween and migration-themed family fun! 11am-5pm. Free. UAA Sat 12 October Painting Day with Jan M Bligh 10am-4.30pm. £30. IA BE

Sat 26 October to Sun 3 November Half-term Family Fun Halloween and migration-themed family fun! 11am-5pm. Free. UAA



Sun 27 October Spooky Nature Night After-dark exploration of the spooky side of wetland wildlife. 5pm. £4. IA RI BE Wed 30 October Bat Box Workshop Create your own bat box to take home and help save British bats! 10am-12 noon, 1-4pm. £5. UAA Thurs 31 October Spooky Nature Night After-dark exploration of the spooky side of wetland wildlife! 5pm. £4. IA RI BE

october/december 2013

Sat 2 November Hibernate or Migrate? A special guided walk to search for migrating and hibernating creatures! 12 noon. WA UAA

Mondays 4 November to 16 December Monday Munchkins Guided activities for toddlers every Monday during term-time. 11am-12 noon. Free. UAA

Saturdays 9, 16 and 23 and Sundays 10, 17 and 24 November November Weekends All-day family fun! 11am-5pm. Free. UAA

Sat 9 November Painting Days with Jan M Bligh 10am-4.30pm. £30.

Sat 7 December Painting Days with Jan M Bligh 10am-4.30pm. £30.

Weekends from 1 to 15 December December Weekends All-day family fun! 11am-5pm.

Sat 7 and Sun 8 December Christmas Wreath Workshop Make your very own unique Christmas wreath from materials gathered in the wetlands. 11am-12 noon, 1-4pm. £4. UAA


Sundays 1, 8, 15 and 22 December Feed the Birds with Santa A magical experience for young children not to be missed! 2.45pm. Free. UAA


Sundays 15 and 22 December Robin Nest Box Workshop Receive expert one-to-one tuition

to make your very own professional robin nest box. 11am-12 noon, 1-4pm. £5. UAA Sat 21 December to Mon 6 January 2014 Christmas Holiday Fun All-day family fun! 11am-5pm. Free. UAA Sun 22 December Robin Nest Box Workshop Receive expert one-to-one tuition to make your very own professional robin nest box. 11am-12 noon, 1-4pm. £5. UAA

Mediterranean gull

october/december 2013



d ow n yo u r way London

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, London SW13 9WT 020 8409 4400

WWT London Wetland Centre Background Nestled in a loop of the Thames, London is an urban oasis for wildlife and people; a rural idyll in the heart of the capital. Voted the UK’s Favourite Nature Reserve by readers of Countryfile magazine, it is perfect for a relaxing stroll along the paths that meander among the lakes, meadows and gardens. The centre is a haven for wild ducks, wading birds, butterflies, bats, amphibians and water voles. Visitors can also see beautiful waterbirds from around the world, and watch the otter family at feeding time. With six hides, two kids’ adventure zones and a café, there’s something for everyone. News After a long, hard winter, spring and summer both seemed to arrive at the same time and with them came a black-necked grebe. In early June we had to close off the summer route, but visitors didn’t appear to mind as it was for a good cause; to let a pair of sparrowhawks incubate their eggs in peace. Then, in late June, a pair of mute swans broke the centre record by hatching 12 cygnets. In the centre’s 13-year history this is the highest number of cygnets recorded for one pair of swans and is at the very top end of the range for a brood. And July saw another centre first with shovelers breeding onsite; there were three broods so it really was a bumper year. As summer got into full swing a bevy of juveniles seemed to appear. Redshank, lapwing, tufted ducks, sand martins, whitethroat, goldcrest and common tern were just some of the species rearing young on islands, lakes, nest banks and trees.


