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waterlife The magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust | 188 Apr/Jun 2014 | £4.25 | wwt.org.uk

Waterlife 188 APRIL/JUNE 2014

SOCIAL GRACES

New insights into flamingo life

‘NOWHERE ELSE I’D RATHER BE’ Steve Backshall on the wonder of wetlands

Inside COMPLETE CENTRE ROUND-UP NEWS AND VIEWS WWT ONLINE LETTERS AND COMPETITIONS

RISE AND SHINE! wwt.org.uk

Enjoy the new spring life at your WWT centre


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in focus SALES EVENTS ‘Test under field conditions’ NORTH AND MIDLANDS Hauxley NR, Northumberland (Northumberland Wildlife Trust) Sun 13 Apr Sun 8 June / Sun 13 July Low Barns NR, County Durham (Durham Wildlife Trust) Sun 18 May / Sun 20 July North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire Sun 6 Apr Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire Sun 29 June Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire Sun 1 June Washington WWT, Tyne and Wear Sun 27 Apr Sun 25 May / Sun 22 June / Sun 27 July Whisby Nature Park, Lincoln (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust) Sun 20 Apr / Sun 15 June Wolseley Centre, Rugeley, Staffs (Staffordshire Wildlife Trust) Sat 3 May SOUTH AND EAST Arundel WWT, West Sussex Sun 13 Apr Tue 22 Apr / Sun 4 May / Tue 20 May / Sun 8 June Tue 17 June / Sun 6 July / Tue 22 July Grove Ferry, Stodmarsh NNR, Canterbury, Kent Sat 19 July Lackford Lakes, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Sat 17 May / Sun 13 July Rye Harbour NR, East Sussex Sat 12 Apr / Sun 18 May / Sat 7 June / Sat 12 July Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent Sun 27 Apr / Sun 15 June SOUTH AND WEST Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire (Hampshire Wildlife Trust) Tue 8 Apr / Tue 6 May Tue 3 June / Tue 8 July Exmouth, South Devon (close to rail and bus station) Sun 1 June Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset Wed 23 Apr Sat 24 May / Sun 29 June / Sat 26 July Seaton, Black Hole Marsh, E Devon Sat 5 Apr / Sun 22 June Yarner Wood, Bovey Tracey, Devon Sat 19 Apr WALES and SCOTLAND Llanelli WWT, Carmarthenshire Sun 20 Apr / Sun 25 May / Tue 10 June Sat 28 June / Tue 15 July / Sun 27 July Caerlaverock WWT Sun 4 May / Sun 6 July A good range of optics available seven days a week at the WWT shop Caerlaverock Hopetoun House, Edinburgh RSPB Scottish Birdfair Sat 10 and Sun 11 May

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CONTENTS

50 YEARS AND COUNTING ‘swanniversary’. In February, WWT celebrated 50 years of its Bewick’s swan study, in which close to 10,000 of these iconic birds have been individually identified by their bill patterns. Dafila Scott (right) is the daughter of Sir Peter, who began the programme in 1964. As a girl, she painted and named dozens of the swans, and once she reached adulthood, she formalised her love for them into scientific research. ‘My father would have been very proud to see the scientific research still going strong,’ she says. ‘The study is everything he set up WWT to be. Visitors and researchers watch the swans together, experiencing the magic of being close to them and following their loves, power struggles and tragedies from one generation to the next. ‘Through this understanding, we’ve produced decades of high-quality research, which has led to statutory protections for important wetlands and hope for the species’ future.’ The swans have now left the UK for their Arctic Russian breeding grounds, but while you wait for them to return, you can be part of their story by adopting one. Visit wwt.org.uk/swans or see page 30.

Dan Rowley; James Lees

On the cover: Hazel dormouse, Marko König, © imagebroker/Alamy

All in all, it was quite a

Bewick’s swan

This issue 4 Front lines Martin Spray on the importance of long-term thinking 7 Waterways News and views from the world of WWT 14 Wigeon post Your letters, plus our crossword and competition 16 Private life The astonishing world of flamingo social networks 24 The gallery New life is emerging at a WWT centre near you 31 The big issue Is there a realistic answer to the flooding problems? 36 Home from home Become part of WWT London Wetland Centre’s future 40 Wonderful world Amazing tales from behind the scenes at WWT 43 Netlands Our regular overview of WWT’s online world 44 Kids’ zone Games and fascinating facts with Steve Backshall 47 Down your way All the news and events at your local centre 66 Back chat Regular columnist Steve Backshall on his love of wetlands

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 wwt.org.uk membership@wwt.org.uk Registered Charity No. 1030884 and SC039410 CENTRES For full contact details, please see page 47 WWT Arundel 01903 883355 WWT Caerlaverock 01387 770200 WWT Castle Espie 028 9187 4146 WWT Llanelli 01554 741087 WWT London 020 8409 4400 WWT Martin Mere 01704 895181 WWT Slimbridge 01453 891900 WWT Washington 0191 416 5454 WWT Welney 01353 860711

WATERLIFE The quarterly magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Managing editor: Zoe Willetts waterlife@wwt.org.uk Executive editor: Emma Stephens Editorial board: Zoe Cameron, Ray Clark, Sacha Dench, Baz Hughes, David Salmon, Rob Shore, Mark Simpson Editor: Malcolm Tait malcolm.tait@thinkpublishing.co.uk Senior sub-editor: Marion Thompson Designer: Nikki Ackerman Group advertising manager: Sonal Mistry sonal.mistry@thinkpublishing.co.uk 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 2013: 94,153

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FRONT LINES

The long view Martin Spray CBE, WWT Chief Executive Is it just me or are we becoming an

increasingly short-term society? The more problems we create for ourselves, the more short-term reactions we seem to come up with to tackle them. The Severn Barrage proposal was an example. It didn’t address our longterm energy management or the fact that the problems that have arisen, which drive our correct desire for renewable energy solutions, have been the result of our disrespect for the environment for at least a century. While there is no doubt in my mind that we need to act with some urgency to address our environmental challenges, we have to look longer-term to plan ahead for a sustainable and successful future for all who live on this extraordinary planet.

I was interested to discover recently

that, in Germany, a large proportion of small- to medium-sized companies are family businesses. A report suggested that they tend to take more of a long-term view than public companies focused on shareholder returns, as they want to ensure that future generations of the family will continue to benefit from the success of the company. So which model would I support for management of Planet Earth plc? Shouldn’t the German family business model relate to our environment and what we all want for the lives of the human family? And yet that is not what we are experiencing. The recent statement by the Secretary of State for Environment, that we may need to sacrifice ancient woodland in the interests of development as long as we compensate with more tree planting, is an example of misguided thinking. Ancient woodland, with its balanced and diverse wildlife, by its very name, cannot be replaced in the short term.

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But all is not gloom and doom. There

are numerous examples of future planning, and that is what drives WWT. Our work on monitoring populations and migration of wetland species will inform us of change and provides us with information on which we can act and encourage action to better conserve our changing natural world. Our work on wetland management, where we can design water systems that help with water quality and flood control (and for more on this topical subject, please turn to page 31), is helping to manage our environment for us, while at the same time provide a home for the wildlife squeezed by our more thoughtless development in the past. Here’s an example. The Steart Project in Bridgwater Bay looks to the future management of our coastline, the potential changes resulting from climate change, flooding and the need to put back some of the living diversity we have lost from these islands. It is about long-term management and long-term thinking, planning for the future and for our future generations. Surely our long-term future must be a priority for all decision-making. The human species is the most intelligent species ever to walk this planet. It is time that, collectively, we start to demonstrate this in the interests of our long-term survival and success.

Our long-term future must be a priority for all decision-making

 here is now evidence T that otters are taking to the wetlands of Steart


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WWT NEWS

NEWS AND VIEWS FROM THE WORLD OF WILDFOWL AND WETLANDS

The early days of 2014 were marked by extraordinary water levels in rivers up and down the country, and the Severn Estuary alongside WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre was no exception. In fact, the water rose higher than at any time that staff or volunteers could remember since 1982. The unusually high tide greatly expanded the width of the estuary, with waters reaching out an extra half-mile right up to the bank that defends WWT’s buildings and grounds against extreme events. It stopped, however,

about two metres below the top of the bank, and the result was a true treat for birdwatchers. Some 50,000 wild birds, including shelduck, white-fronted geese, lapwing, dunlin, wigeon and curlew, all benefited from the temporary increase in their watery habitat, as did the hundreds of visitors who feasted their eyes on the sight. Golden plover were a particular highlight, with 4,000 – a near-record – in view.

‘We were a bit wary at first, as the river channel swelled to become a sea and was actually higher than us, with just the defensive bank in between. But it soon became clear the defence would hold. And we’ve had some of the best wildlifewatching conditions imaginable, with flocks of thousands of lapwing circling around us.’ Dave Paynter, Reserve Manager

Golden plover

Parlous state WWT has reacted to the disturbing news, in The State of the UK’s Birds report, that of the UK’s 107 most widespread and common breeding birds, no fewer than 16 have declined by more than one third since 1995. ‘There’s worrying evidence here that the breeding ranges of a number of our lowland waders are drastically shrinking,’ says WWT Species Monitoring Officer Colette Hall. ‘We’re now losing species like snipe (right) or lapwing completely from southern parts of England.’

The report, published at the end of last year, reveals that many of our most familiar countryside birds are undergoing sweeping changes, with some experiencing ‘plummeting population declines’, compared with the 1990s. ‘A main cause seems to be loss of habitat due to wetlands being drained for farming or development,’ says Colette. ‘We need to protect and restore these habitats in order for species like these – and all wetland wildlife – to survive and prosper.’ Waterlife

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Alamy

New heights for new year

CONSERVATION


WWT NEWS

Butterflies bounce back After a disappointing 2012, several butterfly species had a bumper 2013, and the mild weather at the beginning of this year has raised hopes of a strong 2014, too. ‘Butterflies are an important part of wetlands, both as pollinators and also as iconic, beautiful insects that people love,’ says WWT London Wetland Centre’s John

Arbon. ‘2013 was a particularly good year for the speckled wood and the common blue at London, and we also caught glimpses of the elusive white-letter hairstreak.’ Why not visit your local centre this spring to see how well these delightful insects are doing?

Space invaders

FLPA; Alamy; Graham Maples

Poetry corner

Many thanks to Julie Blake Padget for her offering, Woodcock, which reminds us of one of the pleasures of the season just drawn to a close.

There’s been a new move to protect Britain’s native plants and animals, and it’s been warmly welcomed by WWT. Native wildlife is threatened by species from other countries that can sometimes outcompete them for food and space. While current law allows authorities to enter private land under some circumstances for species control, a new law has been proposed to introduce species control orders that would apply wherever they were necessary. The proposal comes from the Law Commission, an independent body set up by Parliament to review laws and recommend improvements. It’s the first proposal they’ve announced as a result of an ongoing wide-ranging review of wildlife law. ‘Britain’s much-loved plants and animals are under relentless attack,’ says WWT Head of Conservation Policy Carrie Hume. ‘We see this in wetlands where species like the South American yellow primrose can form dense mats that suffocate our plants and aquatic animals. ‘Non-native invasive species already cost the economy around £2bn per year and that will rise exponentially if they get out of control. We’re pleased both the Government and the Law Commission see the urgency in the threat of invasive species and are acting quickly to publish proposals. Tackling invasive species is about working together, not punishing anyone. We welcome the proposal that a control order should be a last resort, but a necessary one for the good of the wider countryside if removal can’t be agreed with a landowner.’

Woodcock A woodcock bathes in wintery sun, faint warmth and watery light. Barely distinguishable beyond the pond, camouflaged amongst the shrubs. Sharp yellow-red frosted leaves in binocular circles. Brown, white, fawn, a handsome plumage. Impossibly long beak only adds to grace. How still and quiet you sit, and we, too. Until you move! Then the rain of shutters fills the hide. As your audience try to capture you, take something of you home. There he sits obliging, as though he knew that no one wanted to ruffle his feathers.

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PIC NEEDED OF A DENSE MAT OF SOUTH AMERICAN WATER PRIMROSE (Ludwigia hexapetala)]


Weaselly done! In our enthusiasm to get an important message across in the last issue, we made a slip-up, sorry. The carrier sheet accompanying your winter issue of Waterlife voiced WWT’s appeal to save the water vole from the dual threat of loss of wetland habitat, and the predation of the introduced American mink… but the photograph that accompanied the mention of the mink was actually of a polecat instead – another member of the weasel family! Here, then, is a photo of the real culprit – but the message remains the same. To help us keep our reserves in pristine condition for the disappearing water vole, please visit us at wwt.org.uk/watervoles.

Working the wetland How well can a new wetland habitat support wildlife and commercial fisheries? The answer will come thanks to a new research partnership between WWT, Bridgwater College and Oxford Brookes University – and Steart Marshes, on the Somerset coast, will be its focus. Steart Marshes is the UK’s largest new coastal wetland. Once it is connected to the sea, in September, there will be a unique opportunity to study how saltmarsh and mudflats develop as tides bring in marine organisms, sediment and nutrients. PhD student Adam George will carry out the research while teaching on the BSc (Hons) Animal Conservation programme at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre.

‘WWT Steart Marshes is designed to be a working wetland, rich in wildlife, and supporting farming and protecting the local community from rising sea levels,’ says WWT’s Habitat Creation and Demonstration Site Project Manager Tim McGrath. ‘WWT wants reserves like Steart Marshes to demonstrate how creating wetlands can solve many of the problems we’re going to face in the future. This PhD will provide an important piece of evidence in making that case.’ The project aims to involve the wider local community in monitoring the developing flora and fauna, and in research groups analysing wetlands as places for recreation and their influence on the local economy.

New additions WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre has welcomed two new species of bird into its breeding collection this spring – three pairs of black brants (a type of brent goose) and three pairs of New Zealand scaup. The scaup can be seen in the island pen, and the brants in the tundra pen.

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WWT NEWS

Otterly good health

Heather Tait

Every year, the five otters of WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre pay a visit to the vet for their annual health check, and their latest trip was in January. It’s routine stuff, including an X-ray, blood tests and examinations of their teeth, including a scale and polish if any tartar has appeared. The whole experience went very well. Thai is too old for anaesthetic, so she had to be X-rayed through a cage, the results of which showed she’s in fine nick, as are Penny, Belle and Flick. The X-ray suggested that Ned might have a small kidney stone, so the Martin Mere team has been keeping an eye on that, although he doesn’t seem to have been troubled since. The quintet was weighed, too. Ever wondered how much an otter weighs? Here you go: Thai came in at 4.05kg, with Flick fractionally lighter at 3.96kg. Belle, 3.68kg, and Penny, 3.29kg, are next, with Ned the trimmest at 2.85kg. You can see the Martin Mere Asian short-clawed otters being fed every day at 11.30am and 2.40pm.

Teachers go wild for free

This year, WWT Wetland Centres are holding free evening and weekend events designed especially for teachers. At these special events our learning teams will give teachers the chance to try out a range of our outdoor learning sessions and will showcase the full range of facilities available to schools. Teachers will be treated to delicious food and drink and be given a goody bag to take away with them. ‘We are all looking forward to meeting new teachers, and showing how our school visits really inspire children and bring the classroom curriculum to life,’ says Sue Belej, Learning Manager at Slimbridge Wetland Centre. WWT Wetland Centres welcome thousands of school children every year to take part in our learning programmes. For further information, please visit our learning pages at wwt.org.uk/learn, and click on Teacher Taster Sessions. Alternatively, simply call your local WWT centre.

New nenes

There’s a new power couple at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. BIJ and BGP are a pair of nenes, or Hawaiian geese, their names deriving from their leg rings. BIJ (right) is a two-year-old male, while his mate, BGP, is a year older. Their romance was slow and steady, the two of them often foiled in their connection by fence lines and pesky

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gates. BIJ could also be considered a bit of a ‘mummy’s boy’ as he hung around with his parents for nearly a full year after his hatch. That’s not always the most attractive trait in a future partner – nevertheless, the bond between the two birds is now very strong, and earlier this year they could be seen seeking out the best breeding spot for the season.


