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The magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust | 202 October/December 2017 | £4.25 |













The Binocular and Telescope Specialists Keep up to date online in focus SALES EVENTS ‘Test under field conditions’

North and Midlands

The Barn at Beal, overlooking Holy Island, Northumberland 21 Jan Hauxley Nature Reserve, Northumberland 12 Nov / 10 Dec / 14 Jan Low Barns Nature Reserve, Co Durham 17 Dec North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire 3 Dec Washington WWT, Tyne and Wear 22 Oct / 26 Nov / 24 Dec / 28 Jan Rainton Meadows 29 Oct / 31 Dec Wolseley Centre, Staffs 4 Nov / 6 Jan


in focus have seven shops and an extensive field events program, staffed by birders who share your passion for birds and wildlife. We will help you make the right choice from our extensive range. • Hertfordshire Willows Farm, AL4 0PF 01727 827799 Closed on Sunday • Norfolk Titchwell, Nr King’s Lynn, PE31 8BB 01485 210101 Open seven days • West Yorkshire Denby Dale, HD8 8QL 01484 864729 Closed on Sunday • Rutland Egleton Reserve, LE15 8BT 01572 770656 Open seven days • Gloucestershire WWT Slimbridge, GL2 7BT 01453 890978 Open seven days • Lancashire WWT Martin Mere, L40 0TA 01704 897020 Open seven days • London London Wetland Centre, SW13 9WT 0208 4094433 Open seven days

South and East

Arundel WWT, West Sussex 12 Nov / 21 Nov / 10 Dec / 19 Dec / 14 Jan / 23 Jan Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, E Sussex 19 Nov / 16 Dec / 21 Jan Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent 28 Oct / 23 Dec Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Kent 11 Nov / 13 Jan

South and West

Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire 7 Nov / 5 Dec / 9 Jan Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset 21 Oct / 25 Nov / 30 Dec / 27 Jan Dawlish Warren 3 Dec Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch Harbour 15 Oct / 17 Dec Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham, Berkshire 2 Dec

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Wales and Scotland

Llanelli WWT, Carmarthenshire 22 Oct / 26 Nov / 31 Dec / 28 Jan Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfriesshire 5 Nov / 7 Jan All events from 10.00am - 4.00pm for latest information ring any of our shops

North West Birdwatching Festival WWT Martin Mere 18th & 19th November APPROVED OPTICS PARTNER

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Huge numbers of roosting waders, such as these lapwings, are a spectacular WWT sight

With its fiery colours and stormy light, autumn

is a beautiful time of year to get outdoors. Our wetlands are full of wildlife, as the number of visiting ducks starts to rise, exciting raptors – from ospreys to Montagu’s harriers – pass through, and migrant waders arrive for the winter. Many of these birds have flown long distances to the UK, in search of food and a more congenial climate. But it’s not by chance that these special species find everything they need at our centres. Discover all the careful management that goes into creating a paradise for waders on page 20. Some birds rely on WWT not only for a safe haven, but for a helping hand as their numbers decline. Thanks to your support, we’re leading the way and pioneering innovative techniques to boost populations and help rare birds recover, in the UK and overseas. Find out how we’re bringing four species back from the brink (page 32). As the leaves turn and fall, our wetlands are full of rich tones, textures and patterns, providing inspiration for artists, photographers and nature lovers. There are many ways you can soak up the best of the season at your local centre (see pages 45-63). And there’s still time to enter our photo competition (page 30), so why not sharpen your skills with our expert photography tuition? Autumn means Halloween is nearly upon us and Christmas is just around the corner. So what better way to keep your little elves busy during the holidays than by visiting your local WWT centre? We have everything from pumpkin carving and potion making to Santa Claus and serene swans, so come along and join the fun (page 38)!

In this issue...

4 7 18 20 30 32 38 41 42 45 66

Front lines Martin Spray on the government’s 25-year plan for nature Waterways The latest WWT conservation news from around the world Wigeon post Your letters and photos, plus our crossword and competition Waders and wetlands How we manage our land to keep waders happy Photo competition One member’s inspiration, plus last call for entries Back from the brink How we’re pioneering new ways to save species Holiday fun Frightful Halloween fun and festive Christmas activities await Photo tips Expert advice for taking wonderful wildlife images in autumn Kids’ zone Steve Backshall and Dusty Duck meet the spookiest wildlife Down your way All the wildlife, news and events at your local centre Back chat Meet a member of WWT’s team and find out what they do

WWT is the 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.

On the cover: Paul Hobson/

HEADQUARTERS Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Registered Charity No. 1030884 and SC039410 CENTRES For full contact details, please see page 45 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: Sarah Maddrell Editorial board: Ray Clark, Andrew Foot, Baz Hughes, David Salmon, Rob Shore, Mark Simpson Editor: Sophie Stafford Deputy chief sub-editor: Marion Thompson Designers: Matthew Ball, Felipe Perez Contributors: Derek Niemann, Mike Unwin (text); Chris Gomersall (text and images); Tim Sutcliffe (Dusty Duck cartoon) Group advertising manager: Sonal Mistry 020 3771 7247 Account director: Helen Cassidy, Think, Capital House, 25 Chapel Street, London NW1 5DH;

Waterlife is published four times a year, and is printed by Wyndeham Southernprint, 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 2016: 93,824




FRONT LINES It’s time for a bold vision for nature in the UK – to ensure our wild places stay healthy, beautiful and rich in life

A PLAN FOR NATURE Martin Spray CBE, WWT Chief Executive

An environment in better condition. That’s

what the government has committed to pass on to the next generation, what David Cameron pledged at the previous election, and now what the secretary of state for the environment has promised us. Given that our planet is our one and only life-support system, I believe this is the most important manifesto commitment made by any government in recent times. But whether the 4



government thinks of it the same way is debatable. We’ve heard these kinds of promises before. Today, we need action to match the ambition. The government has also announced its intention to produce a 25-year plan for nature. This is laudable, but the plan has already been delayed and a public consultation is urgently needed. Long-term planning – for the next 25 years! – is not common for governments. Parliaments are elected for five years and so perhaps this government is to be applauded for recognising the need to think further

ahead. However, governments rarely last longer than 10 to 15 years, prime ministers come and go, and environment ministers seem to change even more regularly. So, if the plan for nature is to be powerful, and its implementation guaranteed, it has to have legally binding objectives and should inform policy across all government (especially given the uncertainties around the Brexit negotiations). The plan will need to be properly resourced. Brexit provided the opportunity to not only ensure

that the current level of funding for environmental measures in the Common Agricultural Policy is maintained, but to increase it. Investment in the environment makes economic sense and can actually save us all money. For example, investing in natural solutions, such as treatment wetlands, upland restoration and sustainable drainage, can help cut the current cost of dealing with water pollution and flooding issues. A plan of this duration should have milestones set and accountability for progress. Why can’t the government

Investment in the environment makes economic sense and can actually save us all money include an annual ‘Natural Wealth Statement’ to coincide with the budget statement? And why can’t we have an independent body to scrutinise progress – an Office of Environmental Responsibility perhaps?

Finally, to gain public support it needs to be a plan for everyone – for rural and urban, for businesses and communities, for today and tomorrow. If we get this right – and the opportunity is there – then the UK could be a global leader in environmental sustainability. It’s time for ambitious and visionary leadership.




By Rail


Nights in hotel





Kandersteg 3


Brig Zermatt




The young headstarted godwits were soon mingling with wild birds ahead of their first migration

HEADSTARTED BLACK-TAILED GODWITS RELEASED AT WELNEY We’re celebrating the success of this year’s black-tailed godwit headstarting project, which protects eggs and chicks during the vulnerable incubation and rearing phases. Hopes are now high for the future of this fragile, but important, population. In March, 32 eggs were collected from wild nests at RSPB Nene Washes, under a licence granted by Natural England. The eggs were incubated and subsequent chicks reared in specialist facilities at WWT Welney. Then, after a health check by our vets, 25 young birds were released in June. Shortly after their release, all of the birds were seen mingling with their wild counterparts on the Ouse Washes, before starting their southerly migration to

wintering grounds in Spain, Portugal and West Africa. Furthermore, all eight of the wild pairs from which eggs were taken went on to lay replacement clutches. This is a fantastic result for the conservation breeding team, including honorary godwit parents Nicky Hiscock, Louise Clewley and Rosie Drew, who worked around the clock to care for the eggs and chicks for almost two months. All of the headstarted chicks are fitted with unique colour ring combinations. This year’s brood can be recognised by a green ring above a lime ring with a black ‘E’ on the right leg, above the knee. Two additional colour rings on the left leg above the knee complete the combination.

We’re now asking birdwatchers to help us keep track of the newly released birds. If you see a ringed black-tailed godwit, please report it on our Project Godwit sightings page: get-involved/report-a-sighting. In two years’ time, we expect these birds will return to breed on the Ouse Washes – where we have been working to create a safe habitat for them. Project Godwit is a partnership between WWT and RSPB, with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, the HSBC 150th Anniversary Fund, Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2017



WWT NEWS Children learn how ponds and wet ground can slow down, soak up and store rainwater

EXPERIENCE OUR RAIN GARDEN AT WASHINGTON Washington’s new wetland rain garden reveals how you can give your garden a little wetland magic. The new garden, designed by Jeni Cairns, demonstrates some great ways you can help reduce overflowing in heavy rain, drought and pollution – even in a small space. It’s built around seeing rainwater as a resource, rather than as a problem to be got rid of quickly. The centrepiece is a recycled wooden building we’ve called a Waterlab. It’s a cosy space for school children to play with water and learn about the water cycle. The rest of the time it’s a sheltered place to grab a seat and just enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the wetland rain garden. The Waterlab roof catches rainwater and cascades it into troughs filled with gravel and marsh plants. These filter out dust, leaves, twigs and bird poo. The 8



marsh plants take up some of the water, but after heavy rain the troughs overspill into a pond, surrounded by plants. The fact the pond is rain-fed with clear, clean water helps to attract wildlife. The pond can overflow into permeable paving, flower beds and hollows, all of which allow water to soak away slowly into the ground. This gentle movement of water through the soil can help to keep local rivers flowing during dry periods, and also store water, which helps stop drains from flooding during heavy rain. That’s why it’s called a wetland rain garden, because, just like our WWT reserves, it works to manage rainwater for wildlife and people. If you want to try ‘rain gardening’ at home, you’ll find lots of inspiration, including the best plants to use. Species such as meadowsweet, purple loosestrife and ragged robin are suited to dry

Wetland-loving flowers attract insect pollinators and smell great

conditions with bursts of heavy rain. We’ve contrasted their beautiful purple and white blooms with some fabulous yellow flag iris. The wetland rain garden and Waterlab have been kindly supported by HSBC as part of its Water Programme. HSBC originally commissioned the garden for last year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, where it won Best Show Garden and a gold medal. We’re delighted to keep the garden working and creating a lovely space for everyone at Washington.


In August, Environment Secretary Michael Gove visited Steart, proving that, with your support, we can make sure politicians listen

By Richard Benwell, WWT’s Head of Government Affairs It’s time to go beyond defending and protecting nature and aim higher. The UK can lead the world on environmental improvement — but we need your help to inspire change. For too long, we’ve fought a rearguard action against threats to nature, clinging on to ever-smaller pockets of precious wildlife. We must add to ‘defend nature’ with ‘invest’, ‘create’ and ‘restore’. We have a golden opportunity ahead. The government has promised a 25-year environment plan to pass on our environment in better condition. But for every opportunity in these times of political change, there are a dozen risks to head off: lower standards, budget cuts, unsustainable development. A noisy few who would exploit nature are lining up in Westminster to use Brexit as a

chance to weaken environmental law. So that’s why we need to take the initiative. We need to support the government in its ambition for a cleaner, greener UK and challenge it to bring forward the action needed to make it a reality. At WWT, we’re campaigning for the strongest possible environment plan. We’re asking everyone who cares about our environment to write to their MP in support of a plan that guarantees us all cleaner air, healthy rivers and streams, and thriving wildlife. We want government to commit to a new Environment Act, setting legally binding targets for improving our environment. We want it to commit more money for farmers who improve the land, for natural flood defences, and for more nature in our towns and cities. And we want government to report back every year – in Parliament and in public – on the progress it’s making.

At WWT, we’ll soon be publishing a new report with the detail behind these ideas, setting out the latest legal thinking and practical policy to save wetlands and wildlife. But the most important thing is for our politicians to hear from you. So, if you can, please add your voice to our call. You can send a simple message to your local MP with your support in just a few seconds by visiting, or add your own ideas for how to make our environment flourish. Every message will take us a step closer to our greener future.

Please show your support and join our campaign for a plan for a better environment. Visit OCTOBER/NOVEMBER OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2017




CREATING CHANGE IN CAMBODIA Great news! Our conservation work in the Lower Mekong Delta has recently reached several major milestones, all made possible thanks to the Darwin Initiative and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Here’s how we’ve been getting on… Cambodia is one of the fastest-developing countries in the world. More than five million people have lifted themselves out of poverty in the past 10 years. The benefits are, however, biased towards people in towns and cities, and the rural poor often suffer as a result of this unchecked and poorly regulated development. Ninety per cent of Cambodia’s poor live in the countryside, often around wetlands, and are reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. The wetlands are also home to large populations of globally important biodiversity, so we’ve made it our job to make sure they are protected for, and can be sustainably used by, people and wildlife. So we’ve been busy! We created two community fisheries and helped empower 1,500 members to sustainably manage their fish stocks. We provided equipment and training to 200 farmers, converting their rice

Rare sarus cranes share their habitat with people

We’re helping local people to manage their fish stocks…

production to sustainable systems and diversifying into alternative crops. Farmers in these schemes have seen profits rise by an average of 40%, while decreasing the harmful pesticides they were releasing into the wetlands. The Anlung Pring Community-based Ecotourism Programme is now up and running, with more than US$2,000 filtering back into reserve management and community projects in the first three months of 2017. At a national level, we’ve been working with stakeholders from across the country to develop wetland wise-use guidance. This is vital

…and to develop more sustainable livelihoods

to our efforts to cascade our impact throughout the region. We couldn’t have done all this without you – thank you for your support.

Crossword solution

Here are the answers to last issue’s crossword Across: 1. Holt 3. Egyptian 9. Bittern 10. Preen 11. Treecreepers 13. Thames 15. Otters 18. Peacock Tower 22. Heron 23. Agendas 24. Fidgeted 25. Trio Down: 1. Habitats 2. Latte 4. Gander 5. Pop-up 6. Ice-free 7. Nene 8. Rescue 12. Espresso 14. Averred 16. Titter 17. Scrape 19. Canoe 20. Wader 21. Chef






Our first satellite-tagged spoon-billed sandpipers in 2016 have already revealed some secrets of spoonie movement patterns. Now we hope our newly tagged birds will help us understand more

Since your last update in Waterlife, things have moved quickly on our spoon-billed sandpiper satellite tracking project. Supported by Leica, the project enables us to learn about the spoonies’ flyway, which will, in turn, help us address threats to these critically endangered birds. In April, we tagged another two spoonies in Jiangsu in China, hoping to track them to their breeding grounds in the Russian Far East. Both tags were still transmitting at the time of writing, but the results are not quite what we expected. Both birds started to move north on 26 May. XT continued to the Russia-North Korea border, but 150km off the east coast of South Korea, CH turned back to Busan in southern South Korea. After remaining at Busan for just one day, CH headed up to the North-South Korea border, where he stayed for

nine days. CH then flew about 300km north to the Russia-North Korea border, but, almost immediately, returned to the NorthSouth Korea border area, where he stayed until 19 June, when he flew back to China! We now think CH may be an immature bird, as spoonies don’t return to the breeding grounds until they’re two years old. XT stayed on the Russia-North Korea border for about a week before continuing his migration on 5 June, flying about 1,700km north to the Dyuanka Estuary. On 11 June, he continued his 500km migration to Sakhalin Island. A few days later, he made the 800km journey over the Sea of Okhotsk in about 12 hours, making landfall near Magadan. After several days’ rest, he flew 700km to northern Kamchatka. As he hasn’t remained in one place, which would indicate that he might be nesting, we think he’s

The journeys taken by two of our tagged spoonies, CH (orange) and XT (blue), were very different

probably failed to find a mate this year. In June, we put another three tags on birds at their breeding grounds, which we hope will lead us to previously unknown autumn staging sites. The spoon-billed sandpiper headstarting project is a collaboration between WWT, Birds Russia and the RSPB, and is generously funded by Leica. Leica Camera AG is WWT’s exclusive optic partner for this project.

in OTHER SPOONIE NEWS In 2017, the WWT and Birds Russia headstarting team released another 30 birds in Meinypil’gyno, Russia. This brings the total to 141 birds released since 2012.



Between 2014 and 2017, 14 birds have returned to breed at Meinypil’gyno. In 2017, we recorded headstarted birds breeding together for the first time.


The pair successfully raised one chick. For more news:

Meanwhile, at WWT Slimbridge, we moved

birds to breeding aviaries in mid-May and territorial singing and nest scraping started. But sadly they didn’t go on to lay any eggs this year.


your wild PHOTOS ‘We visit our local Arundel WWT as often as possible. It was lovely to see this Canada goose family in the sunshine!’ Linda Barker, via email WIN A COPY OF WADERS OF EUROPE Throughout 2018, we’ll be looking for the best photos taken at a WWT centre. Send your images to Waterlife magazine and every issue, one lucky person will win a copy of Waders of Europe: A Photographic Guide, published by Bloomsbury and worth £40. Simply email up to six of your best images to along with a brief description, including the WWT centre where they were taken. Get snapping!

FLOATING ISLANDS FOR SCOTERS An exciting partnership is providing an innovative boost for common scoters in the Scottish Highlands. For five years, we’ve been researching the problems faced by nesting scoters on the large lochs. It’s become clear that these ducks generally do better when they nest on islands, but not all islands are suitable for them. Hydropower companies operating on these lochs often vary the water levels to generate electricity. But if levels drop during the nesting season, some islands become reconnected to the mainland, making it easy for ground predators to reach the scoters’ nests. On the flip side, if water levels rise while scoters are incubating, it can flood their nests. 14



The team fits a GPS tracker on a common scoter

The solution is obvious: islands that float! We speculated that an artificial island would stay at the right height regardless of the water level, and if we can get one that’s anchored in the right place, the scoters might just choose to nest on it. Over the past few years, WWT and RSPB have joined forces with Scottish and

A common scoter with chicks

Southern Energy, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Blue Energy and the Ness and Beauly Fisheries Trust to conserve the scoters. The final piece of the jigsaw was to join forces with two fish-farming companies – Fusion Marine and Marine Harvest – which expertly built the islands from redundant fish-cage materials. Suitably turfed and vegetated, the islands were towed into position in spring. It may take a while for the scoters to get used to the idea, but we’re hoping that this might provide the sort of safe nest sites that they need – and lead to an increase in the population. That’s teamwork!

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This stunning bird has declined as a result of habitat destruction, persecution and disturbance In 1991, Dr Baz Hughes, WWT’s Head of Conservation Action, was lucky enough to spend three months surveying scaly-sided mergansers on the Bikin River in the wilds of the Russian Far East. At the time, the Bikin River was thought to be the most important breeding site in the world for this globally endangered fish-eating duck – and it probably still is. Since 2001, WWT has been funding a monitoring and nest box programme run by Dr Diana Solovyova and her husband,

Sergey Vartanyan, in the Primorye region. Diana and her team have built up considerable public support for the scaly-sided merganser conservation programme, engaging more than 70 people, from locals and school children to hunters and fishermen, professional ornithologists and conservationists. The project has also provided temporary employment for up to six local people. A total of 280 nest boxes have been erected along 11 rivers, notably improving

breeding success along deforested rivers. Up to 2016, an amazing total of 1,213 ducklings had hatched from these artificial nests. The 2017 breeding season has proved to be a record year, with scaly-sided mergansers nesting in 25 of our boxes – the highest number from the past 17 years. Furthermore, Sergey and Diana have built themselves a field station in Kishinevka village, which will be used as an education centre for local people.


Bruce Falcon

You can now experience a little piece of the Canadian wilderness at Martin Mere. The brand new Canadian boreal garden is part of the Wooded Wetlands area. It includes granite boulders, jack pine trees and a pavilion made from Canadian larch. Song thrushes use the tips of the pines as stages to sing and call. We’re hoping that wrens will be drawn to the tussocky grasses next spring to make nests. Designer Charlotte Harris’ inspiration for the garden was a kayak expedition through the Canadian boreal wetlands. The boreal forest is huge, and extensively dotted with wetlands that stretch across Canada and Russia.




The garden is inspired by Canada’s boreal wetlands

The garden was originally commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, where it won a gold award. After the show, it was packed up into four, 26-tonne lorries and driven up the M6 to Martin Mere, where it

was rebuilt and replanted in its new wetland environment. RBC has kindly donated the garden to Martin Mere as part of its Blue Water Project to protect the world’s fresh water resources. It’s the third time the bank has donated a show garden to WWT. Head to Slimbridge or the London Wetland Centre to see their fantastic RBC rain gardens and pick up ideas on how you can use rainwater in your garden.

cities | scenery | culture | heritage | events | seasons

The Charming Dordogne This holiday to the Dordogne takes in one of the most beautiful areas in France. Renowned for exquisite medieval towns and prehistoric caves, take in the very best of this striking region.

village of Rocamadour. The town rises up in levels, and is crowned by l’Hospitalet abbey. In the afternoon you continue to the medieval village of Martel for a ride on the restored Truffadou Train*. Day 6 Return home Transfer by coach to Brive for the connecting train to Paris, where you change for the Eurostar to London. *Steam or diesel-hauled depending on departure date. TO/FROM PARIS









Nights in hotel

By Coach

By Rail

NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT on selected 2018 departures#

Departure 25 Apr 18 9 May 18 30 May 18 6, 20 Jun 18 27 Jun 18 4 Jul 18

Price £795 £825 £845 £875 £875 £875



Itinerary (for full details visit Day 1 London to Le Bugue Travel on the Eurostar service from St Pancras to Paris, and connect with the train to Brive for a transfer to Le Bugue. You spend the next five nights here at the Hotel Royal Vézère. Day 2 La Roque-Gageac Cruise & Sarlat Take to the waters today at La RoqueGageac in a traditional flat-bottomed gabare boat, your chance to experience the true charm of the Dordogne countryside. This afternoon, continue to Sarlat, where you are free to explore. Day 3 Le Bugue Your morning is free to explore the charming town of Le Bugue. You have the opportunity to admire the town’s traditional houses and take a stroll along the river. This afternoon there is the chance to join an optional excursion to Gouffre de Proumeyssac. Day 4 Lascaux II and Les Eyzies Your excursion today starts with a visit to the Lascaux II, a carefully constructed replica of the off-limits Lascaux cave system in the Vézère Valley. Afterwards, continue to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, where entrance is included to the National Museum of Pre-History. Day 5 Rocamadour This morning you travel to the magnificent


Departure 1 Aug 18 22 Aug 18 5 Sep 18 19 Sep 18 3 Oct 18 10 Oct 18

Price £845 £845 £875 £845 £795 £745


Call for your free brochure to discover our fantastic range of European holidays by rail Lake Garda. 10 days from £1,345 The Harz Mountains. 7 days from £895 Scottish Highlands. 7 days from £665 days from £685 Glacier Express All Inclusive. 9 days from £1,675 The Isle of Man. The 6 Catalan Coast. 8 days from £825

Book with 100% confidence, flight-inclusive holidays are ATOL protected, non flight-inclusive holidays are protected by ABTA. Dates and prices are subject to availability. Prices shown are per person, based on 2 people sharing. Prices may change prior to and after publication. Itinerary may differ depending on the departure date you choose. #No single supplement applies to selected 2018 European holidays. Subject to availability, limited amount of single supplement rooms available per departure. Only available until all single supplement rooms are sold. Terms and conditions apply. Please call for further details. Calls will be recorded.

• Fully escorted by a UK Tour Manager from start to finish • Exclusive meeting point at our St Pancras Departure Office • Return rail travel • 5 nights’ hotel accommodation with breakfast and dinner with wine • Gabare boat cruise • Sarlat and Rocamadour • Journey on the Truffadou Train • Historical visit to the replica Lascaux II cave and the National Museum of Pre History in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil • Optional excursion to Gouffre de Proumeyssac

Call us now to book or request a brochure

01904 730624 Our tour advisors are here 7 days a week

WIGEON POST We’d love to hear your thoughts about wetlands, WWT and Waterlife and share your photos, so please write to us at Wigeon Post, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, or email

your wwt photos I visited WWT Welney in early July. It was scorching hot along the summer walk, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw four cuckoos sitting on some telegraph lines. This cuckoo flew onto a post and stayed there for several minutes, while I snapped away. The wildlife photography is fantastic at Welney, especially in summer when there are amazing species such as dragonflies and hobbys. In winter, it’s all about the wader flocks and swans. Karen Emerson, via email

send us your best photos!

A beautiful photo of a brilliant bird! Thanks for sharing it, Karen

Waterlife Editor Sophie Stafford says: Thanks to everyone who shares their stunning photos with us. We would love to see more, so please email them, with a short description, to – and you could see them in the next issue.

What’s the joke?

Wildlife in the big city I’m a 14-year-old photographer with a passion for wildlife. When we moved back to London from Somerset, I was worried I would miss photographing all the animals and landscapes. But then my mum and I returned to WWT in May and I realised I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. I took this shot of an otter, which looks as if someone has told it a really funny joke. Daniel Hendry, London Wonderful Will Month Last November, I decided to take part in WWT Will Month, having intended to update my will for some time. 18



I contacted one of the solicitors listed in the Waterlife leaflet for my area, and booked an appointment. To my surprise, the meeting was really straightforward. I was easily able to provide the friendly solicitor with the information needed to draft my will. Not long afterwards my completed will was signed and witnessed. I was very happy to leave a gift to WWT Martin Mere by way of a thank you. And I can certainly recommend taking part in WWT Will Month. J Flynn, Greater Manchester Legacy Manager David Salmon says: Thank you for leaving WWT a gift in your will. We’re glad you found this service helpful. For details of this year’s WWT Will Month – when participating solicitors around the country provide a free will-writing and updating service for our supporters – please see the leaflet enclosed with this issue or visit Lovely long-eared owlets There was a lot of excitement at Castle Espie in June, due to all the

new arrivals – from super fluffy, light-bellied brent geese goslings to the unbelievable sight of not one, but two long-eared owl fledglings! As a volunteer photographer I love spending my free time at Castle Espie, and as soon as I heard about the owls fledging, I was there. It was so worth the nettle stings to see their little faces. I’ll never forget my first long-eared owl experience. I hope you enjoy this picture of one of the fledglings. Lesley Barker, via email

I see you! A long-eared owl fledgling at Castle Espie


brain-buster crossword We’ve got this great prize for the winner of our crossword, set by WWT member Tim Bonsor. It’s a lovely selection of exclusive Bewick’s swan bill pattern stationery, worth around £23. Send your crossword (photocopied if you wish) to the address opposite by 3 November 2017 and the first correct entry drawn after that date wins. Meanwhile, the solution to last issue’s puzzle is on page 10; congratulations to the winner, Derrick Stow. Across 1. Angry fowl? (4) 3. Common resident wader. (8) 9. Also known as the peewit, after its call. (7) 10. Lover boy. (5) 11. A traditional pastime at Halloween. (5-7) 12. A quantitative measure in times of austerity. (6) 14. The alternative to treats. (6) 18. Winter visitor in most of the UK, often seen in spectacular flocks. (6,6) 22. Ben’s surname, or John’s Christian name? (5) 23. American poet who wrote, ‘Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard’. (7) 24. Small ingenious devices. (8) 25. Of man or dogs? (4) Down 1. Enjoyment of health and prosperity. (7) 2. If you can’t have enough, you _ _ _ it _ _ (3,2)

4. A winter-warmer drink, more common in the US. (6) 5. Land covered in bushes or low trees. (5) 6. Annual journal. (7) 7. Diminutive wader found on mudflats and beaches in winter. (4) 8. Duck that grazes like a goose. (6) 13. A less common genus of 3 across. (7)

Seeing double at Castle Espie

Face to face My wife and I visited Castle Espie to see the LEGO® brick animal sculptures. We were lucky to capture this nene visiting his namesake. Unfortunately, none of the other creatures cooperated. Derek Polley, via email

15. Of a carpet, put down again. (6) 16. Used to inject fluids. (7) 17. Exactly what you need to write here. (6) 19. He wrote, ‘No spring nor summer beauty holds such grace, as I have seen in one autumnal face’. (5) 20. Seductive women. (5) 21. Slimbridge observatory that can be hired for functions. (4)

spotting skills Last issue, we tested your knowledge of Britain’s birds of prey – in particular, the finer details of breast feathers – and you rose magnificently to the challenge. Many of you identified this hobby, a summer visitor. Well done to our winner, Chris Day.

With the onset of autumn, we welcome new avian arrivals at all our centres. Some are here to stay and others are just passing through. With this in mind, can you identify these spectacular spots? Send your answer to the address opposite, and the first correct entry drawn after the closing date of 3 November 2017 wins a copy of Watching Waterbirds.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT WWT Your opinions, views and comments are important to us so we can do even more for wildlife. So we’d really appreciate your help by completing our WWT Supporter Survey. It will only take you a few minutes, and your details will be treated in complete confidence. Your answers can make a big impact on our future work and shape us to become the organisation you want us to be.

You can either fill in the form enclosed with this issue and send it to us via the freepost envelope or, to fill it in online, visit supportersurvey. Thank you. OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2017




WADER Gerrit Vyn/





Our wet grassland waders – including redshank, lapwing, curlew and snipe – are in urgent need of our help. So we’re creating new habitat for them

NDERLAND It’s no coincidence that internationally important populations of waders can be seen on our reserves. Careful management ensures the perfect conditions for these spectacular birds




WADERS & WETL ANDS The audience in a packed room

listened attentively as WWT Head of Conservation Science Geoff Hilton spoke about critically endangered spoon-billed sandpipers in faraway Asia. That evening, Geoff ended his muchperformed talk with something different to bring the subject closer to home. He put up a picture of a local wet meadow and played a soundtrack of lapwings, curlews, redshank and snipe. ‘The response was incredible,’ he says. People suddenly became very animated and began saying “I remember that”, and “Why don’t I hear that sound anymore?” I’ve never had a reaction like it.’ For the audience in that room, those lost birds were their spoonies.

Lost wetlands

In the course of Geoff’s lifetime, the fortunes of the wading birds of wet grasslands have changed and changed again. In his boyhood, agriculture was claiming and draining meadow after meadow: the figure of 95% lost may be an underestimate. Today, we have lost most of the meadows and the few that remain are in conservation hands, or under the stewardship of farmers who are paid to manage them specifically for wildlife. The Gloucestershire-born youth was goose crazy: he would visit Slimbridge and see 6,000 or more white-fronted geese wintering there. But climate change has altered the character of Slimbridge itself. Milder winters have meant that the geese that once journeyed here from northern Europe and provided a spectacle for the teenage Geoff, now stop short in German or Dutch refuges. Six thousand birds of yesteryear have dwindled to a couple of hundred today. ‘Our management has changed accordingly,’ says Geoff. ‘There’s no point trying to create perfect goose pasture for a species that isn’t going to turn up. So we’ve turned some of our key fields into wader heaven, and every winter we welcome thousands of lapwings, golden plovers and other birds.’