The abundance of wildlife was celebrated at our BBC Summer of Wildlife event on 30 June. Twenty wildlife organisations from across the capital joined us for a day of activities, from clay hedgehog making to building bug hotels. Behind the scenes

‘We had a great start to the migration season with a host of wading birds, plus a juvenile garganey, yellow wagtails, black tern and more. Keep an eye on the wildlife sightings on our website to see what else drops in.’ Adam Salmon, Reserve Manager, London

London Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Sat 5 October Wildlife Walk for Members In this walk we’ll look out for seasonal migrants and autumn fruits and berries. 1pm. £2. UAA BE Sat 5 October Introduction to Birdwatching The walk will focus on birds currently onsite, their plumage, calls and behaviour. 9.30-11am. £20. UAA RI BE Sun 6 and Mon 7 October Migration Walk Join our warden for a special guided walk



with a focus on migratory birds. 9.30-11am. Free UAA BE Mondays 7 and 21 October Pond Dipping for Adults Why should children have all the fun messing about in ponds? 12 noon and 3pm. Free. UAA Sun 13 October Migration Walk Join our warden for a special guided walk with a focus on migratory birds. 9.30-11am. Free. UAA BE

october/december 2013

Sun 13 October UK Fungus Day Walks An autumnal stroll around the reserve to spot and identify fascinating fungi. 11am and 2pm. £6. UAA BE Sat 19 October Introduction to Wildlife Photography Iain Green will guide you through your camera’s various automatic and manual settings. 10am-4pm. £55. UAA BE Sat 26 and Sun 27 October Spider Weekend Meet spiders close up and learn more about

these fascinating and often misunderstood animals. Free. UAA Sat 2 November Wildlife Walk for Members On this walk we’ll look out for wintering ducks, bitterns and other seasonal species. 1pm. £2. UAA BE Fri 8 November Wildlife Photography: Intermediate Skills If you want to finetune your wildlife photography, this is the workshop for you. 10am-4pm. £55. UAA BE

Sat 9 and Sun 10 November Winter Wonderland Weekend Experience the magic of a festive visit to Father Christmas and his huskies on our reserve. Free. UAA Sun 10 November Introduction to Birdwatching The walk will focus on birds currently onsite, their plumage, calls and behaviour. 9.30-11am. £20. UAA RI BE Sun 17 November Will Burrard-Lucas: Wildlife Photography Wildlife photographer

Will has just returned from a year in Zambia, encountering elephants, hippos and shoebill storks. See some of his amazing photos and hear the stories behind them. £5 PP + admission. BE

Sat 21 December to Sun 5 January 2014 Christmas Holiday Family Activities UAA

Wed 1 January 2014 Tick and Twitch Walk Get your 2014 bird list off to a flying start! 9.45am. UAA

Sand martin

october/december 2013



NEW from Ridgeline

Pintail smock £89 / Grizzly Jacket £69

An Aurora Vest offered at £25 (50% off) when you purchase one of the above items. (While stocks last)

Leading specialist in high quality Binoculars & Telescopes

We carry one of the largest displays of optical instruments in the UK, available for you to test in our very own nature reserve, this includes a large pool in front of the optical showroom with feeding stations to attract a wide variety of birds.

Great New Deals! Swarovski EL Swarovision

Zeiss HT

8 x 42 £1459 10 x 42 £1499

8 x 32 £1415 8.5 x 42 £1710 10 x 42 £1775


New Vortex 50mm ED Telescope

Ultravid 8 x 32 £1370 8 x 42 £1530 10 x 42 £1599

Complete with zoom eyepiece and case £599

Swarovision ATX Telescope

+ 65mm OG £2055 + 85mm OG £2496 + 95mm OG £2735

Prices correct at the time of going to press but may be subject to change.

Also visit our Clothing & Accessory Showroom

• Clothing by: Paramo, Tilley, Country Innovation & Ridgeline Showrooms • Brasher Boots & Shoes Open Monday • Nikwax Waterproofing Products • Bird Tables, Nest Boxes to Saturday • Bird Feeders: All sizes and types 9am-5pm • Top quality Bird Food: Nuts, Seed, Sunflower Hearts, Fat Balls and Cake For more information and special offers please visit our website Phone or email now for our latest price list or visit our showrooms e-mail: Church Lane, Corley, Coventry CV7 8BA Tel: 01676 540501/542476 Fax: 01676 540930 Export Facilities Personal and postal orders welcomed Package Deals Attractive discounts. Phone for quotation

