Monday, 12 February 2018

15. WWT Welney Wetland Centre

It was a bright, cold day as we set out to visit WWT Welney Wetland Centre. Owned by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and one of their smallest reserves, this was the first time we had visited this site. It’s a location I’ve wanted to visit for a long time and it did not disappoint with four ‘life species’ today. I had imagined that all of the wildfowl would be far away and difficult to spot, and although this was the case for a few species, on the whole I was wrong.

We started our visit in the main observatory looking out over the main lagoon. Instantly, we had excellent views of whooper swans (life species number one) right next to the glass, the foreground to a huge raft of pochard. There were also a few tufted ducks thrown in for good measure. However, as we had been informed that the swan feed would be at midday, we set out for the half mile walk to furthest hide, aiming to return in time.

Whooper swan
Pintail (group in centre)
Due to flooding, the pathway to ‘Reedbed hide’ was closed, so we walked instead to ‘Friends hide’ in the opposite direction. Here, we watched flocks of pochard, wigeon and a few pintail (life species number two) be put up by a low flying marsh harrier searching for easy pickings. The small quartet of swans in the distance, whose beaks were indistinguishable through binoculars, turned out to be Bewick’s swans (life species number three) when shown to us through a scope by a fellow bird watcher.

It seemed like all the birders and other visitors on site descended upon the main observatory for the swan feed. We watched as two of the three species, mute and whooper, came in close for their supplementary feed. Escaping early to beat the lunch time rush, we watched reed buntings and gold finches from the cafĂ©, then went straight back out to explore the hides we missed earlier: ‘Lyle’ and ‘Nelson-Lyle’. Here we had good views of the adorable whistling wigeon and a dainty pair of teal, alongside the significantly larger and tricoloured shelduck.

Reed bunting
Tree sparrows (mostly)
Eventually, we made our way back to the Visitor Centre to partake in the pre-booked hare walk. Whilst we were waiting, we looked out over the fields and wetlands and a solitary tree. This tree soon became a ‘bird tree’, full of tree sparrows (life species number four), with their chestnut heads and dirty cheeks.

Following our guide across muddy fields, we were treated to a number of hares bolting at high speeds (top speeds of 45 mph according to the mammal society). A male kestrel quartered, flocks of fieldfare chuckling lifted when we approached too close and a snipe shot up with its jinking flight.

The day didn’t end there, however, as we set out for home, we passed fields full of hundreds of swans. It would seem these ‘wild swans’ are an almost definite spot from in and around WWT Welney.


  1. What a wonderful day in one of our favourite (if occasional) haunts. We love the evening swan feed in the run up to Christmas: there is something magical about swans on a winter's night. I have yet to see a Bewick's...

    1. We got lucky with the Bewicks, although they were very far away!