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, and finally a warm ‘welcome’ to the first of our summer migrants. In this month of change, you never know what might be around the corner…
A cold start to the month
Way back at the end of February, it certainly still felt like winter, with plenty of waterbirds on our reserves, some seen in this footage from Welney.
In the last couple of weeks our cameratraps have picked up footage of some of our winter visitors going about their day. On still clear nights listen for any individuals setting off on spring migration. Check latest sightings for who is still about > https://t.co/Q9jZ4CmRqT pic.twitter.com/B4ZeG7vi5u— WWT Welney (@WWTWelney) February 28, 2021
And these pintail were soaking up the early spring sunshine on the frosty mornings.
100+ Northern Pintail still about the reserve, here's a bit of hustle and bustle from the Rushy Hide on this cold morning. pic.twitter.com/PsbzuTDsYG— Slimbridge Sightings (@slimbridge_wild) March 7, 2021
And even with the Bewick’s having already headed off on migration, there were plenty of waterbirds waiting for their breakfast at Slimbridge.
Meanwhile from the Rushy Hide...wildfowl welcome 🦆👀— WWT Slimbridge (@WWTSlimbridge) March 10, 2021
Sound on 🔊
🎥 Senior Reserve Warden, Martin McGill pic.twitter.com/VdNkI9BNnE
But some of our more resident species were thinking forward to their spring plans…
We have a pair of Kingfishers back on territory near to the South Lake + an additional male appeared at the Kingfisher Hide bank this morning🤞for another breeding attempt in 2021. pic.twitter.com/fohrN5ebbv— Slimbridge Sightings (@slimbridge_wild) March 7, 2021
And soon enough, our winter migrants were starting to think about their imminent travels.
As the month ‘marched’ on, migration began with winter visitors heading north, using our wetlands as important resting sites…
These brent geese put in an appearance on the Severn estuary, on their way to breed along the arctic coasts of Russia.
Whilst conducting a @WeBS_UK count it helps when geese space themselves out and neatly file past on the Severn ebb tide. The 29 Dark-bellied Brent Geese from this morning (MJM). pic.twitter.com/fKerwcZaS0— Slimbridge Sightings (@slimbridge_wild) March 14, 2021
And this pair of bean geese will be headed in a similar direction.
Pair of Tundra Bean Geese called in for a rest at @Slimbridge_wild midweek, distinctive bill pattern on the gander, might be recognisable if they've been seen anywhere 'out west' of late. Good migration conditions from 24th, further departures of wintering wildfowl #GlosBirds pic.twitter.com/smYsdv2yPb— Martin McGill (@MJMcGill_Anser) March 26, 2021
A pink-footed goose also turned up at Washington, most likely en-route to Iceland. Will the Mediterranean gulls stay to breed?
These whoopers dropped in to Caerlaverock, also Iceland-bound.
As are the Slimbridge black-tailed godwit flock, colouring-up before their departure.
Black-tailed Godwit numbers have been building up, 412 yesterday. Some feeding parties have been arriving from North of the reserve to join the flock on South Lake. A few Black-headed Gulls made sure they're not left out of the video ! 😂 pic.twitter.com/hbjJaUDona— Slimbridge Sightings (@slimbridge_wild) March 29, 2021
And it’s not just birds that migrate; our amphibians need to move from their winter hide-outs back to their spawning ponds.
Look out out for toads on roads! They are currently migrating back to their ponds to breed, so we are seeing lots of toads on the reserve at the moment! Video taken by Faith Hillier. pic.twitter.com/FD0fNdtwDF— WWT Caerlaverock (@WWTCaerlaverock) March 19, 2021
And then, excitingly, we began to see more southerly arrivals…
Fresh-plumaged spring wheatears start to become a little more likely to come across.
And some of our migrant waders are back on nesting sites at Welney.
The first little ringed plover returned at the weekend. A sure sign of birds arriving for summer. Use this UK wading birds guide to help you on your local walks and get ready for returning to enjoy our wetlands— WWT Welney (@WWTWelney) March 29, 2021
Wading bird guide > https://t.co/zlc4B1Eu9t pic.twitter.com/3v4xEFZgev
And at Washington.
*AVOCET UPDATE*— WWT Washington (@WWTWashington) March 24, 2021
Numbers of avocet are continuing to grow on Wader Lake, with 18 on site over the last few days. They tend to head each morning to nearby mud-rich wading grounds, before heading in to roost later in the day.
We're hoping you guys will get to see them all soon! pic.twitter.com/ORqxRZAkc2
However, even towards the end of the month, some winter visitors were still hanging around – each bird does things differently, it seems!
Less than 60 Wigeon left on the reserve today, small flock of 24 still finding some grazing outside the Knott Hide. pic.twitter.com/2ld01MLlkV— Slimbridge Sightings (@slimbridge_wild) March 30, 2021
Further signs of spring
Arundel had an inspection of their nest sites…will they breed this year?
The staff at Castle Espie got a special underwater viewing treat.
There's something stirring in our ponds 🤩 Newts are coming out of their #winter hiding places and are heading to our ponds to breed 💦#SpringHasSprung #wetlands #conservation #amphibians #natureisallaroundus@ANDborough @BBCSpringwatch @belfastroadster pic.twitter.com/yvwo2IPv5X— WWT Castle Espie (@WWTCastleEspie) March 28, 2021
And Steart Marshes saw the first of the spring colour coming through.
We now look forward to the real spring-buzz of April, with more species starting to arrive and breed, young birds emerging, vegetation greening up and the first insects appearing on the wing.
See for yourself
We hope you will be able to experience some wetland wonders for yourself this spring. Find out about our plans for reopening:Find out more