Half Page Horizontal.indd 1


21/08/2013 13:58

ATOL protected No. 808

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d ow n yo u r way Martin Mere

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre

Burscough, Ormskirk, Lancashire L40 0TA 01704 895181

Background Martin Mere is where wilderness and a fun day out come together. Its year-round attractions include a beaver lodge, otter enclosure, pond dipping zone, inspirational eco-garden and the opportunity to enjoy close-up encounters with about 100 species of international waterbirds. Martin Mere’s nature trail has 10 comfortable hides overlooking 500 acres of different types of wetland habitat – reedbed, open water with islands, wet grassland, wet woodland and marshes. A survey in 2002 recorded well over 2,000 different species of birds, mammals, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mini-beasts living in and around the mere, which gives the site its name. News Following a hot start to the summer, our holiday activities were a roaring success, with the opening of our new Weird or Wonderful? exhibit bringing several new species to the centre – the avocets, white-faced whistling ducks and comb ducks have settled into their new enclosures. As always, our Animal Magic event was a great success, with everything from raptors to reptiles and meerkats on display. New life came along in the form of more than 100 hatchlings – some, like the garganey, breeding for the first time at Martin Mere. Three critically endangered Baer’s pochard ducklings were successfully reared in our duckling nursery, along with five lesser white-fronted geese, who hatched against the odds from eggs found in an abandoned nest. In addition, the hot weather caused our Chilean flamingos to lay for the first time in several years. Our reserve webcam is again up and running over winter. This gives an unparalleled view out over the mere. The reserve is not the only area of Martin Mere in the spotlight – there was a special feature on The One Show in September, starring our beaver family. We’re very grateful to Persimmon Homes, one of the UK’s leading house-builders, for generously sponsoring the Beaver Lodge for a year.


Behind the scenes

‘I had my most memorable moment at Martin Mere in the Ron Barker Hide. It was before dawn and I had come in early to count the pink-footed geese. As I looked out, the two marshes were completely covered in 25,000 geese. I waited to see them take off – one of the greatest sights in nature’ Tom Clare, Assistant Reserve Manager at Martin Mere

Martin Mere Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Saturdays 12 and 26 October Dawn Flight Experience the haunting sound and the thrill of an early morning hide visit with a warden. 7am. £15. IA BE

Fridays 25 October and 15 November Bird Identification Workshop This workshop is aimed at people who would like to develop their skills in identification. 8.30am. £20. IA BE

Saturdays 26 October and 16 November Wildlife Photography Workshop This workshop is designed to help you understand some of the basics of photography. 10am. £60. UAA BE

Sundays 27 October and 17 November Drawing and Painting Birds Aimed at beginners, learn how to draw and paint a detailed and realistic painting of a bird subject. 9.30am. £45. IA

Sat 9 November Ben Osborne Ben Osborne, the official photographer for the BBC programme Planet Earth, takes you on a Jurassic journey of the south coast. 7.30pm. £15. IA RI BE

Sat 23 to Sun 24 November North West Bird Watching Festival Whatever the weather, the North West Bird Watching Festival is an enjoyable and informative day out. 8am. Free. UAA

october/december 2013



d ow n yo u r way Slimbridge

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre Background Slimbridge sits on the banks of the Severn Estuary with breathtaking views over to the Forest of Dean. In the summer our wetlands are bustling with life, including many species of orchid, wading birds and dragonflies. In the winter our world-renowned reserve attracts thousands upon thousands of birds, including the beautiful Bewick’s swans that winter each year after making the long journey from Arctic Russia. We make the most of all the natural spectacles with our events throughout the year, including Land Rover safaris in the summer and wild bird feeds in the winter months. There is plenty to explore here at Slimbridge with many hides offering fantastic views of our wild reserve and lots of beautiful paths, boardwalks and landscapes to discover. For wildlife enthusiasts, we upload our sightings to the website each day, so it is worth checking what has been seen so you can head to the most likely hide to see that species. News We’ve had some fantastic new developments at the centre this summer and more are in the pipeline. We’ve revamped the play area at River Life (next to the Canoe Safari) so there is plenty for all ages. Visit our new play tower, which has a cargo net and walkway into the woods. This autumn we are also making changes to our Visitor Centre foyer to create a more engaging space. Access to the

Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Prebook all paid events on 01453 891223

centre will be temporarily switched to downstairs while the transformation takes place. We hope you’ll like the changes. Our Discovery Hide, which opened at the start of the summer, is proving very popular and is perfect for visitors who want to see some wildlife without bringing lots of kit, as it is all provided there with identification charts. Soon after opening, a spoonbill kindly spent some days close to the hide, giving us a real spectacle to watch! Due to the heatwave, our Chilean flamingos laid eggs much earlier than the previous few years, which was great news for the flock, as with the longer days and abundance of food it gave the chicks a great start. Meanwhile, the otters at Back from the Brink found it rather warm so spent longer in the water than usual and received special fish lollies from their keeper, John Crooks. The warm weather also created ideal conditions for insects, and the golden-ringed dragonfly made its second-ever recorded appearance onsite. Behind the scenes

‘I think Slimbridge is great because there is always so much that is new to see. I’m fascinated by the flamingos so like to watch how their behaviour changes throughout the year. It is a bit clichéd, but my favourite season is spring as I like to see all the new life on the site’ Lydia Wild (opposite), part of the cleaning team at Slimbridge

Slimbridge Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Tues 8 October Nature Photography on Tour Take unique photographs and learn about the best ways to approach wildlife without disturbance. 7.30am. £60.

Fri 18 October Intermediate Photography Improve your knowledge of photography techniques and learn how to get more out of your camera. 10am. £60. UAA RI BE

approach wildlife without disturbance. 7.30am. £60. UAA RI BE

and see the sights this WWT centre has to offer. 8am. £18. IA BE

Sat 26 October to Sun 3 November Halloween Details will be supplied nearer the time. 9.30am. Free. UAA

Fri 18 October Friends Talk by Michael Leach – Poles Apart A fascinating talk by Michael Leach on the threats to the fragile domains of polar wildlife. 7.30pm. £5.

Sat 19 October Birdwatch Morning Join the warden as he walks onto the reserve to watch the high tide bring hundreds of birds closer. 8am. £15.

Sat 26 October to Sun 3 November October Half-term – Migration Take the Migration Challenge to see how many species of bird you can spot at Slimbridge. 9.30am. Free. UAA

Sun 3 November Birdwatch Morning Join our warden as he opens our hides around the grounds to learn about the different birds visible. 8am. £15.






Tues 22 October Nature Photography on Tour Take unique photographs and learn about the best ways to

october/december 2013

Sun 3 November Coach trip to WWT Arundel Spend a day at Arundel


Fri 15 November Friends Talk by Peter Cranswick – The Wild Goose Chase A background on the project to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the red-breasted goose. 7.30pm. £5. UAA BE

Sat 16 and Sun 17 November Trevor Smith Art Course – Mammals at Slimbridge You will gain expert advice and tutoring in watercolours from renowned wildlife artist Trevor Smith. 10am. £70. UAA RI BE Sat 30 November to Sun 22 December Santa’s Grotto Meet Father Christmas in his cosy grotto and tell him your Christmas wishes. 12 noon to 4pm. Free. UAA BE Saturdays 7, 14, 21 and Sundays 8, 15, 22 December Breakfast with Father Christmas

Father Christmas is visiting Slimbridge this year and is hoping your family will join him for breakfast. Free. IA RI BE

Fridays 13 and 20 December, and 10 January 2014 Floodlit Swan Supper See the magic of a floodlit feed on Swan Lake before enjoying a delicious meal in our restaurant. 6.15pm for 6.30pm start. £26. UAA RI BE

Sat 21 December to Sun 5 January 2014 Christmas Holidays – Bewick’s Swan Details will be released nearer the time. 9.30am. Free. UAA

