From reptiles and colourful butterflies to beautiful bird song and masses of meadow flowers, Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve continues to be a space of conservation and contemplation during these extraordinary times.
As a special home to wildlife both resident and rare, there is plenty to observe on every visit to Walthamstow Wetlands. A recent highlight was the appearance of a pair of spectacular spoonbills which visited the reserve on several occasions. Named after their spatula-like bills which are packed full of sensors attuned to the tiniest vibrations, they were seen swinging their slightly open beaks from side to side through shallow water searching for beetles, crustaceans, worms, small fish, tadpoles and frogs. Their recent visits to the Wetlands raise hopes visitors will be seeing more of them in future years. In addition to the spoonbills, there are also plenty of breeding birds to be seen onsite including nine shelduck broods and several swan and pochard broods.
There has also been plenty of activity in nest boxes with blue and great tits all seen nesting whilst reed bunting, reed warbler and blackcap fledglings continue to be recorded. Swifts have also been spotted feeding in huge numbers over the reservoirs with recordings of over 2,000 on some days – this fast-flying and distinctive bird with long, curved wings is a regular visitor to the Wetlands having made a long journey from Africa where it winters each year. For bird of prey enthusiasts, hobby, red kites and buzzards continue to visit the Wetlands in search of food.
With over 100 moth species recorded onsite and around 20 species of butterfly on site, it is not just the birds that catch the eye in the air. There have been sightings of the marbled white, Essex skipper, small heath and painted lady to name but a few. The first sighting of an emperor moth caterpillar was also recently recorded at East Warwick Reservoir – emerging into beautiful dayflying moths, emperor moths are one of the largest insects in the UK with female wingspans measuring up to 10cm.
Walthamstow Wetlands continues to provide a home for many different types of reptile. Grass snakes have been sighted across the Wetlands and the site also welcomed its first-ever recording of a slow worm - these legless lizards are able to shed their tail and blink with their eyelids and it is hoped their numbers will continue to increase onsite. Those visitors keen to catch a glimpse of a reptile onsite are advised to arrive first thing when the site opens and keep an eye out on rocky outcrops in the sun where reptiles such as grass snakes can be seen happily absorbing the sun’s rays.
With over one million visits recorded at the Wetlands since it opened its gates in 2017, Walthamstow Wetlands is expected to welcome even more visitors during the warmer months of summer. To ensure the site can remain open, visitors must continue to respect the site rules, including no alcohol, no dogs and no approaching the water – all of which are of importance to ensure the safety of visitors and that clean drinking water is delivered daily to 3.5 million Thames Water customers. By respecting the rules and working together, Walthamstow Wetlands can continue to provide a wildlife haven in the heart of the city for all to enjoy.