World Wetlands Day: Ten amazing wildlife experiences you can enjoy in February

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Celebrate World Wetlands Day by enjoying a winter visit to one of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust's stunning nature reserves – as a Boundless member, you won't have to pay a thing

On 2 February, environmentalists across the globe will mark World Wetlands Day, an annual event that raises awareness of Earth's rapidly diminishing wetland areas.

Wetlands play an essential role in biodiversity, climate mitigation, the availability of fresh water and more. Sadly, almost 90% of the world's wetlands have degraded since the 18th century, and that figure is expected to increase unless something is done about it.

wetland reed bed

Launched in 1997, World Wetlands Day aims to encourage individuals and organisations to take action. The official World Wetlands Day website is packed with information and resources that'll enable you to play your part and motivate others to do the same.

To help you gain an insight into these vital ecosystems, we've put together a list of the reserves that are managed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) here in the UK, along with details of the wildlife that can be found at each one. Want to discover them for yourselves? Scroll to the bottom of the page, where you'll find an amazing offer for Boundless members...

Arundel Wetland Centre

arundel wetland centre

Spread across 60 acres at the foot of the Offham Hangar in West Sussex, Arundel Wetland Centre is populated by species from around the world, including the endangered Hawaiian goose, the Australian wood duck and the Eurasian wigeon. To make these animals feel at home, native habitats have been recreated across the reserve, with visitors able to closely monitor their behaviours from strategically placed hides. Kids will even get the opportunity to hand-feed some of the ducks.  

Other species that can be seen at Arundel Wetland Centre include:

  • Bewick's swan
  • Red-crested pochard
  • Common scoter
  • White-faced whistling duck

February events at Arundel Wetland Centre

2 February – World Wetlands Day Boat Safari

19-27 February – South East Puddle Jumping Championships

Caerlaverock Wetland Centre

Caerlaverock Wetland Centre

Located on the Solway coast in the south-west of Scotland, Caerlaverock Wetland Centre is a 1,400-acre wilderness offering breathtaking views of the Cumbrian mountains to the south. At this time of year, more than 25,000 barnacle geese arrive from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, to over-winter. Caerlaverock is also home to one of only two UK populations of the Triops cancriformis – the 'tadpole shrimp'. With observation towers and an education centre for visitors, there's plenty to discover.

Other species that can be seen at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre include:

  • Whooper swan
  • Northern pintail
  • Greater scaup
  • Eurasian teal

February events at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre

6 February – Dawn Flight

19 February – Walk With A Warden

Castle Espie Wetland Centre

Castle Espie Wetland Centre

The castle that gave this County Down reserve its name may no longer exist, but there's still lots to see and do. Located on the banks of Strangford Lough, Castle Espie Wetland Centre is home to the largest collection of ducks, swans and geese in Ireland – indeed, almost the entire Greenland population of pale-bellied brent geese use the reserve for early wintering. With woodland walks, a sensory garden and a gallery on site, Castle Espie is a great day out for everyone.  

Other species that can be seen at Castle Espie Wetland Centre include:

  • Great-crested grebe
  • Grey heron
  • Black-headed gull
  • Goldcrest

February events at Castle Espie Wetland Centre

18-20 February – Puddle Jumping Championships

Llanelli Wetland Centre

Llanelli Wetland Centre

If your little ones enjoy listing all the species they spot, they're going to need a big piece of paper when they visit Llanelli Wetland Centre. During the winter, this 450-acre reserve in south Wales is visited by up to 50,000 wintering waterbirds, with everything from the rare bittern to all five UK-resident species of owl having been seen here. Stay until the end of the day and you might be lucky enough to see the sun setting over the reserve's lakes and lagoons – a photogenic sight if ever there was one.

Other species that can be seen at Llanelli Wetland Centre include:

  • Black-tailed godwit
  • Greenshank
  • Shelduck
  • Little egret

February events at Llanelli Wetland Centre

19-27 February – Welsh Puddle Jumping Championships

London Wetland Centre

London Wetland Centre

You don't need to be out in the sticks to experience the best that nature has to offer. Spread across 100 acres in the Barnes area of the capital, London Wetland Centre is inhabited by nationally significant numbers of gadwall and northern shoveler, not to mention a captive community of Asian short-clawed otters – the smallest otter species in the world. You'll soon find out why BBC Springwatch host Chris Packham described the reserve as “one of my favourite places in the country”.

Other species that can be seen at London Wetland Centre include:

  • American wood duck
  • Ring-necked parakeet
  • Water rail
  • Common kingfisher

February events at London Wetland Centre

12 February – Coppicing And Pollard Walk

12-20 February – It's A Wild Life

16 February – Members' Jazz Evening

25 February – Wildlife Photography: Composition

26 & 27 February – Adventure Weekend

Martin Mere Wetland Centre

Martin Mere Wetland Centre

BBC Autumnwatch has been broadcast live from Martin Mere Wetland Centre on two occasions, but winter is when this Lancashire reserve truly comes into its own, attracting large flocks of pink-footed geese and whooper swans, along with wintering birds of prey and – occasionally – rarer birds such as the snow goose. During your visit, be sure to experience the peaceful reedbed walk and the (slightly noisier) wild bird feeds.

Other species that can be seen at Martin Mere Wetland Centre include:

  • Marsh harrier
  • Tree sparrow
  • Mistle thrush
  • Long-tailed tit

February events at Martin Mere Wetland Centre

12-20 February – North West Puddle Jumping Championships

Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Slimbridge Wetland Centre

Opened in 1946 by WWT founder Sir Peter Scott, Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire provides a fantastic day out at any time of year, the reserve playing host to the world's largest collection of captive wildfowl species. Winter is particularly busy, though, as up to 30,000 ducks, geese and swans come here to feed and roost. If you fancy making a weekend of it, why not stay at Sir Peter's former home Bewick's Lodge, now a boutique hotel.

Other species that can be seen at Slimbridge Wetland Centre include:

  • Redshank
  • Black redstart
  • Great spotted woodpecker
  • Avocet

February events at Slimbridge Wetland Centre

19-27 February – Puddle Jumping Championships

21 February – Young Birder ID Workshop

Steart Marshes

Steart Marshes

Created in 2014 to protect the Somerset coast from flooding, while creating much-needed space for wildlife, Steart Marshes Wetland Centre is a great place to observe the behaviours of different species. At this time of year, thousands of birds migrate to Steart, with everything from wintering ducks to waders having been seen in the area. Why not take a gentle stroll along the accessible coastal footpath and see how many you can spot.

Other species that can be seen at Steart Marshes include:

  • Lapland bunting
  • Golden plover
  • Yellowhammer
  • Brambling

February events at Steart Marshes Wetland Centre

1-28 February – Bespoke Guided Walks

Washington Wetland Centre

Washington Wetland Centre

If you're looking for a place to de-stress, then Washington Wetland Centre will provide the perfect tonic – especially during winter, when this idyllic north-eastern landscape is layered with a magical frost. Grab a bag of feed, put on your wellies and meet the myriad species that reside here, from gulls to great tits; or retreat to one of the many viewing points to try and capture the perfect photo. However you choose to spend your time, you'll be soothed by your natural surroundings.   

Other species that can be seen at Washington Wetland Centre include:

  • Andean goose
  • White-faced whistling duck
  • Eider
  • Ringed teal

February events at Washington Wetland Centre

19-27 February North East Puddle Jumping Championships

19-27 February Half-Term Crafts

Welney Wetland Centre

Welney Wetland Centre

The Fens of Norfolk are abundant with wildlife, and nowhere is this more evident than at Welney Wetland Centre. Every winter, up to 9,000 wild Bewick's and whooper swans descend on the reserve to make the most of the floodlit feeds – a majestic sight from any angle. These elegant flocks are joined by a variety of other species – notably hares and deer – meaning there's always something to take your breath away.

Other species that can be seen at Welney Wetland Centre include:

  • Tundra bean goose
  • Cattle egret
  • Moorhen
  • Carrion crow

February events at Welney Wetland Centre

5 & 6 February – Swans Awake

11-19 February – Puddle Jumping Championships

Do more with Boundless – enjoy a free family day out at a WWT reserve

As a Boundless member, you'll get free unlimited access to all of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) reserves mentioned in this feature – and you can bring an adult guest and up to six children with you. Each visit you make will be worth up to £73. To find out more about this amazing offer and how to join Boundless, click here.

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