Bewick’s swans

Golden-ringed dragonfly

october/december 2013




Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear NE38 8LE 0191 416 5454

WWT Washington Wetland Centre Background Whatever the season, come rain or shine, Washington is the perfect place to connect with nature. Open 364 days a year, our familyfriendly site, on the banks of the Wear, offers visitors of all ages unforgettable wildlife encounters and beautiful scenery all year round. Explore a mix of wetland, woodland, nature reserve and meadows; home to rare wildfowl, flocks of waders, Chilean flamingos, Asian short-clawed otters, Eurasian cranes and more. Enjoy daily animal feeds, regular walks and talks, and other events, plus excellent access (free scooter hire), a café with views of spectacular wildlife, a gift shop and a play area. News May saw the introduction of Fran, Phil, Frankie, Nico and Flo – our five Chilean flamingo chicks (left) – into the adult flock, where they are now thriving. We also opened our longawaited saline lagoon and hope you are as excited about watching it mature and establish as we are! Wader Lake has seen great successes this year, including returning avocets for the first time, with two birds hatched and ringed here in 2011 coming back to breed. All in all, 12 avocet chicks fledged. The wildlife ponds have been busy, with toads by the hundreds and dragonflies in abundance, while July’s hot spell brought out daytime moths, with highlights including the striking six-spot burnet. Our staff and volunteers have had double cause for celebration; clinching the title of fourth Best Small Visitor Attraction in England at the annual Visit England tourism awards and being awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor.

Eurasian curlew

Behind the scenes

‘The winter curlew roost is one of our most spectacular wildlife highlights. The sight and sound of more than 1,000 of these fantastic waders swooping in to roost at dusk is something that I look forward to every year’ John Gowland, Washington Reserve Manager

Washington Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Saturdays 5 October, 2 November and 7 December Guide in a Hide Learn more about our wild birds with help from our volunteer hide guide. 10am12 noon and 2-4pm. Free. UAA Sundays 6 October, 3 November and 1 December Sunday Gang Come and volunteer with us one Sunday a month. Free. IA



Saturdays 12 October, 9 November and 14 December Junior Members Club Join us for monthly Junior Members sessions. Free. UAA Saturdays 19 October, 16 November and 21 December Walk With a Warden Take a guided tour with an expert warden. 2pm. Free. UAA

october/december 2013

Sat 26 October to Sun 3 November Half-term Crafts Take part in themed craft activities. 1-3.30pm. Free. UAA Sundays 27 October and 22 December In Focus Meet the binocular and telescope specialists. Free. IA Tues 29 to Thurs 31 October Nature Fright Nights See nocturnal nature at

its worst during one of our Nature Fright Night events! 5-7pm. £8. IA BE Mon 25 November to Fri 20 December Festive Lunches Enjoy a festive feast at Waterside Café. 12 noon-2pm. £16. UAA RI Weekends from Sat 30 November to Sun 5 January 2014 Festive Family Craft Weekends Take part in fun festive crafts. Free. UAA

Saturdays 7 and 14 December Winterland Santa Special Have fun with festive crafts and meet Santa in his cosy cabin. 10am-12 noon and 1-3pm. £4. IA BE Mon 23 December to Fri 3 January 2014 Festive Family Crafts Take part in fun festive crafts. 1-3.30pm. Free. UAA

Sat 4 January 2014 Guide in a Hide Learn more about our wild birds with help from our volunteer hide guide. 10am12 noon and 2-4pm. Free. Sun 5 January 2014 Sunday Gang Come and volunteer with us one Sunday a month. Free. IA

d ow n yo u r way Welney

WWT Welney Wetland Centre

Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Nr Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE14 9TN 01353 860711

News This summer we were able to report that one pair of black-tailed godwits (left) successfully hatched and fledged three chicks on the reserve. In recent summers we have had success on Lady Fen, our wetland creation site. Last year we had to rely solely on this area as the Ouse Washes were affected by summer flooding. We were able to open the summer walk in June and it remained open for most of the summer, allowing our visitors to get closer to the insect and plant life that are so important to the whole habitat.

