Martin Mere news

Rarities keep the checklists ticking over

Rarities keep the checklists ticking over

In January, Martin Mere is certainly the place to come for all birdwatchers to start their annual list of birds with some big daily totals possible. Recently, the winter has been even more exciting, with two birds turning up on the reserve that are so rare in the North-west (and even in the UK) that they didn’t even make it onto our checklist. First of all, on New Year’s Eve, a Slavonian Grebe was seen on the mere. Frustratingly, for year-listers, it had gone the next day. However, with all the water bodies across the reserve, it is still worth keeping an eye out for this rare winter visitor. Better news comes from the spotting of a Green-winged Teal which is still present on site. This bird is a native of the Americas but a few make it to the UK every year. It only really differs from our common teal by having a white stripe on its side. So, with it hanging out with over 2000 Eurasian Teal, you need to play the ornithological version of “Where’s Wally” to spot it. One family of birds you will not fail to see on the reserve at the moment are birds of prey. A record 10 Marsh Harriers have been hunting on the reserve and one lucky photographer captured seven of them in one shot! A much scarcer Hen Harrier has been regular over the last couple of days and a pair of Peregrines has been seen every morning. Buzzards, Merlins and Sparrowhawks are also seen every day at the moment and a photogenic Kestrel is hovering and perching within a few yards of the Ron Barker hide throughout the day. With several thousand ducks and our regular flocks of Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese, the mere is a bustling place at the moment, especially during the daily swan feeds from 3pm. Add in the small songbirds that are around the site, with specialities such as Brambling and Willow Tit at our feeders, and it really is a great time to visit Martin Mere and get those checklists adding up.

Find Forays of Finches at our Feeders

Find Forays of Finches at our Feeders

At Martin Mere, we have a number of feeding stations around our reserve and they are currently buzzing with activity, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife photographers to get some good shots. There are two families of birds that are the most noticeable at all our feeding stations: finches and tits. The most common finch at our bird feeding stations are the Goldfinches and, at our Janet Keir Hide, you can sometimes see around 30 at any one time. Greenfinches and Chaffinches are the next most common, with the Chaffinches usually preferring to stay on the ground to pick up scraps underneath the feeders. Uncommon but regular finch forays to the feeders come from Bullfinch, Redpoll and Brambling. The Brambling can only be seen in Britain in the winter, as it migrates to us from its breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Russia. A couple of Brambling have been present at the Janet Keir feeders every day for the last few weeks and are pleasing a lot of photographers. These birds feed alongside the similar Chaffinches underneath the feeders but look for a bird that is more orange than the pinkish-brown of the chaffinch. Always entertaining, the four members of the tit family that frequent the feeders are blue, great, coal and long-tailed. Whereas the first three species come and go as individuals, the Long-tailed Tits always visit in big groups for a few minutes and then disappear. Another rarer bird from this family is the Willow Tit and patient watchers will be rewarded with a sighting of one of these birds at the Janet Keir Hide. Unfortunately, the willow tit is becoming a rare bird, with the UK subspecies being the fastest declining bird in the country. Its population has reduced by 94% since the 1970s. A whole host of other birds can be seen at our feeders, including Nuthatch, Tree Sparrow and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Sparrowhawks are also often seen trying to snatch the smaller birds for their own lunch. We just hope they all miss the Willow Tit. Feeding birds in winter is a great way to attract birds to your own garden. We have a wide range of feeders and food in our shop and can offer specialist advice on what may be best for your property. Feeders make a great Xmas present and you’ll help the birds make it through the cold winter.

WWT Martin Mere launches free school visits

WWT Martin Mere launches free school visits

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre today launches Generation Wild - an ambitious initiative helping 9000 local children from less advantaged communities in the North West to make long term and meaningful connections with nature, through storytelling and adventure. The ground-breaking project, created in partnership with theatrical producers, puppeteers, and schools, will invite local primary school children in economically deprived areas* for a free visit to seven WWT Wetland Centres across the UK, including Martin Mere. On the visit they will take part in an immersive experience and meet ‘Ava’, an extraordinary creature who is part girl and part bird. Charlotte Levene, Generation Wild Project Manager said of the scheme: “We know that when children connect with the outdoors and nature, it improves their physical and mental wellbeing and behaviour, yet research shows that 75% of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates.[1] Chris Whitehead, Learning Manager adds: “Just as importantly, if children don’t experience nature, they won’t come to love it and if they don’t love it, they won’t take action to protect it – Generation Wild aims to inspire the next generation of conservationists.” The children first meet Ava in a digital storybook in the classroom and then in ‘real life’ at Martin Mere as they stumble across an enormous nest and are introduced to her in a live, interactive puppet show. The children are then given a ‘translatorphone’, where Ava’s animal friends guide them through a nature trail, revealing her incredible backstory and helping her on a journey back to the wild. Every pupil will be given a voucher for a free, return visit to WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre with their family to continue Ava’s journey. Meanwhile, back in the classroom or at home, children, teachers and family members can continue to follow Ava’s journey via an interactive website. Chris continues; “We’re particularly aware that children from disadvantaged communities have even fewer opportunities to interact with nature and often feel like nature isn’t for them. Through Generation Wild, we are keen to remove some of those barriers by making the natural world more accessible, familiar and fun, while instilling the belief that nature is for everyone over the long term.” The children will be encouraged to complete activities in school, at home and in the local area, in the hope of becoming a ‘Guardian of the Wild’ – the idea being that the children and families continue engaging with the natural world beyond the classroom and their initial visits. Class teacher Cath Pinkney[PR1] , whose school was one of the first groups to experience Generation Wild said, “I’ve been a teacher for ten years and this was the most interactive and informative trip I’ve ever been on - the children and adults alike were engaged the whole way through.” She continued: “The resources linked perfectly with our science objectives and the children were fully absorbed in Ava’s transformation and loved meeting her in the nest. The children are already planning some of the activities and that level of engagement is rare.” Children from the school echoed Cath’s enthusiasm; with pupil Josie Mathew-Penty, saying: “It was the best trip I’ve ever had - I’ve already completed some of the activities and can’t wait to get my Guardian of the Wild badge in assembly.” Another pupil, Paramveer Singh-Kapoora added: ”I couldn’t believe it when we saw Ava in the nest - we only just learnt about her the day before, and there she was,” while his classmate, Eltigani Hassoun, added: “I’m going back at the weekend – my mum says we can go again because we’ve learnt so much.” The project will also be the subject of new PhD research, between Cardiff University and WWT, examining how engagement with nature and wetlands in particular, can enhance children’s wellbeing and influence their views about the natural world. Dr. Kersty Hobson from Cardiff University, who is part of the academic team overseeing the research explained ’We are really excited to be collaborating with WWT and Martin Mere on this ground-breaking piece of work that will give us a deeper understanding of the best ways to engage children and instil a life-long love of nature, particularly amongst communities that often don't have regular access to nature experiences' Generation Wild has been funded through an anonymous charitable foundation with additional funding provided by the ScottishPower Foundation Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee at the ScottishPower Foundation, said: “We are passionate about supporting environmental causes which make a positive difference to communities and help young people achieve their full potential. Generation Wild does all of this in an innovative, interesting and engaging way and we are so proud to be part of this.” *Eligibility is based on the percentage of pupils receiving free school meals, ensuring that the project reaches those most in need

75 year milestone for charity

75 year milestone for charity

From pulling birds back from extinction to creating wonderful new nature friendly habitats - the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) which runs WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre celebrates 75 years of ground breaking conservation work and sharing the wonders of wetlands and wetland wildlife with over 40 million visitors at its sites across the UK. Described by Sir David Attenborough as the “patron saint of conservation”, Sir Peter Scott founded WWT on the banks of the River Severn in 1946 with just 1,000 members and one site at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Since then, the charity has grown to ten UK sites including WWT Martin Mere, created and helped to protect thousands of hectares of wetlands around the world, and is now supported by more than 180,000 members. Building on the passion of Sir Peter Scott, who championed wetlands and wildlife while recognising their value to people, WWT is drawing on over seven decades of experience to ensure wetlands are put centre stage in the fight to meet global challenges. It aims to inspire one million people to take action for wetlands by spreading the word about the many benefits of these amazing habitats not just for wildlife but for people’s everyday lives. The charity plans to achieve both these aims through many conservation projects throughout the world and its Wetlands Can! campaign. This focuses on the creation of 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands across the UK to help combat the nature, climate, and mental health crises. WWT is calling for a ‘blue recovery’ where this ambition is incorporated into national and international policies to protect the planet, including strategies to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. “Sir Peter Scott was an extraordinary man and in 1946 he had a vision – to create a safe haven for wild birds while at the same time bringing people closer to nature,” said WWT Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Peberdy. “He understood that people and nature are part of the same intertwined ecosystem. He realised – ahead of his time – that our wealth, our health and our emotional wellbeing all depend on the natural world. He appreciated that showing people how amazing wetland nature is can ignite a passion to preserve it. “At WWT today we still hold these principals at the heart of everything we do. We may be a much larger charity than we were when we started back in 1946, but we still believe fervently in wetlands and what they can do, – for wildlife and for humans, and increasingly for the planet. If rainforests are the lungs of the planet, then wetlands are the lifeblood. As much as we need air to breathe, we need water to live. The conservation of our wetlands is essential to life on Earth.” In its 75 years, WWT has had a huge number of achievements and hit many milestones. These include: Restoring and creating wetlands on every continent and along critical global flywaysBuilding a global network of over 350 wetland sites and organisations that share WWT’s passion for wetland protection and engagement. Working on action plans for over 30 threatened and declining wetland species and the wetlands on which they dependThrough understanding their value for wetland birds, helped protect over 700,000 hectares of the UK’s most important wetlandsHelping more than two million children to discover the magic of wetland wildlifeProviding a safe haven for 15 million migratory birds to spend the winter at our UK sites “When we look back we realise what an enormous amount we have achieved” said Kevin Peberdy. “But of course the work isn’t done and we now look forward to taking Peter Scott’s philosophy of creating a world where healthy nature thrives and enriches all of our lives and applying it to the situation today. “None of this would be achievable without our incredible staff, volunteers and supporters and it is them I would like to thank as we join millions of other people around the world to work to ensure the future of the planet. “It won’t be easy but all of us here at WWT will think of our remarkable founder Peter Scott as we try to do our best for the wildlife and the habitats that he so loved”.

Winter birds of prey at WWT Martin Mere

Winter birds of prey at WWT Martin Mere

Winter is starting to set in the mere is full of ducks and waders which also attracts a variety of birds of prey. Peregrine falcons are seen most days, they fly really high and the flock of lapwings see them as soon as they arrive and fly up into a swirling flock to confuse the peregrine. Go down to the Janet Kear hide and we have birdfeeders that attract a wide variety of small birds and mammals. A sparrowhawk can often be seen sat in the tree waiting for a rat or mouse to come out or it can be seen darting through the trees trying to catch a blue tit unaware. We had a great year for Marsh Harriers with 3 pairs breeding on site and fledging 4 youngsters, over the winter more marsh harriers come onto the reserve as it’s a great place to hunt and roost in the reedbed, a stunning male has been seen just this week. Look out at dusk as the harriers come into roost and you might see a hen harrier amongst them the males are a stunning grey with a white ring around the base of the tail. While you sit in the United Utilities hide scan the fence posts for a buzzard they can often be seen rain or shine sat looking for a hunting opportunity. Another bird of prey to look out for when you are scanning the fence posts is the merlin they are really small and when they fly they are very direct they know exactly where they are going and they like to fly the quickest way there possible. Kestrels are a stunning orange colour and can often be seen near the Janet Kear hide waiting for a rat or mouse to come out under the birdfeeders. The kestrels hoover keeping their head perfectly still, they can see in infrared, when the mice are running around they pee constantly and this shows up to the kestrels like a trail. A visit to Martin Mere in the winter is an amazing experience and some days you can see 7 species of birds of prey, but I feel just seeing one of these amazing birds is a fantastic experience. For further information, please visit www.wwt.org.uk/martinmerePictured is a sparrowhawk by Nick Brooks

Whooper Swans now back from Iceland

Whooper Swans now back from Iceland

At Martin Mere, in October, we always celebrate the return of the pink-footed geese but, as we head into November, we look forward to welcoming back our whooper swans. The swans usually start arriving in large numbers in the first half of November and build to a peak in January and February. This year, some of the whoopers arrived earlier than usual and we have had up to 150 birds for the last three weeks. Just like the pink-footed geese, the whooper swans that winter in West Lancashire also come from Iceland. They are cousins of our resident Mute Swan but, instead of having a red bill, have a yellow bill, with the patch of yellow differing between individuals. It is the different patches of yellow which has enabled us to identify individual birds by recording their bill patterns. This allowed their movements, to and from Iceland, to be monitored year to year and also allowed for family ties to be identified between birds. Nowadays, the birds are studied through the use of plastic leg rings, printed with large numbers. Our monitoring staff and volunteers keep track of the birds and enter the ring numbers into a database for record keeping. Visitors to Martin Mere can also make use of the database in our Discovery Hide, where an interactive display allows visitors to enter the ring numbers they can see. Once a ring number is entered, details of the bird’s life history are displayed; including when the bird first came to Martin Mere, which bird it is mated with and how many offspring it has produced over the years. It is really easy to read the rings, especially when they come right up to the hides at our daily swan feeds, which start at 3pm every day and which are one of the best winter wildlife spectacles in the UK. In other bird news, visitors to our Bird Fair turned up a number of good birds including snow goose, great egret, bittern, willow tit and brambling, as well as the continued starling murmuration and the pink-footed geese coming in to roost. Both the bittern and the great egret were even seen within the fenced are of the Martin Mere wildfowl collection in the Wild Walk area. This is a first for the site and, with little egret and grey heron, now takes the number of species of herons seen in the grounds to four.

Starling Murmuration Returns

Starling Murmuration Returns

Lots of people have taken advantage of our late night openings to see the thousands of pink-footed geese coming to roost for the night. We also now have the added bonus of a murmuration of starlings coming into our reedbed every evening. To see these spectacles, access to the Martin Mere nature reserve will be free of charge from 5.30 to 7pm on Sat 23rd, Wednesday 27th and Saturday 30th October. Up to 20,000 starlings have been wheeling around, before flying into the reeds to spend the night. It is the wheeling and reeling around that is known as the murmuration. Murmurations are one of nature’s wonders, as thousands of starlings move as one large mass, forming a multitude of patterns in the sky. This behaviour lasts for up to an hour, with the mass of starlings getting bigger and bigger by the minute as birds join in from all directions. It is believed that the murmurations offer each bird greater protection from predators, as the individual odds of getting picked out by a predator become much greater if you are surrounded by 20,000 others, than if you are on your own. Furthermore, the flocking behaviour is thought to make it harder for any predator to pick out and concentrate on catching a single bird. However, scientists remain befuddled on how the thousands of birds move as one unit and don’t bump into each other. Studies have even included references to particle physics and one study found that each individual bird’s movement affected seven others around it, which is what makes the starlings look like a twisting, morphing cloud. Murmurations are bigger in the autumn and winter as British starlings are joined by migrant birds escaping colder weather in Europe. However, starling numbers in general are in decline and many murmurations aren’t anywhere near as big as they were ten or twenty years ago. The decline is thought to be as a result of modern farming practices and insecticides reducing the starling’s food supply. Many murmurations take place at the same sites every year but, at some, they can be more sporadic. At Martin Mere, we had a fantastic murmuration in November 2017 but, until this year, had not seen a repeat. So, if you want to see this spectacle at Martin mere, you need to come soon, as it may not be repeated for a few years.

A wild guide to winter

A wild guide to winter

It’s that amazing time of the year when the winter waders, ducks, geese and swans arrive at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre. Everyday at 3pm, there are wild bird feeds from the Discovery hide, that also include a wardens talk to learn about the species. At 3.30pm the feed takes place at the Raines Observatory. As you head out of the door and walk up towards the discovery hide, you have the option to turn left or right to walk along the nature trail. Turning right takes you to a woodland area towards the Ron Barker hide, whilst turning left allows for views across the mere, Janet Kear hide and the reedbed walk.Below is a summary of what wildlife you are likely to see whilst you explore this winter.The MereSiting in the discovery hide viewing the vast expanse of water on the Mere is very relaxing and gives you a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating birds. A bird of prey flies over disturbing a flock of lapwing they fly into the air swirling and darting to confuse the predator.We get a huge variety of winter water birds that have travelled huge distances to spend the winter at WWT Martin Mere. At the daily swan feeds, you can see up to 1000 Whooper swans up close. They have come all the way from Iceland with their cygnets, who are only months old when they make the migration. Mad to think they have flown all that way!! The cygnets are a lovely dark grey colour and that will fade over the winter as they moult through to their stunning adult white plumage.Also at the swan feeds you’ll see pintails, these are stunning ducks, the males are grey and cream with a chocolate brown head and a long thin tail which is how they get their name. Look out for wigeon feeding amongst the swans, they are also grey, have a pink chest, red head and a bright yellow Mohican and they don’t quack they whistle. My favourite are the pochards these are diving ducks. The males are grey with a red head, black chest and bottom and they are perfectly designed for diving under the water to feed on the grain we throw into the water. The pochard come to us all the way from Russia to escape the cold and enjoy the lovely food we provide at WWT Martin Mere, but you won’t see many female pochard at the swan feeds, that is because the female pochard go to Spain for the winter, which sounds like a much better idea!!Look out for colour rings on the swans there is a touch screen interactive in the discovery hide where you can type in the numbers and find out all about the birds how old they are, their names and where they’ve been seen.Reedbed walkThe reedbed walk is a feast for your senses through sight and sound. Spend the time simply stopping and listening and enjoy being immersed in nature.The reedbed walk is accessed from the lower level of the Harrier hide. It is one mile in length and can be muddy underfoot so good walking boots are advised. There are a number of benches out on the walk for a rest and the opportunity to spend some peaceful time in your surroundings.Several marsh harriers, peregrines, kestrels and barn owls have been seen across the reserve with at least one little egret seen daily and an infrequent great white egret. You may also see gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, pochard, little grebe, reed bunting and blackcap as you walk around.The species in the reedbed can be very elusive and are often heard and not seen, so you need to take your time and simply listen whilst out there. There are at least 9 cetti's warblers so it's worth listening out for their signature call. You may also hear water rails, bearded tits and chiffchaffs. Time to brush up on your bird call identification! The swan feeds take place daily at 3pm from the Discovery hide and 3.30pm from the Raines Observatory. You don’t need to book in advance and they are free to watch. Normal admission charges apply to enter the centre. For more information visit www.wwt.org.uk/martinmere

Free Entry for Goose Spectacular

Free Entry for Goose Spectacular

The nights are drawing in and that can only mean one thing: the Pink-footed Geese, or pink feet, are returning to Martin Mere. There is just a small trickle of birds at the moment, but, within the next couple of weeks, numbers will start to build into the hundreds, the thousands and then the tens of thousands. Every evening throughout October, the birds fly in to roost at Martin Mere, providing what is one of the best wildlife spectacles in the UK. In order to allow local residents the opportunity to see the geese coming in, Martin Mere will once again be open free of charge, from 5.30pm to 7pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout October. The sight of up to 50,000 pink feet landing on the mere in front of a glorious sunset is something not to be missed. The pink feet breed in Iceland and eastern Greenland and also in Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean. The Icelandic and Greenland populations return to Britain to spend the autumn and winter, whereas the Svalbard population winters in the western parts of continental Europe. Around 200,000 pink feet spend the winter in Britain every year. As we move through September, the geese will start to congregate in large groups in southern Iceland waiting for the optimum conditions to fly south to Britain. When we see a north wind blowing from the arctic in late September and October, we know we will get large numbers of geese arriving at Martin Mere, as they take advantage of a strong wind behind them. The geese do not all come at once and there is a stream of them throughout October, with Martin Mere being an important stopover, a bit like an avian motorway services. Many of the birds will rest up for a few days, or even a few weeks, and then continue to North Norfolk, where more than 100,000 birds feed in the arable farmland on post-harvest cereal stubbles and sugar beet tops. However, many of the birds will actually stay throughout the winter in the North West, with up to 50,000 in West Lancashire and on the Fylde. We have been monitoring the populations of pink-footed geese for over 20 years. So, if you’d like to find out more about the birds please visit our website at https://monitoring.wwt.org.uk/our-work/goose-swan-monitoring-programme/species-accounts/WWT.org.uk and remember to pay us a visit this autumn for a sight you will not forget.Would you like an early morning experience to see the geese leave the roost - our Dawn Flight events take place on Saturday mornings in October. You must book in advance and the event includes a full English breakfast. Book today.

A wild guide to Autumn

A wild guide to Autumn

September is a month when millions of birds are on the move. As the days start to gradually become colder and shorter, birds move from north to south and Martin Mere is a great place to see signs of this migration taking place.As you head out of the door and walk up towards the discovery hide, you have the option to turn left or right to walk along the nature trail. Turning right takes you to a woodland area towards the Ron Barker hide, whilst turning left allows for views across the mere, Janet Kear hide and the reedbed walk.Below is a summary of what wildlife you are likely to see whilst you explore this autumn.Wild nature reservePink-footed geese return to Martin Mere in the autumn in huge numbers as they use the centre as a ‘service station’ to refuel in order to continue with the migration.Up to 40,000 geese may use the reserve as a safe roosting point, flying in and out if the reserve as weather and food dictates, creating a magical display of feather and flight.Many duck, geese, swans and other wetland birds spend their summers breeding north of the Arctic Circle. A trickle of the ducks and geese will now start to appear at Martin Mere but the main arrivals and passage through Martin Mere for these species will be in October and November. However, for the group of birds collectively known as waders, September is the peak month for seeing both a variety of species and large numbers on our reserve. Any day in September could bring around 20 different species of waders, including uncommon birds such as little stint, spotted redshank and both green and wood sandpipers; these birds using Martin Mere as an avian motorway services, breaking up their long journeys.It is always worth keeping your eyes peeled, as anything can turn up at this time of year and, in past years, rare birds from North America, such as pectoral sandpiper, wilson’s phalarope and long-billed dowitcher have turned up.While our breeding avocets start to dwindle in numbers, as they fly further south for the winter, we see a massive build up in the number of black-tailed godwits using the reserve. Around 500 birds have been present in the autumn for the last couple of years and, while some will eventually continue their journey south, a few will stay for the winter at Martin Mere. Numbers of ruff and lapwing also start to increase and these three species, along with the noisy oystercatchers, will be the most noticeable waders around the reserve for the next six months.It is not just the larger birds that are migrating through at this time of year and it is worth keeping an eye open for smaller birds, either on the ground, or perched on fence posts and wires. Wheatears, whinchats and yellow wagtails are frequently seen on the reserve, taking a break from the long flight back to Africa.And, with all this activity, our birds of prey are never far away, looking to pick off what they can. Marsh harriers, sparrowhawks and buzzards are currently a common sight and a migratory hobby has been seen for the last week or so, along with a newly arrived pair of noisy ravens.Reedbed walkThe reedbed walk is a feast for your senses through sight and sound. Spend the time simply stopping and listening and enjoy being immersed in nature.The reedbed walk is accessed from the lower level of the Harrier hide. It is one mile in length and can be muddy underfoot so good walking boots are advised. There are a number of benches out on the walk for a rest and the opportunity to spend some peaceful time in your surroundings.Several marsh harriers, peregrines, kestrels and barn owls have been seen across the reserve with at least one little egret seen daily and an infrequent great white egret. You may also see gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, pochard, little grebe, reed bunting and blackcap as you walk around.The species in the reedbed can be very elusive and are often heard and not seen, so you need to take your time and simply listen whilst out there. There are at least 9 cetti's warblers so it's worth listening out for their signature call.You may also hear water rails, bearded tits and chiffchaffs. Time to brush up on your bird call identification!The North West Bird Watching Festival takes places on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 October. Click here for further information.

North West Bird Watching Festival returns

North West Bird Watching Festival returns

WWT Martin Mere’s annual extravaganza, the North West Bird Watching Festival, returns this October and it’s an event not to be missed. Join us in Lancashire on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 October to hear from a wide range of guest speakers, speak to optic experts, discover waterfowl and bird ringing, browse exhibitors selling books, birdwatching holidays and enjoy the spectacle of the autumn migration. Open from 8am, the event is timed to watch the spectacle of thousands of pink-footed geese leave the roost before heading for breakfast in Mere Side Café. The centre is open until 7pm on the Saturday to watch up to 30,000 pink-footed geese return to the roost, making this a full day out to enjoy from dawn till dusk. There’ll be a range of talks on throughout each day, with topics including Dan Rouse's Brilliant and Bizarre birds, a Year in Extremadura, Spain: Surviving the Pandemic by David Lindo, from dream to reality: the creation of Gorse Hill Nature Reserve and 75 years of conservation with WWT. Throughout the weekend, there’ll be guided reserve walks each day, a walk with David Lindo, photography workshops with Alan Hewittthat will be full of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your camera , waterfowl talks and feeds, guided boat tours and ringing demonstrations on both waterfowl and smaller species. Optic demonstrators include Viking Optics, Leica, Kowa, Zeiss and Swarovski, all on hand to give you all the advice you need and the opportunity to try out products. The weekend will be a great opportunity to network with like-minded people and meet some of the best experts in the industry. Tickets for all speakers and activities are available to collect on the day. No pre-booking is required. Normal admission prices apply but the event is free to enter if you are a WWT Member. For full details and a list of all the guest speakers visit: www.wwt.org.uk/nwbwf

Marsh Harriers Breed For First Time

Marsh Harriers Breed For First Time

When you are walking on the Reedbed Walk or looking over the reserve from one of our hides, it is always worth looking out for birds of prey. At this time of year, their presence is usually indicated when a large flock of birds, such as lapwings, avocets or black-headed gulls, take to the sky making a racket, warning everything in the area that a predator is about. You may even see some birds dive-bombing the predator. This behaviour is known as “mobbing” and the birds do this to drive the predator out of their area. Scanning through a cloud of panicked birds will usually reveal the culprit that has scared them into flight; it will usually be a buzzard, sparrowhawk, peregrine or, at the moment, most likely a marsh harrier. The reason that marsh harriers are a common sight on the reserve at the moment is because this species has bred at Martin Mere this year. This is the first confirmed breeding of this species on our nature reserve. And, like the number 76 bus, two breeding pairs turned up at once. Each of the pairs has raised two young and so, with eight birds on site, a visit to Martin Mere over the next few weeks almost guarantees a sighting of this special bird. The marsh harriers are very attractive birds with the female and young birds being a rich chocolate brown colour with a cream-coloured head. The male is not so uniformly coloured but can easily be identified by grey wing patches and black wing tips. Perhaps the best way to identify the harriers is to look for a large bird that is gliding over the wetland with its wings held up in a distinct, shallow V shape. With migration now under way, our home-bred marsh harriers will also be joined by birds from further afield. Through the use of wing tags, we have previously been able to identify marsh harriers from Norfolk that have spent time on the Martin Mere reserve in autumn. Many other birds will now be migrating through the reserve, which makes the next couple of months one of the most exciting times of the year to visit the reserve. It’s not just the marsh harriers that will be on show – almost anything can turn up.

Are you ready for a wetland adventure this summer?

Are you ready for a wetland adventure this summer?

Families can discover the wonder of wetlands this summer, with an adventure-packed day out at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre. Enjoy splashing, dipping, playing, feeding, paddling and getting up-close-and-personal hand feeding some of nature’s most wonderful wildlife. But first, we need your HELP! We have lost some of our ducks and we need your help to find them. 25 giant ducks have been hidden around our wetlands and we need you to find them all and identify their names in order to win a tasty treat in our GIANT Summer Duck Hunt. Centre Manager, Nick Brooks said: “This summer is going to be a perfect time to get outdoors with your family, have some fresh air, connect with nature and have a great day out. It is great to be able to offer events such as the duck hunt and activities like the otter talk and feeds again and we know that they are a firm favourite with our visitors.” There are lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy, including having a go at pond dipping, taking to the water on the canoe safari, hand feeding our amazing wetland birds, watch our cheeky family of otters during their feeds, going on a wild walk adventure and take on the balance beam trail, stepping stones, den building and zip wire in our adventure playground. Check out our top ten list of things to do on your visit at Martin Mere this summer! After such a hard day of playing and exploring, you can relax with an ice-cream of hot drink from our Mere Side Café or kiosks, relax in the craft room whilst the kids get creative or enjoy browsing our retail shop for a souvenir. Book online today To help keep everyone safe we’re carefully managing the number people who visit on any one day and are asking everyone to book in advance, so we can give you the best possible experience. Book your visit

Top ten things to do at Martin Mere this summer

Top ten things to do at Martin Mere this summer

Are you ready for a wetland adventure this summer?

Wildflowers bloom at Martin Mere

Wildflowers bloom at Martin Mere

There is so much wildlife to see at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre at this time of year, but it is often forgotten that it is also an amazing time to come and see an array of wildflowers both on the reserve and as you walk through the grounds. With more than 97% of wildflower meadows being destroyed since the 1930’s it has never been so important to conserve and appreciate these areas. At Martin Mere, we have nearly 150ha of wet grassland meadows which hold some very interesting and rare plant species including: Golden Dock, Whorled Caraway, Tubular Water-dropwort and Fine-leaved Water-dropwort. We also have some stunning orchids which add a flash of colour to our grasslands species; such as early marsh and bee orchids. The Whorled Caraway is a speciality of Martin Mere, which is the only remaining site in England outside the south-west to host this flower, which requires wet, unimproved pastures. In 1975, the plant was confined to just one of our fields. But, with careful management, the plant has very slowly colonised more fields on the site. The plants are currently flowering and a whole field of whorled caraway can currently be seen from the Gladstone Hide. The Whorled Caraway derives its name from the way its leaves form a circlet - or 'whorl' - around the base of its stem. Like other caraway species, it is a member of the carrot family but unlike other caraways its seeds have no culinary or medicinal use. Possibly the most attractive flower on site is the bee orchid, which gets its name from its main pollinator - a species of solitary bee. The flowers mimic the appearance of the bee, drawing them in with the promise of love. As the bees attempt to mate with the plant they pick up pollen and then transfer it to the next plant when they try and mate again. Unfortunately, the right species of bee doesn't occur in the UK, so Bee Orchids self-pollinate themselves. The structure of the flower allows pollen from the anthers to automatically drop down onto the stigma to ensure pollination. A field full of Whorled Caraway can be seen from the Gladstone Hide and Bee Orchids are dotted around the grass banks which surround the Harrier Hide. Both species are currently flowering but to see them, you better visit Martin Mere very soon, or you’ll have to wait another year.