Our wetlands offer amazing opportunities for wildlife watching. Why not take
a few tips from the Hands on Nature team as we get close to wildlife with activities
that you can participate in at home.
These are some of the many activities that you
can try out for yourselves throughout the year in waterway locations:
Waterways are the best places to watch Dragonflies especially
in fenland habitats such as Wicken Fen near Ely in Cambridgeshire.
some top tips from our Hands on Nature team and enjoy the colourful world of Damsel
* First, look for the right
habitat. There are three main types of plant that Dragonflies and Damsels find
- oxygenators under the water. These keep the water clear and
full of oxygen;
- surface coverers such as lilies. These make great launch
and landing pads for Dragonflies;
- tall stemmed plants around the edges
of the water.
* Dragonflies often return to the same perching spot... so
be patient and keep still. Look for lilies or twigs on which they might perch.
If you spot a Dragonfly on a stick or twig, put out your finger and keep it still.
If you're lucky one may land on you, but be careful to be gentle with these fragile-looking
* How do you tell the difference between Damsels and Dragonflies?
tend to be smaller and more delicate. When Dragonflies land, they tend to leave
their wings out flat like an aeroplane whilst Damsels are more likely to fold
their wings up behind them.
* Watch out for the Emperor, Britain's largest
Dragonfly, with its bright blue abdomen. Other residents include the Four-Spotted
Libellula with its four tiny spots on each wing.
Wetlands are amongst the best places for bird watchers.
the best places to watch for rare birds are Somerset Levels in the West Country
and Leighton Moss in Lancashire.
* When listening to birds,
cup your hands around your ears like a loudhailer - this will amplify the sound.
Spring is a good time for bird watching - it's easier to see the birds before
the leaves grow back on the trees, and you can witness elaborate courtship rituals.
* Leighton Moss is an excellent place to hear and see Bitterns, one of
the rarest and most secretive of British birds. Listen for its distinctive call
or 'boom' which sounds like a fog-horn.
* Bitterns can be seen flying low
over the reed beds so take your binoculars. Sometimes it's easier to see them
from a slightly higher vantage point in a bird hide.
* Swell Wood at Somerset
Levels is a great vantage point from which Herons fly out to scour the waterways
for food to bring back to their treetop nests.
* The best time to see the
Herons at Somerset Levels is March and April.
Somerset Levels and Wicken Fen are good places for pond dipping.
even has its own special pond dipping area for children.
* Drop the net
into the water gently and make only small movements. Don't create too much disturbance
in the water. This will enable a good mix of species to be washed into your net
* Use a fine net with a long pole. Make your own by stretching
a pair of tights over an old tennis racquet. Or buy a professional net from an
* Pond dipping is potentially dangerous on slippery wetland
areas so take a friend in case you fall in.
* Look out for the following
wetland residents in your net - Water Scorpions, River Snails, Great Pond Snails
and the Great Silver Diving Beetle.
* Don't forget to put the creatures
back where you found them once you've studied them. Some larger creatures such
as the Great Crested Newt needs a special licence to handle it.