James Lees; Richard Taylor-Jones; Alamy; Nick Cottrell; Bo Stranden; Ros Kavanagh; Adrian Morrison, FLPA; Alan Hewitt; Paul Marshall

Background Set in the heart of the Fens, Welney can be found on the borders of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. In winter the centre is most famous for the thousands of swans that migrate to the Ouse Washes from October to March. Whooper swans from Iceland and Bewick’s swans from Arctic Russia are joined by thousands of ducks such as wigeon, pintail, pochard, shoveler, teal and tufted ducks. See how evocative this landscape can be with visually stunning winter sunsets and the cacophony of swans as they come in to roost. Catch glimpses of barn owls hunting along the banks and water rails searching for food.

Behind the scenes

‘The swan migration is my favourite time of year. Being able to tell our visitors how amazing these birds and their journeys are is a real privilege’ Sam Lee, Public Engagement Officer (above)

Welney Events (see page 50 for key. For further information, please visit Tues 8 October Cuckoos Versus Hosts: Australian Rules! An evening talk about Australian cuckoos hosted by the Friends of Welney. 7.30pm start. £3. UAA RI

Sat 26 October Dawn Flight Out After roosting on the reserve, the swans take to the skies for an amazing spectacle. 6.15-9am. £12. IA BE Sat 9 November Jane Frost Willow Workshop Using willow and other

natural fibres, learn to make simple garden structures. 10am. £45. IA BE

Sat 16 and Sun 17 November Festival of Swans Join us to welcome the arrival of thousands of wintering swans and ducks to Welney.

Open 10am-8pm both days. Free. UAA Sat 16 November Photography Workshop With David Featherbe Join David on this half-day course to get closer to wildfowl. 1pm. £45. IA BE

Sat 14 December Jane Frost Willow Workshop Christmas Decorations Using willow and other natural fibres, learn to make simple structures. 10am-12.30pm or 1.30-4pm. £18. UAA BE

Weds 1 January 2014 Tick and Twitch Get your New Year’s bird list off to a flying start with the wintering wildfowl at Welney. Centre open from 10am-8pm. Free. UAA

october/december 2013



Classified directory

To advertise please contact Daniel Haynes on 0208 962 1257 or



The Old Cider House 3* Cottage sleeps 2 one double bedroom Paradise for walkers and birdwatchers, tranquil location on the Severn Way, watch the Severn Bore, picnic or BBQ beside the river. In the evening listen to the Owls and see the stars, walk along the river-bank to the Pub. 01452 741613

SLIMBRIDGE TUDOR ARMS Real Ale, Real Food Pub with 12 well appointed ensuite bedrooms ETB4* and 2 apartments. Adjacent to WWT CAMRA Awards from 2007-2013 Tel 01453 890306 Email enquiries@thetudorarms.




18th-century former village Inn five minutes from Slimbridge. ETC 3 star. Laura Ashley beamed spacious ensuite bedrooms (1 four poster). Stay Sun - Fri any three nights for £29 per person per night. Stay 4 nights get 5th FREE. Excellent discounted meals locally! Xmas bookings taken. Tel (Vicky Jennings) 01453 549996 Email:

Twin bedded annexe, ensuite, idyllic setting, adjacent to canal, walking distance from the WWT centre. Sue and Peter Gibson. Tel: 01453 890820 hotels/maycottage1.html


AT HOME IN LONDON OldCiderHouse_WWT_AprJun_13.indd 1 27/06/2013 TudorArms_WWT_APRJUN_13.indd 11:36 1 Bed & breakfast in London homes within easy reach of the London Wetlands Centre. Also in Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Notting Hill. 4 star homes independently assessed by VisitEngland including the only Gold Award B&B in London. Established in 1986. Minimum stay two consecutive nights. Tel: 020 8748 1943 Fax: 020 8748 2701