WWT NEWS

Home alone

As Waterlife went to print, there was a family saga unfolding. Most of the Bewick’s swans had left by the beginning of March for the flight back to their Arctic Russian breeding grounds, but one family had forgotten something… one of their cygnets! The youngster had latched onto Slimbridge regulars Wooton and Stinchcombe and their four cygnets, but was spending much of its time calling in the hope of being reunited with its own parents. ‘Occasionally, cygnets become separated from their parents during migration when there is perhaps bad weather,

but it is rather more unusual to see such a separation before the journey has begun,’ says WWT swan researcher Julia Newth. ‘Visitors to Slimbridge are really taking the cygnet to their hearts and we’re all waiting to see whether the parents return.’ ‘If they don’t, and it leaves with its adopted family, we will call on our extensive network of swan researchers along the 2,500-mile journey to Russia to keep an eye out for them and check whether the lone cygnet manages to stay with them.’ Keep an eye on wwt.org.uk for updates.

Read all about it If you’d like to delve deeper into the conservation work of WWT over the years, you can. The entire catalogue of papers published in our scientific journal, Wildfowl, is now online. This new resource is the culmination of months of work by volunteers to digitise printed copies of Wildfowl dating back to the 1940s, when it first appeared as the Annual Report of the Severn Wildfowl Trust. ‘It has been a wonderful experience, reacquainting myself with a host of pioneering papers, such as Peter Scott’s original formula for identifying Bewick’s swans by their bill patterns,’ says Dr Eileen Rees, editor of Wildfowl. ‘There are so many scientists who have furthered our understanding through publishing in Wildfowl over the years.

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‘For me, the most poignant are those that managed to get information out from behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. The birds we study range over vast swathes of Eastern Europe and Russia. It is easy to forget how that restricted our understanding of them in the early to mid 20th century, and the huge excitement as opportunities to travel in the region opened up.’ To explore the archive, simply visit wildfowl.wwt.org.uk.

Puzzle answers Wigeon Post Crossword Across: 1. Broody, 4/12/25. Devil’s darning needle, 9. Whooper, 10. Drake, 11. Clean, 13. Fly away home, 18. Copepod, 20. Grebe, 22. Ibiza, 23. Open-air, 24. Lagoon Down: 1. Bewick, 2. Ozone, 3. Daphnia, 5. Eider, 6. Imagism, 7. Sledge, 8. Pride and joy, 14. Lapwing, 15. Hygiene, 16. McGill, 17. Degree, 19. Piano, 21. Eland Kids’ Zone Wadersearch: 1. Avocet 2. Curlew 3. Godwit 4. Lapwing 5. Redshank 6. Snipe Ho ho!: Core + m + oar + ant = cormorant! Double Vision: Letter ‘O’ is filled in; the first letter ‘I’ is lower case; kingfisher has a blue bill; a butterfly is sitting on the post; a chunk of the board on the right is missing.


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Wigeon post

Send your letters on all things WWT or Waterlife to Wigeon Post, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, or email waterlife@wwt.org.uk

Left: Diners at Slimbridge Wetland Centre’s restaurant can enjoy amazing views (above)

Nick Cottrell; Heather Tait; Lee K Brown; Judith Gordon; Alamy

Dear Waterlife I truly enjoy my visits to Slimbridge and seeing such an array of wildlife as well as the collection birds. I must also give praise to the chef and his team in the restaurant; the dinners are most nutritious and never disappoint. They certainly play their part in making it a first-class day out. J Bryant, via email

Editor’s reply: Great thought and attention goes into the choosing of ingredients and creation of recipes at all our centres. Look for a piece on catering at WWT in a future issue of Waterlife. Dear Waterlife With reference to letters in ‘Wigeon Post’, I agree that the general look

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and content of the magazine has improved greatly since I joined WWT. This was in 2000 when London Wetland Centre opened. Originally, I wanted to read it, but it looked uninviting and articles were quite often boring or unintelligible to the layman. Nowadays I thoroughly enjoy it because of the variety of articles, which are well-written, and the gorgeous photographs. I’d also like to make a plea to fellow readers to take the magazine, once read, to a charity shop, thereby ‘killing two birds with one stone’! The charity gains a donation, and the magazine buyer gains knowledge… and, with luck, WWT gains a new member. Tina Sleight, via email

Dear Waterlife I managed a couple of shots [below] of this juvenile marsh harrier being mobbed by crows at London Wetland Centre last year, and dropping to the safety of the ground. I hope you might consider them for the magazine. Lee Brown, High Wycombe


LETTERS

Dear Waterlife I took this photo [left] on a hot July day at London Wetland Centre. I call it ‘Mallard Mumbrella’ because the little duckling was sheltering under its mum’s tail from the intense sunshine. Judith Gordon, via email

Dear Waterlife In ‘Wigeon Post’, Waterlife 186, you asked if anyone had seen more than 60 species on a day visit to a WWT reserve. My records show that on my

Crossword WWT member Tim Bonsor has included waterlife-related clues in our crossword; the answers are on page 12. Tim has also provided cryptic clues at wwt.org.uk/crossword. Straight 1

2

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8 9

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Across Lishman, who showed 1. How birds feel before geese how to migrate. (3,4,4) wn A gathering of this18. With the aid of a they lay 14 eggs. (6) bird is known as a He gave his name to 4/12/25. Old name microscope, you might see deceit. (7) for UK's smallestdragonfly, reflecting its this tiny crustacean in the an. (6) 15 The Estuary Cafe at sinister associations. Pond Zone. (7) WWT Llanelli has Layer in the Earth's (6,7,6) been given a top rating 20. Bird could be little or mosphere which 9. This swan will (7) return to great crested. (5) for this. sorbs most of the Iceland after migration in 22. Holiday island where you n's UV rays. (5) 16 Surname of Martin, March. (7) senior warden with might see the Balearic Another name for WWT. (6) shearwater. (5) water flea. (7)10. A male duck. (5) 11. One 17 of the beneficial 23. Al fresco, or where you Such a qualification A common seaduck effects ofin,wetlands is to mightmight enjoy a picnic at any e.g. zoology, genus somateria. (5) benefit bid. to make our watera----(5)work WWT centre. (4-3) Poetry movement 12.of See for 4. WWT. (6) 24. At WWT Washington this early 20th century 19 'All on Your Geese are 13. Film based realarea is saline and tidal. (6) aracterised by clear, Swans' is a piece 25. See 4. arp language life experience of Bill written by Steven oking pictures. (7) Griffin for this Part of the instrument. (5) uipment used by 21 Antelope er Scott's father on commonly found on way to the South

Down 1. He gave his name to the UK’s smallest swan. (6) 2. Layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs most of the sun’s UV rays. (5) 3. Another name for the water flea. (7) 5. A common sea duck of genus Somateria. (5) 6. Poetry movement of the early 20th century characterised by clear, sharp language-evoking pictures. (7) 7. Part of the equipment used by Peter Scott’s father on his way to the South Pole. (6) 8. How you might describe something which is very dear to you. (5,3,3) 14. A gathering of this bird is known as a deceit. (7) 15. The Estuary Café at Llanelli has been given a top rating for this. (7) 16. Surname of Martin, senior warden at Slimbridge. (6) 17. Such a qualification in, eg zoology, might benefit a bid to work for WWT. (6) 19. ‘All Your Geese are Swans’ is a piece written by Steven Griffin for this instrument. (5) 21. Antelope found on the African savannah. (5)

last visit to Slimbridge, on 15 January 2012, I recorded 62 wild species. I’m sure better birdwatchers than I must have notched up a few more. In fact, I know that some people we were with from Glamorgan Bird Club saw species that I missed on that visit. Paul Seligman, Cardiff

Editor replies: So Paul’s 62 wild species in a day at a WWT centre is the new mark to beat. Has anyone done better?

Spotting skills Another great response to our ID quiz last issue, in which we published a photo of an upended duck. Its highly individual bill may have been out of sight, but that didn’t stop you correctly identifying it as a shoveler. The first name out of the hat after the closing date was Violet Kemp. Many congratulations.

Time this issue to try a wader. If you’re at all ‘dubious’ about this one (and yes, that’s a clue), then have a close look at the eye. The first correct identification drawn out of the hat after the closing date of 31 May wins a copy of Watching Waterbirds.

APRIL/JUNE 2014

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Birds feather of a

Do birds regard themselves as individuals within flocks? In a pioneering research project, animal behaviourist Paul Rose is studying WWT’s flamingos to find out 16

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APRIL/JUNE 2014

It’s fairly well known that certain types of animal have complex social structures, and the reason we know this is because we’ve studied them. Great apes, such as chimpanzees, and various dolphin species have been watched, recorded and analysed for decades, and we now know so much more than we once did about how these animals relate to each other, form social groups, and even regard themselves as individuals. In the process, we’ve discovered many similarities between the social networks of these animals and our own. This is not surprising. Chimps and dolphins are, of course, mammals like ourselves, so we share certain common genetic heritages. Perhaps, more importantly, we feel more of a sense of kinship with them than we do with, say, birds or fish or insects, so we find them easier to study.


P R I VAT E LI F E

This is not to say that other animals have not been studied, too. Yet it’s only more recently that we’ve started to see, in the non-mammalian orders, some real detail in the ways in which birds, for example, socialise or express themselves as individuals. We’ve long understood how they display, pair-bond or defend territory, but we’ve done so as naturalists or zoologists. We’re only now starting to do so as sociologists, too. In recent years, I have discovered that flamingos are fascinating subjects for sociological study, and the birds at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre and other centres have provided wonderful opportunities to carry out that research. I and the team of volunteers who are helping me aren’t just tackling that research for the sheer, simple beauty of discovering more about these

Above: Lesser flamingos Below: A pair of lesser flamingos feeding. Birds that like each other tend to do the same things at the same time

fascinating and charismatic birds; there are practical reasons, too. Back in the day, if you had a flock of flamingos – or indeed virtually any animal – and they weren’t breeding well, you would simply pop back out to the wild and pick up more. Well, we don’t do that these days. Young birds are hatched at the centres themselves, so the better we’re able to arrange the conditions for the flamingos, the better their breeding rate will be. In addition, by developing an even stronger understanding of these birds, we’ll learn more about their needs in the wild, too. So, what do we know so far? Let’s start with

the familiar and much-loved sight of a flock of flamingos standing together in a Slimbridge pool. If you’ve visited Slimbridge and sat outside APRIL/JUNE 2014

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P R I VAT E LI F E a mass of children all running around together from a distance, closer examination will show that there are, in fact, separate games going on. From the research we’ve done so far, it appears that within the flamingo subgroups, each individual flamingo is not actually a wing-length from its neighbour, but a neck-length. This means that each bird is theoretically close enough to its neighbour to be pecked by it, but is comfortable standing in such proximity because it Other than that they hang around in flocks, one of the besttrusts that that neighbour known facts about flamingos is that they get their glorious pink will not turn on it. Each colour from their diet, whether it be crustaceans or algae subgroup, in turn, stands more than a neck-length Two away, because that high level of trust is not so strong the restaurant sipping a nice cuppa and watching those Above: lesser flamingos: across the groups. So what appears to be a single, glorious pink birds providing a beautiful backdrop to one very united flock is actually a collection of subgroups. your rest and relaxation, you’ll have spent a fair bit of pale, the other pinker, time gazing at them. At first glance, flamingos appear as it gets to gather in a large group, with perhaps one or two The factors that make up those subgroups are complex, ready for the breeding stragglers hanging around the edges. It was once and many of them are to do with colour. Other than season thought each flamingo stood a wing-length from its that they hang around in flocks, one of the best-known Below: Chicks in neighbour, and it was a theory that made sense. Stand facts about flamingos is that they get their colour from a crèche. Chicks group too close to each other and, should danger threaten, their diet. Whether it’s crustaceans or algae that together you don’t have room to spread your wings to take off. flamingos feed on, they absorb organic pigments, when they are small Yet look a little closer, and you’ll spot an added known as carotenoids, which provide them with the Inset: Threedynamic to the society. Although the flock appears to pink colouration that adorns their day-old Caribbean be standing as one, there are, in fact, normally little plumage. The carotenoids flamingo subgroups within it. Rather as a playground looks like effectively ‘stain’ the chick

APRIL/JUNE 2014

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Graham Hann

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P R I VAT E LI F E plumage acts as an indication that they’re off limits for a season. Interestingly, research has shown that, in large flocks, it is only when conditions are right for all birds, will they turn pink and start breeding again. There was a fascinating discovery made only a few

So why are some birds white? Is it because they’re

feeding on different foods? Not at all. The carotenoids only dye the feathers while they’re growing, not once they’ve emerged as plumage. Each year, as with other birds, flamingos moult, and the birds that have raised young that year will have rerouted their carotenoids into the egg yolk, as well as other parts of the adult’s own body. The aim is to concentrate their energies into hatching a youngster, and so when the new feathers grow, they remain unstained, hence the whiteness. This works well. Birds that have raised young one year have no need to do so the next, so their white

In the pink Above: Strutting lesser flamingos Inset: Preening greater flamingos. Note that some birds have pinker necks than others. This comes from the use of ‘make-up’, making the heads and necks of some birds a much brighter pink than others around them

Birds that have raised young one year have no need to do so the next, so their white plumage indicates that they’re off limits

Many people think that flamingos get their pinkness from eating crustaceans, but that’s not always the case. All six species do indeed ingest the organic pigments called carotenoids, but only the greater, Caribbean and Chilean flamingos get those carotenoids from crustaceans. The lesser, Andean and James’s flamingos all derive their carotenoids from algae. The lesser flamingo in particular is a very specialised feeder. It feeds on algae that sits at a certain point below the surface of the water – approximately 4cm – and if you watch it feed, you’ll notice that its bill is always submerged to the same depth. Along with the other algaefeeders, the Andean and James’s, the lesser’s bill is deep-keeled, which means it effectively acts as a buoy, bobbing along at a constant depth, even in moving water. One further note on the Andean and James’s flamingos – they have a slightly different blood chemistry to the other species, so the carotenoids affect their plumage in a different way, turning it to a more purply-pink colour.

APRIL/JUNE 2014

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Corbis

feathers – and many other aspects of flamingo biology, too. If you were ever to see inside a flamingo egg, you would discover that the yolk is much redder than that of other birds’. We believe that the carotenoids act as antioxidants for the birds, rather as blueberries do for us, which could be a reason why flamingos live so long – for 70 years or even longer. A pink plumage, therefore, is a sign of a healthy bird, and our research has shown that pinkness is more important than size to flamingos when it comes to pair-bonding and group integration.

years ago about pinkness. Greater flamingos are naturally much whiter than other species, with fewer of their carotenoids reaching their emerging feathers. It was noticed, though, that come the breeding season the greater flamingos were ‘pinking up’ a little. Research showed that they actually had carotenoids in their preening glands, and were spreading the dye each time they preened. In effect, they were putting on make-up! Colour is clearly important to status and, just like we humans, flamingos appear to have worked out ways to use it to their own individual advantage. One part of our study is on use of comparative colour – as has been seen in other species (such as finches), it appears that some flamingos may stand alongside individuals who bred last year and who have very little pink in their plumage, in order to look more attractive by contrast. We need to make more observations in order to confirm this, but initial research suggests this could well be the case. This extraordinary devotion to pink is reflected throughout the flamingos’ lives, including their early years. Young flamingos are grey in plumage, and their lack of pink means that the adults aren’t as interested in keeping them within the flock. Unlike other animals, in which separation of the young from the adults can be

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P R I VAT E LI F E

a threatening process to the society, with flamingos this is actually part of what makes their society tick. This means that their early months are actually an ideal time to move flamingos, and at WWT the birds are often transferred from one centre to another during this period. Sometimes, they’re even transferred between species. At Slimbridge Wetland Centre, for example, there’s a group of Andean flamingos who have been there for decades. They’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all, and they’ve rather become the ‘wise old men and women’ of the collection. Young Caribbean chicks, therefore, are often moved into the Andean flock so that they can benefit from the stability of that longterm society. In fact, the broader the age range of a flamingo society, the more stable it is. Older birds tend to have a more stabilising influence on their younger counterparts. Within all these general characteristics of flocks and species, there’s still room for individual personality traits to shine through, and the more we study, the more we’re discovering. Some birds are bolder, others shyer; some are more aggressive, others charismatic… We’ve noted, for example, that when some birds pick a fight, their ‘mates’ join in, rather like gangs. Other birds, however, simply go it alone. In the Andean flock, some pairs keep themselves to themselves, while others like to muck in together and form groups of pairs. One of the Andean flamingos, in fact, likes to flit back and forth between groups, being a part of all, but belonging to none (this particular individual, incidentally, became rather famous last year when he was spotted floating on the water with his legs stretched out behind him – a quite inventive way of keeping cool). All in all, it’s rather like looking at Facebook, where you make judgements about people’s

It’s like looking at Facebook, where you make judgements about people’s interaction with society by the way they use that social tool Above: Andean flamingo group marching is a sign of courtship, with Mr James (with the bright yellow beak) trying to join in! Below: A pair of resting lesser flamingos. Close contact between pairs of birds when resting, sleeping or preening is indicative of good friendship

interaction with society by the way in which they use that particular social tool. We all know that, as humans, we have different ways of engaging with the social norms, and we’re now discovering more and more about how flamingos operate in the same way. It’s all helping us to build a picture of the individual’s role in society, which in turn will increase our understanding of flock management. It’s a fascinating study and, by its conclusion after a few more seasons, I believe we’ll have built up a strong understanding of the complex world of flamingo society, which will not only help us find the optimum way of arranging our collections, but take us much further into the world of bird individualism than ever before. There is, of course, one by-product of this work that’s unavoidable… one does get terribly attached to certain birds! I’ve resisted the urge to name them, but there’s one in particular that I can’t help referring to in this way. There is only one James’s flamingo in the entire collection, and he’s been there for decades. As there are virtually no James’s flamingos in collections anywhere in the world, once he goes, he’ll be literally irreplaceable. He had a ‘girlfriend’ until just a few years ago when she died of old age, so these days he hangs around the Andean flock. I call him ‘Mr James’, and I can’t help but smile when I see the Andean flamingos displaying, while Mr James joins in with his distinctive high-pitched whistle. He may be the last of his kind at Slimbridge, but he’s still managed to find a role for himself in society. Yes, there can be little doubt: finding your own role in society is important to we humans… and it’s important to flamingos, too. APRIL/JUNE 2014

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Springing forth At WWT centres across the country, new life is emerging. From ducks to dormice to dragonflies, spring is a wonderful time of renewal, and it’s waiting for you to come and see it. Here’s a taster of what to expect


THE GALLERY

‘S Clockwise from left: Hawaiian goose; cygnets take to the water; watching eggs hatch during Downy Duckling days; using candling to study the growth of an embryo inside an egg

pring is sprung,’ the comedian Spike Milligan was fond of saying, ‘the grass is ris. I wonder where the birdies is?’ Well, if the former Goon had simply popped down to his nearest WWT centre, he would have found his answer. This is the time of year when new life is starting to burst free, not least from the eggs laid by our ducks, geese and swans. There’s little that can match the ‘ahhhh’ factor of a duckling, gosling or cygnet, and at many of our WWT centres you can watch them, from egg to inquisitive youngster and all the stages in between. Downy Duckling season is upon us once more and, during the coming months, our duckeries will be looking after these amazing and alluring little creatures throughout their first stages of life. At several centres, we’re laying on special tours so that you and your family can watch the early stages of a host of brand new families. In fact, by now, some of them will already have begun. The nenes, or Hawaiian geese, are among our early birds when it comes to new families, their breeding season getting under way almost as soon as the year begins. At centres such as Martin Mere, Slimbridge and Washington, you can already see confident young goslings as they explore their surroundings. Many other species are still at the laying stage, yet even now you can watch the earliest signs of life, thanks to a traditional and safe process known as candling. This is a method used to study the growth of an embryo inside an egg; it involves shining a light from one side so that the details of the egg’s contents can be seen from the other side. It’s a process that’s been around longer than electricity, hence the name. Taking duckery tours to watch the growth and development of the young birds in our collections is one way of enjoying this uplifting period of renewal, but out in our reserves there are so many other sights to see, too. Turn the page to discover some of the natural highlights that this season of new life brings, centre by centre. APRIL/JUNE 2014

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THE GALLERY

WWT Arundel Wetland Centre

One of the exciting events of spring is the return of migrating swallows and sand martins from their winter in Africa. Recordings of a colony are played in the Sand Martin Hide to lure migrating martins to investigate the nesting banks each April. Lapwing eggs should be hatching by now, and you may be able to see the adorable chicks from the Lapwing Hide. Meanwhile, pond-dipping events have begun, and the first litters of baby water voles will be emerging from their burrows. In May, look out for common terns nesting on the floating rafts at the Sand Martin Hide, while pochards, tufted ducks and shelducks will be on their eggs. Swallows should be building nests in the hides and outbuildings, and throughout this period dragonflies will be appearing in the Wetland Discovery area. In June, common spotted orchids and marsh orchids will be in flower.

WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre

At this time of the year, wild flowers are beginning to bloom, including cowslip, centaury and eyebright. Bats, butterflies and dragonflies are emerging, too. This is an excellent time to look out for one of the most exciting mammals of Britain and Ireland – the otter (below). In Britain, this elusive water mammal is only now just beginning to recover from steep declines in recent decades, but in Ireland much stronger populations have survived, making them easier to see. Although otters can breed all year round, spring and summer are their more usual seasons, and they become more vocal during this time – listen out for squeaking calls. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for them, though: because they’re able to slow down their heart rate and they have large lungs, they’re able to stay under water for up to four minutes.

WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre

One of the exciting natural events of spring is the return of our summer breeding birds from their winter haunts. And of the many species that visit us from Africa, few get the birdwatcher’s heart racing as much as the osprey. All being well, these majestic and powerful fishers will have arrived back at their favourite Caerlaverock tree, at which a special camera feed has been set up so that you can watch their daily activities. If a successful year lies ahead, then they’ll be laying eggs come May. That’s not all. Out on the reserve, grey heron, gadwall, oystercatcher, redshank and little grebe are all in their breeding season by now, and the summer meadow walks, opening on 1 May, give you a wonderful opportunity to see spring specials such as the cuckoo flowers in full bloom. And if you’re still on the reserve as dusk approaches, and you listen very, very carefully, there’s a chance that you might hear the call of the natterjack toad (above), a true Caerlaverock treat. On 17 May there’s a special evening walk planned so that you can get even closer to these iconic amphibians.

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WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre

Now is the time when lapwing and shelduck begin their noisy courtships, while wild orchids (bottom left) are among the many wild flowers coming into bloom. Water voles (below) swim and scamper by their waterside burrows, and frogspawn is making its remarkable metamorphosis into tadpole, then froglet, then frog. It’s one of nature’s remarkable processes, for very rarely do vertebrate animals hatch young from eggs that look nothing like the adult. Tadpoles, in fact, more closely resemble the larval stage common to insect life, such as caterpillars. They emerge from their eggs, which are laid in clumps, often of around 300-400, and spend their time swimming and feeding under water. Black when first hatching, frog tadpoles are distinguishable from toad tadpoles because they develop a more speckled brown colour as they get older as opposed to remaining black.

WWT London Wetland Centre

The glorious bee orchid (above) is one of the floral highlights at WWT’s reserve in the capital. Blooming from April to July, the flower sends up a single spike that can be adorned with up to a dozen (though usually fewer) flowers. Pond dipping is now under way at the centre, with a host of fascinating creatures to catch, study and explore. Reptiles are out and about after their winter hibernation, too. Look out in particular for grass snakes and slow-worms, true London specialities. This is also the time of year when our visitors love watching young birds of many species waddling around the centre. Watch for lapwing chicks on the islands in the main lake and adorable tufted ducklings – like wind-up toys – chasing insects across the ponds. For more on the highlights of London Wetland Centre, turn to page 36.

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre

The Lancashire centre’s collection of flamingos will have built their nests by now, making their large often conical mud structures with indentations at the top for the eggs to nestle in. If it’s been a successful year, the eggs should be hatching some time in May (to find out more about flamingos, turn to page 16). Out on the reserve, tree sparrow (right), skylark, ringed plover, reed bunting, oystercatcher, redshank, little grebe, linnet, little ringed plover and many more are all starting to breed, and at times – such as while defending their territories – they can make quite a cacophony! This is also the time of year when the longhorn cattle that are used to graze the water meadows start to calve. Avocets will breed a little later, probably in May, along with yellow wagtail, whitethroat, sedge warbler, reed warbler and other summer visitors. As June comes around, Martin Mere’s duckling nursery will also be open to visitors at weekends.

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THE GALLERY

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Things really begin to liven up in April when most of the summer warblers arrive and with them cuckoos, common redstarts, whinchats, yellow wagtails and a few hobby. But May really is the best month of the spring, if not the year. The estuary now comes alive with waders moving through. Large numbers of ringed plover, dunlin, sanderling, common sandpiper, curlew, both godwits and greenshank can be seen most days, while breeding waders redshank, oystercatcher and lapwing are also great to watch. The spring really is the time to see our kingfishers (above), which may well be sitting on their second clutch by the end of May. In recent years there have been three nesting pairs at Slimbridge, and each pair will often have three broods each summer. And common cranes have now become an exciting part of the Slimbridge landscape, with their displays and loud calls.

Nick Cottrell; Dominic Heard; Matt Bigwood; José Luis Gómez de Francisco; Alamy; FLPA; Dr Richard Bullock

WWT Welney Wetland Centre

WWT Washington Wetland Centre

Lapwings (above left) should be nesting on Wader Meadow by now, while common terns are flocking back to Tern Island. This should also be the ninth breeding season for one of the reserve’s most iconic species – the avocet (above right). All in all, a fantastic time to visit Wader Lake! At this time of year the reserve is alive with colour. Among the floral highlights are ramsons, dog’s mercury, blackthorn, hawthorn, bluebells, primroses, northern marsh orchid and yellow rattle. Tadpoles and newtlets are starting to appear, including the all-important great crested newts, one of the country’s rarest animals. At Wader Lake, grey heron chicks will be starting to fledge. The colony is one of the UK’s largest, reaching 25 or more pairs. In 2012, Countryfile magazine described Washington as one of five ‘great places’ to see a heron colony ‘in action’. Another highlight is the elusive otter, with females sometimes visible with their young on the River Wear.

The reserve is an excellent place to see one of the UK’s rarest breeding waders, the black-tailed godwit (above). The garganey, a summer visitor, should be arriving by now, and it’s also worth looking out for migrants such as spoonbill and Arctic tern. The chicks of other birds, such as avocet, redshank, lapwing, snipe and little ringed plover, will also soon be hatching and discovering the waters of the reserve. Also look out for displaying ruff, with their remarkable plumage. Deep in those waters, and often found during pond dipping, are some of nature’s most remarkable stages of an animal’s life cycle – the nymph. This is the larval stage of the dragonfly, the equivalent of the butterfly’s caterpillar, but it lives under the water, foraging on small pond life, including, at times, smaller nymphs.

Get involved To find out about the exciting events that celebrate new life at WWT’s centres, please turn to page 47.

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THE BIG ISSUE

Floods of tears

Images of drenched fields and waterlogged high streets swamped the media this winter, as communities suffered the effects of almost continual rains. So are there ways to reduce the misery in the years ahead?

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Alamy

When many people look back upon this period, they’ll remember wading through streets filled with water, or abandoning their homes as the floods rose, or waiting endlessly for transport that never came. The waters had a devastating effect in many parts of the country

Elsewhere in this issue of Waterlife, you’ll be able to discover

the effects of the wettest winter on record at our reserves. You’ll find out about incursions into reserves by seabirds that wouldn’t usually stray so far inland; you’ll discover that waders and wildfowl could often be seen in higher numbers than usual, providing great viewing spectacles for visitors. Yes, nature patterns were greatly affected by the high waters of January and February and, as often as not, this meant for some fine wildlife-watching. In Waterlife, it’s only natural that we report on such matters, but for thousands upon thousands of people in the UK, the early weeks of this year were not characterised by excellent views of redshank and lapwing. When they look back upon this period, they’ll remember wading through streets filled with water, or abandoning their homes as the floods rose, or waiting endlessly for transport that never came. The waters had a devastating effect in many parts of the country, and some properties and small businesses may never fully recover. Flooding, of course, is not new: our rivers and lakes themselves were caused by floods in distant days, as water sought ways of traversing the land. In fact, a degree of flooding happens every year: it’s a natural event that maintains the fertility of floodplain soils. In more recent times, those with long memories talk of the time the Thames broke its banks in 1947, exacerbating the damage to locks and buildings that still hadn’t recovered from the war. Then there was the North Sea flood of 1953, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people in Lincolnshire,


THE BIG ISSUE This is not to say we must stop building, but that we must find

Essex and East Anglia. Extreme conditions cause extreme results, and as the winter of 2013/14 was indeed the wettest on record, should we all just shrug our shoulders, accept that the effects were inevitable and vow to follow the sage old advice, ‘always buy on a hill’? The answer: most definitely not. For a start, there’s a significant difference between today and those post-war disasters: us. Back in 1960, the population of the world stood at around 2.5 billion. Today, there are more than seven billion of us. The UK population has not risen as steeply, but it has still grown from around 50 million to 63 million. Our world has changed in recent decades, and it is continuing to do so. We all need somewhere to live, somewhere to work and somewhere to shop; many of us want a place to park our cars and outlets for our leisure activities. As our numbers increase, so we must continue to build. Yet the amount of water on our planet remains constant, forever falling from the sky, making its way to rivers, flowing to the sea, evaporating, forming clouds and then falling to Earth once more. The more we build, therefore, the fewer places it has to go. In the same way that wildlife, such as leopards, tigers and elephants, when squeezed by a growing human population, ends up by being forced to move in to share that human space, so by denying water its own natural outlets, we are effectively, and at times literally, inviting it onto our own doorsteps. In short, what we have seen this year, far from being an exception, is likely to increasingly become the norm.

ways of doing so more effectively, intelligently and innovatively. If we can do this with a greater understanding of how the environment supports and enriches us, then we can prevent a host of problems down the line. This is where wetlands come in – and the clue lies in the name. For many people, the word conjures up images of lakes and marshes and large stretches, such as WWT’s own reserves, but, in reality, anywhere that water finds a consistent home qualifies. Ponds, for example, are wetlands – yes, they’re small, but they count, and when you tot them up across the country, they hold a vast amount of water. Not as much as they did, however. There are approximately half a million freshwater ponds in the country, a 50% decrease over the last century. The garden pond, in fact, is an excellent symbol of how wetlands can work for us, if we work for them. Even in the most urban, concreted environment, a garden pond is a wetland providing an outlet for water, as well as a place for wildlife to thrive. We’ve lost many of them over the decades, but if we could put them back, we would be collectively making a difference. Putting back a garden pond is actually fairly straightforward – even the smallest of gardens can accommodate a corner for water, however small. It just takes a bit of planning on behalf of the owner.

So what happens if we scale that thinking up? A recent report, endorsed by the Blueprint for Water, contributed to and supported by WWT and other groups, states that ‘working with nature, rather than against it, is sustainable both in terms of monetary cost and environmental impact’. In other words, getting it right doesn’t have to be a costly business. At WWT, we’ve known this for a long time, and have been acting upon it, too. ‘Our very reserves themselves, as well as being wonderful for wildlife-watching, are natural water storage facilities and systems,’ says WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray. ‘These systems help to slow down the flow of water, reducing the risk of flooding. And in urban landscapes we’re creating absorbent natural features like soakaways, green roofs and ponds that store rainwater where it falls rather than rushing it to our rivers. With our expertise at managing 6,500ha of wetland, we can make these features great for Britain’s biodiversity as well as for Britain’s people.’ This point about storing rainwater rather than letting it hurtle downstream to cause problems en route to the sea is essential to that thinking. Looked at in that way, even a water butt at the foot of a drainpipe is a wetland, in that it helps to slow the process of water run-off. By increasing the capacity of landscapes, whether rural or urban, to capture and store water, we slow the rate at which those landscapes drain, helping to avoid the disasters of too much water reaching conduits such as rivers at the same time. It’s all about building and maintaining catchment levels.

