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waterlife The magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust | 201 July/September 2017 | £4.25 |













Who can resist that cute face? Come and meet our otters

Summer is here and it’s a very special season

for enjoying wildlife. Breeding birds are in full swing and the first waders return from the Arctic. Our wildflower meadows are full of bright colours and seductive scents, and dazzling dragonflies and damselflies flash in the sunlight. With them comes the summer’s most dashing predator, the hobby, hunting over the grazing marshes. There’s so much to enjoy! Every day is full of discovery, fun and outdoor adventures at your local WWT centre. Dusty Duck is inviting all children to join Wildlife Rangers and learn new skills, find out more about wildlife and complete exciting activities. There are loads to choose from – including creating bug hotels, tracking wildlife and learning survival skills – and every centre offers something different. Find out more on page 28 and in Down Your Way from page 45. July is a great month to enjoy the antics of adorable broods of shelduck ducklings, as their long-suffering parents try to keep them all together. We reveal the surprising secrets of these handsome birds on page 34. You could find it a little harder to spot a wild otter, but our healthy wetlands offer one of your best chances. And even if you don’t see a wild individual, several WWT centres have delightful otter families you’ll fall in love with! Find out how we’re making otters welcome on page 18. Don’t forget to follow Chris Gomersall’s tips (page 41) and enter your best images in our photo competition (page 26). You could win a fantastic prize and be published in Waterlife!

In this issue...

4 7 16 18 26 28 34 41 42 45 66

Front lines Martin Spray on the importance of conservation partnerships Waterways The latest WWT conservation news from around the world Wigeon post Your letters and photos, plus our crossword and competition Otters Why WWT centres are great places to glimpse elusive wild otters Photo competition Win a fantastic prize in our popular photo contest Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers A summer of fun awaits you at your local centre! Shelduck society Discover the secret life of this dapper duck Photo tips Expert advice for taking wonderful wildlife images in summer Kids’ zone Steve Backshall and Dusty Duck turn wildlife detective Down your way All the wildlife, news and events at your local centre Back chat Meet a member of WWT’s team and find out what they do

WWT is the leading global conservation organisation committed to the protection of wetlands and all that live in and around them. WWT is the only UK charity with a national network of specialist wetland centres that people can visit. It was founded in 1946 by the late Sir Peter Scott, the renowned naturalist and artist.

HEADQUARTERS Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT 01453 891900 Registered Charity No. 1030884 and SC039410

On the cover: Paul Hobson/FLPA

CENTRES For full contact details, please see page 45 WWT Arundel 01903 883355 WWT Caerlaverock 01387 770200 WWT Castle Espie 028 9187 4146 WWT Llanelli 01554 741087 WWT London 020 8409 4400 WWT Martin Mere 01704 895181 WWT Slimbridge 01453 891900 WWT Washington 0191 416 5454 WWT Welney 01353 860711

WATERLIFE The quarterly magazine of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Managing editor: Sarah Maddrell Editorial board: Ray Clark, Baz Hughes, David Salmon, Rob Shore, Mark Simpson, Fiona Williams Editor: Sophie Stafford Deputy chief sub-editor: Marion Thompson Designers: Mark Davies, Katherine Pentney Contributors: Derek Niemann, Dominic Couzens (text); Chris Gomersall (text and images); Tim Sutcliffe (Dusty Duck cartoon) Group advertising manager: Sonal Mistry 020 3771 7247 Account director: Helen Cassidy, Think, Capital House, 25 Chapel Street, London NW1 5DH;

Waterlife is published four times a year, and is printed by Wyndeham Southernprint, on UPM Ultra Silk 70gsm, an FSC paper accredited as coming from well-managed forest. Views expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect those of WWT. ISSN: 1752-7392 Average net circulation for the period Jan-Dec 2016: 93,824





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

North and Midlands

The Barn at Beal, overlooking Holy Island, Northumberland 16 Jul / 17 Sep / 19 Nov Hauxley Nature Reserve, Northumberland 9 Jul / 13 Aug / 10 Sep / 8 Oct / 12 Nov Low Barns Nature Reserve, Co Durham 15 Oct / 17 Dec North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire 6 Aug / 1 Oct / 3 Dec Washington WWT, Tyne and Wear 23 Jul / 27 Aug / 24 Sep / 22 Oct / 26 Nov Rainton Meadows 30 Jul / 29 Oct / 31 Dec


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

South and East

Arundel WWT, West Sussex 13 Aug / 10 Sep / 8 Oct Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, E Sussex 12 Aug / 16 Sep / 14 Oct Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent 27 Aug / 28 Oct Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Kent 9 Sep

South and West

Farmoor, Oxford 17 Sep Blashford Lakes, Ringwood, Hampshire 8 Aug / 5 Sep / 3 Oct Portland Bird Observatory, Dorset 22 Aug / 23 Sep / 21 Oct Dawlish Warren 6 Aug / 1 Oct Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch Harbour 5 Aug / 15 Oct Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham, Berkshire 30 Sep

Wales and Scotland

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Llanelli WWT, Carmarthenshire 24 Sep / 22 Oct Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfriesshire 3 Sep / 5 Nov All events from 10.00am - 4.00pm for latest information ring any of our shops

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ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH PARTNERSHIP Martin Spray CBE, WWT Chief Executive Despite the substantial growth

in environmental awareness we’ve witnessed over the past 70 years of WWT’s conservation work, we still see declines in species and habitat degradation in the UK and across the world. We’re winning some significant battles, but not the war. The challenges facing us are considerable, but most conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are comparably small. A ‘go it alone’ approach will not work. And just working with other conservation NGOs will not be enough to meet the challenges. We need to develop wider partnerships and affiliations.

An oasis in the heart of our capital, WWT London Wetland Centre is the realisation of one of Sir Peter Scott’s greatest dreams




A pioneering example was the creation of the London Wetland Centre. In the late 1980s, Thames Water, who look for opportunities to open their sites for the benefit of the community, wanted to convert four decommissioned reservoirs. They knew that commercial development would be unacceptable and they came to see Sir Peter Scott. Peter’s vision was to take nature to people – and he had his sights set on the people of London. Thames Water’s need to do something more imaginative with the reservoir site presented the perfect opportunity to create the wetlands with WWT. But where was the money to come from? Richmond Council supported the idea of a wetland centre and gave permission

for 12 hectares to be developed adjacent to the river for housing. A relatively small developer at the time, Berkeley Homes, won the contract to build high-quality apartments and townhouses. In return, the company made a large financial contribution to the construction of the 40-hectare wetland centre. Thames Water contributed a further sum and WWT raised the rest. The CEOs of both companies led WWT’s fundraising appeal. This was a highly effective partnership of business, local government and a conservation charity, all with different objectives, but each gaining from the joint enterprise. There are other examples of WWT’s partnership work, notably with the Environment Agency in Somerset to create the incredible Steart Marshes, and with

Sir Peter Scott’s vision was to take nature to people – and he had his sights set on the people of London. Enter Thames Water…

Thames Water and the Environment Agency in north London to establish sustainable drainage systems in 10 schools. The former helps to control storm events and subsequent flooding, while providing wonderful wetland habitat and a place for people to enjoy wildlife and open space. The latter provides a solution to surface water flooding at the schools and a better environment for students and teachers, and promotes the engagement of students with the benefits wetlands can offer. If we’re to achieve a better environment now and in the future, we need to understand and meet the aspirations and needs of society and communities within it. They will differ in each country, region or local community. Here, and in many parts of the world, human health and wellbeing is rapidly rising up the agenda. There is evidence of the beneficial effects of contact with nature. Health and wellbeing and working wetlands, benefiting people and wildlife, are two major priorities for WWT over the next five years. To fulfil our goals, we will need to develop new creative partnerships, a different approach and an exciting opportunity.





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Truly All-Inclusive Flights from a choice of up to 15 UK airports, or a NO FLY option via Eurostar† Unlimited premium branded drinks and in-suite mini bar* Fine dining in a choice of up to six on-board venues Private invitation to Portobellos – Italian fine-dining with wine pairing Award winning complimentary shore excursions Once-in-a-lifetime Enrich events and experiences A choice of luxurious suites – the largest on Europe’s rivers Exclusive cocktail receptions in majestic locations Exclusive GPS tailor-made devices for self-guided touring and use of our e-bikes Butler and laundry service for all guests Complimentary Wi-Fi All tipping, transfers and taxes

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Order a FREE brochure on 0808 250 8414 or visit Terms and Conditions: Offers are subject to availability for new bookings made between 28 June and 15 August 2017. Iconic Danube from price of £1,595 is based on the lowest cabin category available on 12 April 2018. Price correct at time of going to print (May 2017). A 1% credit card charge (1.95% AMEX) applies. Flights are subject to availability and may incur a supplement. *All drinks are included on-board except for a number of rare, fine and vintage wines, champagnes and spirits. †No fly options are available on selected river cruises by first class rail and Standard Premier Eurostar travel. Transfers between rail stations in Paris not included. #Savings of up to £1,250 per couple includes a £125 Early Payment Discount per person which you’ll receive if the balance is paid in full before 31 October 2017.ˆFree private door-to-door chauffeur transfers only apply when booking Europe and France itineraries. Mileage restrictions of 75 miles applies for door-to-door private transfers, £2 per mile excess will be charged thereafter, UK mainland only. We reserve the right to remove offers and promotions at any time. For full itineraries and booking conditions, please visit



We’ll be testing our floating aviary at Slimbridge, with the help of some tufted ducks

ONE STEP CLOSER ION S S I CAR M MADAGAS Thank you to everyone who has supported our phase two Mission Madagascar appeal, launched in the last issue of Waterlife. Thanks to your support, we’ve already achieved so much. Today, our captivebreeding centre in Madagascar is home to 90 Madagascar pochards, about three times the number in the wild, bringing them back from the brink of extinction. We’re working with local communities around Lake Sofia to show them how to farm more sustainably, and we’ve trialled an environmental education programme promoting healthy wetlands in three schools. We’re now working hard to ensure that Lake Sofia provides the perfect habitat

for our Madagascar pochards – and making exciting plans for the birds’ release! This next phase is vital for the survival of these precious ducks. Our conservation team at Slimbridge will be testing our floating aviaries – with the help of some tufted ducks – to make sure they’re just right for the pochards to familiarise themselves with Lake Sofia in safety, before being released into the wild. We’ve received a fantastic response to our appeal already and have raised more than £30,000. Thank you to everyone who has kindly donated. If you’d like to help us release this beautiful species back into the wild, please donate today. Just call 01453 891194/891195 or visit






Fierce winds blew some of the geese back home

midnight. Tags 27, 29 and 10 were turned around by the strong winds and made landfall on Stronsay in Orkney. We believe these three bean geese were flying together, probably within a larger flock. Though we rallied birdwatchers on Orkney to help find the tagged birds, only tag 10 could be located. It remained on the island for two weeks before migrating to Denmark via southern Norway. Remarkably, tags 27 and 29 had headed due south and navigated straight back to their usual wintering site in Slamannan. The two birds successfully made the crossing a week after their failed migration and were reunited with the rest of the Scottish flock in northwest Denmark. This discovery confirms that geese can abandon a long sea crossing and make it safely back to land to try again. And, perhaps most surprisingly, it reveals that birds displaced by a storm

can reorientate, head back to their original starting location and try again. We assume that tags 27 and 29 had never visited Orkney before, yet within a day, they had plotted and flown a course due south back to Slamannan. We do not know the impact this event will have on the rest of the bean goose flock, so we look forward to seeing how many of them return later this year.

red = tag 30 green = tag 10 yellow = tag 27 blue = tag 29


Of the native geese traditionally wintering in the UK, the taiga bean goose is Britain’s rarest. It arrives here in late September from its breeding grounds in Sweden. The UK is host to two flocks – one of which is found in Norfolk and the other at Slamannan, near Falkirk in central Scotland – which together total fewer than 300 birds. Due to abrupt declines in the global population of taiga bean geese, they are classified as ‘vulnerable’, and in the UK they are a species of the highest conservation concern. WWT is contributing to the development of the International Taiga Bean Goose Action Plan, and helping to closely monitor the flock at Slamannan, along with partner organisations within the Bean Goose Action Group. In October 2015, we fitted four of the birds with GPS tags to track their migrations to and from the UK. Recently, these trackers revealed an astonishing journey. Due to mild weather, the Scottish flock of taiga bean geese began their migration back to Scandinavia earlier than previously recorded, on 6 February 2017. On a gentle, southerly wind, tag 30 got a head start on the other three birds. However, halfway across the North Sea to Denmark, all four geese ran into trouble as they encountered strong easterly headwinds blowing from the continent. The geese probably had to make an urgent decision – settle on the sea to sit it out or try to battle on. Tag 30 had made better progress by the time the winds blew up, so it bravely pushed on and made landfall in west Denmark by

This map shows the different routes our tagged geese took on migration

You shared your love for wetlands and wildlife threatened by climate change

SPEAK UP ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE By Richard Benwell, WWT’s Head of Government Affairs If you came to Slimbridge in February, you may have seen a tree decked out in green hearts. We asked visitors to get crafty and design a ‘love leaf’, letting us know about wetlands or wildlife threatened by climate change. From the boom of the bittern to getting muddy on a peatland walk, you helped us remind people how climate change could affect the things we love about our natural world. Last year, a truly historic global deal came into force. The Paris Agreement set a course for decarbonising 197 countries. That’s amazing – people from France to Fiji agreed to set their countries on a cleaner course.

But we need to keep up political momentum to achieve change here at home. Climate is just one of the environmental issues that has been pushed down the political agenda by Brexit – we need to make sure the ethical and economic arguments for climate action aren’t lost. So, this July we are teaming up with The Climate Coalition to Speak Up! about climate change and make sure politicians take action to deliver the cleaner, greener future we want. The big political deals are done; now is the time to deliver. We want the government to unlock clean community energy, so that people who want to forge ahead with renewables in harmony with nature can do so – and share in the benefits. We want it to stop dithering on zero-carbon homes, reducing

fuel poverty and emissions. And we want the UK’s international energy spending to be refocused on helping the world’s poorest people access clean, green energy, instead of fossil fuels. How can you help? There’s a lot at stake in the months ahead. Let’s make sure climate change stays high on the political agenda. Please Speak Up! with us in our Week of Action, 1-9 July, by organising an event about climate change and inviting your MP. There’s a simple guide on our website with lots of ideas. You can also find a map showing events near you – including those at WWT wetland centres. Visit

Crossword solution

Here are the answers to last issue’s crossword Across: 7. Metamorphoses 8. Llanelli 9. Duck 10. Present 12. Inlet 14. Burry 16. Pay cash 19. Teem 20. Carports 22. St Patrick’s Day Down: 1. Teal 2. Barnes 3. Gosling 4. April 5. Polden 6. Teachers 11. Roulette 13. Caprice 15. Ramsar 17. Croeso 18. Scarf 21. Thaw





VOLUNTEER AND HELP SAVE WILDLIFE! We’ve been running successful team building at WWT wetland centres since the early 1990s. Our centres are ideal locations for companies to contribute to both their local community and the environment. Our corporate volunteering days are a great way to get people out of the office and into the great outdoors to do something for nature. Volunteers help us to complete year-round jobs on our reserves, including coppicing, reseeding wildflower meadows,

reed-screen building and even donning a pair of waders to work on our ponds! Without volunteers we wouldn’t be able to complete the work that needs doing across the reserves – and we like to think we give something back for all their hard work. Companies have shared that volunteers return to work feeling re-energised and more connected with colleagues. Through dedicating a day of staff time to WWT, your organisation can actively contribute

to conservation, improving community spaces, saving species and sustaining livelihoods both at home and abroad. So do something amazing today and bring a team to one of our centres to help us save wetlands and wildlife. For more about how to sign up for a corporate volunteering day, visit or email

CELEBRATING ‘DUCK-RINGING’ ROY KING Following an illustrious career spanning 60 years with WWT, Roy King recently hung up his ringing pliers at the duckringing station at Abberton Reservoir in Essex. During this time, we estimate he ringed more than 100,000 ducks. In doing so, he made a huge contribution to our monitoring efforts and knowledge of their migrations, ecology and survival, including the spread of diseases such as bird flu. Roy’s hard work and expertise amassed a vast dataset on teal that we’re still analysing today. Almost single-handedly, he ringed around 30,000 teal – more than a quarter of all those ever ringed in the UK. Other major contributions included almost 30,000 mallard (>15% of the UK total), 8,500 tufted duck (22% of UK total) and nine smew (not many, but 75% of the UK total). 10



Roy’s prestigious duck-trapping abilities have been invaluable in training others, nationally and internationally. Anyone who has worked with him will know him as a lovely and enthusiastic fieldwork partner. Roy began working at Abberton in 1956 as assistant to MajorGeneral Wainwright, who established the duck-ringing station there in 1949. After Wainwright’s death in 1968, Roy took over and embarked on a continuous ringing operation until 1989, when he moved Roy away to manage WWT’s King estate at King’s Nympton in Devon. Following his retirement, Roy returned

to Essex in 2007 and re-established the duck ringing at Abberton as a volunteer. Recently, staff from WWT Slimbridge and Essex & Suffolk Water – who have supported the ringing for many years – spent a day at Abberton celebrating Roy’s incredible achievements. As a token of our appreciation, we presented him with a copy of Matthieu Guillemain and Johan Elmberg’s monograph on teal, which Matt had inscribed: ‘There is a lot of your work in here!’ Roy has made one of the greatest individual contributions to our knowledge of European duck migration – and it will be hard for anyone in the future to surpass it.











TURIN By Rail By Coach By Ship 1

Nights in hotel

© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London [2017]. All rights reserved


Douglas Russell, Senior Curator: birds’ eggs and nests at the Natural History Museum, examines the Tomkinson collection

TOMKINSON’S INCREDIBLE EGGS In March, WWT donated the exceptional Tomkinson egg collection to London’s Natural History Museum (NHM), so that this rare, historical resource can benefit bird research and conservation. Gerald Tomkinson (1876-1959) started collecting eggs as a teenager in the 1890s and continued to do so regularly until the early 1950s. Over time, he built up a collection of more than 20,000 eggs from 325 European species, including nearly all those that breed or are known to have bred in the UK. In particular, he built up an invaluable collection of tree pipit eggs, which showed intraspecific egg variation caused by being parasitised by cuckoos. But the special egg in his collection was that of an extinct great auk, purchased in 1939 for £400. The eggs were carefully presented in clutches, sometimes on beds of feathers, accompanied by photographs, diaries and a detailed catalogue containing information about their provenance. In around 1973, the egg collection – minus the great auk egg, which was sold to a dealer in antique books – was donated to WWT by Gerald’s son, John. Housed in several wooden cabinets, exactly as Gerald had left it, the collection was moved to 12



storage and left untouched until recently – a factor that contributed to its preservation. Egg collecting has been prohibited since 1954 and for anyone researching birds, the Tomkinson collection is one of the most important data-rich late-19th/early-20thcentury egg collections in the world. Collections of eggs and manuscripts of this breadth, quality and condition are very rare.

It’s an invaluable resource for long-term ecological studies, which can use new techniques to unlock its secrets. So we’ve decided that it’s in the nation’s interests to professionally preserve the collection and make its data available to researchers. Donating this historic collection to the NHM will ensure the eggs continue telling their stories for a long time to come.

the problem with peregrines When Tomkinson collected a clutch of peregrine falcon eggs in the 1930s, he also collected prey remains from the nest, which included 15 racing pigeon rings. The advent of pigeon racing in the 19th century brought peregrines into conflict with pigeon keepers, especially during the war, when carrier pigeons were

used to carry messages. This led to the Destruction of Peregrine Falcons Order in 1940. When persecution ceased in 1946, peregrine numbers started to recover, but then they were hit by the post-war release of synthetic organic pesticides, such as DDT, into the environment.

Studying pre-war clutches of peregrine eggs in collections like Tomkinson’s allowed experts to demonstrate the devastating effect the pesticides were having on the birds and nature.


PROJECT GODWIT WEBSITE LAUNCHES In May, a website was launched about Project Godwit, our exciting new venture to boost numbers of black-tailed godwits in the UK. Britain is home to a very small breeding population of around 60 pairs of the birds – and that makes them vulnerable. As a result, these large, elegant wading birds are Red Listed in the UK and Near Threatened globally. This means they are likely to be threatened with extinction in the near future. Project Godwit is a partnership between WWT and RSPB, with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, HSBC 150th Anniversary fund and Natural England. It’s taken months of work to design the website for all the different audiences we hope to reach, from academics to the public. The site introduces the spectacular black-tailed godwit and explores the Ouse and Nene Washes, the most important breeding sites for the bird in the UK. It is the go-to place to experience the project as it unfolds, with updates, blogs and videos from the project team as they work hard to restore godwits at the Ouse Washes, and tackle

Keep up to date with this exciting project on our new website emerging problems at the Nene Washes. It will also be updated with the scientific outputs of the project, to assist scientists and conservationists working on the same or similar species. As the project progresses, more resources will be added, including educational material for teachers and parents to introduce children to wonderful waders, marvellous mud and the world of wetlands. In the future, viewers will be able to follow released godwits on migration – and see if they choose wintering sites in Iberia 4,000km

away, or continue 10,000km to Senegal or Guinea-Bissau. We hope you find the website informative and interesting, and that you will contribute – comment on our articles, submit your photos of the fenland landscape and share the godwit story on and offline.

Please visit the website and send questions or comments to


Richard Waddingham received the 2016 Marsh Award for Wetland Conservation for his work at Manor Farm, Norfolk




whose work has made a major contribution to the creation, restoration or protection of these wonderful habitats that benefit people and wildlife. There will be a buffet for those who have booked in advance (tickets £15 per head), offering the chance to spend time with other WWT members and staff. All those attending will then be able to enjoy a full afternoon of activities and exclusive

updates on our local and international conservation work! Members can review the business agenda, papers and 2016/17 Review and Accounts from the end of August online at or by calling the Finance Department on 01453 891148 to obtain a copy. If you would like to attend this year’s AGM, RSVP to James Byron by emailing, calling 01453 891145 or writing to James Byron, WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire GL2 7BT. Please do so by Friday 25 August 2017, indicating if you would like lunch and have any dietary or other requirements. We hope you’ll be part of this fun and informative day!

WWT/Sacha Dench

Our AGM will be held on Thursday 5 October at Martin Mere Wetland Centre. It’s a great opportunity for new members and old friends, volunteers and staff to come together and hear the latest news from the conservation projects that, together, we make possible. The day will start at 10.30am, followed by the presentation of the 2017 Marsh Award for Wetland Conservation. Awarded in partnership with the Marsh Christian Trust, this celebrates the achievements of an individual

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

Nature is for everyone! My name is Mya-Rose Craig. I’m 14, I’ve been birding forever and I write a blog called Birdgirl. I recently set up an organisation called Black2Nature, to try and help minority ethnic (ME) people to get outside. It is very rare to see any ME people enjoying nature, so I organised a conference called Race Equality in Nature last June with Bill Oddie, where we looked at the barriers and how they can be overcome. Obstacles include poverty, lack of cheap transport or suitable opportunities, fear of hate crime, not owning suitable clothing, dads working antisocial hours, mothers not confident enough to take children out alone, not understanding the benefits and lack of role models. But did you know that WWT members can help by talking about their passion for nature and encouraging any ME people they know – family, friends, colleagues, pupils, neighbours or churchgoers – to get outdoors? Anyone can be engaged with nature. Mya-Rose Craig, Bristol Richard Benwell, WWT’s Head of Government Affairs, replies: Thanks, Mya-Rose, and congratulations on setting up Black2Nature. We agree. In a world that seems increasingly divided along political and economic lines, we’re all equal in nature – and nature is equally for everyone. We’re working to encourage and enable access to a quality environment, from the inner cities to the rural uplands. Everyone should feel welcome in a wetland! 16



send us your best photos!


A huge thank you to everyone who participated in our reader survey. Your feedback will help us to make Waterlife into a magazine you cannot wait to read. Karen Sims from Devon won the M&S hamper and we hope she will enjoy it. We were really delighted that 86% of readers rate the magazine as good or excellent, and that more than 60% of you have visited a WWT centre as a result of reading about it in our pages. Many of you told us that your favourite topics were birds and that you’d like to learn more about them – so this issue we have a fantastic feature on shelducks. Plus, you can look forward to more features on birds in the

Valuing our wild places I’ve been a member of WWT for many years. I enjoy visiting Slimbridge – it’s such a beautiful place. The everchanging sky and colours of the river are always a draw for me when the summer walkway is open. That first sight of the Severn Estuary as one reaches the apex of the sea wall is breathtaking – a glorious sweeping vista, accentuated by the white noise from the swaying reeds, interweaved with the sweet songs of secretive sedge and reed warblers. There is solitude – on a quiet day one can immerse oneself in the calming existence of birds and water. Elsewhere on-site, there are hides that offer glimpses of fleeting rarities, vistas of flocks of geese and waders, and

future, including waders and ospreys, and on bringing rare species back from the brink of extinction. You also told us that you love photography, so we’ll be including even more beautiful images every issue. We would love you to share your best images with us, so please email them to

close-up action of small birds feeding. All these things make Slimbridge a special place for me. I love bringing my granddaughter here and taking her on the canoe safaris. It’s like joining the ducks and swans in their own habitat and at their own level – it helps you relate to them and appreciate their world a little bit more. That’s why I’ve decided to remember WWT in my will – so that places as beautiful as Slimbridge are protected for future generations to enjoy. Kenneth Dunn, Yate WWT Legacy Manager David Salmon writes: Thank you so much, Kenneth. Kind support such as this will help ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the wetlands we love.


brain-buster crossword We’ve got this great prize for the winner of our crossword, set by WWT member Tim Bonsor. It’s a lovely selection of exclusive Bewick’s swan bill pattern stationery, worth around £23. Send your crossword (photocopied if you wish) to the address opposite by 7 August 2017 and the first correct entry drawn after that date wins. Meanwhile, the solution to last issue’s puzzle is on page 9; congratulations to the winner, Miss Alison Tyrer. Across 1. The natural home of 15 across. (4) 3. These African geese are rare visitors to WWT sites. (8) 9. You’ll need sharp eyes to see this shy bird skulking in the reeds. (7) 10. Birds apply an oil from the uropygial gland when they do this. (5) 11. Unlike nuthatches, these birds climb up. (12) 13. The longest river entirely in England. (6) 15. At Slimbridge, their names are Flo, Minnie and Ha Ha. (6) 18. The three-storey hide at London Wetland Centre. (7,5) 22. The UK’s largest and best-known 20 down. (5) 23. Schedules… for you and others. (7) 24. What the restless child did. (8) 25. A group of three. (4) 1






Down 1. The natural homes of an animal or plant. (8) 2. Order one and relax at the Wigeon Café, Welney. (5) 4. This land is where you can get close to the geese at WWT Washington. (6) 5. Such books are popular with young children. (3-2) 6. With global warming, the Arctic will soon be this in the summer. (3-4) 7. Also known as the Hawaiian goose, WWT helped save this species from extinction. (4) 8. Save (from drowning, for example). (6) 12. Order one and relax at the Kingfisher Café, Castle Espie. (8) 14. Declared. (7) 16. Someone who watches small birds for a laugh? (6) 17. See 20 down. 19. Take one for a safari at Martin Mere. (5) 20./17. Another great hide to see redshanks, sandpipers, etc at London Wetland Centre. (5,6) 21. The head man in the kitchen. (4)


8 9


11 12 13




17 18



21 22




Mystery solved! While walking in Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, in January, I spotted a bird I’d not seen before. Luckily, I had my camera with me, so I took this photo in order to identify the species from my various bird books when I got home. The next day, my Waterlife magazine 2 arrived and I was amazed to see my mystery bird

featured at number three in your ‘10 Winter Wonders’ feature. It was a water rail, which was described as ‘rarely seen’ and ‘secretive’. Reading the article, I realised how lucky I was to have seen this beautiful bird. Susan Bradley

W W T ’ S TO P 10

At a Bewick’s swan feed at Slimbridge, our experts reveal the drama of life in the flock

Goose flight I took this photo at WWT Slimbridge in January. My wife and I were sat in the Peng

Andy Rouse/

Is there trouble on swan lake? Necks arched and wings beating, two Bewick’s rear up from the water in an apparent altercation, their high bugling calls cutting through the air. But this is not a bust-up: the birds are a pair, and their display signals the renewal of courtship – a process that will soon see them depart to begin their annual 2,000-mile spring odyssey back to their breeding grounds in Russia. The WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre staff know these two birds well: like all the swans here, and at WWT Welney, their unique bill markings confirm their individual identities. The markings have continued to inform one of the longest ongoing research programmes of any bird species in the world. Bewick’s swans pair for life; some couples have returned here for more than

At WWT Arundel, you may hear the pig-like squeal of a water rail or glimpse one dashing from the reeds

20 years.

Where: Slimbridge and Welney When: October to March Time: Daily feeds at Welney at 12 noon and 3.30pm, and Slimbridge at 4pm, plus floodlit swan feeds at Welney at 6.30pm (see WWT website for details) 20


Bence Mate/

David Tipling/





On a crisp winter morning at WWT Arundel Wetland Centre, a movement in the reeds disturbs a foraging wren. The diminutive bird cocks its tail and gives its

a scolding alarm trill. On cue, larger bird emerges from below. It resembles a skinny, upright moorhen, but the low winter light reveals striking blue-grey and underparts, a chestnut back red dagger bill. A water rail! Though rarely seen, this secretive reedbed denizen occurs on many WWT reserves, its presence most often betrayed by its pig-like squealing calls. During winter cold snaps, when visitors from Eastern Europe swell the native population, it shows a more public face, emerging from the reedbeds in search of open pools. Watch quietly or it will dash in away, white undertail flicking panic, to resume its skulking. Where: Arundel; also Steart, London, Slimbridge and Caerlaverock When: November to February at Caerlaverock, October to March at Arundel Time: All day, easier to see in cold weather

4 Llanelli is home to all five species of owl, including the short-eared owl. At Caerlaverock, Saltcot Merse Observatory is an ideal spot to watch ‘shorties’ hunting over the merse


The light is already fading when a short-eared owl materialises from the gloom at the back of the marsh. It quarters the ground methodically, dipping and stalling just above the grass heads and occasionally dropping from sight in pursuit of a vole. Drifting closer, it alights on a fence post. Your binoculars pick in out blazing yellow eyes framed dark spectacles: a glare of pure predatory intent. As you watch, the owl ducks to evade two passing carrion crows, which to divert from their flight path it dive-bomb the intruder. Then launches again to resume the endless quest for food. visit The short-eared owls that WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre every winter come mostly from further north and continental

Europe. They are drawn by the rich rodent life in the marshes and are not the only owls to find a home on the reserve. Barn owls quarter the rough ground in a similar fashion, moth-like in their ghostly white plumage. Little owls pop up around old buildings, bullheaded and inquisitive. And the quavering hoots of tawny owls the echo after darkness through woods, where the dark branches may even hide a roosting long-eared owl, the rarest of this nocturnal quintet. Where: Llanelli; also Caerlaverock, plus Welney for barn owls and Steart for short-eared and barn owls, and Washington for

tawny owls When: Winter Time: Look for short-eared owls hunting during the day




spotting skills Last issue we challenged you to name that chick – and you didn’t let us down. Many recognised this duckling as a young goldeneye, a sea duck that overwinters in the UK. Goldeneyes can be seen in the tundra zone at Slimbridge and at other centres. Well done to our winner, Margaret Collins.

Now summer is here, it seems fitting that we test your knowledge of one of the season’s visitors. Arriving from April, it is a speedy aerial predator of dragonflies, but what is it? Send your answer to the address opposite, and the first correct entry drawn after the closing date of 7 August 2017 wins a copy of Watching Waterbirds.

Observatory waiting for the wild bird feed to commence, when this flock of Canada geese flew overhead, caught in the last rays of the setting sun. I quickly grabbed my telephoto zoom lens and was really pleased I got the shot. Brian Wetton, Dursley JULY/SEPTEMBER 2017





Seeing a wild otter is never easy, but with our carefully managed and healthy wetlands, WWT centres offer visitors an excellent chance. All you need is patience




Wild otters can be hard to see, but our centres could give you your best chance




You may not see much. It’s enough, though: a square-shaped head pops up just above the water surface, setting off a few ripples, and your attention is grabbed, your senses on full alert. Observing more closely, you can just make out a dog-like face and long whiskers. The animal moves effortlessly through the water and then, fulfilling your best hopes, it dives, its back sliding over like a submerging whale. You get a glimpse of the long, tapered tail, confirming it beyond doubt as the wetland’s number one predator. The shape disappears, but the shiver down your spine still tingles. An otter sighting is not a sighting; it’s an event. But seeing an otter in Britain was once a barely possible dream, unless you could travel to the far reaches of western Scotland, where the animals have always thrived along the coast. Things have changed, though – and very much for the better. Since the introduction of controls on organic pesticide pollutants in the 1970s, together with legal protection against direct persecution, the otter has bounced back – indeed, in every sense, for it has a Otters rest up distinctive bounding gait and make their homes, called when running along on ‘holts’, in dry land. Now otters are cavities in banks or regaining much of their hollow trees lost ground, returning to great swathes of lowland England and Wales. They are coming to a wetland near you – in fact, they’re probably there already.

Niall Benvie/


Andy Rouse/

Otter revolution

Our reserves have not missed out on the otter revolution. You could spot a wild otter at most of our centres, but the best opportunities are at Washington, Slimbridge, Llanelli, Steart and more recently Martin Mere. Indeed, since sightings of this, one of Britain’s most exciting animals, are becoming increasingly likely, visitors really do have a genuine chance of an encounter. ‘A contributing factor is our wetland management, which improves the 20



You may not see much. It’s enough, though: a square-shaped head pops up just above the water surface, and your senses are on full alert

quality of the habitat,’ says Lauri MacLean, Senior Reserves Management Planning Officer. ‘The presence of an otter is an indication of clean water and plenty of food, so their increasing appearances are a result of the management we already carry out for wildfowl and other wetland wildlife. We’re always delighted to see them.’ A good example of otter-friendly management is reedbed creation, which is carried out at Slimbridge and other centres. ‘The reeds help to clean the water,’ says Lauri. ‘And we preserve the health of our reedbeds by cutting them at frequent intervals and regulating the water level. The benefits to otters are benefits to the whole ecosystem.’ The habitats at our centres and elsewhere fulfil the otter’s basic need: food. This carnivore is a top predator, more crocodile than lion. The violence

Otter droppings are tar-like and black, and contain fish bones and scales Niall Benvie/

How to spot an otter

Here’s our handy guide to seeing otters, by WWT’s experts, Dave Paynter and John Gowland l Everyone wants to see an otter, and our centres are perfect places to enjoy the scenery and wildlife, and possibly spot one.

voles, in the same targeted way that the and gore usually happens out of sight, American mink, a close relative, does. underwater and under cover. The At Washington and all our centres, otter’s diet consists of about 80% fish, the staff take no chances. ‘A fence and many of these are surprisingly protects our collection of birds,’ says small – species such as sticklebacks, John Gowland, Reserve Manager. for example. Eels and perch provide ‘However, in 2012, we received a grant a more substantial meal, but what an to breach the banks of the River Wear otter catches on any given day will and create a saltmarsh with a lagoon on vary from place to place and according the reserve. It’s a great new wild to the season. It’s what is known habitat, and we moved the as an opportunist, snatching fence back so that otters whatever comes its DID YOU KNOW? and other wildlife way, using its excellent OTTER DROPPINGS, OR can enter this area underwater eyesight, ‘SPRAINTS’, ARE OFTEN unhindered.’ Wild super-sensitive whiskers FOUND DEPOSITED ON otter sightings have and plenty of hunting PROMINENT ROCKS OR proliferated, and guile. Variety is the spice MOUNDS. FRESH SPRAINTS there’s now a hide of its life. HAVE A VERY PUNGENT overlooking the richest SMELL hunting grounds. ‘There’s Disappearing ducks a large log in the middle of the That variety does include some lagoon, which acts as a reef for the creatures close to our hearts, such fish,’ adds John. ‘Not surprisingly, that’s as water voles and even wildfowl. where otters like to hunt.’ ‘They are known to catch ducks by There are many other ways in approaching them from underneath,’ which WWT works to help otters. For says Dave Paynter, Reserve Manager. example, at Slimbridge, the team leaves ‘So when the ducks detect the presence piles of reeds or scrub on the riverbank of otters, they make for the shallows.’ after they’ve been cut, which the But otters have such a wide diet that they don’t directly threaten populations animals use as a retreat to hole up in peace and quiet. At Washington, we’ve of their prey animals, such as water

l Spend some time in a comfortable hide overlooking one of our known otter spots, and be patient. l Look out for unusual behaviour from ducks – this gives the game away. They will suddenly all become alert and their eyes will be fixed on the same spot; diving ducks will swim towards the edges of a pool. l Otters are mostly active in the evening, at dusk. l On the coast, otters are easiest to see at low tide, especially close to where a freshwater stream runs into the sea.


prints have l On rivers and five toes lakes they often swim close to the edge of the water, and leave visible ripples or a V-shaped wake.

Christoph Courteau/

When otters swim, only the tops of the heads appear above water. Look for the V-shaped wake

l Use binoculars or, better still, a telescope to scan well ahead of you. Otters often run across paths or swim across lakes and rivers.






Otters in our living collections are the highlight of many people’s visit, so here’s a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes to keep these furry celebrities happy and healthy You can see beautiful otters up-close at four WWT centres: Slimbridge, London, Washington and Martin Mere. Although not the same species as our wild Eurasian otters, you can enjoy excellent views of cute Asian short-clawed otters, as well as a few North American river otters at Slimbridge. ‘Eurasian otters aren’t as suitable for public display,’ explains John Crooks, Slimbridge’s Living Collection Mammal Manager. ‘Firstly, they’re inclined to be nocturnal and sleep when visitors are here. Secondly, they don’t interact so well in groups. Our North American river otters are more active in the daytime and they’re far more sociable. They are also more confident and a bit full of themselves, so visitors adore them.’ Asian short-clawed otters are even more sociable; in fact, in the wild they live in large family groups. John Arbon from London Wetland Centre says, ‘Their social life reminds me of that of meerkats. They’re less aquatic than many other otters and they have a different diet. We feed them on invertebrates, including crickets, locusts, crabs and shellfish.’

Keeping busy Key to keeping our otters in good condition is providing lots of stimulation. At our centres, their enclosures are enriched with hollow rocks, boxes, pipes and different depths of pools. The otters at Slimbridge often pass the time climbing up a spindle tree in their enclosure and peering over the fence, watching their food being prepared! Washington’s otter family loves to play fight and groom one another, and in hot weather, you will often see them collapsed in a furry heap. Asian short-clawed otters are classed as Vulnerable because the wild population is decreasing rapidly in many parts of their range, due to habitat loss, persecution and hunting. So our otters play their part in UK and European breeding programmes aimed at safeguarding healthy animals in living collections. They are important ambassadors for their species and vital for education and public engagement – the more people on their side, the better! Behavioural and husbandry research on these animals can also aid in situ conservation work with wild populations and their habitats.




WWT SLIMBRIDGE Flo Aged 15, Flo is a real lady and a brilliant, calm mum. The smallest of the three otters here, she still gives food to her full-grown twin daughters. Minnie Born at Slimbridge eight years ago, Minnie is independent and shy. Her sole ambition is to eat as much food as possible. Ha Ha Mummy’s girl Ha Ha makes cub-like squeaks to get more food. Cheeky and curious, she loves stealing John Crooks’ watering can.

ASIAN SHORT-CLAWED OTTERS LONDON WETLAND CENTRE Rod A bit of a fusspot, eight-yearold Rod can usually be heard squeaking to stay in touch with Bee. He always has a pebble with him to juggle. Bee Six-year-old Bee is bigger than Rod and loves to sunbathe. She’s picky about her food and just drops anything she doesn’t like, such as herring. WWT WASHINGTON Mimi The biggest of our otters, six-year-old mum Mimi is the boss. She’s very vocal and caring, but does tend to look a bit grumpy. Musa Seven-yearold dad Musa is great at foraging, and gives Mimi worms as a gift. He taught the cubs to juggle and likes to stand up on his hind legs.

Tod One-year-old Tod has the darkest fur of all the otters and dark speckles under his chin. The most independent of all the cubs, he’s always on his ‘tod’. Pip One-year-old Pip (or Pip Squeak) is the smallest of the boys. He has a dark spot on the left of his chin. A real daddy’s boy, he’s often seen sulking. Ash With her pale coat and pink nose, one-year-old Ash is easy to spot. She’s skilled at juggling food and often throws pebbles and crab claws in the air! Sam The biggest of the cubs, one-yearold Sam is named after his little moustache, which we think makes him look like Yosemite Sam! Four new cubs Born in March, Mimi and Musa will have their paws full with the quads. They’re doing really well and are lots of fun. WWT MARTIN MERE Flick Nearly five years old, Flick is the chubby one with a more rounded face, which means she can easily be told apart from her sisters. Penny Looking a lot like her dad, Penny is smaller and leaner than the others in the family, and with a more pointy face. Belle Like Penny, Belle is lively and adventurous, and can always be seen running around. The pair are rascals that are always first out for their food.

At Washington, we’ve created hedges under which otters can feed without hassle. Being undisturbed is important for this species

Giving otters new homes

Ingo Arndt/

created hedges under which otters can feed without hassle. Being undisturbed is important for this species. Within its home range, each individual will have several hideaways, or ‘holts’, out of sight within tree roots, or in drains or culverts. On several reserves, we’ve created more substantial holts for our wild visitors. ‘We’ve had an artificial holt at Slimbridge for about seven years,’ says Dave. ‘It’s partly made out of old drains. Otters like a good space inside, about two square metres, and it’s important there are at least two entrances, so it can escape quickly if it needs to.’

Otters mainly eat fish, but also take crustaceans, amphibians and even birds

their mother for a year or more, and most multiple sightings of otters in Britain are of family groups. Not surprisingly, with several mouths to feed, the mothers are completely dependent on finding a rich supply of food within their territory if they are to raise their cubs to independence. Even in the most otter-friendly habitat, seeing a wild one can be a challenge. One obvious reason is that, in lowland England and Wales at least, the otter is largely nocturnal. It tends to be most active in the few hours just after sunset, making dusk the best time to see one. In Scotland, however, where the animals often forage on the seashore and in offshore seaweed beds, their movements are governed more by the tidal cycle. And that means they can be far more diurnal.

In 2015, we installed three otter holts around the perimeter of Washington’s saline lagoon, along the River Wear, thanks to a grant from Sunderland City Council. Wild otters quickly started using the artificial holts for resting and now even choose them for breeding. ‘We’ve had several litters in recent years,’ says John. ‘We detect the families by remote camera traps, setting up equipment that automatically triggers when something moves in front of them in likely locations.’ An otter has just one litter a year, of two or three cubs; perhaps surprisingly, the females can give birth in any season, though in the north, breeding is more confined to the summer months. After a short but spicy courtship chase, the male mates with the female, but plays no further part in family life – this is typical of British carnivores. Once weaned, Otters – like Ha Ha cubs may – ‘periscope’ to remain with look for danger

Glorious solitude

Another sticking point is that, for most of the time, these animals are solitary. A single male otter may have a home range covering 15km of riverbank, and if it comes across another male on its foraging trips, a fight will ensue. A single female will cover, on average, 7km of river.

Otterly incredible! Last winter, Washington enjoyed a spate of wild otter sightings. With the short days, some centre staff saw them almost every day, in the morning and early evening. At least two individuals – a big male or ‘dog’ otter and a smaller female – were observed hunting, with lucky visitors enjoying amazing views of the female feasting on fish on the shoreline mere metres below the screen at Window on the Wear 2 Hide. The Saline Lagoon Hide also provided excellent views of the otters hunting, especially during low tide when they find it easier to catch fishy prey such as plaice and salmon. The regularity with which the otters were seen catching big fish shows how much the health of the River Wear has improved. So next time you visit Washington, keep your eyes peeled for otter signs.






Eric Baccega/

Bubbles in the water might indicate otter activity. Otters close their nostrils underwater, but air is forced out of their fur, leaving a trail of bubbles rising to the surface


Be an otter spotter l Meet our living collection otters and learn more about them at feeding time at Slimbridge, London, Martin Mere and Washington. l Adopt an otter today and not only will you find out more about the lives of these elusive creatures, you’ll also be contributing to the work we’re doing to protect them:

However, our team can recognise the clues when an otter has arrived in a wetland. ‘We make sure that, in all our surveys, such as those for water voles, we look out for signs,’ says Lauri. ‘Otters leave plenty, including footprints and spraints (faeces). Spraints are used as territorial scent markings. We can also tell where the animals have crossing points between patches of water.’ Several reserves also have camera traps set up, which 24



record not just otters, but other elusive wildlife, too. Despite all the buzz around wild otters on our reserves and elsewhere, it should be remembered that these animals are still very vulnerable. While they have made a welcome return to much of their former range, wild otters still face multiple problems. There are pollutants in rivers, wetlands are still being drained and destroyed for development, and, hard though it is to believe, they continue to be persecuted. Bee is picky about her food – but she seems to be loving this fish!

Otters will always be welcomed and protected on our reserves. And four centres have delightful otters in their collections. You can’t miss those! Large dogs can cause disturbance, or even death – a throwback to the bad old days when otters were often hunted with hounds. Another serious problem is traffic. Otters are highly mobile animals – an average foraging trip sees them travel 4.5km in a night – and this means crossing roads and other thoroughfares. Wild animals are not accustomed to the speed of cars. One thing is for sure, though. Otters will always be welcomed and protected on our reserves. And if you don’t see a wild one on your visit, don’t despair. Four centres have the most delightful otters in their collections, albeit not of the Eurasian species. You can’t miss those!


camera ready?


It’s summer! The sun is shining (hopefully) and our centres are full of life. There’s no better time for photography, so enter your best wildlife photos in our annual competition – they could win you a great prize!

We have a brilliant pair of the latest lightweight and compact Leica Trinovid HD 32 binoculars, worth £825, for the winner

Summer is a time of lush greenery and sparkling water, of bright plumage and fine feathers. A time when every day at one of our centres is full of exciting new discoveries, fascinating observations and stunning landscapes. We know that many of you like to savour and share those moments through your images, so we’re thrilled that our popular summer photo competition is now open for you to enter. From insects to amphibians, waders to warblers and mammals to migrant birds, we would like to see our world through your lenses. You can show us stunning portraits, interesting behaviour or even animals in harmony with their environment. But, as usual, your images must depict wildlife seen at one of our wetland

centres between 1 June and 31 October 2017. You have until 1 November 2017 to enter and be in with a chance of winning a great prize – a pair of Leica Trinovid HD 32 binoculars worth £825. Entries will be judged by Waterlife editor and experienced photo judge Sophie Stafford and a jury of WWT professionals. For full details of how to enter and all the rules, visit Turn to our photo class on page 41 for tips on how to take better wildlife photos, from professional photographer Chris Gomersall, and for hands-on advice check out Down Your Way (page 45) to see if your local WWT centre is running a photography course. Good luck! Mallard duckling at Arundel by Melissa Nolan

Common tern with prey at Washington, by Keith Allen

‘I found this rosemary beetle hunkering down in a lavender bush in the sustainable gardens at London Wetland Centre. It was getting late so I used off-camera flash and a 100mm macro lens’ Paul Farnfield

Greater flamingos at Slimbridge, by John Medlock


join dusty’s wildlife rangers Calling all kids! For a summer full of fun and adventure, find out what it’s like to be a wildlife ranger Have you ever wanted to be a

wildlife ranger? Well, now you can. All this summer, you can find out what it takes to run a reserve for wildlife. You’ll be able to learn a wide variety of exciting skills, from tracking wildlife and creating

homes for animals to identifying species and surviving in the wild. At each centre, we’ll give you a logbook to record your adventures. Take a good look at this selection of what’s on offer for all budding young wildlife rangers. With his binoculars, logbook and backpack, Dusty is ready to be a wildlife ranger

Dusty says: ‘Don’t forget to record all the activities you complete in your logbook!’

Learn bushcraft in the wetlands Join expert adventurers in the wild wetlands of Slimbridge this summer to learn awesome outdoor survival skills. If you have a hunger for basic bushcraft, then this is just right for you. Find out how to create reed trumpets and have a blast, build a den, whittle wood and start fires without a match. Discover how to make Australian bush bread (it’s called ‘damper’) – your survival depends on it! The Slimbridge Wetland Camp is a new activity for 2017 and is designed for all ages to take part. Different activities are available at different times each day throughout the holidays between 11am and 3pm.

Ben Cherry

See Down Your Way for more details or contact us on 01453 891900 to find out more.




Ben Cherry

Slimbridge: Wednesday 26 July to Monday 4 September

Train up as a wildlife ranger What do you need to become a wildlife ranger? Now’s your chance to find out. All through the summer holidays, Llanelli is offering a new activity called Wildlife Ranger Training. We’ll guide you on a mini safari around the reserve so you can discover what it really takes to be a ranger. Learn new skills or sharpen old ones on everything from bird and minibeast identification to recognising animal tracks and birdsong. Which wildflowers and fungi provide a good home for insects? How does a ranger make new habitats for wildlife? Come along and find out for yourself. Wildlife Ranger Training sessions run daily from 1.30pm to 2.30pm.

Llanelli: Saturday 22 July to Monday 4 September

Have you got what is takes to be a wildlife ranger? Try our summer activities and find out!

See Down Your Way for more details or contact us on 01554 741087 to find out more.

You’ll learn new skills like identifying birds and their songs





Follow the tribal tracks

Our Wildlife Rangers logbooks are full of fun activities

Martin Mere: Friday 21 July to Sunday 3 September

Become a wetland tracker and join your tribe

Ben Cherry

to trail a mystery creature. We’ll be starting our adventure in a wooden lodge and a tepee, a kind of tent used by Native Americans. Here you’ll learn how to make a Native American headdress and headband to wear on your mission. Then it’s time to head out with your tribe of fellow explorers, armed with your best tracking skills. Follow the footprints and look for other clues, too – can you find the evidence that tells you what creature you are tracking? See if you are able to reveal the identity of Martin Mere’s mystery beast in this exciting quest. These sessions are free and run every day from 11am to 12.30pm. See Down Your Way for more details.

London and Caerlaverock: July to September

W is for warden

One of the many important things our wardens do is keep a record of the wildlife they find on their reserve. This is your family’s chance to follow the warden and do it for yourself. There’s no need to book. Just come along to the centre at any time during our opening hours and you’ll be given a logbook full of fun sections to record your discoveries. Go out onto the reserve and use the self-guided activity sheets to take on the role of a wildlife warden. You’ll need to record what you find, and where you find it. Can you mark where it is on a map? Are you able to take photos to bring your findings to life? Why not take your logbook home afterwards and carry on recording wildlife? These activities are free and are available every day from 10am to 5pm. See Down Your Way for more details.

Practise your wildlife-recording skills and be just like a WWT warden

WIN WIN WIN! We’ve got six copies of The Little Book of Wetland Bird Sounds (£12.99, Fine Feather Press) to give away. For a chance to win one, just email us a photo of your little adventurer learning how to be one of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers and tell us why they loved it. Don’t forget to include your name and contact details, the name of your local WWT centre, and your child’s name and age, then send it to by 7 August 2017, with ‘Book Comp’ in the subject line. The best ones will win a copy of the book and could be published in a future issue of Waterlife. Watch out for this great new book in our shops.

cities | scenery | culture | heritage | events | seasons BOOK ON OR BEFORE 15TH AUGUST 2017 AND


Rhine Valley All Inclusive Discover the many treasures of the Rhine Valley, from its attractive wine towns to its favourite heritage railways and enjoy all inclusive meals, in addition to selected drinks with dinner.

Itinerary (for full details visit Day 1 To Remagen Meet at our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras International and travel by Eurostar to Brussels then continue via Cologne to Remagen on the banks of the Rhine. Day 2 Remagen and the Peace Museum Today is spent in Remagen with a visit to the Peace Museum at the famous bridge in the town, which was strategically taken by US Forces in 1945, despite German attempts to destroy it. Day 3 Rüdesheim Today’s destination is the popular wine town of Rüdesheim. Free time here allows you to explore the quaint streets, such as the Drosselgasse. Day 4 The Vulkan Express Today’s excursion is on the ‘Vulkan Express’ which you reach by rail from Remagen. Opened in 1901, the line runs along one of the Rhine’s most scenic valleys to Engeln. Take in fairytale castles and see many of the dramatic rock formations created by volcanic activity during the journey. Day 5 At leisure With a day at leisure, why not join the optional excursion (payable locally) to the Ahr Valley? This trip visits the famous winegrowing region with a stop at the town of Altenahr, before continuing on to Ahrweiler for a wine tasting. Day 6 Koblenz This morning, you take the train to Boppard for free time, before carrying on to Koblenz,

an ancient city at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. Day 7 Exploring Remagen Enjoy a free day in Remagen today. Nearby Cologne, with its stunning Gothic cathedral, is well worth a visit Day 8 Brussels Travel today via Cologne to Brussels. Here, join the Eurostar to London. TO/FROM BRUSSELS


Germany 7




Nights in hotel

By Coach

Departure 26 Aug 17 23 Sep 17 14 Oct 17 21 Oct 17 28 Oct 17

Price £895 £855 £795 £755 £695

21 Apr 18 12 May 18

£845 £815

By Rail

Departure 2 Jun 18 30 Jun 18 14, 28 Jul 18 18 Aug 18 1, 15 Sep 18 29 Sep 18 13 Oct 18 27 Oct 18

By Boat

Price £925 £925 £925 £925 £945 £895 £895 £795


Call for your free brochure to discover our fantastic range of European holidays by rail Vienna, Prague & Berlin. 10 days from £1,175 The Charming Dordogne. 6 days from £745


NO HIDDEN EXTRAS: • Fully escorted by a UK Tour Manager from start to finish • Exclusive meeting point at our St Pancras Departure Office • All rail and coach travel throughout • 7 nights’ hotel accommodation with breakfast, 6 packed lunches, and 7 dinners • All inclusive drinks package with wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks from 18:30 to 21:00




The Italian Riviera. 9 days from £1,325 The Catalan Coast. 8 days from £875

Book with 100% confidence, flight-inclusive holidays are ATOL protected, non flight-inclusive holidays are protected by ABTA. Dates and prices are subject to availability. Prices shown are per person, based on 2 people sharing. Prices may change prior to and after publication. Itinerary may differ depending on the departure date you choose. *The early booking discount varies depending on the price of the departure. Bookings made after the dates specified will not be eligible to claim the applicable offer. Offer is subject to availability. Selected holidays only. 2017 departures are not included in the offer. Terms and conditions apply. Please call for further details. Calls will be recorded.

• Journey on the Vulkan Express • Remagen’s Peace Museum • Boppard and Koblenz • Visit to Rüdesheim

Call us now to book or request a brochure

01904 730617 Our tour advisors are here 7 days a week


Turn director to make your own movie

All WWT centres: all summer long


Take part in our new wildlife movie activity

and capture the drama of nature on your phone. Download a free app or use a Facebook or Instagram Slimbridge slide show. Create your very and other own nature video… then centres show it to the world! Upload your adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At Slimbridge, we’re running a competition and you could win a prize. Use @wwtslimbridge and include the hashtag #loveslimbridge. This is your chance to create your own Summerwatch. Can you get a close-up of a hunting ladybird, or a butterfly before it flutters by?

Go pond dipping and discover monsters of the deep. Each of our centres is offering a different experience: l Arundel is running daily sessions at the Pond Explorer station. Play at being a minibeast detective at the raised pond. l At Llanelli, a giant microscope allows you to get a giant-sized look at the creatures you have caught. l Martin Mere has eight ponds for children of all ages (including grown-ups). l At London, explore pond habitats, with a chance of finding fish, frogs or dragonfly nymphs. l Slimbridge is running a pond dipping competition, giving points for each species you catch. 2pm to 3pm in the Pond Zone.

Visit or email for competition details, or check online for information about other centres.

See Down Your Way for more details.

Arundel: Saturday 22 July to Sunday 3 September

Dusty can’t wait to welcome some new wildlife rangers to the team

Geocaching, scavenger hunts and vole patrols

Are you between nine and 14 years of age? If you are, come to Arundel to take part in our geocaching trail. Simply download a Global Positioning System (GPS) app, or use Google Maps, and you’ll be ready to go. Your task is to find four secret locations around the reserve. If you’re a bit younger, you won’t be left out. You can go on a special scavenger hunt in our wildlife garden. And children of all ages can set off on a vole patrol. Find out how to look for signs of water voles (they score 10 out of 10 for cuteness), then go into the reedbeds to see if you can spot these furry little beauties. These activities are free and are available every day from 10am to 5pm. See Down Your Way for more details. 32



Will you accept our geocaching challenge?

Ben Cherry

Make your own wildlife movie

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shelduck Paul Sawer

Big and beautiful, shelducks are among the most eye-catching birds at our centres. Watch closely and you’ll discover their breeding behaviour is as striking as their looks

It’s summer, and for many wildfowl, it’s messy season. Plumage and nerves are fraying as the breeding season reaches its height. On ponds and wetlands everywhere, bulkproduced youngsters in striped and speckled uniforms totter about beneath adults’ feet. Families and neighbours




bicker, while ducklings scatter; confusion reigns. The epitome of this scatty mess of wildfowl reproduction is reached with the shelduck, the boldly coloured half-duck, half-goose that is widespread on estuaries throughout Britain, and scarcer on inland freshwater. You can

easily see shelducks, with their bottlegreen head and neck, and rich chestnut breast-band, at most WWT centres. And early summer – when the adults venture to the shore accompanied by their smartly patterned black and white ducklings – is a great time to take a closer look and learn a bit more.

Look for stunning common shelduck at your local WWT centre. The drake has a knob on his red bill and can be quite feisty

society Shelduck broods are big, with anywhere between eight and 15 chicks in a single family. Not surprisingly, keeping them all together can be challenging. The male and female stick together and try their best, but sometimes it is simply fruitless. Where the population is dense and everyone produces chicks at the same time, the broods coalesce into crèches within the first week after hatching, with parents

seemingly only vaguely aware of the whereabouts of their own little darlings. While most wildfowl, such as mallards, assiduously attempt to keep their brood together, two-thirds of shelduck parents simply can’t. The result is undoubtedly a muddle. Some chicks join a crèche that wanders off, and don’t see their own parents again. Others pass through two or three crèches. Parents find themselves

defending and protecting chicks that don’t belong to them. In the melee, chicks can be abandoned. Shelduck social services, if it existed, would be overloaded. ‘However, shelducks are excellent parents,’ explains Dave Paynter, Reserve Manager at WWT Slimbridge. ‘If a group of birds on the Rushy Pen is threatened by a predator, such as a gull flying overhead, all of the adults in the





Wim Klomp/Minden Pictures/FLPA

In summer, shelduck pairs are inseparable, with the male actively protecting both female and chicks; most other male ducks are absent fathers

Shelduck spotter

Shelducks are unconventional wildfowl. They share characteristics of ducks (size) and geese (physically, the sexes look similar), but are not classified as either. Crèching is only one of their unusual behaviours. Another is to nest in holes in trees or rabbit burrows. People are often surprised to hear that ducks nest in cavities, but goosanders, mandarins and goldeneyes are also among those that do. Even so, it can be a surprise to see a brood of shelduck ducklings hop out from a pollarded willow, something that Dave encounters regularly. ‘The willows are very popular,’ says Dave. ‘Sometimes in early spring, you’ll be working on a tree, cutting down some branches and piling them up. You turn around and you have an audience of shelducks waiting for you to finish.’ Pairs often club together in small bands to prospect for nest sites, another very unusual quirk of behaviour. 36



Paul Sawer/FLPA

Surprising shelducks

Though trees or rabbit holes are the most common nesting sites, all shelducks really require is a safe, concealed corner. They’ll use hay barns, holes under rocks, thickets and abandoned buildings. The sites seem a long way from the habitat of a duck. ‘Some of our breeding pairs raise their broods under Slimbridge’s outhouses and sheds,’ says Dave. From a shelduck to a shed-duck, perhaps? Perhaps the oddest of all the shelduck’s quirky behaviours is happening Shelducks perform a ‘sky-pointing’ display to indicate they are preparing to take flight

l The males are slightly bigger, with a larger red bill knob; females have a powdery pale patch at the bill base. l Males make a series of whistles, while females make a flatsounding belly laugh. l Watch them feeding in shallow water. They often sway their bills from side to side, in the manner of an avocet. l On the pools at Slimbridge and in other freshwater, they’re mainly eating midge larvae, not snails. l In deeper water, they will upend, but never dive.

Paul Sawer/FLPA

Shelducks are unconventional wildfowl. Crèching is only one of their unusual behaviours. Another is to nest in holes in trees or rabbit burrows

vicinity will club together to drive it off. Our other wild breeding waterbirds don’t do this.’

l You can hardly miss shelducks at WWT centres; they’re big, with bold, black and white plumage and long necks.

Carefully selected fresh natural food, habitats and accessories for all your garden wildlife.

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Bird Seed Mixes

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Duck Nesting Baskets

Bird Feeders

Buy online or call us for a free catalogue


Safety in numbers

In common with many ducks, shelducks replace their main wing feathers all at once and become briefly flightless. This is a fraught time, and dangerous for relatively large birds with multiple predators. So, rather than taking its chances on a British estuary, the shelduck flies to the bountiful estuarine wilderness of the Waddensee, an area of the North Sea between Germany and Denmark. Here, a quarter of a million shelducks from all over Europe meet together and moult on the mudflats

At the Waddensee, a quarter of a million shelducks from all over Europe meet together and moult on the mudflats that stretch as far as 32km out to sea that stretch as far as 32km out to sea. They’re safe from land predators, and the mudflats are rich in the shelduck’s staple food supply, the mud snail Hydrobia ulva. It’s a post-breeding shelduck paradise. Most birds depart on a night in July, using a gentle following wind to make the journey in one go. Strangely, this happens when their youngsters are not yet fully grown. The adults leave their progeny in the care of a few selected parents that stay behind. After a few weeks, the young become fully independent and disperse on their

own. Why the adults don’t wait for them to be independent is a mystery. There is another, stranger puzzle. Apart from the Waddensee, there are a few other moulting centres where shelducks go, albeit in much smaller numbers, including Steart Marshes and Bridgwater Bay, in Somerset. ‘The evidence is that our birds don’t use Bridgwater,’ says Dave. ‘Instead of making a short hop (80km) west, they opt to fly 1,000km east.’ To us, that hardly makes sense. But then, wild birds do what they do. Their lives are, you might say, messy.

Erica Olsen/FLPA

You can see shelducks around the coast at any time of year, but the population swells to more than 80,000 birds during winter




Wendy Kreeftenberg/Minden Pictures/FLPA

right now, in the middle of summer. Famously, the shelduck doesn’t have a conventional migration, moving from a northern breeding site to a southerly wintering site, as do most wildfowl. Instead, shelducks make a single long movement in midsummer and then saunter back at no great pace, sometimes taking many months to return to the breeding grounds. The point of their midsummer movement is very specific – they travel to moult.

Introducing the Gtech eBike. Powerful 36v Lithium-ion battery

Compact high-power hub motor

Tempted to rediscover cycling, but put off by the thought of struggling up hills? Give the new Gtech eBike a try...

Choose the frame that’s right for you

The Gtech eBike cleverly boosts your pedal power whenever you need it; hills will feel flatter, you’ll be able to explore further and arrive fresher. Boost your pedal power At the heart of the Gtech eBike is our latest Lithiumion battery, the same lightweight, high performance technology that is used to power electric cars – giving you a range of up to 30 miles in Eco mode.* Plenty for a day’s adventure or most trips to work and back. A built in computer continually measures your pedalling, smoothly adjusting the power delivered to the maintenance-free motor, giving you a boost when you need it. Everything is automatic; if you pedal, the bike will help you up to 15mph, but you can pedal harder if you like and go faster. You will feel its power most if you reach a hill and start to slow down.

Pure simplicity Riding the Gtech eBike is very simple, you pedal to go faster and brake to slow down. There are no confusing gears and the oily chain has been replaced by a clean carbon belt drive as used on high-performance motor cycles. The battery easily removes from the frame for charging. A mains charger is supplied, which will fully recharge the battery from flat in just 3 hours. The eBike has an

easy to read LED display, to tell you how much charge you’ve got remaining. You can choose from two cruising speeds at the touch of a button, or turn the power off to ride it like an ordinary bike.

Aviation grade, lightweight aluminium frame The frame of the Gtech eBike is made from the same material used in modern aircraft – light, strong and designed to last. The aluminium alloy is also rust resistant, capable of withstanding the elements whether you are using the bike on roads or country paths. Thanks to its lightweight construction, the Gtech eBike weighs 16kg, so you can ride it easily with or without the power turned on.

The Gtech eBike comes in two different frame sizes, a 20” Sport (Cross Bar) frame and a 17” City (Step Through) frame. Both frames benefit from puncture resistant hybrid tyres, giving you freedom of the road or open trail! Everything you need is included.

Save money. Save time. The average cost of a car is £3,500 per year**, and the average cost of a London travel card is £1,800 per year.∆ The Gtech eBike costs less than 4p† to charge, and there’s no road tax or insurance to pay. You’ll also be out there, getting fitter, rather than stuck in a traffic jam or on a crowded train.

Over 30,000 independent reviews

Go to to see the eBike in action. Order direct - £995

0800 054 68 80 (24 hour orderline)

*The ebike uses a quick release battery system. Light weight 200Wh Lithium-Ion battery packs can be swapped in seconds at the roadside. Each pack weighs just 1.4Kg, so spare battery packs can easily be carried for longer trips. The range that can be achieved from each pack will vary according to the conditions and effort exerted by the rider. The conditions which affect the range are rider fitness, weight, size and seating position, head or tail winds, gradient, terrain, tyre pressure, number of stop/starts and the speed the bike is ridden. As an approximate guide an average weight rider on roads with moderate up and down-hill sections, should achieve at least 20 miles from a single charge of each battery pack without having to pedal very hard. As rider fitness increases ranges of 30 miles and more can be expected. In tough conditions, such as sustained climbs, heavier, less fit riders, heavier terrain such as mud or soft sand and strong headwinds, the range will be reduced considerably. **Daily Express ( survey), November 2013. ∆Average price taken from the Adult rate Tube, DLR and London Underground fares TFL price list for an annual travel card as of April 2015. †Based on an energy tariff of 15.8p per KW ††To remain eligible we ask you to adopt a fair usage frame of mind and ensure there is no damage to the bike outside of the usual minimal wear you would expect from a bike ridden for 14 days or for a few rides. Go to for more details


Our 14 day trial allows you to experience the Gtech eBike from the convenience of your own home. You pay for the bike as normal and we’ll deliver your bike fully assembled, free of charge! If, after 14 days, you’re not completely satisfied simply call our Customer Service Team. We will pick up the bike at no charge and process a full refund. All we ask is that you keep the eBike in good condition††. Offer excludes Mountain Bike.


The Grant Arms Hotel

Four Poster Room


Speyside and the Cairngorms are one of the best areas for wildlife watching in the UK. Perfect for beginner to expert, whether for a day or a fortnight. Depending on the season you could see: Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Capercaillie, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare, Osprey, Ptarmigan, Otter, Red and Black Grouse, Red and Roe Deer, Slavonian Grebe, Crested Tit and Crossbill, as well as Dolphins, Waders, Sea Ducks and Sea Birds along the Moray Firth coast. Guests have free use of the BWWC Information Centre, Club Room and Library. BWWC staff are available at Breakfast and in the Evening to help you make the best of your holiday whilst leaving you free to do what you want. Subscribe to BWWC’s Monthly Newsletter



Standard Room

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


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

Superior Room

Est 1765

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

the Highlands - every year, every season “ Iandloveevery day is different - always something

amazing to see, wildlife-wise. And the Grant Arms is the perfect base to explore some of my favourite Highland locations, from the high tops of the Cairngorms to the Spey Valley below.

TV Producer and Author of Highlands: Scotland’s Wild Heart - Stephen Moss www.

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


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


SPECIAL EVENTS CELEBRITY GUIDED WILDLIFE HOLIDAY WITH NATURALIST & TV WILDLIFE PRESENTER IOLO WILLIAMS - Sun 4th to Sat 10th Mar 2018 Join us and celebrated Naturalist and TV Wildlife Presenter IOLO WILLIAMS to look for Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting, Black and Red Grouse and Mountain Hare in the Cairngorms. Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and Red Deer in the Monadhliaths. Crested Tits, Crossbills, Red Squirrel, Capercaillie and Pine Marten in Abernethy or Glenmore Forests. Sea Duck, Divers, Geese, Waders and Dolphins in the Moray Firth plus lots more. 100+ species are expected on this 5 full day guided special week. For just £1,270 per person (Max 12 people)

A WEEK OF MOTHS & OTHER INSECTS - Sat 7th to Sat 14th Oct 17 In celebration of Moth Night on 11th to 13th October 2017 we will be running some moth and other insect events with help from local experts, including moth traps as well as our normal field trips to look for some of our iconic bird and mammals. 4 nights DB&B from £339pp or 7 nights DB&B from £581pp

RED DEER RUT WEEK - Sat 14th to Sat 21st Oct 17

TO BOOK CALL 01479 872526

One of our most popular weeks, a 7-night break filled with a BWWC programme of events including guided walks, field trips and talks. Highly recommended is a Red Deer Rut Safari with Glenlivet Wildlife, Book early as they fill up fast. 7 nights DB&B from £581pp


For information on BWWC Special Events visit

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

All programmes, talks, walks and rooms subject to availability and liable to change without notice.



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



Banded demoiselle


use the hides

look for small subjects

In summer, many birds will still have dependent young in attendance, so look out for parenting behaviour and interactions between adults and well-grown chicks. Make use of the hides at our centres as these can sometimes provide close views of protected birds, such as kingfishers, without causing them disturbance.

Check out water margins for dragonflies and damselflies. Most modern compact and mirrorless cameras are really well suited for close-up photography, but you need to be very precise with focusing. Use a smaller lens aperture (= higher f number) to increase your ‘depth of field’, and try to keep the camera parallel to your subject.



Poppy field

Marsh harrier

beware bright sunlight

Light cloud cover acts as a natural filter and diffuser, and is much more flattering than direct sunlight when photographing delicate subjects such as wildflowers. Rejoice in the soft light of a cloudy day, as it eliminates ugly deep shadows and reduces the risk of burnt-out highlights, while also improving colour saturation.

h pp sn pping

get active at dawn and dusk

Avoid harsh summer sunlight and heat haze by getting up early and staying out late. Take pictures in the morning and late afternoon, when our centres are quieter and wildlife tends to be more active. Set your camera’s white balance for shady conditions to retain or enhance the warm light impression of dawn and dusk.

We hope you’re finding Chris’s tips helpful – and that your photographic skills are improving issue by issue. Share your best shots with us and we’ll publish them in the next Waterlife. Tweet @WWTworldwide, using #wildWWT, or email your photos to Our annual photo competition has just launched, so get snapping now to be in with a chance of winning a great prize. Full details on page 26. JULY/SEPTEMBER 2017




Steve a l l B ac k s h

Hello again

Now here’s a tricky question for you. What do you need more than anything else to discover wildlife? A book, a computer, a smartphone? No, the answer is… your senses. We learn more from looking, listening, touching and sniffing out wildlife than from anything else. From my time in steamy jungles, climbing up rock faces and canoeing down fast rivers, I’ve learned that our animal instincts are best at helping us really understand the wildlife around us. Get your senses working this summer. Keep your eyes peeled, but listen out, too. You might hear the squeak of a shrew, the rustle of a grass snake or the piping call of an oystercatcher. Use your nose to sniff out the sweet scent of honeysuckle. Get up-close to the flowers and see bugs crawling all over them. Touch the bark of trees and feel the rough and the smooth. Above all, have a great time!

Ho ho


Why did the owl ’owl? Because the woodpecker wood peck ’er!

Feather findings This summer, many birds will be shedding their old feathers and growing beautiful new ones. How many feathers can you find? It’s very hard to identify a bird from a single feather, but it is possible to work out what part of the bird that feather came from. A tiny, curly one is probably a body feather. Hundreds or even thousands of these give the bird its coat. If you find longer feathers, they belonged to the bird’s wings or its tail. It’s amazing to think a bird actually used these feathers to fly. After you’ve been touching feathers, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Swans and geese often leave their feathers on the ground – can you find them?

Feely box game

Make a game for your friends or family to play using just a cardboard box and stuff you find outdoors. Collect as many different natural things as you can – a stone, a twig or a dandelion head, for example. Find objects that are smooth, hard, soft and crinkly. Put them all in a box with flaps on top to hide them. Then ask someone to dip their hand inside and feel around. Can they work out what the objects are just by touching them?

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

Tracking tracks


When you find bird footprints in the mud at the side of a lake or a pond, how can you work out what bird made them? Think about how birds live. Waterbirds often have webbed feet to help them paddle. Huge webbed footprints might belong to a swan and smaller ones might be made by a duck. Birds that perch in trees need long back toes to hang on to branches. Little footprints with three long toes facing forwards and one facing backwards might be made by robins or blackbirds. Ginormous ones could be made by a heron (yes, herons really do perch in trees!). Birds that never perch in trees have hardly any hind toe. A wader such as a redshank, for example, spends nearly all its time standing in mud. It leaves tracks with three forward-facing toe prints.

Who put their foot in it?

What do you call a sick eagle? Illegal!

Dusty Duck has found lots of bird tracks by the lake. Can you match each bird with its footprint? Have a go, then turn the page upside down to see if you were right.




Mute swan


Redshank ANSWERS A redshank, B blackbird, C mute swan






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


We love it when parents bring their kids to our centres to start a hopefully lifelong love affair with nature. And it’s never more important that you have everything you need to stay comfortable and bring these little adventures to life! Here’s our pick of some useful products for mums.



4 C

6 C




3 C 1. Burt’s Bees 100% natural beeswax lip balm (£4.99) 2. Canon IXUS 285 HS digital camera (£169) 3. Merrell women’s Siren Edge waterproof shoe (£90) 4. Nalgene Tritan bottle 1L (£13) 5. Collins Bird Guide app (£17.99) 6. Rohan women’s Assignment jacket (£129) Details correct at time of going to print. Items also available from other retailers.




With summer in full swing, our centres are the places to be for colourful flowers, wonderful wildlife and fun-fuelled family activities For the full list of centre events, information and news, find your local centre at





Saturday 29 July and 5 August See page 61

July to September See pages 47-63

This summer, we’re testing our culinary prowess around a roaring campfire. Join in the fun with our food aficionados by building dens and decorating bark canvases, before cooking tasty treats. Ready, steady, cook!

There’s plenty on offer for a budding wildlife ranger, from tracking wild creatures to creating homes for wildlife. Check your local centre to find out what exciting activities await you.

Map illustration by Fred Van Deelen; photos by Shutterstock; WWT



Our brand-new 20-hectare Pat Wisniewski reedbed offers an exciting new perspective on the reserve. Serenaded by reed, sedge, Cetti’s and grasshopper warblers, eagle-eyed visitors may even spot some of Martin Mere’s more secretive residents exploring the new habitat.






Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September; see page 58

Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 July See page 54

Celebrate our wading birds at the new Severn Wader Festival. This special weekend is packed with activities, from a high-tide Land Rover safari to see the birds roosting and wader walks to afternoon talks and our wader shore exhibit.


The British Dragonfly Society will be offering identification tips, leading walks and answering questions. With sunshine and patience, you may even spot some of the centre’s 22 species hunting, patrolling or mating.





Daily Activities

Wetland Discovery Boat Safari Glide with a wildlife guide on quiet electric boats through the reedbeds of Wetlands Discovery. First boat 11am, last boat 4.30pm. Suggested donation £1. Pond Dipping

Visit the Pond Explorer station on weekends and holidays to discover minibeasts that live below the surface. 11am-1pm and 2-4pm. Diving Duck Feed

See some of the world’s rarest waterfowl show off their fishing skills in the Icelandic Lake pen. 2pm.

key WWT Arundel

‘A lovely gem in the heart of Sussex with a beautiful backdrop of a castle. Acres of wetlands to view many species of bird. Boat ride and panoramic view from restaurant. All in all, a great day out.’ John F, East Grinstead

In mid-August, keep your eyes on the skies as sand martins, house martins and swallows move in mixed flocks through the centre, signalling the start of their migration to Africa. On cloudy days, watch them hawking for insects low over the water from the Sand Martin Hide.

Hand-feed Wildfowl

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

BN18 9PB 01903 881530

Wildflowers such as fleabane add to a riot of colour

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE From June until mid-July, the black-headed gull colony on the Arun Riverlife lagoon will be breaking up as the chicks gain their flight feathers and take to the air. In their place, look out for grey herons, little egrets and common and green sandpipers. The warm summer months see the centre come alive with colour as so many gorgeous wildflowers are at their peak. From neon purple loosestrife and creamy meadowsweet to vibrant yellow fleabane, expect a rainbow of wildflowers carpeting the centre through late July and early August.