At Home in London



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27/06/2013 11:34

In a lovely valley in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Victorian-built Rosemoor offers characterful accommodation in spacious grounds. Unpolluted beaches, Skomer and tidal wetlands nearby (2 miles). Our own 30-acre Nature Reserve is home to badgers, otters and a great variety of birds and plants. John M. and Jacqui Janssen Rosemoor Country Cottages & Nature Reserve Walwyn’s Castle Haverfordwest SA62 3ED

Tel: 01437-781326 Fax: 01437-781080 E-mail: GIFTS


27/06/2013 Rosemoor_WWT_JulSep13.indd 11:27 1

Cosy old cottage with stunning sea views from every room, on unspoiled Pencaer peninsula. All mod cons but No TV (deliberately!). Perfect for wildlife, esp. sea birds, porpoises and seals. Magnificent coastal walks from the door. Sleeps 4, pets welcome. £330 - £350 pw. £650 for 2 weeks

Penguin Corner

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02/09/2013 10:03

Do you love penguins as much as we do? Then why not visit our site... We sell a variety of penguin related products. Facebook - Penguin Corner Twitter@welovepenguins



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classified directory



Full board, en-suite rooms from £65ppn Spring and Autumn Discounts available. ATOL PROTECTED 3760 BIRDING IN ANDALUCIA Select_Ad_WTT_JulSep13.indd 1

05/06/2013 16:45

Wales, puffins, red kites and thousands of starlings, seals, otters, dolphins sights and sounds to remember forever From single days out to week-long holidays throughout the year, contact: 0845 052 3533


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Puffins, porpoises, deer & dolphins & seals, seabirds, whales & wild flowers,

19/08/2013 15:46

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Excellent birding, hiking, peace and beauty in hidden spain. our andalucian farmhouse provides the ideal base. To discover more visit us at:


Tel: + 44 1253733568. Mob: +44 7856819291.

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spectacular scenery,

good company, great meals. “light carbon footprint” sailing holiday on the famous 65ft yacht

CORRYVRECKAN 0845 260 2677

Quote NTW1 for your special offer when booking. EQUIPMENT Yacht Corryvreckan_WWT_JulySept_13.indd 1

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Wildlife holidays in the West Highlands

23/11/2010 15:32

Stunning scenery and wonderful wildlife 01397 712700



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A beautiful one bedroom, period, canal side apartment in Slimbridge with private parking. Great location, just 1/2 a mile from Slimbridge WWT. Ideal holiday rental or buy to let. £114,950. Tel: 07790 350271 For more information and pictures, please visit:

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A sense of things to come Which is the most exciting month of the year? For swan expert Eileen Rees, with its prospects and expectancy, it’s very hard to beat October The advent of October brings a keen

sense of anticipation. It’s the month when wintering wildfowl start arriving in numbers in this country, bringing with them the feel of changing seasons, of natural cycles. It makes you feel in touch with the landscape and the many other species living in this world. Since first visiting the swans’ staging areas and breeding grounds in the late 1980s, I’ve been in touch with their activities throughout the year, not only during expeditions to Iceland and Russia, but through reports on their breeding seasons from friends and colleagues continuing the studies during the summer months. So when in the UK during May to August, I miss the birds and their summer haunts, but if I close my eyes and draw upon memories I can be mentally with them, out in the open landscapes. I can ‘see’ them, tucking themselves away among horsetails and reeds, whoopers hiding within the vegetation at the sight of a predator, the smaller and more skittish Bewick’s running quickly across the open tundra or, if not in moult, taking flight. I receive information from Iceland and Russia

’s swans

Eileen determining the vital statistics of Bewick


Pink-footed gees

more year, paying excited attention to the newly ringed individuals, particularly any cygnets ringed during the summer whose first marathon journey this is.

