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17 September 2014
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Wetland activities

Wet and wild

Butterfly c/o Broads Authority

Wetlands are a must for nature lovers. They are especially good for bird watching, bug spotting and pond dipping. So get out and about and enjoy a wetland adventure!

Stunning Swallowtail butterfly.
Photo - Broads Authority.

Here are three great nature activities which you can take part in wetland areas:

* Pond dipping.
* Bird watching and bug spotting.
* Butterfly watching.

Pond dipping

Wetland habitats are a great place to try pond dipping.

Great locations for this activity featured on BBC Nature's Calendar include:

* How Hill, Norfolk Broads - the How Hill Trust in Norfolk organises dyke dipping for school groups.

* Caerlaverock, Solway Firth - pond dipping area.

Other locations recommended include:

* Arundel Wetlands Centre, West Sussex
* Castle Espie Wetlands Centre, Northern Ireland

These are our top tips for pond dipping:

* Buy a children's fishing net from a toy shop - make sure it has a long pole so you can reach further without falling in.

* Alternatively you can try making your own by stretching an old pair of tights over a tennis racquet.

* The best ponds to try dipping in have lots of vegetation like reeds and lily pads on which insects and other life can rest.

* Dip the net gently into the water and make small movements to collect a good variety of pond life.

* When you think you've got plenty to look at, gently lift your net out of the water and place gently on a piece of white paper.

* Use a good identification guide to examine your catch and don't forget to put everything back where you found it!

* The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust runs Great Pond Safari learning programmes for children at many of their wetland centres.

Wetland birds and bugs

Bird watcher c/o WWTWetland ponds are a great habitat for ducks, geese and other migratory birds, but they're also ideal for Dragonflies and Damsels, skimming across the water's surface.

Good locations for wetland birds and bugs include:

* Martin Mere, Lancashire
* London Wetlands Centre
* Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

Why not follow these great tips from the Nature's Calendar team:

* Bird-watching has three golden rules - be patient, be quiet and buy a good pair of binoculars - these may be expensive but there are still bargains to be found if you buy second-hand.

* The best time of day for bird-watching is in the morning - this is when birds are most active, particularly in summer.

* For Dragon and Damselfly-watching, lunchtime is better as they thrive in the midday sun, but be careful not to cast a shadow - they're less active in the shade.

* There are three main plants that Damsels and Dragonflies like - tall plants around the water's edge, surface plants like lily pads to land on and water-borne plants, which oxygenate the water to keep it nice and clear.

* Dragonflies are larger with outstretched wings while Damselflies tuck their wings up behind them - make sure you know the difference!

Butterfly watching

Butterfly c/o Broads AuthorityOne of the best places to see butterflies is How Hill in Norfolk - it's a great place to spot the rare Swallowtail which is only found in the Norfolk Broads.

Other good Norfolk reserves where you can spot the Swallowtails are Catfield Fen, Strumpshaw Fen and Wheatfen

Our top tips for a successful trip are:

* Look for butterflies darting around to get a general sense of their movements, but your best chance of seeing them land is when the temperature drops slightly.

* Swallowtails are Britain's biggest butterfly with a distinctive 10 cm wing span.

* Swallowtails like to feed on nectar plants so look out for the butterflies on Yellow Flag Irises, Meadow Thistles and Ragged Robin.

* If you're lucky, you might spot Swallowtail eggs on plants such as Milk Parsley - these are small white, round blobs.

* The Butterfly Conservation website is a good source of information about rare butterflies.



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