Marvel at the magic of wetlands

Lake (c) Zsuzsanna Bird

This weekend we are celebrating the magic of our magnificent wetlands across the UK – saltmarshes, mudflats, estuaries, lakes. These easily overlooked habitats are great places to see wildlife, and especially birds, at this time of year – perfect for watching wildlife on a wintry autumn day.

Wetlands: what they are

Wetlands are important features in our landscape which provide huge benefits to people and wildlife. They are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs, and have a valuable role in protecting and improving water quality, providing habitats, storing floodwaters and helping reduce the impacts of extreme weather events.

The term wetlands is used to define a variety of habitats that include water bodies such as reservoirs, but also habitats characterised by permanent or temporarily wet soils including peatlands and marshes. Wetlands also include estuaries and coastal waters. In some wetland habitats water is static, in others it is flowing; some support freshwater, others support brackish or salty waters.

Wetlands: What you can see

From the River Severn to the Norfolk Broads, and from the Scottish lochs to the ponds in our back gardens, these incredibly different ecosystems support very different plant and animal species.

Rivers and streams provide wildlife with ‘corridors’ which they can use to move between fragmented habitats. Charismatic otters patrol the riverbanks at night, water voles ‘plop’ into the water from their burrows, and metallic kingfishers skim the water’s surface. Under the surface is home to fish such as brown trout, eel, stickleback, pike, grayling, roach, perch and salmon.

Chalk streams support endangered species such as bullhead, southern mayfly and white-clawed crayfish, while threatened species of birds like bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit can be found among strands of common reedbed.

Wetlands: Where you can find them

Wetlands can be found across the length and breadth of the UK. Use our list of more than 30 beautiful places to plan your day of exploring – and don’t forget to take a copy of our wetland spotter sheet or our river birds spotter sheet.
Not sure wetlands are for you? Neither was Laura but take a look at this blog about trying out birding in wetlands for the first time. Alternatively, check out our events pages for guided walks, pond safaris and more!

Sadly, despite their importance to people and wildlife, wetlands are some of our most damaged habitats. Find out more about how The Wildlife Trusts have been helping to lead wetland conservation in the UK for many years.

Find out more about Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s appeal to purchase Hickling Broad and Suffolk Wildlife Trust's ambition to buy and restore 384 acres of land for wildlife in the Broads National Park.

Hickling Broad cpt Mike Page