Other fascinating birds are also making these journeys, adding to the compelling mix of coastal and wetland wildlife that these islands can boast during the months of winter

WWT; James Lees; Alamy

when the cold weather sets in, and can visualise the birds gathering for their long flight to these tiny shores. Before the swans come the pink-footed geese. Wonderful, beautiful birds, they drop into Martin Mere in their thousands during October. As I watch the geese, I can see the swans in my mind’s eye, still at high latitudes waiting for their cygnets to grow and for the winds to change to assist their migration, then rapidly covering hundreds upon 66


october/december 2013

hundreds of kilometres on strong wings, before settling to refuel at vital staging posts along the way. The whoopers are the first to arrive; they have a shorter distance to travel. I continue to wait for the Bewick’s. Now they’re in Estonia; now the Netherlands. Each cold snap pushes them further west. And then they’re here. At first they come in ones and twos and small groups, their numbers ever growing. I look to see if old favourites have made it for one

They’re not alone. Other fascinating birds – goldeneye, long-tailed ducks, wigeon and European white-fronted geese from Scandinavia and Russia; godwits, golden plover and scaup from Iceland (just to mention a few) – are also making these journeys, albeit some in smaller numbers, adding to the compelling mix of coastal and wetland wildlife that these islands can boast during the winter months. All this lies ahead, to be revealed as the seasons steadily change. Yes, October is a month of glorious anticipation. It makes you feel alive.

Eileen Rees is Head of WWT’s UK Waterbird Conservation Programme. For more on migration, please turn to page 22.

Binoculars & Telescopes Binoculars Explorer WA

Smaller, lighter, brighter and sharper, the Explorer WA offers the opportunity to own and use a binocular with an unbeatable combination of performance, specification, ergonomics and build quality. With impressive wide-angle 7.5° (8x42) and 6.5° (10x42) fields of view and high quality optical system (PC, MC), images are clear and crisp with good colour contrast. Housed in a lightweight magnesium body and protected in a softtouch tactile rubber covering, Explorer WA binoculars are supplied with a comprehensive 10 year guarantee. 8x42 £209, 10x42 £219

Countryman BGA HD

With exceptional performance in a lightweight body, Countryman BGA HD are perfect for the wildlife enthusiast wanting high resolution, light transmission and colour contrast in a superbly finished compact instrument. 30 year guarantee. 8x32 £349, 8x42 £359, 10x42 £369

Savanna WP

Handy, lightweight and very compact, the Savanna WP delivers bright sharp images for all types of nature observation. Waterproof, rubber armoured and featuring long eyerelief for spectacle wearers, both models fold-in to just 50mm making them suitable for children of 7 years. 10 year guarantee. 6x30 £99, 8x30 £109

Telescopes GS 52 GA ED

The GS 52 GA ED sets new standards for light transmission, resolution and colour contrast offering a practical alternative to larger heavier telescopes in situations where size and weight are an issue. Bodies (Str or 45˚) £299 Recommended Eyepieces: HDF T 18xWW £159, HDF T 12-36x zoom £199

Digi-scoping Kits

A quality, easy to use solution to the problem of choosing a suitable digital compact camera for telephotography. NEW Prices from £199

IS 60 WP Fieldscopes The IS 60 WP is the perfect choice for the space and weight conscious birdwatcher looking for an affordable, flexible and upgradeable waterproof spottingscope to compliment their binoculars. Available in standard glass or ED versions with a wide choice of eyepieces and accessories. 10 year warranty.

Special Offer. Save 10% on IS WP Kits*

IS 60 WP + IS 18-54x + WP Case £249 IS 60 ED WP + HR2 16-48x + WP Case £409 IS 60 WP + IS 18-54x + WP Case + Velbon Sherpa 200R Tripod £349 IS 60 ED WP + HR2 16-48x + WP Case + Velbon Sherpa 200R Tripod £499 Kits are available in straight through or 45˚ angled versions from stockists nationwide. Phone for details. *Saving compared to buying items separately.

Opticron equipment can be tried, tested and purchased at the following WWT centres; Martin Mere, Slimbridge and the London Wetland Centre as well as good optical retailers nationwide. For product information, your nearest stockist and to order a Product Guide please phone us on 01582 726522 or visit us online at Opticron. Unit 21, Titan Court, Laporte Way, Luton, Beds, LU4 8EF UK Fax: 01582 723559 Email:

Waterlife October - December 2013  
Waterlife October - December 2013  

The magazine of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust