Views across the marsh towards Benarty hill, Vane Farm RSPB reserve, Kinross, Scotland

Wetlands

What could be more calming than a walk beside a river, lake or meadow? Wetlands are some of our most peaceful places. But, you won't get much peace and quiet from a reedbed in springtime.

What makes this habitat different?

Rivers, lakes, ponds and wet meadows are great places to see wildlife - not just birds, but fish, insects, plants, amphibians, reptiles, and if you are really lucky, mammals such as the otter and the water vole.

Reedbeds are made of large patches of reeds in shallow, fresh water.

They are especially good for many special kinds of bird like the rare, perfectly camouflaged brown heron: the bittern (listen for the 'booming' call of the male in summer).

Because most ground predators can't reach them they also make perfect spots for birds to land and take shelter. 

Wetlands come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they can all support a vast array of wildlife.

People love them, too: they're often beautiful places to visit or go for a walk.

What lives there?

Come spring, reedbeds and watery edges come alive with the chattering songs of sedge warblers and other migrant birds.

On wet meadows, redshank will be making themselves heard with loud calls, while marsh harriers will be performing their courtship displays over reedbeds as bearded tits 'ping' from below.

Dragonflies and damselflies start appearing from April onwards. Some of them are pretty spectacular while others are less obvious, so keep an eye out.

Listen for the 'plop' of a water vole taking to the water. In wet grasslands, spring is a busy time for wading birds displaying and then raising chicks.

Autumn sees the arrival of thousands of ducks, geese and swans, many from eastern Europe and beyond.

The best way to see a kingfisher is to learn its shrill whistling call, then you can hear them approaching before they reach you.

In winter, thousands of ducks, geese and swans make their way to our wetlands.

Whistling wigeons and bugling whooper swans are two species you could encounter.

Everyone knows that wetlands are important for fish, but what about all the tiny creatures that help make a wetland ecosystem? You'd be amazed at how many different beetles, bugs and odd-shaped organisms live underwater.

Otters are making a comeback in our cleaner rivers and wetlands, and helping water voles along the way, as escaped predatory mink are seen off by the otters.

Why is it in trouble?

Pollution

Our rivers and ponds are home to many kinds of fish, minibeasts and amphibians. They need the water they live in to be clean or they won't survive. The chemicals we put on our fields can also drain into these places and create a green gunge made from too much algae. Yuk! 

Draining  

Historically, reedbeds and marshlands were often seen as a waste of space. Many were drained to build houses on or to farm. We must now protect the bits that are left. There is hope, as in some places like Ouse Fen nature reserve, we are managing to create more reedbeds from dry land.