Lapwings have been affected by the intensification of farming. But we can reverse their decline by maintaining damp areas on unimproved grassland

If this is heaven, then it’s hellishly difficult to achieve. Senior Reserves Management Planning Officer Lauri MacLean describes managing for waders as ‘one of the most important things we do on our sites. But it’s a juggling act.’ In spring, breeding lapwings like areas of short grass with just a few tussocks, where their chicks – out and running within a few hours of hatching – can shelter. The lapwings need clear sightlines to watch for predators. Redshanks, the so-called ‘sentinels of the marshes’ peeping their annoyance at intruders, prefer short grass and a few

‘There’s no point trying to create perfect goose pasture for a species that isn’t going to turn up. So we’ve turned some of our fields into wader heaven. Every winter, we welcome thousands of lapwings, golden plovers and other birds’




more tussocks. Snipe can’t cope with short grass at all. They want to stay embedded in rushy vegetation – a soggy jungle where they can sit still and let their camouflage do the rest. It’s obvious that no single type of management suits all species; the individual birds with their differing requirements need a mosaic within a mosaic of habitats.

Wetland oracles

Come the autumn, our reserve managers are planning for the present and the future all at once. They need to make their fields wet for wintering waders, so they are forever opening and closing sluices to keep the water levels just so. Then in the winter, the reserve’s lawnmowers make their entry too – herds of cattle that graze the grass to heights that must be right for breeding

birds the following spring. Too DID YOU KNOW? many hooves might damage the ground; too few cows might FOUR OF OUR BREEDING mean they are unable to check WADERS – LAPWING, thick growth that would OYSTERCATCHER, SNIPE prevent flowers, such as AND CURLEW – HAVE marsh marigolds, ragged HIT THEIR LOWEST robin and lady’s smock, from LEVELS SINCE THE breaking through. Spring EARLY 1990S. flowers attract insects, and chicks eat insects. And the cattle need to be taken off the fields before the patter of tiny feet is at risk from blundering hooves. A juggling act indeed.

David Kjaer/

Winter wonders

Golden plovers are at the southern edge of their global range within the UK, which makes them vulnerable to climate change

There’s no question that hard work throughout the year is paying dividends, as anyone who visits our reserves will see for themselves. Every one of them will be brimming with birds this autumn and winter. As Geoff sits at his desk, he can look out of his window to see 2,000 or more lapwings and golden plovers clouding the sky, rising up from the meadows when a passing peregrine spooks them. Visitors sitting in the observatory at Caerlaverock can look down on thousands of godwits and plovers dabbling about in the fields and the saltmarshes. At Castle Espie, carrot-billed oystercatchers line up on the foreshore. Most incongruous and wonderful of all is the regular sight at Washington, where 1,000 curlews negotiate the urban conurbation at the end of the day to drop into this wetland oasis for the night. The pattern of growing winter numbers is mirrored with breeding successes in spring. At Arundel, Martin Mere and Washington, the meadows are bigger and better for waders, thanks to small-scale restoration projects. At Welney, disaster struck when the washes became saturated, a foretaste of erratic climate change flooding to come. The decision to create alternative breeding places in neighbouring fields has paid off – three pairs of black-tailed godwits raised nine young last year. It is one of only a tiny handful in England where these

Our cattle help us keep the ground just right for breeding waders

Getting it right WWT’s Lauri MacLean explains how we make sure our reserves stay in good shape for waders year round. EARLY AUTUMN Cattle are brought on to meadows to ensure grass will be in peak condition for breeding next year. Good grazing will result in a greater diversity of flowers, and hence more insects for chicks in the spring.

AUTUMN Meadows are kept marshy for wintering waders, thanks to sluices that hold water in the fields and keep the levels high.

LATE AUTUMN The number of cattle is increased or reduced, to ensure grass heights will be just right for spring breeding.

LATE WINTER Cattle are removed altogether, or reduced in number, to avoid trampling or disturbing nesting birds.

SPRING Water levels are controlled to keep meadows wet, but not flooded.

SUMMER Water levels are allowed to fall. A hay cut is taken only after the birds have bred; doing so during breeding could result in the eggs or chicks being destroyed.





si o t


utu n w d r i li ts WELNEY In late summer and early autumn, migrants such as little stints and pectoral sandpipers zip through. Through the rest of autumn and into winter, numbers of key waders – lapwings (right), golden plovers and black-tailed godwits – build up. By December there might be 1,500 godwits on the reserve. And, of course, in spring, Welney is one of only a few sites in England where black-tailed godwits breed.

CAERLAVEROCK At high tide, thousands of waders feeding on the Solway Firth are pushed up into the reserve’s saltmarshes, tidal pools and fields. There may be up to

3,000 lapwings, 1,500 black-tailed godwits and 900 golden plovers on view, as well as a few redshank (above), snipe, knot and dunlin. The hides offer amazing all-round views.


SLIMBRIDGE On any autumn day, you may be treated to high drama, as a flock of 1,000 or more lapwings and golden plovers lifts off when a hunting

peregrine shoots through. Large numbers of waders pour in from the Severn at high tide. Jack snipe are a speciality here – seen right in front of the hides.

Though it rarely attracts rarities, one of the big advantages of this smaller site is that visitors can see more common waders such as common and green sandpipers (right) up-close. Great views from the hides apply in the spring, too. Six to seven pairs of lapwings breed at Arundel every year, and we can sometimes catch sight of their fluffy babies (cute factor 10) feeding or running through the grass.

This centre is notable for its diversity of waders, with the likelihood of black-tailed godwits, whimbrels, curlews, curlew sandpipers, ruff (right), wood sandpipers and bar-tailed godwits, to name just a few. At high tide on the Burry Inlet, they are pushed up the shore and are often seen from the hides, pottering in the pools below. Numbers build up throughout the autumn, usually reaching a peak in November.




WASHINGTON Take a seat in the hides just before dusk to watch up to 1,000 curlews descending on the centre. Autumn days find the birds feeding in farm fields elsewhere, and they come here to roost

overnight and top up with invertebrates from the flooded meadows. It’s an extraordinary and miraculous sight to see such numbers of the wildest of birds happily surrounded by an urban conurbation.

Niall Benvie/


birds breed – every chick counts. Avocets and oystercatchers breed at Martin Mere; lapwings and redshanks are breeding at the London Wetland Centre. It’s probably the first time in over a century that they have raised young so close to Westminster. Miracles can happen. But it’s not enough. WWT and other conservation organisations may be managing the remnants of wet grassland well, but they are only remnants, surrounded by fields slashed with drainage ditches to drain the land dry – fields that are hostile to waders.

Red List blues

With spectacular winter displays at WWT reserves, you could be fooled into thinking that waders are booming. But the breeding figures nationwide speak for themselves. Lapwings, curlews and black-tailed godwits are still on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern; redshanks and snipe are on Amber. Wading birds gain strength in numbers and they simply cannot build up numbers sufficiently within tiny fragments. Lauri appraises the situation realistically: ‘We have to stop thinking of our sites as little isolated pockets in the countryside.’

Wading birds cannot build up their numbers within tiny fragments. ‘We have to stop thinking of our sites as little isolated pockets in the countryside’ Black-tailed godwits are getting a helping hand at Welney (see page 7)

Our new conservation strategy, published in the spring, cemented a change in thinking. Geoff explains: ‘We have a deliberate aspiration to create bigger and better wetlands, working out from our own reserves into the surrounding areas. We are now actively looking for opportunities to create wetland landscapes outside our reserves, entering into partnerships with farmers and other landowners. In some cases, these could be very small-scale – creating or restoring ponds or ditches. In others, we could be looking at grand-scale projects to create or restore wet grassland.’

And so we’re looking outwards. We’ve already begun discussions in the areas surrounding Caerlaverock, Martin Mere, Arundel and Slimbridge. You’ll hear a great deal more about this in future issues of Waterlife. Coupled with the drive towards bigger habitats is the search for scientific understanding and solutions. Nowhere is the need greater than for the curlew, the best-known and most striking of all waders, famous for a call that sounds both exultant and mournful. It has plenty to be sad about, for the curlew is in serious decline as a breeding species… and experts don’t really know why.

The drainage of wet grassland has caused pronounced declines in the numbers of redshank





The intensification of grassland management has caused a decline in snipe numbers 26



Earlier this year, we hosted a workshop to focus on the plight of curlews in lowland Britain. Organised by a partnership of WWT, RSPB, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Curlew Media, it drew in farmers and conservationists from all over Britain and Ireland. They included people from parts of Britain where curlews are still doing comparatively well, such as the Somerset Levels and Moors, and Salisbury Plain. The fundamental question addressed was how to find a recipe for success. Why do curlews breed in one well-managed nature reserve, but fail in another that is, as far as we can tell, very similar? Each conservation group contributed its expertise in a mood of great cooperation. For curlews, the Severn Vale, with a few wader hotspots and large waderless expanses of farmland, is a testing ground. If we can turn things round for curlews and other waders here, it may be possible to replicate the experience

 utumn and winter are a great A time for waders, so don’t miss out on this spectacle at your local WWT centre. Why not let us know how you got on and share your photos by emailing

elsewhere. There may even be a case for translocations of a bird that is famously conservative in its breeding behaviour. Even though the grass is greener on the other side, curlews don’t move of their own accord, but stick where they are, even if they’re unable to produce young there. Just like cranes, black-tailed godwits and spoon-billed sandpipers, they may need a helping hand. The fate of our wetland waders will be driven by people who are driven to help them – and if the calls of lapwing, curlew, redshank and drumming snipe stir half-forgotten memories, so much the better. Geoff has extra motivation from something closer to home. ‘Snipe no longer breed in my home county of Gloucestershire. If we got them back… well, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.’

Andy Rouse/2020VISION

If we can turn things round for curlews and other waders in the Severn Vale, including Slimbridge, it may be possible to replicate the experience elsewhere

Get wild about waders

David Verdonck/FLPA

The curlew is one of our most rapidly declining breeding birds. Numbers have fallen by about 50% across the UK. The species is globally near threatened and a conservation priority





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YOUR PHOTOS kingfisher

Kingfishers often return to the same favourite perch to fish. So set up your camera, get comfortable and prepare to get snapping.

male shoveler

Practise your birds-in-flight photography with the non-stop comings and goings on one of the lakes. You won’t get a better chance.

mute swan with cygnet

The habituated birds at WWT centres give photographers a valuable opportunity to study their behaviour and capture intimate moments.

field vole

WWT centres aren’t just great for birds. Sit quietly near a patch of long grass, and you may see small mammals scurrying about their business.

my slimbridge

Photographer Steve Liptrot has been a WWT member since 2007. He explains why he’s inspired by Slimbridge My earliest recollection of being fascinated by wildlife was a visit to the newly opened WWT Martin Mere in my native Lancashire. I was 11 and my father had given me my first camera. I took 12 images – and from that day I was hooked. Forty years later, I still get the same buzz from photographing wildlife. As I now live in South Wales, Slimbridge is my local centre, but my work takes me around the UK, so I visit London, Arundel and Llanelli as well.




I know Slimbridge well and I’ve learned where the best wildlife can be photographed by talking to the wardens, who are always willing to give advice. I check the website regularly to see what species have been spotted and if anything unusual has been blown in. One bonus of being a member is that I get early access to the site and some of the hides. This means I can sit peacefully with my camera at a time when the wildlife is most active and undisturbed by other visitors.

My favourite species to photograph is the kingfisher. There are several pairs of these stunning little birds at Slimbridge and they provide excellent photo opportunities. In spring, you’ll probably spot them courting from the Kingfisher Hide. In summer and autumn, they fish in the scrapes near the Holden Tower and Martin Smith hides. There’s something to photograph all year round at Slimbridge, but winter is the busiest time for photographers. There’s a massive influx of migrating birds, making it a great time to practise your birds-in-flight photography. By studying your subjects, you’ll learn to anticipate what they’ll do next, helping you to get a great shot. I often just put down my camera and watch the wildlife. It beats watching TV, except Springwatch!

PHOTO COMPETITION Sam Ellis was inspired by this stunning leaf beetle at WWT Arundel. Could you capture something as pin-sharp and colourful?



hot shots

To enter, and for the full rules, visit waterlifephoto

Don’t miss your chance to enter our summer photo competition and you could win a pair of Leica binoculars worth £825

Autumn is arguably the most photogenic time of year and a firm favourite with wildlife photographers. Misty mornings, blazing sunsets and stormy light all provide the perfect atmosphere for your images of wetland nature. So seize every fleeting moment to capture autumn’s magic at our centres, then enter your best photos in our summer photo competition. Last year we were wowed by waders, in raptures over raptors and bowled over by colourful bugs. So this year we can’t wait to see what you can do. You have until 1 November to

send us your digital images of wildlife taken at a WWT centre. Everything you need to know, including the rules, can be found on our website at The images will be judged by Waterlife’s editor, Sophie Stafford, and a WWT jury, and the winner will receive a pair of new generation Leica Trinovid 8x32 HD binoculars, worth £825. The best images will also be published in the January/March 2018 issue of the magazine. Now is your time to shine. So grab your camera and get outdoors! Crested screamer by Peter Burne, WWT London Wetland Centre

Sand lizard by Stan Maddams, WWT London Wetland Centre

Leica Trinovid 8x32 HD binoculars are perfect for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. Compact, light and rugged, they provide a breathtaking viewing experience and unhindered enjoyment of nature in all its colours, with bright, clear and pin-sharp views, and perfect colour balance and contrast. Leica Sport Optics is WWT’s exclusive optic partner of the spoon-billed sandpiper project.





back from the

brink With many species facing extinction, it’s never been more important that WWT pioneers innovative new approaches to help restore rare and threatened bird populations




Conservationists have set an ambitious target to not only halt the decline of the spoon-billed sandpiper by 2025, but to increase the population by 50% (to 300 pairs) over that same period




SPECIES RECOVERY Imagine: it’s summer in Chukotka, north-east Russia. You’re standing on a windblown shore near the tiny Chukchi settlement of Meinypil’gyno. Grey whales blow in the surf and a bear ambles along a ridge. But what grabs your attention is a small bird scurrying across the boggy tundra. It’s a newly fledged young wader – and, judging by that bizarre beak, not just any wader. That’s right: the youngster is a fledgling spoon-billed sandpiper. This sounds like great news: indisputable evidence of a critically endangered species breeding in its natural habitat. But it’s not quite the full story. This particular ‘spoonie’ – as the species is fondly known – had a head start in life, thanks to you, our supporters, our conservation partners and generous funding by Leica. Things began naturally enough, with a clutch of eggs laid in a wild nest. But then our experts intervened. They took the eggs into captivity, incubated them to hatching, then hand-raised the chicks. Only once the chicks were ready to fend for themselves did we release them back into the wild – along with a batch of other youngsters reared the same way. But why, you might ask, did we take eggs away from sitting females when the birds seem to be faring perfectly well on their own? In an ideal world, we’d be able to just leave them alone. We know the best way to protect endangered species long-term is to manage their habitats, and then let nature do its thing. But when only a few hundred individuals of a species are left, this approach is too slow. Meinypil’gyno is one of just a handful of breeding sites for the spoon-billed sandpiper and there are thought to be just over 200 pairs in total. This was due

Thanks to our efforts, the Madagascar pochard, the world’s rarest duck, has a brighter future today 34



Ben Cherry

A helping hand

With our support, tiny spoon-billed sandpiper chicks have the best possible start in life

mostly to hunting and habitat damage on the species’ winter quarters in south-east Asia. To beat extinction, therefore, the population must rise faster than nature can manage by itself. That’s why we decided to lend a hand. It all comes down to numbers. Studies have shown that, left alone, a single wild clutch of spoonies would result on average in 0.6 fledglings every year. With headstarting, however, the same clutch would produce on average 3.2 fledglings, thus allowing the population to grow more than five times faster. What’s more, the wild adults might also lay a second clutch. Interfering is risky, yes, but similar work in the USA with the related piping plover has been a success. We believe it’s a risk worth taking. This kind of hands-on approach is known as ‘close-order management’. It doesn’t mean abandoning more traditional approaches: with the spoonie, for instance, we’re also working to map the birds’ migration routes, protect their wintering grounds

and build up a buffer population by captive breeding at WWT Slimbridge. But these are long-term solutions. This species is now so close to the brink that, without speedier action, it may not have a long term. ‘We know headstarting alone won’t solve the problem,’ says our Head of Conservation Science, Geoff Hilton. ‘But first we need more birds – to buy ourselves time.’

