Page 1

waterlife JANUARY/MARCH 2013


T H E Q U A R T E R LY M A G A Z I N E O F T H E W I L D F O W L & W E T L A N D S T R U S T

I S S U E 18 3



Where have all the sea ducks gone?


£ 4 .0 0




in focus


ialists ec Sp e op sc le Te d an ar ul oc in B e Th  Part exchange always considered, top prices paid  Monthly special offers  Second-hand list (updated twice weekly) In focus, with seven shops and an extensive field sales events programme, are the ideal company for your purchase of binoculars, telescopes and related accessories. Sound advice, with countryside viewing and excellent service from our experienced non-commission based staff, many of whom are birdwatchers, will ensure that you make the right choice. We are committed to supporting wildlife. As a Birdlife International Species Champion, main sponsor of Birdfair and WWT Approved Optics Partner we continue to support conservation projects. UK stockists for


 HERTFORDSHIRE London Colney, AL2 1BB (Satnav use 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 8QJ - 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 - 020 8409 4433 Open seven days

SPECIAL OFFER DELTA 8x32 SL2 binoculars Roof prism binocular featuring a nitrogen-filled lightweight waterproof body, pop-up push-down eyecups, full spectacle wearers specification and protective armouring. Excellent close-focussing, wide field of view and brightness of image.



DELTA 65S scope complete with 17-52x eyepiece The New Delta 65S telescope with a 17-52x zoom lens is available at £199.00 from our shops now. The kit complete with a C600 tripod is priced at £219.00 or with a Delta V tripod at £258.00. The eyepiece features a twist up/down eyecup making it ideal for spectacle wearers.



SPECIAL OFFERS on Opticron MM2 travel scope kits The latest lightweight draw-tube scope for travellers and backpackers, the ideal travel companion. Closed length 18cms and weighs only 450gms. MM2A complete with HR zoom lens, carry case and a Sherpa tripod £299.00, or the MM2A ED complete with HR zoom lens, carry case and a Sherpa tripod £399.00.




in focus SALES EVENTS ‘Test under field conditions’ NORTH AND MIDLANDS Hauxley NR, Northumberland (Northumberland Wildlife Trust) Sun 13 Jan Sun 10 Feb / Sun 10 Mar / Sun 14 Apr Low Barns NR, County Durham (Durham Wildlife Trust) Sun 20 Jan / Sun 17 Mar North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire Sun 7 Apr Potteric Carr, South Yorkshire Sun 31 Mar Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire Sun 3 Feb Washington WWT, Tyne and Wear Sun 27 Jan Sun 24 Feb / Sun 24 Mar / Sun 28 Apr Wolseley Centre, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire (Staffs Wildlife Trust) Sat 2 Feb Whisby Nature Park, Lincoln (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust) Sun 17 Feb / Sun 21 Apr SOUTH AND EAST Arundel WWT, West Sussex Sun 6 Jan Tues 15 Jan / Sun 10 Feb / Tues 19 Feb Digiscoping Day / Sun 10 Mar / Tues 19 Mar Optics & Digiscoping Day / Sun 14 Apr Tues 30 Apr Optics & Digiscoping Day Grove Ferry, Stodmarsh NNR, Near Canterbury, Kent Sat 16 Feb / Sat 20 Apr Lackford Lakes, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk Sat 26 Jan / Sat 30 Mar Lee Valley Country Park Sun 20 Jan / Sun 17 Feb / Sun 17 Mar Rye Harbour NR, East Sussex Sat 19 Jan / Sat 13 Apr Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent Sat 16 Mar SOUTH AND WEST Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire (Hampshire Wildlife Trust) Tue 8 Jan / Tue 5 Feb / Tue 5 Mar / Tue 9 Apr Exmouth, South Devon (close to rail and bus station) Sat 2 Mar Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset Sat 23 Mar / Sat 27 Apr Seaton, Black Hole Marsh, East Devon Sun 3 Feb / Sun 7 Apr Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire Digiscoping Days Thur 7 Feb / Thur 7 Mar Thur 11 Apr WALES Llanelli WWT, Carmarthenshire Sun 13 Jan Sun 24 Feb / Sun 24 Mar / Sun 28 Apr SCOTLAND Caerlaverock WWT Sun 6 Jan / Sun 3 Mar A good range of optics available seven days a week at the WWT shop Caerlaverock  ALL EVENTS FROM 10.00 AM - 4.00 PM FOR LATEST INFORMATION RING ANY OF OUR SHOPS

Take advantage of our excellent part exchange prices to trade-up to better optical equipment. Part Exchange always considered at our Shops and Field Events. ALL LISTINGS ARE CORRECT AT TIME OF GOING TO PRESS - E&OE. PHONE FOR LATEST PRICES


in focus

ists The Binocular and Telescope Special Joint Main Sponsor of

Ask at any of our shops of field events for details and a demonstration



The quarterly magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust WWT is a leading global conservation organisation committed to the protection of wetlands and all that live in and around them. WWT is the only UK charity with a national network of specialist wetland centres that people can visit. It was founded in 1946 by the late Sir Peter Scott, the renowned naturalist and painter. HEADQUARTERS Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Registered Charity No. 1030884 and SC039410


Build it, and they will come, goes the phrase. Sometimes, however, they come while you’re still building. Somerset’s Steart Peninsula, where WWT and the Environment Agency have been working closely with local people in the creation of a new wetland reserve, has already been visited by a number of rarities. Wood sandpiper, glossy ibis and spoonbill all dropped in last year, but as the autumn migration took off, a pectoral sandpiper made an appearance. Then, in September, another rarity arrived, discovered by local birdwatchers – a white-rumped sandpiper (below). ‘It has all been rather unexpected,’ says WWT’s Tim McGrath. ‘We’re in the middle of construction so there are large diggers rumbling around the site. There’s one small field that hasn’t drained, but it has been teeming with birds, despite being surrounded by all this hubbub. ‘With birds like this turning up now, just imagine how it will be when the diggers are gone and we have 500 hectares of wetland, rather than just one field.’

Managing editor: Katy Baird Assistant editor: Emma Stephens Editorial board: Natasha Cook, Sacha Dench, Baz Hughes, David Salmon, Rob Shore, Mark Simpson Editor: Malcolm Tait Senior sub-editor: Marion Thompson Art director: Shelley Varley Designer: Nikki Ackerman Senior sales executive: Sonal Mistry 020 8962 3020 Publisher: John Innes Think, The Pall Mall Deposit, 124-128 Barlby Road, London W10 6BL Waterlife is published four times a year, and is printed by Herons, on UPM Ultra Silk 70gsm, an FSC paper accredited as coming from well-managed forest. Views expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of WWT. ISSN: 1752-7392

Average net circulation for the period Jan-Dec 2011: 93,186 Cover: Common eider by Markus Varesvuo,


CENTRES For full contact details, please see page 58 WWT Arundel 01903 883355 WWT Caerlaverock 01387 770200 WWT Castle Espie 028 9187 4146 WWT London Wetland Centre 020 8409 4400 WWT Martin Mere 01704 895181 WWT National Wetland Centre Wales 01554 741087 WWT Slimbridge 01453 891900 WWT Washington 0191 416 5454 WWT Welney 01353 860711

This issue 4 Front lines Martin Spray salutes the lifeblood of WWT – our members 7 Waterways News and views from the world of WWT 14 Wigeon post Your letters answered, plus our caption competition 17 The big issue How WWT is encouraging sustainability in new housing 22 Private life Why we have to act to save the UK’s sea ducks 26 Photo competition Some of our great 2012 winners, and a new one to enter 30 Me and my wetlands Habitat management by the great British public 34 Flight path Giving hope to the spoon-billed sandpiper in Myanmar 40 Wonderful world Our regular behind-the-scenes look at WWT 42 Kids’ zone Steve Backshall takes a closer look at eider ducks 45 Seasons Discover the winter wonders at your local centre 46 Down your way Your chance to catch up with life at a centre near you 58 Events What’s coming up at your local WWT centre 66 Back chat Why Mike Dilger is taking on the Big 9 Challenge JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


front lines


OUR LIFEBLOOD IN THE LAST ISSUE OF WATERLIFE I PAID TRIBUTE, without any hesitation, to our unseen heroes, our volunteers. They, working with our exceptional team of employees, are the people who make things happen on the ground. But a number of other experiences have got me thinking about what else makes WWT so successful. The first of these was just a few weeks ago when, in work early – as so many do in this crazy world of ours – I saw on the famous Rushy Pen at Slimbridge four of the cranes we have reared and released on the Somerset Levels. Yes, they had come home to Slimbridge, and they fulfilled everything that I had wanted since we had embarked on this reintroduction project. These are iconic wetland birds and they stopped me in my tracks for at least half an hour and left a long-lasting memory. They are magnificent and an inspiration. But then I thought, what made this whole project possible? Actually, it is wonderful to have the committed and expert staff and volunteers to drive forward such work, but without you, the members, with all your loyal support, where would WWT be? I write this as I return from Caerlaverock, where some of our incredible members and supporters gathered to look at plans to replace the observatory that our founder, Peter Scott, established with a new version that will enable more people, and importantly children, to get close to and be inspired by nature. These are members who have given their quiet support to WWT’s work for many years. And, in spite of the current economic climate, and the wet weather, our members have remained loyal and supportive. And more are joining WWT. Without you I am sure that WWT’s essential work to save wetlands for both wildlife and people would not be possible. And never has our mission been more vital. Wetlands directly support 40% of all species and provide enormous benefits for us. For 66 years we have built the expertise to make a real difference worldwide. So thank you. Please tell your friends and encourage them to join our mission. With you and many others, we can do so much. Without you I am sure the world would be a poorer place. WWT Caerlaverock

Martin Spray, WWT Chief Executive 4

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

The journey is just the start of the


Lovethe unexpected GREAT RAIL JOURNEYS





- With so much included Days 2-3: New York.

USA Coast to Coast


Experience a once in a lifetime rail journey across the most diverse country in the world! Your photo album will include the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Wild West, the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, Hollywood Boulevard, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Day 1: To the USA. Flight from London/Manchester to New York for a three night stay in the city centre. Days 2-3: New York. See the incredible sights of the ‘Big Apple’ on our guided tour and Manhattan cruise leaving Day 3 free to explore. Days 4-5: Washington. Travel to Washington for a two night stay with a tour of the city’s famous landmarks. Day 6: To Chicago. Leave by overnight sleeper train for Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Days 7-8: Chicago. Arrive in Chicago and take a city tour, including the site of Al Capone’s headquarters and the Willis Tower. Next day depart on the California Zephyr overnight train into Iowa and Nebraska. Days 9-10: Denver. Spend a day in Denver, then a day exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. Day 11: Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Travel along the route of the USA’s most scenic train, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, past dramatic peaks and deep ravines, for an overnight stay at Grand Junction. Day 12: Durango. Visit Silverton, then take a breathtaking ride on the historic Durango and Silverton Railroad to the Wild West town of Durango. Day 13: Monument Valley. Explore the rugged landscape of Monument Valley, one of the USA’s most famous locations before continuing to stay two nights in Flagstaff. Day 14: Flagstaff. Free day, perhaps to enjoy the fabulous setting of Flagstaff. BOOK WITH 100% CONFIDENCE FULLY BONDED, FULLY PROTECTED

Day 15: Grand Canyon. Travel in vintage carriages to the majestic Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights, before travelling by overnight train to Los Angeles. Day 16: Los Angeles. Explore Los Angeles and spend a night on board the RMS Queen Mary, formerly a famous ocean liner. Days 17-19: San Francisco. Take the Coast Starlight along the Pacific coast, past pristine beaches and through the wine country of San Luis Obispo, to San Francisco for a three night stay and sightseeing tour, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Days 20-21: To London/Manchester. Overnight flight back to London/Manchester, arriving on Day 21. 21 days from London - Tour Code: USG 2013 DEPARTURES £3,158 Jul 19, 26 Apr 10 £3,198 Aug 7, 9, 16 17 £3,228 24 28, 30 £3,298 Sep 4, 6, 9 May 3, 6, 10, 15 £3,298 17, 22, 29 13, 16 £3,328 Jun 3 18, 20, 23 £3,348 7 27 £3,398 Oct 2 14 £3,398 17 11 £3,528 26 16 £3,578 Jul 5, 10

£3,578 £3,548 £3,398 £3,398 £3,398 £3,398 £3,398 £3,328 £3,298 £3,228

21 days from Manchester - Tour Code: USM 2013 DEPARTURES £3,498 Aug 2, 23 £3,675 Apr 26 £3,498 Sep 30 £3,745 May 13 £3,658 Jun 10

Dates and prices are subject to availability. Prices shown are per person based on 2 sharing. Terms and conditions apply. For ‘Deposit Offer’, terms and conditions apply, please see website for details.

Scheduled flights London/ Manchester to New York & San Francisco to London/ Manchester Rail and coach travel 16 nights’ hotel accommodation 3 overnight train journeys in two-berth roomette with meals included 5 guided city tours 2 harbour cruises 4 iconic Amtrak journeys & 2 rail journeys on heritage lines Transfers and luggage handling in USA Accompanied by a professional Tour Manager

One of 10 tours to the USA. Please call or go online for more details.


or request a free brochure

01904 734 145 Our UK tour advisors are here 7 days a week


News and views from the world of wildfowl and wetlands conservation



Last autumn’s release of 19 cranes means that the number of these magnificent birds on the Somerset Levels and Moors has now passed the 50 mark. This was the third such release and the youngsters, brought as eggs from Germany and reared at Slimbridge, have joined the 33 cranes already in the wild.

‘All the older birds from previous years have shown great interest in the new ones,’ says Damon Bridge, Great Crane Project Manager. ‘It’s going to be fascinating to watch how they all get on.’ The releases are being managed by the Great Crane Project, a partnership between WWT, RSPB and Pensthorpe

Conservation Trust, with funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. Last year, Viridor Credits confirmed additional funding, ensuring that the project can release cranes for a further three years, monitor their welfare and start to create, improve and manage wetland habitats for them as they approach breeding age.

Cranes released as part of the Great Crane Project forage for grain in Somerset

LEAD UPDATE Following Waterlife’s feature last issue on lead poisoning in waterbirds, WWT has now published a scientific paper on the issue. It reveals that post-mortem results of thousands of UK waterbirds show that poisoning from spent lead shot (right) is still a major cause of death, with no change in death rate following introduction of legislation, more than 10 years ago, to reduce the threat. The peer-reviewed analysis was published in October alongside the results of blood samples taken from live waterbirds caught in Britain within the past two years, which show that more than one in three of the birds

sampled were affected by lead poisoning. Lead is toxic and most uses of the metal have systematically been phased out over the past three decades. However, lead remains the most common material for shot in the UK. Waterbirds eat spent lead shot when feeding and taking in grit to help grind food in their gizzards. As the lead is absorbed into their bodies, it affects virtually every part of their system. ‘Spokespeople for the shooting community have always said that, when the evidence is forthcoming, they will support practical proposals to address the threat to

wildlife,’ says WWT Chief Executive Martin Spray. ‘We want to work constructively with the community to remove this unnecessary and avoidable threat to our wildfowl’. For more information, visit


• Waterlife


POET’S CORNER ‘Thank you for that splendid article on the spoon-billed sandpiper chicks!’ writes Tony Cullingford. ‘Herewith a tribute called Back from the Brink.’ A pair of bright black eyes peers out upon the world; Frail body cradled by two caring, female hands; That unique bill so quaintly shaped – no spoon – a heart; A fluffy, brindle quilt of orange, yellow, black. Long, sticklike legs, as spindly as flamingoes’; Toes splayed out like the native moorhens’ running free; Unsightly, swollen knees, designed for wading; All meals and needs now met in this warm tempor’y home.


What does the future hold for you, our welcome guests? The clack of proud, protesting nenes show the way. Thanks to determined dedication, sleepless nights, Back from the baleful brink you, too, are timely snatched. If you would like to submit your poetry for this section, do send it in to us at the address on page 14.


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

BARRAGE OF OPINIONS Late last year, WWT and a group of environmental and angling NGOs met with Peter Hain MP about a tidal power barrage that he is championing for the Severn Estuary. The groups have been concerned that the MP has been quoted in the media stating that the proposal will be benign or even beneficial to wildlife. ‘WWT supports the search for appropriate use of tidal energy…,’ says WWT’s Director of Conservation, Dr Debbie Pain, ‘but it is a delicately balanced environment where ill-thought-through schemes could be damaging to wildlife, homes and businesses.

‘We are concerned that this proposal still isn’t right, and have not yet seen enough evidence to suggest otherwise. We urge the government to stick to the findings of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, and Peter Hain to work with all the interested groups to produce the power we need while minimising damage to the environment.’ WWT and the NGOs have now set out a series of key challenges for Mr Hain and leaders of the consortium that is developing the plans, in order to address the very serious potential impacts of their proposals.

now and then you come across a wetland bird named NAME Every after an individual. Who were these remarkable souls who GAME have achieved immortality in this way? Here are a few of them.

BEWICK’S SWAN Thomas Bewick was an English ornithologist and wood engraver born in 1753, who reached fame through his wonderful etchings of birds, other wildlife and countryside scenes, and in particular for his book A History of British Birds. One of his greatest works was the complete illustration of Aesop’s Fables.

STELLER’S EIDER There’s no known portrait of the 18thcentury German naturalist and explorer Georg Steller, yet his work on North Pacific wildlife resulted in his commemoration in the names of several different species, including Steller’s sea cow, now extinct.

TEMMINCK’S STINT Another naturalist born in the 18th century, Dutchman Coenraad Jacob Temminck was the first director of Leiden’s Natural History Museum. He was a prolific author on wildlife, and more than 30 species, ranging from sharks to pangolins to flying squirrels, have been named after him.


WADER GO! The plight of the spoon-billed sandpiper (below left) has inspired people all over the world. An amazing example of this are Rick and Elis Simpson (below, centre), who are setting off around the world for a year to see as many species of wader as possible (53 as we went to print), with the aim of raising awareness of the plight of the Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper and all migrating birds along the world’s flyways. All the while, they’ll be raising money towards WWT’s spoon-billed sandpiper project. The journey, named Wader Quest, will take them to species on the top of their wish list to see. They’ll be starting with the spoonbilled sandpiper, of course, but also looking

At each stop they will be engaging with schools by visiting them and talking to the next generation for Nordmann’s greenshank, terek sandpiper, crab plover and cream-coloured courser (below right) to name a few. The mission started on 1 November, firstly going to Thailand to find the fantastic spoon-billed sandpiper, followed by the UAE, UK and USA, with Australia, New Zealand and India taking them into the New Year. 2013’s itinerary will include attending events such as Colombia’s Shorebird Conference and the Migratory Bird Festival in Brazil.

At each stop they will be engaging with schools by visiting them and talking to the next generation and, where possible, meeting them in the field to show them the waders in their area. Wader Quest will contact each country’s news media to highlight their presence to enable them to spread the word still further among the local population. On, Wader Quest’s website, Rick and Elis regularly blog about all the exciting waders they are seeing and communities they are engaging with, as well as posting stunning photographs that really help connect you with their mission. They hope this will create a following, which, in turn, may persuade people to donate while on the website, by clicking through to their JustGiving page.

NOT IN THE PINK Three years ago, the population of pink-footed geese wintering in the UK stood at 350,000 or so. But in October last year, WWT released the results of a survey that showed that the figure had plummeted by 100,000 in just two years. As the majority of the world’s ‘pink-feet’ winter in this country, the decline is alarming. So where have all these birds, that breed in Iceland and Greenland, suddenly gone? Has the global population crashed, or have they simply gone somewhere else to winter? The main clue lies in the

proportion of young within the returning flocks, which shows how successfully they have bred. Last winter the birds returned with only 8.5% young – half the recent average – indicating that the 2011 breeding season was really bad. A lot of late snow in Iceland that summer may have forced geese to abandon their nests or it may have killed more goslings than usual. However, the decrease in 2010 was not preceded by a bad breeding season and scientists suspect that during the recent cold winters, more geese than usual died due to the tough conditions.


• Waterlife



INSPIRING NEWS Last year WWT launched the Inspiring Generations appeal, to help us provide free access to our centres for school children from deprived areas. Already, thousands of school children from disadvantaged areas have visited our centres and taken part in a guided learning session outdoors with our Learning staff, free of charge. Centres including Castle Espie, Washington and London Wetland Centre received an instant and overwhelming response from schools eligible for our scheme. Within a month of launch, those three centres alone had taken bookings for more than 2,000 pupils, from hundreds of schools, many of which had never been able to visit before. We’re delighted by this response to our scheme, knowing that children from disadvantaged areas are among the least likely to have the opportunity to connect with the natural world, yet are most likely to gain from the positive impacts that result. One school in particular, Holmleigh Primary School in north-east London, enjoyed a free school visit to WWT’s London Wetland Centre in October. ‘Many of our pupils come from estates in Hackney, so it’s wonderful to be able to bring the children out of the borough into this beautiful environment,’ said their teacher, Brenda Sullivan. The Year 2 class took part in a pond-dipping session, catching animals and exploring them up-close using our


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

underwater camera. This was the first time the children had tried pond dipping and they were clearly fascinated by their discoveries. ‘I caught a water spider and it had a baby, too!’ said Shenya, age six. After their pond-dipping session, the pupils explored the centre, encountering endangered birds and spotting wildlife from hides – and our new otter family made a big impression. ‘My favourite part was when we went to see the otters being fed. They were beautiful,’ said Ivanna, age seven. Back at school the pupils followed up their visit with a letter-writing and drawing project. ‘The children won’t forget their visit today,’ said Brenda. ‘It brings it home just how significant these experiences are. It’s easy to take it for granted, but these trips have a lasting impact on the children.’ Our Inspiring Generations Free School Visits Scheme has been made possible thanks to the generosity of: Avios, Cargill, Morgan Sindall Group, RWE Npower Renewables, SFIA Educational Trust Limited, The Shears Foundation, Tullow Oil, Western Power Distribution and many generous individuals.

For more information and to donate to this appeal, simply visit


Otterly delightful


You probably know that you can adopt any of a number of bird species with WWT. But did you know that the range has broadened out further... and otters are now available, too? So this year, why not adopt one, for yourself or a family member or friend, to help protect the UK’s wild otters? You’ll receive newsletters, a fact sheet, a cuddly otter toy and much more. To see some cute baby otters in action, visit

MORE SWANS TO SEE Have you seen the Bewick’s swans (above) at Slimbridge recently? There’s even more to see than earlier in the winter – and for two good reasons. First, there have been two new cameras fitted at the Rushy Pen, to give you extra views of these graceful birds, even when you’re at home, as they’re being streamed online ( And second, the sudden change in weather in December brought an influx of the swans in from their Arctic Russian breeding grounds. This winter, the bulk of the birds were several weeks late, but the cold weather suddenly brought them in as December got under way, and as Waterlife went to print, numbers were rapidly climbing. Meanwhile, at Martin Mere at the same time, whooper swan numbers had reached an amazing 2,480 and climbing: a record for the centre by several hundred.

MILLIONS OF BIRDS LOST Last year, the publication of a report, The State of the UK’s Birds 2012, revealed some shocking news. Since 1966, it estimated, the number of nesting birds in the country has fallen from 210 million to 166 million – a decline of over 20%. It means that, in the past 46 years, we’ve lost breeding birds from our countryside at an average rate of a nesting pair every minute. Although some birds, such as the collared dove, which only started breeding in Britain in the 1950s, have fared well, many have struggled badly. The house sparrow (left) is among those species that have fallen the furthest, tumbling from around 30 million in the 1960s to about 10 million today. Changing land use and management of our countryside and seas were cited among the reasons for the overall decline, as was the changing climate. WWT is one of the organisations that contributes to the report, focusing in particular on waterbirds, and you can find out more about some of these declines and what WWT is doing about them on page 22.


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Credit where it’s due Last issue, we published a photo of whooper swans in a field (page 37), but neglected to run the photo credit. Apologies to WWT member Simon Stirrup, whose fine photograph it was.

Wigeon Post Send your letters on all things WWT or Waterlife to Wigeon Post, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT, a beam of light through the shell to illuminate the airspace and development inside, and to detect any problems early on.

Dear Waterlife

Dear Waterlife

I was again impressed reading issue 182 of Waterlife by the lengths the team is going to to save the remarkable spoon-billed sandpiper. Two points struck me. The first was the size of the bird’s feet. Presumably they won’t grow any more, enabling the rest of the bird to catch up? The second is more worrying. What is this practice of candling

referred to? Does it accelerate hatching? Graham Beevor, via email Phoebe Young, WWT Aviculture Warden, replies: Waterfowl and waders leave the nest within 36-48 hours after hatching. As a result their legs and feet are well developed so they can make their own way. Candling, meanwhile, is by no means dangerous. We use a cool-lume torch that emits no heat, to focus




Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

I was very encouraged to read of the ‘shining example’ of sustainability in action at Slimbridge (Oct/Dec 2012 issue), particularly since it responded to a question that arose for me earlier in the year. It reminded me of a very enjoyable visit to the London Wetland Centre a few months ago in the company of my son, when we wondered about your policy on matters of sustainability in general for your premises. Joy Way, via email Editor’s reply: You can read about some of them on page 21, Joy, and you can find more about our sustainability policies at sustainability-policy.

Spoonbilled sandpiper chick (left)

Dear Waterlife

When I first read about Watching Waterbirds some months ago I admit to feeling very sceptical. The publicity surrounding the book seemed a bit gimmicky. I envisaged an A4-sized publication with large, simple and well-spaced text with illustrations and few pages. Over the past few years, I have taught myself to recognise waterbirds with the help of many different guidebooks. I did not think this new book would be of much interest. How wrong I was! Browsing in a bookstore on a recent UK visit, I saw Watching Waterbirds on a shelf, picked it up and flipped through the pages. I immediately realised it was a must-buy. The small format and shiny pages with all those beautiful photos and the very well-qualified information have already

All the captions last time around were quotes from the beak of the peregrine, rather than from Simon King, and many of you felt that the bird really wanted Simon to get on with it. Pauline Vowles, perhaps getting into the mind of a bird whose enthusiasm is lagging at the end of a long tour, suggested: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.’ Our congratulations to Pauline. This time, we’ve got a picture from last issue of Arundel Centre Manager Olivia Iles peeking into a nest box. Can you think of an amusing caption? Send your entries to the address above for a chance to win a copy of Watching Waterbirds.


or email Letters may be edited for length



made it my favourite field book. Not only that, but I have found it great fun to read from cover to cover, too. I should have known better; it was, after all, published by WWT. Congratulations to WWT and Kate Humble and Martin McGill for a really super idea well carried out. Helen Eriksson, Nyköping, Sweden

Kate Humble and Martin McGill

Editor’s reply: You’re not alone in enjoying Kate and Martin’s book, Helen. It’s already had a second printing, and copies are still flying out the door. Our shops are making sure they’ve got plenty in stock, however. Kate is very generously donating her royalties for the book to WWT, so every copy that you buy for friends and family helps support our work.

Dear Waterlife

I wondered if this watercolour painting of a pair of hooded mergansers, which I did from a photo taken at Martin Mere, would be suitable for inclusion in the Gallery of Waterlife magazine. Roger Swailes, via email Editor’s reply: It most certainly is, Roger, and we send our thanks. If other readers have images they’d like published in this slot, do send them to the address opposite.

Dear Waterlife

A pair of unusual ducks, which we cannot identify [left], have recently moved into a small lake near us (Crowthorne, Berkshire). I wondered if you can identify them. Denis O’Sullivan, via email Phoebe Young, WWT Aviculture Warden, replies: The bird in the

forefront appears to me to be a fawn and white Indian runner. The further bird is possibly a variation on a call duck. These birds are domestic species and are certainly not strong flyers. It is quite common in communal areas to see domestic ducks freeranging beyond their homes and taking up residence in wild bird feeding areas.


• Waterlife


Join the most satisfied home insurance customers in the UK*

Recommended Home Insurance Provider

2010 | 2011 | 2012

Get 30% off our home insurance if you haven’t claimed in the last 4 years, whether you’re a new customer or an existing one.

For a quote call us on 0800 197 1285 or visit *Source Which? Recommended Home Insurance Provider survey June 2012


We do right by you

NFU Mutual is The National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Limited (No. 111982). Registered in England. Registered Office: Tiddington Road, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BJ. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. A member of the Association of British Insurers. For security and training purposes, telephone calls may be recorded and monitored.

the big issue


The more concrete we lay, the harder it is to manage the flow of rainfall once it hits the ground. But not if an exciting scheme, co-crafted by WWT, is rolled out IMAGINE AN ORDINARY STREET,

somewhere in the UK. It might be your street. There was a time, a few decades ago, when that street had back gardens and front gardens. Perhaps there was a field at the back, or an area of what was called wasteland where children once played. It was a street like many, many others across the length and breadth of the country. Over the years, it changed. The field was sold off and became a school for the local community. The wasteland was developed and became a shopping area, with parking spaces for 40 cars. The houses along that street changed very little from the outside, but many of their back gardens shrank in

the wake of fashions for paving and tiling. Some of the front gardens have gone completely, turned into concrete so that the owners can park his car and her car and still have space for their teenager’s motorbike. Life goes on just as it did, and many of the residents prefer their street the way it is now. They like the easy shopping and the convenience of parking, and they’re proud of the standing the new school has and the results their children are getting there. It’s a good, working modern street… but there’s just one problem, and several of them have had a word with the council about it. These days, whenever it rains, the street is rather prone to flooding.


• Waterlife

29 17


the big issue

The more we cover our land, the fewer places there are for water to go. Drains can cope when they share the duties of water absorption with fields and gardens. Now that they’re shouldering much more of the burden alone, they’re struggling. And that’s not all. Our increasing inability to hold water within the ground means that less of it is furnishing our plants, which support our insects, which feed our birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The nation’s biodiversity needs

water, and much of it is simply running away across car parks and garden forecourts into the drains. Furthermore, many of those storm drains lead straight into streams and rivers with no filtration, leading to polluted waterways which can bring disease and death to wildlife. In short: we need SuDS. Now, SuDS may not be the most endearing acronym of all time – it stands for Sustainable Drainage Systems – but it is certainly one of the most important.

Rain gardens (above); and raincourses (opposite, built in this photo by Robert Bray Associates and Islington Borough Council) are great ways of managing rainfall



Waterlife • APRIL/JUNE 2012

In 2012 and 2013, SuDS for Schools, a partnership between WWT, the Environment Agency and Thames Water, is being rolled out across 10 schools in the Pymmes Brook catchment of north London. It has been working with schools to develop interconnected ponds, reedbeds and rain gardens, all designed to mimic natural processes by catching and slowing the flow of rainwater to streams and rivers, while filtering it to remove pollution. The effect helps to create an inspiring environment for children, and provide great opportunities for them to learn about water and wetlands. The project is due for completion later this year, and by then, it should have helped improve the health of

‘It’s a springboard for action,’ says Andy Graham, WWT’s Head of Wetlands for People. ‘Through it, we want to maximise the benefits of SuDS for wildlife and people alike. It’s a great way to help manage flooding and improve water quality; but it also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to build lots of new wetlands, which we’re keen to make good for wildlife.’ THE GOVERNMENT ITSELF IS

aware of the need to handle such issues. Back in 2010, it passed the Flood and Water Management Act, in recognition of increasing threats from coastal and urban flooding, and the need to change our attitudes to managing surface

CREATURE FEATURES Here is just a selection of SuDS approaches for any built environment, which can aid water retention and help towards the creation of excellent wildlife habitats: Green roofs Living walls Permeable hard surfaces Water butts Rain gardens Ponds Wet grasslands


local rivers, reduced local flooding, increased local biodiversity and developed a stronger understanding of water. So why stop at schools? Why indeed. Supermarket car parks, motorway service stations, shopping centres and many more sites, as well as residential areas themselves, can all benefit from capturing rainfall using green roofs, rain gardens, wetlands and more. SuDS has the potential to be the antidote to urban flooding and provide lots of urban ‘blue’ spaces (the watery equivalent of green spaces). With this in mind, WWT, along with the RSPB, launched this year a complete dossier backing the roll-out of SuDS across the nation.


• Waterlife

31 19

Saving wetlands for wildlife & people

Together we can protect the future of these captivating creatures

build holts where they can breed safely improve wetland corridors so they can roam freely protect them from the threats they face


a free ticket to visit any WWT centre!

As a thank you, we will send you an adoption pack, which includes: an otter cuddly toy a  complimentary ticket to visit any WWT centre an adoption certificate a fact sheet/poster a  twice-yearly adopters’ newsletter

Adopt an otter today at or call 01453 891194/5


Adopt an otter today for only ÂŁ27 and help us to:


IT’S MUCH EASIER TO INTRODUCE SuDS BEFORE STARTING DEVELOPMENT THAN AFTERWARDS water. There is likely to be a massive housing shortfall in this country in the years ahead, which will have a knock-on effect to our land use, so we need to incorporate as many wildlife-friendly wetlands as possible. Through the Blueprint coalition, WWT was one of several groups to lobby for this act; now, through SuDS, it can help bring about the solutions. ‘There’s so much wildlife that can benefit,’ says Andy. ‘In fact, SuDS can also be a handy tool to help local groups contribute to national targets for priority habitats and species, such as ponds, reedbeds, grass snakes, damselflies, dragonflies, great crested newts, bats, harvest mice, water voles and many more. Using local biodiversity action plans to identify habitats and species most in need of conservation action means that SuDS can be designed to maximise biodiversity benefits.’ But it’s much easier to do this before a new development than after, as Andy points out. ‘While

retrofitting for SuDS is entirely possible, it is more expensive than building SuDS principles into new build,’ he says. ‘Ideally, SuDS should be built in at the design stage, or even earlier, at the master planning stage.’ And this is what the document is all about – encouraging local authorities to improve the connections between people and their environment. This sense of enhancing the life of a community is integral to what SuDS can achieve. Building wildlife-friendly SuDS in residential areas could bring the same benefits to the community as a communal garden or nature reserve might do. In addition, if it’s made to look

SuDS IN ACTION – JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF WATER MANAGEMENT AT WWT Many WWT buildings have downpipes that feed rain not to drains but to ponds, ensuring that as much water as possible is maintained and used for the greenery and biodiversity of the centres. There are other exciting initiatives, too. Castle Espie and Martin Mere both have green roofs incorporated into their main buildings, and London Wetland Centre has the same on three of its hides. In each case, the water runs off into ponds. At Slimbridge, there are water tanks built under the restaurant to catch rainwater, as well as a Rain Garden that feeds ponds and the surrounding area. Meanwhile, Welney has built a gravel permeable car park with grass swales to capture their rainwater.

attractive, with informative and useful signage, and if whoever builds the SuDS makes an effort to involve the community in decisions about managing it, then the people who live around it might like it and it’ll give them a good reason to work together. Inevitably, through being involved they’ll start to learn about the natural world and appreciate it a bit more. To make this a reality, therefore, local authorities need to ensure that SuDS, either new or retrofitted, result in wonderful open spaces full of wetland wildlife for people to enjoy and care about. And the nation’s drains will breathe a sigh of relief, too. If you know of a new development near you, or of an area that could benefit from SuDS, please let your local authority know, and point them to where they’ll be able to find the guidance document. It will provide them with all the information they need to meet new-build requirements and enhance biodiversity at the same time.


• Waterlife

33 21

private life

Long-tailed duck

Worse things happen at sea There’s a brand new mystery in the wildfowl world, and WWT is determined to find the answers. As Richard Hearn reveals, it’s time to ask… where have all the sea ducks gone? ASK PEOPLE TO NAME ENVIRONMENTS IN

which ducks can be found, and the answers are likely to focus on the familiar. A village pond, perhaps, or a riverbank, or a lake: some might even suggest a farmyard. There’s something rather comforting about all these images. For many, ducks conjure up non-threatening thoughts of rural idylls and happy childhood hours throwing bread crusts into the shallows. Yet for some ducks, home is a much more hostile environment. Think of the vast, grey, storm-lashed waters of our more northerly oceans, and it’s gulls and skuas that first come to mind, wheeling above the waves. But there are several species of duck that are quite happy to bob along under

such conditions and come the winter, when they migrate south, there’s an excellent chance of seeing them off our own coastlines. Or, at least, there was. Of the six key species of sea duck that we’re most likely to encounter in this country, some have suffered population declines of absolutely staggering proportions. Last year, surveys revealed that in the Moray Firth alone, the wintering populations of long-tailed ducks and velvet scoters had plummeted by more than 90% in just 10 years. At the turn of the century, several thousand velvet scoters could be seen in that part of north-east Scotland. Last year, there were fewer than 100 of them.


• Waterlife



Like many northerly breeding ducks, sea ducks fly south to Europe for the winter to find warmer waters, as their breeding areas are locked in ice all winter. But there is a growing body of evidence that shows some species are not flying as far because they don’t need to, as winter conditions further north become more suitable. We are not sure yet if sea ducks are also doing this, but this is possible, so the decline in UK numbers might simply be because the birds have found somewhere closer to their breeding areas to settle down for the winter. Sadly, however, the research coming in from other parts of northern Europe is showing similar patterns. The Baltic Sea, for example, which is the most likely alternative wintering site for the long-tailed duck and velvet scoter, has seen declines of nearly two-thirds in both species. In short, it would appear that these birds aren’t just going somewhere else,

they’re disappearing. This year, the two species were both put onto the IUCN Red List. The common eider, while still reasonably abundant, has been faring poorly, too, losing around a third of its Baltic population in the past two decades. We have to do something to arrest these declines. But the question is: what? To begin with, sea ducks are extremely difficult to study. Their pelagic nature makes them fairly inaccessible for much of the year: imagine trying to count thousands of birds strung out across European seas, moving in small groups sometimes miles from shore. Then there’s the issue of why they’re declining in the first place. We’ve plenty of theories, but, as yet, no hard data [see page 25]. We also know very little about their migratory routes. Well, at WWT we take the view that the difficult can be done in a day, but the impossible just takes a little longer. In the first instance, we’ve called on the African-Eurasian Waterbird

WE’RE ASKING FOR INPUT AND HELP IN DEVELOPING INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION ACTION Agreement (AEWA) for its support. We are currently reviewing what actions are needed for sea duck conservation in the UK over the next five to 10 years and will be promoting these needs later this year. We’re also calling for research at the birds’ breeding grounds, many of which are in northern Russia and other remote Arctic regions, into the causes of the declines. One of the first things to do is check the remaining areas where the birds might be wintering. There aren’t many unchecked sites left, but the waters around the Kola Peninsula in north-west Russia are one. Steller’s eider, a globally threatened sea duck that occasionally visits Britain, was thought to be in decline in Europe based on counts during the 1990s and early 2000s, until the ‘missing’ birds were found there, confirming a significant shift in winter distribution. There’s a possibility that some of the species causing concern might be there, too, although if they are, it is unlikely the region will support all of them. The number of long-tailed ducks that have gone ‘missing’ in the past two decades stands at around two million. Might they all be around Kola? It seems unlikely.

SIX TO SEE AT SEA The UK’s main sea ducks are:


Common scoter Wintering numbers: 100,000

Common eider Wintering numbers: 60,000

Long-tailed duck Wintering numbers: 11,000


Red-breasted merganser Wintering numbers: 8,400

Greater scaup Wintering numbers: 5,200

Velvet scoter Wintering numbers: 2,500

If you can’t get to the coast, you can still see some of these birds at WWT. You can see eider at all the centres that house collections, long-tailed duck and common scoter at Arundel, and greater scaup at Arundel and Washington. Some of the non-UK sea ducks are represented, too: Arundel houses harlequin ducks, while Barrow’s goldeneye can be found at most centres.


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Could some of the ‘missing’ birds be wintering around the Kola Peninsula in Russia? (above)

Some tagging has begun in Iceland and the Baltic to get a better understanding of sea duck movements. We’re also working on the development of an international action plan for the long-tailed duck. We’re working with partners to better support the International Waterbird Census to improve sea duck counts – there is a lack of coordination and


For further information on sea ducks, and to download your own sea duck identification guide, simply visit

Clockwise from top: velvet scoter, common eider, long-tailed duck

the frequency and extent of aerial surveys, the best method, needs to be increased. Meanwhile, here in the UK, we’re continuing our monitoring and studies of the country’s 50 or so breeding pairs of common scoter. We’re also conducting aerial surveys of winter populations, to assess their numbers and key sites in relation to proposed locations of offshore wind farms. There’s a vast amount of work to be done, but WWT is now helping to coordinate this at a European level and ensure we have the information we need on the UK’s sea ducks. The main hope is that we’ll be in time. These exciting and individual birds are able to withstand some of the harshest conditions faced by any animals, but even they can’t face extinction head on and win. We have to be there to help them. Richard Hearn is WWT’s Head of Species Monitoring.

THERE ARE SEVERAL CURRENT THEORIES AS TO THE CAUSES OF THE DECLINE IN SEA DUCK POPULATIONS: Nature is full of fascinating domino-like causes and effects, and changes in predatorprey relationships in the Arctic may be a major factor affecting sea duck numbers. We have evidence that long-tailed ducks are not breeding as successfully as before, but do not know why this is. One possibility is that lemmings and other rodents, important prey species for Arctic predators, are experiencing significant change to their regular boom and bust cycles. Normally, over a four-year period, numbers of these prolific breeders soar, crash and then soar again, which in turn affects the number of predators like Arctic Foxes. Young sea ducks, and many other waterbirds, are the main alternative prey species during low lemming years. The combination of milder and shorter winters, as a result of climate change, is predicted to decrease the regularity of lemming cycles and this may already be

affecting numbers of waterbirds as they become preferred prey. Gill nets are still a major mass fishing method in some parts of Europe, and sea ducks easily become entangled in these expanses of net, dying as by-catch. Increased shipping in the Baltic and other areas could be causing disturbance as well as added discharge, oiling birds’ feathers in the process. One theory questions whether the birds are falling victim, unusually, to human good practice. In recent years, many marine environments have been cleaned of human sewage, and there’s a possibility that the reduced sewage has led to a decrease in bivalves upon which the birds feed.


• Waterlife



The winners of the great WWT Photography Competition 2011-2012 have been chosen – and what a wonderful collection they are. Here are some of the 18 winners and runners-up, plus a heads-up on next year’s competition It’s been an amazing year, and the judges of the WWT Photography Competition 2011-2012, held in celebration of the Scott Antarctic Expedition Centenary and in association with Canon, had a mountain of exceptional photographs to pore over to make their decision. WWT members and visitors are clearly photo-mad, as there were more than 12,000 entries in total – a stunning selection. But there could only be a handful of winners – three for each of the six categories (one winner plus two runners-up) – and we’re showcasing some of them here. There was also an amazing prize for the Portfolio competition, for which competitors who submitted at least three photographs were

Title: Duckling on Ice By: Adam Jones Category: Young Photographer of the Year 26

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

entered. After the judging panel whittled the entrants down to a shortlist, the final winner was picked by Chris Packham, and you can see highlights from their portfolio by visiting So is that it? Not by any stretch of the imagination. While hearty congratulations are due to the winners of last year’s competition, the invitation to have a go at this year’s comes right now. The 2013 WWT Photography Competition will be under way early in the New Year. Check for the latest news. And in the meantime, why not whet your appetite by looking through some of last year’s winners and runners-up.

photo competition

MORE TO SEE For more winners, and how to enter this year’s competition, simply visit photography


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

photo competition


Title: Bottoms Up By: Richard Lort Category: People’s Choice WITH MANY THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING GENEROUS SPONSORS Wetland Wildlife Wetland Landscapes Wildlife & People World Wetlands Young Photographer People’s Choice Portfolio Photographer

Tatra Photography ( Lakeland Photo Holidays ( Regatta ( Much Better Adventures ( ( United Airlines ( I♥NY ( Mount Severn ( Kate Boats ( Exodus ( Quark Expeditions (

Title: Ramshorn Snail Close-up By: John Doherty Category: Wetland Wildlife Title: Egg Thief By: Wayne Davies Category: Wetland Wildlife Title: That’s the one By: Claire Sawyer Category: Wildlife & People Title: Serenity By: Hiranmoy De Category: World Wetlands


• Waterlife


me and my wetlands

TURN UP FOR THE BROOKS Up and down the country, volunteers are managing small wetland reserves for the good of local wildlife and communities alike. In the start of a new series, we take a look at a sterling example in South Gloucestershire


three brooks. The Stoke, Bradley and Patchway have been running their courses for longer than they might care to remember, and all the while the world has been steadily building around them. A motorway now passes over one of them. A superstore gazes out across another. Yet they continue on their way, their paths converging in a wooded area. Like so many of their kind, they carry with them part of the history of the nation, and play host to much of its natural history, too. Many such watery courses have been lost to us over recent decades, subsumed by the onslaught of modern Britain. These three survivors, then, are among those that now need to be cherished and protected. Fortunately, they are. The Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is a West Country haven, celebrating the wonderful connections between woodland and wetland, and mankind and wildlife, and protecting and enhancing this wild space for the benefit of all. And the best thing is that it is run entirely by local groups and organisations: South Gloucestershire Council, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)… and people like you. At WWT, we take a global view of wetland conservation, supporting, encouraging and advising upon protection around the world. We practise what we preach, too, and our nine reserves are all examples of just what can be achieved for wetland 30

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Kingfishers (below and near right), little grebes and mute swans (far right) all benefit from the hard work of volunteers

environments and wildlife with care, thought and effort. Yet we can’t do it alone. In the UK, there are thousands of wonderful places that need looking after and enhancing, and each of them can be of great benefit to the communities that surround them. Every time those communities take responsibility for their own patch of land, a further step towards the protection of the nation’s biodiversity is taken. Three Brooks is a perfect example. IN 2005, THE THREE BROOKS NATURE CONSERVATION

Group was formed to ensure that the 44-hectare patch that makes up this LNR was fully protected and enhanced. They looked at what needed to be done, rolled up their sleeves, and have been managing and enhancing this valuable stretch of land and water ever since. They’ve laid hedges and cleaned streams. They’ve been beating back the balsam and maintaining the ponds. The results are impressive. Kingfishers are now seen zooming low above the water surface along the brooks. Little grebes breed on the lake, alongside which water rail are seen every winter. Otter spraints have recently been found on the banks of the brooks, and last year, having previously noticed that local dogs while out for their walks had been passing rather close to the nesting mute swans, the group did a reed cut and built artificial nests on an island nestled in the lake. The swans immediately moved across to the island and explored their new home. The heavy rains and flooding of 2012 deterred them, but their interest is now there, and with better weather next year, they’ll be back. The flooding may have been a problem for the swans, but it was a blessing for the



Next Day Delivery on all orders ÂŁ25* and over


inhabitants of Bradley Stoke, for which Three Brooks acts as an ideal flood-relief area. This last anecdote is an excellent example of the way that Three Brooks sits so well alongside an urban environment. The reserve is effectively a part of Bradley Stoke, a new town built in the 1980s on what was once farmland. There are around 22,000 people living there in an area about six or seven times the size of the reserve itself. It’s a commuting town, which means that Three Brooks has the potential to be a perfect escape from the pressures of modern life. It runs a Green Gym, initiated by TCV, and regular events, such as fungi forays, coppicing and hedge-laying, for people to get involved in. ‘We encourage participation at all levels,’ says WWT member Rob Williams, one of the 15 regular members of the conservation group, all volunteers. ‘It all helps to ensure that the reserve remains a haven for the wildlife that’s there.’ This meeting of town and country began right at the outset. As Bradley Stoke was being constructed, it was



LET US KNOW Do you volunteer at a community wetland reserve in the UK that has a story to tell? Do write to us at the address on page 14. Meanwhile, for more information on Three Brooks, visit

discovered that great crested newts were living on land that was to be developed. Plans were made for their relocation, and the wetlands of Three Brooks were the solution. The newts took to their new home extremely well, and protection of their environment is one of the responsibilities of the conservation group.


example of a nature reserve in an urban environment, being used by nearby residents and cared for by local volunteers. Look after your nature, and it’ll look after you. Three years ago, the BBC Springwatch team was so impressed by what has been achieved, and the role the reserve plays, it sent Martin Hughes-Games to film a segment there (above, top left). Finally, there’s even a WWT connection with Three Brooks. Howard Davis, who once owned the land that has become the nature reserve, was the very same man who first showed Slimbridge to Peter Scott, way back in the 1940s. And we all know what happened as a result of that happy encounter. Three Brooks might operate on a different scale to Slimbridge, but the principles of wetland and, in this case, woodland protection for the benefit of wildlife and mankind alike are identical. JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD Slimbridge. Russia. Myanmar. China. These are the four hotspots that make up the truly global world of the spoon-billed sandpiper. Here, Geoff Hilton examines the state of play in the third of them: Myanmar


spoon-billed sandpipers? That’s not a question that’s often asked, but the answer is well worth a glance. If you rounded up every single one of the birds, from all the parts of the world that they currently inhabit, they’d probably struggle to tip the scales at much more than 10kg. That’s the equivalent of just a single mute swan. A piece of silly trivia? Actually, rather a pointed one. One of the main reasons the tiny birds are suffering such

flight path

a rapid decline is that they’re dying in the nets of hunters caught up in the need to provide food for the poor and struggling families of the region. Waders as tiny as spoon-billed sandpipers, of course, are barely worth a hunter’s effort (their market price is no more than 10p, making the world population worth £30 in the markets of Myanmar), but they’re not actually the main target. On the coasts of Myanmar, where the birds spend their winters, they share the shallows with plumper grey and golden

Above: A calm day off the coast of Myanmar

plovers, and even larger curlews and black-tailed godwits. There are probably at least a quarter of a million waders in Myanmar’s Gulf of Mottama (formerly known as Martaban) alone and some of them help provide supplemental protein and a few livelihoods to the largely agricultural and fishing communities of the area. Hunting is done with large nets, spread on poles across the birds’ routes into their roosts. It’s mainly the larger waders the hunters are after, but it’s the spoon-billed sandpipers that are paying the ultimate price, JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


ensnared for no reason other than that they happen to be flying along the same route. When there are so few of them in the first place, it’s no wonder they’re disappearing at such a rate. The best estimate suggests that the global population is declining at 26%... each and every year.

Above: Returning from a survey


already know that nearly 30 spoon-billed sandpipers – around 10% of the world’s population – now reside at Slimbridge, protected by WWT’s Conservation Breeding Unit. Those birds are the potential saviours of the species should it become extinct in the wild. You’ll also have read about our ‘headstarting’ programme in eastern Russia where the birds breed. This rear-and-release process involves collecting eggs, hatching them in safety, and releasing the young once they’re fledged and ready to cope with the outside world. It’s a delicate process, but when it


Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

works we achieve a higher survival rate than the wild parents – faced with all the hazards of the Russian tundra – can manage. In fact, survival to fledging through headstarting is six times higher than in the wild. Yet the conservation of spoon-billed sandpipers is a four-cornered affair. The headstarting at the breeding grounds and the Slimbridge ark are the first two corners – the wintering grounds are the third. In 2010, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force was formed to coordinate the conservation actions that are needed to save this precious bird and, coordinated by Christoph Zöckler on behalf of Birds Russia, the Task Force, BirdLife International partner BANCA (Biodiversity And Nature Conservation Association) and RSPB have been working hard in Myanmar to tackle the problems the tiny birds face. Which is why I travelled to the country last year. Early in my time there, I had a few uncertainties. A group of us were counting waders in a stretch of the Gulf of Mottama, and the work had started slowly. As our first day drew to a close, we’d seen just a handful of spoon-billed sandpipers. We retired to a café to compare notes. Here we were, in a poor nation in which the fate of a tiny bird probably meant very little in comparison with the momentous political and social changes taking place, and we’d hardly seen any of

Local gains

Last year’s surveys have shown that there are pockets of hope for the spoon-billed sandpiper in Myanmar. Field surveys conducted at Nan Thar Island in the Arakhan region revealed a total of 25 spoon-billed sandpipers on 20 January 2012 compared to 22 the


flight path

year before and only 14 the year before that. This increase follows the cessation of hunting in the area following the Task Force’s intervention three years ago, and the start of ecotourism to supplement livelihoods of local people.

those tiny birds either. We talked about the possibly Herculean effort that lay ahead, and I sat back in my chair. I noticed two posters on the wall and glanced over at them. One was of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s best-known daughter, who had been released from house arrest a year previously and who had now re-entered politics. On the opposite wall was the second poster. I looked at it and smiled. It was all about the spoon-billed sandpiper. There really is a sense of a potential bright new dawn in Myanmar. The politics of the nation, and its international reputation, have been famously grim in recent years. Yet with new political freedoms, the official removal of press censorship and more, Myanmar has hope for a brighter future. There is an exciting mood of change in the country. An excellent example of this came some months ago, when the country stopped work on a dam on the Irrawaddy river. Originally agreed five years ago by the military junta, the cancellation gathered international attention, because the reasons weren’t financial, but driven by local issues. Village communities that line the Irrawaddy, who had not been consulted in the original discussions, were protesting at

Above: Sandpipers and people sharing the strands

the building of the dam, and the new government was now listening to them. In my time there, I’ve seen first-hand why the government is starting to listen to these village groups about the dam. Many of them are very long-established, with strong social structures. There’s a cohesion across the network of villages in the areas I’ve visited, and they – understandably – don’t take kindly to being told what to do. Clearly, the government is starting to pay attention to what they say. All of which helps provide a background to the work with the spoon-billed sandpipers. WWT’s Myanmar partner organisation, BANCA, has been able to talk directly to the villages and get to the heart of the problem. WWT was able to help facilitate these talks by raising funding from the BBC Wildlife Fund, and I’ve been able to observe the excellent work that’s been carried out – work that’s continuing thanks to funding from the UK government’s Darwin Initiative and RSPB. The mood of openness has also helped discussions at governmental level. ‘In the years ahead, we have to be a different country,’ one senior civil servant told me. It was with this thinking in mind that they JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


DREAM OF SEEING ONE OF THESE? The scaly-sided merganser, unmistakable with its striking red bill and delicate markings that give it its name, is something many dream of seeing. It breeds in a remote area of far north-east Asia, and so the chance to witness this endangered and spectacular duck perhaps provides the ultimate wildfowl-watching experience. But with the threats the birds face from logging and hunting in their breeding grounds, what if you never had the chance to see them – what if they disappeared forever?

WWT works to stop such things happening, working with local communities to implement conservation action plans for endangered species. Whether big or small, gifts in wills ensure WWT’s work continues into the future, so that birds like the scaly-sided merganser can be enjoyed by you and generations to come. To find out more about legacies and receive your free booklet, contact our Legacy Manager, David Salmon, by calling 01453 891150, emailing, or using this form. You can also visit





Saving wetlands for wildlife & people

Return to: David Salmon, WWT, Freepost (GR1128), Slimbridge, Gloucester GL2 7BR

Registered charity in England & Wales, no. 1030884 and Scotland, no. SC039410

flight path

contacted BANCA. The government wants YOU CAN HELP to turn the Gulf of Mottama into a We still need vital Ramsar site – a truly exciting idea. funding if we are to protect this They needed advice on how to do it. little bird for years to come. Please visit and give SO THERE WE WERE, COUNTING what you can. And why not visit sandpipers. After a shaky start on our blog – saving-spoon-billedthat first day, we ended the five-day – for more survey with more than 100 sightings up-to-the-minute information – though in the vast unmapped flatness and great photographs of the Mottama mud, it’s impossible to say how many were double counted. That doesn’t sound like very many, but it may be a third of the world population. There’s been a lot of work in the Gulf to tackle the hunting of waders, developing public pride for wildlife in the local villages, and helping them forge a variety of new livelihoods. The initial signs are that the whole process is working. Hunting of waders seems to have fallen dramatically in the Gulf in these past couple of years, and has probably been eradicated completely at some spots. Furthermore, at the time of writing this article, the indications were good that the Gulf of Mottama would indeed gain Ramsar status by 2 February 2013 – which just happens We’ll be reporting on the work on the East Asian Top: Life in Myanmar to be World Wetlands Day. flyway in a future issue, and if, along with all our partners It could all be very timely. Development may bring in this extraordinary tale of international cooperation, we many benefits to Myanmar, but the sort of uncontrolled can pull off the ultimate safety for this precious little bird, development experienced in some parts of Asia could it won’t just be an impressive trick… it’ll be a conservation come at a heavy cost to the environment on which people miracle. With your continued help, we could just do it. and wildlife depends. If ever there was a time to do as much as possible to ensure a future for overwintering Geoff Hilton is WWT’s Head of Species Research. The work sandpipers and many other wetland species, it’s now. in Myanmar is made possible through funding from the You may remember that I mentioned the four corners BBC Wildlife Fund, the UK government’s Darwin of the spoon-billed sandpiper world. The birds at Initiative, RSPB and the support of all our members. Slimbridge and the headstarting in Russia are both going well, and the signs are truly positive that a real difference Teamwork is being made on the coast of Myanmar. Conservationists from ArcCona, BTO, RSPB The fourth corner, however, is perhaps the hardest of and WWT from the UK have all joined the them all. Many of the stopover sites that the sandpipers BirdLife International partner in Myanmar, use to travel from breeding to wintering grounds and BANCA, to protect the spoon-billed back again are relatively unknown. We know they pass sandpiper in the Gulf of Mottama. through Russia, Korea, China, Vietnam and Thailand. The field surveyors of 2012 were accompanied We know that loss of intertidal habitat due to reclamation by members of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway is a problem for them. And we are increasingly aware that Partnership Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force from some get trapped and poisoned on the way. All the work Japan, Bangladesh and China, who shared their knowledge and experience. we’re doing in the other three corners has the potential to be undermined by these flyway threats. JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife






Water wheels

Ten things you (probably) didn’t know about life at WWT

High as a kite Red kites have become an ever increasing sight at National Wetland Centre Wales in recent years, and this autumn they were frequently seen wheeling above the reserve. Unlike most of the nation’s kites, however, these are probably from ancient stock. By the 1980s, kites had become so heavily persecuted that they could only be found in their remaining strongholds in Wales. Around 20 years ago, birds were reintroduced into various parts of Britain, such as the Chilterns and north Scotland, and further reintroductions took place elsewhere in following years. The Welsh birds, however, are likely to be from the original native birds, and many birdwatchers will only include these individuals on their annual ticklist.

In the 50th anniversary year of James Bond, Caerlaverock’s Learning Manager, Brian Morrell, could well have done with Roger Moore’s famous submersible from The Spy Who Loved Me. He was on his way to a meeting at Caerlaverock, when he encountered some flooding. It turned out to be deeper than he thought – the water covered the bonnet, and the car died. And the meeting he was late for? It was to discuss Flooders Trail, the very route that drowned his car.



Send out some swans Still got a few thank you cards to send out after Christmas? Or just want to get in contact with friends and family as the new year gets under way? You can now do so with this delightful series of greetings cards, all based on original paintings by Sir Peter Scott, each of them exclusive to WWT. There are six designs to choose from, including Bewick’s swans and barnacle geese, and they’re available in our shops, or online at


Keep ’em rolling! The first bittern arrived to spend winter at London Wetland Centre on 20 October last year, and two weeks later, BBC Breakfast’s Alex Deakin booked in to broadcast that day’s weather report from the centre. They filmed alongside the sheltered lagoon and all went well. Then Alex handed back to the studio, the cameras were turned off... and, seconds later, the bittern flew past. Perhaps he didn’t like the sound of the upcoming weather!


Learning centres How many school children do you think have visited WWT centres over the years? A few hundred thousand? More than a million? The actual figure is a staggering 2.2 million, and the number is still growing. This year, in fact, the experience is expanding further. As of September 2012, WWT has launched a new Free School Visits Scheme, open to all UK state schools with 20% or more children on free school meals. For details, visit


top ten Life cycle The three female Asian short-clawed otters, born last summer at Martin Mere, have now been named. Two of them – Belle and Flick – were so titled by the wardens, while the third name was chosen by the public, with the favourite being Penny (pictured). The reason was a sporty one: the youngsters were born on 13 July, during the Olympics, and Penny is a fond derivative in honour of Victoria Pendleton.


Which dowitcher? What’s better than one long-billed dowitcher? How about two? Last year, the bird that arrived at Slimbridge stayed for several weeks, before disappearing. One was then seen at Llanelli, and it was thought that the original bird had made its way there. Then, while the Llanelli bird was still on site, the Slimbridge bird returned, proving that WWT centres are the place to be.


Thank you to everyone who has signed our petition calling for an end to the use of lead shot in shooting and raised awareness of the damage that spent lead shot causes to wild birds. Your support has prompted the RSPCA, RSPB and Humane Society International/UK to add their voices. And in November, the government said that a working group of experts, set up in 2010 to look into the issue, will present its findings this coming spring.


There’s always excitement at Slimbridge in October, as staff wait on the first of the Bewick’s swans to return. Humbug was the first, on the 27th, followed by Lucius and Aoki, with their new cygnet. Lucius has wintered here since 2000, and is the parent, with his previous mate Coletta, of the famous Crinkly. After Coletta died, he partnered with Aoki, and they have had four cygnets.


Men of history In October, Sir David Attenborough paid a rather special visit to Slimbridge. He was there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a BBC show called Guest at Slimbridge, hosted by Sir Peter Scott. And guess who was that guest back in 1962? Yes, Sir David himself. He revisited the studio, where he had sat with his old friend, looking out of the window at the wildfowl on the Rushy Pen, all those years ago.



• Waterlife



Lead the way

First returns

explore with BBC’s Steve Backshall

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



Have you read the article earlier in this issue about sea ducks? I think they’re super birds. Like a lot of the animals that amaze me, they’re tough and strong, yet with a real beauty about them. And perhaps the most impressive of them all are the eider ducks. Let’s take a closer look at them. There’s only one type of eider duck that frequently visits the UK – the common eider – but there are two others that pop in from time to time. The king eider and Steller’s eider aren’t often seen in this country, but they’re a real treat when they do visit. Unlike most sea ducks that can sometimes be found in bodies of fresh water, eider are entirely marine birds, preferring to spend their lives in salt water. Our own common eider breeds off the more northerly coasts of England and Scotland – in fact, in Northumberland, one of its favourite coastlines, it’s sometimes known as Cuddy’s duck, Cuddy being a nickname for St Cuthbert, the patron saint of the county, who gave them protection way back in the year 676! In winter, however, you can see eider ducks as far south as Cornwall. And, of course, several WWT centres house them, too. Do come along and admire them, won’t you. Until next time… 42

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

A WARMING STORY Have you heard this joke? How do you get down from an elephant? You don’t – you get it from a duck. ‘Down’ is the name given to the soft breast feathers of eider ducks that they use to line their nests to make their ducklings comfortable. Some time ago, we humans realised that those feathers could make us cosy, too, so we started to use them to fill our quilts – and gave them the name ‘eiderdown’. These days, most eiderdowns are filled with feathers from domestic ducks or geese instead, or even man-made alternatives. Another amazing thing about eider ducks is their call. It’s a lovely, yet rather funny, sound. You know the type of noise you make when someone tells you a bit of gossip? OooOOOooh! Imagine dozens of ducks all making that noise together. It’s bound to put a smile on your face.


Ida the eider is returning to the island that she was hatched on, to rear her own brood. But which route across the ocean should she take? The answer’s on page 63.

kids’ zone

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Below you can see the other two species of eider to visit the UK – king eider and Steller’s eider! At first glance, the two pictures look the same, but there are, in fact, five differences between them. Can you spot them all? Answers on page 63.

GOGGLE-EYED There is actually a fourth member of the eider family, although it has never been recorded wild in the UK. It’s the spectacled eider, and it breeds off the coastlines of Alaska and Siberia. It’s not hard to see how it gets its name. Those white eyepatches, set off against the yellow-green head, really do look like glasses, and I always think they make the bird look rather like a teacher I once had. Like all the eider species, the female has none of the glamour and glory of the male, and has a chocolatey-brown plumage instead. You can, however, just about make out that she, too, appears to be wearing goggles.

FAMILY COMES FIRST Because eiders often return to breed in the same places, they get to know each other quite well, and the females build up strong social structures. In fact, they get on so well with each other, that they’ve been recorded laying eggs in the nests of members of their own family. This strong family spirit continues even after the eggs have hatched. Females often team up and share the duties of rearing the ducklings among themselves, rather like one big crèche. JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


The Grant Arms Hotel

Guest Comments “ Absolutely great!! The team here go the extra mile!! ” Mr & Mrs Robb “ What a fabulous surprise to find a forward thinking hotel

who have their fingers on the wild pulse of the place and can help you make the most of your stay. Nick Baker


” “ A splendid and unique hotel. ” Bryan Bland


Wildlife Breaks in the Highlands The Scottish Highlands are home to an abundance of wildlife throughout the year. A wander in the hills could result in sightings of Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan, Mountain Hare, Snow Bunting and Red Deer. Through ancient Scots Pine forests you might spot Red Squirrel, Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit. Spring and summer offer close-up views of fishing Osprey, as well Red-throated and Black-throated Divers and Slavonian Grebe at local lochs. You could also explore the Moray Firth, looking for the likes of Eider, Gannet and Bottlenose Dolphin. A stay at the historic Grant Arms Hotel in the charming country town of Grantown-on-Spey provides access to the Bird Watching & Wildlife Club - established to help you make the most of your wildlife break.

The local knowledge of the BWWC Team ensures that you can make the most of your holiday whilst remaining free to create your own itinerary. Guests receive free maps and guides beforehand so they can plan their stay. For Guests who want escorted trips, the BWWC Team can recommend local guides, whether you are after a half-day wildlife safari or want to hire a guide for your entire stay. For Guests who prefer to explore on their own, the BWWC Team can provide information about local wildlife and where’s best to see it, as well as giving you suggestions for great days out. All Guests have access to the Club Room (our wildlife information centre), our Natural History Library, the Osprey Suite (our lecture theatre) and can take advantage of the BWWC’s free programme of Guided Walks, Talks, Wildlife Briefings, Quizzes and Film screenings.

Magnificently situated for a wildlife break in the Highlands, the Grant Arms Hotel offers high quality comfortable accommodation, wonderful food and friendly staff.

What’s included: O








Extensive Breakfast Menu (Early Birder breakfasts for those heading out first-thing!) Afternoon Tea & Coffee Fine Scottish Dining After Dinner Tea & Coffee BWWC Programme of Events WiFi/use of Guest Computer Complimentary Daily Newspaper All Rooms en-suite with Tea and Coffee making facilities, TV, Hair Dryer and Toiletries.


VALENTINES BREAK Mon 11th - Fri 15th February 2013 4 nights

£220pp DB&B

SPECIAL EASTER BREAK Fri 29th March - Tues 2nd April 2013

4 nights

£235pp DB&B

Facilities include: O











Extensive Public Areas Bar Club Room Lounge Library Information Centre 80 Seat Lecture Theatre Boot Wash Drying Room Laundry Room Dogs welcome.



By Road: Grantown is situated just off the A9 Edinburgh-Inverness road. By Train: The nearest station is Aviemore (14 miles) on the First ScotRail Edinburgh - Inverness line. By Plane: Inverness Airport (30 miles) Flights from most major UK airports. Other destinations available from Aberdeen Airport (75 miles).


To make the most of the wildlife watching opportunities available we recommend you have a car.















Price per person. Excludes Christmas, New Year and other Special Events. Other lengths of stay are also available - please contact us for prices. Single, Twin, Double, Family & Wheelchair Accessible Rooms available. Room supplements £pppn: Club Room £10, Superior Room £20, Four Poster Room £30.

Special Rates for Clubs, Tours and Conferences. Terms and conditions apply.



Winter WWT centres take on a new life of their own during the winter months, filled with visiting ducks, geese and swans, and many other special treats. Here’s a guide to just a few of the highlights to look out for


The old joke about identifying stoats and weasels – a weasel is weaselly recognised, but a stoat is stoatally different – isn’t, frankly, particularly helpful. Winter, on the other hand, can be. During the warmer months, the best way to tell stoats and weasels apart is by checking the tail as one dashes past. If it’s got a black tip, it’s a stoat. During winter, though, some stoats, mainly the females, shed their summer fur and develop a lighter coat, while keeping the black tail tips. The further north you travel in the country, the whiter the coat – known as ermine – can tend to be. Weasels, however, do not turn white in the UK.



During the winter, it’s always worth scanning gull flocks for the occasional rarity, and Iceland gulls, which breed in the Arctic, but occasionally winter in Britain, are among the highlights. The pale plumage and white wing tips are key points of identification, and they can be told apart from the similar glaucous gulls by comparing them with herring gulls: where glaucous gulls are larger than our familiar seasiders, Iceland gulls are slightly smaller. Iceland gulls tend to prefer coastal resorts, but have been seen at inland sites, such as London Wetland Centre.


Most birdwatchers are instantly familiar with blue and great tits, particularly as these colourful birds are usually the first to check out peanuts and other food hanging from the nation’s garden bird tables. The tiny coal tit, however, is less well known, yet its subtle shades and perky character are well worth looking out for, and winter is the best time to get a good look. Conifers are its favourite habitat, but it’s more likely to join large tit flocks during the colder months across all sorts of environments in the search for food. Look out for a distinctive white patch on the back of its neck, a pinkish-yellow tinge to its flanks and a surprisingly bold attitude for one so small.


Mallard, teal, shoveler… there are many species of duck with us all year round. However, you’ll see more in the winter, because our resident populations are boosted by visitors from Europe. It’s the best time to practise ID, particularly the gadwall; in the UK there are fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs in the summer, but 25,000 wintering birds. At a distance, the gadwall looks grey, with a white ‘sugar lump’ patch, or speculum, on the wing. Closer inspection reveals a subtle speckled and barring effect across the flanks.


• Waterlife




waxwings. That might sound painful, but irruptions are actually sudden increases often caused by a change in normal environmental balances. In the case of waxwings, when their population in their summer breeding grounds of northern Europe is too great for the food available, they fly south for the winter in greater numbers than usual… and the UK often benefits. During irruption years, one or two WWT centres are often graced with these sleek, elegant birds as they feed on bright berries such as rowan. Last autumn, however, they seemed to be everywhere. At Caerlaverock, they were seen on the reserve itself, while up to 200 of them were recorded at one time down the road at Dumfries. By late November, flocks of them were skirting around the edge of Martin Mere, while at Washington they were present throughout most of the month, providing great opportunities for photographers. The story didn’t finish there, however. Around the same time, the birds were seen around Llanelli, suggesting that National Wetland Centre Wales would be their next stop. And at London Wetland Centre, where waxwings are a most uncommon sight, half a dozen of them dropped in at the beginning of the month. 46

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Unusual climatic conditions resulted in some fascinating finds at WWT centres last autumn

Waxwing (above)



1 4

5 6


KEY TO MAP 1 Castle Espie 2 Caerlaverock 3 Washington 4 Martin Mere 5 Welney 6 National Wetland Centre Wales 7 Slimbridge 8 London Wetland Centre 9 Arundel

8 9

At many of the centres the autumn colours came a little later than usual, and some of the winter birdlife was therefore a little slow to arrive. At National Wetland Centre Wales the wildfowl took a little longer to accumulate, but as the month was drawing to a close, numbers started to rise, including 450 pintail and 300 wigeon. Welney was also recording strong waterbird numbers by this time, with some 3,000 wigeon on the


down your way

Welney Washes alone, plus 245 black-tailed godwits and 250 tufted ducks. Attentive birdwatchers were often treated to the sight of pink-footed geese passing through during October, and Washington and Welney both recorded the best part of 100 of them on 22 October. Welney also became the temporary home of an astonishing 13 cranes, providing visitors with jaw-dropping sights and sounds as they bugled and flew past. There were many unusual patterns of insect activity, too. At Castle Espie, a small tortoiseshell butterfly was still putting in appearances late in the year, while Caerlaverock enjoyed late common darters. In mid-November Slimbridge was able to record a migrant hawker, several butterflies and an active wasps’ nest. All this invertebrate activity may well have been behind the sightings of pipistrelles at Washington deep into the month. Meanwhile, the weather played havoc with some of the agricultural work: Martin Mere had to buy in extra hay bales to feed its cattle, as they were only able to gather 30 instead of the usual 200. At Washington, a redstart was still in residence during October, delaying its southerly flight longer than usual, while the fungi on the reserve,

Pintail (above); Cetti’s warbler (below)

particularly in Hollowood, made the most of the wet conditions and put on fabulous displays. As the wet winter kicked in, the centres were teeming with wonderful birdlife. A bittern and a hawfinch were among the Slimbridge highlights, while the massed ranks of wildfowl and waders out across the reserve reminded some members of staff of a phrase Sir Peter Scott used to use during bumper years: the Slimbridge Serengeti. When birds appear in great numbers, it’s always worth keeping your eyes peeled for hidden treats, and that rule still holds good at the other end of winter. At Arundel, for example, anyone paying close attention to the flocks of long-tailed tits that use the reserve would have spotted the occasional Cetti’s warbler among them. Meanwhile, when the pools froze over, it was always worth checking twice just in case a water rail emerged. You didn’t have to look too hard to see the colourful jays at Welney, however, as their bold colours and calls were regularly heard as they moved in towards the feeding stations due to the lack of acorns elsewhere. All in all, it was a rich start to the winter. For more of the highlights, turn the page where all will be revealed at the local WWT centres down your way. JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife


DOES SITTING MAKE YOUR BACK ACHE? USE the MEDesign BACKFRIEND® And join more than half a million people in 37 countries who have used the MEDesign Backfriend

at Home



It is a back support designed by an orthopaedic consultant to support both the lumbar and thoracic regions of the spine and give you greater support and comfort wherever you sit. It makes a bad seat good - and that is what you need. ●

British product exported to 37 countries Made by MEDesign® Ltd in the UK ● More than 500,000 users ● Height adjustable back ● Available in 7 colours ● 12 month guarantee ● 14 day home trial ● Light & portable ● For use in any seat


Nothing could be that good. J B I have had a back problem all my life, thanks to a birth injury. Over the years (I am now 70) arthritis has set in and made the problem worse. I only wish that I had bought my Backfriend when I first saw it advertised, instead of thinking nothing could be that good. It can and it is.

Your service is fantastic. So is the Backfriend. H J

We also supply more than 100 other products related to back pain. Ask for a copy of the MEDesign Back Pack catalogue.

Ortho Pillows



Sock Stocking Aid

Kneeler Seats

Walking Sticks

Bathroom Steps

Patient Hand Blocks

FOR FULL DETAILS AND YOUR FREE BACK PACK CATALOGUE CALL us on 01704 542373 or E-MAIL to or POST the coupon to MEDesign Ltd, FREEPOST, Southport, PR8 1BR

Address: Post Code:



down your way


How do you send an eel to sleep? The technique is to lie the eel on its back, and stroke its sides. It will then take a large gulp of air, which sends it into a deep snooze. This is useful to know if you’re transporting 180 slippery eels (which have a painful bite), just as Arundel did last autumn. They were dropping water levels around the entrance lake in preparation for the next phase of the Arun Riverlife project, and needed to relocate the eels to other ditches on the reserve, with assistance from the Environment Agency.



There were regular sightings in the winter of water rails, particularly through the reedbed and using the feeding stations set up for them. It’s always worth pausing in the winter as you enter the reserve, on the off chance that you might hear one delivering its unusual squealing call. The wet grassland is continuing to develop nicely, as evidenced by the highest ever recorded numbers of snipe at the reserve. On one day alone, 43 were counted.

There have been plenty of sightings of kingfishers across the scrape, providing great views for visitors. By late November, the first winter teal had started to gather there, with growing numbers of wigeon and pintail. The Meadow Maze was a favourite with finches during the early winter, and on one occasion at least 30 goldfinches were spotted feeding on the old seed heads there.

Young eels


• Waterlife


down your way



There was an intriguing occurrence at the Scottish centre this winter. The barnacle geese returned from their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle in September as usual, but brought with them only about 50% of their usual clutches of goslings. Had they had a poor breeding season? Did the weather harshen quicker than usual, catching some goslings out before their migration? Were fox predation levels higher? Birds can quickly recover from dips such as these, as long as the pattern doesn’t continue: the centre will check next year’s arrivals and hope that numbers bounce back up again.


This winter, the site’s Limekiln Observatory could be seen in all its glory, cast against wonderful skies. The kiln is a modern take on an old building that used to house the kiln when the site was a brick and lime works at the end of the Victorian era. Now the state-of-the-art building, which boasts glass on three sides and incorporates a composting toilet, is the venue for birdwatching and weddings alike. It’s a must-see when you visit the centre.


With plenty of rain falling during the summer and autumn, the wet fields were excellent for wildfowl, which dispersed more than usual. In among the 2,000 and more teal was one green-winged teal, which arrived in November and stayed for some weeks. Other late-November highlights included 700 wigeon, 1,500 pintail, 1,500 shelduck, 8,000 oystercatcher, 2,000 knot, 800 lapwing, 3,000 golden plover and at least 40 snipe.

The dawn flights were particularly impressive over the winter, taking place as they did across highly colourful skies. They were each well attended, and provided marvellous opportunities for photography. It’s always exciting to find something special, no matter where it might be. In September, for example, wardens found a September thorn moth… in the gents’ toilets.


Barnacle geese (left); Limekiln Observatory (above)

The first light-bellied brents arrived in late August, but the total of 5,000 that arrived a few days later was unusual and thought to be due to strong northerlies. Whooper swans started arriving in early October with flocks of up to 320 seen either on the estuary or in fields around Comber. Meanwhile, kingfishers were showing well on the freshwater lagoon.

Strong tides helped push waders into the peninsular salt marsh with a record number of grey plover (17) recorded on 31 October. During November oystercatchers became a regular sight around the old brickworks grassland. A Slavonian grebe was seen mid November from the Limekiln Observatory – a species not often seen on this side of the lough.


• Waterlife


Capel Manor College Fed up with

Apply for

Start on a COURSE MID-YEAR in



Shanice McClymont Level 3 National Diploma in Horticulture: “Going to Capel Manor is the best thing I ever did. My course was equivalent to A Levels and enabled me to get on to a course at a brilliant university. Before I found out about gardening I didn’t know it could offer you career options. When I first left school I never thought I would end up in such a good position.”


Antony Harper, Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Trees & Timber: “Work-based learning with an apprenticeship has been the best way for me to learn my trade. I’m more practical than academic. I now work for a great company, Glendale Countryside, in my ideal career with lots of opportunity to continue my training.”

Last September most courses were over subscribed. You have the chance to secure your place now by early application for the course of your choice. To request a copy of our FULL-TIME PROSPECTUS 2013–14, ring Admissions on 08456 122122 or email

NEW VOCATIONAL QUALIFICATION IN LAND-BASED INDUSTRIES, starting February 2013. For further details and to apply ring Admissions on 08456 122122 or email

To apply for an apprenticeship ring 08456 122122 ext 1245 or email


Capel Manor College

growing your potential in the NATURAL WORLD Centres across London in: ENFIELD, REGENT’S PARK, GUNNERSBURY PARK, CRYSTAL PALACE PARK and at NEWHAM COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: 08456 122122 | Email: Combining qualifications with experience

down your way


Autumn came rather late to London last year, but when it arrived, it brought with it some amazing colours, as shown in this splended photo of the entrance lake (below), taken by David Hardman. The centre is now 12 years old, and the vegetation has matured extremely well, providing great cover for the wildlife, as well as beautiful images such as this.


There were some great bird highlights during that period, too. On 20 October a marsh harrier was sighted, while on 6 November a red-throated pipit put in an appearance. Bearded tits dropped by on their way through the very next day. Winter thrush passage was particularly impressive. On one November day, 260 redwing were counted, and an amazing 1,020 fieldfare, all chattering loudly as they passed through the reserve. On 2 February, World Wetlands Day, TV personality Mike Dilger will be concluding his mammoth ‘nine centres in nine days’ challenge at London (see page 66). He’ll be doing the

site an extra favour, too: opening the refurbished Headley Hide. Better seating, bigger windows, binoculars and a bird feeding station are being set up, providing a great opportunity for those new to birdwatching to get good, close looks at well-known birds. London has recently launched its own series of monthly podcasts for you to download. Celebrity interviews, discussions about birds, explanations of reserve management and much more will all steadily build up. To access the podcasts, simply visit the London page on the website and click on ‘Diary’.


It started in May, and took place daily through to October. This year, it’ll be back for even longer. Yes, the boat safari has been a great success at Martin Mere in its inaugural year, and no fewer than 2,784 rides were taken in all. It’ll be kicking off again even earlier this year, with the first launch in mid-March, providing even more opportunities to see wetland wildlife up close, such as the little grebes, three pairs of which bred and showed well to boat-trippers last year.



Entrance lake, London Wetland Centre (left); little grebe (above)

The boat safari was just one of the great attractions that helped Martin Mere earn its first ever Best Sustainable Tourism Award 2012 from the Visit Lancashire Tourism Board. Another highly popular event was autumn’s Animal Magic, which was enjoyed by nearly 5,000 visitors last year. Winter wildlife was building nicely by late November, with some 5,000 or more teal gracing the reserve. They made a wonderful sight, not least for the four peregrines in the area, which took the

opportunity for a few meals. Scaup, brambling and siskin had arrived on the reserve by the same time. It was a bumper year for pink-footed geese. There were estimates that up to 80,000 of them were in the area by November, while at least 10,000 were already using the reserve. The beaver kit born last year has now been named. He’s called Nutkin, in honour of the broadcaster Terry, who sadly died last year. Meanwhile, all the centre’s beavers had their annual health check and passed with flying colours.


• Waterlife


Reader offer


Celebrating 25 years of supporting conservation more than just a wildlife holiday from the Galapagos to the Isle of Mull from Tanzania to the Danube Delta expert leaders

We’ve got you covered

Annual travel insurance from just £45.95 For peace of mind when abroad, travel insurance is a must. That’s why CTC Travel Services is bringing you this great-value multi-trip travel insurance offer.

small friendly groups worldwide destinations including UK short breaks and Europe by train

discover a new world

Annual UK & Europe premiums from just... Individual £45.95 - Couple £61.95 - Family £71.95 Annual Worldwide premiums from just... Individual £54.95 - Couple £74.95 - Family £84.95 .COVER DOES MATTER which is why we provide you with an extensive level of cover including £10m medical emergency expenses and repatriation u.Up to 31 days duration on any one trip u.All insured persons can travel independently u.14-day money-back guarantee u.And more u

01954 713575 All our profits are donated to The Wildlife Trusts ATOL protected No. 808

Single-trip travel insurance also available, call for a quote

Call CTC for full details and quote “WL” offer

0845 230 29 39 Providing travel insurance since 1981 Terms, conditions and excess apply. Above rates based on persons under age 66, call for over 66 premiums. CTC is regulated and authorised by the FSA.

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

Great New Deals!

Swarovski EL Swarovision

8 x 32 £1450 8.5 x 32 £1620 10 x 42 £1680

Opticron Verano HD

8 x 32 £390 8 x 42 £400 10 x 42 £405

Zeiss HT

8 x 42 £1600 10 x 42 £1630

Leica Trinovid 8 x 42 £800 10 x 42 £849

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

Winter Clothing offers on warm coats from: Country Innovation, Paramo, Ridgeline

Also visit our Clothing & Accessory Showroom

• Clothing by: Paramo, Tilley, Country Innovation • Brasher Boots & Shoes Showrooms • Nikwax Waterproofing Products Open Monday • Bird Tables, Nest Boxes to Saturday • Bird Feeders: All sizes and types 9am-5pm • Top quality Bird Food: Nuts, Seed, Sunflower Hearts, Fat Balls and Cake

For more information and special offers please visit our website Phone or email now for our latest price list or visit our showrooms e-mail: Church Lane, Corley, Coventry CV7 8BA Tel: 01676 540501/542476 Fax: 01676 540930 Export Facilities Personal and postal orders welcomed Package Deals Attractive discounts. Phone for quotation Half Page Horizontal.indd 1

04/12/2012 09:44

down your way Nuthatch (left); spotted crake (below)


A low cloud level for much of the autumn meant that migration was often more visible than usual, and some fascinating birds dropped in, including a yellow-browed warbler in November, only the third ever recorded at Slimbridge. A blue-headed wagtail was a real treat in September, during which month pectoral sandpipers were seen on various dates. Spotted crake, whooper swan, great white egret, green-winged teal, red-necked phalarope and buff-breasted sandpiper were just a few of the other highlights.



The shocking UK summer weather meant that a number of birds normally more associated with woodlands expanded their ranges in search of food last autumn. A nuthatch, unusual for the centre, was seen at the feeding station, while jays and grey squirrels, struggling to find acorns, also took their chances. A green woodpecker and a brambling were regularly seen, too, all giving the centre quite a woodland and pasture feel.

Five of the new Bewick’s swan arrivals have been named after Gloucestershire Olympians this year. One of them is Alex, named after the rower Alex Gregory, whose grandfather, Peter, once took a trip to Antarctica with WWT’s very own Peter Scott. The other four are named after Ed Clancy, Zara Phillips, Zac Purchase and Pete Reed. Zara – the swan, that is – very quickly took control of her surroundings and joined the more established swans on Swan Lake. There’s an addition to the centre – a new hide that has

been built on the path to the Holden Tower. It overlooks the feeding station, so is perfect for youngsters looking to get more familiar with garden birds. Late last year, Terry Waite and the Romany Society paid a visit, bringing with them a most generous donation towards information boards on the canoe safari. Don’t forget the fantastic Slimbridge Festival of Birds, on 26 and 27 January. There’s a host of events in store, including talks by Mark Avery and Mike Dilger.


