THESE fluffy cygnets are a sign spring is beginning to blossom.
After one of the mildest winters on record, nature is starting to stir at Washington Wetlands Centre.
Leanne McCormella, marketing manager at the centre, said: “Highlights already this year include the earliest arriving avocet on record, which landed on Wader Lake in February 23 – and has since been followed by 10 more, another site record.”
The striking black-and-white waders have nested at WWT Washington since 2006 and remain one of the most northerly breeding colonies in the UK.
Leanne said chicks are starting to hatch at the centre’s Tern Island grey heron colony, which has 24 nests.
She said treetops are buzzing with action as the birds squabble over territories and carry nesting material double their own length in their powerful beaks.
Visitors will soon be able to spot the comical chicks poking their spiky head plumage above their nests, before they stretch their gangly legs and learn to fly.
Other species on the lake include oystercatcher, lapwing and a pair of mute swans. Spring migrants including little ringed plover and sand martin will soon be returning.
“In our rare and endangered wildfowl collection, the Australian black swans have hatched two cygnets in the Close Encounters area,” she said.
“The Hawaiian geese (or nenes) are also nesting inside protective willow wigwams created by our wardens and the South American black-necked swans are incubating eggs beneath a hand-made shelter in the flooded forest enclosure.”
What’s on at the Washington Wetlands Centre
Junior Members Club – Saturdays 15 March, 12 April, 10 May, 14 June,
Join Junior Members for monthly sessions to discover the natural world in a fun and creative way.
For young WWT members aged eight to 12, from 10am-noon. Call Joanne Newbury on 0191 419 5933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
Walk with a warden – Saturdays March 15, April 19, May 17, June 21
Join our wildlife reserve manager as he leads a themed guided tour around our site, taking in the sights, sounds and seasonal wildlife. Meet in the picture window at reception at 2pm. No need to book and cost is included in admission.
Sunday March 30 – Mother’s Day lunches
Treat your loved one to a delicious two-course meal in the tranquil surroundings of Waterside Café, overlooking our spectacular barnacle geese, wigeon, Eurasian Cranes and other waterbirds. Lunch served 12-2pm, £15.95 per adult and £6.95 per child, booking essential. Please call 0191 416 5454 ext 235 for menu choices and booking.
April 5 – 21 – Easter holidays
Join us for family-friendly fun throughout the Easter holidays! Discover new life and nature blooming all around, including baby chicks that have hatched from real Easter eggs. Take part in spring craft activities in the Discovery Centre every day from 1-3.30pm (make a mini garden and much more, small costs apply) and join in the Easter Sunday rubber duck hunt around the grounds (11am-3pm, free with admission). Plus, bring your own hard-boiled egg to decorate and create a creature, with a prize for the craziest (every day, 1-3.30pm, £1), and enjoy pond dipping in our state-of-the-art Pondzone area (11am-noon and 1-2pm every day, free with admission).
Saturday May 24 – Sunday June 1 – Downy Duckling Days and half-term crafts
Meet fluffy chicks at our specialist duckery, see tiny ducklings and goslings taking their first wobbly steps in the outdoor pens and watch our 24 Chilean flamingo chicks as they find their feet with the adult flock. Learn more about WWT’s conservation breeding programmes, which have saved some of the world’s most endangered waterbirds. Duckery talks are held every day during half-term week (Saturday 24 May-Sunday 1 June) from 1-2pm and otter feeds take place daily at 11.30am and 3pm. No need to book and cost is included in admission. Plus crafts every day in the Discovery Centre from 1.30-3.30pm (small costs apply).
Sunday June 15 – Father’s Day lunches
Treat your loved one to a delicious meal in the tranquil surroundings of Waterside Café, overlooking our spectacular barnacle geese, wigeon, Eurasian Cranes and other waterbirds. Lunch served 12-2pm, £15.95 for adults and £6.95 for children, booking essential. Please call 0191 416 5454 ext 235 for menu details and to book.
Saturday June 28 – day trip to WWT Martin Mere
Join us as we visit WWT’s Lancashire centre, with highlights including canoe safaris, pond dipping sessions and guided boat tours *, plus otter, beaver and flamingo talks. The bus leaves WWT Washington’s car park at 7am, returning for 6pm. Please bring a change of clean footwear for the coach. Cost is £23 per adult and £12 per child (not including admission to the centre, which is free for WWT members). Please call 0191 416 5454 or email email@example.com to book. *Canoe safaris are £6, boat tours £3