Monday, 9 January 2017

What will 2017 hold???

So before you know it, it's 2017. It felt like just last week we were getting ready for Spring so quick did 2016 go. But it was a good year with 138 species of bird being recorded at the site. Some of these hadn’t been seen at the reserve before or had been seen, but not for a long while, such as the bearded tits, which according to Paul Holness was last seen around 8 years ago. We had a good year when it came to osprey sightings with several views of them flying over during the August period as the birds begin their journey south.

We had great success with our kingfishers too with at least four broods being raised at Lackford. One brood in particular were very special as they nested in the bank outside the visitor centre, something that has never happened before.

One of our volunteers spotted a great white egret, another first for the reserve even though it didn't stop long. Well done to Joe Myers for spotting that. Also, wheatear and avocet were seen on the reserve again last year among many others. We would like to thank all our eagle eyed visitors for reporting their sightings back to the staff at the centre. Please keep it up as you are our eyes and ears out there.

So, what to look out for this year? Well as always, anything is possible and a rarity can drop in at anytime, but unless people are out looking, we will never know. Last year saw an increase of marsh harrier sightings at Lackford compared to other years and one rarity that we did get other than the long-tailed duck was the great northern diver, which only stopped on the sailing lake for 90 mins, but still it was enough.

A special year

Yes, 2017 is looking to be a special year because it's our 30th birthday! Lackford Lakes officially became a reserve back in 1987 when Bernard Tickner bought a part of the area that had been excavated by RMC (now known as Cemex). This part is now known as The Slough and sees many waders there through the seasons. Eventually, RMC stopped excavating in 2000 and gave the rest of the pits to the Trust. Since then Lackford has gone from strength to strength obtaining not one, but two SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) designations for its overwintering wildfowl and the other for its 21 species of dragonflies and damselflies that can be found here during the warmer months.
A Google Earth image of Lackford Lakes (no lakes present then) in 1945.
And how it is today, a haven for wildlife.

Regular surveys on the site are uncovering new things all the time and it is thanks to the diligence and hard work of our volunteers and staff that make Lackford what it is today, a prime nature reserve. 


As some of you may or may not know, we have been doing otter surveys at Lackford over the past year and we thought we would like to share with some trail cam footage taken of two otters found using the site.

As you can see from the first clip, the camera was the focus of their investigations. Check out the second clip to see if they were successful in pulling the camera down.


As usual, Paul’s New Years Day bird walk was well attended despite the poor weather and 56 species of birds were spotted. Since then, in one week, that number has risen to 73 species. This is down to visitors reporting their sightings back at the visitor centre. By reporting your sightings, no matter how common you think they are, you help many other visitors to the reserve. So keep those reports coming in.

Male goldeneye at Winter hide © Ian Goodall

This past week the kingfisher has been very obliging at the visitor centre pool, the Doubke-decker and Paul’s hide. Goldeneye have been seen regularly at the Winter hide, Hawkers pool and Bess’ hide. Teal and wigeon have been reported in large numbers of over 400 each on the Slough and Long Reach. Plenty reports of goldcrest, treecreeper, nuthatch, marsh tit, coal tit and other small birds from Ash Carr. 

Male pochard © Ian Goodall
Shelduck, little egret, shoveler, gadwall, tufted duck and pochard are all being seen on the Slough and there’s the odd sighting of snipe doing in from Steggall’s hide too. Out on the field feeders on Church walk, brambling have been spotted as well as bullfinch and reed bunting. This is also a likely place to spot tree sparrows, so keep your eyes peeled.

Snipe seen at Steggall’s © Colin Robson
Goosander are still coming into roost and can usually be seen on the Slough, although this weekend a drake was spotted on Hawkers pool and Long Reach.

Goosander (male on right) © Ian Goodall
One last note to mention is that we are getting starlings coming into roost either outside the centre, or in the reeds at the Double-decker hide. However, numbers are low and not like those seen in previous years. Yet it is still a sight to behold and the best time to see this is around 3:30pm just before dusk.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Winter wildlife

The autumn wildlife has now started to appear on the reserve with the change of weather of late. Redwings are quite a common sight flying over the visitor centre and we had a brief sighting of a ring ouzel also by the visitor centre at one point. Fieldfares have been seen around the reserve and despite the various reports of a waxwing winter, none have been spotted on the reserve, YET. A yellowhammer has been seen on the field feeders recently and although these are not rare, Lackford is not the right type of habitat for them as they are usually a farmland bird, something which Lackford is not. However, this sighting goes onto our species list, which is now at 136 species for the year, equalling last years species list and there is still time left to go over that. We can only do that with your help of course. The majority of our sightings come from our visitors reporting back at the visitor centre telling us what they have seen, without them, our species list would be a lot less. So if you have a sighting, no matter how common you may think it is, please let us know.

We have a sightings book in the centre, just let us know what you've seen, or fill it in yourself, it's that simple.

A word from our Education officer

We have a new slot in this blog where another member of the Lackford team writes to tell us what's happening in their sector. This time it's our Education Officer Emma Keeble, over to you Emma...

Lackford had a really busy autumn half term last week with 4 events over the week. these ranged from a children’s activity on the Tuesday where the focus was on autumn and seasonal change. We read autumn stories, hunting for autumn leaves and made autumn pictures. The Wednesday saw the transformation of double decker into the spooky hide complete with cobwebs, pumpkins, spooky sounds and hanging bats for our family night walk. 73 people joined this event, calling up tawny owls, bat detecting, bug hunting by torch light and making bottle lanterns.

The spiders have been busy in the Double-decker hide

Some participants of the family night walk with their halloween creations
Our young wardens team worked like troopers on the Thursday clearing Alder scrub along Long Reach. The team of 20 strong 10-16 year olds coppiced a long stretch along the lake margin. The aim of young wardens is to get young people out and about with like minded individuals and give them a chance to gain practical conservation skills, many of them are interested in careers in conservation and this gives them a valuable insight into the work of people in this field.
The young wardens after a hard days coppicing

We finished the week with a woodland adventure family morning in Sheepwash, den building, fire lighting, making woodland arts and crafts. Another well attended event with over 50 participants all enjoying a beautiful autumnal morning in the woods exploring as a family. It was great to see children working alongside parents and grandparents to complete the challenges we set them. At the end of a busy week its fair to say the education team were fairly shattered but on a high following some lovely feedback, including this message from one happy parent:

Hi I would like to thank the Lackford Lakes team for a fantastic day for Young Wardens event today ( Emma Keeble and her team). My son come home very excited and insist that I book him on the next event in Feb immediately. He really enjoyed using the tools and equipment and felt that he was part of team carrying out proper work despite not knowing anyone. Thanks again for all the hard workMany thanks

A successfully built den.

Stickmen and snacks
Leaf collage at Naturally Art

The kids had a wonderful time creating at Naturally Art


As the weather takes a turn for cooler temperatures, wood stoves across the county are being fired up and if you think it's time to get yours going, we are selling bags of locally coppiced firewood here at Lackford for £6 per bag. Come into the visitor centre to buy your bags, if you want a large amount, give our centre a ring first to make sure we have enough in stock 01284 728706.

Christmas opening.

Well Christmas is not far away and this year, the centre will be closing early. Here's our opening times over the Christmas period:

Sunday December 11th centre closes at 4pm
Re-opens at 10am on Tuesday 27th December
The centre will then be open from 10 am - 4pm until Sunday 8th January.

On the subject of Christmas, if you've been wondering about what sort of gift to buy your naturalist loved one this year, why not pop down to Lackford this Saturday 19th November to visit our optics demonstration by Viking Optics. They will have a huge range of optics on display ready for you to try out and get the feel of so you can make the right choice.

Book sale

The recent book sale held at Lackford raised in excess of £700 for the trust. We would like to thank everyone who donated books, sorted and stored books and bought and sold books. Thank you very much indeed.


The kingfisher seems to be showing at Bernard's, the Double-decker and at the visitor centre pool too. Another new and becoming quite a regular sight at the centre, is a grey wagtail. This has been seen nearly everyday at the edge of the pool, so well worth popping in to check it out. Goldeneye's are now arriving on the lakes and can be seen from Bess' hide and on the Sailing lake, which now has the Winter hide open for business. We have had 4 goosander's seen on the Slough, 3 males & 1 female and can usually be seen in the afternoon. The Slough has also seen quite a few teal of late with numbers going over 200 at one point. Similar numbers of wigeon have also been seen at Bess' hide. We also had a visit from 4 white-fronted geese (2 ad, 2 juv) and 1 or possibly 2 pink-footed geese also seen from Bess' hide.

Another long awaited sighting that many of you love is our starlings. Back in 2014, we had around 17,000 murmuring outside the visitor centre, yet last year, there were none. Well, we are happy to say that this week, around 2,000 have been coming in to roost in the reed bed outside the centre. Some days they do a little murmuration and on some days they just fly straight down to roost. We can only hope that with time, the numbers will increase and the murmurations will begin. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Here comes amazing autumn!

Well what wonderful weather we've been having here at Lackford as summer draws to a close. But fear not, because the hot summer haze has gone, it doesn't mean the wildlife has too. This is an interesting time of year with various creatures moving around to find suitable habitat to spend the coming winter months. As you may have seen from previous posts, ospreys have been seen flying over the reserve, the latest one was seen this week flying over Bess' hide.
Osprey over the reserve © Mick Odell
This weekend, despite the change in weather, we had hundreds of house martins and sand martins flying over the sailing lake, stocking up on insects ready for the long journey back to Africa. Wigeon have started to be seen from Bess' hide, one of the first signs of autumn. It's not just about birds either, here at Lackford for the second year running ivy bee has been recorded feeding off the ivy on the Church walk near the field feeders. This is the last of the solitary bees to emerge in the year and its emergence is timed with the flowering of the ivy, its main source of food. A new species to science, being first discovered in 1993 and found in the UK in 2001, its spread is being monitored across the UK and we're glad to have it here at Lackford.

Ivy bee on Church walk © Hawk Honey
We also look forward to seeing the arrival of our winter ducks such as goldeneye, pintail and the beautiful goosander. This is the time when our gulls starts roosting on the sailing lake too and we also get the odd rarity there as well. However, with anything up to 20,000 gulls coming in to roost during the winter months, seeking them out can be quite a rewarding task. However, watching the spectacle of these birds arriving every evening is also a sight to behold.

The smaller birds such as siskin, redpoll, redwing and fieldfare also visit Lackford and can often be seen in large flocks numbering over 150+ birds. Who knows, we may even be really lucky and get the odd waxwing too!

Then there is the fantastic fungi that is scattered around the reserve. Last year we have tha amazing looking earth star and chicken of the woods in Ash carr.
Earth star on the reserve.
And don't forget the wonderful autumnal colours that adorn Lackford this time of year as the chemicals within the leaves change to beautiful reds and golds. So fear not that summer has gone, winter is not far away and we have all the wonderful wildlife that it may bring with it to look forward too.
Autumnal colours around the sailing lake.

Opening times changes

We will be closing a little earlier on the 22nd September at 4pm, last food orders at 3.30pm. On the 28th September we will be opening a little later at 11am due to stocktaking. The reserve will be open as normal and these times only apply to the visitor centre. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Latest events

On Wednesday 21st September, published wildlife photographer Kevin Sawford will be giving a talk. The life of a Suffolk Photographer will start at 7:30pm and ends at 10pm. There is no need to book, just turn up at the centre.

There are still spaces available on Paul's monthly Bird identification and song walk, on Saturday 24th Septamber 11am - 1pm. Just click on the link to book your place at £4 per person.

For the children, we have Naturally Art where all the children always have a great time creating art inspired by nature.

There's been a new path laid around most of the kingfisher trail thanks to Tesco's Bags of Help, which raised £8,000 from the carrier bag tariff. The new path is more compacted for easier wheelchair access and replaces areas of the path that were quite difficult to negotiate in wetter conditions.

New path on the kingfisher trail.


The kingfisher has been showing well across the whole of the reserve including the visitor centre and very few visitors leave the reserve without seeing one. As reported earlier wigeon are being spotted in ever increasing numbers. This is a strange time for ducks as they go through eclipse and even your basic mallard can look like something quite exotic. Black-tailed godwits have been spotted on the Slough this week along with green sandpiper, common sandpiper, snipe and greenshank.

Black-tailed godwit on the slough © Alan Theobald
Little grebe, great crested grebe and pochard have been seen from Fullers mill and Bess' hides and two snipe were seen from Paul's hide as well. Goldcrests have been seen in the bushes around the double-decker hide and treecreepers have been spotted along the path to Steggall's hide.  Whitethroat and tree sparrow have been seen around the visitor centre and tree sparrows have also been seen on the field feeders along Church walk.

Juvenile female kingfisher © Barry Woodhouse
Don't forget to report your sightings in the visitor centre before you leave, we want to know what you've seen whether it is common or not.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Summer is still with us.. but for how much longer 

With the warm weather still apon us there is no let up on the dragonflies and insects on the wing. With this late summer warmth its introduced a noticeable increase of migrant hawker dragonflies along with ruddy & common darter and brown hawker.

painted lady © Greg Veness

 A willow emerald damselfly is new for the year near Bess’s hide.
The first grayling of the year was seen last weekend and a purple hairstreak has been reported recently. Along with good numbers of brown argus, common blue, peacock, red admiral, comma and painted lady butterflies, the reserve total is now at 25 species for the year.

Plently of Birds on the reserve  

The birds on the reserve are stable with common sandpiper & green sandpiper and common terns as our main visitors along with our first ever black-tailed godwit this was spotted out on the Slough

black-tailed godwit © Joe Jackson 

Eyes to the sky

Recently an osprey has been spotted over Lackford and is now being seen more often, please keep a look out for this beautiful bird as it migrates south. Also we have had a wheatear spotted on site.

osprey © Greg Veness

The kingfishers are still putting on a beautiful show at (slough & eastern lakes) so why not pop down and see these beautiful birds. Kingfishers are a small and unmistakable bright blue and orange bird, that fly rapidly, low over the water and hunt fish from riverside perches. They will occasionally hover above the water's surface before diving for their food.

kingfisher © Larysa Flack 
kingfisher © Larysa Flack 

Time for a clear up

This week some of our volunteers were out and about checking our nest boxes after this years broods and came across a tree sparrow nest. We beleive that this maybe the first time they are nested at Lackford and we very much hope that we will return next year.

Smaller than house sparrow, they have a chestnut brown head and white cheeks and collar with a black cheek spot.

tree sparrow © Lackford volunteers  

tree sparrow nest © Lackford volunteers

Whats on at Lackford

This Saturday 3rd September we have our family bat walk, we will leave the visitor centre at 8pm and return at 10pm. Please bring a torch with you but bat dectors will be used.

On Saturday 10th September we have our Naturally Art event. From 10 am to 12pm Art activities will be undertaken with the inspiration of the wild

Dont forget to check out our website for all our events: Lackford Lakes We look forward to seeing you soon.

grey heron © Larysa Flack 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Feeling hot hot hot...

Summer is here

Well the sun is out and lets hope its here to stay. Over the last week the temperature has been rising and providing us with more opportunities to see amazing insects on the wing.

With the increase of temperature we are currently at 11 species of dragonfly and 17 species of butterfly.
brown argus © Jim Palfrey
Butterflies and dragonflies continue to impress our visitors at the reserve. Various brown butterflies and skippers are present in good numbers along with favourites such as ringlet, speckled wood and green veined white. Not new to the list but making a reappearance is red-eyed damselfly and the larger hawker dragonflies. With the clear blue skies ans warm weather why not pop along to the reserve.
brown hawker © Ian Goodall 
emperor © Ian Goodall

Kingfishers on the wing

Our kingfishers are doing well with another brood due to fledge in the next few weeks while birds from the first family are being seen regularly. The Double Decker hide and Hawker Pool sites are still the best with regular sightings at the visitor centre pool as well.

kingfisher © Ian Goodall
kingfisher © Ian Goodall

 Are waders going to call Lackford Lakes home?