Daring rescue missions

There are numerous examples of such daring last-ditch actions, often driven by maverick individuals. In 1980, Don Merton took drastic steps to save New Zealand’s last black robins by having eggs ‘cross-fostered’ in the nest of a related New Zealand tomtit. In 1979, Welsh biologist Carl Jones removed eggs from one of the only four remaining Mauritius kestrels in order to hatch them in incubators. Both species survived extinction and have since dramatically increased their wild populations. WWT has a long and distinguished history of close-order management. In the 1950s, under Sir Peter Scott, we helped save the nene (Hawaiian goose) from extinction by captive breeding birds at Slimbridge. This was followed by reintroduction. A wild population


WWT’s close-order management is inspired by global efforts to rescue rare birds from extinction

We took the eggs into captivity, then handraised the chicks. Only once they were ready to fend for themselves did we release them back into the wild reduced to just 30 birds in 1952 now stands at more than 3,000. Today we work with our partners worldwide, using the latest research and technology to act when and where required in saving birds from extinction.

Hide and seek

The first challenge for conservationists is to find their endangered species. Some, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker of the south-eastern US or pink-headed duck of south-east Asia, have been missing for so long that, though officially classified as Critically Endangered, most experts believe them to be extinct. But scientists continue to invent ways of finding others. In New Zealand, for example, trained tracker dogs sniffed out the breeding grounds of the kakapo, a flightless parrot once thought extinct. In India, camera traps helped detect the equally rare Jerdon’s courser. Today, scientists even use chemical evidence in CSI-style forensic searches. For instance, chemical signatures from museum specimens of the slender-billed curlew – a species that has not been seen since 2001 – are now helping identify possible breeding sites in central Russia. It’s now possible to find elusive aquatic species by detecting traces of their DNA

KAKAPO A large, flightless parrot almost wiped out by introduced predators in its native New Zealand. Remaining birds were removed during the 1980s to three predator-free offshore islands: Codfish, Anchor and Little Barrier. Today, 154 closely monitored individuals survive. Ecological restoration is preparing more islands to receive this slowly expanding population.

MAURITIUS KESTREL A small falcon restricted to Mauritius, where, by 1974, DDT and alien predators had reduced the population to just four. In 1979, Welsh biologist Carl Jones removed eggs from sitting females and reared them in incubators at a new offshore wildlife sanctuary. The population grew, and a self-sustaining population was re-established on the mainland. Today there are around 400 wild birds.

NEW ZEALAND BLACK ROBIN  ndemic to New Zealand’s Chatham E Islands. By 1980, only five survived on Little Mangere Island, with just one fertile female: Old Blue. A project led by conservationist Don Merton moved them to predator-free Mangere Island. Old Blue’s annual output was increased by placing the eggs from her first clutch in the nest of the closely related tomtit, a technique known as cross-fostering. The population increased and became selfsupporting. Now there are more than 250.

ASIAN CRESTED IBIS A once widespread waterbird thought to have become extinct until a population of seven was discovered in China in 1981. Extensive captive breeding has since re-established the species in Shaanxi Province, central China, where the population now stands at more than 250. In 2012, the first wild chick was born in Japan since its extinction there.




SPECIES RECOVERY in water or sediment samples; the technique is now in use to find rare tadpole shrimps at WWT Caerlaverock. And then there’s just sheer luck. Take the Madagascar pochard. As regular Waterlife readers will know, this species was thought extinct for decades. Then a small population was rediscovered by chance in 2006, on a single lake, during an expedition by the Peregrine Fund in search of another species entirely. Once we assessed this population, however, we discovered that ecological problems with the lake meant that few ducklings were surviving. Clearly, the birds needed a new home – and urgently. Thus, with support by the HSBC Anniversary fund, and the help of our partners – Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Peregrine Fund, Asity Madagascar, Aga Khan and the

government of Madagascar – we launched an emergency conservation breeding programme, in which individuals were paired up in a nearby purpose-built aviary, where their chicks achieved higher fledging rates. Today this captive population has risen high enough for a reintroduction. Meanwhile, a suitable new lake has been found and, back at Slimbridge, floating reintroduction aviaries have been trialled. If all goes well, 2018 will see the first captive-bred Madagascar pochards released in their new home. Yes, it’s a risk. But there is no time left for wondering.

Closer to home

WWT doesn’t focus only on global rarities. We’re equally concerned with those on the brink in our own backyard. After all, our roots are here in the UK, so

restoring the birdlife that once flourished here is a top priority. Take the common crane. By 1600, this charismatic species was extinct in the UK. The Great Crane Project, in which we joined forces with Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, the RSPB and other partners, restored a breeding population to the Somerset Levels and Moors, where it once thrived. Eggs WWT collected from wild cranes in Germany were hatched and reared in a centre at Slimbridge. In the wild this species maintains close family bonds, so to help these youngsters, a team of special human crane ‘parents’ supervised their upbringing. Dressed in crane costumes, they fed them and took them on walks until they were mature enough to look after themselves. Such techniques are a vital part of conservation breeding, helping to

The chicks are shown how to find food by a ‘crane’ parent

BEING MUM ‘Working with the cranes was the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in the 28 years I’ve worked for WWT,’ says crane parent Tanya Grigg. ‘I loved walking them in the long summer evenings, watching them mature and grow in confidence.’ Tanya was one of a group of 12 WWT staff seconded to help on the Great Crane Project. Starting when the cranes were just 24 hours old, the team offered the youngsters food and lured them out on walks with the group. To win their trust, each donned a hooded grey crane costume and a mesh face mask. The daily walks served to socialise the birds, as well as helping their legs develop and keeping them stimulated. Only when treating the birds or putting rings on them did Tanya and her team 36



The cranes’ carers dress in a costume that covers them from head to foot to prevent the birds ‘imprinting’ on them

remove their costumes, to avoid creating any negative associations. Tanya worked particularly with the shyer individuals. ‘I drew upon my animal training background,’ she explains, ‘using positive reinforcement to lure them out

and become confident members of the group.’ Today, busy on other projects, she needn’t look far to see the rewards of her hard work. ‘Every day these magnificent birds make me smile as they fly over our heads here at Slimbridge.’

caption to go in here thanks very much caption to go in here thanks very

prepare young birds for the challenges ahead. With the spoonies, for example, the aviary is opened, allowing the fledglings to leave in their own time, and live mosquitoes are attracted to encourage them to forage. With the Madagascar pochards, the youngsters will first be transferred from aviaries to floating cages, with supplementary food provided while they adjust. After 10 days the doors will be opened, leaving them free to explore and find new food outside. Back in the UK, the cranes are already proving the rewards of this careful approach. A total of 94 youngsters, hatched at Slimbridge, have been released since 2010. This species takes four years to reach breeding maturity, and already pairs are forming and starting to breed. The aim is to have at least 20 breeding pairs in the south-west by 2025.

Looking to the future

Whenever scientists intervene with an endangered bird, they learn lessons for future projects. Thus, the spoon-billed sandpiper work has helped us embark on the UK’s first headstarting programme for a wader species – the black-tailed

‘Why be passive? Why wouldn’t we restore species for future generations to enjoy?’ godwit, which has a UK breeding population of no more than 60 pairs. Working with the RSPB, and supported by HSBC Anniversary funding, we’re using captive-raised godwits to boost productivity in the wild and help rebuild the population quicker than nature could manage alone. This June saw the first 26 fledglings released in their Cambridgeshire fenland habitat. Fingers are firmly crossed. Meanwhile, technology continues to breed innovation. For example, scientists can now follow the underwater foraging of common scoters – one of the UK’s rarest breeding ducks – using tiny hydro-acoustic tags, developed from those used by biologists studying wild salmon. This is teaching us about the habitats preferred by the scoters on their Scottish breeding lochs. Geoff believes that close-order management has an increasingly vital

part to play both in protecting critically endangered birds worldwide, and in restoring to our own country the species that once flourished here. ‘We need to make it more of a mainstream thing,’ he says, ‘not just what you do when you’ve run out of other options.’ Yes, you could say that close-order management is interfering with nature. But, given all the damage our species has already done, this expertise allows us to start making reparations. And while such small, little-known birds as the spoonbilled sandpiper may seem insignificant in the grander scheme of conservation, every species evolved as a vital part of our planet’s ecological jigsaw. For centuries we’ve been dismantling that jigsaw, with dire results. Now we have the expertise to start putting some pieces back. ‘Why be passive?’ argues Geoff. ‘Why wouldn’t we restore species for future generations?’ One thing’s certain: when time is running out and all bets appear to be off, there are people out there today – including our dedicated teams and our global conservation partners – who refuse to accept extinction as an option. Inspired by their skill, passion and lateral thinking, we will never say never. OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2017



Wil Meinderts/Minden Pictures/FLPA

Project Godwit aims to increase the productivity of black-tailed godwits at the Nene and Ouse Washes so that the population can begin to recover


holiday fun for From pumpkin carving to meeting Santa, your local WWT centre is full of seasonal fun for families this autumn and winter Arundel: 21-29 October

Getting into the Halloween spirit at Castle Espie

Yuck Show

Every day during the Halloween half-term, our batty botanist helps you experience the gross and grotty side of nature. Enjoy a 20-minute Yuck Show running twice a day at 11am and 1.30pm in the Sandpiper Theatre.

Nature Fright Nights

Washington: 29-31 October

See nocturnal nature at its worst during Nature Fright Nights! Create your own lantern before taking a night-time stroll around our wonderful wetlands. Detect bats in the creepy Hollowood, listen to exciting stories by lamplight and mix your very own spell potion before enjoying a spooky cookie and delicious hot chocolate.

Pumpkin carving

Caerlaverock: 28 October Martin Mere: 21-31 October

Children who love making things

will enjoy carving their own pumpkin to take home (as parents will know, it’s harder than it looks!). Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop the flesh and seeds out. Then either bring your own design or use one of our templates to carve out bats, an owl, flying geese or a spooky spider. Put a light inside and watch it glow. Don’t miss our great pumpkin hunt at Martin Mere! 38




Things are turning spooky at Slimbridge this Halloween, so join us for seasonal fun and frolics. Be inspired by the autumn countryside and try your hand at seasonal arts and crafts. Enjoy decorating Halloween lanterns and carving pumpkins on selected dates Slimbridge: over half-term.

21-29 October

Spellbound Festival

Castle Espie: 29-31 October

Join us for three days of monstrous fun

this Halloween. All afternoon (from 12 noon to 4pm) you can meet amazing, friendly, exotic animals with the Zoo2U roadshow, or dance to your heart’s content with Jump, Jiggle and Jive Broomstick Disco (but please book in advance). Then get a spooky makeover with Funky Faces. We’ll also be keeping you frightfully entertained all half-term with our Halloween Horrors trail, spooky storytelling and creepy crafts!

all the family Santa experience

Father Christmas is coming to Slimbridge this December for his annual visit. Choose from breakfast with the elves or an elf afternoon tea, both followed by a visit to our special hidden grotto, to share your Christmas wishes with Santa. Also enjoy fun with the elves, seasonal arts and crafts, and indoor and outdoor Slimbridge: activities 16-22 December ahead of Arundel: the big day.

2-3 December

Meet Santa and take a husky sleigh ride Get into the festive mood at

London Wetland Centre’s wonderful winter weekend. Head over to our northern pine forest, where Father Christmas will be ready to welcome families into his grotto. Children will also be

thrilled to hop aboard an exciting husky sleigh ride or help Santa’s elves in their workshop, creating London: festive decorations or small 2-3 Christmas gifts to take home. December Tickets to see Santa are limited and must be pre-booked. See website for details.

Christmas Fayre Caerlaverock: 2 December Enjoy a wide range of festive craft and food stalls at our amazing Christmas Fayre.

Sail to Santa

Everyone will love meeting adorable huskies in London

Martin Mere: 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 21, 22 and 23 December

Take a boat trip to Santa’s Island and meet Father Christmas. Cost is £8.50 per child (free for adults) and this includes the boat trip, a present, meeting Santa and a free craft.






In our section for nature photography lovers, top professional Chris Gomersall offers his helpful tips to improve your wetland wildlife photos



Pink-footed geese


let there be light

follow the food

Autumn is the season of big flocks and murmurations, as our wintering wildfowl return and large numbers of starlings gather at dusk before entering their night-time roosts. Photographing at twilight can be challenging, so use wider lens apertures (smaller f numbers) to let in more light, and increase your camera’s ISO speed, to improve sensitivity.

Our hedgerows are now brimming with wild fruits and berries, and these are readily consumed by flocks of winter thrushes, such as redwings and fieldfares. Locate the bushes with the heaviest crop, or the last remaining uneaten berries, and wait patiently for the feeding flock to work towards you. This may take a few attempts!



Whooper swans

Wood blewit fungus

beware of ‘blown highlights’

When photographing white subjects, such as whooper and Bewick’s swans, against dark backdrops, automatic lightmetering systems can cause highlight areas to ‘burn out’. Overcome this by adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation, and dialling in a negative value. Start at -1.0 EV, take a test photo, review and adjust as necessary.




vary your colour scheme

Rejoice in the rich colour palette of autumn and experiment with different combinations in your photos. Analogous colours (adjacents on the colour circle) work well together – for example, with fallen leaves in various stages of decay. Complementary colours (opposites on the colour circle) possess a particular vibrance, as shown here.

We hope you’re finding Chris’s tips helpful – and that your photographic skills are improving issue by issue. Share your best shots with us and we’ll publish them in the next Waterlife. Tweet @WWTworldwide, using #wildWWT, or email your photos to Don’t forget to enter our annual photo competition – get snapping now to be in with a chance of winning a great prize. Full details on page 31. OCTOBER/DECEMBER 2017




Hello again

Steve a l l B ac k s h One of our largest bats, the greater horseshoe continuously warbles when echolocating

As you know, I’m no stranger to scary situations. Spiders and snakes, rats and sharks – I’ve met them all. There are plenty of spooky and strange things tied in with Halloween. In real life, some of them are not spooky at all, but they can be stranger than we could ever imagine. Enjoy these wild Halloween titbits!

! o H o H What’s the first thing a bat learns at school? The alphabat!

Bat out of hell? Look at a bat’s little furry face and cute, black button eyes, and it’s hard to imagine how anyone could be scared of them (unless they were a moth, that is!). It’s possible bats became linked with Halloween because people thought they sucked blood. Three out of 1,300 bat species are vampires and do drink mammal blood, but they all live in South America. Here in the UK, all our bats are in hibernation right now, tucked away in a cave, tunnel or tree hole. And here’s the incredible thing. While your heart beats about 90 times a minute, a flying bat’s heart beats up to 1,000 times a minute. But when hibernating, it drops to about 25 beats a minute. And the bat’s temperature falls to not much above the chilly spot where it hangs out. Brrr! The bat practically shuts down – that’s a great way to survive the winter when there’s no insects to eat.

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

Halloween slime animals To make this horrible Halloween slime, you need: ¼ cup water ¼ cup white craft glue ¼ cup liquid starch food colouring in a vile colour a mixing bowl and spoon 1. Stir the water into the glue and then add the food colouring. 2. Tip in the liquid starch and stir in. When it’s nice and blobby, you can make it into animal shapes. 3. Can you make a bat, owl or toad?

What goes ‘tzeep’ in the night?


Go out on a still October night and listen for strange calls in the dark. Is it a ghost or an alien? No, it’s a bird. The high ‘tzeep’ calls you hear are made by redwings, members of the thrush family. They’re migrating here from colder countries in Europe. They fly at night, partly because it’s usually less windy, and also because there are no dangerous birds of prey around.

Hoo are you calling a twit? Tawny owls in woods are at their noisiest around Halloween, but it’s nothing to do with spooks and spirits. They’re busy defending their territories – and once one starts calling, others all around join in. One owl might be hooting – ‘hoo-hoo’ at another, as if to say ‘Hey you, get outta my tree’. Sometimes pairs will call to each other in the dark. Often the male calls ‘hoo’ and the female answers with a high ‘too-wit’. To us, it sounds like ‘too-wit, too-whoo’.

Barn owl join the dots

The barn owl was once called the ‘screech owl’ because of its bloodcurdling cry. It can look ghostly white on a winter’s night, too. Join the dots to make the perfect owl for Halloween.






There’s nothing better than getting outdoors and enjoying nature – especially when you have the right kit. In this new section, we share some of our favourite gear


Autumn is when birds are on the move – and birdwatchers are at their local WWT centre, enjoying the new arrivals and those just passing by. So make sure you can stay out as long as you want – and make the most of the experience – by taking all our essential birding gear with you.



6 li tw i t nd ru d i r ision o ti s or ri t i s tt r d t il nd o ort l i win 2

EC SE O NE ER NOW WH T WI T RN P 25-50x W zoom eyepiece

HI H SPEC C ER TECH 3 IN I HT CO P CT O 1. Tilley T3 Wanderer cotton hat (£70) 2. Collins Bird Guide paperback (£19.99) 3. Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ90 20.3MP compact digital camera (£399) 4. Moleskine plain pocket notebook (£11.95) 5. Vanguard Endeavor 1600 Nature Backpack (£149) 6. Swarovski ATS 65mm telescope (£1,770) Details correct at time of going to print. Items also available from other retailers.




Autumn is a spectacular time of year to visit your local WWT centre, with huge flocks of winter birds and plenty of seasonal family fun For the full list of centre events, information and news, find your local centre at





Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 October; see page 51

Sunday 8 and Sunday 22 October; see page 49

The return of the brent geese to Strangford Lough is a highlight of our year. So this October, we want everyone to enjoy it with us at our unique Big Brent Event. Saturday will be a day for bird lovers, with workshops, talks and walks. Sunday will be a day for families, with goose games galore. Don’t miss it!

In autumn, thousands of barnacle geese arrive at Caerlaverock to overwinter on the Solway Firth. Join the wardens early – or late – to witness the Dawn and Dusk Flights of our wild barnacle geese against spectacular skies.


Map illustration by Fred Van Deelen; photos by WWT

A WILD WINTER DAY OUT! October to December

Steart is at its best in winter, when flocks of wildfowl and waders feed and roost in our specially created habitat. Time your visit for about two hours either side of high tide for a breathtaking spectacle. Add to this great views of raptors and rare passage migrants and you’ve got a really wild day out.






Wednesday 20 December to Wednesday 3 January 2018; see page 62

Throughout October; see page 61

Join us over the Christmas holidays to learn more about the lives of our amazing swans! Collect an activity backpack with your swan researcher challenge card and see if you have what it takes to monitor these special birds.


Take our Nauseating Nature Trail to unearth ghoulish facts about our weird wetlands. Then see nocturnal nature at its darkest during our Nature Fright Nights. Create your own lantern, detect bats and mix a yucky spell potion (above).



The Grant Arms Hotel

Est 1765


Four Poster Room

As soon as you walk into the Grant Arms Hotel you realise it isn’t just any ordinary Hotel. In short the refurbished Grant Arms is the hotel for bird and wildlife watchers.

Superior Room

Standard Room

The refurbished GRANT ARMS HOTEL offers wonderful food, friendly staff and 50 high quality ensuite bedrooms. All bedrooms come with hairdryer, colour TV, toiletries and coffee making facilities.

What’s included: ●

● ●

Speyside and the Cairngorms are one of the best areas for wildlife watching in the UK. Perfect for beginner to expert, whether for a day or a fortnight. Depending on the season you could see: Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Capercaillie, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare, Osprey, Ptarmigan, Otter, Red and Black Grouse, Red and Roe Deer, Slavonian Grebe, Crested Tit and Crossbill, as well as Dolphins, Waders, Sea Ducks and Sea Birds along the Moray Firth coast.

Guests have free use of the BWWC Information Centre, Club Room and Library. BWWC staff are available at Breakfast and in the Evening to help you make the best of your holiday whilst leaving you free to do what you want.

Subscribe to BWWC’s Monthly Newsletter


visit HOW TO GET THERE By Road: Grantown is situated just off the A9 Edinburgh-Inverness road. By Train: The nearest station is Aviemore (14 miles) on the EdinburghInverness line. By Plane: Inverness Airport (30 miles) - Flights from most major UK airports: FLYBE from Amsterdam, Belfast City & Birmingham; LOGANAIR from Dublin & Manchester; EASYJET from Bristol, Gatwick & Luton; BA from Heathrow. Other destinations available from Aberdeen Airport (75 miles). To get the most out of the area you need a car. Fly EASYJET to INVERNESS from GATWICK, LUTON & BRISTOL for less than £100 RETURN


Apr - Oct Nov - Dec Jan - Mar Standard £339 £275 £310 Superior £379 £315 £390 Four Poster £419 £355 £470 7 NIGHTS Standard £581 £455 £515 Superior £651 £525 £655 Four Poster £721 £595 £795 Price per person. Excludes Christmas, New Year and other Special Breaks.

Breakfast Menu ranging from full Scottish to Kippers or Continental Early Birder Breakfast if required Afternoon Tea & Coffee Fine Scottish Dining Special Diets accommodated After Dinner Coffee & Tea Programme of Talks, Walks and Wildlife Briefings, Films & Quizzes Free WiFi Complimentary Daily Newspaper Hairdryer and Toiletries Free Parking Free use of BWWC’s private Slavonian Grebe Hide Boot Wash, Drying Room and Laundry Room. www.


I love Scotland but that love affair got “just that tiny bit deeper after I stayed at The Grant Arms Hotel. The hospitality was great, the guests and staff were lovely...

David Lindo, The Urban Birder


Join us and Naturalist and Wildlife TV Producer & Presenter NIGEL MARVEN to look for Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting, Black and Red Grouse and Mountain Hare in the Cairngorms. Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Red Deer in the Monadhliaths. Crested Tits, Crossbills, Red Squirrel, Capercaillie and Pine Marten in Abernethy or Glenmore Forests. Sea Duck, Divers, Geese, Waders and Dolphins in the Moray Firth plus lots more. 100+ species are expected on this 5 full day guided special week. For just £1,270 per person (Max 12 people)

CHRISTMAS IN WONDERLAND - Sat 23 to Wed 27 Dec 17 Enjoy Christmas this year with Christmas Lunch and full festive programme including guided walks, field trips, guest speakers, plus santa in the square along with mince pies and mulled wine and a Boxing Day trip to see the Reindeer. 4 nights Full Board from £470pp

HOGMANAY IN THE HIGHLANDS - Sat 30 Dec to Tues 2 Jan 18

Other lengths of stay are also available. Dogs welcome £20 per room per stay. Single, Twin, Double, Family & Wheelchair Accessible Rooms available. Special Rates for Clubs, Tours & Conferences. Terms & Conditions apply.

Join us for a traditional Scottish Hogmanay. Welcome the New Year with Ceilidh dancing and Grantown’s famous Street Party! A programme of events with guided walks, field trips and guest speakers is also included. 3 nights Full Board from £425pp or email

Why not stay for both Christmas and Hogmanay and extend your stay for a full 10 nights. From just £995pp 10 nights (7 nights Full Board and 3 nights DB&B).

TO BOOK CALL 01479 872526 BWWC LTD, 25 THE SQUARE, GRANTOWN-ON-SPEY, PH26 3HF All programmes, talks, walks and rooms subject to availability and liable to change without notice.

For information on BWWC Special Events visit



See below for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info

DAILY ACTIVITIES Wetland Discovery Boat Safari

Glide through reedbeds with a guide. First boat 11am, last boat 4.30pm (3.30pm after Oct). Suggested donation £1. Diving Duck Feed

See rare waterfowl’s fishing skills in the Icelandic Lake pen. 2pm. Hand-feed Wildfowl

Hand-feed rare wildfowl in our World Wetlands feeding bay. Until closing. Grain: 20p per handful.


Suns 8 Oct & 10 Dec Bentley Wildlife Carvers

See beautiful woodcarvings of wildlife. 10am-4pm.


BN18 9PB 01903 881530 WWT Arundel The firecrest is one of our tiniest, feistiest birds

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Winter at Arundel is the time to see our top birds. Kingfisher sightings peak, while flocks of redpoll and goldfinch move through the centre in October. Look out for bramblings among the chaffinches, too. The long path and Tranquil Trail are hotspots for sightings of the tiny, spirited firecrest. Numbers of snipe and water rails are boosted by the arrival of migrants from Europe. Look for snipe in the channels from the Reedbed Hide, and water rail in the reedbeds along the boardwalk. In November, look out for raptors on the Offham Hangar and over the centre. Last year, we had seven


‘It was lovely to see all the nesting birds and enjoy a boat safari. Friendly, knowledgeable, helpful staff. Great café. Beautiful.’ happylady02

Trail and create a creepy craft.

species on-site in one day – merlin, red kite, peregrine, buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk, as well as some marsh harriers. Amazing! Cold temperatures drive lapwings and Bewick’s swans to roost on our deep scrapes overnight. Grey herons and little egrets roost in the trees to the right of the Ramsar Hide.

Sat 14 Oct Begin Woodcarving: Avocet

Carve a model avocet with the Bentley Wildlife Carvers. Tools provided. 10am-4pm. £45. BE Mons 16 Oct, 20 Nov & 11 Dec & 15 Jan 2018

Wildlife and Travel Talks

Talk series. See website for details. 7.30pm. £3PP or series £17. Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct October Half-term

See The Yuck Show, pond dip for minibeasts, follow the Spooktacular

Sats 4 & 25 Nov Beginner Photography Workshop

Learn the fundamentals with photojournalist Ben Cherry. 10am-4.30pm. £70. BE Suns 5 & 26 Nov Conservation Photography Workshop

Join Ben Cherry to learn how to photograph conservation in action. 10am-4.30pm. £105. BE Sat 18 Nov to Sun 14 Jan 2018 LEGO® Brick Animal Trail and Workshops

The sculptures and LEGO brick workshops return! Workshops 11am or 2pm. £8PP. BE Trail free.

FAMILY FUN Winter is one of the most atmospheric times of year for nature photographers. So, in November, we’re helping you take better wildlife images with a new series of photography workshops led by Flight of the Swans photojournalist Ben Cherry. There are sessions for beginners and, for people with more experience, workshops on photographing conservation stories around the centre.

Sat 18 Nov Christmas Craft Workshop

Be inspired by our LEGO brick animals – and then make your own!

Decorate a gift box, and make a pomander and a willow tree ornament. 10-11.30am. £12. BE Sat 2 & Sun 3 Dec Breakfast With Santa

Enjoy breakfast and meet Father Christmas. 8.30-10am. £15PP. BE Sat 9 Dec Begin Woodcarving: Festive Robin

Carve a model robin with the Bentley Wildlife Carvers. Tools provided. 10am-4pm. £45. BE

Fri 15 or Sat 16 Dec Christmas Wreath Workshop

Use willow and plants to make a festive door wreath. 10am-12 noon. £12PP. BE

The world’s favourite toy returns to Arundel for the holidays. The giant sculptures of the LEGO® Brick Animal Trail are back with a new wetland creature. Every weekend, children can enjoy a LEGO Brick Workshop and make and take home an animal. On 2 and 3 December, children can tell Father Christmas what toys they want at Breakfast With Santa. The event price includes a surprise WWT gift.

BE Booking Essential RI Refreshments Included WP Weather Permitting PC/PP Per Child/Person Centre events are subject to change. Please phone for further information or visit the WWT website /caerlaverock /castleespie /llanelli /london /martinmere /slimbridge /washington /welney.




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The unique Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric system is ready for all weathers and manages condensation better than any membrane. Functional details (like adjustable ventilation and no less than nine pockets) allow you to focus on the wildlife, the environment or the photograph, without having to rummage in a rucksack or bag. “I’ve tested the Halcon in torrential wind-driven Scottish rain, a match for rain anywhere in the world. The jacket performed superbly. Not a drop of water came in!” John Aitchison, wildlife filmmaker





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CAERLAVEROCK WETLAND CENTRE Guide in the Hide Our guides will point out the best wildlife of the day. See the ‘What’s On’ board in the visitor centre for details. 11am-3pm. Wild Swan Feeds See wild whooper swans closer than anywhere in Britain from the Sir Peter Scott Observatory, with live commentary by the warden. 11am and 2pm.


Until Sat 28 Oct ‘Back Again’ by Keith Brown An exhibition of stunning paintings inspired by the autumn return of geese, waders and ducks to the Solway Firth. 10am-5pm. Free. Sun 8 Oct Dawn Flight Join the wardens as we open early to experience the wild geese flying in against the dawn sky. The coffee shop will also be open early to provide hot drinks and bacon rolls. 6.45am. BE Sun 8 Oct Moth Evening: Ivy and Sugaring Meet moths and learn about ‘ivy and sugaring’. Discover why ivy is an important foodplant and see which species are attracted to it.

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Enjoy the breathtaking spectacle of thousands of Svalbard barnacle geese flying in during our Dawn and Dusk Flight events. At first light, huge flocks come into the centre from the Solway mudflats at dawn to feed. In the evening, they return to the merse to roost. High tides at this time of year are sensational. Thousands of feeding ducks and waders are pushed inland by the incoming tide. From the Saltcot Merse Observatory, you’ll enjoy flocks of Then learn how to lure moths to sugar. 8pm. BE Suns 22 Oct & 26 Nov Dusk Flight Watch the barnacle geese flight out to the Solway mudflats to their night-time roost. Oct 4.30-6pm; Nov 3.30pm. BE Tues 24 Oct Wildlife Photography for Kids Learn how to take fantastic photos of ducks, swans and geese. Bring your own camera or phone. 10am-12 noon. BE Sat 28 Oct Pumpkin Carving Carve your own wildlife

‘Spent a terrific morning at this wonderful centre, enjoying great birding, especially from the new Peter Scott Hide. Wide range of waterfowl and superb facilities. Definitely want to return.’ WWT Caerlaverock

Watch barnacle geese fly overhead from our Saltcot Merse Observatory

golden plover, dunlin and knot wheeling in the sky. Their large numbers attract peregrine falcons and hen harriers. Meet Caerlaverock’s magnificent moths (left) on National Moth Night (8 October) and find out why many of them depend on late-flowering ivy for a final snack before winter. Then learn how to lure moths in with sugar and lights using our moth traps.

pumpkin, try Halloween craft activities, and play games about spiders and bats. 2-4.30pm. £2 per pumpkin. BE Sun 29 Oct to Sat 16 Dec ‘Unseen World’ by Michal Šúr Exhibition of fine art infrared black and white photography of nature and landscapes. Free.

