Wellies at the ready

 Signs of spring are popping up here and there. With Snowdrops (photo by Mike Malpass) blooming and the woodpeckers drumming against the trees in the morning, but along with the foreshadowing of better weather are some rather wet conditions. But fear not! Come prepared with some wellies and you can experience the reserve in a whole new way. A bit of flooding can bring wildlife closer to you than ever before.

Keep an eye out for the many small mammals that you may spot keeping out of the water. You may see them scurrying around path edges and sheltering on tree roots. It’s a great chance to see species such as wood mouse and field voles.

It may also be a great time to find some amphibians.  Flooding like this means you might see species such as common frog (photo by Jon Carter) and smooth newt on the paths. See how many different animals you can spot during your visit.

The quantity of wildfowl may have decreased slightly, but not in diversity. We still have an amazing variety of ducks to see, such as pintail, shoveler and teal. The high water levels have enticed some newly arrived pochard too; see if you can spot these beautiful birds. You’ll easily see the males with their bright copper-red heads.

The bitterns are also being seen more frequently, usually from Lower or Causeway hides. They are not booming yet, but hopefully soon as we move into spring proper. Also, otters have been making some appearances at that same end of the reserve, ending their bout of silence over the past couple months.

As soon as the weather settles a little bit, the starlings return to their regular scheduling, with huge flocks forming to murmurate in the evening. They are gathering later and later as the days last longer. Right now, the show starts at around 5pm, weather depending, and the best place to watch is the Skytower. Grab your scarf and hat and a lovely hot drink from the café and get ready for a true nature spectacle!

One thing to remember is, wildlife can be odd and full of surprises. As many of you may know, we have many marsh harriers on the reserve, and are seen regularly around all the pools. But, one person saw a marsh harrier holding something in its claws - is it a branch? Is it some prey? No, it’s a tennis ball! It seems it was going to play catch, possibly to practice food passing later in the year. Just proves how even if think you’ve seen all there is to see, you might still see something that surprises you.


If you want up to date information on flooding conditions, then visit our Facebook page or you can ring our visitor centre.