The huge skyscapes and wide horizons of East Anglia drew me north today, clear skies and uplifting sunlight that signalled the march of spring, were too much for restless feet to bare after days of endless grey, . The wintering swans on the fenland washes would soon be heading in the same direction, away from UK shores and back to the tundra of Iceland and Russia to raise a fresh generation. I wanted wish them safe passage.
WWT Welney sits adjacent to the New and Old Bedford Rivers on the Norfolk-Cambridgeshire border, 20 miles south of Kings Lynn. As part of the Great Ouse floodplain that leads to the The Wash, the area provides an internationally important safe haven and habitat for millions of wintering waterbirds. The flooded reserve is one of 9 wetland sites situated across the country that make up the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust network, an organisation founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946. Since it’s inception the WWT has been actively involved in conservation, securing an early triumph in the reintroduction of the Hawaiian (Nene) goose to Hawaii. The natural population had been decimated by introduced cats and mongoose, but from a base-point of only 30 surviving geese in 1952, intensive work brought numbers in the wild up to 800 and captive numbers to 1,000. They are currently working on another miracle, seeking to save the charming Spoon-billed Sandpiper from extinction through captive breeding at their HQ at Slimbridge combined with campaigning activity to secure the bird’s natural environment in its migration path between Russia and Myanmar.
As my visit was late in the winter season, many species had already departed on their spring migration but I was able to watch Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Coots and Gadwall out on the flooded fields before enjoying close up views of the remaining Whooper Swans, hundreds of brown bonneted Pochard, Mallards and Mute Swans as they were fed in the afternoon sun. A visit is strongly recommended.
As well as the pictures I was also able to record the sounds of the birds as they dabbled for corn in the shallows, inches from my viewpoint.
Visit list – Reed Bunting, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Greylag Goose
Open 7 days a week, except 25 December
Summer (Fri 1 March – Thurs 31 October)
9.30am to 5.00pm, visitor centre and reserve (last admissions are at 4.30pm)
Wigeon cafe is open 10am – 4.30pm daily (changing to 10am – 4pm daily from Mon 1 April)
Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
10.00am to 5.00pm – visitor centre and reserve (last admissions are at 4.30pm)
Thursdays – Sundays
10.00am to 8.00pm – visitor centre and reserve (last admission at 6.30pm)
Wigeon cafe is open –
10am – 4.30pm Monday – Friday
10am – 6.15pm Saturday & Sunday