Saturday, 19 December 2015

Dec 19th WWT Welney

Whooper Swan
I am at Welney tonight to watch a swan feed with my brother, his fiancee and her mother. It was a bit of a bonding session with my brother and his extended family-to-be before the wedding next year. My brother's fiancee is also pregnant, so next year is going to be a big one for both our families. I'm going to be an uncle for the first time! Bring on 2016!

My companions for tonight
Welney is famous for its swans. They feed them twice daily every winter, but we were here for the second feed, which is a night feed. As the sun sets, the swans start to fly over to the flooded fields to roost, most of which in front of the floodlit hide where they feed them. Unfortunately, the conditions tonight was actually too nice for them and most of them were choosing to spend more time feeding out on the fields instead of coming over to us. This means that there were fewer swans than I was expecting, but there was still over 200 of them for tonight's feed to watch.

Mute Swans

Feeding the swans
Three species of swan come to Welney every winter; Bewick's, mute and whooper. Only the whoopers and mutes arrive for the feeds. The Bewicks are normally bullied off by these bigger swans and spend the night down the other end of the reserve in the dark. At 6:30pm, a volunteer gave us a talk about the site and the birds we can see before heading out with a wheelbarrow of seed. He whistled to calm the nervous birds as he approached them. He then flung the grain across the shoreline to the crowd of awaiting wildfowl. It became a feeding frenzy with the swans craning their necks over each other, picking fights over space and flinging ducks out of the way. The ducks, though being smaller, barged their way through to the front. It was very entertaining for us watching them.

Whooper Swan
Before the feed happend, I spent time with my companions, telling them about the species and pointing out behaviours we can see. The whoopers were what I wanted to show them the most. These large swans with yellow and black bills have arrived from Iceland. Most of them are here as families, bringing this year's youngsters on their first migration. Whoopers are more vocal than mute swans, honking continuously. They also display to each other as a couple, flapping their wings and bobbing their heads and necks up and down in time with their honks. They may be bullies with the other wildfowl, but whooper swans are beautiful birds to watch. What can be better than watching over 200 swans being fed from the comfort of a heated hide with my extended family just days before Christmas? This was a great winter treat.

Juvenile Whooper Swan
Mute Swan

No comments:

Post a Comment