Trip reports

NWT Welney Wetland Centre 24th January 2016

Adult whooper swans feeding in fields

Sunday, 24 January 2016

NWT Welney Wetland Centre 24 Jan 2016 9:15-16:00

Scanning the pool behind the Visitor Centre onto Lady Fen gave us the first close views of noisy whooper swan families. They are the larger of the yellow billed swan with a greater area of yellow on their bills and longer necks than the Bewick's swan. The warden pointed out a large 1300 + group of Bewick's swans feeding in the far distant on Lady Fen. This was where later in the day very close views of a hunting short eared owl was seen. Several hares were seen here, with their black ears, feeding on the long tussocky grass of Lady Fen.
A couple of shelduck were on the water with lapwing and golden plover roosting on the mud here and a couple of stock dove and several pied wagtails were seen. Below the feeders there was a water rail. Also on the feeders were tree and house sparrows plus goldfinches and reed buntings. A fieldfare flew over and a couple of collared dove were on the telephone wires. Members of the group took advantage of the jewels of the restaurant from full English breakfast to coffee and cakes. Viewing from the balcony gave us good views of the feeders and Lady Fen.
Going over the bridge took us to the main congregations of wildfowl. The main heated observatory and side hides gave us very close views again of whooper swans. Large numbers of sleeping pochard together with large groups of wigeon were supplemented with smaller numbers of pintail, tufted duck, gadwall, teal and shoveler. From this and the next hide various groups of waders were seen. This included a tight knit flock of 150+ flying dunlin. On the ground were also large mixed flocks of lapwing and golden plover. Throughout the day large v-shaped flocks of golden plover were seen alongside and separate from the floppy groups of flying lapwing. Smaller groups of black tailed godwits with their long bills were roosting on the muddy areas. In flight you could see their white wing bars. Scattered around the various muddy areas were good numbers of redshank plus one or two ruff. From one of the other hides I managed to see a close knit flying flock of eight ruff.
Birds of prey were also present today. The first was a low flying sparrow hawk which flew low across the windows of the Main Observatory. Several marsh harriers were in flight during the day. One or two kestrels were seen as well. Lastly a buzzard was conveniently perched on a post visible from the last hide on the right hand side which was the Friends Hide. It was from this hide that some saw a stonechat as well. Also from this last hide we were able to compare whooper and Bewick's swans side by side. The differences of size, structure and amount of yellow/black in their bills was clearly seen. During the day mute swan, grey heron and a few little egrets were seen and from the Nelson-Lyle hide a couple of female goldeneye were seen diving.
The end of the day saw some of the group watching the swan feed from the main observatory with a running commentary. I spent the rest of the afternoon viewing over the Lady Fen with really good views of a hunting short eared owl which was swooping into the grass for small mammals. Lastly a single pink foot goose flew to join the whooper swans on the water.
A total of 66 species were seen today with the highlights being the side by side views of Bewick's and whooper swans, the hunting short eared owl, the large numbers of different duck species and the wide range of waders and birds of prey. Together with the excellent visitor facilities and the ease of the coach journey the day was entirely satisfactory for the group. George Kalli