Sun 5 Nov In Focus Try before you buy the latest binoculars and telescopes. In Focus experts are on hand all day to give advice. WWT Caerlaverock benefits from every sale. 10am-4pm. Free. Suns 12 Nov & 3 Dec Dawn Flight Join the wardens as we open early to experience the wild geese flying in against

the dawn sky. The coffee shop will open early for hot drinks and bacon rolls. Nov 6.30am; Dec 7am. BE Sat 18 Nov Wildlife Photography Workshop Tom Langlands and Bob Fitzsimmons show you how to take fantastic macro shots of the swans and geese at this wetland centre. Suitable for all levels. 10am-4pm. £75. BE Sun 19 Nov Walk With a Warden Join the warden on a walk around the centre to see the geese, swans and other wildfowl wintering here. 1-2pm. Sat 2 Dec Caerlaverock Christmas Fayre Get festive at our annual Christmas Fayre, with local, handmade Christmas gifts, such as festive crafts, photographs, paintings and local food. Enjoy a hot mulled wine. 1-4pm. Free. Mon 1 Jan 2018 New Year’s Day Bird Race Start the year by challenging our warden to see how many bird species you can spot in a day. 10am-4pm.


Learn how to take better photos on our kid-friendly course

Every autumn, we welcome the return of our wild whooper swans. Many of the birds are old friends – each one ringed with a unique identifying code. Join our warden for a Wild Swan Feed and enjoy their behaviour as they ‘whoop’, bob their heads and wing-flap in territorial displays. Bring your camera or phone and learn how to take amazing photos of geese, swans and insects on our Wildlife Photography for Kids course. At this time of year, there are thousands of birds flying around, so you can get close to the wildlife and practise your skills.

Inspired by the wildlife at Caerlaverock? Try carving a pumpkin with an owl, goose or other creepy critter (see page 38). Plus, we’ll be going batty with lots of Halloween craft activities and games about spiders and bats.

Faith Hillier

Daily Activities

DG1 4RS 01387 770200

Alex Hillier

See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info


FrequentTraveller149, Massachusetts





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CASTLE ESPIE WETLAND CENTRE The return of the brent geese is really something to celebrate

See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info


Sat 7 Oct Big Brent Event – Birder Day Join us for a day dedicated to the return of the brent geese to Strangford Lough. With expert talks, walks and more, it is a day not to be missed! Check online for full schedule. Various times and prices. BE Sun 8 Oct Big Brent Event – Family Fun Day Have lots of fun with all the family and learn about our brent geese. Various times. Thurs 26 Oct, 30 Nov & 28 Dec Birdwatch Morning Enjoy a morning of birdwatching at the centre with expert Dot Blakely. 10.30am-12.30pm. Sun 29 to Tues 31 Oct Spellbound Festival Join us for three days

Castle Espie

BT23 6EA 028 9187 4146 WWT Castle Espie

JOIN OUR BIG BRENT EVENT Each October, Castle Espie and the whole of Northern Ireland welcome the return of the brent geese. The birds have travelled to Strangford Lough – their favourite overwintering site – from their summer breeding grounds in Arctic Canada. That’s an incredible journey of 2,500km. More than 80% of the world’s population of these small, dark geese winter here, making this site of global importance. We’re always delighted to see the brent geese arrive, and so we’re celebrating their return with

the Big Brent Event on 7 and 8 October. This year, the Saturday will be dedicated to anyone keen to learn more about the birds from our experts and participate in our workshops. Meet Graham McIlwaine in the Brent Hide from 10am – prime time to see the geese on the lough – to hear about the brents and their incredible journeys. Or join Anthony McGeehan at 11am for a talk over breakfast about his search for remarkable birds.

FAMILY FUN This year, Halloween at Castle Espie will be frightfully entertaining and terrifyingly thrilling with our Spellbound Festival (29-31 October). Turn to page 38 to find out more. Then, before you know it, it will be Christmas and Here Comes Santa! Throughout December, you can visit Santa in his enchanted grotto. But first you’ll need to find the secret to unlocking it! Your own personal elf will take you around our winter wonderland, while you of monstrous fun this Halloween! 10am-5pm. Weds 1 Nov & 6 Dec Little Ducklings Day! A special morning for mums and tots. Join us for a one-hour session in our soft play area and enjoy a delicious hot drink and tray bake, as well as juice and biscuits for the kids. 10.30am. £5 per adult. BE Suns 19 & 26 Nov, & 3, 10 & 17 Dec Festive Afternoon Tea Enjoy a delicious

and your family find the clues to the grotto. Only then can you tell Santa what’s on your Christmas list! Plus, enjoy crafts, nibbles, hot drinks, storytelling and a Christmas trail while you’re here!

afternoon tea at The Kingfisher Kitchen, demonstrations on this season’s latest fashion trends, and music from local choirs and orchestras. 12 noon-4pm. £25 for two people sharing. BE Sat 9 to Sun 10, Sat 16 to Sun 17 & Thurs 21 to Fri 22 Dec Here Comes Santa! Join us for our magical and enchanted Christmas experience throughout December. Time: TBC Price: TBC. BE

Keen photographers will love joining Nigel Snell for a walk and wildlife photography session. A great opportunity to hone your skills and capture some iconic wildlife. Or try ‘Sketch in the Field’ with artist Julian Friers. It’s suitable for artists of all abilities. Just don’t forget to book all events by emailing The Sunday will be aimed at families, when people of all ages can learn about the brent geese in fun, exciting ways, including face painting, music, dancing and more!

And what better way to recover from all the Christmas excitement than with a delicious Festive Afternoon Tea at The Kingfisher Kitchen? Watch demonstrations of this season’s latest fashion trends, styling sessions and musical delights, as local choirs and orchestras join us for some seasonal cheer. We’ll also be offering 10% off fashion items in the Castle Espie shop for anyone who books this event.

‘An amazing, educational place. It was lovely to see young children interacting with birds and learning about nature. It was a joy to walk around and view many birds I’ve never seen before.’ Frankst, Australia




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LLANELLI WETLAND CENTRE See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info

Daily Activities

Monday Munchkins Every Monday during term time, toddlers can take part in activities including pond dipping, crafts, stories, games and feeding the birds. 11am-12 noon.


Until Sun 5 Nov GIANT LEGO® Brick Animal Trail Follow our trail of LEGO brick animals and spot some old friends, and some new models. Sat 7 to Sun 22 Oct October Weekend Fun Family fun, including: LEGO Brick Animal Trail – all day, self-guided;


SA14 9SH 01554 741087 WWT Llanelli

‘We came as visitors and left as members. A perfect place to take children and also for some time with the camera and the wildlife. A very relaxing place.’

This Halloween, make your own Fred the frog (complete with fly!)

Saz 1879

Minibeast Hunt and Mini Pond Dipping – 11am-12 noon; Guide in the Heron’s Wing Hide – 1-2pm; Pond Dipping – 2.30pm; Halloween-themed crafts – times vary. Suns from 22 Oct to 26 Nov Follow the Feed Join our wardens for the afternoon feed and discover how we care for our collection birds. 3.30pm.


As winter approaches, the saltmarsh teems with birds. A big high tide can push breathtaking numbers of wading birds up into the relative safety of the saline lagoons, until a peregrine or sparrowhawk sends them into chaos. Last autumn we had a record count of more than 1,000 black-tailed godwits and 87 greenshanks! In the Millennium Wetlands, the last of the dragonflies will be hunting on sunny October days. See huge southern hawkers patrolling the paths and common darters basking on the Heron’s Wing Bridge. As the leaves fall, tits form roving flocks in the canopy with goldcrests and treecreepers, and rosy-pink bullfinches feed on dried seed heads. Kingfishers fish daily in the Deep Water Lake, and as nights draw in you’ll see little egrets roosting in the trees around the shore. Look out for great white egrets among them, or even a bittern moving around. As dusk approaches, listen out for the thin ‘tzeep’ of redwings migrating overhead, or watch for flitting bats on warm nights.

Sat 28 Oct to Sun 5 Nov LEGO Brick Workshops An hour-long workshop, including making a frog to take home. 12 noon and 2pm. £8PP. BE Sat 28 Oct to Sun 5 Nov October Half-term Fun See October Weekend Fun details, plus LEGO Brick Workshops – 12 noon and 2pm (£8PP, BE ); Pond Dipping – 3pm. Weds 1 Nov Bat Box-making Workshops Make a home for bats. 11am-12 noon and 1-4pm. £7 per box, plus admission. Suns 5 Nov & 3 Dec Veggie Patch Kids Bring your little ones to grow veggies. 11am-12 noon. Sat 11 to Sun 26 Nov November Weekend Fun Family fun: Top Trumps Trail – all day, self-guided from 18 Nov; Birdwatching at the Observatory – 11-11.45am; Red-crowned Crane Talk – 12.30pm; Guide in the Heron’s Wing Hide – 1-2pm; Crafts – 2-4.30pm. Peregrines flush flocks of waders

Sat 18 Nov to Sun 7 Jan 2018 Top Trumps Trail Collect your scorecard on arrival and see if you can beat us at a game of


This autumn is set to be frightfully fun at WWT Llanelli. If you’re enjoying the GIANT LEGO® brick animal trail, then make sure to book an awesome, hour-long LEGO Brick Workshop during October half-term. Take part in exciting challenges and make a mini Fred the frog souvenir to take home. Plus, drop in to our workshop on 1 November and make your own bat box to welcome these special nocturnal animals to your garden this winter. Christmas sees the return of everyone’s favourite game – Top Trumps. Find our GIANT Wetland Animal Top Trumps cards around the grounds from 18 November to 7 January, and see if you can beat our scores! Then get in the festive spirit with lots of activities to keep you busy right up until the holidays. Book our Natural Christmas Decoration Workshops (2 and 3 December) and make a whole host of festive treats for the family with materials gathered from our wetlands. Why not make your own Christmas gifts or drop in to our Robin Nest Box-making Workshops (10 and 17 December)?

GIANT Wetland Animal Top Trumps! All day, self-guided.

Heron’s Wing Hide – 1-2pm; Christmas crafts – 2-4.30pm.

Sat 2 & Sun 3 Dec Natural Christmas Decoration Workshops Make decorations with materials from the wetlands. 1-4pm. £10PP. BE

Suns 10 & 17 Dec Robin Nest Box-making Workshops Create a home for robins. 11am-12 noon and 1-4pm. £7 per box, plus admission.

Sat 2 to Sun 17 Dec December Weekend Fun Family fun: Top Trumps Trail – all day, self-guided; Telescope in the Tower – 11-11.45am; Guide in the

Sat 23 Dec to Sun 7 Jan 2018 (closed 24 & 25 Dec) Christmas Holiday Fun See December Weekend Fun details.







SW13 9WT 020 8409 4400 WWT London


Daily Activities

Spotlight Talks Join us for some of our daily Spotlight Talks to discover more about the history of the centre and the animals that live here. Bird Feed With a Warden Join a warden as he feeds the birds in World Wetlands. 3pm. Otter Feed Meet the otters at feeding time, when our warden will tell you more about these amazing aquatic mammals. 11am and 2pm.


Fri 6 Oct Autumn Wildlife Photography Course Photograph the wetland’s autumn colour and wildlife with practical tuition from wildlife photographer Iain Green. 10am-4pm. £60PP, plus admission. BE Sat 7 Oct Members’ Walk: Invasive Species Discover which non-native species in the UK have become invasive and are harming the environment, and what people can do to manage them. 1pm. £2PP, plus admission. BE

Sun 15 Oct Drawing Workshop Learn some basic sketching techniques on how to draw fungi – all materials will be provided. 10am-4pm. £40PP, plus paid admission. BE Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct Guess Who? The guessing game everyone knows and loves has gone wild! Use your ID skills to guess which wetland animal your partner has selected. 10am-5pm. Sat 28 Oct Winter Birdwatching Walk Our warden will guide you around the centre and give you bird ID and fieldcraft tips. 9.30-11am. £20PP, plus admission (inc breakfast). Sat 11 Nov Members’ Walk: Make Your Own Garden Wetland Join our warden in our gardens to learn how you can create a wetland in your own garden. 1pm. £2PP, plus admission. BE Fri 17 Nov Wildlife Photography: Intermediate Skills Based inside and out, you’ll cover lighting and exposure, advanced camera settings and composition. 10am-4pm. £60PP, plus admission. BE

Join us this autumn half-term from 21-29 October to play our new game Guess Who? Use your ID skills to guess which wetland animal your partner has selected. Pick up your game card on arrival and discover more about the animals here. Then take a walk in the centre to see them in real life. Meet Santa in his cosy woodland grotto or take a sleigh ride with some loveable huskies on 2 and 3 December. Help the elves prepare for the big day in their craft workshop or ride a donkey decked out in his Christmas finery! Tickets to see Santa are limited and must be pre-booked. Please see the website for more details.

Sat 2 to Sun 3 Dec Meet Santa and Take a Husky Sleigh Ride! Get into the festive mood at our wonderful winter weekend! Children will be thrilled to hop aboard for a husky sleigh ride and visit Santa in his grotto. BE Sat 9 Dec Members’ Walk: Reedbed Ramblings Join our reserve warden on a 30-minute walk into our


Autumn is an exciting time to get outdoors with inspiration all around. WWT’s founder, Sir Peter Scott, enjoyed capturing the natural world through sketching and painting. So why not come along to our Drawing Workshop on 15 October and learn how to start sketching autumn’s finest fungi? If you prefer to express yourself through photography,



and already have a good grasp of the basics, sharpen your eye and your skills with our Wildlife Photography: Intermediate Skills day on 17 November. Photographer Iain Green will help you take your photos to the next level. London Wetland Centre is alive with birds in autumn and winter. Learn more about them from one of our expert wardens on our


Santa is waiting to welcome children to his grotto on our special Santa weekend


And if Jack Frost is nipping at your nose and you need to warm up a bit, treat yourself to a hot drink in our bright new Kingfisher Kitchen. It offers an exciting child-friendly menu and comfy seating, as well as delicious hot food, sandwiches and cakes, in beautiful surroundings.

reedbeds to learn about their management, wildlife and how humans have relied on them for thousands of years. 1pm. £2PP, plus admission. BE Sun 10 Dec Birdwatching With a Warden The course will focus on birds on-site, their plumage, calls and behaviour. Enjoy tips on fieldcraft, what to listen for

Winter Birdwatching Walk on 28 October. They’ll guide you around the centre, looking for our best birds, such as bitterns, and rarities like bearded tits and waxwings, and offer tips on fieldcraft and bird ID. Calling all serious birders! Want to be quick off the mark with 2018’s bird list? You can

and the differences between key species. 9.30-11am. £10PP, plus admission. BE Mon 1 Jan 2018 Tick ’n’ Twitch Walk Join our warden for a one-hour walk to spot as many bird species as possible. Our team will show you the best spots for finding particular birds. 9.45am. £3PP, plus admission. BE

get the new year off to a flying start at our Tick ’n’ Twitch Walk on 1 January. During this one-hour walk, our warden will help you tick off as many bird species as possible. We record about 180 species on-site each year, and winter is a great time for finding many of them.

Shoveler by Iain Green

See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info



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Martin Mere

L40 0TA 01704 895181 WWT Martin Mere

WETLAND CENTRE DAILY ACTIVITIES Otter Talk and Feed Come and meet our friendly family of otters – Penny, Bell and Flick. 11.30am and 2.30pm. White Stork Talk and Feed Come and learn all about our newest bird species and see how they feed. 2pm.

Weekends until Sun 5 Nov Canoe Safari Our self-guided canoe safari is a fun way to explore the reedbed habitat and its rich biodiversity. Enjoy spotting some of the UK’s most threatened species ranging from water

voles to reed buntings. 11am-4pm. £7 per canoe (seats up to three). Weekends until Sun 5 Nov 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. 11am-4pm. £3 per seat.

From Mon 23 Oct Swan Spectacular Come and see the spectacle for yourself as up to 2,000 swans feed every day at 3pm at the new Discovery Hide and 3.30pm in the Raines Observatory, which includes a warden’s talk. 3pm and 3.30pm.


Sun 1 to Sun 29 Oct Sefton Art Group Exhibition An exhibition by

Ben Cherry

Toddler Thursday Gosling Gang Come along with your

toddlers to enjoy story time and craft activities every Thursday during term time at 10.30am and 1pm.

Suns 1 Oct & 17 Dec Drawing and Painting Birds Join award-winning local artist and illustrator Tony Disley to explore the process from drawing through to a finished painting of a bird subject. 10am-4pm. £50PP. BE Our new beautiful Canadian boreal forest garden

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Our new Canadian boreal forest garden was completed in August and by now it will have bedded in nicely. Enjoy the waterfall pen, which is home to buffleheads, a species of diving sea duck; a boardwalk through central pens, accessible via a log cabin, to see species such as trumpeter swan and Carolina ducks; the central lake that has canvasback ducks on it; and a tepee encampment demonstrating how indigenous


the members of the Sefton Art Group. All pieces of artwork will be of locations and birds at Martin Mere. All day.


people lived sustainably in wetlands. From late September, the skies will be filled with the honking of thousands of geese passing overhead. Up to 40,000 pink-footed geese visit Martin Mere at this time of year, and evenings and mornings are the best time to view them. On Wednesdays and Saturdays until 28 October, we will be opening late, until 7pm, to allow you to witness the


spectacle of the birds flying in to roost and whiffling over the mere. If you’re more of an early riser, you won’t be left out. Every Saturday up to 21 October, you can enter the centre early, at 7am, to experience the pinkies’ dawn flights. Watch the geese as they awake and take off to a cacophonous chorus of honking. Just don’t forget to book in advance as breakfast is included. Come along for a great day out at the annual North West Bird Watching Festival

(18-19 November). Enjoy talks and walks with presenter Nick Baker, meet wildlife cameraman Doug Allen and hear about his adventures filming for the BBC, then hear all about Flight of the Swans from our intrepid Sacha Dench. There’ll also be lots of other walks and talks, seminars and stalls, from clothing and books to holidays, optics and artists. The centre opens early at 8am and a full English breakfast is available from 9am. Perfect for anyone who enjoys nature.

D OW N YO U R WAY It’s Halloween! Make your own terrifying pumpkin face and follow our pumpkin trail… if you dare!

FAMILY FUN With Halloween fast approaching, we’re inviting all witches and wizards to join us for our daily broomstick training as part of Pumpkin Fest (21-31 October). Learn how to mount and manoeuvre your broomstick, then follow on the wings of our swans and fly between Iceland and Martin Mere over our special course. Don’t forget to take a picture as a souvenir! And when you’ve returned to the ground, you can create a spooky face in your very own pumpkin then search for 15 carved pumpkins hidden around the grounds – find them all for a chance to win prizes. Before you know it, it will be December and Santa will be coming to town. Enjoy a magical experience as you hop onboard our boat and sail to Santa’s Island to visit his elves

Sats 7, 14 & 21 Oct Dawn Flight Experience the haunting sound and the thrill of an early-morning hide visit with a warden. In past years at this time, the whooper swans have started to arrive back from Iceland and there could be thousands of pink-footed geese at the centre. 7am. £15.50PP (includes breakfast). BE Every Weds and Sat until 28 Oct Late opening: Goose Spectacular Witness the spectacle of thousands of pink-footed geese coming into roost at Martin Mere between 6pm and 7pm. Sun 15 Oct Meet Reptiles Come along and meet reptiles from the North West Reptile Club in our lecture theatre. 12 noon-3pm.

in a special grotto. Post your letters to Santa – and you may even receive a reply – receive a gift and make your own Christmas craft. The price is £8.50 per child and places go

really fast, so please book early to avoid disappointment. Five stunning white storks are wowing families at the daily 2pm feed. Watch them as they come up close for food – some

may even catch food in mid-air! Learn all about these fascinating birds, and unravel the myths about storks bringing babies. It’s sure to be a highlight of your visit.

‘A beautiful place, ideal for a day out with family or friends. The staff are friendly and helpful. The paths are flat and well maintained. The layout and “adventures” are easy to navigate and explore. Can’t recommend this place highly enough.’ Linda S

Sat 21 to Tues 31 Oct Pumpkin Fest Carve a spooky face into a pumpkin, explore the grounds on our pumpkin hunt and take to the sky with our whooper swans in our special witches and wizards broomstick training.

Sat 18 & Sun 19 Nov North West Bird Watching Festival Browse exhibitors, listen to guest speakers including Nick Baker and Doug Allen, take part in free workshops and enjoy a selection of talks and walks. 8am. For further information, go to

Tues 31 Oct to Mon 4 Dec Wildlife in Acrylics An exhibition of bird illustrations and artwork by artist David Finney. All day.

Sat 2 & Sun 3, Sat 9 & Sun 10, Sat 16 & Sun 17, Thurs 21, Fri 22 & Sat 23 Dec Sail to Santa Take a boat trip to meet Santa, get a gift and try a craft in the cost per

child (no charge per adult). 10am-4pm. £8.50PC. BE Book online at martinmeresanta

hand-feeding the birds and family crafts, and see our new white storks feed every day at 2pm.

Weds 6 Dec to Weds 10 Jan 2018 A Poet’s View of Rural Beauty An exhibition by landscape painter David Secrett. All day.

Every Tues in Jan from 9 Jan 2018 Floodlit Swans Enjoy watching thousands of whooper swans by floodlight at the Raines Observatory while chatting to our knowledgeable wardens and learning all about the incredible journeys these swans undertake. 6.30-8pm. Adults £10.03; concessions £7.33; children £4.78. BE

Tues 26 Dec to Sun 7 Jan 2018 Christmas Holidays Watch the spectacle of thousands of swans feed on the mere, enjoy otter feeds,






GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Prebook paid events on 01453 891223 WWT Slimbridge

WETLAND CENTRE See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info

Don’t miss seeing our stunning and rare Bewick’s swans when they return to Slimbridge for the winter

Daily Activities

Guided Walks A guided walk is a great way to learn more about the centre and the wildlife that lives here. Join one of our volunteers as they take you on a walk and tell you about the history of the centre and its wildlife. 10.30am. Lasts approximately one hour. Meet on the boardwalk just outside the Toad Hall exit of the visitor centre. Otters Come and meet our friendly family of otters – Flo, Minnie and Ha Ha – and hear a talk as they tuck into a tasty fish supper. 11.30am and 3pm. Lasts approximately 20 minutes. Meet at the otter pool in the Back from the Brink area. Cranes Discover how Slimbridge staff are working to breed and release back into the wild these birds, which have been extinct in the UK for more than 300 years. 2.30pm. Lasts approximately 15 minutes. Meet at the Mesolithic hut at the Back from the Brink area. Amphibians Come to Toad Hall and hear our expert give an insight into the world of amphibians and their habitats. If you’re brave enough, you will have the opportunity to hold some of the frogs, toads and newts. 2.15pm daily, and 12.30pm on weekends and school holidays. Lasts approximately 20 minutes. Meet in Toad Hall.




Until Sun 29 Oct Top Trumps Trail Take on Slimbridge with a game of GIANT Top Trumps. Seek out 12 wetland animal Top Trumps and see if you can beat us! Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct Slimbridge Spooktacular Spooky goings-on are happening at our wetland centre during

Halloween. Come along for seasonal fun and frolics, and arts and crafts. Sat 21 Oct & Sun 19 Nov Birdwatching Morning Join our warden as he opens our hides around the grounds and learn how to identify the different birds from their seasonal plumages. 8-10.30am. £15.95. BE RI

Mon 23 Oct Family Wildlife Photography A practical and enjoyable day for budding young nature photographers and their parents to learn how to get great shots of wildlife. 10am1pm. £30 per adult and child (aged eightplus). Suitable for all skill levels and compact or SLR cameras. BE

Fri 10 Nov Intermediate Photography Want to fine-tune your photography of the natural world? This workshop expands on basic photography. 10am-4pm, £62.50. BE RI Sat 11 Nov Drawn to Paint Birds During this workshop, participants will

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Winter migration brings special visitors to Slimbridge, including the enchanting Bewick’s swans. These magnificent birds travel thousands of miles from their breeding grounds in the Russian tundra, over desolate steppes, wooded wilderness and vast lakes and seas, to reach Slimbridge. Here they’ll stay until temperatures start to climb next spring. Experience the spectacle of hundreds of wild swans feeding, and learn more about the


plight of the Bewick’s swan and its arduous journey in our Floodlit Swan Suppers. Settle into the Peng Observatory with mulled wine or cider and enjoy an in-depth talk from our expert reserve warden, as the swans, geese and ducks are fed on a floodlit lake. Following the feed, head back to the warmth of the Kingfisher Kitchen


FAMILY FUN Autumn and winter are exciting times for families at Slimbridge. Why not challenge friends and family to a game of GIANT Top Trumps until 29 October? Collect your Top Trumps card on arrival and search for 12 GIANT wetland animal Top Trumps around the grounds. It’s the best fun ever! Then come back, if you dare, for a Halloween half-term and the Slimbridge Spooktacular. Enjoy creepy crafts and ghostly activities throughout the holidays. Carve your own pumpkin or make a lantern to keep the ghouls at bay. Take note of how the changing season affects the landscape and the wildlife, and capture it on camera in the last of this season’s

Family Wildlife Photography courses on 23 October. These sessions are perfect for young photographers and their parents. Before we know it, Christmas will be upon us and that means one thing… Father Christmas will be on his way to Slimbridge! He’s a very busy man at this time of year, so be sure to book your Santa visit. Enjoy breakfast or afternoon tea with the elves, followed by a visit to Santa’s secret grotto, hidden away where only the elves know where to find him. Make the most of your day by enjoying Christmas crafts and winter wildlife in a Slimbridge wonderland.

‘Fascinating – even for “non-birdie” people! We surprised ourselves by spending over four hours at Slimbridge – and we could have stayed longer. We appreciated a free introductory walk and talk, good facilities at the visitor centre, free map on arrival and excellent signage throughout. The staff and volunteers clearly love their work. If you’re keen on birds, prepare to be amazed!’ Julie A

We’re making creepy crafts this Halloween at Slimbridge

learn how to sketch birds in pencil, and paint in watercolour, with local artist Jackie Garner. 10am-4pm. £46.50. BE RI

dates for group bookings available. From 6.15pm. £29.95PP and £26.95PP for group bookings of 12 people or more. BE RI

Selected dates between Dec 2017 and Feb 2018 – see website for details Floodlit Swan Suppers Experience the bird feeding spectacle then enjoy a sumptuous two-course meal and mulled drink in our Kingfisher Kitchen. Perfect for Christmas parties and social gatherings – exclusive

Sat 16 to Fri 22 Dec Santa Experiences at Slimbridge Father Christmas is coming back to Slimbridge! Enjoy breakfast with the elves or an elf afternoon tea, followed by a visit to our special, hidden grotto. BE

for a sumptuous two-course meal, followed by tea and coffee. There are numerous dates available for this unmissable event. Autumn and winter are also the perfect time to enjoy the numerous migrating birds that pass through Slimbridge for the annual wild winter spectacle. There’s nothing quite like the beauty of huge numbers of waders and

Hone your skills on one of our photography courses

wildfowl from a hide, cradling a warm drink and ticking off rarities from your bird list. Further increase your appreciation by capturing the beauty and variety of wildlife on camera in our Intermediate Photography course on 10 November. Or study wild subjects in detail while learning or improving your drawing and painting skills in our Drawn to Paint Birds course, with local artist Jackie Garner, on 11 November.




Do you need to make or amend a Will?

Will Month offer ends 30 November

Take part in WWT Will Month this November – where participating solicitors across the UK offer a FREE* will writing service for WWT supporters.

1 Choose

2 Create

3 Consider

one of our participating solicitors – please see the leaflet enclosed with this magazine or online

your Will or an amendment to your existing Will with your chosen solicitor

making a donation to WWT or leaving a gift to us in your Will

Find out more

Call 01453 891150 Email *Participating solicitors reserve the right to charge a fee for wills that are complex or are not completed, or for any extra work outside WWT Will Month.



Washington NE38 8LE 0191 416 5454 WWT Washington


Who can brew the yuckiest potion?

See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info

Daily Activities

Otter Feeds Learn about our Asian short-clawed otters – Musa, Mimi and their ever-growing family – at our daily commentated feeds. Meet at their enclosure. 11.30am and 3pm. Flamingo Feeds Find out all about our Chilean flamingo flock and hear how our staff and volunteers hand-raised 29 flamingo chicks! 11.45am and 3.15pm.


Ever met a flesh-eating zombie duck or crept past a dead man’s fingers?! Unearth gruesomely ghoulish facts about our weird and wonderful wetlands on our Nauseating Nature Trail throughout October. Pick up a leaflet at admissions and get exploring! See nocturnal nature at its darkest during Nature Fright Nights! Create your own lantern before taking a night-time stroll around our atmospheric wetlands. Detect bats in the creepy

Throughout Oct Nauseating Nature Trail Discover gruesomely ghoulish facts about our weird and wonderful wetlands on our Nauseating Nature Trail. Pick up a leaflet at admissions and get unearthing.

Sats 21 Oct, 18 Nov & 16 Dec, & Suns 22 Oct, 26 Nov & 24 Dec Walk With a Warden Join our reserve team on a guided tour to take in the sights, sounds and seasonal wildlife in our wetland habitats. Meet in the picture window at admissions. 11am.

Sats 7 Oct, 4 Nov & 2 Dec Guide in a Hide Discover more about our wild birds with the help of our volunteer hide guide. 10am12 noon and 2-4pm (please check on arrival for details of which hide).

Sun 29 to Tues 31 Oct Nature Fright Nights! See nocturnal nature at its spookiest. Enjoy bat detecting, potion making and a night-time stroll before stories and a tasty Halloween treat. Suitable for ages four-plus. 5-7pm. £8PP. RI BE

Hollowood, listen to stories by lamplight and mix a yucky spell potion before enjoying a spooky cookie and delicious hot chocolate. Join us in Santa’s Winter Wonderland and enjoy a guided winter wander before making a tasty snack for Santa’s reindeer to take home with you. Then create your own wooden animal or head to Santa’s magical grotto, where Saint Nick himself will be waiting to listen to your Christmas wishes and give you a gift.

‘I love this place. It’s even better than I remember, with a much better layout and such polite and informative staff. Great day.’ Kay S

Mon 20 Nov to Fri 15 Dec Christmas Lunches Get into the spirit of the season and enjoy a traditional feast in the festive surroundings of Waterside Café, overlooking our barnacle geese and Eurasian cranes. 12 noon-2pm. £16.95PP, £8.50PC (includes admission; two courses, vegetarian option available). BE

Sats 2, 9, 16 & Sun 10 Dec Santa’s Winter Wonderland Enjoy a winter guided walk, make a reindeer snack for Rudolph and create a wooden animal (one per child) before meeting Santa in his cosy grotto. 10am-12 noon and 1-3pm. £10PC, £5PP (includes admission). BE

territories. All around the site, our rare waterbirds change into their brightest breeding plumage, to match the leaves. It’s a great time to see them performing their courtship rituals. As winter beckons, one of our biggest spectacles – the winter

curlew roost – starts to build. At its peak, more than 1,200 birds swoop down at dusk to settle alongside redshank and teal. Siskins, redwings and fieldfares join long-tailed tits and bullfinches at the Hawthorn Wood feeding station.

