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Spring and summer in wetlands: a guide for wellbeing

Spring and summer in wetlands: a guide for wellbeing

Our free guide explores some of the ways that nature can help keep us healthy. It’s full of ideas and activities intended to help you engage with nature following the five steps to wellbeing.

Migrations series – How do birds know where to go?

Migrations series – How do birds know where to go?

Migrating birds follow predictable routes. These routes are well known; we call the one that brings wintering birds to our shores the Northwest European flyway and the one that brings summering birds the East Atlantic flyway. You can’t see them, but they

Curlew sightings are a sign of hope for 2021

Curlew sightings are a sign of hope for 2021

Glimpses of young curlew give encouraging signs for the 2021 breeding season, although it's still early days for the declining curlew.

Diary of a swan spotter

Diary of a swan spotter

Volunteer swan spotter extraordinaire, Wim Tijsen, talks Bewick’s, climate change and why the calls of the swans’ post migration reunions are forever etched into his memory.

We're Good to Go

We're Good to Go

We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to our wetland sites across the UK and have everything in place so you have the best day out.

Five wetland plants with secret superpowers

Five wetland plants with secret superpowers

Plants are the structural foundation of wetlands, supporting a range of life. They also have some amazing and unexpected qualities. Yet they are often under-appreciated.

A spotlight on wetland wildlife - March 2021

A spotlight on wetland wildlife - March 2021

March has been a real month of change, sometimes cold but often with a real sense of spring in the air. We have said ‘bon voyage’ to the last of our winter visitors and a brief ‘hello’ to those species just passing through...

More indoor and outdoor nature-themed family activities to try during the school holidays

More indoor and outdoor nature-themed family activities to try during the school holidays

The Easter holidays are here, and with warmer weather on the horizon and buds bursting into flower you might be looking to nature to keep your young adventurers entertained. Your local wetland is the perfect playground. Although we think that a rainy day has its own charms and can be just as fun (hello puddle jumping) we know that sometimes you’d rather stay inside cosied up. Or perhaps you’re choosing to stay indoors for safety reasons. Either way, it’s not always possible to get to a wetland, but this doesn’t mean you can’t still make most of what the natural world has to offer. So bearing that in mind, here are some of our favourite family activities to try, whether you’re exploring your local nature or becoming an indoor explorer. Outdoor fun 1. Become an undercover birdwatcher Birds can be a bit shy, so why not take your birdwatching to the next level by building your own hide in the garden or by a window? Going incognito like a pro wildlife photographer is a great way to get closer to nature without disturbing it. Staying still and observing isn’t always easy, so by building your own hide you’ll have a great place to practice being quiet, not moving and just taking in as much of the world around you as possible. Many birders say that watching birds gives them a wonderful chance to focus and be really present in the moment – regardless of how many species they actually spot. To make your own hide, just follow our simple step by step guide. 2. Make a LEGO bird table So you’ve got your hide… but the birds are few and far between. If you want to encourage more birds to your garden or outside your window, one way to do this is to provide a source of food and water. This tutorial combines two of our favourite things in one, helping nature and playing with LEGO! How to make a lego bird table: watch the video 3. Go garden bird spotting Hide? check. Happy birds munching away? check. Immediately, you notice that some of them are different: some you recognise, but some you’ve never seen before. You don’t need to be able to ID birds to get a lot out of watching them, but if you find it fun to be able to put a name to a beak, our common garden birds guide might help. Feeling ready to take your skills out and about? Read our birdwatching for beginners guide to get started. 4. Look at feathers One of the most incredible things about birds is their feathers, which only get more fascinating the more you look and learn about them. Why not head out to your local wetland and see what kind of feathers you can find there? Just be careful not to get too close to any nesting birds. Feather colours are formed by either pigment or structure, or both. Structural colours, such as the blue of a kingfisher or the iridescence of a lapwing, are produced by the bending of the light through the feather. If you hold it up to the light, it will appear brown. Look really closely at a feather, and you’ll see how it’s made of thousands of individual strands, creating so many different patterns and shapes. So next time you find one, why not take a much closer look? 5. Make a bug hotel Many of the garden birds we know and recognise are insectivorous, which means they love to dine on a juicy creepy crawly. Did you know that many flying insects actually start life underwater, and they’re reliant on wetlands for the majority of their lives? Make your own bug hotel to provide homes for mini-beasts where you live, and give an old juice or milk carton a whole new lease of life while you’re doing it – a double win for nature. Invertebrates are often underrated, but they are a vital part of nature, providing a source of food for other animals, helping to pollinate plants and recycling nutrients back into the soil. Birds, bats and amphibians all rely on mini-beasts as food source in spring, whether they’re fattening up after arriving back from a long migration, or emerging from hibernation and getting ready for the breeding season. Indoor activities 1. Draw what’s outside your window Tired of looking out at the same view every day? Maybe it’s time to look at it in a whole new light. This fun drawing activity gets you to look – really look – out your window, and draw what you see there. It can be as accurate or as expressive as you like, and if you can convey a sense of emotion through your picture then you’re well on your way to creating art. Can you inject new life into the view through your markings on the paper, through your use of colour and texture? What wildlife is out there, going about its day? What sounds can you hear, how does this influence your creation? Print out this window template or have a go at drawing your own. 2. Take the Easter chicks quiz What’s the best way of identifying a young bird? Probably looking at its parent, as they can be hard to identify, usually coming in humbug stripes or murky browns and blacks for better camouflage from predators. But there are some tell-tale giveaway signs. Take our fun quiz and see if you can work out what each youngster is going to be when it grows up, then amaze your family when you come back to your WWT centre. Take the quiz 3. Make a spring nature mobile This activity combines both indoor and outdoor fun. First, go on a nature hunt (this could be a back garden, park or your local wetland) and gather up some lightweight items, as well as a good stick. Then, create your mobile – no two will be the same and it’s a lovely way to remember your favourite places with all your senses when you’re at home. How to make a nature mobile 4. Make an origami frog In our latest origami tutorial, find out how to make a simple jumping frog. You could even draw a series of beautiful lily pads on a pond for them to jump across. All you need is a square piece of paper, and some patience to practice those folding skills. Once you’ve worked out the technique, it’s easy. 5. Wordsearches and colouring-in We’ve got spring on our minds, and now so will you. Can you find all the springlike words in our wordsearch? If words aren’t your thing, you can try your hand at colouring in. Easter wouldn’t be complete without an egg hunt, and there are loads hidden in this picture. Can you find them all? When you’re done, colour in the duck using your favourite spring colours. Help! I’ve run out of things to do… We have plenty more nature-themed boredom busters to keep everyone entertained and occupied on our fun and learning hub. Find activities

How to tell the difference between frog and toad spawn

How to tell the difference between frog and toad spawn

Have you spotted any frogspawn yet? Whether it’s in a local pond or your own back garden it’s always an exciting moment. Along with daffodils and birdsong it’s one of the first signs that spring is here. We know it can be hard to tell exactly what is wha

10 Biodiversity success stories from WWT Reserves in 2020

10 Biodiversity success stories from WWT Reserves in 2020

2020 was a tough year, but the results are in and we’re delighted to report that we have some stories of conservation optimism to share with you. Head of Reserves Emma Hutchins takes stock and reflects on the highlights of 2020 at our ten WWT wetland sit

How the weather affects migratory birds

How the weather affects migratory birds

The weather can have a dramatic impact on migrating birds. From cloud structure to wind direction and strength, each can play a part in the success or failure of a bird’s migration.

A spotlight on wetland wildlife - February 2021

A spotlight on wetland wildlife - February 2021

February has been a real mix of weather on our reserves, from a week of sub-zero temperatures to the recent warm air blowing up from the south. One week we were in the depths of winter, the next was looking very much like spring...

Spring: up close

Spring: up close

Spring is well on its way, the first flowers are appearing, the trees are beginning to bustle with bird song and when the sun comes out there’s a definite warmth to it. Join us as we take a look at all we can expect from spring, perhaps the most exciting

Nature-themed family activities for outdoor and indoor fun this half term

Nature-themed family activities for outdoor and indoor fun this half term

WWT’s wetland centres are great places to take in some fresh air and appreciate what the great outdoors has to offer, but with our centres currently closed now’s the perfect time to explore what’s around you. From local streams, ponds and lakes what watery places will you find? It may still be chilly out, but getting outside for some fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways we can boost our wellbeing. And we know it can be hard to motivate the kids when you’ve done the same walk 10 times. So, to help change things up, we’ve pulled together some activities with a wetlands twist to help you have fun this half term. However, not everyone (yet!) has the luxury of a wildlife-filled wetland in their local area, and some people might need to stay at home. Or, you might just want to stay snuggly and warm for a while – there’s nothing wrong with that! So we’ve also collected together ideas to bring the outside in through creative crafts that are so much more fulfilling than another afternoon watching TV. Outdoor fun Wet weather can only mean one thing… It’s time to find the biggest puddle you can and jump right in! If it’s a rainy day, get your wellies and waterproofs on and wrap up warm so you can splash around in comfort. If you’re feeling brave, you could even do a rain dance. How big a splash can you make? Wintry weather doesn’t always have to mean staying inside. Download our winter guide winter wetland guide for more ideas on making the most of winter nature and improving your wellbeing. Go duck spotting All week this half term the Prince of Wales Trust are setting interactive and creative challenges on their Instagram. This Wednesday, we’re excited to be setting a very special Waterside Wednesday Challenge based around one of our best-known wetland birds – the duck! Details of the challenge can be found on Instagram. Be an urban wetland ranger It’s a myth that you can only find amazing natural sights in the country. At this time of year, it’s a great time to look closer at your local river, pond, lake or marshes, with lots of bird life busily preparing for spring. You might even start to see buds and catkins appearing on some wetland plants. Check out our urban birds spotter sheet for some of the most common species you might encounter. Download the guide Make a mini pond Did you know that early spring is the beginning of breeding season for frogs, toads and newts? They need healthy wetlands with lots of oxygenating plants to find a mate and lay their eggs. To help them, why not try making a mini pond or a toad hall? Amphibians are declining worldwide so need all the help we can give. Complete the senses scavenger hunt Enjoying nature isn’t just about looking. Our senses scavenger hunt is an ideal way to really open your mind to all the wonderful sensations nature has to offer. You can choose as many or as little items to find as you want, depending on how long you have. Bringing nature indoors Origami challenge The ancient Japanese art of origami has always been timeless fun, and is a great way for children to appreciate the natural world with its huge range of paper animal shapes. It’s also mindful and relaxing, not to mention cheap. All you need is a square of paper, and some decorations for personalizing your creation. We have tutorials for making a crane, swan or floatable boat. And why not draw, paint or collage yourself a wetland for it to live in? Watch our wildlife webcams Are you missing our wetlands? Us too! Luckily, we have a few wildlife webcams where you can tune in and see what’s going on at some of our centres. It’s so peaceful to watch the wildlife going about their day, or catch a spectacular sunset or sunrise in the right weather accompanied by gentle splashing and sounds of the birds. Currently you can watch the goings-on at WWT Caerlaverock, Slimbridge and Llanelli. And keep an eye on our YouTube channel where we regularly post videos on wildlife and our conservation work. Write a watery haiku Poets and artists have been inspired by water and wetlands for hundreds of years, fascinated by their ever-changing nature and tranquility. Why not channel your inner Matsuo Basho and have a go at writing a watery wetland haiku? Follow the instructions in the image below to get started. Make a collage using old Waterlife mags We always look forward to receiving a new issue of Waterlife magazine, then spending a satisfying morning absorbed in its stories and breathtaking wildlife photography. Once you’ve finished reading your magazine, it’s always nice to keep it, but one way to reuse them is to carefully cut out your favourite images to form a whole new artistic creation. The sky is truly the limit and it’s amazing to see a picture forming from something that was originally totally different. All you need is some safety scissors, glue and a large piece of paper. The Waterlife magazine wrap is completely compostable and you can recycle your magazine when you’re done crafting your masterpiece. Make a bird feeder We’ve all been really enjoying the birds we can see from our windows during lockdown, as they provide a wonderful lifeline to the outside world. So why not give something back and help them keep going over the winter when food is scarce by making a bird feeder? If you don’t fancy making one or don’t have the time, we have a wide selection of bird feeders and food available from our online shop. Help! I’ve run out of things to do… We have plenty more nature-themed boredom busters to keep everyone entertained and occupied on our fun and learning hub. Find activities Stay in the loop You can keep up to date with the latest stories and news on the WWT blog. Although we’re in lockdown, our work behind the scenes is still continuing, as we prepare our wetlands ahead of the spring breeding season and continue our vital conservation work. Read the blog

Wetlands of the World: The Yellow sea - a migration lifeline

Wetlands of the World: The Yellow sea - a migration lifeline

The Yellow Sea's vast intertidal wetland mudflats offer food-packed staging posts to waders and other birds in their countless thousands. Located between China and South Korea, it's a target for conservation because of its importance to migratory birds.