Spring is coming to Ferry Meadows Country Park
Ferry Meadows Country Park is at the heart of the Nene Park Trust series of nature reserves. As well as the abundant recreational activities, the main attraction of Ferry Meadows, for me at least, is the bird life. I have been visiting the park since I was small and it helped spark my interest in nature, which has now become my career. Whether you’re a casual observer or a parent looking for something interesting for the kids, Ferry Meadows has plenty to do….and plenty to see
By March, most of the winter-visiting species that bolster the numbers of Ferry Meadows’ birds have migrated back to their summer breeding and feeding grounds. But there are still plenty of species left to keep you interested should you decide to come and visit. The more numerous species of Ferry Meadows include Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Coots, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls. These can be found across the lakes of Ferry Meadows, as well as sections of the River Nene that pass through the Country Park.
There are some less common species to look out for as well. Great Crested Grebes are colourful birds, with their red and black ruffs found on both sexes. In spring, make sure to look out for their elaborate courtship displays, where the male and female will face each other, extend their ruffs and try to copy each other’s movements, which generally includes a lot of head bobbing and shaking. Grey Herons, normally quite shy birds, seem to be quite bold at Ferry Meadows. They can be found along the banks of the River Nene as it courses through Ferry Meadows, but can also be seen very close to the banks along the lakes, giving you a chance to get an unusually close-up view of them.
The Ferry Meadows Café looks out onto the island on Overton Lake, which is the most eastern of the lakes and is particularly rich in Cormorants. These large primitivelooking diving birds can be seen perching all over the island’s trees, usually with their wings outstretched to dry them after a fishing trip. March is also the time of year when summer visitors start to descend on the UK. One of these is the Sand Martin. These swift, agile relatives of the Swallow feed on flying insects caught over water, and require open sand banks for their nesting burrows. On one of the islands on Lynch Lake, the smallest lake in Ferry Meadows, a large container full of artificial nest holes has been placed and Sand Martins can be seen darting across its waters, as well as those of the other lakes in the country park.
Lynch Lake is also the residence of a pair of Mute Swans, who use it every year to raise their cygnets. The best bird to look out for, however, is also the one most difficult to spot: the Kingfisher. At least one adult male has made his territory along the northern and northwest edge of Gunwade Lake, the main lake. You can tell it is a male because, if you can get close enough, you will see that he has a completely black bill; the female Kingfisher has an orange lower mandible.
If you are patient, and in the right place at the right time, you can see him flying along the bank of Gunwade Lake, stopping and perching regularly on the small trees that run along the edge of the lake. Occasionally, you can also hope to spot some rarities, such as a Mediterranean Gull which was seen at Ferry Meadows last year. In the past, I have spotted a Ruddy Shelduck and even a Bar-headed Goose, a rarely seen non-native species originally from Mongolia. So if you have a free morning or afternoon, why not pop down to Ferry Meadows with a pair of binoculars and see what you can find?
Words: Thomas Chillcott (Grad CIEEM) BSc. (Hons) MSc.
April events in Ferry Meadows
Adult Sailing Taster
● Date: Tuesday 3 and Sunday 15 April
A taster designed for beginners, this session introduces the basic concepts of sailing. Learn about personal preparation, balancing and turning the boat through the wind. Taster sessions are suitable for anyone aged 16 years +. ● Location: Nene Outdoors, Ferry Meadows Country Park ● Times:10:00 – 12noon ● Meet at: Nene Outdoors ● Cost: £25 ● Accessibility: This course may not be suitable for all abilities, please call to talk to our instructors about your particular needs.
Bushcraft skills – whittling hazel
● Date: Friday 6 April
Come join us and whittle a gazoo from Hazel using a knife safely. Learning whittling technics and skills in this hour and a half long session. ● Location: Ferry Meadows Country Park ● Times: 10:30am-12:00noon or 13:30 – 15:00 ● Meet at: Lakeside Toilet Block ● Cost: £5 per child ● Accessibility: This event includes walking on uneven ground and/or crossing stiles and therefore may not be suitable for all abilities. Please call 01733 234193 for further details.
● Date: Monday 9 & 23 April
A fun monthly outdoor parent and toddler group. Each session has a nature theme and will include a messy craft activity, time to explore the beautiful outdoors, story and songtime. ● Location: Ferry Meadows Country Park ● Times: 10:00am-11:30 ● Meet at: Discovery Den ● Cost: £3 per child ● Accessibility: This event is on surfaced paths and suitable for all abilities including wheelchair users and buggies. Please call 01733 234193 for further details.
We’re going on a Bear Hunt
● Date: Thursday 12 April
Join us on our Bear hunt around ferry meadows. The event will include a craft, storytime and then we will walk around the lakes to find Barney the Bear. Suitable for 3yrs+ ● Location: Ferry Meadows Country Park. ● Times: 10:30 – 12:00 & 13:30 – 15:00 ● Meet at: Discovery Den ● Cost: £4 ● Accessibility: This event includes walking on uneven ground and/or crossing stiles and therefore may not be suitable for all abilities. Please call 01733 234193 for further details.
Ramble from River to Rail
● Date: Wednesday 18 April
Enjoy a gentle stroll along the River Nene to Wansford where there will be time to look around the NVR station before returning to the Ferry Meadows by train. ● Location: Ferry Meadows and surrounding area ● Times: 09:30 – 15:00 ● Meet at: Information Centre & Gift Shop ● Cost: approx. £4 for train fare ● Accessibility: This event includes walking on uneven ground and/or crossing stiles and therefore may not be suitable for all abilities. Please call 01733 234193 for further details.
Guided walk with a Ranger
● Date: Thursday 12 April
Join Ian Lowe for a guided walk around Ferry Meadows & surrounding area, pointing out areas of interest along the 6 mile route, asking him questions along the way. ● Location: Ferry Meadows and surrounding area ● Times: 13:00 – 16:15 ● Meet at: Information Centre & Gift Shop ● Cost: £2 ● Accessibility: This event includes walking on uneven ground and/or crossing stiles and therefore may not be suitable for all abilities. Please call 01733 234193 for further details. ● Booking: Essential.
Visit our website to book your place www.neneparktrust.org.uk