Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A new year

Well believe it or not, January has already sailed past and what a productive month it has been. As always we start our year here at Lackford with a bird count to get the species list going, this is always led by our resident volunteer, the wonderful Paul Holness. This year year he didn't disappoint and returned back with a count of over 50 birds, including goldeneye and redpoll among them. A few more were added by other visitors to the reserve that were not originally spotted by Paul, such as water rail and goosander, which came in at the end of the day to roost down at Steggall's hide and brought the days tally up to an impressive 60 birds!

Day 2 was also impressive with red kite starting the day off. This was also followed by a meadow pipit, grey wagtail and barn owl being seen. Strangely, our kingfisher didn't appear on the list until 5 days had gone by. But this can be blamed by the cold weather of late, which sees much of the shallow waters freeze over. This makes diving for food a bit of a troublesome endeavour and the birds tend to head to the river where the water doesn't freeze, such as the River Lark that flows alongside the reserve. But fear not, they will become more regular here as the weather begins to warm up.

Currently the list stands at 85 species and can be seen below. The list will slow down a bit now until spring starts to kick in and the migrants begin to arrive.

2018 bird species list

Do you know your dabblers from your divers?

Not many people realise that different ducks feed in different ways, some dive down to get their food, others like to stir things up and dabble their food from the surface. Here's our quick guide to these splendid birds, all of which can be found here at Lackford.


Tufted duck like to dive down deep, down to 3 metres for their food which comprises of mainly animal material such as small mussels, snails, small fish and a little plant vegetation too.

Tufted duck © Jim Palfrey
Pochard are mainly vegetarians eating plant matter and do not dive as deep as the tufted duck. They also quite actively feed during the hours of darkness favouring the daytime for sleeping.

Pochard © Bryan Tillott
Goldeneye, like the tufted ducks also feed mainly on animal material, but are quite partial to larger mobile prey such as crayfish and can dive much deeper than the tufted duck.

Goldeneye © Ian Goodall

Wigeon although classed as a dabbler, actually prefers to feed on land by grazing on grass or seaweed.

Wigeon © Bryan Tillott
Gadwall are vegetarian and feed by head-dipping. They are often seen around other waterfowl such as coots who bring up large masses of weed from the bottom. They then steal this from the coots to feed.

Gadwall © Rick Harvey
Shoveler prefer animal material and they do this by kicking up mud from the bottom and then sieve the water through their huge bill where small water invertebrates are caught in a special mesh at the sides of the bill.

Shoveler © Ian Goodall
Teal are not at all fussy about what they eat and are often seen dabbling or upending to feed.

Teal © Ian Goodall
Mallard are probably our most successful duck which feeds in a variety of ways from dabbling the surface, upending and even taking food from humans in our city parks. This is probably why it is so numerous across the UK.

Mallards © Michael Andrews
So now you should know your divers from your dabblers, why not come on down to Lackford to see for yourselves the feeding habits of our ducks and test your skills.


Goldeneye are still being seen around the reserve, especially on the Sailing lake along with quite a lot of gadwall and tufted ducks at the moment. Redpolls and nuthatch are also regular visitors to the feeders outside the centre now and can be seen on a daily basis. Out around Hawker pool and around the alder trees at winter hide, flocks of siskin can be seen feeding on the cones. Look out for redpolls amongst these flocks too. Long-tailed tits are still coming to the feeders and can be seen flitting around the reserve. Out on the field feeders on church walk bullfinches, reed buntings and the occasional tree sparrow are being spotted.

The Slough still has a good population of lapwing, teal, shelduck, snipe and much more including a barn owl that has been seen flying over the reeds in the afternoon. Another amazing sighting that was captured on camera this week was this photo of not 1, but 4 otters playing near Steggall'l hide by regular visitors Tony and Sandy Fox.


Be sure to come along to our activities this half-term at Lackford Lakes, just click on the links to book.

Family nest box building
Tuesday 13th February 10am - 12noon & 1:30 - 3:30 

Love bugs activity morning
Wednesday 14th 10:30am - 12:30pm 

Tracks and trails activity day
Thursday 15th 10:30am - 2:30pm 

Young wardens coppicing workshop
Friday 16th 10:30am - 2:30pm

Opening times

We are now open 7 days a week at the visitor centre from 10am till 5pm, no more Monday closing. We hop[e you will pop in and see us soon.