Posted 5th Sep 2014
As any fan of the children’s book series Swallows and Amazons will tell you, messing about on and around water comes loaded with mystery and adventure. Secret Water is the title of one in this everlastingly popular series and it’s a theme that The Wildlife Trusts invite you to explore during Our Wetlands Weekend on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September
If you close your eyes and imagine a beautiful place in the UK countryside, there is a good chance it has water in it. Human beings love water; we walk by it, we swim in it, we aspire to live near it and wherever possible we incorporate it in our gardens. Our aesthetic love of water is evolutionary in origin, we like the environments in which our species has historically flourished. Wetlands have always been crucial to us as they are – self-evidently – sources of water, in addition to providing food in the form of fish, ducks and plants, natural materials such as wicker, thatch and pelts, and – most importantly before the widespread development of roads and railways – transport.
We aren’t the only species which flourishes in wetlands. The harsh
squawk of a grey heron, the syncopated chunter of reed warblers, the bone-deep blast of a bittern, the whinny of a passing otter, even the infuriating whine of mosquitoes – all these sounds and innumerable others owe their presence in the UK to the existence of wetlands. Not to mention the sights: the spilled port purple of reed flowers, the blazing magenta of purple loosestrife and the nail polish red of a ruddy darter.
Wetlands, let’s be clear, are a very good thing for us all and they positively wriggle with fascinating wildlife to identify and observe. But while it’s easy to get excited about a kingfisher or a flock of whistling wigeon drakes in breeding plumage, there are thousands of species which are overlooked because they are small, because they are secretive, because they aren’t immediately appealing or simply because they’re too common to attract attention. We value them just as highly and hope that Our Wetlands Weekend will inspire everyone to enjoy the unsung wonders of the UK’s wetlands as summer reddens to autumn, and here are some sources to inspire you:
- Over 30 magnificent wetlands to visit. These beautiful watery places are a selection of the 2,300 wild havens cared for by Wildlife Trusts across the UK and are perfect for a ramble to discover wild birds, dragonflies and the secret life of our waters.
- Find a guide to some of the more secretive wetland wildlife species that are small, hidden or simply get overlooked here.
- Start your wetland wildlife weekend here. This page has links to activities, events, and guides to great places to see otters, dragonflies and much more.
Images courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts: Steve Aylward, Zsuzsanna Bird, Mike Page, Jon Hawkins