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THE BIG ISSUE

‘As shocking as it may sound, dredging can even speed up the flow’ Restoring wetlands, and making those that exist more effective,

is part of that process; so is introducing wetlands into areas where they don’t currently exist. WWT’s SuDS programme is part of that latter thinking. SuDS, which stands for Sustainable Drainage Systems, involves introducing methods of catching and slowing that rainwater flow. Here’s how it works. Let’s say that there’s a concrete building 100 metres from a small stream. When it rains, the water lands on the roof of that building and immediately rolls off through gutters down to the ground. Some falls away through drains, which emerge in the stream, and the rest hits the land, where it seeps off. During a period of heavy rain, it doesn’t take long for that stream to fill up. Putting a green roof on that building, which includes earth, grasses and other plants, will help absorb the rain that falls. Water butts at the foot of the gutters will hold on to much off the run-off. Two or three small ponds en route to the stream will pick up much of the excess rain. The net result: the stream takes longer to fill up. WWT has rolled SuDS out across a number of London schools to great effect, and is currently expanding the programme elsewhere. Other NGOs have been developing similar projects across the country, too. It’s a small beginning,

but it’s the right one. A host of wildlife species benefit from these water-retention processes, as they’re provided with homes and food as a result, while in the long term, the homes and food of another species – our own – are saved. Martin Spray again: ‘By working with nature at a catchment level, we harness its power for us rather than against us. Long-term solutions for flooding do already exist if we’re brave enough to embrace them.’ Are we brave enough? There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be – it’s just a matter of incorporating the right type of thinking into the way in which we build on, and develop, our land, and WWT is working on a manifesto to achieve just such an ambition. There’s a good analogy that gives hope. Twenty years or so ago, we all threw our bottles, paper and tin cans into the same rubbish bin and thought nothing of it. Today, for many of us, even the thought of doing that goes against the grain. It’s not Nimbyism – if a household were to continue throwing all their rubbish into the same landfill bin, they wouldn’t be causing any direct problems for themselves – it’s just the simple sense that recycling is the right thing to do, not for us as individuals, but for us as a whole, as well as for the environment. Well, so is water retention. Wouldn’t it be great if, in 20 years’ time, businesses, homes, agriculture, building developers – and all of us as individuals – just instinctively knew that it was right to put a bit of effort in our lives into slowing down waterflow? Quite simply, we have to.

Dredging up old arguments During the floods of January, there was a frequently heard cry: ‘If only there’d been more dredging, this wouldn’t have happened.’ In a time of crisis, it’s only natural to seek something to blame, and dredging, or the lack of it, became an instant scapegoat. Yet dredging is only part of the solution; in fact, by itself, it contributes very little. ‘Dredging the Parrett and Tone won’t stop the Somerset Levels and Moors flooding in future and wouldn’t have stopped it in January,’ says WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray. ‘In fact, unregulated dredging across the rest of the country could actually make flooding worse. ‘As shocking as that may sound, dredging can even speed up the flow. In the south-east, for example, imagine if all the tributaries into the upper Thames were dredged. All the water that was dispersed across the catchment would have sped into the river, inundating towns further down with even more floodwater than they did suffer.’ This is not to say that we should not dredge, but that we should do so as part of a packet of measures that slow waterflow elsewhere, rather than in isolation.

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Aerial view of London Wetland Centre


HOME FROM HOME

Capital The latest in our series on WWT reserves turns the spotlight on WWT London Wetland Centre, a true oasis in the big city The phrase ‘a dream come true’ is

E L I F T C A F

bandied about very freely, but from time to time it’s actually extremely apt. Back in the 1980s, Sir Peter Scott, founder of WWT, had a vision of a wetland centre in the heart of London, and the Barn Elms reservoirs of Barnes represented the ideal site. He put together plans, drew up designs, and would surely have seen the project through had he not died in 1989. The dream, however, lived on. WWT continued the work and, in 1995, under the watchful eye of Director of Centre Developments Kevin Peberdy, wetland creation began. Berkeley Homes and Thames Water were key partners in this initiative and, five years later, London Wetland Centre opened. Visitors were instantly entranced by what, at the time London entre C d of opening, was the largest n a tl We created wetland habitat in any 2000 capital city in the world. They Opened: ctares e h 0 3 : ry to a Size rv were able to enjoy this oasis of e s b plus O Hides: 6 f Special o calm in the heart of London, and e it S : n tio Designa t (SSSI), s absorb the sights and sounds of re te In c Scientifi lly a n o ti this unique haven for wildlife. a n g supportin intering Over the years, the site has w t n importa eler s of shov n matured superbly. More than o ti la u p po : ighlights 250,000 aquatic plants, 30,000 Wildlife h i’s warbler, ett trees and 8,000 wild flowers Bittern, C earded tit, ,b e n ri were planted by hand, and pereg , various water vole and reptiles, these have grown and blended ns amphibia s of bat, orchids, together to provide a wonderful ie nine spec nfly species natural backdrop and habitat go many dra for the animals that have made the site their home.

Even before it became a wetland centre, Barn Elms had an extraordinary heritage. It was mentioned by Samuel Pepys, and Queen Elizabeth I was a frequent visitor as her ‘spymaster’, Sir Francis Walsingham, had a house on the site. By the time it was purchased for the building of reservoirs in 1894, it was a network of market gardens, and more recently, trout angling took place in the reservoir basins. Once WWT reconfigured the site, the wildlife flooded in, and in 2002 London Wetland Centre was redesignated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), for its mosaic of wetland habitats supporting nationally important wintering populations of shoveler and an assemblage of breeding birds. In recent years, the reserve has also regularly supported nationally important numbers of bittern. Unsurprisingly, it’s won a number of awards, including Global winner of the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – the first UK land site ever to do so. London Wetland Centre has been a hit with the public, too: in 2012 it was voted Britain’s Favourite Nature Reserve in the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards. WWT ensured that Peter Scott’s initial dream saw reality – and now, thanks to a special adoption scheme, you can be part of that dream, too. By adopting an area of the reserve you will be supporting wildlife that won’t survive without wetlands. Turn the page to find out more. APRIL/JUNE 2014

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A few of WWT London Wetland Centre’s highlights Main lake The main lake is the largest area of open water on the reserve, and combines deep and shallow water to provide feeding opportunities for diving and dabbling ducks. A tern raft was constructed here early in 2002, and a pair of common terns nested successfully. A second tern raft was in place in 2005, and by 2007 there were 10 pairs. Since then, a further four rafts have been situated on the main lake, and up to 12 pairs of tern have bred on the reserve so far. More recently, black-headed gulls have started breeding on some of the rafts on the main lake, with up to six pairs in 2013.

Common tern (above); the main lake and grazing marsh (left)

RJ Brookes Bat Conservation Trust; Chris Pippard; Jeremy Floyd, Dr Richard Bullock

Grazing marsh

Garganey (above); Jersey cudweed (right)

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This area of marshland provides breeding cover for ground-nesting birds in the spring, and feeding for dabbling ducks in winter. Careful flood management on the grazing marsh involves releasing plant seeds into the water as a food source for dabbling ducks such as gadwall. From July to October each year, the marsh is grazed to provide the perfect habitat, and wheatears and wagtails make regular appearances, following the footsteps of our grazing Highland cattle and feeding on the insects the cows attract. In 2008, the nationally rare Jersey cudweed (Gnaphalium luteoalbum) was discovered here.


HOME FROM HOME

Adopt a wetland to help save these key species Heather Tait; Michael Frankling

› L ondon Wetland Centre has become

The centre is a birdwatcher’s paradise

Reservoir lagoon Stretching the entire width of the site, the reservoir lagoon comprises an area of deep, open water. Reefs constructed from broken-up concrete from the original reservoirs provide breeding habitats for fish. These in turn provide food for many species, including cormorant, great crested grebe and heron. Surveys have shown that, although perch are the dominant fish species, the numbers of roach and common bream within the lake’s fish population have increased.

By adopting an area of the reserve that’s close to your heart, you will be supporting wildlife that won’t survive without wetlands

famous in recent years for its wintering bitterns, while bearded tits are becoming more regular on the site, and there’s been an increase in numbers of Cetti’s warbler pairs. Lapwing and redshank breed closer to central London here than anywhere else, and there has also been a record of three redhead smew. The reserve is now a regular autumn staging area for garganey on their return migration to Africa, and in some years, the duck will stay for several weeks. Recent winters have seen good numbers of tufted duck on the reserve, which is also important for shoveler, gadwall, wigeon, teal, pintail and little grebe. The centre is one of the best sites to watch peregrines, and there is an impressive array of dragonfly species to enjoy during the summer, as well as a healthy and sustained number of water voles.

› T he reserve supports breeding populations of three native amphibian species:

common frog, common toad and smooth newt. The first breeding common toads were recorded on the reserve in 2000 in low numbers, but within four years it was clear that the population was increasing. The many shallows and margins of the reserve provide excellent habitats for frogs, while three hibernacula (winter homes) have been built for them, too. Although it is difficult to monitor the exact size of the smooth newt population, in one year alone 145 were found.

› L ondon Wetland Centre is important for bats: good numbers of Daubenton’s,

noctule, and common and soprano pipistrelle are frequently recorded over the reserve during summer. Occasional records of serotine are also made, and the centre is one of only a few London sites where Nathusius’s pipistrelle is regularly recorded. In the last decade, Leisler’s bats have been detected on a regular basis, too. In fact, no fewer than nine bat species have been reported in all, including rare reports of whiskered/Brandt’s bat and the brown long-eared bat.

Adopt a Wetland (wwt.org.uk/aaw) 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 clearing the water margins to managing the marshes, 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 To find out more about WWT’s vital Adopt a generations the beauty of the natural world. Wetland scheme, simply visit wwt.org.uk/aaw. APRIL/JUNE 2014

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TOP TEN

wonderful world TEN THINGS YOU (PROBABLY) DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT LIFE AT WWT

Red data This February, an important new step was taken in the conservation of the Endangered red-breasted goose. As part of a European Community LIFE project, WWT, in partnership with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, fitted tags to 12 birds, which were released at Bulgaria’s Durankulak Lake, one of the goose’s last main refuges. One of the birds was named Sir Peter Scott, in honour of WWT’s founder. Along with his 11 peers, this bird may provide us with vital information on the wintering grounds and migration of this species.

You clever girl!

FLPA; Alamy; Roland Digby; Rex Features

Bella is a young flamingo who lives at WWT Washington Wetland Centre. Soon after hatching, staff noticed that she was rather overindulging in feather-plucking, a sign that suggested she was wanting attention. She therefore got plenty of it from the Washington staff, who fed her with sardine smoothies, but it seemed to be taking a long time to wean her. She wouldn’t go onto more solid foods, so a WWT vet was called in. The vet noticed that as soon as the staff turned their backs, Bella would tuck into the solids after all. It was all a clever ruse to get those smoothies! Bella has now bonded fully with the rest of the flock.

Cranes and crayons WWT’s winter Craneberry Fest, which was kindly sponsored by Ocean Spray, is now over, but it brought out the artistic side of many visitors to Washington Wetland Centre in December and January. Here’s one of the winners of the drawing competition – four-year-old Annabelli (right) with her mum, Caroline. Annabelli adorned her crane not only with plenty of pretty felt-tip pen feathers, but also with happy faces, butterflies and colourful rainbows.

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Ring of truth Sometimes, extraordinary stories can take decades to surface. In 1953, Sir Peter Scott ringed a pink-footed goose and let it go. A couple of years later, a diner at a London restaurant was tucking into a goose pie, and discovered that ring under the crust. He passed it to a young enthusiast called Mike Archer, who popped it in a drawer and kept it as a curiosity. Nearly 60 years later, Mike, now a bird ringer himself of great note, mentioned the tale at a conference breakfast – it turned out that another breakfaster was recording ways in which rings were recovered. He had a list of 525 to date – so ‘found in a pie’ instantly became number 526.

Learning is fun

Spring is a great time to introduce children to wildlife and we’ve got some magical experiences to share with school groups. Through our guided learning sessions, school children can experience plant and animal life cycles first-hand: spotting buds bursting, amphibians waking from hibernation, migratory birds arriving and departing, and life unfolding in ponds. For more information on our learning experiences for schools this spring, visit wwt.org.uk/learn.


Global view WWT Consulting, a subsidiary business of WWT, is the UK’s leading wetland consultancy. Its latest venture, with Wetland Link International, is in China, where the partnership is advising the new Tongli National Wetland Park near Shanghai, with the aim of making it a strong example of how well-planned and managed wetland parks can lead to wildlife and people coexisting for the benefit of both. For more on WWT’s consulting arm, visit wwtconsulting.co.uk.

Basil’s brush-off If you were wondering where Basil the magpie goose was at WWT Arundel Wetland Centre, then wonder no more. The high waters of January meant he was one of 60 geese of various species moved to Slimbridge, where the grassland was much drier (see page 49). By the end of the month, however, he was back, ready to resume his duties of chasing visitors and staff away from his nests with all his vigour of old.

Every drop counts

Fancy a pond in your garden, but have little room to create one? The answer is right here at WWT’s online shop. Lifepond is a small, free-standing pond that provides a garden wetland and wildlife haven in even the smallest garden. It provides a source of water for birds, a climbing slope to give access to frogs, and marsh plant and deepwater zones to attract insects. Lifepond is now available at WWT’s online shop at wwt.org.uk/shop.

Masses of mammals World Wetlands Day was quite an event at WWT Welney Wetland Centre in February, with more than 200 visitors joining in with activities (see page 63). One was a mammal survey, in which 25 small mammal traps were placed around the reserve. The usual catch rate is 40%, but this time nearly every trap was filled, with either wood mice, field or bank voles, which were measured before being let go. Unusually, every vole was female.

Bird brains Do ducks have longterm memories? Here’s a story from aviculturist Phoebe Young that suggests some have. ‘We once received a pair of bronze-winged ducks from a friend of WWT, called Rosemary Sharp,’ says Phoebe. ‘They lived for two years at Arundel, and had a temporary stint at Slimbridge. Rosemary came to see them nearly three years later, and they recognised her! They hollered at her, allowed affection, and began to sit, rest, preen and breed in the same spots as before.’

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40% off

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Nobody really likes wearing waterproof overtrousers or stumbling around wet hillsides trying to get them on or off. Men’s Dry Explorers and women’s Dry Roamers are great technical walking trousers with stealth waterproofing built-in – easily protective enough to spend whole days out in the pouring rain.

Outdoor & Travel Clothing

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Online: Visit rohan.co.uk and enter WT14 at the checkout Shops: Simply take this ad Phone: Call 0800 840 1412 and quote WT14 This offer is valid on the men’s Dry Explorers and women’s Dry Roamers trousers only until 7 May 2014 and may not be used against a previous purchase or in conjunction with any other offer. Offer valid on full price purchases only.

Summer Opening Hours Monday to Saturday 9am - 5pm From March 1st

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! Bushnell Elite

ED Prime 8 x 42 £495

SPECIAL PRICE Whilst Stocks last!

Swarovski

CL Pocket 8 x 25 £485 10 x 25 £525

Swarovski EL Swarovision

8.5 x 42 £1710 10 x 42 £1775

Spypoint Trail Cameras

BF8 £199 BF10-HD £249 HD12 £399

‘Wild about Wildlife’ Outdoor event at Hatton Country Park

see www.hattonworld.com March 29th & 30th Details on web page

Summer Bird Fair at Focus Optics Saturday June 28th 10am - 4 pm Optical displays from leading manufacturers Digiscoping workshop Details on web pages

Also visit our Clothing & Accessory Showroom

• Leading brands: Brasher, Bridgedale, Country Innovation, Healthy Back Bag, Paramo, Stealth Gear, Ridgeline and Tilley • Brasher Boots and Shoes • Books, CD’s, DVD’s • Nikwax Waterproofing Products • Bird Tables, Nest Boxes • Bird Feeders: All sizes and types • Top quality Bird Food: Nuts, Seed, Sunflower Hearts, Fat Balls and Cake

For more information and special offers please visit our website www.focusoptics.eu Phone or email now for our latest price list or visit our showrooms e-mail: enquiries@focusoptics.eu Church Lane, Corley, Coventry CV7 8BA Tel: 01676 540501/542476 Fax: 01676 540930 Unlimited on site parking.

Export Facilities Personal and postal orders welcomed Package Deals Attractive discounts. Phone for quotation

www.focusoptics.eu

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

Focus Optics_WWT_Spring_14.indd 1

12/02/2014 11:07


Netlands

WWT ONLINE

Visit wwt.org.uk for much more

A ROUND-UP OF WWT’S GROWING PRESENCE ON THE WEB

Hats off to the swans

Have you caught up with Wildlife Weekly yet? These short and snappy videos of life at Slimbridge, presented by the wardens, are proving to be extremely popular, with more and more hits each episode. The series has some famous fans, too, with Chris Packham, Mike Dilger and Stephen Fry (above) all retweeting episodes. With slow-motion footage of flying swans, fascinating insights into the seasonal comings and goings of wildlife (and even an impromptu impression of a crane!), it’s a great way to catch up with the world of WWT. And if you have any questions for our wardens, do send them in. There’ll also be further centres appearing in this way soon. You can join the party at wwt.org.uk/wildlifeweekly.

Volunteers wanted! We had a great response to our request for volunteers looking for valuable filming and online experience, but we’re still looking for more. If you’re interested in contributing to a Wildlife Weekly-style video, do contact media.production@wwt.org.uk.

Famous faces 2 Fancy finding out how to track animals? Want to know more about the importance of wetlands? Two of the wildlife world’s best communicators have put together a podcast to help you do just that. All you have to do is visit wwt.org.uk/ podcasts, and you’ll be able to hear animal-tracking tips from TV presenter Nick Baker (right), and eco-campaigner Tony Juniper on wetland environments. There are many other podcasts to explore in this archive, too.

Bird tweets

Mike Alsford/REX

Famous faces 1

Missing the Bewick’s swans? Fear not – there’s a great way of keeping up to date with them. By visiting wwt.org.uk/swans, you’ll be able to catch up with the latest tales… and enhance your online presence into the bargain. We’ve prepared images to upload as your Facebook cover photo or Twitter background. There are even a couple of designs to print out and fold into your very own swan hat!

‘It’s been a lovely day, leaning lazily over a wooden bridge @WWTLondon sun on my back watching woodpeckers grubbing for ants’ Join in on Twitter by visiting @WWTworldwide

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with

Steve Backshall

FLPA

Hello again I always get excited around this time of year, because the breeding season is getting under way, with the chance for great views of birds and their behaviour. One of the most beautiful, the kingfisher, is a particular favourite and, as you can read on page 66, I always get a thrill when I see one, with its bright plumage, flashing by. Even though its colours are so dazzling, you usually hear a kingfisher before you see it. It flies very fast, normally in a fairly straight line, just a few feet above the surface of a river or lake, and as it flies it often lets out a high-pitched call, a bit like the squeak of a mouse, but louder. The next time you’re looking out across water, keep an ear open for that call – if you turn your head in its direction, you might see this magnificent bird, and be able to follow its flight path to its perch. Of course, at WWT, finding kingfishers is made even easier. They make their nests inside burrows in the sides of riverbanks, and at some centres, such as Slimbridge, you can watch them as they perch near their nest-holes, scanning the waters, waiting for the moment that they can plunge down and catch a fish. It’s an amazing sight – why not make it your ‘must-see’ this spring? Until next time…

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Burrow time When you think of a bird’s nest, you tend to think of a bundle of twigs and leaves all woven together, normally sitting in the branches of a tree or hedge. Well, that’s not how the kingfisher does it. In fact, it doesn’t use any materials at all. It actually digs out the sandy soil from the side of a riverbank, to make a burrow that can be nearly a metre long, and lays its eggs at the end of it. If it can, it makes sure the burrow slopes slightly downwards so that the eggs don’t roll out. The entrance to the burrow is only about 6cm wide, just big enough for the kingfishers to get into, but too small for most hungry animals that might fancy feasting on half a dozen tasty eggs. The year’s first kingfisher eggs should have been laid by now, and even hatched, so you might already be able to see the parents flying back and forth all day long with fish for their young chicks.


KIDS’ ZONE

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Bill or Belle?

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R K W E L R U C

S N I P E G S U

S A L T W N H L

H H I I R I I W

A S O W T W N V

N D G D A P K A

T E C O V A L I

G R S G E L T J

Those bright and beautiful kingfisher feathers are the same on both male and female birds, but while you’re watching parents flying in and out of their burrow to feed their young, there is another way to tell mum and dad apart. Take a look at the bill – if it’s all black, then you’re looking at the male. If the lower part of the bill is orange, however, then that’s the female.

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Wadersearch

Can you find the name of this well-known waterbird from the picture clues? Answer on page 12.

Ho ho!

There are all sorts of members of the wader family – birds that you can see feeding in shallow water – and they’re entering the breeding season at WWT centres up and down the country. Six types of wader can be found in this grid – avocet, curlew, godwit, lapwing, redshank and snipe. See if you can find them all, and match the names to the numbered pictures – then why not see how many you can spot at your local centre? The answers are on page 12.

+M + + = ?

Double vision Here’s a very funny photo of a kingfisher getting ready to do just what it’s been told not to! And here it is again. But there are actually five differences between the two photos – can you tell what they are? Answers on page 12.

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

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James Lees

Help us protect our reserves for everyone to enjoy People leave many memories to future generations thanks to a gift in their will. Whether big or small, such a gift ensures that what you felt most passionately about during your lifetime continues into the future. Over the years, gifts left to WWT by kind people in their wills have helped create and protect reserves, save species from

extinction, and develop learning programmes that have inspired generations of nature lovers. This is valuable work that we will continue for many generations to come. We invite you to receive your free My forever gift booklet, which features stunning photographs of wetland wildlife and landscapes, and inspiring stories about what has been achieved through

your support and those who kindly remembered WWT in their wills. For your free copy of My forever gift, please complete the request form below and send it to the freepost address. Alternatively, contact our Legacy Manager, David Salmon, on 01453 891150 or by email at david.salmon@wwt.org.uk. You can also visit wwt.org.uk/legacies.

PLEASE SEND ME WWT’S FREE 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) Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust is a registered charity in England & Wales, no. 1030884 and Scotland, no. SC039410


WWT centres are alive with activity this spring, with new life appearing wherever you look. Turn the page to find out the latest news, and your seasonal list of upcoming events For the full list of centre events, information and news, find your local centre at wwt.org.uk.

1. Spoonbill, 2. Skylark, 3. Treecreeper, 4. Hen harrier, 5. Lapwing, 6. Bittern, 7. Avocet, 8. Cetti’s warbler, 9. Kingfisher


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D OW N YO U R WAY Arundel

Mill Road, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9PB 01903 881530 info.arundel@wwt.org.uk

WWT Arundel Wetland Centre News The high water levels from heavy storms and high spring tides covered a lot of the land, at times turning the reserve into a giant lake. Red-breasted geese, nene geese and magpie geese from Arundel were moved to WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre to graze on drier grassed land there, but WWT staff started returning the geese to Arundel at the end of January. A plus from the high waters was that fish and eels were pushed back into Arun Riverlife. The fish had been relocated while work was under way on the construction phase of the project, and hadn’t been expected to return until later in the year. A record 200 lapwing were on site in mid-November. Now that the lapwing flocks have broken up for breeding season eight pairs have remained to nest on the wet grassland. A group of nine Bewick’s swans, including five cygnets, spent time on the reserve in December, and Arundel also enjoyed its highest count of wigeon since 1975, with all 25 birds providing splendid views from the Lapwing Hide. By January, kingfisher sightings were being recorded all over the site. They attracted a host of visitors, and at one point there were rows of photographers taking snaps. The kingfishers even checked out the new bank that was built for them last year. Gadwall numbers were up to around 100 in January, and songbirds were heard declaring their territories earlier than usual and the first oystercatcher of the year put in an appearance in early February. With bat walks beginning again, woodcraft demonstrations and traditional tales, there’s plenty to look forward to this Easter and beyond at Arundel.

Firecrest

Behind the scenes

‘One of the real joys of the winter has been the firecrests, which have been regularly seen on site.’ Patricia Warren, Marketing Manager

Arundel Events (Key below. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/arundel) Daily Activities Wetland Discovery Boat Safari Guided boat trip through different types of wetland habitat, great for spotting water voles and kingfishers. First boat 11am, last boat 4.30pm. Suggested donation of £1. WA Hand-feed Wildfowl Hand-feed exotic wildfowl like Hawaiian nene and Australian wood ducks in our World Wetlands area. Until closing. Feeding grain costs £1.20 a bag, three bags for £3.

key

Diving Duck Feed See some of the rarest waterfowl in the world show off their fishing skills in the clear chalk spring-fed waters! 2pm. WA Guide in the Hide On weekends, a guide is available in one of the hides to help you spot and identify wildlife. Saturday and Sunday, 10.30am-1pm, 1.30-3.30pm. WA Sat 5 to Tues 22 April New Life Celebrate spring with a visit to see rare cygnets

and goslings during the Easter holidays. Families can follow the bunny trail around the reserve, go pond dipping or create a crackin’ craft each afternoon. 9.30am5.30pm. WA Sat 12 and Sun 13 April Core Skills in Wildlife Photography with David Plummer Take this intensive twoday workshop covering the key skills required to master wildlife photography, taught by wildlife and travel

photographer David Plummer. 10am-4pm. £165PP. BE Mon 5 May Traditional May Tales Hear tales celebrating May, brought alive with poetry, rhymes, drums and infectious enthusiasm for the British countryside and its heritage. The stories are exciting for children and absorbing for adults. Learn about the fauna and flora of Britain in this most creative of ways. 30minute shows between 10am and 3pm. WA

Thurs 22 May Evening Bat Walk Join this guided evening walk at dusk to watch pipistrelle bats emerge. Track bats with our detectors and watch Daubenton’s feeding over the water. 7pm. £12PP. BE WP Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Downy Duckling Days Bring your family to meet our new families of ducklings, cygnets and goslings. Pond dipping and crafts each day. 9.30am-5pm. WA

Sat 28 to Sun 29 June Incredible Insects! Go ‘buggy’ on a pond-dipping, insect-hunting, bug-detecting weekend with activities and prizes. Part of National Insect Week. 9.30am-5.30pm. WA Sat 5 July Moth Morning Inspect the moth traps with our team and help catalogue the species inside, learning about each type as we find them. 7am. £12PP. BE WP

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 wwt.org.uk/visit/arundel /caerlaverock /castleespie /llanelli /london /martinmere /slimbridge /washington /welney

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EXCLUSIVE WATERLIFE READER OFFER!

Come for the wildlife

Stay for the night

With this special reader offer, you and up to 13 friends can now enjoy a magical seven-night stay at the Caerlaverock farmhouse for just £1,200, including free daily admission to the reserve. All that for under £90 per head (based on 14 sharing)! In summer, Caerlaverock Wetland Centre is buzzing with wildlife: the hedgerows are alive with birdsong and you can wander through meadows filled with orchids, butterflies and dragonflies, while larks sing from on high. Ospreys nest and fish nearby, while barn

owls make their homes right inside the visitor centre itself. Further afield lie forests, moorland, and miles of coastline with wild flowers and peregrines on the cliffs. From red deer to red kites, otters to oystercatchers, badgers to black grouse, the region teems with wildlife. Walking and mountain biking at the renowned 7stanes centre make Caerlaverock and the surrounding countryside a great destination to explore. There’s just one thing missing: YOU!

For further details, visit the Caerlaverock pages at wwt.org.uk, or contact Pam Mundy on 01387 770200 or at info.caerlaverock@wwt.org.uk


D OW N YO U R WAY Caerlaverock

Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire DG1 4RS 01387 770200 info.caerlaverock@wwt.org.uk

WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre News As for much of the rest of the country, flooding was one of the talking points of the winter, with the water even breaking through the flood bank in a few places. There were upsides, however, with waders enjoying the high waters in great numbers. Around 4,500 knot were recorded, as were 6,500 dunlin and up to 8,000 oystercatchers, some of them feeding right up to the edge of the new observatory. There were plenty of curlew and lapwing to watch, along with 750 golden plover, all standing and facing the same way in their distinctive manner. By the end of January, skylarks were already singing, which was particularly appropriate as the ‘laverock’ of the centre’s name is Scottish for ‘lark’. Meanwhile, there was speculation that the natterjack toads might have a good season this year as, while they were still hibernating, the high waters might have washed away from the reserve the sticklebacks and dragonfly larvae that, come the spring, would normally be predating on the toads’ spawn. The American green-winged teal remained on site throughout the winter and, by February, was seen displaying with the common teal, particularly once a second bird arrived, too. A water rail was another particular highlight during this time, frequently seen on the Sir Peter Scott Centenary Walk, providing great photographic opportunities for visitors. Peregrines and hen harriers were often seen early in the year, and there were plenty of good otter sightings, while roe deer came a little closer to the centre during the high waters. A couple of little egrets, a bird much less common in Scotland than further south, stayed throughout the winter, too.

Sir Peter Scott Observatory; water rail (inset)

Behind the scenes

‘The new Sir Peter Scott Observatory is proving extremely popular with visitors. People have loved the new whooper swan database that’s been installed, too.’ Brian Morrell, Centre Manager

Caerlaverock Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/caerlaverock) Daily Activities Guide in the Hide Our friendly, knowledgeable guides will be out and about in the hides to point out the best wildlife of the day. See the ‘What’s on’ board in the visitor centre for information and availability. 11am-3pm. WA UAA

children £2.50. Tickets must be paid for in advance. BE RI OAA

event. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 10am-2pm.

Mon 31 March to Sun 13 April Stars and Stripes Badger Watching Watch wild badgers feeding just outside our comfortable observatory. Fairtrade tea, coffee and biscuits available. 8pm. Adults £7.50, concessions £5,

Sun 6 April Birding for Beginners Learn the hints and tips from the experts to get the most out of your birdwatching. Bring binoculars if you have them and a notebook and pencil. 1-4pm. BE WA UAA

Sat 26 April Bird Ringing Demonstration Join the North Solway Ringers as they demonstrate how to ring a range of birds. 11am-4pm. UAA

Thursdays 10 and 17 April Nest-building Challenge Take on the nestbuilding challenge to discover how different birds construct their nests in spring. Family

BE UAA

Sun 27 April What’s that Warbler? Join WWT experts to find and identify the newly arrived spring migrants. Learn to identify those difficult warblers by song. 1-4pm. BE UAA OAA

Sun 4 May In Focus Try before you buy the latest binoculars and telescopes from the huge range available today. In Focus experts are on hand all day to give advice. WWT Caerlaverock benefits from every sale. 10am-4pm. Free. Sat 17 May Natterjack Night A walk out onto the reserve to find the rarest amphibian in Britain, the natterjack toad. At dusk, if we are very lucky, we may hear the toad chorus as the male toads come down to the shallow pools to

sing to the females to encourage them to spawn. Bring warm clothing suitable for the evening and a torch. 8.30pm till late. Adults £7.50, concessions £5, children £2.50. Tickets must be paid for in advance. BE Sat 17 and Sun 18 May Wildlife Photography Weekend Course One-to-one tuition with Tom Langlands and Bob Fitzsimmons, suitable for beginners to experienced photographers. Macro/ general. £170PP, including coffee, tea and lunch. OAA BE

Sun 6 July In Focus Try before you buy the latest binoculars and telescopes from the huge range available today. In Focus experts are on hand all day to give advice. WWT Caerlaverock benefits from every sale. 10am-4pm. Free. Wed 9 July Pond Dip Wednesday Spend a morning with the warden pond dipping out on the reserve. An event for all the family. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 11am-1pm.

UAA

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GETTING THERE By Road: Grantown is situated just off the A9 Edinburgh–Inverness road. By Train: The nearest station is Aviemore (14 miles) on the FirstScot Rail Edinburgh– Inverness line. By Plane: Inverness (30 miles)—flights from most major UK airports. Other destinations available from Aberdeen airport (75 miles).

For Wildlife Breaks in the Highlands M

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an

The Bird Watching & Wildlife Club runs the imposing 55 bedroom Grant Arms Hotel, delightfully situated in the middle of The Square in Grantown-on-Spey a beautiful town within the Cairngorms National Park. With the Cairngorms on one side and the Moray Firth on the other, it couldn’t be better sited.

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Millions of people now enjoy bird and wildlife watching. For some it’s a consuming passion. For others it is just an excuse for a good walk. The Bird Watching & Wildlife Club is there for anyone interested in wildlife, from beginners ©Gordon to dedicated experts. BWWC doesn’t operate as a tour company. Everyone is free to do their own thing. We are there to provide advice on where to go and what to see. 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 suggestions for great days out. If you have a mustsee list, we will help you achieve it. 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 by visiting Speakers, Wildlife Briefings, Quizzes and Film screenings. Visiting Speakers have included TV Presenters; Simon King, Nick Baker, David Lindo, lolo Williams and Roy Dennis as well as many other well known Wildlife Authors, Writers, Photographers, Guides and Experts.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

YOUR QUESTIONS

• All rooms are en-suite with tea/coffee making facilities, Wi-fi, TV, hairdryer and toiletries. • Extensive Bar and Public areas • Fine Scottish Dining using local produce. • Three Course Dinner and Full Scottish Breakfast • Early birder breakfasts • Afternoon Tea and After Dinner Coffee • Complimentary Newspaper • Free use of Guest Computer • Boot wash, Drying and Laundry rooms • Free use of the BWWC’s private Slavonian Grebe Hide Walks, Talks and Field Trips subject to availability DOG FRIENDLY

DB&B 4 NIGHTS 7 NIGHTS

Apr–Oct 2014 £350 £540

to attend the briefings, talks and walks you can but it’s up to you.

Q. What about meals? A. All guests have their own individual tables at Breakfast and Dinner excepting some Gala Dinners but if anyone wants to share a table we will always try to accommodate. Q. Do you need a car? A. To get the most of the wider area you do really need a car. Q. Can we come for longer or shorter periods? A. You can stay as long or as little as you want. We show the 4 and 7 day Tariffs by way of example. Q. Are special dietary requirements catered for? A. Yes.

www.bwwc.co.uk

Speyside, the Cairngorms and the Moray Coast provide arguably the best wildlife watching in the UK. Nowhere else can offer the same year-round diversity. See Golden Eagles, Mountain Hares, Ptarmigan, Dotterel and Red Deer on the hills; Capercaillie, Crested Tits, Pine Marten, Red Squirrels and Crossbills in the forests; Slavonian Grebes, Osprey, divers and duck on the lochs and rivers and dolphins, breeding seabird colonies, Red Kites and huge numbers of wintering sea-ducks, geese and waders on the coast.

NOT TO BE MISSED • Dolphins on the Moray Firth. As many as 20 at one time. All year. • Over 30,000 nesting sea birds at Troup Head. April– July. • Sea Duck and Divers on the Moray Firth. Winter. • Up to 80,000 Geese at Loch of Strathbeg. Autumn and Winter. • Capercaillies lekking in Speyside. Spring. • Ospreys on Speyside. May–August. • Over-wintering waders on the Cromarty Firth. Autumn and Winter. • Eagle, Deer, Ptarmigan, Mountain Hare. All year, but best in Winter. • Breeding Black-throated Divers and Slavonian Grebe. Summer. • Crested Tits, Crossbills, Pine Marten. All Year • Black Grouse on the Moors.

MAJOR RESERVES RSPB Loch Garten & Abernethy Forest. Osprey Centre & Major Caledonian Forest. RSPB Insh Marshes. One of the most important wetlands in Europe. RSPB Loch Ruthven. Most important site in UK for breeding Slavonian Grebe RSPB Udale Bay. Waders & Geese. RSPB Culbin Sands. One of the largest shingle and sand dune habitats in Britain. RSPB Troup Head. The only mainland Gannet colony in Scotland. RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. Major over wintering site for geese.

2 0 1 4 / 2 0 1 5 SP E CI A L B R E A K S

TARIFF 2014 Jan–Mar 2014 £220 £365

Q. Do we have to join in activities? A. If you want

WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE CAIRNGORMS & SPEYSIDE?

Nov–Dec 2014 £195 £325

Price per person. Excludes Christmas, New Year and other Special Breaks. Other lengths of stay are also available. • Dogs welcome £20 per room per stay • 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 bookings@bwwc.co.uk

Grant Arms Hotel, 25 The Square, Grantown-on-Spey, PH26 3HF

SPECIAL EASTER BREAK (18th to 22nd April 2014) Come and celebrate Easter with a gala dinner and watch some wildlife at the same time. 4 nights DB&B from £245pp RED DEER RUT BREAK (26th Sep to 3rd Oct 2014) A break for anyone who loves Deer. Enjoy a full BWWC Programme of Deer related events. e 7 nights from £540 CHRISTMAS IN WONDERLAND (23rd to 27th Dec 2014) Come and celebrate Christmas in this most beautiful of locations and enjoy a BWWC programme of Christmas and wildlife events. 4 nights from £399pp © Bo b M oo r

©Greg

ALSO COMING UP Hogmanay in the Highlands (30th Dec 2014 to 2nd Jan 2015) 3 nights DB&B £399pp Burns Winter Break (22nd to 26th Jan 2015) 4 nights DB&B from £230pp Valentines Break (11th to 15th Feb 2015) 4 nights DB&B from £230pp


D OW N YO U R WAY Castle Espie

Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down BT23 6EA 028 9187 4146 info.castleespie@wwt.org.uk

WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre News The record high tides after Christmas did their best to break the sea wall, rising higher than at any time in living memory… but the sea wall held. The new saltmarsh at the reserve, which itself had been built as part of a ‘managed retreat’ programme to lessen the potential effects of flooding, benefited from an excellent range of birds including oystercatcher, turnstone and up to 40 grey plover. It was also the scene of a welcome return of knot and dunlin; last year, the two species only numbered in the hundreds, but this winter they came back, with 1,200 dunlin and 1,500 knot being the peak counts. A red-breasted merganser was seen early in the year on the saltmarsh, too. Meanwhile, the spoonbill (only the second ever recorded at the reserve) that arrived in November was still there by February. There was a good mixture of raptors this winter, too. The peregrine enjoyed the potential that high numbers of small waders offered, while buzzards, kestrels and sparrowhawks were consistently present. A merlin was a particular highlight through January and February. The feeding stations proved popular with finches – chaffinches and goldfinches were using them throughout the winter, and numbers of greenfinches, which had declined in recent years, showed signs of bouncing back. Tree sparrows were seen among the finches, with up to 10 using the feeders. Work also started on the centre’s new Sensory Garden in February. It will include a new hide, a herb garden and much more to enjoy.

Red-breasted merganser (above); tree sparrow (right)

Behind the scenes

‘The new Sensory Garden, due to be open this summer, will be a real treat, giving visitors plenty to see, smell, touch, hear and even taste.’ Kerry Mackie, Grounds and Reserve Manager

Castle Espie Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/castleespie) Every Weekend Meet the Quackers Why and how do ducks dive, when others choose to dabble? Why do others turn upside down in the water? If you would like to know the answers, join our tours. 12 noon and 2pm. WA

Sat 15 March to Sun 27 April ‘Moments in Nature’ Art Exhibition Art exhibition by local artist John Moore. In the art gallery. 10am-5pm daily. Free. Sun 6 April Dawn Chorus Join our resident expert to explore the reserve at one of the most productive times

of the year. Learn how to identify birds by their calls and songs. Followed by breakfast in the Loughshore Café. 6am. Adults £12.50, under-10s £5. BE Sundays 6, 13 and 20 April, 4, 11 and 18 May and 1, 8 and 15 June Wee Birdie Birdwatch Birdwatching drop-in sessions with Dot Blakely, our resident bird expert, and her team. Young birdwatchers welcome. Walks start at 2pm and every half hour until 4pm. WA Wed 16 to Sun 27 April Giant Easter Bunny Hunt Lots of events and

activities for all. Search for the large, coloured bunnies. Maps and clues provided and much more. 11am-4.30pm. WA Thursdays 24 April, 29 May and 26 June Birdwatch Morning Join Dot Blakely and find out more about the birds around the centre. Dot will also relay interesting facts about garden favourites such as the robin, the elusive kingfisher, waders to waterfowl and all in between! 10.30am. WA Sat 3 May to Sun 8 June ‘Wild Beauties’ Art Exhibition A joint exhibition by local artists Andrea

McNeill, Kathryn Callaghan and Chantalle Coombes. In the art gallery. 10am-5pm daily. Free. Sat 17 May Food from the Wild Join our local survival expert for an afternoon of foraging for food in our woods. 2-4pm. BE Sat 24 to Sun 25 May Research Rangers Join us for a day in the life of a warden, helping with our bird counts, butterfly and baseline moth counts. All ages welcome. 2-3.30pm. BE Mon 26 May Puppet Show Check in the centre for information, and for further details of the

Ards Puppet Festival, contact Ards Council on 028 9181 0803. 1pm and 3pm. Free. BE Every Weekend and Wednesday in June Downy Duckling Tours Get close to nature’s little wonders. Cute ducklings and goslings abound in our duckery. Weekends 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm; Wednesdays 3pm. BE Sat 14 June Fathers Go Feral Day Check at centre for further details. 11am-4pm. Additional charge will apply. BE Sat 14 June Waders, Whoopers and Watercolour Spend a morning

sketching and using watercolour with artist Bernice Anderson. Bring your own art materials. 10am-1pm. Adults £15, concessions and children £10. Includes lunch and Downy Duckling Tour. BE

Sat 14 June to Sun 20 July ‘Ulster Society of Women Artists’ Art Exhibition An exhibition by Ulster Society of Women Artists diploma holders. In the art gallery. 10am-4.30pm. Free. Sat 5 and Sun 6 July Natural Explorers Check with centre for programme line-up. 11am-4pm. BE

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D OW N YO U R WAY Llanelli

Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA14 9SH 01554 741087 info.llanelli@wwt.org.uk

WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre News The sluices and good drainage system at Llanelli Wetland Centre meant that the reserve team was able to manage the water levels across the reserve during the heavy rains, keeping flooding at bay. Nonetheless, the nearby estuary was much fuller than usual, and this encouraged a number of seabirds closer to the centre than they normally would come. These included around 20 common scoter and a kittiwake, but the highlight was undoubtedly the two shags that flew through in January – a reserve first. The 14 goldeneye that appeared in early February were only a few shy of a reserve record, too. The January wader counts included some good peak totals, including 2,100 oystercatcher, 1,200 dunlin, 220 curlew, 120 redshank and 150 black-tailed godwits. Shoveler and teal numbered 114 and 170 around the same time. The Heron Hide was one of the best places to be during January, as a bittern put in several appearances, often showing very well to the many visitors who enjoyed this winter treat. Over at the Boardwalk Hide, meanwhile, the Guide in the Hide has been proving very popular with visitors, and the guides will still be there to provide advice and ID information every weekday through April. The mild winter weather brought a few invertebrates out of hibernation rather early – a small tortoiseshell butterfly was on the wing in February, while during the previous month a rather dozy wasp popped up in the café! If you and your young children haven’t tried out the Monday Munchkins club, then why not give it a go after Easter? Held every Monday during term time, it’s a great way to introduce toddlers to nature, the fun way. Pond dipping, another family favourite, kicks off this Easter, too, as do the regular flamingo watches, plus guided walks around the reserve. With nene goslings likely to be out and about by now, there’s plenty to enjoy this Easter and beyond at Llanelli Wetland Centre.

Shag (above); oystercatcher (right)

Behind the scenes

‘We often visit with our two young children and we are always impressed by the range of activities on offer. We are also always impressed by how friendly, helpful and knowledgeable all the staff are.’ Quote from Llanelli visitor survey

Llanelli Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/llanelli) Every Monday During Term Time Monday Munchkins Come along with your toddlers to take part in activities especially for them, with a different theme each week. Activities will include pond dipping, minibeast hunting, arts and crafts, stories, games and feeding the birds. 11am-12 noon. UAA WA

Weekdays in April Guide in the Boardwalk Hide

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Watch our blackheaded gull breeding colony as the birds gather, build nests and lay their eggs. 2-3pm. UAA WA

Sat 5 and Sun 6 April All-day Family Fun Minibeast hunt: 11am-12 noon; family birdwatching: 2-3pm; craft workshops: times vary. UAA WA Sun 6 April (15) Nordic Walking Come and try Nordic walking – a great fun

APRIL/JUNE 2014

and social activity suitable for adults of any age who can walk, and children of minimum height 4’ 10”. Poles provided. No need to book. Walks at 11am and 1.30pm. UAA WA

Sat 12 April Art Course by Janet Bligh Suitable for all adult artists. The emphasis is on enjoyment, encouragement and personal achievement at your own level. A

little basic knowledge is preferable. This month’s featured artist is Renoir (1841-1919). Medium: acrylic, watercolour and pastel. 10am-4.30pm. £30. IA BE

Sat 12 to Sun 27 April Easter Holiday Family Fun Den building: 11am12 noon; mini pond dipping: 11am-12 noon (drop-in session for toddlers); flamingo talk: 1pm; flamingo watch with telescope:

1-2pm; pond dipping: 2.30pm; craft workshops: times vary. UAA

Weekdays in May Guide in the Boardwalk Hide Watch our wild black-headed gull breeding colony with binoculars and a telescope. The birds will begin to gather, build nests and lay eggs in April, and the first chicks should be seen in May. Find out more about them from our

guide, who will also be able to point out different species on the lagoon, including the first greylag goslings of the year! Suitable for both adults and children, and particularly beneficial to those wishing to improve their bird identification skills. 2-3pm. UAA WA Weekends in May All-day Family Fun Den building: 11am12 noon; mini pond dipping: 11am-12 noon;


flamingo talk: 1pm; flamingo watch with telescope: 1-2pm; pond dipping: 2.30pm; craft workshops: times vary. UAA

Sat 3 May Dawn Chorus Walk with Breakfast Guided walk to listen to the bird world wake up as dawn breaks over the Burry Inlet. Improve your recognition of bird songs with the help of our guides on a walk around the reserve lasting approximately

two hours, followed by a full cooked breakfast in the estuary café. 5.30am. £15PP, £10PC. IA BE

Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Duckery Tours For one week only, go behind the scenes at our duckling nursery! Visit our tiny baby ducklings up close in the indoor duckery, see their older brothers and sisters in the outdoor duckery, and in our candling session

you can even witness baby ducklings at different stages of development still inside their eggs! Tours can be booked on arrival at the centre. Sorry, no advance bookings. Tours at 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm every day. UAA WA Weekends in June All-day Family Fun Minibeast hunt: 11am-12 noon: flamingo talk: 1pm; flamingo watch with telescope: 1-2pm; pond dipping:

2.30pm; craft workshops: times vary. UAA WA

Weekdays in June Guide in the Boardwalk Hide Watch our blackheaded gull breeding colony as the chicks start to grow up. 2-3pm. UAA WA

