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Swan spectacle makes for a wild winter at Welney Wetland Centre

A wetland centre is set to turn into a white winter wonderland as swans return to the area.

Visitors at WWT Welney can experience thousands of swans flocking to the area after completing journeys from their summer homes in Arctic Russia and Iceland.

To celebrate this event, staff at the wetland site are putting on a range of events to allow people to get closer to the birds and witness what is widely believed to be one of the season’s most spectacular events in UK nature.

Swan flock on the ice at WWT Welney. Picture: Simon Stirrup
Swan flock on the ice at WWT Welney. Picture: Simon Stirrup

Whooper swans from Iceland far outnumber the much rarer Bewick’s swans from Arctic Russia, but this is one of the few places where these winter travellers can be seen side by side along with their native mute swans.

After spending their summers in the far north, pairs which have successfully bred have now shown their cygnets the migration process for the first time.

Along with daily commented swan feeds, there will also be weekend events where visitors can watch these birds in a very special setting.

On Saturday and Sunday evenings, the site is hosting floodlit swan feeds where, from the comfort of a warm hide, people can witness the birds flying in at dusk to have their final meal of the day.

On selected dates throughout winter, early risers can watch the birds waking up on the wetlands with one of the reserve’s wardens.

The events are an excellent pre and post-Christmas experience and a fantastic opportunity to leave the screens at home and explore the wildlife on your doorstep, taking in the sights and sounds of migratory birds arriving from distant lands.

Whilst the swans are the stars of the show, there is so much more to enjoy.

This includes flocks of red-headed pochard ducks, shoals of wading birds like godwits and plovers, and the captivating views of birds of prey with harriers and owls.

Take a walk with a guide to encounter charismatic hares and deer that also call these wetlands home.

And don’t forget the landscape itself with huge skies, expanse of reed beds, and the glorious trees that change from day to day during the winter months.

Emma Brand, events and marketing officer, said winter is such an incredible time for the wetlands at WWT Welney – with thousands of birds arriving for winter meaning it is the busiest time of year for a number of wildlife.

She said: “The daily coming and going of swans as they fly out to fields and return to roost is a familiar routine for the people living and working around the Ouse Washes landscape.

“Sharing this spectacle with visitors is a huge part of the work the staff and volunteers enjoy most about this time of year.”

Welney is open daily from 10am-4pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-7.30pm Saturday and Sundays for winter. It will only be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Swans awake morning events:

- December 16 and 17

- January 20 and 21

- February 3 and 4

- February 17 and 18

Swan feeds:

November 1 – February 29, 12pm and 3.30pm daily

November 4 – February 25, 6.30pm. On Saturdays and Sunday only during this period (floodlit)

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