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Autumn is here in all its glorious colour and it brings spectacular wildlife to the centre. Join our reserve team on a guided tour to take in the sights and sounds of nature on the move. Skeins of pinkfooted geese pass

Washington is host to a huge curlew roost in winter

noisily overhead and waders such as snipe, greenshank and whimbrel refuel at Wader Lake. Jays hurriedly bury acorns in our woodlands to last through the cold weather ahead, and young barn owls disperse to look for




WELNEY WETLAND CENTRE FAMILY FUN Autumn is a great time to explore as Welney comes alive with sights and sounds. Follow the footpaths or sit in our hides to hear the bugling cranes, whistling wigeon and the loud welcome of whooper swans as they glide onto the water. Throughout October, we’re expecting some very special visitors. Dusty Duck and his celebrity-designed friends, such as Chris Packham’s Ziggy Star Dusty (pictured), will be flocking to the reserve for you to find. Come and see if you can spot them all! See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info

Daily Activities

Oct to Feb Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail Dusty Duck has 14 celebrity friends on the reserve. Come and meet them! Mon, Thurs & Sat, Oct to Feb Hare Walks Join us and get close to hares and other wildlife. Find out how creating wetlands has been a success at Welney and watch the


PE14 9TN 01353 860711

WWT Welney

Get closer to some of our most magnificent winter visitors at the daily wild swan feeds. Join a Welney guide to find out about the incredible journeys the birds have made to escape the cold further north. If you love swans, why not become a swan researcher this Christmas and see if you have what it takes to monitor these special birds? Collect an activity backpack with your swan challenge card, then complete the tasks around the grounds. In midwinter, swan numbers peak, so you’ll have to use all your birdwatching skills to find the correct answers.

hares as they get ready for spring boxing. 2-3pm. BE From Sat 21 Oct Swan Feed Join our commentated feeds. The sight of hundreds of swans and ducks being fed is enhanced by the flight in of more swans at dusk. 3.30pm. Thurs to Sun from Thurs 2 Nov Floodlit Swan Feed Watch the swans gliding on the floodlit lagoon. The whole family will enjoy this commentated feed. 6.30pm.

From Tues 26 Dec Swan Feed See our swans and ducks get an extra feed, listen to the commentary and watch hundreds of pochards make the water bubble. 12 noon.


Sat 21 to Sun 29 Oct Half-term Family Fun Pick up a backpack and explore the centre to watch our swans and ducks. Make sure to join a commentated feed. See website for details. Weds 26, Sat 28 Oct, Sat 18, Sun 19 Nov,

‘A warm welcome and a lovely reserve to visit. Huge viewing area and adjacent hide. Jolly good lunch too.’

William W, Bolton

Sat 9 & Sun 10 Dec Swans Awake Join our warden to watch thousands of swans fly out to feed in the fields. Dawn event (see website for times). £12PP, £5PC. Optional breakfast extra. BE WP Sat 18 Nov Beginner Photography Workshop Learn the fundamentals of photography, master your camera and take your pictures to the next level with photojournalist Ben Cherry. Ben will explain the theory with exercises in the morning and then, after a buffet lunch, will head out to put that theory into practice. 10am-4pm. £TBCPP. BE WP Sun 19 Nov Advanced Photography Workshop Want to go from snapshots to crafted wildlife images? Join photojournalist Ben Cherry, who will go through case studies with theory exercises in the morning. The workshop will then move outside to explore

before the chance to document the evening whooper swan roost. 10am6pm. £TBCPP. BE WP Sat 9 to Fri 22 Dec Christmas Lunches Enjoy a Christmas dinner in the Wigeon Café, overlooking wetlands filled with wildlife. No need to book unless you are a party of seven or more. £TBC. See website for details. Tues 12 Dec Sir Peter Scott Evening Talk A talk by Welney Centre Manager Leigh Marshall, hosted by the Friends of Welney. 7.30pm. £3 (£2 Friends of Welney members). Weds 20 Dec to Weds 3 Jan 2018 Swan Researchers Join us to witness the scenery and wildlife that wetlands offer at this time of year. Lots of family activities to help you get an insight into the lives of our amazing swans and ducks! See website for details.

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE THIS AUTUMN As the days shorten and the temperature drops, thousands of ducks arrive at Welney, signalling the start of our winter wildfowl spectacle. First to appear are the wigeon, which arrive in their droves, their whistling calls filling the air. These chestnut-headed grazing ducks are soon joined by teal, shoveler, gadwall and pintail. Close to the main hide, returning pochard fill the main lagoon with a raft of red heads, as these hungry travellers await the daily feeds. Soon after the ducks return, we welcome our stars of winter, as the first of the whooper 62



Whooper swans

and Bewick’s swans touch down. These birds have flown long distances to get here from Iceland (whoopers) and from Arctic Russia (Bewick’s). We always look forward to seeing familiar faces return – and love to see new faces when proud parents bring their brood of cygnets on their first migration. The Ouse Washes have become a gathering site for a growing number of wild cranes in the fens. Will we welcome another big group this year before the winter water levels rise? We’ll have to wait and see, but we’re hopeful that local birds have had a successful breeding season, increasing the chances of spotting these iconic wetland birds.



Steart Marshes

TA5 2PU 01278 651090

WWT Steart Marshes

‘A great site for wildlife watching. The site is designed to relieve local flooding, but this is done with an emphasis on supporting wildlife. There are several hides overlooking tidal pools and the paths are all bike friendly. Even dogs on leads are welcome. Well worth a visit all year round.’ John T (Taunton)

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Grey phalaropes seen on our coasts have been blown off course by strong winds and bad weather

See page 47 for key. Events may change – visit our website for up-to-date info


Weds 4 to Tues 10 & Tues 17 to Mon 23 Oct, Thurs 2 to Weds 8 & Fri 17 to Mon 20 Nov, Sat 2 to Fri 8 Dec & Tues 2 to Sat 6 Jan 2018 High Tide Spectacle Don’t miss your chance to view the spectacle of high tide at Steart this winter. These inundations happen about 120 times a year and offer some of our best-ever birding. When the high tide spills over the breach, the main marsh and intertidal area fill with water, pushing feeding birds off the mudflats and estuary, bringing them much closer to the Polden and Mendip hides than usual. Don’t miss it. Sats 7 & 21 Oct & 2 Dec High Tide Birdwatching Walk Come and enjoy the spectacle of the high

tide as it fills the largest area of the reserve and witness hundreds of birds feeding from key viewpoints. 8.30-10.30am. Members £3PP, non-members £5PP. BE Weds 25 Oct & 15 Nov 4x4 Trip to the Breach Enjoy a drive along the sea wall, taking in the estuary and the reserve, and get the opportunity to walk up to the breach made in September 2014 – an area normally out of bounds to visitors. 25 Oct: 12 noon-1.30pm and 2-3.30pm; 15 Nov: 10-11.30am and 12 noon1.30pm. £10PP. BE WP By arrangement One-to-one Birdwatching Be shown around the reserve by a local bird expert and get a personalised training session in bird ID while learning the background to WWT Steart Marshes. £20PP. BE

During autumn and winter, Steart Marshes welcomes a wide array of rare passage migrants that drop into the reserve to rest and refuel. Last year, we enjoyed rare sightings of grey phalaropes – a wader that breeds in the Arctic and is most comfortable out at sea. It’s only occasionally seen on the British coast, where it’s blown in by storms. Only about 200 birds per year are recorded, so ours are really special. Keep an eye on our website and sightings boards to see if they have returned. As our newly created habitats mature, Steart is becoming increasingly important as an overwintering site for thousands of birds using the Severn Estuary. With more than 25,000 individual birds of 51 species counted in surveys, there’s always something to see during the colder months. Teal, wigeon, lapwing, redshank, golden plover, dunlin and avocet flock here in huge numbers to feed and roost on the mudflats and saltmarsh. Meanwhile, the wild bird plots that we sow in several different areas

around the reserve attract skylark, yellowhammers and linnet in their hundreds – a sight and sound certainly worth catching. The wild nature of Steart Marshes also provides the perfect habitat for small mammals. They, in turn, attract various raptors that hunt over the reserve during winter. Among them

Look for short-eared owls hunting over coastal marshes and wetlands in winter

are merlin, peregrine, marsh and hen harrier, kestrel and – always a firm favourite – the short-eared owl. The large, open areas of saltmarsh offer the ideal hunting ground for these stunning birds and they can be seen from key viewpoints quartering over the grass at dusk and dawn.




Classified directory

To advertise please contact Sonal Mistry on 020 3771 7247 or



MARTIN MERE, LANCASHIRE 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.

01704 822389

18th-century former village Inn five minutes from Slimbridge. ETC 4 star. Laura Ashley beamed spacious ensuite bedrooms. Stay any three nights Sun - Fri £34 pppn (dbl occ). Stay 4 nts get 5th for £25 for two!! 1nt stay - from £78 and single occ from £48. Many attractions including NT in easy travelling distance. email us for latest photos of updated rooms. Vicky Jennings T: 01453 549996 E: W:

PEMBROKESHIRE ROSEMOOR COUNTRY COTTAGES 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. Jonh M. and Jacqui Janssen Rosemoor Country Cottages & Nature Reserve Walwyn’s Castle Havefordwest SA62 3ED

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Ground floor flat for two in Glencaple close to WWT. Very comfortable with wood-burning stove and small sunny garden. In winter barnacles fly past morning and evening and flocks of ducks and waders are here in large numbers. In summer ospreys nest nearby. Good walking and cycling. tel: 01387 770348 email:

Real Ale, Real Food Pub with 18 well appointed ensuite bedrooms ETB4* 10 Minute Stroll from WWT Slimbridge and situated adjacent to Gloucester-Sharpness Canal CAMRA awards 2007-2013 T: 01453 890306 E: W:

Tel: 01437-781326 E-mail:



Self-catering cottage, for two.

The Old Cider House, Tranquil riverside location, see the Severn Bore. Paradise for walkers, cyclists and bird watchers, convenient for WWT Slimbridge. Winter breaks from £230. Dogs welcome £50 charge. 01452 741613

09/06/2015 Sue 09:56 Greig_WWT_Jan Mar_17.indd 1 07/11/2016 OldCiderHouse_WWT_Oct 11:36 Galloway Dec_17.indd 11/09/2017 1 Dumfries and Holiday house to rent - peace and tranquillity

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Riverside House , Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9JS Direct river frontage and views onto River Arun. 12 minute level walk to Arundel WWT. Panoramic views of Arundel Castle and Cathedral. 5 double bedrooms, 5 bathrooms (sleeps 10). 3 reception rooms, riverside balcony and terraces, 3800sqft. Detached with fully enclosed private garden, electric security gates and parking for 8 cars. Sky, wi fi, 4 TV’s, modern throughout with fully equipped kitchen etc. View photos, floor plans, location and booking calendar at: 07957209107

Regent Properties_WWT_JulSept_17.indd 1

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Properties throughout Scotland. Discover your Scotland with 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 Tel: 01556 504030 64


The treasures on offer at Caerlaverock, Mersehead, Threave and Loch Ken are all easy drives from McMurdoston’s comfortable self-catering cottages and welcoming B and B. Mind you, with red squirrels, tree sparrows and red kites on the doorstep, you might just want to stay here! 01387 740200

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Caerlaverock Cottages

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B AC K C H AT ‘Wetlands can make you feel like you’re the only person for miles around,’ says Ed

my wild life Ed Burrell, PhD student at WWT Slimbridge and University of Exeter, chats to Waterlife about common scoters, snacks and conservation strategy give birds colour rings or coded collars, a flock changes from being one massive object to a collection of distinct individuals. You learn more about each bird’s life, so you even develop favourites!

My job is the best job in the world

because I get to do what I’ve always wanted: immerse myself in the lives of birds and try to understand why they do what they do. Luckily, they live in spectacular, remote wild places, so I do too! By understanding these birds we can devise strategies to help protect them better – something I’m passionate about. I can’t get through my day without binoculars, a flask of tea/

Ed Burrell PhD student, WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

coffee and lots of snacks. So I can spy on the birds without them knowing I’m there; I’m awake enough to observe them; and I’m not hungry.

There’s no such thing as an average day! If I’m in the field,

I might be working out how to catch birds to fit tracking devices. Or recording the behaviour of individuals we’ve caught before. Or downloading their tag data. I can spend hours, days, even weeks trying to find well-hidden nests.

The first thing I do in the office is

look to see if any of our GPS-tagged geese have been on the move.

A highlight of my role is getting

to know individual birds. Once you



One of my favourites is the Greenland white-fronted goose, which is endangered and breeds very rarely (fewer than 10% breed successfully in their lifetime). Because they migrate to arctic Greenland to breed, the first time I find out how well they’ve done is the following autumn, when they return to Scotland and Ireland. Scanning through a goose flock in early November, identifying an old friend and then seeing a new family of young with them is amazing. My greatest achievement is


helping to protect common scoters in the UK. Despite their name, there’s only about 35 breeding pairs in Britain, and they’re declining rapidly. They’re all confined to remote sites in north-western Scotland, and almost nothing is known about their breeding ecology. At the start of our study, in 2014, only 20-25 nests had ever been recorded.

Over the past four summers,

we’ve found and studied 33 scoter nesting attempts. We now understand many of the factors likely to be limiting the British scoter population, and, through practical conservation action, we hope to halt their decline before it’s too late.

The strangest thing I’ve ever done was in Iceland, in -13oC

temperatures. It was 2am and I was alone, picking frozen grass tips in a frozen field with frozen fingers, pretending to be a goose. I was trying to work out the energy available to a goose in each field of a farm. I love seeing (and hearing!) the

wintering wildfowl return in the autumn, especially the European white-fronted geese. They’re the reason Sir Peter Scott chose Slimbridge, and for me they’re a reminder that it’s nearly time to head north to see wild birds from Greenland.

My goal is to make a difference!

If I can help understand the lives of threatened birds, and solve the problems they face, WWT can help target global conservation measures more effectively to help save them.




ALWAYS AT YOUR FINGER TIPS Every moment counts when observing nature, as there are many species that only make a rare appearance, like the shy kingfisher. Thanks to their compact size, you can always have the CL Companion binoculars from SWAROVSKI OPTIK at your fingertips. Their unique design ensures maximum ease of use, while their excellent optics produces outstanding, high-luminosity images. Equipped for every eventuality, you’ll always have the robust, extremely watertight CL Companion binoculars by your side, which are the ideal companion for making nature observation an amazing experience. Enjoy moments even more – with SWAROVSKI OPTIK.


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Spottingscopes & Digiscoping

Universal Smartphone Mount USM-2 The USM-2 provides a simple and flexible way to connect your smartphone to Opticron SDL, HDF and HR eyepieces and shoot video or take high magnification photos. Price £69

IS 60 R Designed for the first-time user, frequent traveller and those on a budget IS 60 R spottingscopes offer high levels of performance and versatility in a compact, lightweight body. 10 year guarantee.

Save £54 on IS 60 R kits(1)

IS 60 R (Str or 45°) + IS 18-54x zoom + WP Case £279 Available from stockists nationwide. Please call us for details. (1) Saving compared to buying items separately.

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

Waterlife October–December 2017  
Waterlife October–December 2017  

The magazine of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust