Saturday, 1 December 2012

Welney Wetland Wonderland

It is probably five years since I have been to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Welney. Since then they have built a much larger three-storey visitor centre, which takes you to the bridge over the river for access to the centrally-heated hide. However, the mission today was to photograph Whooper Swans.

Now let's be honest, this isn't a particularly challenging objective as I hadn't even arrived at the reserve when I came across a flock feeding in a field by the road. These were obviously a few family groups as can be seen by the adults with the yellow bills and the young birds with the same bill pattern but with the yellow replaced by a flesh colour. But I hadn't come today to photographs swans standing in a field or swimming around on water. but to try and get some more adventurous shots.

The main hide, or observatory as it is referred to, is glazed with no flaps to lift and therefore you have to photograph through glass which is far from ideal. However, there are two wing hides of a more traditional design either side of the observatory which can be accessed without braving the elements.

I had just got myself settled into one of the wings when a couple of geese flew across my field of view, straightened out and came in the land. No time for a close look or for an attempt at identification, but just rattled off a number of shots during the landing process. The large white panels on the wings show that these are in fact Egyptian Geese, which originated from captive ornamental stock but now breed in the wild, especially Norfolk.

But now on to the swans. At this time of year you would expect to see three species of swan at Welney, our resident Mute Swan, although their numbers can be swelled by visitors from the continent during the winter months, Bewick Swans from Russia and Whooper Swans from Iceland. Unfortunately this year so far, Bewick numbers have been very low and there were none present today.

There were, however, loads of Mute Swans parading up and down in front of the observatory allowing plenty of photo opportunities. Most were swimming round in a calm elegant manner, but one or two decided it was bath time and set about getting wet.

But now for the business in hand - the Whooper Swans. There were plenty of birds present in front of the hide and were as confiding as the Mute Swans. I started off by taking some shots of birds on the water.


I then became more adventurous and took some portraits for the first time. A lot more difficult than it looks but the results are very pleasing.

But now on to a bit of fun. For example, how do Whooper Swans land? Watch this space!!!

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