Wader counts were strong through the autumn. Totals of 750 black-tailed godwits, 50 greenshank and six spotted redshank were among the highlights, while several whimbrel were also regularly passing through. The summer spoonbill stayed until September, and was later replaced on site by two great white egrets. It’s amazing what can catch on. One of the ideas this winter for arts and crafts weekends involved making woolly pom-poms for hats. The pom-poms, shaped like robins, were such a huge success among

adults and children alike, that there will be chances to make other birds, such as swallows, this year. Kestrels have been scarce in the area in recent years, but a pair bred locally last year, and were seen daily across the reserve through the autumn. Look out for more monthly themed weekends throughout 2013. The first weekend in February, for example, will celebrate World Wetlands Day, and there’ll be a host of events in the months ahead from minibeast hunts to nest box-making. JANUARY/MARCH 2013

• Waterlife



The best cost-saving energy device ever? Experience an invigorating shower like no other – saving you water, energy and money!

Sovereign Caravan Club Not sure which one is right fo you? Call one of our friendly experts on 0208 211 3666 – who will be happy to help.


ntroducing the Jetstorm, the newest addition to our groundbreaking range of revolutionary water, efficient shower heads from Ecocamel. With several years of scientific research, we have been able to produce a shower head that instantly increases pressure and performance to create an exhilarating shower experience, whilst using up to 45% less water. So confident are we that you’ll love your new powerful shower, we’re offering Waterlife Magazine readers an exclusive 30-day money back guarantee* plus, for a limited time only, buy 2 Jetstorm’s amd earn an extra £10 discount. SAVING YOU 45% OFF THE RRP – so savings can be made in the boat, caravan or home!

“We now get an average of three showers using a 40 litre water tank” WAS £49.95



Suitable for all shower systems

Don’t just take our word for it, read what the experts say… “We tried out five eco shower heads checking their flow rate and quality of experience. Our favourite is the Ecocamel Jetstorm, it felt powerful and invigorating.” Good Housekeeping Institute

The science This pioneering new shower head is called the Jetstorm because of its patented dual valve ‘AirCore’ technology. Developed to infuse a storm of minute air bubbles into each droplet which are then blasted, jet like, onto your skin… we guarantee you’ll increase your shower’s power instantly and using up to 45%† less water, you’ll also gain more showers from your water tank! The droplets, now bursting with air, are so much lighter than normal and, rather than just bouncing off you, they saturate and spread all over your body – a sensational experience.

“(My husband) grudgingly admits the new model works better than the conventional shower head so it’s staying on the shower – much to my and the household purse’s delight!” Sarah Lonsdale – Sunday Telegraph “Definitely one of the simplest ways to make financial savings in the home without having to make too many changes to your routine.” Justin Harper – Daily Mail

Save more than just water

“Using the shower in a van is great, but there is always the worry that the water will run dry when you’re half done. If you don’t want to get caught short, with suds in your hair, then try fitting an Ecocamel shower head” Practical Caravan

These are tough economic times, with a ‘double-dip’ recession looming and fuel prices set to rise by up to 19%, everyone is trying to cut their costs. The Jetstorm not only helps cut your water bills but reduces your fuel bills too! Using less water means using less fuel to heat it, saving you ££££s on your energy bills – SIMPLE!

Even cruise liners have been clamouring to make the savings!

Do I have to call a plumber? Absolutely not, it really could not be easier. It takes just a few seconds to unscrew your existing shower head and pop on your new water-efficient Jetstorm.

Which Jetstorm is right for me?


If you have a normal gravity, main-pressure or pump system just order the Original Jetstorm. If you use a low-pressure system or electric shower, ask for the Jetstorm E.

Air Water

“This has cut our water costs... we expect that we will also show significant savings on our fuel and energy costs. LD Lines have a strong environmental policy and we are absolutely delighted that our work with Ecocamel will have a huge positive impact to reduce our carbon footprint and help the environment.” J. Bate, Chief Engineer – Norman Spirit


SAVE £20





Start enjoying your new powerful shower today and begin to save water, energy and money!

Call 0208 211 3666 or visit

Quote WL021 when ordering

Alternatively fill out our priority order form below and send to: FREEPOST ECOCAMEL – That’s all you need to do, no stamp or address required. Please write in BLOCK CAPITALS. *Use an Ecocamel shower head for 30 days, if you are dissatisfied for any reason, then please return to us for a full refund. †Independent testing at Liverpool John Moores University demonstrated average water savings of 40% compared to standard shower heads.

YES please send me my: Please tick as appropriate Original Jetstorm

£29.95 + £2.95 p&p =


For standard systems


£29.95 + £2.95 p&p =

For electric and low pressure systems

2 Jetstorm’s SAVE £10


Start Date



2 Jetstorm-E’s SAVE £10 £49.90 + £2.95 p&p = For electric and low pressure systems




£49.90 + £2.95 p&p =

For standard systems



I enclose a Cheque/PO made payable to Ecocamel Ltd or pay by credit/debit card: Card No.




Issue No.


Expiry Date

Security Code

WL021 Name Address



Post Code Email


POST TO: FREEPOST ECOCAMEL – No stamp or address required. Please write in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Telephone If you do NOT wish to receive further SPECIAL OFFERS from us, or from companies we recommend, please tick this box .

down your way


Kingfishers are seen most years at Washington, but in the latter months of 2012 they really upped their appearances. The higher water levels may have encouraged them, and they put on a show for visitors that was unparalleled. Young children, some of them birdwatching for the first time, were able to use their binoculars to watch the birds as they hovered directly in front of them, close enough to be able to pick out males from females by the colour of the mandibles.


Other autumnal highlights due to the high water included goosander and goldeneye on the river. By the end of November, there were up to 900 curlew on site. A Mediterranean gull on Wader Lake, some 90 pink-footed geese and 18 whooper swans were other treats. A further exciting appearance came in the form of a great grey shrike on 25 October, the first recorded at Washington since the distant hot summer of 1976. The centre has been hand-rearing five Chilean flamingo chicks, and there’s a great opportunity to watch them as they get their

exercise and as much sun as possible, being walked by a warden before they join the main flock in the spring. Check at the main desk for times. The event has proved so popular, it was even covered by local television. The heavy rains of last year have meant that the opening of the saline lagoon has been put back, probably to early this year (see the website for details). Thank you for your patience during these trying climatic times. In the meantime, you’ll be able to see it for yourself if you join the Walk With a Warden events, and the extra time the habitat has had to mature will be really worth the wait.


A wet autumn and early winter saw high floodwaters at Welney – a change from drought conditions seen earlier in the year. By 21 October, staff were having to don drysuits to get about parts of the reserve, although levels dropped through November, meaning the drysuits could be replaced by wellies. They still had to cross water in a small boat to pick up grain for the swan feeds. Some of the avian rewards were well worth seeing during this time, such as a guillemot in September and a gannet flying over in October.



Kingfisher (left); guillemot (above)

Those unusual sightings of seabirds were just a taster of what could be seen at Welney. September also brought little stint, wood sandpiper, curlew and pectoral sandpipers and a glossy ibis on the 28th. There were also 100 yellow wagtails in among the cattle on Bank Farm and Lady Fen. October had much to offer, too, including ring ouzels, jack snipe and little gull, all on consecutive days at the end of the month. A spoonbill in early September, and then three on the 28th, were such good numbers that one member of staff referred to them as a ‘full cutlery service’.

The first whooper swans returned on 11 September, while the first Bewick’s were back on 27 October. One of the whoopers, Baldur, has been coming back for five years now, and this year he brought seven cygnets with him, taking his total in just half a decade to 31. With such a huge family, it’s no surprise that he’s always one of the first to turn up to the swan feeds. The Festival of Swans, complete with a talk by swan expert Julia Newth from Slimbridge, was a great success, and the community artwork that was contributed by visitors should be up for viewing by now.


• Waterlife


down your way

Centre events Your round-up of what’s on, where and when at WWT centres around the country BE – Booking Essential, RI – Refreshments Included, IA – price Includes Admission cost, WA – included With Admission cost, WP – Weather Permitting, OAA – Overnight Accommodation Available, PC/PP – Per Child/Person, M/F – Member/Friend. Centre events are subject to change. Please phone for further information or visit the WWT website /caerlaverock /castleespie /llanelli /london /martinmere /slimbridge /washington /welney


Sat 16 to Sun 24 February Aliens and Invaders Discover the aliens and invaders among us this February half-term! What alien wildlife has made its home in the UK and which invading plants are causing problems in our habitats? Follow a hands-on Discovery Trail to discover the ‘Aliens and Invaders‘ with crafts in the visitor centre each pm. 9.30am-4.30pm. WA

Mill Road, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9PB 01903 881530 Daily Activities Wetland Discovery Boat Safari Guided boat trip through different types of wetland habitat. Great for spotting water voles and kingfishers. First boat 11am, last boat 3.30pm. Suggested donation of £1. WA Guide in the Hide On Saturdays and Sundays a guide is available in one of the hides to help you spot and identify wildlife. 11am1pm, 1.30-3.30pm. WA Sat 19 and Sun 20 January Mud Glorious Mud! Ever wondered what wading birds eat? Join us as we sift through the mud to find the critters that feed our waders. 1-3pm. WA Mon 21 January Talk – Biodiversity of the Norfolk Estate Peter Knight, manager of the neighbouring Norfolk Estate, speaks about his efforts to incorporate wildlife-friendly farming practices into the day-to-day commercial operation of the estate. This is one of the series of talks held on the third Monday of each month, September to June, by the Arundel Wetland Centre Supporters Group. Proceeds are donated to Arundel. 7.30pm. £3 for the talk or £15 for the series. IA Mondays 21 January and 18 February Winter Wildfowl Photography Workshop Led by professional wildlife photographer Robert Canis, this one-day course helps 58

Arundel choice Sat 16 and Sun 17 March Tales of the Riverbank A weekend of talks, displays and family activities in anticipation of the opening of the new Arun Riverlife Project. Check our website for details. 10am-4pm. WA you get great shots of birds at their best – in the winter. Birds are in beautiful postbreeding plumage and the light at this time is absolutely ideal for photographers as the sun is always low in the sky, revealing textures and enhancing the colours. 10am-4pm. £89. BE IA Fri 25 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. 6.30pm. £15 includes a glass of wine. For more, visit Big9challenge. IA (evening)

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Sat 26 to Sun 27 January Migrate Weekend Check our website for special early openings to view wild Bewick’s swans. This weekend celebrates our winter migrant swans, wildfowl and birds through family activities and walks. Time TBA – please check website. WA

Mon 18 February Talk – Galapagos with Andrew Watts One of the series of talks held on the third Monday of each month, September to June, by the Arundel Wetland Centre Supporters Group. Proceeds are donated to Arundel. 7.30pm. £3 for the talk or £15 for the series. IA Sat 9 March WWT Volunteer Day Are you interested in volunteering? Attend our volunteer day to find out how. Pre-register by calling Olivia Iles on 01903 881523. BE

Mon 18 March Talk – Capturing the Moment with David Windle One of the series of talks held on the third Monday of each month, September to June by the Arundel Wetland Centre Supporters Group. Proceeds donated to Arundel. 7.30pm. £3 for the talk or £15 for the series. IA Fri 29 March to Sun 14 April New Life! See new life emerge on the reserve during the Easter holidays. Daily crafts and family activities. 10am4.30pm. WA

CAERLAVEROCK Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire DG1 4RS 01387 770200 Daily Activities Wild Swan Feeds See wild whooper swans closer than anywhere in Britain. 11am and 2pm. WA

Thurs 31 January Stargazing with Astronomia Astronomia telescope and binocular sales partners with WWT Arundel to offer a lecture on the winter skies, combined with an outdoor viewing session with telescopes. This event is affiliated with the BBC Two series Stargazing LIVE. 6.30pm. £3. BE IA (evening) Thurs 14 February Stargazing with Astronomia Astronomia telescope and binocular sales partners with WWT Arundel to offer a lecture on the winter skies, combined with an outdoor viewing session with telescopes. 6.30pm. £5. BE IA (evening)

Caerlaverock choice Sun 3 February Dawn Flight Join the wardens as we open early to experience the wild geese flighting in against the dawn sky. The coffee shop will also be open early to provide hot drinks and bacon rolls. Bring warm, waterproof clothing, binoculars and a torch. 7am. Normal admission charges apply (M free). WA BE OAA


Wildlife Art Exhibition Wildlife artist Brian Arneill is exhibiting some of his recent works in the gallery at Caerlaverock until 15 February. 10am-5pm. Free. Wed 30 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him, too, for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. 6pm for 6.30pm. £10pp. BE RI Sat 2 February World Wetlands Day – Wetlands Take Care of Water Special guided walks to explore this wetland reserve of international importance. 11am and 2pm. WA Sat 2 and Sun 3 February Wildlife Art Workshop with Brian Arneill Afternoon wildlife art workshops with artist Brian Arneill. Focusing on freedrawing skills and water and reflections. Participants provide their own drawing and/or painting materials of their choice. 2-5pm. £10pp. BE Contact Brian at Wed 13 February Family Birding Morning A morning of birdwatching for all the family to join in – parents and children. A warden will be on hand to point out the birds and give hints and tips to get the best out of your birdwatching. 10am-12.30pm. WA BE Sun 3 March In Focus Try before you buy the latest binoculars and telescopes from the huge range available today. In Focus

Castle Espie choice Tues 29 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. 7pm. £10. BE experts on hand all day to give advice. The centre benefits from every sale. 10am-5pm. Free.

CASTLE ESPIE Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down BT23 6EA 028 9187 4146 First three Sundays of the month – January to March Guide in the Hide Castle Espie Bird Watch Club will be in the Brent Hide to share its expert bird knowledge with visitors, helping them identify different wildfowl and waders that come to our shore in the winter months. 2-4pm. WA Every Weekend – January to March Duck Tales What whistles and doesn’t quack? Find out more about the fascinating birds in our captive collection. 12noon and 2pm. WA Last Thursday of Every Month Birdwatch Morning Join Dot Blakely, our resident bird expert, and find out more about all types of birds in and around the grounds. Everyone welcome. 10.30am. WA Sat 2 and Sun 3 February Wetland Wildlife Weekend Join us to celebrate World Wetlands Day 2013, an international celebration

of wetlands that takes place on 2 February each year. Meet reptiles and insects and take part in themed activities suitable for all the family. 11am-4pm. WA Sat 16 and Sun 17 February The Birds and the Bees Weekend Love is in the air at this time of year and the birds will need a place to settle down and raise a family. Our carpentry team invites you to two afternoon sessions of its popular bird boxbuilding workshops. Plus meet our local beekeepers and have a go at building an insect hotel. 12noon-4pm. WA Thurs 21 February Garden BirdWatch Join the British Trust for Ornithology for its Garden BirdWatch event. 9.30am1pm. Free. Fri 29 March to Sun 7 April Giant Easter Bunny Hunt Get a roll-on this Easter with lots of events and activities. Search for the large coloured bunnies hidden around the site. Map and clues provided. Prizes for all children upon completion of the trail. Doodle bunnies can leave their mark on our bunny board, plus free bunny crafts. 11am-4pm. WA Castle Espie Gallery Please refer to the website to check 2013 art exhibitions.

Queen Elizabeth’s Walk London SW13 9WT 020 8409 4400 Every Day Guided Tours Learn how the centre was created and gain an insight into the sort of wildlife that lives here. 11.30am and 2.30pm. WA Feed the Birds Join a warden as he or she feeds the beautiful and endangered birds in World Wetlands. 3pm. WA Otter Feed Watch our playful family of otters enjoying their meals and snacks and find out more about them from one of our knowledgeable wardens. 11am and 2pm. WA Mondays to Thursdays, and Saturdays Guide in the Hide (in the Peacock Tower) Join one of WWT’s experienced birdwatchers, who will be on hand to point out unusual species and answer any questions you may have. 11am-1pm. WA Tuesdays and Thursdays Pushbabies Fitness for new mums looking to get back into shape in a fun and sociable environment with a qualified instructor (bring your baby in the buggy). 9.30-10.30am. M £4 (£6 plus admission for non-members). Daily During Weekends and School Holidays Children’s Activities Discover the centre’s amazing wildlife and learn weird and wonderful facts with the education team’s regular pond dips, wildlife walks and trails. First Saturday of Every Month Wildlife Walk for Members Come and see what each season has to offer at the reserve with a warden. M only. 1pm. £2pp. BE

By Appointment Personal Birding Tour Book a one-to-one birdwatching experience with one of our experts. These experiences make ideal gifts for wildlife lovers. Packages tailored to your exact requirements, for oneor two-hour sessions. First hour costs £45, second hour £25 and any subsequent hours at £20. Call 020 8409 4400 for details. Children’s Birthday Parties For children aged five to 12 years. Please call 020 8409 4400 for information. Fri 25 January and Sat 2 March Introduction to Wildlife Photography Frustrated by the settings on your camera and want to take control of your photographic creativity? This is the course for you. Photographer and author Iain Green will guide you through your camera’s automatic settings – and then show you how to turn off the ‘automatic‘ mode and still get fantastic photos. The day will begin with an illustrated session about understanding your camera and the basics of composition, followed by a practical session outside, looking at the local flora and fauna. Due to small course numbers there will be plenty of time for one-to-one tuition. Suitable for users of all types of camera and the content will be tailored accordingly and to the needs of attendees. 10am-4pm. £55pp. BE Sat 26 January The Birdlife of Portugal Talk Join Portuguese birding expert Bernardo Barreto for this fascinating talk. Portugal has enormous potential for birding: the mainland bird list includes more than 400 species, including black-winged kite. Despite being relatively small, Portugal boasts an excellent range of habitats, from wetlands, estuaries and saline flats to wooded hills, steppe-like plains and rocky outcrops; in practical terms, this means that any


• Waterlife


down your way

of these varied habitats can be reached without the need for lengthy travel. 2.303.30pm. £3pp. Tickets are non-refundable. BE Sat 2 February Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him, too, for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. 6pm. £15 includes a glass of wine or soft drink. For more information, visit Big9challenge. BE IA


Sat 9 February and Sun 10 March Introduction to Birdwatching This practical course will help you identify different birds and understand more about them. An expert warden will guide you around the wildlife reserve. The course will focus on birds currently on site, their plumage, calls and behaviour. You’ll get tips on how to watch birds, including how to behave, what to listen out for and the differences between key species. The walk lasts for an hour and a half, followed by breakfast in our café. 9.30-11am. £20 – includes breakfast. Bring your own binoculars/ telescope where possible. BE RI Sat 16 to Sun 24 February Wing Watch Get February half-term off to a flying start with a look at the amazing world of birds. Throughout the week join our special birdwatching walks, and get creative in our bird art and craft sessions. From looking at birds close up to finding out how to spot them in the wild, this is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to 60

London Wetland Centre choice Sat 16 to Mon 18 February Birds of Prey Meet a range of magnificent birds of prey, such as owls and peregrines, and learn more about them. With their keen senses and aerial agility these avian hunters are perfectly adapted for seeking and catching prey. This is a rare chance to see their talons, bills and stunning plumage close up. Expert falconer Ben Long will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about these wonderful raptors. WA get to know our feathered friends. On 16-18 February we will have birds of prey for you to see up-close (see above). WA Sunday 10 March Mother’s Day Carvery Treat your mum to a splendid three-course buffet lunch in our Water’s Edge Room. Includes a gift for mum. See or call 020 8409 4400 for details and timings. BE

MARTIN MERE Burscough, Ormskirk, Lancashire L40 0TA 01704 895181 Daily Activities Swan Spectacular Watch the spectacle and hear the amazing sound of thousands of swans feeding on the mere. 3pm from Swan Link Hide and 3.30pm from Raines Observatory. WA Talks and Tours Every day you can enjoy watching our otter family play and feed at 11.30am and 2.30pm, take a guided tour around our waterfowl gardens at 1.15pm and take a swan stroll to learn about these birds at 12noon. 3pm from Swan Link Hide and 3.30pm from Raines Observatory. WA Sat 19 January Astronomy Evening Join Liverpool Astronomical Society for this stargazing

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

event. The event includes two talks about our solar system. 7-9pm (evening meals served from 6pm in café). Free. BE Tuesdays 22 and 29 January Floodlit Swan Evenings Enjoy an evening with a warden as you watch the swans by floodlight in the comfort of a heated observatory. The wardens will provide a talk about the swans and all we have learnt about them. 6.30pm. Adults £8.50, concessions £6.50, children £4.40. BE Sat 26 and Sun 27 January Indoor Model Train Show Come along to see a variety of model train layouts. Learn how they have been built and you could even have a go at driving one. A great event to warm you up after seeing the swans. 10am-4pm. WA Sun 27 January Trip to Caerlaverock Join us on a day trip to Caerlaverock to see their winter spectacle of whooper swans and barnacle geese. Caerlaverock is a beautiful reserve that is fantastic to see in winter. Leaves Martin Mere at 8am. £20 plus admission. BE Date TBC Indoor Model Boat Show Come along to see a variety of model boats from cruise liners to battleships. Have a look at a boat being made and find out about local model societies. 10am-4pm. WA

Fri 8 February Evening Talk: Friends of Martin Mere Join David Winnard as he talks about the magic of mushrooms and other fungi. 8pm. Price (if applicable): £2 for members of friends (£2.50 non-members). Sun 10 February Trip to Slimbridge Join us on a day trip to Slimbridge to see their winter spectacle of whooper swans as well as cranes, flamingos, otters and much more. Leaves Martin Mere at 8am. £20 plus admission. BE Sat 16 to Sun 24 February February Half-term Come along for a great day out to see our otter family and thousands of swans, take part in family craft activities and games, and explore our brand new adventure play area. All day. WA Fridays 22 February and 15 March Bird Identification Workshop One-day workshop for people who would like to develop their identification skills. 8.30am. £20. BE

Martin Mere choice Mon 28 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger will visit all nine WWT centres in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him for an entertaining talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. 6.30pm. £15 includes a glass of wine. BE RI

Saturdays 23 February and 16 March Wildlife Photography Workshop This popular one-day workshop is designed to help you take the first steps away from automatic to more advanced techniques. Taught by a previous winner of WWT’s national photography competition, it is suitable for beginners and all types of cameras. 10am. £60. BE Sat 23 February Wild Wetland Writing Workshop Join poet and workshop facilitator Susan Richardson for an afternoon of Wild Wetland Writing. Explore the Martin Mere reserve and respond, through either prose or poetry, to the wildlife and wetland landscape that you encounter. Susan regularly performs her work at literary and science festivals in the UK and overseas, and is one of the resident poets on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live. She has been poet-in-residence for BBC Two’s coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show and was recently invited to become a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. 2pm. £30. BE Sat 23 February Eco-poetry Performance Susan Richardson (see above) will perform work from her most recent collections, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone and Where the Air is Rarefied. She will also share a sample of her specially commissioned poetry for BBC Two and Radio 4. There will also be the opportunity for you to read your poetry in an open mic session. 7pm. £10. BE Sun 24 February Drawing and Painting Birds One-day class exploring the process from drawing through to a finished painting. 9.30am. £45. BE Fri 8 March Evening Talk: Friends of Martin Mere Join Margaret and John Sixsmith as they give an

entertaining talk about birds from around the world. 8pm. £2 for members of friends (£2.50 non-members). Sun 17 March Drawing and Painting Birds One-day class exploring the process from drawing through to a finished painting. Starts at 9.30am. £45. BE Sun 17 March Trip to Washington Join us on a day trip to Washington to see their heron colony and brand new saline lagoon. You will also get to see the otters, Rod and Musa, who are the sons of Ned and Thai, here at Martin Mere. Leaves Martin Mere at 8am. £20 plus admission. BE From Thurs 28 March Easter Holidays Join us as the canoe safari and electric boat tours reopen for the spring and summer to allow you to explore Martin Mere on the water. There will also be plastic duck hunts, egg rolling and den building, and our water play will reopen in our brand new adventure play area. All day. WA

NATIONAL WETLAND CENTRE WALES Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA14 9SH 01554 741087 Fridays from 11 January to 26 July Creative Digital Photography Courses Andy Davies will provide hands-on expert tuition covering a number of techniques and subjects. This workshop caters for all skill levels, from complete beginners to aspiring professionals. Tuition is provided to small groups who are initially taken back to the fundamentals of photography, rapidly progressing to having full creative control of either digital compact cameras with manual capability or digital single lens reflex cameras with interchangeable lenses.

Meet at 10am for an introductory talk and the day is then spent photographing at locations on the reserve, periodically returning to the centre for a review of pictures. Instruction is informal. 10am. £95pp. BE IA Every Sunday until 31 March Follow the Feed Join our wardens on the afternoon bird feed. Watch hundreds of ducks waddle alongside the wheelbarrow, and excitedly swim and splash in anticipation of their afternoon meal! Follow us to the flamingo house where, tempted by the food, the flamingos will often feed right in front of you! Suitable for all the family. 3.30pm. WA All weekends in January Weekend Activities 11am: Telescope in the tower. 1pm: Snow goose walk. 2-5pm: Craft workshop including nesting stockings and bird feeders. Some craft activities carry a small charge to cover materials cost. WA Sun 27 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoon-billed sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him, too, for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. For more information, visit Big9challenge. 6.30pm. £10 includes a glass of wine or soft drink on arrival. IA BE RI Sat 2 and Sun 3 February World Wetlands Day Activities to mark this year’s World Wetlands Day include wetlands and water management. Walks, displays and activities for all. WA

SLIMBRIDGE National Wetland Centre Wales choice Thurs 21 and Fri 22 March Bat Walk Join us for an evening bat walk as our bats begin to wake from their winter hibernation. The walk will take place after sunset and last approximately one hour. We will take a bat detector on a walk around the Millennium Wetlands and the grounds, and go behind the scenes to look and listen for bats in the yard. 6.30pm. £2pp/pc. IA BE Weekends 2/3 and 23/24 February Weekend Activities As for February half-term. See below. Sat 9 to Sun 17 February Half-term Holiday Fun 11am: Family birdwatching. 1pm: Nesting nenes walk. 2pm: Minibeast hunt. Times vary: Craft workshops. Some craft activities carry a small charge to cover cost of materials. WA Fri 15 and Sun 17 February Blue Tit and Robin Nest Box-Making Receive expert one-to-one tuition to make your very own professional-quality blue tit or robin nest box. Put the box up in your garden to give baby birds their first home in springtime. Drop-in time between 11am-12noon and 1-4pm. £5 per box. Sat 23 February Painting Days with Janet Bligh, Watercolour Society of Wales Painting in the style of J M W Turner. You will make a study of the life and painting methods of Turner and then use his inspiration and techniques in your own work. 10am-4pm. £30 includes expert tuition. IA BE Sat 2 and Sun 3 March St David’s Day Celebrations – Dydd Gwyl Dewi Celebrate St David’s Day with a warming bowl of traditional, home-made Welsh cawl (broth) and warm, freshly made Welshcakes. Weekends 2/3, 9/10, 16/17 and 23/24 March Weekend Activities

11am: Minibeast hunt. 1pm: Mammal exploration. 2.30pm: Family birdwatching (until Sat 23 – then pond dipping). Times vary: Craft workshops. Some craft activities carry a small charge to cover cost of materials. WA Sun 3 March Nordic Walking Trained walkers and complete beginners are welcome as full instruction is given. Although these sessions, run in collaboration with Age Cymru, are primarily targeted at our more senior visitors, anyone is welcome to have a go! Poles can be provided. Due to the size of the poles, there is a minimum height restriction of 4ft 10”. Walks at 11am and 1.30pm. No need to book. WA Sat 16 March Painting Days with Janet Bligh, Watercolour Society of Wales Painting in the style of Constable. You will make a study of the life and painting methods of Constable and then use his inspiration and techniques in your own work. 10am-4pm. £30 includes expert, professional tuition. IA BE Fri 29 March to Sun 14 April Easter Holiday Fun 11am: Den building and mini pond dipping. 1pm: Breeding and baby birds walk. 2pm: Pond dipping. Times vary: Craft workshops – Easter nests, willow dreamcatchers. Some craft activities carry a small charge to cover cost of materials. Throughout the day: Easter egg hunt. WA

Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 events.slimbridge@wwt. Every Saturday and Sunday until the end of February Floodlit Swan Feeds Enjoy the magical winter spectacle of thousands of wild birds and Bewick’s swans wintering on Swan Lake in floodlight. Listen to the warden’s commentary from the heated comfort of the observatory and discover how we identify each Bewick’s swan individually, followed by a warm and hearty supper if requested. 6.15pm. Adults £6, children £4. Every Saturday through January and February Decoy Demonstrations How do you catch a duck with a dog? Watch our very own furry canine assisting with conservation work as birds are caught and ringed in the decoy nets. Book your place at the admission desk. A demonstration may run on a Sunday depending on staffing and dog availability. 2pm. WA Every Second Saturday of the Month Decoy Carvers A demonstration by the Decoy Carvers Club, who carve lifelike models of ducks to use to attract ducks to a certain location. Drop in anytime between 9.30am and 3pm. WA Tues 1 and Sat 12 January Birdwatch Morning Join our warden on their morning rounds to see how many birds you can add to your 2013 wild bird list. 8am. £15. BE RI Wed 16 January Evening Talk by John Dowling on Falconry Learn about the history of falconry, how captive-bred birds are trained and how birds of prey survive in the wild. 7.30pm. £6 (F £5). BE


• Waterlife


down your way

Fri 25 January Talk by Mark Avery – ‘Fighting for Birds – Thoughts on Nature Conservation’ A talk will be given by Mark Avery on his experience in the world of nature conservation and its influence on the fight to protect birds’ habitats. Mark has written a book Fighting for Birds: 25 years in Nature Conservation, which is now available to order from Pelagic Publishing, Amazon, RSPB shops, through Waterstones and many other good bookshops. Mark will be giving a fascinating talk to kick our Festival of Birds off to an excellent start. Book now for this evening entertainment, starting with a glass of wine and canapé refreshments. 7.30pm. £15. BE RI


Sat 26 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him, too, for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. For more information, visit Big9challenge. 7.30pm. £15. BE RI Sat 26 and Sun 27 January, and Tues 12 February Birdwatch Morning Winter is a magical time on the reserve, with tens of thousands of birds spending winter here. With the guidance of our wardens, come along and enjoy this magical sight along with spotting some of the extraspecial ones. 8am. £15. BE RI Sat 2 February World Wetlands Day Celebrate wetlands around the world with a day of fun 62

Slimbridge choice Sat 26 and Sun 27 January Slimbridge Festival of Birds 2013 Come and celebrate birdwatching at this special festival. Visit our hides to see Slimbridge’s wild reserve at its busiest time of year. Hear a range of conservation talks from experts and celebrities and take part in a variety of workshops and activities over the weekend. Our foyer will be packed with stalls selling equipment and great gifts for wildlife lovers. 9.30am-5pm. WA activities for families. Make Ottie the otter and take part in other craft activities. 9.30am-5pm. WA Sat 9 to Sun 17 February February Half-term – Birdwatching Follow an interactive trail through the grounds, learning a variety of techniques to improve your birdwatching skills. Head to our South Lake Observatory for a special introductory birdwatching session. This event is suitable for all ages and levels of interest. 9.30am-5pm. WA Sat 9 to Sun 17 February Love Birds Trail To celebrate St Valentine’s Day we will be challenging you to vote for the most loved-up species living here at Slimbridge. Armed with facts on some of our bird couples, it is up to you to see them for yourself and vote for your favourite winning pair. 9.30am-5pm. WA Fri 15 February Become an Advanced Birder Learn about fine details such as plumage, songs and calls. Develop an understanding of weather conditions and habitats to take your skills to a new level. 8am-12noon. £25. BE RI Wed 20 February Talk by Paul Barnett – ‘Fore and Aft’ The Purton Ships’ Graveyard, situated in the rural

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013

Gloucestershire hamlet of Purton, is the last resting place of some 81 vessels encompassing lighters, schooners and the famous Severn Trow, and is now known to be the largest collection of this nature in mainland Britain. 7.30pm. £6 (F £5). BE Sun 10 March Mother’s Day Enjoy craft activities with your family on this special day. Take a photo of you and your mum having fun at Slimbridge for a chance to win a wildlife-themed goodie bag. 9.30am-5pm. WA Wed 20 March Talk by Peter Cranswick – ‘What’s Flying Tonight?’ Moths are closely related to butterflies. Only around 60 species of butterfly are seen regularly in the UK, but there are around 2,500 species of moths. 7.30pm. £6 (F £5). BE Sat 23 March to Sun 14 April Easter Holidays – Art and Photography Celebrate our long history of art at Slimbridge with a series of activities for adults and children. We will have a trail of wetland-inspired art and photography. Learn more about Peter Scott’s work and try and sketch a Bewick’s swan bill. 9.30am-5pm. WA Fri 29 March to Mon 1 April Great Easter Hunt Take part in the great Easter hunt through our grounds

where you will find a host of cute characters. Enjoy a chocolate treat on your return to the centre where there will be lots of art and craft activities. 9.30am5pm. WA

WASHINGTON Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear NE38 8LE 0191 416 5454 Sundays 6 January, 3 February and 3 March Sunday Gang Volunteer Group Try your hand at creating and maintaining habitats such as ponds, lakes, reedbeds, wildflower meadows and woodlands on the wildlife reserve. Come suitably dressed for working outdoors – and possibly getting very messy! If you’re a new volunteer, please call 0191 416 5454 or email info. before attending a session. From 10am-4pm (age 16+). Saturdays 19 January, 16 February (CA trip) and 16 March Junior Members Club Join Junior Members for monthly sessions to discover the natural world in a fun and creative way. For young WWT members aged eight to 12. Call Joanne Newbury on 0191 419 5933 or email for details. From 10am12noon. WA

Saturdays 19 January, 16 February and 16 March Walk with a Warden Join our wildlife reserve manager as he leads a themed guided tour around our site, taking in the sights, sounds and seasonal wildlife. No need to book and cost is included in admission. Meet in the picture window at reception at 2pm. WA Sundays 27 January, 24 February and 24 March In Focus Visit Don’t miss your chance to check out the latest in optical equipment and chat to the friendly In Focus experts, here all day at the centre. Test, select and buy state-of-the-art binoculars and telescopes under field conditions. Part exchanges are always considered and used stock is available. Plus, a percentage of every sale is donated to WWT – helping us to continue our valuable conservation work. For further details, contact In Focus on 01484 864729 or log on to Throughout the day. Thurs 31 January Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme. He will be making his guest appearance at Washington on Thursday 31 January. Talk starts at 6.30pm (including a soft drink or glass of wine on arrival from 6pm). Please note that standard admission is not included if you arrive during normal opening hours of 9.30am-4.30pm. £10pp. BE RI Sat 16 to Sun 24 February Half-term Holidays Join us for family fun throughout the school

holidays! Build a bug hotel or bird box, design your own wind chime and make your very own mini garden (1-3.30pm) or discover the life that lurks in dead trees on a minibeast hunt through Hollowood (11am-12noon and 1-2pm). Small costs apply to crafts. WA Sun 10 March Mother’s Day Lunches Treat your loved one to a delicious meal in the tranquil surroundings of Waterside Café, overlooking our spectacular barnacle geese, wigeon, Eurasian cranes and other waterbirds. Lunch served 12noon-2pm. £15.95pp and £6.95pc. BE – call 0191 416 5454 ext 235 for menu choices and booking. Sat 23 March to Sun 7 April Easter Holidays Join us for family-friendly fun throughout the Easter holidays! Discover new life and nature blooming all around, including baby chicks that have hatched from real Easter eggs. Take part in seasonal craft activities in the Discovery Centre and go pond dipping in the interactive Pondzone area. Further details tbc.

WELNEY Hundred Foot Bank, Welney, Nr Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE14 9TN 01353 860711 Daily Activities until Sun 10 March Winter Wild Swan Feeds Learn about the importance of wetlands from a warden while watching them feed the swans and ducks in front of the heated main observatory. The 12noon feed is particularly good for seeing our pochard ducks as well as the whooper and mute swans. Just after the 3.30pm feeds, wait to watch the swans fly in at dusk, gliding down onto the main lagoon. 12noon and 3.30pm. WA Thursday to Sunday Each Week until Sun 24 February Floodlit Wild Swan Feeds

sky following an engaging presentation called ‘A tour of the universe’. Reserve admission not incl. 6-8pm. £3pp, includes hot chocolate, tea or coffee. BE WP Washington choice Thurs 10 and Fri 11 January and Sat 16 February Stargazing on 10 and 11 January and a day trip to Caerlaverock on Saturday 16 February. Please check with the centre and on the website closer to the time for full details. Watch from the heated main observatory as the swans and ducks are fed under floodlight. Witness our very own swan lake as they settle down to roost for the night. 6.30pm. WA Fri 4 January Sports Optic Day with Viewpoint Optics Drop in to Welney while you are getting your New Year’s bird list off to a flying start to test out binoculars and telescopes with the experts from Viewpoint Optics. The experts will be in our hides so that you can test the latest equipment out on our reserve, with sessions at 11am and 2pm focusing on digiscoping. Viewpoint Optics on site 10am-4pm, centre open 10am-8pm. WA Wed 23 January Early Birders A chance for people to gain early access to the reserve to enjoy the flight out of thousands of swans at dawn, particularly to photograph this spectacle, without being led by a warden. Entry from 7am, centre is open from 10am. BE WA WP Wednesdays 30 January and 6 and 13 February Bewick’s Flight In A walk or drive with a warden to witness the flight in of the Bewick’s swans at dusk. Watch thousands as they fly onto the reserve to join the whoopers and ducks to roost. Join us before the event to watch whoopers and ducks at the 3.30pm feed from the heated main observatory. 4-6pm. Café closes at 4.30pm. £12pp. BE WP IA

Fri 1 February Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge The Big 9 Challenge will see TV wildlife expert Mike Dilger visit all nine WWT centres across the UK in just nine days, from 25 January to 2 February. As well as taking in some of the UK’s best winter wildlife spectacles, he will undertake a wildlife challenge and host an evening talk at each centre, raising money for the spoonbilled sandpiper conservation breeding programme. Join him, too, for an entertaining and informative talk on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of a TV Naturalist’. For more information, visit Big9challenge. Reserve admission not included. 7.30pm start. £10pp. BE Sat 2 February Dawn Flight Out Witness one of the most magical wildlife sights in winter as thousands of swans take flight at dawn to feed in the fields surrounding Welney. Enter the reserve under the cover of darkness and wait until a panorama of wetlands is revealed and the swans make their move from the washes that they roost on to the surrounding feeding grounds for the day. A morning swan feed (not normally open to the public) is also included. 6.15-9am. £12pp, optional breakfast £6.50. BE WP IA Sat 2 February Astronomy Evening Astronomia, one of the UK’s leading astronomy centres, will provide us with jawdropping views of the night

Sat 2 February, Sat 9 March, and Fri 22 and Sat 23 March (two-day workshop) Willow Weaving with Jane Frost Workshops are suitable for beginners or those with some experience. During the day you should be able to achieve a selection of sample pieces showing a variety of techniques including weaving, wrapping and braiding. 10am-4pm. £35pp, plus £10 for basic materials; two-day workshop £64, plus £20 for basic materials. IA BE Sat 9 and Sun 10 February Digital Photography with David Featherbe Learn from the expert on this full-day workshop with wildlife photographer David Featherbe. David will give a short introduction, but most of the day is spent on the reserve with him in the specialist photography

Welney choice Sat 16 to Sun 24 February Half-term Family Fun Join us as the wintering wildfowl get ready to start their migrations north. See the swans one last time and watch as the reserve changes from winter to spring. Don’t miss the famous swan feeds, learn about the amazing journeys of the birds with our migration magic discovery trail, keep busy with activity stations in the pond room, or get out and about with activity clipboards (suggested donation of 50p). WA

hide below the observatory, concentrating mostly on wildfowl. The photography basement will also be used to get close-up shots. For beginners and intermediates. Will run while the 3.30pm swan feed takes place in front of this hide, bringing the birds closer. Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 7am-1pm. £60pp; optional lunch on Saturday, £6.75; optional breakfast on Sunday £6.50. BE WP IA Tues 12 February Fenland Drainage by Pat Doody An evening talk by Pat Doody about fenland drainage. All welcome to attend. Funds raised go towards WWT’s work at Welney. 7.30pm. £3 (F £2). Sun 10 March Mother’s Day Lunch Treat mum to a two- or three-course lunch with unique views over the fenland landscape. Either take a walk on the reserve prior to lunch or maybe finish off the day by watching the 3.30pm swan feed. 12.30pm sitting. Reserve admission not included in meal price. Call centre for prices. BE Thurs 28 March to Sun 14 April Easter Family Fun Join us as we start the pond-dipping season at Welney and witness the first signs of spring. Look out for swooping swallows, wary water voles and the first underwater insects emerging at the pond-dipping stations. Learn about our fascinating wetlands with the Easter Arts discovery trail, keep busy with activity stations in the pond room, or get out and about with the activity clipboards (suggested donation of 50p). WA Kids’ zone answers Ida should take route 1. The five differences are: missing bee, missing fish, missing crown on eider’s head, missing crab mouth and added snake.


• Waterlife




Real Ale, Real Food Pub with 12 well appointed ensuite bedrooms ETB4* and 2 apartments. Adjacent to WWT CAMRA Awards from 20072012 Tel 01453 890306 Email

18th-century former village Inn five minutes from Slimbridge. ETC 3 stars. Laura Ashley beamed spacious bedrooms with en suite One four-poster bedroom. Price from £30pppn OR stay 4 nights at £56 per night B&B for 2, get a fifth night free. Tel (Vicky Jennings) 01453 549996 Email:

SLIMBRIDGE SLIMBRIDGE Foresters_WWT_JanMar13.indd 1 04/12/2012 28/05/2012 09:33 CYPRESS HOUSE B&B MAY COTTAGE B&B Comfortable, spacious, Twin bedded annexe, ensuite double ensuite, idyllic setting, bedroom. Peaceful location between adjacent to canal, Slimbridge village and walking distance from the W.W.T. the WWT centre.

TudorArms_WWT_JulAug12.indd 1

Sue and Peter Gibson.

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

Tel: 01437 781326 Fax: 01437 781080 Email:



Stay with us and see the swans. Free Range produce. Vegetarians & pets welcome. Conservatory breakfast room. Private lounge. Tel 01354 610433

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


Tel: 01453 890820


Tel: Jan Hunt 01453 890634 web: www.cypresshousebed



Stockyard_WWT_JanMar13.indd 1 04/12/2012 WelshCottage_WWT_JanMar13.indd 11:47 04/12/2012 1 10:08 CypressHouse_WWT_JulAug2011.indd 12/09/2011 1 09:16


Bed & breakfast in London homes within easy reach of the London Wetlands Centre. Also in Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Notting Hill. 4 star homes independently assessed by VisitEngland including the only Gold Award B&B in London. Established in 1986. Minimum stay two consecutive nights.

‘PRO TEM’ IS A FABULOUS DETATCHED 4 BED (sleeps 8) COTTAGE WITH SPECTACULAR VIEWS ACROSS THE TEIFI ESTUARY TO CAEMES HEAD. 5 STAR ACCOMMODATION WITH 3 BATHROOMS (2 en-suite), UNDERFLOOR HEATING THROUGHOUT, OPEN FIRE PLACE, WI-FI, FULLY EQUIPPED KITCHEN The Teifi flows down to Gwbert from the ‘Pools’ near Lampeter. From the falls at Cenarth through Cilgerran Gorge to the wonderfull Teifi Marshes, a wildlife haven with plenty of hides on through CardiganTown to the Estuary and Poppitt Sands. The Coastal Path starts at Poppitt and nearby are the famous fishing villages of Llangranogg, Cwmtyddu and many small coves. Cardigan Bay is home to Europes largest Dolphin Population and they can be spotted anywhere on this coast, along with seals and a large variety of sea birds. Tel: 020 8748 1943 Fax: 020 8748 2701 At Home in London


Blossom Cottage AtHomeInLondon_WWT_JanMar_2013 1

No pets. Friday changeover, shortbreaks available. CONTACT ANDREA CROSSFIELD 07967 502 492 or email for

Gower Peninsula / Loughor Estuary Comfortable bungalow Sleeps 5; 3 bedrooms Bird watch from window! Telescope provided Close to WWT Wales Special Offers ‘til Easter Contact Sally Lyne

SC_WWT_JanMar13.indd 1

04/12/2012 09:28

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

E-mail: Tel: 07711583320 Web Site:

04/12/2012 12:58 01792 386381

classified directory To advertise please contact Daniel Haynes on 0208 962 1257 or


Wildlife holidays in the West Highlands

Stunning scenery and wonderful wildlife Open April – October

01397 712700

Wales, puffins, red kites and thousands of starlings, seals, otters, dolphins sights and sounds to remember forever

equipment Untitled-4 1

22/08/2012 17:39

From single days out to week-long holidays throughout the year, contact: 0845 052 3533

WWB_WWT_JulAug12.indd 1

Photo: Iain Erskine

WORLDWIDE holidays Corryvreckan_WWT_175.indd 1

25/05/2012 12:35

23/11/2010 15:32


ATOL PROTECTED 3760 0207 407 1478

Escape to another World Famed for its outstanding scenery, heritage and wildlife, the spectacular coastlines of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides are best visited from the sea. Our exclusive cruises allow you to explore this pristine natural environment in unique style, island hopping on board our charming traditional vessels. Enjoy exceptional Scottish hospitality, a delicious menu of local speciality produce, idyllic anchorages and fascinating daily shore visits. With only 11 guests on board in 6 ensuite cabins, choose from 10 unique itineraries cruising through breathtaking Highland scenery. Our 2013 brochure is now available or visit our website for great value discounts. Private Cruise Charter is available at discounted prices, perfect for a special celebration.

Phone or email Marie on 01369 707951 email or visit

back chat


Mike Dilger will be signing copies of his new book, My Garden and Other Animals, during the Big 9 Challenge. For more details, please check the website and the events listings on page 58. 66

Waterlife • JANUARY/MARCH 2013


I’M NOT QUITE SURE WHAT I WAS thinking. I’d been reading and

hearing about a certain bird, and on an impulse I called WWT and asked if there was anything I could do to help. ‘What do you have in mind?’ they asked. ‘How about a fundraising tour of all nine centres in nine days?’ I gushed. ‘Sounds great,’ they said. ‘When can you start?’ I went to bed that night with a big grin on my face. Then I woke up the next morning and thought: ‘What on earth possessed me to do that?’ Actually, I know very well what possessed me. It was that ‘certain bird’. I’ve seen well over 3,000 bird species around the world over the years, but the spoon-billed sandpiper [above] is one of the must-sees still on my bucket list. It’s a wonderful creature, with a unique look and an endearing charm, and a remarkable, hardy lifestyle. But it’s on the edge of extinction. If it wasn’t for the efforts of WWT and other organisations, that extinction would probably be inevitable. When I think about the mind-numbing ambition of WWT in trying to save this charismatic little bird, I’m in awe. And when I hear how much they’ve achieved already, I want to break out in applause. Yet there’s so much that still needs to be done. I have to find a way to help. Hence Mike Dilger’s Big 9 Challenge. WWT and I have worked out the itinerary to ensure

Mike Dilger is an inspiring wildlife presenter. But what inspires Mike himself? Here, he reveals all

minimal carbon footprint – Toyota is kindly lending us a Prius hybrid car, for example. I’ll be starting at Arundel on 25 January, finishing on World Wetlands Day (WWD) – 2 February – at London Wetland Centre, and taking in Slimbridge, National Wetland Centre Wales, Martin Mere, Castle Espie, Caerlaverock, Washington and Welney in that order on successive days in between. At each centre, I’ll be talking about the sandpiper, and offering levity, too, with a show about the trials of being a wildlife reporter. I’ll be chatting about my book and taking questions. It should be a cracking day. Well, nine cracking days. The timing couldn’t be better. We want to use the tour to get everyone really excited about wetlands. Not only are we building up to WWD, but everywhere we visit will be teeming with beautiful wildfowl. It is my challenge to get everyone off the sofa and out exploring their local wetlands, so all along the way WWT is setting me challenges that the public can get involved with, in person, or online via Twitter or Facebook. Do come and join me, won’t you? When all is said and done, if the whole adventure can raise not just some laughs, but also some much-needed funding for WWT’s astonishing work, then… mission accomplished. For more, visit big9challenge and spoonbilledsandpiper.



So lightweight. So compact. So exceptional. The wait is over for everyone who likes to travel and have a binocular of the highest technical standards and compact dimensions conveniently to hand. Whether you are exploring nature close to home or in distant countries this handy masterpiece offers the best optical qualities such as perfect contrast right up to the image periphery, highest colour fidelity, brilliant colours and a 100% wide angle field of view, even for spectacle wearers.




SWAROVSKI U.K. LTD. Perrywood Business Park, Salfords Surrey RH1 5JQ Tel. 01737-856812


Binoculars & Telescopes Discovery WP PC

Savanna WP

Using an ultra-compact optical design, the Discovery WP PC series are among the smallest waterproof roof prism binoculars available on the market today.

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

With a host of features including WA eyepieces; 7.5˚ (8x32), 7.5˚ (8x42), 6.0˚ (10x42) plus excellent close focus ability, each model offers the value conscious user a stylish and user friendly field glass. 8x32 £169, 8x42 £179, 10x42 £189, 8x50 £199 and 10x50 £199

6x30 £99, 8x30 £109

ES 80 GA v3 Fieldscopes

Special Offer MM2 52 & MM2 52 ED Travelscopes Created to optimise the balance between optical performance and size, the MM2 Mighty Midget is an ideal choice for the space and weight conscious user and an excellent ‘first’ telescope.

Designed and manufactured to deliver ‘best in class’ performance with rugged dependability and genuine user comfort, the ES 80 v3 is the perfect choice for people looking for a genuine high quality fieldscope to enhance their birdwatching. Bodies from £399 HDF T eyepieces from £139

Save up to 25% MM2 52 (Str or 45˚) + HR.MM2 13-39x zoom eyepiece + Soft Case + Sherpa 200R Tripod RRP £397, £299 Save £98 MM2 52 ED (Str or 45˚) + HR.MM2 13-39x zoom eyepiece + Soft Case + Sherpa 200R Tripod RRP £497, £399 Save £98 Available from stockists nationwide. Phone for details.

Opticron equipment can be tried, tested and purchased at the following WWT centres; Martin Mere, Slimbridge and the London Wetland Centre as well as good optical retailers nationwide. To find your nearest stockist or to order a copy of our latest Product Guide please phone us on 01582 726522. Alternatively visit us online at PO Box 370, Unit 21, Titan Court, Laporte Way, Luton, Beds, LU4 8YR UK Fax: 01582 723559 Email:

Waterlife Jan-March 2013  
Waterlife Jan-March 2013  

The magazine of the Wildfowl and Wetslands Trust