In 2002 a wildlife survey recorded well over 2,000 different species of birds, mammals, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mini-beasts living in and around the mere which gives the site its name. There are over 100 species of international water-birds plus an otter enclosure, eco-garden and a world record breaking minibeast hotel!
The group arrived just as the reserve was opening and met up with a volunteer guide from WWT who gave us an introduction to the site and led us to our reserved room for the day (a lovely space from which to explore). Once we’d got settled in and everyone allocated a map, we headed out, as a group to explore the wildfowl collections. All the children got a chance to feed the birds as we had purchased specially formulated bird food from the reserve shop.
All of the enclosures had plenty of information about the species on display including their habitat, eating habits, their numbers in the wild and any threats to their survival. Unfortunately some of the species we saw were under threat of habitat loss or over hunting and so these collections help to raise awareness and can also act a breeding centres along with other collections across the world.
The group then congregated at the otter enclosure for an interesting talk, from one of the WWT volunteers, while she fed the asian short-clawed otters some tasty looking razor clams 😉 Everyone got superb views of the otters using the dexterity to remove the clams from their shells and then carry their prize to the waters edge before cleaning them carefully then snacking on them.
Once the talk was over it was time for lunch back at our reserved room at the centre. Packed lunches were opened and extra treats purchased from the visitor centre cafe. Once we had all had our fill it was time to get competitive!
2 groups and some basic rules were agreed upon for the afternoon bird race. Our focus was going to be the native species rather than anything in the collections, so this was the one key rule. Each group selected a list collator, Natasha & Kat stepped forward for those jobs, and then we agreed to head out in different directions to meet at the Discovery Hide at 2.45pm. Let the race commence!!
The teams only crossed paths once during the race and some friendly insults / banter was exchanged but little given away about each group was progressing. Each group explored the whole reserve with visits to most if not all of the various bird hides. The wetland centre has many different habitats which gave us a chance to not just see wildfowl and wading birds but also woodland / scrub loving species.
When the groups congregated at the Discovery Hide the competitive talk was at fever pitch and Leader Martin collected the 2 bird lists together for some careful checking through. It was such a close finish that Leader Martin had to check both lists a number of times to ensure no collection / non-natives had been snuck in, but after a final count there was a narrow winner with 45 species (full list of species below)! The other group had just one species less which shows how great our members and leaders are at spotting out every possible wildlife sighting 🙂
Now we were back together as a group it was time for the ‘Swan feed’. The Discovery Hide provides a superb panoramic view across a narrow beach and out into a large lake where many different dabbling and diving ducks/geese/gulls can be seen. The wheelbarrow of food is brought out and the birds all made their way to the shore to make sure they didn’t miss out. Large numbers of Shelduck and Whooper Swans take up a lot of the available space but lots of other species of bird managed to get their fair share as well.
Once the feed was over we returned to our room to finish the session but not before we handed out a couple of awards to who the leaders thought had been the best bird spotters of the day! Oliver and Joe collected their prizes and a round of applause each and then it was time to say goodbye.
A brilliant nature day out at a great WWT site!
Combined Bird Race List (53 species in all!)
Great Spotted Woodpecker
White Fronted Goose