Four hundred years ago Welney was a mass of shallow
lakes and reedy straits but man's intervention changed its landscape forever.
it's a wetland haven for wintering birds.
Swan at Welney reserve.|
Photo - RSPB Images/Sue Tranter
1630 the Duke of Bedford called in a Dutch engineer to drain the Fens by cutting
two new rivers and creating a flood plain 22 miles long, now known as the Ouse
Welney was one of the newly drained areas and today, when it is
allowed to flood in the winter, it provides a perfect wetland for over-wintering
wild swans arrive every autumn from their breeding grounds in Iceland and the
In fact the reserve was established for Bewick's Swans,
the smallest and rarest of the three species of wild swan found in the UK.
can also see the other main types of Swan at Welney:
Swans - can be seen year round in the UK. They are mostly silent - hence the name
- but in flight the wings make a lovely 'whau-whau' sound.
Swans - bigger than the Bewick's Swan. Also distinguished by their 'whoop whoop'
call. Most of the Whooper Swans that overwinter in the UK go to Scotland, but
in the last 25 years their numbers at Welney have grown to almost 2,000.
of the Whoopers come from Iceland and are capable of making the 600 mile flight
in a single journey.
These are referred to as wild swans to differentiate
them from the resident Mute Swans in Britain.
Swans have orange bills whilst Bewick's and Whoopers have black, with some yellow
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have tracked some pretty amazing
journeys to Welney by the Whooper and Bewick Swans.
The swans don't stay
on the reserve during the day - they fly into the neighbouring fields to feed
on stubble and sugar beet tops.
They return in the early evening, gliding
in over the marshes for an unforgettable wildlife spectacle.
the late afternoon and early evening when the swans are all back, the reserve
turns the floodlights on for an amazing feeding spectacle.
down the road from Welney is Ouse Washes, another great place to watch nature
in a very natural location.
The RSPB reserve is one of the British Isles'
most important lowland wet grassland habitats.
In late October look out
for the return of migrating birds including the first Bewick and Whooper Swans
of the season.
It's also a good place for watching Marsh Harriers, Owls
and sometimes Hen Harriers.
Ouse Washes and Mute Swan photographs
are copyright and courtesy of Andy Hay, Sue Tranter, Chris Gomersall and RSPB
Black tailed Godwit courtesy of David
Featherbe and WWT. Whooper Swans at Welney copyright of WWT and Michael Selby.