My main interest and hobby has always been birds and birdwatching and I often went birding with my Dad to North Norfolk Coast and Minsmere in Suffolk amongst other places but there was always 1 place where we would start off the New Year and that was Welney WWT reserve on the Ouse Washes on the Norfolk/Cambs border. A great place to start, so many birds to see, particularly Duck and Swans but other birds as well such as Geese, bird of prey like the Marsh Harrier or Peregrine, wading birds like the Black-tailed Godwit and much more. The sight of so many water birds always bought much excitement.
A few photos below illustrate some of what can you see in the Winter Months:
Welney is one of 9 wetland nature reserves owned and run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust which was founded by Sir Peter Scott in 1946. Welney was the first nature reserve owned by the Trust and opened in 1970. The reserve lies just 2 miles south of Welney village and 26 miles North of Cambridge. The Wetlands lie between the old and new Bedford rivers and offer a home to thousands of wintering wildfowl as well as numerous other species such as Dragonflies, Butterflies and Mammals. The A1101 to Welney village which goes through the low lying land of the washes is often closed for long periods in the winter as the land becomes flooded. A nuisance for local villagers and businesses but I guess they are used to it by now.
The photos below were taken on a visit in 2019, in the first & third pics you can see the road which is normally flooded right across.
A year later when I returned to the reserve it was slightly wetter. you can see the debris from the flood on the road and on the reserve itself water as far as the eye can see.
The Environment Agency's website says the highest recorded river level is 4.17m - equivalent to a depth of 6ft 10ins on the road! Check out this link for more info on the flooding at Welney.
I have good memories of Welney, arriving at the visitor centre for when they open at 10am, then walking down the road, up a path and over the bridge to the main observation hide. However with the increasing number of visitor every year it was felt the centre needed an upgrade and that is exactly what it got. In 2006 a new £3.5 million visitor centre and cafe opened. With stairs or a lift for disabled access from the centre you could walk over the road and river to the hides making it easier and safer for everyone.
Check out this link for all the info on the new centre: http://www.welney.org.uk/wwt/wwt.htm
A great trip to Welney New Years Day 2022 Lots of Whooper Swans, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Egret, and Great White Egret. I was really hoping that we might be lucky enough to see some Common Cranes and about 3pm after an afternoon walk around part of Lady Fen, my mate while scanning the area with his telescope suddenly shouts CRANES! I look up with my binoculars and 2 Common Cranes were flying over. Fantastic stuff. We dropped off our scopes in the car and popped into the visitor centre for a little while before we left and were rewarded with the sight of 2 Short Eared Owls flying around a field and another 3 Common Cranes flying over, a fantastic end to the day.
Photos below from 1st Jan 2022 show Common Pochard, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Whooper & Mute Swan, pics from the main hide and lastly a Great White Egret.
Photos below show part of Lady Fen where the 2 Short Eared Owls were seen flying around and the 5 Common Cranes flew over.
If you have never visited Welney I strongly urge you to do so. In the winter the sight of all the Swans and Ducks in front of the main hide is amazing esp at feeding time. If you stay till dusk and a floodlit feed the sight of all those swans returning from the surrounding fields is one of natures true spectacles. The reserve is open all year (except Christmas Day) and provides much more interest in the remaining seasons.
When you spend a day at Welney it is not just a case of Out For a Duck, there is so much more to do and see.
Check out the WWT Welney Website:
Check out these 2 links for more info on the Whooper & Bewick's Swans and how to tell them apart:
and for info on 1 of the most numerous ducks (Common Pochard) at Welney:
Wetland reserves like Welney are an extremely important habitat for thousands of wintering wildfowl and many other animals and provide a unique habitat for them all to thrive. But not only are they a wildlife and conservation paradise they offer flood protection saving many homes and crops from being ruined. We should all do what we can to help safeguard these areas for future generations to enjoy.