The Washington Wetlands Centre consists of 103 acres of wetland, woodland, and wildlife. A stream channel, reedbed, and feeding area allow visitors close-up encounters with the waterbirds, many of them tame enough to eat from your hand.
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The 30 year old site, on the river Wear, provides sanctuary to birds, insects, and plant-life. An unusual attraction is a breeding colony of Chilean flamingos. Hawthorn Wood feeding station offers views of woodland birds such as great-spotted woodpecker and bullfinch. Redwings, long-tailed tits, and jays like the woods. The reserve is home to the region’s largest nesting colony of grey herons as well as rare and endangered ducks, geese, and swans. Spring Gill Wood is the place to be to spot the insects and plants that thrive in its ponds, streams, and grasslands.
In January grey herons begin their return to their nesting sites. Redshanks, lapwings, and snipe use the lakes and reedbeds. Thrushes feed on hawthorne berries. Goldfinches make use of the feeders. The herons like to build their nests in February. Other birds to spot in February are lapwing, redshank, and oystercatchers. Shelduck and mallard like the lake. Visit in March to see lapwings beginning to nest. Blackthorn bloom at this time of year. Herons are nesting and their chicks hatching. Redshank, snipe, and teal are around. Frogs and toads move to the ponds to spawn. Coltsfoot blooms in the woodlands and around the ponds.
April sees bluebells, primroses, and dog violets in Spring Gill wood while Hawthorn wood is colourful with Dog’s mercury and ramsons. Summer visitors begin to come to the reserve, including swallows, willow warblers, whitethroats, and reed warblers. It’s the time for butterflies to make their presence known.
During May and June ducklings are on view in the waterfowl nursery. Common terns build their nests. Meadow flowers are in bloom—the marsh orchid, tufted vetch, common spotted orchid, and meadow cranesbill, among others. Ponds and marshy areas are alive with blossoming cuckoo, flowering rush, red campion, and ragged robin. Waders like to visit this month and include black tailed godwit and green sandpiper. Damselflies and darters are in evidence.
July is the time for avocet and tern chicks. Lapwing, redshank, and curlew return to Wader lake. In August the blooms of later flowering species can be enjoyed. Tern chicks continue their hatching. In September spot kingfishers, grey wagtails, and green sandpipers. Snipes feed on the mud, and curlews return to roost. Autumn brings forth the jays and jackdaws. Siskin and goldfinch feed on berries and alder seeds.
Washington Wetlands and Wildlife Trust
East of Washington in District 15 near Newcastle, four miles from the A1; one mile from the A19. Signposted off A195, A19, A182 and A1231.
Tel. 0 191 416 5454
Open: daily except Christmas, 9.30am-5pm, April-Oct, and until 4pm rest of year.
Web: Washington Wetlands and Wildlife Trust
Sun terrace, café, picnic areas, shop, play area; disabled access