Hand-feed wildfowl in our World Wetlands feeding bay. Until closing. Grain: 20p per handful. Fri 7 Jul, Thurs 10 & 24 Aug Wildflower Walk for Adults Take a stroll with wetland

herbalist Sheila to see the flowers at their peak. 11am. Sat 22 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers

Will you take up the challenge and become a Wildlife Ranger this summer? Kids will receive a FREE Wildlife

Ranger logbook packed with everything you need for a day of exciting discoveries! 9.30am-5pm. Thurs in August Children’s Willow Weaving

Weave a willow star to take home. This activity is part of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers. Children must be accompanied by an adult. 1.30-4pm. Sat 12 to Sun 13 Aug Tales of the English Countryside

Learn about the fauna and flora of Britain with Jonathon Huet, with his poetry, rhymes, drums and enthusiasm for the

FAMILY FUN Enjoy a whole host of wonderful wildlife activities as one of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers this summer. Pick up your FREE logbook and collect stickers as you try each activity – become a minibeast detective, watch water-beetle busking and join in the fun of our big butterfly counts and pondimonium pond dippings. Feeling crafty? Learn how to weave with willow on Thursday

Get crafty and discover how to weave with willow

countryside. 11.30am12 noon and 1-1.30pm. Sat 12 to Sun 13 Aug Bushcraft for Kids Jonathon Huet introduces kids to foraging and bushcraft cooking. 10-plus only; must be accompanied by an adult. £6PC. BE Tues 5 & Thurs 14 Sept Seeds and Berries Walk Take a stroll with wetland herbalist Sheila to discover the autumnal changes to wetland flora. 11am. Sat 16 to Sun 17 Sept Discover Birds Weekend A weekend of walks and talks on wetlands and birdlife. 10am-4pm.

afternoons throughout August. Simply drop into the Wetlands Secrets plant house to make a willow star to take home. Plus, you’ll earn a sticker for your logbook! Marvel at the handcrafted wooden birds and animals expertly brought to life by the Bentley Wildlife Carvers in the Kingfisher Room on 13 August. They’ll demonstrate carving techniques and tell you more about the beginners’ workshops starting on 14 October.

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







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Save 10% on the whole Páramo range online*. Simply visit: *Offer ends 30 Sept 2017

Emu Electric Bikes are working with WWT to offer you the chance to test drive an Emu Bike. The benefits of e-bikes as a quick, economical and green form of transportation make this a great partnership. Electric cycling is fun and means you can cover greater distances and can keep up with anyone to arrive sweat-free. Emu bikes are designed with great style and features including Shimano gears and brakes, Samsung batteries for reliable performance and include a 2 year warranty. Look out for details of your * nearest event on WWT/Emu websites. WT



W e to on bik ati ver y n Do for e

*To further support WWT, Emu will donate £100 for each bike purchased and a Cargo bag worth £50 for you. Enter the discount code EmuWWT when ordering. Can’t wait or get to a trial event? Try a bike for 14 days at home. Prices from £1299. Find out more at To book a test drive call: 0800 035 5450

Photo: Philip Price



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

Daily Activities

Guide in the Hide Our guides will point out the best wildlife of the day. See the ‘What’s On’ board in the visitor centre for details. 11am-3pm. Until Sun 30 July LEGO® Brick Trail and Workshops Follow the LEGO brick trail to find 11 GIANT creatures around the grounds. Then drop into our yurt for an hour-long LEGO brick workshop to make a frog. 11am-12 noon. £5PP. Tues 11, 18 & 25 Jul & 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29 Aug Bug Hunt Spend a morning hunting for bugs. Look under stones and in dead wood as well as on plants and trees. Family event. 11am-1pm.

Caerlaverock DG1 4RS 01387 770200 WWT Caerlaverock

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE An abundance of small furry Follow the lives creatures live at Caerlaverock, of our ospreys but they can be tricky to spot. on our nest-cam We put out small mammal traps so you can see voles and mice a coffee and a biscuit. Why not follow up-close, learn the differences between their progress all summer? them and discover the integral role Caerlaverock is blessed with they play in the ecosystem. three badger setts, and these Each spring, our ospreys sweet-toothed mammals are return from Africa to breed. treated to peanuts and honey By summer, you can enjoy every night. Join one of our intimate views of the pair Stars and Stripes Badger feeding their chicks with Watching evenings in fish caught in the nearby September to watch them Solway Firth on our nest from the comfort of our warm camera, while you relax observatory, with a hot drink. in the visitor centre with Sat 22 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Pick up a FREE Wildlife Rangers logbook full of summer activities such as recording wildlife like a warden. 9.30am-5pm.

Thurs 10 Aug Small Mammal Trapping Find out what small mammals live at the centre and see what we have caught in the mammal traps. Family event. 10am-12 noon. BE

holding Caerlaverock Bioblitz, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage. Join us on a walk looking for night-time creatures. We will use bat detectors, and put out moth traps. 7.30pm. Free.

Weds 12, 19 & 26 Jul, & 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30 Aug Pond Dipping What creatures live in our raised pond? Use nets, bug pots and aquascopes to find and identify the creatures. 11am-1pm.

Thurs 27 Jul Beautiful Butterflies Walk around our wildflower meadow looking for and identifying butterflies. Family event. 10am12 noon. BE

Fri 11 Aug Caerlaverock Bioblitz: Evening Walk To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Caerlaverock NNR, we’re

Sat 12 Aug Caerlaverock Bioblitz As part of Caerlaverock Bioblitz, in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, there will be

Thurs 20 Jul Paper-making Workshop Make your own paper using natural resources to make it colourful and fragrant. Family event. 10am12 noon. BE

Thurs 3 Aug Dragons and Damsels Discover dragonflies and damselflies on the reserve and learn the differences between them. Family event. 10am-12 noon. BE

‘What a stunning, peaceful place with a wide array of wildlife. I enjoyed a spectacular walk before relaxing with a cuppa in the café. Perfect day!’

activities including pond dipping, moth trapping, a bird-ringing demonstration, small mammal trapping, tracks and signs, and bug hunting. 10am-4pm. Free. Sun 13 Aug Family Writing Workshop A nature-writing workshop for families, with writer Karen Lloyd. 10am-1pm. £20 per family. BE Thurs 17 Aug Owl Pellet Dissection Find out what our barn owls are eating – dissect an owl pellet and work out what all the bones are. Family event. 10am12 noon. BE Sun 3 Sept In Focus Try the latest binoculars and telescopes. In Focus experts are on hand to give advice. 10am-4pm. Free. Mon 4 to Fri 8 Sept Stars and Stripes Badger Watching Watch wild badgers feeding outside our observatory. Tea, coffee and biscuits available. 8pm. Adults £10, concessions £7.50, children £5. Tickets must be paid for in advance. BE RI Look high, look low – bugs are everywhere

FAMILY FUN Summer holidays just got even more fun with the start of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers – a programme of activities to excite young imaginations. Every new ranger will be given a logbook, and as they complete each special activity, they’ll win a sticker for each one. If you love creepy-crawlies and getting your hands dirty, you won’t want to miss our summer Bug Hunts. Look high and low, under stones and in the treetops, to uncover worms, beetles, snails and much more. We’ll also sweep for butterflies and dragonflies in the meadow.

If creating a splash is more your style, try pond dipping. Ponds are home to an array of captivating critters. Dip your net into our raised pond and learn how to identify what you catch, or glimpse the underwater world with our aquascopes.

Jade W




The international wildlife event of the year! 18–20 August 2017

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Castle Espie

BT23 6EA 028 9187 4146 WWT Castle Espie

FAMILY FUN Calling all young explorers! Enjoy a summer of fun and nature activities with Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers. Pick up your logbook, then get ready for action – find five different creepycrawlies, discover our wild woodland or take part in the Wildlife Olympics! For every activity, you’ll get a sticker for your logbook. Just make sure you have plenty of energy left to explore the


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

Sat 1 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail Follow the trail and discover the NEW

Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail. Dusty Duck and his 14 celebrity-designed pals have migrated to Castle Espie for the summer (until 3 September). Tick them all off before they take flight again! If you want to let your imagination soar, don’t miss our special Solar Day on 6 August, as we bring together the facts and fantasies of our amazing solar system. With solar observing, meteorites and space exhibitions, it’s astronomical!

celebrity Dusty Ducks arriving at WWT Castle Espie this summer. Sat 1 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Bring the kids, pick up a logbook and enjoy a summer of exploration with wildlife-themed activities.

Sun 23 Jul Wildflower Walkabout Come and join us for a wildflower walkabout with our reserve team to identify some of our stunning wildflowers. 11am-1pm. Last Thurs of Every Month Birdwatch Morning Enjoy a morning of

‘The kids were so tired after searching the swamp for fairy doors, they nearly fell asleep in the café after gulping down the most amazing hot chocolate. A great day out for all ages!’ BelfastMC

Meet the celebritydesigned Dusty Ducks

birdwatching at the centre with expert Dot Blakely. 10.30am-12.30pm.

facts and fantasies of our solar system. All day. BE for star shows.

Weds 2 Aug & 6 Sept Little Ducklings Day! A special morning for mums and tots. Join us for a one-hour structured session in our soft play area and get a hot drink and tray bake, as well as juice and biscuits for the kids. 10am and 11.30am. £5PP. BE

Fri 25 Aug Bat Night Join us for a special late-night opening when we will celebrate bats. 8.30pm. £12.50. BE

Sun 6 Aug Solar Day Join the Irish Astronomical Association, as we bring together the

Fri 8 Sept An Introduction to Bat Surveys Join us for a special late-night opening when we will explore the ins and outs of bat surveys. 8.30pm. £12.50. BE

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE Join us for a Wildflower Walkabout on 23 July and amble through Castle Espie’s meadow with our reserve team, learning how to identify our wildflowers. You’ll also discover how they help maintain the centre’s ecosystem. Castle Espie is home to no fewer than eight species

of bat, so come along to our special late-night opening on 25 August for Bat Night. Learn more about these fantastic flying mammals, have a go at bat detecting and admire the bats’ astonishing aerobatics as they hunt for food. And if that whets your appetite, you’ll want to join

our Introduction to Bat Surveys evening on 8 September. Explore the centre after hours, learn how we monitor and analyse bat roosts, and listen to these unique creatures chattering as they hunt for food. Just don’t forget to book well in advance!

In summer, the meadow is a riot of colour JULY/SEPTEMBER 2017



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

Daily Activities

Monday Munchkins Every Monday during term time, bring your toddlers to take part in activities especially for them, with a different theme each week. Activities include pond dipping, minibeast hunting, arts and crafts, stories, games and feeding the birds. 11am-12 noon. Sat 1 to Sun 16 Jul July Weekend Fun All-day family fun on Saturdays and Sundays only, including: Minibeast Hunt and Mini Pond Dipping – 11am-12 noon; Flamingo Watch and


SA14 9SH 01554 741087 WWT Llanelli

‘We visit Llanelli several times during the year and each season offers something different, as well as special events for children during holiday times.’

Get on your bike to explore Llanelli

Joan M

Talk – 1-2pm; Pond Dipping 2.30pm; Crafts – times vary. Sat 8 Jul Walk With a Warden Join us for a guided walk of our centre, where you will use all your senses to explore wildlife highlights. 11am-12.30pm. Sat 22 Jul to Mon 4 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Will you take up the challenge and become a Wildlife Ranger this


The Millennium Wetlands are literally teeming with wildlife in summer. A treat for the senses, join our last guided Walk With a Warden on 8 July and we’ll help you identify dragonflies and damselflies, and spot animal tracks and droppings – you may even be lucky enough to glimpse an otter. Huge numbers of beautiful southern marsh orchids are in flower along the path verges until late July, and our waterside meadows are ablaze with fragrant water mint, purple loosestrife, yellow flag iris and great willowherb. Look out for our ‘living lawnmowers’ – native breeds of livestock that keep our grasslands in the best possible condition. As September approaches, wader numbers increase out on the saltmarsh scrapes. The spectacle See beautiful black-tailed is breathtaking during high godwits tide, so don’t miss our evening High Tide Watch (19 September), when our expert will help you identify the array of birds pushed close to the hides by the advancing tide.

summer? Receive your FREE Wildlife Ranger logbook packed with everything you need for a day of exciting discoveries, including: Pond Dipping – 11am-12 noon; Canoe Safari and Bike Trail – 12 noon-4.30pm; Dusty’s Ranger Training – 1.302.30pm; Flamingo Watch and Talk – 2.45-3.30pm; Crafts – times vary. Suns 6 Aug & 3 Sept Veggie Patch Kids Bring your little ones to grow veggies in our patch and learn how to care for plants and what they need to grow. 11am-12 noon. Sat 9 Sept to Sun 1 Oct September Weekend Fun All-day family fun on Saturdays and Sundays only, including: Minibeast Hunt and Mini Pond Dipping – 11am-12 noon; Guide in the Hide (British Steel Hide) – 1-2pm; Pond Dipping – 2.30pm; Crafts – times vary. Sat 9 Sept to Sun 5 Nov GIANT LEGO® Brick Animal Trail They’re back! We’re thrilled that our GIANT LEGO Brick Animal Trail will be

FAMILY FUN This summer, discover more than ever before with Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers! Armed with your logbook, enjoy Dusty’s Ranger Training (see page 28) and find out what a ranger does on a mini safari around the reserve. Then hop on your bike or canoe to explore further, or get involved in family activities such as bird and minibeast identification, pond dipping and making wildlife habitats. Our GIANT LEGO® Brick Animal Trail will be returning on 9 September (until 5 November). Follow the brick animal trail and spot old friends and some exciting new models. Make the most of the long summer evenings by joining our popular Family Bat Walk on 22 September. Kicking off after sunset, you’ll enjoy a guided walk through the Millennium Wetlands, using bat detectors to look and listen for bats. Don’t forget to make a batty craft to take home! returning to Llanelli this autumn. Follow our trail of 1.5-metre-tall brick animals and spot some old friends, like the red-breasted goose and kingfisher, as well as some exciting new models. Tues 19 Sept High Tide Watch Join us for this breathtaking spectacle as our expert guide helps you identify the array of birds

pushed closer to the hides by the advancing tide. 5.30-8pm, including buffet. £15PP, £10PC. BE RI Fri 22 Sept Family Bat Walk Join us for an after-hours exploration of our centre with bat detectors. Make batty crafts from 6.30pm, with the walk starting at 7pm. £5PP, including crafts and refreshments. BE RI






SW13 9WT 020 8409 4400 WWT London


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

Daily Activities

Summer is a great time to hone your dragonflyand damselfly-spotting skills. There are plenty of beauties active, like this banded demoiselle

Otter Feed Meet the otters at feeding time, when our warden will tell you more about them. 11am and 2pm.

Judith Gordon

Sat 8 Jul Members’ Walk: Wet Woodland Walk Find out more about this



nationally important habitat at WWT London Wetland Centre, including some of the flora and fauna that the habitat supports (fungi, longhorn beetles and woodland passerines). 1pm. £2PP. BE Sun 9 Jul Intermediate Drawing Workshop Learn how to draw ducks dabbling in the water, dragonflies on plants, herons fishing and more during this intermediate drawing workshop, led by Judith Gordon. We will try to catch that concentration we see when an animal is intent on something, focusing on its expression and tension in its body. 10am-4pm. £40PP, plus paid admission to the centre. BE


Sat 15 Jul Summer Wildlife: Photography Course Discover and learn about seasonal specialities of the centre and how to photograph them with practical guidance and tuition from wildlife photographer and tutor Iain Green. 10am-4pm. £60PP, plus paid admission to the centre. BE Sat 15 to Sun 23 Jul Dragonfly Week British Dragonfly Society members will be on hand to show you these exquisite flying jewels, providing great identification tips and answering your dragonfly questions. So, why not visit the tranquil WWT ponds in Barnes and have your very own close encounter with these summer spirits?

Sat 22 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Bring your youngsters to WWT London Wetland Centre for a summer of exploration. Children can collect a logbook with wildlife-themed activities in it, and for every challenge they

Iain Green

Spotlight Talks Join us for our Spotlight talks to discover more about the history of the centre and the animals that live here. Discover which bird has remained almost unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. Or come and discover more about one of the planet’s rarest geese. Each talk is approximately 15 minutes long.

Maria Zuckschwert

Bird Feed Join our wardens as they feed waterbirds from around the globe in Wetlands of the World. Discover more about WWT’s conservation work and the birds we are helping to save from extinction. 3pm.

Practise your photography skills on everything from birds to frogs

complete they’ll get a sticker! Fri 4, 11, 18, 25 Aug Night Safaris Perfect for kids. Experience the wild and wonderful side of our centre. We will take you on an exciting night adventure, building dens in


Join Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers

‘Great place to spend a day! There’s loads to see from the different hides, from otters to ducks. Features lovely walks where you can take in the beautiful flower beds.’

FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY For a whole summer of fun and exploration, why not become one of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers? Simply pick up your logbook and then try as many of our awesome wildlife activities as you can. Enjoy pond dipping and talks from our rangers about one of our special residents – eider ducks or screamers – and much more. Adventurers will be rewarded with a sticker for every challenge completed. Dragonflies have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, giving them plenty of time to evolve their astonishing flying skills. The British Dragonfly Society will be on-site from 15 to 23 July to help with identification, lead walks and answer your questions. With sunshine and patience, you may spot some of the centre’s 22 species hunting, and patrolling the waters. When night falls and all the visitors have departed, WWT London Wetland

our camp for the evening, exploring the centre with all our senses, listening to wildlife, and looking for bats and other nocturnal animals. 7-10pm. £22.50PC, includes admission to the centre after 6pm. BE Sat 5 Aug Members’ Walk: Pond Dipping for Adults Why should kids have all the fun messing about in

Cora B

Centre becomes a truly magical place. Join us for our Night Safaris every Friday evening throughout August. Kids aged seven and over can enjoy den building and bat spotting before toasting gooey marshmallows on a roaring campfire. If you want to see some amazing flying mammals, come along to one of our Bat Walks (for those aged 12 and over) every Thursday from 24 August to 28 September, and learn more about the seven species of bat that hunt over the centre.

ponds? Grab a net and join our team to find out what lives in the water at the centre. You’ll be amazed at just how much you’ll find. 1pm. £2PP. BE Thurs 24 Aug Family Photography Course Join wildlife photographer Iain Green for an enjoyable family-friendly morning photographing the centre,

learning how the whole family can take great shots of nature. 12.30-3.30pm. £20PP, plus paid admission to the centre (each adult must be accompanied by at least one child). BE Thurs 24 Aug Evening Wildlife Photography The evening starts with an introductory session looking at composition and

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE If you aspire to capture the beauty of nature through art, our Intermediate Drawing Workshop on 9 July is for you. Working with coloured pencils, budding artists will be tutored in the art of quick sketching an array of wildlife in situ, including ducks, butterflies and much more. Continuing with a creative streak, there’s no better time to

practise your photography skills than in the summer when the centre is awash with colour. From the striking blue of an emperor dragonfly to the delicate pink of a bee orchid, there’s an array of seasonal specialities to uncover. Join photographer Iain Green on 15 July to learn more about these summer spectacles and how to photograph them successfully.

technique. You will then head out onto the centre under the guidance of photography tutor Iain Green. 4-8.30pm. £45PP, includes admission to the centre after 3.30pm. BE Thurs 24, 31 Aug & 7, 14, 21, 28 Sept Bat Walks Our bat walks give you the chance not only to see these amazing mammals and their aerial acrobatics, but also to learn more about them with a talk by a bat expert. Plus, use our bat detectors to identify the species of bat swooping around and to listen to them ‘chattering’. Times vary with sunset. £10PP (for ages 12+). BE Sat 9 Sept Members’ Walk: Damsels and Dragons and Other Winged Wonders Dragonflies have been about since the time of the dinosaurs, giving them plenty of time to evolve their flying skills. This time of year sees two of our

Did you know that the monster in the Alien films was reportedly based on a dragonfly nymph? Learn why during our pond-dipping session for adults on 5 August, when you’ll get the chance to uncover the diversity of life found in our ponds. As the summer months draw to an end, we welcome the return of numerous wintering ducks, such as shoveler and gadwall, and other seasonal

dragonfly species often attain peak numbers at the centre. Learn more about them on this 30-minute walk. 1pm. £2PP. BE Sat 9 Sept Introduction to Wildlife Photography The day will begin with an illustrated session about understanding your camera and the basics of composition, followed by a practical photography session outside. 10am-4pm. £60PP, plus paid admission to the centre. BE Sun 24 Sept Migration Walk With a Warden This practical session will help you identify birds and understand more about them. An expert warden will guide you around the centre, teaching you more about their plumage, calls and behaviour. 9.30-11am. £10PP, plus admission to the centre. BE

visitors, including fieldfares, redwings, redpolls and siskins. Join our wardenled tour on 24 September to pick up expert tips on birdwatching and how to identify key species.





Martin Mere

L40 0TA 01704 895181 WWT Martin Mere


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

Daily Activities

Otter Talk and Feed Come and meet our friendly family of otters – Penny, Bell and Flick. 11.30am and 2.30pm. NEW White Stork Talk and Feed Learn all about our newest bird species. 2pm.

Flamingo Talk Come and learn all about our greater flamingos. Why are they pink? Why do they stand on one leg? 3pm. Canoe Safari Our self-guided canoe safari is a fun way to explore the reedbed habitat and its rich biodiversity. Enjoy spotting some of the UK’s most threatened species, ranging from water voles to reed buntings. 11am-4pm. £7 per canoe (seats up to three). Guided Boat Tours Take a peaceful tour of our wetlands and learn all about Martin Mere. Enjoy watching wildlife, spotting dragonflies, listening for warblers and admiring the wildflowers. 11am-4pm. £3 per seat. Toddler Thursday Gosling Gang Come along with your toddlers to enjoy story time and craft activities every Thursday during term time, at 10.30am and 1pm.

Weekends until Sun 16 Jul Duckling Nursery Wander through the duckling nursery seeing the cute baby birds as they grow. Chat to volunteers and learn about the egg to duckling process and how our work contributes to WWT’s conservation projects. 12 noon-3pm.

Reilly illustrating minibeasts and their worlds. All day.

Until Mon 17 Jul Exhibition: The Worlds of Little Creatures by Jane Reilly An exhibition by Jane

Fri 21 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Top Trumps Trail Collect your Top Trumps card as you enter the

Sun 16 Jul, 20 Aug & 17 Sept Meet Reptiles Come along and meet reptiles from the North West Reptile Society in our lecture theatre. 12 noon-3pm.

Explore our reedbed walk

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE An exciting project is now open at Martin Mere, which will bring you face-to-face with some of our most secretive species. For the first time, we’re inviting visitors to explore the 20-hectare Pat Wisniewski reedbed on our guided pathways. Listen out for reedbed specialists such as reed and



sedge warblers, and Cetti’s and grasshopper warblers, both new species for Martin Mere. Who knows what other rare species you will find! On August evenings, our resident bat expert will be giving informative talks about these winged wonders and may even introduce you to some rescue


bats, before taking you out onto the centre to do some bat detecting. You could even spot a barn owl! Just don’t forget to book as places are limited. In summer, we welcome the patter of tiny hooves as our longhorn cattle give birth. This breed is ideal for grazing and managing wetlands. Their hoof marks create nesting hollows for birds such as lapwings, the tufts

of grass they create as they graze provide shelter for chicks, and their manure attracts invertebrates for chicks to feed on. If you’re looking to while away a lazy day, take to the water on a tranquil guided boat tour of our wetlands where you’ll learn all about Martin Mere, gain top tips on how to spot dragonflies and admire some fantastically fragrant wildflowers.


Can you find the 12 GIANT Top Trumps cards at Martin Mere?

FAMILY FUN Join in the fun this school holiday and become one of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers at Martin Mere. Simply collect your logbook and take your place on eight fun-filled activities, from canoe safaris and wild walks to birdfeeding, wildlife photography and Tribal Tracks (find out more on page 28). Get a sticker for every activity you complete and then collect your Ranger Badge at our 3.30pm award ceremony. One way to win a sticker for your logbook is to play our GIANT Top Trumps game. Play against your friends and family as you search for 12 giant cards around the centre – brownie points for learning some fun facts about wetland species as you go. Get up-close to a range of weird and wonderful creatures

building and play against us and your family as you search for 12 GIANT Top Trumps cards located in the grounds. This is one of the activities included in the logbook as part of Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers.

at our Animal Magic event on 23 and 24 September. Ride a donkey and encounter wallabies, meerkats, an armadillo, a baby crocodile, reptiles and birds of prey

on this special day out for animal-lovers. To keep your tiny tots happy, join our Gosling Gang every Thursday during term time, at 10.30am and 1pm.

‘Loads to do and see and even saw things I’d never seen before. Fabulous walks and great day out in any kind of weather – inside just as good as outside.’

Fri 21 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Collect stickers for your logbook as you undertake a variety of activities to become a wildlife ranger. Activities include pond exploring, searching for tracks, canoe safaris, hand-feeding birds and a Top Trumps Trail.

Nannysurfer, Liverpool

Fri 21 & 28 Jul & 4 & 11 Aug Bat Nights Join our reserve team to search for bats using special bat detectors. Learn all about the creatures and see the centre at night. Starts at 8.30pm. £12.50PP. BE

Do you dare smile at a crocodile at our Animal Magic events?

Enjoy toddler story time and crafts, meet friends and then stroll around Martin Mere, feeding the birds and playing on the adventure playground.

Sun 27 Aug Drawing and Painting Birds Join award-winning local artist and illustrator Tony Disley to explore the process from drawing through to a finished painting of a bird subject. £50PP. 10am-4pm. BE Mon 4 to Sat 30 Sept Exhibition: For the Love of Animals An exhibition by Cathy Settle Creations.

Cathy will be displaying wildlife pictures including portraits of dogs and cats. All day. Sat 23 & Sun 24 Sept Animal Magic Get up-close to a host of weird and wonderful creatures, including reptiles, birds of prey, meerkats, baby crocodiles, an armadillo, wallabies, alpacas and much more. All day.



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


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

Experience wetland wildlife in a unique way on our Canoe Safaris

Daily Activities

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



Until Sept Land Rover Safari Head out on safari with our warden to see the best views of the reserve and wild birds that live on the banks of the Severn Estuary. Enjoy the sights from the comfort of the covered trailer. The warden will stop at interesting points on the drive around the reserve. Book tours on arrival at the Admissions desk for a 2pm departure each day. Please note that

‘There were lots of birds to see, including flamingos and cranes, and I really loved the North American otters. Can’t wait to visit again.’ Becki D, Gloucester

on most summer school holiday days, there will also be a safari run at 11am. The safaris are weather dependent and it is advisable to wear sturdy footwear and warm protective clothing,

especially during cold and/or wet days. These safari tours are in addition to the normal admission charge. We have a lift installed in the trailer so that wheelchair users can

also go on safari. A few further adaptions with seats do need to be made to the trailer, so please give at least two hours’ notice if you are wishing to take a wheelchair on the trailer.

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE This year, we’re hosting our first Severn Wader Festival on 9 and 10 September – a weekend packed with events to celebrate our wading birds, in association with Wader Quest. Join our reserve team and go off the beaten track along the River Severn for an extra-special


high tide Land Rover Safari in search of roosting waders. Come along to a unique birdwatching walk with our expert ‘wader’ warden, as he opens our hides around the grounds. He’ll point out

the waders you can see and explain how to identify them in their seasonal plumages. All around the centre, volunteer guides will be waiting in our hides to help you with

D OW N YO U R WAY Learn how to be a warden when you join Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers

FAMILY FUN The summer holidays will be jampacked with all the fun activities at Slimbridge. Join Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers and try your hand at pondemonium pond exploring, get crafty with mini raft-building challenges, spot aquatic life on our Canoe Safaris and make a Native American journey stick to collect stickers for your ranger logbook. Don’t forget to test your mettle at our new Wetland Survival Camp. Perfect for kids and the young at heart, our expert adventurers will teach you essential outdoor survival skills from den building to fire making, and wood whittling to making bush bread. Find out more on page 28.

Until Mon 2 Oct Canoe Safari Grab a paddle and sail the watery passages of our canoe safari trail. Cruise down our kilometre-long trail in a canoe that can take up to three people. Sit back and relax as you look out for wildlife along the way, such as water voles, dragonflies, warblers and ducks. 11am-4pm. £5PP. Canoe hire is for an hour. Children under

18 must be accompanied by an adult. Minimum age is three years old. WP Sun 23 Jul Birdwatch Morning – Wader Special This seasonal event is timed to coincide with one of the first high tides of the year. Join an experienced warden to search for wading birds as they start to migrate through the reserve. BE

Lapwings and green sandpipers (left) are just some of the stars of our Severn Wader Festival

Mon 24 Jul Evening on the Estuary One for the sensualists! Join an atmospheric drive onto the shores of the estuary, sit and watch the Severn bore cover the vast mudflats and the sun set over the Forest of Dean. BE Various Dates Summer Holiday Family Wildlife Photography Workshops Available on selected dates during the school summer holidays. We are running a series of practical and enjoyable days for budding young wildlife photographers (aged eight or above)

wader ID hints and tips. Enjoy a series of informative afternoon talks from the UK’s top wader experts in our cinema – or learn

Hone your camera skills together by joining wildlife photographer Iain Green for practical and enjoyable Family Photography Workshops. Perfect for budding shutterbugs aged eight and upwards, learn how to capture great shots in our breathtaking grounds. If you’re allowed to stay up late, join us for a night of magic – and moths! Mothing by Moonlight will include a talk about moth conservation before a late-night guided tour into the grounds to see what species our light traps have attracted. Often overlooked, you will be surprised by their beauty and diversity! We hope to complete the first round of traps by 11pm, but you’re welcome to stay until the wee hours.

and their parents to learn how to get great shots of wildlife. This event is suitable for all skill levels and camera types (compact or SLR). BE Fri 18 Aug Mothing by Moonlight Come along to our annual moth celebration. 8.30pm. Free to attend, but donations towards the cost of refreshments would be appreciated. BE Kids can join Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers

more about these amazing birds at afternoon drop-in talks in our Wader Shore exhibit, where you can see the birds of Wader Shore – avocet, ruff and redshank – up-close. As summer makes way for autumn, our waders depart for their wintering sites across the UK and Europe. Look out for green

sandpipers, dunlin and black-tailed godwit flocks increasing in number. Our warblers also start migrating south. Check the hedgerows and areas of scrub for reed warblers, whitethroats and blackcaps, as they quietly head back to their wintering grounds in southern Europe and Africa.






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

Children can enjoy some splashing fun!

Otter Feeds Learn more about our lively Asian shortclawed otters and their growing family at commentated feeds. 11.30am and 3pm.

Ad Hoc Days Throughout Summer Moth Mornings See an array of moth species up-close with our expert warden as he opens his moth trap to the public. Meet at the barn near the play area at 10.30am. Please check online for dates, which will have a few days’ notice. WP Sat 15 Jul, 19 Aug, 16 Sept & Sun 23 Jul, 27 Aug, 24 Sept Walk With a Warden Join one of our wildlife reserve team on a guided tour around our site, taking in the sights, sounds and seasonal wildlife. Meet in the picture window at reception at 2pm. Sat 22 Jul to Sun 3 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers Be a wildlife ranger and join Dusty Duck for exciting

challenges and fun daily activities. With your very own logbook for recording your findings, there’s so much for you to see and do. See in-centre and online for details. Sun 23 Jul, 27 Aug & 24 Sept In Focus A chance to check out the latest in optical equipment and chat to the In Focus experts. Test, select and buy state-of-the-art binoculars and telescopes under field conditions. A percentage of every sale is donated to WWT. For details, contact In Focus on 01484 864729 or visit Throughout the day in the picture window. Sat 29 Jul & 5 Aug Campfire Cooking Try your hand at cooking in the great outdoors with help from our education

‘A beautiful location for a relaxed day walking around and taking in wildfowl and otters. The staff are always helpful.’ tonyhoy28

NE38 8LE 0191 416 5454 WWT Washington

FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY Young visitors will be transformed into intrepid Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers this summer as Dusty Duck invites you to join him for an exciting daily programme of challenges and fun activities. There’s so much for curious minds to do, see and learn across our duckery, water lab, rain garden and much more. Check online for all the details. In July and August, we’ll be honing our chef skills around a campfire in the woods. Join us as we build dens and decorate bark canvases, then try cooking popcorn and roasting bananas. Yum!

Daily Activities

Flamingo Feeds Find out more about our fabulous Chilean flamingo flock and hear how our staff and volunteers hand-raised 29 flamingo chicks! 11.45am and 3.15pm.


staff. Build a den out in the woods and decorate a bark canvas before making tasty food over the fire. 11am-12 noon and 1-2pm (drop-in sessions). Sat 5 Aug & 2 Sept Walking With Wildfowl Learn fascinating facts about our rare and endangered waterbird

Get up-close to moths of all sizes and colours at our summer moth mornings. Learn more about these interesting insects with our expert warden. But do remember to keep an eye on the weather – and our social media channels. Our Gold award-winning 2016 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show garden, developed in partnership with HSBC, has been replanted and now features a new outdoor classroom, where children can learn about the uses of rainwater with interactive displays, or just sit and absorb the sights and sounds.

collection on a guided walk with our aviculture expert, and hear about how WWT’s conservation breeding programmes are playing a vital role in their survival. Meet in the picture window at reception at 2pm.

diverse wild bird species with the help of our volunteer hide guide. The guide will be on-site from 10am-12 noon and 2-4pm. Please check on arrival for details of which hide they’re in.

Sat 5 Aug & 2 Sept Guide in a Hide Discover more about our

Tues 5 Sept Free Durham County Cricket Club Cricket Match Durham CCC, based at Emirates Riverside, in Chester-le-Street, is offering WWT members the chance to watch Durham v Kent for free. A current WWT membership card must be produced on arrival and the offer is valid for the cardholder only. Visit for start time and further details.


The hazy summer months are a bumper time for baby birds. Wader chicks abound, and the tiny fuzzballs of regionally rare avocets are reared alongside noisy broods of common terns, while late-nesting grey heron chicks peer down from the heron hedge above. An invertebrate invasion also brings throngs of brilliant dragonflies, with species including common darter and southern hawker easily seen around the wildlife ponds. Colourful butterflies dance and flit among bee orchids and yellow rattle in the peaceful meadows or the sunny seclusion of the insect garden. As autumn creeps closer, visitors can enjoy the unforgettable sight and sound of nature on the move. Skeins of pink-footed geese pass noisily overhead and waders including snipe, greenshank and whimbrel stop Numbers of snipe are to refuel on migration. boosted by migrant birds in late summer






PE14 9TN 01353 860711

WWT Welney

‘Wonderful facilities at a great W T created some great wetland habitat here. Now there is a fabulous visitor centre too, plus a plethora of hides all readily accessible on flat, firm paths. In one hour, we managed to see a great range of birds including, in my husband’s case, a bittern.’

FAMILY FUN Dusty Duck says ‘Come and get closer to nature at Welney this summer!’ Join Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers for awesome adventures exploring the reserve and getting up-close to the creatures that live here. Dissect owl pellets, investigate underwater worlds at the pond-dipping stations and meet moths – there are so many activities to try. Just make sure you leave time for the LEGO® Brick Animal Trail, which makes its spectacular debut at Welney this August. Wander along the fun-filled trail and marvel at how some of the most iconic wetland animals have been recreated in the UK’s best-loved building blocks.


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

Sat 22 Jul, Sat 19 Aug & Wed 23 Aug Bats and Barn Owls Explore the reserve by night. Join our guide to

Keep your eyes peeled for the 1.5-metre-tall kingfisher and delicate dancing crane. Even if summer fades, the fun at Welney doesn’t stop. In September, Dusty Duck and his 14 celebritydesigned friends will fly in for the Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail. Explore the grounds and see if you can spot all of Dusty’s six-foot pals. Psst – don’t forget to look for Steve Backshall’s Explorer Dusty (right) and Michaela Strachan’s lovely Springtime Dusty.

watch barn owls coming out to hunt, use bat detectors to get insight into the lives of these incredible mammals, and see which moths and other insects visit the light stations. Evenings; times vary so are given at time of booking. £12 adults, £5 children.

Diana W, Coventry

Sat 5 Aug to Sun 3 Sept LEGO® Brick Animal Trail This summer we mix one of the UK’s most popular toys with species that WWT has the most inspirational stories about, to excite and connect the next generation with wetland creatures. Come and spot them all! Included in admission.

Sat 22 Jul to Tues 5 Sept Dusty’s Wildlife Rangers A new take on the Nature Explorers passport. Take part in activities such as pond dipping, bug hunting, owl pellet dissection and moth identification to earn stickers for your logbook. Included in admission.

Sat 2 Sept Willow-weaving Workshop Join expert willow weaver Jane Frost teaching you how to create garden structures and basket forms from natural materials. 10am-4pm. £55PP. Places are limited, so contact Jane to book at or on 01353 861944. BE Tues 12 Sept Nepal Talk An evening talk by Carol Inskipp. Find out about the diverse birdlife of Nepal. The evening is hosted by the Friends of Welney group. 7.30-9.30pm. £3PP (£2 Friends of Welney members). Sat 16 Sept to Sun 29 Oct Celebrity Dusty Duck Trail Dusty Duck has 14 celebrity-designed friends scattered around the reserve. Come and meet them all this autumn! Included in admission.

GET CLOSER TO WILDLIFE THIS SPRING Throughout July and August, a wide array of dragonfly and damselfly species will be on the wing, zipping around as if supercharged by the sun. Check out the ponds and ditches to witness male dragonflies patrolling their territories for females, while dainty damselflies dance through the air. Water levels are at their lowest at this time of year, creating the perfect opportunity to see the return of wading birds fuelling up on migration. Look




Look for fledgling swallows begging to be fed

out for unusual wading birds at the water’s edge, including curlew sandpiper and pectoral sandpiper. On sunny September days, house martin and swallow activity reaches its peak. Both species can successfully fledge two, or even three, broods over summer, if insects are plentiful. Look for flocks of adults and youngsters feeding over pools of water and around the herds of cattle. And watch out for regular hunting hobbies, too!



Steart Marshes

TA5 2PU 01278 651090

WWT Steart Marshes


Shelduck families can be seen feeding on snails in the lagoons in front of the Mendip and Polden hides


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

Daily Activities

Willow Sculpture Trail Hidden within the wetland walkway and made by local artists, discover some of the wildlife we have visiting the reserve – in willow. Brass Rubbings Trail This trail takes you around all three areas of the reserve – you just need some paper and a pencil. Geocache Trail Get the app on your phone and follow the directions to find these hidden treasures around the Otterhampton Marshes circular walk. Pond Dipping Join volunteers or enjoy some watery fun by yourself with our new benches and ID boards. High Tide Spectacle Sat 22 to Thurs 27 Jul, Tues 8 to Fri 11 & Sun 20 to Fri 25 Aug, Tues 5 to Sun 10 & Mon 18 to Sat 23 Sept View the spectacle of high tide at Steart this summer. When the highest spring tides spill over the breach, our saltmarshes vanish underwater for as far as the eye can see. It’s stunning!

Since WWT’s involvement with Steart started, we’ve been carefully converting the biodiversity to wetland species through water management. We hold freshwater on the Stockland Marshes in winter, and during spring, drain it gradually to expose the food-rich muddy margins so loved by our wetland birds. During the high tide spectacle, the main marsh and intertidal area overlooked by the Polden and Mendip hides flood, pushing birds off the mudflats and estuary and bring them up-close and personal to feed in our brackish area. These inundations only happen about 120 times a year and offer some of the best birding of the year. Sun 30 Jul Butterfly and Dragonfly Walk Enjoy the freshwater wetlands at their finest and learn what dragonflies and butterflies we get on the reserve. 11am-1pm. £5PP, £3 for members. BE Weds 9 Aug

Birdwatching For Beginners Learn how to identify the birds that visit the reserve. For adults and children aged eight years and older.

With spectacular high tides, young birds taking their first wobbly steps and rare migrants dropping by, summer is a great time to visit WWT Steart Marshes. From early July, the first broods of delightful humbugstriped shelduck ducklings will be abroad. Last year, we installed artificial nest boxes for these dapper ducks on islands in the intertidal areas. They may not look like much – just grassy mounds – but beneath the surface, we’ve created perfect nesting cavities out of bins, with tubes for entrances. Prospecting shelduck parents are already showing an interest in these des reses. We’ve had more shelducks than ever this year, which bodes well both for breeding and moulting numbers. From September, Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve is famous for hosting the shelducks’ annual moult. The birds lose all their flight feathers at the same time, and impressive numbers spend this perilous flightless period on the water. Other chicks out and about in July include avocets and little ringed plovers. Look for them feeding in brackish habitat at Otterhampton Marshes from the Quantock hides. We’re excited to be host to six yellow wagtail nests this year, which is a good number for the area. Look out for fledglings in the main 10.30am-12.30pm. £5PP, £3 for members. BE Sat 12 & Sun 13 Aug Moth Trapping and ID Workshop Get involved with the moth trapping the night before or just come to the workshop to learn about the moths here. Moth trapping: 9pm-12 midnight; workshop: 10am-12 noon. £8 for both days, £5 for one. BE WP

saltmarsh, where the little wags feed on the abundant insects. As numbers of dragonflies build over the summer, it’s all eyes to the skies looking for hobbys hunting them over Stockland Marshes and the main intertidal marsh area. August is the time when some of our most interesting birds pass by. Last year we welcomed wood and curlew sandpipers, two rare lesser yellow legs and several spoonbills that hung out on Otterhampton Marshes. Come and visit – who knows what will drop in for a rest! Closer to the ground and even rarer is the wall brown butterfly. This conservation priority species has declined substantially in number, due to the loss of its coastal habitat and climate change, and sightings at Steart Marshes are unique for this region. In September, look for this delicately patterned brown and gold species on the paths around the wetland walkway and also on your way down to Stockland Marshes. They like bare areas of mud where they can sun themselves.

It’s always nice to see common blue butterflies – they’re both beautiful and easy to identify

Weds 16 Aug Story of a Landscape Learn about the archaeological finds on-site and the history of how the land has been used over the ages. 11am-12.30pm. £5PP, £3 for members. BE

Sat 19 Aug Dragonfly Walk Enjoy the wetlands and learn what dragonflies are

here. 11am-1pm. £5PP, £3 for members. BE Weds 27 Sept 4x4 Trip to the Breach Visit the breach and learn about its management. £10PP. BE To book, please phone 01278 651090 or email




Classified directory

To advertise please contact Sonal Mistry on 020 3771 7247 or



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

Caerlaverock Cottages


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

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Holiday Lets set within a National Senic Area of outstanding beauty available for short breaks or weekly bookings, all within 1/2 mile of WWT Caerlaverock, NNR and Caerlaverock Castle. A nature lovers paradise. The migrating geese graze in the surrounding fields around the properties.


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SLIMBRIDGE TUDOR ARMS Real Ale, Real Food Pub with 18 well appointed ensuite bedrooms ETB4* 10 Minute Stroll from WWT Slimbridge and situated adjacent to Gloucester-Sharpness Canal CAMRA awards 2007-2013

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B AC K C H AT Dave enjoys stunning views over WWT Slimbridge while doing a spot of maintenance in the cherry picker

my wild life

Dave Paynter, reserve manager at WWT Slimbridge, chats to Waterlife about why he loves inspiring people about wetlands

My average day starts with cycling along the canal to WWT Slimbridge. In the mornings, I conduct surveys, check hides, feed swans and help get the centre ready to open. Then I get stuck into practical tasks, such as mowing and strimming in summer, liaising with farmers in autumn, pollarding and coppicing trees in winter, or maintaining the hides, walkways and 17km of fencing. Each morning, I look forward to

and lapwing. So we’ve changed our habitat management from the intensive pasture that geese prefer to wet grasslands that support waders. My greatest achievement is

Dave Paynter Reserve Manager, WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

designing and overseeing the construction of the South Lake. Today, it’s one of the best birding spots in the UK, as it gives people close-up views of large numbers of birds – and even the odd rarity.

catching up with the other reserve staff to talk about the work we’re doing that day and the birds we’ve seen – it’s always exciting.

My goal is to make Slimbridge as rich in wildlife as it can be and inspire as many visitors as possible.

I get the biggest thrill from the

Mine go everywhere with me and I feel naked without them.

I cannot live without binoculars.

vast congregation of birds in the Tack Piece. The spectacle of thousands of lapwing, golden plover and dunlin mixed with big flocks of wigeon, teal and geese is breathtaking.

I love my job because I can see that the things I’m doing benefit wildlife. Slimbridge has recently gone through a period of transition, brought about mainly by climate change and its impact on our bird populations. Some species have declined, such as white-fronted geese, while others have increased, such as golden plover 66



A highlight of my role is feeding

the Bewick’s swans in winter. I enjoy exciting people about wetlands. I introduce the individual swans, and discuss how climate change, illegal hunting and lead shot affect wildlife. I like to think that this is when many visitors decide to become members and come back regularly.

to see wildlife around the site and get people excited about wetlands. In winter, I love doing duck decoy demonstrations. Piper, our family

dog, helps me to demonstrate how it works – by using the ducks’ natural instinct to follow a predator, such as a fox, to lure them into the decoy. It’s brilliant! The best spot to have lunch is

the old Swan Observatory, looking out over the Rushy and all its birds. I’m proud of our work to reintroduce species that have been lost from the UK and restore natural ecosystems to full health. This has an incredible effect on a whole spectrum of wildlife. For example, when cranes and godwits were returned to our meadows, all the other breeding waders benefited. Godwits are naturally vigilant parents, so they watch out for aerial predators, while cranes mob any foxes out in the open during the day. This makes all the other birds feel safer and breed better. The funniest thing I’ve seen was

This summer, visitors are most likely to see me running Land

Rover safaris. This is the best way

a warden try to pole vault a channel using a willow pole, only to land flat on his back in the water.



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Waterlife July–September 2017  
Waterlife July–September 2017  

The magazine of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust