Close Encounters opens in time for Christmas

Close Encounters opens in time for Christmas

A popular hand feeding area at a Wearside wetland centre has re-opened just in time for Christmas following an extensive redevelopment.

Close Encounters at WWT Washington Wetland Centre closed for re-development in January 2016 and has since undergone an amazing transformation, extending the walking distance and offering visitors a fantastic way to get up close to a variety of birds. New fully accessible pathways through the exhibit take you around in a loop allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the environment, taking in the beautiful scenery and birds.

Exotic species of plants have been introduced to offer a great sensory experience with appealing aromas filling the air. Once established, they’ll have large leaves which will create shades of light and dark to add to the sensory experience. The new waterfall feature also adds to this experience creating a soothing sound as well as aerating the water providing added benefits for the plant and bird life.

The exhibit is designed to show the different ways in which different waterfowl feed. The best way to see this behavior is to scatter feed just at the water’s edge of the main feeding area and see which birds are feeding in what way.

Washington Wetland Centre Manager Gill Pipes said, “It’s great to finally get the project complete. We know it has taken longer than we’d anticipated to get everything to the standard it needed to be in order to allow both birds and visitors to use it, but we’re grateful for the patience everyone has shown.

“This area of our site has been used in several ways over the 41 years we have been here and there were some historical issues, including leaks and water levels which needed remedying through long term solutions. Whilst we were aware of many of these in advance of the project, some of them only came to light once we literally scratched the surface.

“We had to find ways to future proof the area to guard against any further issues – it felt like every time we put a spade in the ground, a previously undiscovered underground stream or the like appeared! So we apologise for the delay in opening close encounters but we are confident that it has been well worth the wait!”

Close Encounters is now home to a number of striking birds including eider, black swan, mandarin and smew, all of which are free to roam throughout the exhibit, with specially built ‘Eider Island’ providing an ideal breeding spot. Visitors will be able to enjoy incredible nose-to-beak action and the area will offer a haven for wildlife big and small with insects and bees able to take advantage of the lush vegetation next year.

New seating, planned for the New Year, will allow visitors to just “be” amongst these features and the birds and new feeding areas will allow children and adults alike to enjoy this simple pleasure.

Gill added, “It’s disappointing that the delays meant we couldn’t seed the area when we wanted to but we’re sure that by the spring it will have greened up and we’ll forget how muddy and brown it looked whilst work was ongoing.”

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