Mon 23 to Fri 27 June National Insect Week: Bugs and Buggies To celebrate National Insect Week 2014, we will be running

insect-themed activities for toddlers every afternoon, including minibeast hunting, pond dipping and insect crafts. 3-4pm. UAA WA Weekends in July (up to school holidays) All-day Family Fun Minibeast hunt: 11am-12 noon; flamingo talk: 1pm; flamingo watch with telescope: 1-2pm; pond dipping: 2.30pm; craft workshops: times vary. UAA WA

Weekdays in July Flamingo Watch and Talk Meet us at the flamingo house to find out more about these birds. Our talk at 2pm will be followed by a drop-in flamingo watch until 3pm – join our guide to enjoy a close-up look at our flock of Caribbean flamingos using our binoculars and telescope. See the flamingos sitting on their eggs and, if you’re lucky, see the first chicks. 2-3pm. UAA WA

OCTOBER/DECEMBER APRIL/JUNE 2013 2014

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D OW N YO U R WAY London

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, London SW13 9WT 020 8409 4400 info.london@wwt.org.uk

WWT London Wetland Centre News There were some excellent sightings of up to six bitterns this winter, mostly on the north and south shores of the main lake, and occasionally moving into the main reedbed at dusk for roosting. Redwings and fieldfares also settled into their roosting sites each evening, and by the end of January they’d stripped most of the berries from the hawthorn, holly, rowan and more. The flooded grazing marsh drew in good numbers of snipe, but of particular note were a total of four jack snipe recorded early in the year. Teal numbers remained high, with their favoured feeding grounds being the exposed mud on the wader scrape and the grazing marsh, particularly during high tide when large numbers left the Thames to visit the reserve. Shovelers also took advantage of the flooded marsh, with more than 100 recorded. Meanwhile, around the main reedbeds, the pinging sound of a bearded tit was heard several times. February began with the appearance of a young Caspian gull, which settled one morning on the shingle island of the reservoir lagoon. Over near the Explore area at the same time, both mealy and lesser redpolls were spotted on the feeders, as was a brambling. Early signs of spring included singing great tits, song thrushes and Cetti’s warblers, as well as a pair of displaying great crested grebes, while starlings were already investigating nest boxes and brick cavities. Some hawthorns were already in leaf by the middle of the month, while flowering plants around this time included red dead-nettle, blackthorn, petty spurge, mouse-ear and yarrow. It all makes a wonderful backdrop to the Easter events lined up; there’s a host of duckling games for children to enjoy, while the New Life Trail is an excellent opportunity to discover the babies, bugs and buds that are finally springing to life.

Jack snipe

Behind the scenes

‘There have been some interesting gull sightings, including Caspian, little and yellow-legged gulls, suggesting that many birds have been moved around the country by the flooding.’ Adam Salmon, Reserve Manager

London Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/london) Sat 5 April Members’ Walk Our monthly wildlife walks for members are a great chance to join a warden to spot seasonal wildlife, and also to meet other WWT members. 1pm. £2. BE Sat 5 to Mon 21 April Easter Holidays Come along and meet our family of farmyard ducklings. You can also create a ducklingthemed craft or try egg painting. Follow our New Life Trail to discover babies, bugs and buds.

Sat 12 April Introduction to Wildlife Photography Photographer Iain Green will explain your camera’s automatic settings – and then show you how to turn off the ‘automatic’ mode, but still get fantastic photos. Suitable for all types of camera. 10am-4pm. £55PP plus admission. BE Call 020 8409 4400. Mon 21, Fri 25 and Mon 28 April, and Fri 2 May Introduction to Birdsong

The centre is ideal for birdwatching and for ‘bird listening’, too! By the end of the session, you should be able to identify 10 key species. 10-11.30am. £10PP. Price does not include admission. BE Call 020 8409 4400. Sat 26 April Dawn Chorus Enjoy our reserve before daybreak as we celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day. At the end of the walk, enjoy a tea or coffee with a bacon roll (or vegetarian option)

before a day of selfguided birdwatching. Gates open at 4.30am, for ticket holders only. Bring binoculars and wrap up warm. 5am and 5.15am. £20PP (plus admission), includes guided walk and food. Limited tickets. BE Call 020 8409 4400. Fri 9 May Wildlife Photography: Intermediate Skills Ideal for those who want to fine-tune their pictures of the natural world. Suitable for users of SLR cameras only. 10am-4pm. £55PP

plus admission. BE Call 020 8409 4400. Sat 10 May Members’ Walk: What’s for Lunch? We’re often asked what we feed our collection of birds and our Asian short-clawed otters. Join our warden on this behind-the-scenes talk as he explains how we look after our animals. 1pm. £2. BE Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Animal Encounters It’s easy to spot the ducks at the centre, but

our reserve is teeming with other life. Follow our trail to discover what’s around, such as frogs, newts, butterflies and orchids. Or sign up for one of our ‘safari’ sessions: bug hunts, reptile rambles, duckling walks and pond dipping. Sat 7 June Members’ Walk: Wet Woodland Walk Join our warden for a 30-minute walk into an area not usually open to the public. Starting at entrance to Wildside. 1pm.£2. BE

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D OW N YO U R WAY Martin Mere

Burscough, Ormskirk, Lancashire L40 0TA 01704 895181 info.martinmere@wwt.org.uk

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre News There’s going to be an unusual sight at Martin Mere Wetland Centre this spring. Tom Clare, the reserve manager, is running a new lapwing monitoring programme, and he’ll be sitting in a giant lifeguard-style chair to do it. The chair will provide him with great views over the reserve as he checks for lapwing nesting sites. By February, there were around 3,000 of the plovers on site, and although most move on during the spring, some stay to nest, and Tom wants to collect more data about exactly how many of them do this, and where. Nenes were already pairing up by early February and, around the same time, the Martin Mere collection received some exciting new additions. Baikal teal, brent goose and Radjah shelduck certainly add extra colour and character to the birds on show, but perhaps the most important additions are the four pairs of Baer’s pochard, which arrived from Slimbridge. This Critically Endangered duck is quite possibly down to its last 100-200 individuals in the wild in China, making the birds at WWT potentially very important for the future of the species. Peregrines were quite a feature of the winter months, with up to three hunting at any given time. Barn owls were also regularly seen, while two marsh harriers and a male hen harrier were also recorded. The canoe safaris and guided boat tours kicked off at the beginning of April, and the upcoming Easter holidays offer plenty of further entertainment. There are duck-themed crafts to enjoy, as well as a special ‘plastic’ duck race on Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, work has started on the centre’s exciting new Wild Walk, due to open in the summer – look for more details in the next issue.

Canoe safari (above); barn owl (left); lapwing (right)

Behind the scenes

‘It was a fantastic experience. The kids enjoyed it and so did Mum!’ Louise Bateson, Canoe Safari ‘Explorer’ at Martin Mere

Martin Mere Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/martinmere) Daily Activities Otter Talk and Feed Meet our friendly otters – Ned, Tai, Penny, Bell and Flick – and listen to an informative talk. 11.30am and 2.30pm. WA

Beaver Talk (drop-in) Drop in to the beaver lodge between 2pm and 2.30pm to learn about them, see a beaver skull and touch a beaver pelt to feel how soft their fur is. WA

Flamingo Talk Learn all about the greater flamingos. Find out what they eat, why they are pink and stand on one leg. WA

Canoe Safari Our self-guided canoe safari is a fun way to explore the reedbed habitat and its rich biodiversity. Enjoy

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spotting some of the UK’s most threatened species ranging from water voles to reed buntings. 12 noon-4pm weekdays; 10.30am4pm weekends/ holidays. £6 per canoe (seats up to three). UAA Guided Boat Tours Take a peaceful tour of our wetlands and learn all about Martin Mere. Enjoy watching

wildlife, spotting dragonflies, listening for warblers and admiring the wild flowers. Check at the information desk for times. £3PP. UAA Weekend Pond Dipping Come and explore our pond zone every weekend until October half-term. Diving beetles and their larvae,

water boatmen, ramshorn snails and pond-snail leeches can all be found and examined with our magnifying sheets and pondlife identification charts. 11am-12.30pm. WA

Sat 5 and Sun 6 April Model Boat Show Come along and see more than 100 model boats on display in our

visitor centre and outside in large pools. Have fun with our boat-themed crafts and see how wooden boats are constructed. 10am-4pm. WA Sat 5 to Mon 21 April Easter Holidays Join us for duckthemed crafts. Have fun painting a plastic duck ready for our Easter Sunday duck race,


design a pond, go on a giant duck hunt, build a den, enjoy a boat ride, explore the pond zone and have fun in the adventure play area as the water play reopens. Additional charges for some activities. UAA Fri 11 April Evening Talk: Endangered Birds on Banknotes Come along to this talk

by Richard Underwood. 8-9pm. £3 (£2 Friend of MM). Sun 20 April Duck Race Cheer on the plastic ducks as they make their way across the pond. You can get creative and paint a duck ready for the race every day during the Easter holidays from 2-4pm. Race: 3pm. £2

per duck or £2.50 to paint a duck. UAA Tues 22 April to Sun 1 June John Fairclough Photography Exhibition Browse the stunning work of award-winning natural history and wildlife photographer John Fairclough in our exhibition hall. All day. WA

Fri 9 May Evening Talk: 12 Months of Nature Come along to this talk by Peter Smith. 8-9pm. £3 (£2 Friend of MM).

inside an egg), watch chipping eggs in anticipation and meet the newly hatched fluffy ducklings in our nursery. 11am-4pm. WA

Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Downy Duckling Week Join us for our egg-toduckling experience. Take part in ‘candling’ workshops (where a light is used to look

Weekends in June and July Duckling Nursery Tours Come and meet fluffy ducklings and learn about ‘candling’. Our tours reveal all about

egg hatching as well as this vital aspect of WWT’s conservation work. 12 noon-3pm. WA Fridays 20 June, 11 July and 1 August Beaver Evenings Join warden Alex for an interesting talk on beavers and the chance to see them, followed by refreshments in the pond house. 7.30pm. £15PP. BE RI

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D OW N YO U R WAY Slimbridge

Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 events.slimbridge@wwt.org.uk Prebook all paid events on 01453 891223

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre News The high waters of January (see page 7) brought exceptionally high wader numbers to Slimbridge Wetland Centre. Among the counts were 7,000 lapwing, up to 4,000 golden plover, 3,000 dunlin, 228 black-tailed godwit, 40 redshank, at least 540 curlew, nine ruff and three little stint. The weather patterns brought several seabirds closer to the reserve than usual, too, including razorbills, guillemots and up to 100 kittiwakes. Glaucous gull and tundra bean goose were further winter highlights on the reserve. The mild weather during this period encouraged the harvest mice at the centre’s Back from the Brink exhibit to breed early this year, while avocets and oystercatchers returned earlier than usual to the reserve, first appearing in January and early February. The six Somerset cranes that returned to Slimbridge stayed throughout the winter, and by February two pairs were starting to display. Another winter stayer was the ferruginous duck/ pochard hybrid, mentioned last issue. The first overwintering stonechat for a few years was recorded, as were sightings of rock and water pipit, while numbers of Cetti’s warblers stayed high throughout the season. A merlin was also frequently seen during the first weeks of the year, as were two peregrines. The number of Bewick’s swans peaked at 148 in January, while among the 266 white-fronted geese was a single Greenland whitefronted goose, which arrived in the new year and was still present in February. Meanwhile, keen-eyed visitors were able to pick out a young female scaup on the Rushy Pen.

Harvest mouse (above); stonechat (left); kittiwake (right)

The annual Festival of Birds was a great success in late January, with at least 3,000 visitors enjoying the various events on display. In the main centre itself, the foyer has now been refurbished and reopened, providing easier access and more to enjoy when you arrive at the centre this Easter. Behind the scenes

‘The young harvest mice can use their tails to grab branches, so they look very acrobatic when they move around.’ John Crooks, Mammal Manager

Slimbridge Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/slimbridge) Daily Activities Toad Hall Talk Come to Toad Hall and hear our amphibian expert give an insight into the world of amphibians and their habitats. You will have the opportunity to hold frogs, toads and newts, and ask questions. 2.15pm, plus 12.30pm at weekends and school holidays. WA Guided Walk Join a volunteer as they take you on a walk through the grounds, telling you about the history of the centre, the birds that you can see and the other things you might like to see or do. 11am. WA

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Otter Talk Meet our friendly family of otters – Flo, Minnie and Ha Ha – as they tuck into a tasty fish supper. 11.30am and 3pm. WA

Fri 4 April Advanced Birder Learn to assess fine details such as plumage, weather conditions and habitats to take your skills to a new level. 8am-12 noon. £27. BE RI Sat 5 to Mon 21 April Easter Trail Explore our beautiful grounds on a fun Easter trail, looking out for

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ducklings along the way. Once you have completed the trail, head back to claim your chocolate reward. Craft activities are also on offer. Sun 6 April Making Needlefelt Animals Learn how to make beautiful felt animals in this needle-felting workshop. You can make any of the mammals seen at Slimbridge. Sophie Buckley, a craft teacher, will be running the workshop. All materials and equipment will be provided. 10am3.30pm. £36. BE RI

Fri 25 April How to Paint Butterflies with Cath Hodsman This watercolour painting day is aimed at lovers of painting and entomology, especially butterflies. You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to be fascinated by both. This will give participants the chance to study different types of butterflies in a way that they have never been able to before. Each student will have the use of high-powered microscopes to study the anatomical beauty of these delicate creatures. 9.30am4.30pm. £60. BE RI

Fri 25 April Wildlife Photography for Intermediates with Iain Green Fine-tune your photography of the natural world. Suitable for SLR cameras only. The content will be tailored to the needs of attendees and, with limited numbers, there will be plenty of time for 1-2-1 tuition. 10am-4pm. £60. BE RI Sun 27 April Birdwatch Morning Spring is a magical time on the reserve, with many birds settling down to raise a family on the banks and adjoining fields of the River Severn. Join our

wardens as they aim to show the group some of the more special species, such as redshank and lapwing, songbirds, such as warblers, sparrowhawk and kingfishers, and maybe the elusive cuckoo. 8am. £15. BE RI

Wed 30 April, Thursdays 15 and 29 May, and Fri 13 June Nature Photography on Tour Reserve warden and wildlife photographer James Lees will take groups of keen photographers out onto our 800 acres of wild nature reserve in a Land Rover. His


inside knowledge of all the best wildlife spots provides numerous opportunities for taking unique photographs, and you’ll learn about the best ways to approach wildlife without disturbance. 7.30am2pm. £60. BE RI Sat 3 May to Wed 9 July, Saturdays and Sundays and School Holidays only Land Rover Safari Go out onto the reserve in the company of a warden and enjoy views of the wild birds that live on the banks of the Severn – all from the comfort of a covered trailer. Book

tours on arrival at the admissions area. Wear sturdy footwear and warm protective clothing. 11am and 2pm. Adults £5, children £3. WP Sat 10 and Sun 18 May Dawn Chorus Join our wardens to explore the reserve at one of the most productive times of the year. Learn how to identify these birds by sound. Followed by a full English breakfast. 4.30-7am. £20. BE RI Fri 16 May Advanced Birder Learn to assess fine details such as

plumage, weather conditions and habitats to take your skills to a new level. 8am-12 noon. £27. BE RI

Sat 17 May Birdwatch Morning Spring is a magical time on the reserve, with many birds settling down to raise a family on the banks and adjoining fields of the River Severn. Join our wardens as they aim to show the group some of the more special species, such as redshank and lapwing, songbirds, such as warblers, sparrowhawk and kingfishers, and maybe

the elusive cuckoo. 9am. £15. BE RI Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Half Term – Downy Duckling Days Go behind the scenes of our busy duckery to learn how we rear hundreds of young birds each year and see many of the fluffy ducklings, goslings and cygnets. On the tour, learn all about eggs, incubation and hatching. The tours run through the week and are included in the admission cost and are free to members. Just sign up to a time slot on your arrival,

but do come early to avoid disappointment as the tours are booked on a first come, first served basis. For our younger visitors there is a duckling crèche, giving them the opportunity to see ducklings up close without the tour. There is also an incubator so you can watch the progress of a bird hatching during your visit. WA Saturdays 14 and 28 June Wildflower and Orchid Walk Join our reserve manager for a magical behind-the-scenes walk looking for the

wetland’s finest wild flowers and orchids. 10.30am-12.30pm. £12. BE Fri 27 June Wildlife Photography for Beginners with Iain Green Starting with an illustrated introductory session, looking at composition, technique and equipment, you will then head outside for a practical session of nature photography. This course is suitable for users of all types of camera and the content will be tailored accordingly and to the needs of course attendees. 10am-4pm. £60. BE RI

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Washington

Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear NE38 8LE 0191 416 5454 info.washington@wwt.org.uk

WWT Washington Wetland Centre News While rain bedevilled most of the country in the early weeks of the year, Washington received a smattering of snow as well, and Wader Lake was frozen for a few days in mid-January. But there were some wildlife benefits to the extreme weather: the high water levels of the saline lagoon suited the otters and, on one occasion, no fewer than 120 visiting school children were able to see an otter clearly swim through the lagoon and out to the river beyond. In fact, so successful has this part of the reserve become for otters that Durham Wildlife Trust held a special training day at Washington for their volunteers, during which they studied otter spraints, holts and habitat. The mild winter encouraged the reserve’s smooth newts to emerge by early February and, thanks to a transplanting programme in previous years, carpets of snowdrops were adding their beauty to the landscape. Several interesting fungi were appearing, too, including King Alfred’s cakes, bracket fungi and Stereum hirsutum, sometimes called hairy curtain crust! The strong weather conditions provided a new first for the reserve, when a shag was seen flying up and down the river. Meanwhile, the Hawthorn Wood bird-feeding station proved popular with the smaller woodland birds, including goldcrests and treecreepers. Despite the weather, at least 750 visitors stayed to enjoy evenings of astronomy in the company of the Sunderland Astronomical Society, with Jupiter a true beacon in the sky. One of the hides at Wader Lake has now been revamped, with new windows providing better viewing than ever before. Meanwhile, fundraising for a hide and disabled access at the saline lagoon is under way – for details, contact the centre.

Fungus (left); smooth newt (above)

Behind the scenes

‘I live not far away so visit regularly, and it’s been wonderful to watch the growth of the meadow outside the viewing window in the main building.’ Visitor feedback on Trip Advisor

Washington Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/washington) Daily Activities Otter Feed Meet our playful Asian short-clawed otters, Musa and Mimi, at commentated feeds. 11.30am and 3pm. WA

dipping. Crafts and egg decorating: 1-3.30pm, small costs apply. Rubber duck hunt: 11am-3pm. WA Pond dipping: 11am-12 noon and 1-2pm. WA

Sat 5 to Mon 21 April Easter Holidays Family fun! Discover new life blooming all around. Take part in craft activities in the Discovery Centre every day (small costs apply) and join in the Easter Sunday rubber duck hunt. Plus, bring a hard-boiled egg to create a creature, with a prize for the craziest, and enjoy pond

Saturdays 5 April, 3 May, 7 June and 5 July Guide in a Hide Learn about our wild birds with our guide from 10am-12 noon and 2-4pm. Check on arrival for details. WA

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Sundays 6 April, 4 May, 1 June and 6 July Sunday Gang Create and maintain

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habitats such as ponds, lakes, reedbeds, and more. Ages 16+. Come dressed for working outdoors. 10am-4pm. If you’re a new volunteer, contact 0191 416 5454 or info.washington@ wwt.org.uk first. Saturdays 12 April, 10 May, 14 June Junior Members Club Join for activities, discovering the natural world in a fun and creative way. For young members aged 8 to 12. 10am-12 noon. Call Joanne Newbury on 0191 419 5933 or email joanne.newbury@wwt. org.uk.

Saturdays 19 April, 17 May, 21 June and 19 July Walk with a Warden Join our wildlife reserve manager as he leads a themed guided tour, taking in the sights, sounds and seasonal wildlife. Meet in the picture window at reception. 2pm. WA Sundays 27 April, 25 May and 22 June In Focus Check out the latest in optical equipment and chat to the In Focus experts. Test, select and buy state-of-the-art binoculars and telescopes in the field.

A percentage of every sale goes to WWT. All day. For details, contact 01484 864 729 or visit at-infocus.co.uk. Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Downy Duckling Days and Half-term Crafts Meet fluffy chicks at our specialist duckery, see tiny ducklings and goslings taking in the outdoor pens and watch Chilean flamingo chicks. Learn more about conservation breeding programmes. Duckery talks: 1-2pm. WA Crafts in the Discovery Centre: 1-3.30pm, small costs.

Sun 15 June Father’s Day Lunches Two-course meal overlooking spectacular waterbirds. 12 noon2pm. £15.95PP, £6.95PC. BE 0191 416 5454 ext 235 for booking and menu. Sat 28 June Day Trip to WWT Martin Mere Canoe safaris (£6), pond dipping and guided boat tours (£3), flamingo, otter, beaver talks. Bring clean footwear for coach. Leave 7am, return 6pm. £23PP, £12PC. UAA BE 0191 416 5454 or info.washington @wwt.org.uk.


D OW N YO U R WAY Welney

WWT Welney Wetland Centre News The reserve and the surrounding areas were originally created to protect local farms and homes from flooding by absorbing excess water, and this winter that’s exactly what they did. It meant the waters got very high in the Washes themselves, reaching 3.16 metres out by the Wash road – just one metre short of the record. In the drier farmland, no fewer than 7,678 lapwings gathered in the first week of January; two short-eared owls were seen at the same time. This shows the importance of Lady Fen and Bank Farm, which provide areas for waders to go during high waters. A glossy ibis was a highlight of the second week of January, when 10 Bewick’s swans were seen from the main observatory. The peak count of Bewick’s was 1,073, while whoopers totalled over 5,000. These included Skyfall, a male spending his fifth winter at Welney, and Aurelie, who was on her sixth visit. There was a sad story, though: a water rail, which had become a particular favourite of visitors who watched it skulking around outside the Wigeon Café, suddenly disappeared. The feathers that were left behind suggested that it had been nabbed by a sparrowhawk. Later in the month, three cranes were spending time on Lady Fen and Bank Farm, and there were regular sightings of a ringtail hen harrier, too. World Wetlands Day, on 2 February, proved a great hit with visitors, who were able to watch bird ringing, enjoy guided walks on Lady Fen, where brown hares were seen indulging in early boxing displays, and, as the theme of the day was Wetlands and Agriculture, find out about farm machinery. They were even able to contribute to a special potato print landscape painting, now on display at the centre for all to see. Look out for work going on at Bank Farm this spring and summer, where work has now begun on converting a 100-acre extension of that stretch of the reserve.

Map illustration by Fred Van Deelen; photos by Alamy; FLPA

Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Nr Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE14 9TN 01353 860711 info.welney@wwt.org.uk

Short-eared owl (left); brambling (above)

Behind the scenes

‘One of the joys of working at Welney is the unexpected: this winter, for example, I was delighted to see several bramblings, far more than usual.’ Oliver Slessor, seasonal winter warden

Welney Events (See page 49 for key. Events are subject to change, so for up-to-date information, please visit wwt.org.uk/welney) Daily Activities Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in April and May Wetland Management and Breeding Birds Find out about the wetland habitat and how it has developed over the years. Explore the reserve to get the best views of the

breeding waders and find out about these incredible birds. 1-2pm. Booking advisable. WA

wetlands. Pond-dipping stations are open for the summer. 9.30am-5pm. UAA

Sat 5 to Tues 22 April Easter Holiday Family Activities Explore the reserve and take part in activities to celebrate the new life emerging from our

Mondays 21 April, and 5 and 26 May Wetland Safari Find out why our wetlands are so important, with activities getting you

closer to the wildlife. A day packed with guided activities for all to enjoy. Activities run 10am-4pm. UAA Sat 24 May to Sun 1 June Half-term Family Activities Explore the reserve and take part in activities to

celebrate summer on our wetlands, with pond dipping, owl pellet dissection, moth trapping and more. 9.30am-5pm. UAA Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in June and July Water Voles and Wildflowers

A guided walk to learn how to look for the signs of water voles and get closer to the ones on the reserve. Also, find out about our wetland plants, some of which have unusual histories! 1-2pm. Booking advisable. WA

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Classified directory

To advertise please contact Daniel Haynes on 0208 962 1257 or daniel.haynes@thinkpublishing.co.uk

ACCOMMODATION

PRIDING ON RIVER SEVERN

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T: 01453 890306 E: enquiries@thetudorarms.co.uk W: www.thetudorarms.co.uk

PEMBROKESHIRE ROSEMOOR COUNTRY COTTAGES

SLIMBRIDGE MAY COTTAGE B&B

CAERLAVEROCK

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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.

Twin bedded annexe, ensuite, idyllic setting, adjacent to canal, walking distance from the WWT centre. Sue and Peter Gibson.

John M. and Jacqui Janssen Rosemoor Country Cottages & Nature Reserve Walwyn’s Castle Haverfordwest SA62 3ED

Tel: 01453 890820 www.smoothhound.co.uk/ hotels/maycottage1.html

Tel: 01437-781326 Fax: 01437-781080 E-mail: rosemoor@walwynscastle.com www.rosemoor.com

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BURPHAM COUNTRY HOUSE Guesthouse and RestauRant

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Caerlaverock, Blossom Cottage

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Set in 0.25 acres of secluded private gardens with views out over the solway firth, 4 star accommodation for 7 + 1. Situated 1 mile from Caerlaverock Castle. Wildfowl and Wetlands trust (WWT), National Nature Reserves and Caerlaverock Estate all within 1/4 mile. The Barnacle Geese can be seen from the comfort of the sun room in the field at front along with an abundance of wildlife including bats, badgers and deer.

E-mail: jamiecowan2000@yahoo.co.uk Tel: 07711583320 Web Site: www.blossomholidaycottage.co.uk

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One double bedroom self-catering ground floor accommodation in Glencaple Village close to WWT. Recently renovated. In winter Barnacles fly past morning and evening. Otters are often spotted nearby and in summertime porpoises and seals have been seen in the river. This is a nature-lover’s paradise. www.glencapleholiday.co.uk Tel: 01387 770348 Email: sue_greig@yahoo.co.uk

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CASTAWAY’S COTTAGE

Ideally placed, in the heart of the Arun Valley, close to Arundel WWT, Pulborough Brooks, and Pagham. 9 en-suite rooms from £80 per room. ETB 4* Gold Award Great short break deals. Tel 01903 882160 www.burphamcountryhouse. com

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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 for £20. Excellent discounted meals locally! Lots of indoor attractions / market towns to visit. Vicky Jennings T: 01453 549996 E: foresters@freeuk.com W: www.forestersbandb.co.uk

In forested dunes; 5 minute walk to 7 mile sandy beach. Hear the surf! Birds & wildlife abound here, plus marshes, rivers, & lakes.

01993 878 201 – Joode and Rich Email: gr8trips@yahoo.com Web: www.whaleswatch.com/ castawayscottage.html

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Holiday Cottages Properties throughout Scotland Discover your Scotland in 2014 Bird Watching, Wildlife, Outdoor Pursuits, Sandy Beaches, Scottish Culture and Heritage or to simply relax & get away from it all! There really is something for everyone www.discoverscotland.net Tel: 01556 504030

CROOK HALL FARM COTTAGES Quiet, peaceful area, perfect for walking and bird watching. Ideally placed for visiting Martin Mere and Mere Sands Wood nature reserves and Formby Point on the coast. 4* Barn Owl Cottage sleeps 4, Maltkiln Cottage sleeps 2. www.crookhallfarmcottages.co.uk

01704 822389

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CLASSIFIED DIRECTORY

ACCOMMODATION

WILDLIFE HOLIDAYS

BIRDING IN ANDALUCIA

CARMARTHENSHIRE TAN Y LAN FACH COTTAGE Two warm cosy cottages each superb for two set in a five acre wildlife oasis for ground mammals and birds. Overlooking tidal marsh and estuary surrounded by rural agricultural land. Spectacular views in any weather. Telephone Sharon and Jim on: 01267 241 579 www.tanylanwelshcottage.co.uk

All inclusive tours exploring a wide range of stunning habitats from S. French Alps, Crau & Camargue wetlands for Eagles, Wallcreeper, Vultures, Beeeaters, Eagle Owls, Flamingos, Beaver, Orchids & Butterflies. All ages & abilities welcome! 16 yrs. experience of year round tours, superb Provençale cuisine, comfortable accommodation. Local & scientific knowledge

Brochure: Wildlife Provencale Tel: 01706 225407 www.wildlifeprovencale.com

Fantastic birding, wildlife, peace and beauty, in hidden Spain. Our Andalucian farmhouse provides the ideal setting for the bird-watching holiday you deserve. To see our 2014 offers and book your next holiday, visit our web-site at:

Web: www.birdhols.com Email: george@birdhols.com Tel:+44 1253733568 Mob:+447856819291

EQUIPMENT

CRUISE THE HEBRIDES

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

spectacular scenery,

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 info@welshwildlifebreaks.co.uk www.welshwildlifebreaks.co.uk

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

CORRYVRECKAN 0845 260 2677 www.corryvreckan.co.uk

Quote NTW1 for your special offer when booking.

DAYS OUT

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GALAPAGOS BESPOKE TRAVEL LATIN AMERICA & ANTARCTICA 30 YEARS EXPERIENCE 0207 407 1478 www.selectlatinamerica.co.uk info@selectlatinamerica.co.uk ATOL PROTECTED 3760

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Wildlife holidays in the West Highlands Stunning scenery & wonderful wildlife www.glenloy-wildlife.org.uk Glenloy_WWT_AprJun_14.indd 1

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BAC K C H AT

Home thoughts from abroad

Steve Backshall travels the world to film nature, but his wildlife highlight of the year takes place on a stretch of wetland he calls home I spend a lot of my time not being in the UK. As often as not, it seems, I’m filming around the world, exploring the wildlife of countries and continents far from home. I love it, of course I do, but every traveller needs to have a base, a retreat to which he can return… and for me, it’s a little stretch of the world’s wetlands that I’ve grown to love and call my own. Kayaking along the Thames between Reading and Windsor is how I relax. That part of the country is quite a populated area, but I can put my boat onto the river at Marlow, and in just 10 minutes I’m in another world, surrounded by a wildlife paradise that has, over the years, become so familiar to me. Throughout the seasons, I kayak my way through those waters. Whether I encounter a fresh spring breeze, a dark and stormy wintry bluster or a golden summer morning, I’m equally happy, for it’s all part of the great annual cycle that is such a privilege to experience. The

Steve relaxing in his kayak

Alamy

I love filming around the world, but every traveller needs to have a base, a retreat to which he can return… and for me, it’s a little stretch of the world’s wetlands that I’ve grown to love and call my own birds have become like friends, and I watch their changing patterns. I’m always pleased to see redshanks and greenshanks, and the water rail is a perennial favourite, but nowadays little egrets, absent some years ago, are part of the mix. I see populations ebb and flow – the little grebes seem to have had a good season last year, and I watched coot still breeding late into the autumn, suggesting that their earlier attempts were washed out by the heavy rains. That’s part of what having your own wetland ‘patch’ is about. After a while 66

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you start to acquire a real sense of the place. You see how the natural life around you is affected by weather, by changing water levels, and you eventually get a gauge for how successful the wildlife is, and is going to be. But the main part is the simple pleasure of watching the incredible happening right in front of your eyes. The migrants and vagrants are always a joy when they appear in front of you; the kingfishers that flash past during the summer never fail to thrill.

But my favourite time of all is at the beginning of June, as the mayflies dance, the dragonflies and damselflies skim, the swifts, swallows and martins gorge themselves… and the hobbies move in. I’ve been all around the world filming nature, but when I spend a warm June day on my patch of the river watching a hobby on the hunt, there’s nowhere else on Earth I’d rather be.

Waterlife April-June 2014  

The magazine of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust