The main reason to visit Welney is to see the wild swans in winter. At this time of year you can watch from the heated observatory as 3,000 Whooper swans from Iceland join over 3,500 Bewick’s swans arriving from Arctic Russia to take refuge amongst thousands of ducks, geese and other water birds. In 2008 these included 6000 Wigeon, 1800 Teal, 800 Mallard, 400 Pintail, 320 Shoveler, 1000 Pochard and 400 Tufted Ducks. A popular time to visit is feeding time when they feed the birds grain in the afternoon and on some evenings by floodlight.
The reserve is also interesting at other times of the year. Spring brings wading birds to the reserve either on passage to the north or to breed. These include Avocets, Lapwing, Snipe and Little Ringed Plover to breed and Black Tailed Godwit and Ruff on passage. The reserve is also very good for Corn Bunting a rare bird in Norfolk.
Summer can be quiet for birds but excellent for butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies.
During Autumn the reserve sees a passage of wading birds returning from the arctic to their warmer wintering grounds, a range of birds stop to feed on the Washes including Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.
The reserve has also turned up a few rarities in recent years with Caspian Tern, White Rumped Sandpiper and American Wigeon in 2009 and a male 'White Spotted' Bluethroat holding territory in spring 2010