Wednesday 1 March 2023

Trip to WWT Welney

25th February 2023 - despite the chilly, breezy weather twelve NatureWatch members bravely found their way to the shelter of the heated comfort of the main observatory at WWT Welney reserve on the Ouse Washes. At this time of year the Washes are purposefully flooded with excess water from the River Ouse and Bedford Drains, and the amount of water in the washes depends on recent rainfall.  After a relatively dry February this year, there was less water than other years, meaning there was plenty of water for the many ducks and swans, as well as islands of dry land for waders and other birds - in other words, perfect!

Apart from the many Pochard (mostly males, as the females migrate further south in winter), Mallard, Teal and a few Tufted Duck and Shoveler close by the hide, there were also a few other less common duck species a little further out, including Gadwall, Wigeon, Pintail, Goldeneye and Shelduck, as well as a male Goosander which briefly dropped in. We also had good views of both the resident Mute Swan (with the orange bill), as well as several Whooper Swan (which wedges of yellow on the bill) which winter here before returning to Iceland to breed.

Other highlights were a good sized flock of Black-tailed Godwit, and the odd OystercatcherRedshank, Snipe and Dunlin, which were all occasionally put-up by a low-flying Marsh Harrier. There were also distant but still clearly distinct views of a group of four Spoonbill on Lady Fen, and towards the end of the trip a Cattle Egret was showing well by the visitor's centre, as were the ever-reliable flock of Tree Sparrow and House Sparrow.

Overall 36 species (plus one 'hybrid/escapee' - see end of post) were seen during a most enjoyable trip.

Feeding time at the main observatory
- mostly Mallard and Pochard, and both Mute Swan and Whooper Swan [Andy M]

Feeding time at the main observatory and view across the Washes [Barry B]

Female Mallard [Esme L]

Mostly male Pochard, with one female (far right centre) and a few Mallard [Barry B]

Male Pochard [Barry B]

Male Pochard [Esme L]

Male Pochard close-up [Barry B]

Whooper Swan - with large triangular wedge of yellow on the bill [David F]

Whooper Swan [Esme L]

Whooper Swan - close-up of yellow on the bill [Barry B]

Whooper Swan close-up [Barry B]

Whooper Swan in flight [Barry B]

Male Tufted Duck [Barry B]

Male Tufted Duck [Esme L]

Female Marsh Harrier fly-past [Esme L]

Finally, and somewhat controversially, there was a single duck with unusual plumage - the back-half looking like a male Pintail or Gadwall, and the front half looking somewhat like a Shoveler, but with a large white cheek patch. Some in the hide felt it was possibly an escapee White-cheeked Pintail, whereas others felt it was more like a Shoveler x Gadwall hybrid. You decide! I know which I favour!

'Exotic' duck with unusual plumage at Welney [Andy M]

Shoveler x Gadwall hybrid [internet blog, S Miodinow]

White-cheeked Pintail [internet ebird, C Moning]

No comments:

The Aims of Abington Naturewatch

At their meeting on 9 April 2005 the members approved this revised version of the aims of Abington Naturewatch:

  • To monitor and record the wildlife (fauna & flora) within the borders of the Abingtons;
  • To encourage protection of our wildlife, maintain its quality and foster its diversity;
  • To promote awareness of the richness, potential and problems of the natural environment of the Abingtons;
  • To cooperate in improving access to the local natural environment for the benefit of all Abington villagers.

Pat Daunt, Founder

The organisation is informal and communication is by email if possible; members are notified of events from time to time. Contact details are maintained by a small "project team". There is currently no membership fee as costs are covered by voluntary contributions at events.

Members are encouraged to report notable sightings of flora and fauna within the Abingtons to the appropriate sector coordinator and an illustrated record is published annually.

A map of the area covered, with some features noted, is available here:>

For more information or to join, please contact David Farrant on (01223) 892871.

Contributions to our records should be sent to sector contacts or either of the above. Photographs may also be submitted to Andy Merryweather (