Arundel Wetland Centre is a great place to visit. Whether it’s the sights and sounds of kingfishers diving for their daily fish feast or the flurry of small bird making the most of the season’s berries, winter at WWT sites is the perfect time to engage with nature and spot some truly spectacular species. The crisp, bright mornings at this time of the year, along with some sensational sunsets, provide the perfect conditions for nature watching. With the backdrop of beautiful light and an expanse of open skies, visitors won’t have to look too far to witness some wonderful winter wildlife.
Being out in nature is widely known to be an uplifting experience and at this time of year when things can often feel frenzied, escaping into the wild, even for an hour, can bring both comfort and joy. At this time of year, WWT Arundel Wetland Centre is home to array of delights. On frosty days Arundel’s kingfishers perch on the handrails of the jetty to fish where the boats have broken the ice. Along gently winding pathways look for long-tailed tits, fieldfare, redwing and siskin flitting in hedgerows. From the hides lapwing flocks huddle on the cobble islands their head crests bobbing in the wind. Cormorants posed wings outstretched to dry off between dives while grey herons wade the edges of the reeds. Shy snipe skulk in the fens, their long bills probing the mud for a meal.
Whether you’re a seasoned spotter or just looking for a day out with a difference, there is so much to see and do. While WWT Arundel has plenty of glorious evergreens, which give the landscape a truly festive feel while also providing wildlife with much-needed shelter and sustenance in the colder months, many deciduous trees have shed their leaves which means spotting birds and mammals is a little bit easier. In the bare branches of the wintery skeleton trees, a range of birds can be seen busying about to find their daily food supply. And while binoculars are great addition, visitors will still be able to spot an array of species from tree sparrows and blue tits to winter visitors like fieldfare and redwing, alongside WWT’s beloved waterfowl and waders. It’s not just the sight of birds that can warm the coldest of days, because while the glorious dawn chorus doesn’t return until spring there’s still plenty of noise going on in nature.
The sounds of geese and swans are particularly prominent at WWT sites at this time of year – you can listen to their distinct calls here https://www.wwt.org.uk/news-and-stories/blog/your-audio-guide-to-winter-wetland-bird-calls/ and of course, the beautiful, evocative song of a robin is never far away. And if lucky visitors time a visit right, there is nothing like the spectacular show of the array of birds coming into roost in the late afternoons. Marsh harriers arrive, with sweeping flights back and forth over the reeds before disappearing within for the night. Bunches of pied wagtail suddenly drop into the reedbed, twittering to each other until they settle. Regiments of greylag and Canada geese swoop overhead, honking their arrival and splashing down. Egrets crowd the trees at the Ramsar hide, jockeying for a prime spot for the night. Identifying bird calls can add something extra special to a day out in nature and apps like Merlin or ChirpOMatic can help beginners learn what bird is making which sound. WWT shops also stock a bounty of books that will help enthusiasts get better acquainted with our feathered friends.
At this time of the year the everchanging weather can catch people out, so the best advice for a wintery day on a reserve is to prepare for any eventuality. Sturdy boots to keep feet dry, thick socks to stave off cold toes and layers are always the best way to keep warm and dry. And take a tip from snowmen who know all-too-well that a hat, scarf and gloves are essential accessories in winter. Plus a calorific chocolate bar and a flask of warm drink will never go amiss. Though if it does get too chilly, WWT hides are the best place to make a hasty retreat to. Not only can visitors shelter from the dropping temperatures, they also offer prime viewing spots. And for those wanting to spend some time indoors in a cosy environment, the Water’s Edge Café has a mouth-watering, warming winter menu of cottage pie, vegan chili, toasted sandwiches plus sweet treats like the new vegan Biscoff and toffee cake. Watching wildlife is a great way to spend some time outdoors and WWT is encouraging visitors to share what they see on social media using the hashtag #SpottedAtWWTArundel, whether that’s birds and mammals or trees and plants. Sites are open every day throughout the holiday season – aside from Christmas Day– from 10 am to 4.30 pm. On Christmas Eve we close at 2 pm. So, wrap up warm, raise your eyes to the skies and see first-hand why winter can be the most wonderful time of the year.