Throughout what has been one of the most difficult years for our centre (and humans in general) our small but dedicated team has worked hard to keep our wetlands, resident birds and wildlife healthy.
We couldn't have kept going without the love and support of all our members and wellwishers and we cannot wait to welcome everyone back! We will update our website and social media as soon as we have a reopening date to share.
In the meantime, we thought we'd take this opportunity to give a spring update and speak to a couple of our outdoor team members about the work they've been carrying out and what they enjoy most about this time of year.
Here at Llanelli, we've been caring for our animals as a priority and maintaining the grounds ready for reopening. We have also been preparing for the annual 'duck catch' - an exercise that requires almost military precision as it involves safely herding over 250 ducks into a holding pen for a short time. It's a lot of work but absolutely vital as it enables us to vaccinate and keep accurate records of the birds within our collection. It also allows us to handle the birds and see their overall condition up-close so we can check their weight, general health, and keep an eye on any pre-existing conditions that some of our older birds have developed through the natural ageing process. This year the catch will be a lot harder as we have a greatly reduced team and will need to keep socially distant at all times to stay safe.
Spring is truly my favourite time of the year, so I feel very lucky that I am at work. The warmer weather, singing birds and emergence of flowers and insects make the dark, cold winter seem a distant memory.
With spring comes a great demand for nesting space so we're busy preparing nest boxes for the breeding season. Their purpose is to provide a safe place for our birds to lay their eggs; mimicking a location that they would use naturally in the wild, such as a tree hollow. They also provide an easier way for us to monitor and care for our birds throughout the nesting process. We place the perfect nesting material inside and then put them in suitable locations ready to be used by this year's feathered-families. We then turn our attention to setting up the indoor hatchery and nursery pens in preparation for our new arrivals. We know this year has been different but the devoted care we give our birds hasn't changed.
Ryan, Aviculture and Grounds Warden
No nestboxes for nenes - they like to make super warm and comfy nests lined with their downy feathers.
The collection birds have definitely missed our visitors and their bags of tasty grain. We're sure they'll be very pleased to see the centre open again!
Out on the reserve we've been getting our nature-based play areas ready for visitors again. We have cut back the vegetation at the Swan's Nest Maze, and rewoven the willow domes at Water Vole City, so everything will be ship-shape in time for summer. Everything is looking really lovely!
On the Northern Loop we've laid about 70 metres of hedge using traditional techniques and tools. Hopefully, in a few years, the new growth will provide great habitat and a natural corridor for our wildlife.
One of our most enjoyable tasks at the moment is to feed and care for the horses and cattle that we have grazing in certain areas to manage the vegetation - they're definitely the cutest team members! We also have to keep filling up the wild bird feeders throughout the reserve so this feels like a full-time job as they are really going through the peanuts!
Spring means it's surveying season - early mornings to monitor the dawn chorus and complete our breeding bird surveys. In the next few weeks, we will be surveying willow tits. Willow tits are an endangered species but our wet woodland provides good breeding habitat for them. We're also going to be looking at the nest sites of lapwing to see what we can do to help them breed more successfully on our reserve.
I love all of the wildlife and different habitats here at Llanelli, but I do have my favourite parts! The willow screens are our very own windows into the wetlands and each offers a different view. In spring, for example, the screens along the main central path offer close-up vistas of nesting birds, including the lapwing. The waders are of course some of my favourites - spoonbills, egrets and herons; curlews, avocets and spotted redshanks. I also love the mammals that call our reserve home, like the otters and water voles.
Lastly, very exciting plans are underway to develop our freshwater lagoon to make it much more suitable for waders and wildfowl in both summer and winter. We will keep everyone updated as things progress!
Erin, Volunteer Reserve Warden
Things are slowly starting to look brighter for the rest of this year. Visitors can expect to see a great deal of incredible new wetland life and explosions of colour as plants bloom and grow across the site.
Almost unbelievably, 17 April 2021 marks Llanelli Wetland Centre's 30th birthday! We won't be able to celebrate as we'd planned but we will be asking for happy visitor stories and photos on our social accounts so please get involved and share your memories with us. It will be fantastic to see how this once industry-scarred land has developed into a safe haven for wildlife and a top Welsh visitor attraction over the past three decades. What will the next thirty years bring?
We hope to see you all very soon!