 Over the last few weeks wading birds have been seen more and move over on The Slough. green sandpipers and a common sandpiper are regulars along with the occasional little ringed plover putting in a brief appearance. Please let us know if you spot any other birds to the centre.

common sandpiper © Joe Jackson 

 Summer holiday fun for all the family.

The summer holidays have started so why not visit Lackford Lakes and get reconnected with nature. There is plently happening from organised events to daily activities (details can be found on our website) Lackford Lakes, or click on one of the links found on the right of this page to find out about the many activities we have on offer.

We have organised events throughout August, please book online - full details are on the website but here is a slice of what we have to offer.
  • Family Fridays - every Friday 2 - 4pm 
  • Wednesday Family mornings - 3rd & 17th August
  • Activity mornings for 4-7 year olds Tuesday 9th & Tuesday 23rd August @ 10.30am - 12.30pm
  • Activity days for 8-12 year olds Thursday 11th & Thursday 18th August @10.30am - 2.30pm
Dont forget we have our daily activities in the summer, where you can get a spotter sheet and go looking for insects and wildlife. Or why not borrow one of our bug hunting kits and see what you can find.

Special Events not to be missed. 

Beautiful butterflies weekend. Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th August - During this weekend there will be wildlife guides present to help you spot those butterflies.

On Sunday 7th August there will also be a special butterfly themed wildlife wander, where visitors can join a guide to go looking for these butterflies.

Changes on the way.

 In the coming months we will be making improvements to the Kingfisher trail to improve your experience at the reserve. Currently we are also working on two spots - building a bigger hide overlooking the Slough where the old reed hide used to be. This will become Bernard's hide and will offer you closer views across the Slough to look for those waders. We are also building a platform not far from the centre that will overlook Bernard's pool. Allowing you the perfect location to watch dragonflies and butterflies.


Summer months.. where are you? 

After the deluges of last week, (rain rain go away come again another day) on Friday it brightened up and the wildlife took centre stage.

With the weather brightening up and the warmth bulding, there has been the emergence of fresh looking butterflies; in addition to last week’s browns, ringlet and speckled wood have joined the roll call. Peacock butterflies are splendid at the moment and all three skippers have been reported (large, small and Essex

peacock butterfly © Greg Veness

 What a site

A broad-bordered bee hawkmoth feeding on viper’s bugloss was one photographer’s highlight, and a nice record.

broad-bordered bee hawkmoth © Bob Chappell

Despite the wet weather the insects have been making lackford lakes their home. Numbers of dragonflies such as hairy and - new this week – emperor dragonflies are increasing. Brown butterflies such as gatekeeper and meadow brown are in evidence for the first time along with small copper and skipper. A notable event is the nesting of tree bumblebees in the Double Decker hide – please take care if using this hide


Flashes of blue

In the bird world the kingfishers have fledged, adults and juveniles can be spotted all around lackford. (good spot is the Double Decker hide) Look out for that flash of bright blue across the water, they are such a stunning bird to watch and with the sunny weather on the way the sun makes them even more beautiful.

kingfisher © Stephen Whayman

kingfisher © Stephen Whayman


 The sound of summer

The turtle dove is a dainty dove, its smaller and dark than a collared dove and slightly larger than a black bird. The upperparts are mottled with chesnut and black and its black tail has a white edge. The purr of a turtle dove is the sound of summer and its amazing that one was spotted on the wire along our church walk path.

turtle dove © Rich Berry
Turtle dove © Jonny Rankin

 Family fun

A day trip to lackford lakes is perfect for the family to connect with nature, pop into the visitor centre where you can pick up one of our spotter sheets (see how many species you can spot)

On saturday 9th July we have, Summer birds & butterfly ID.    

Explore lackford lakes with local birder and butterfly enthusiast, Paul Holness, and learn to observe and identify the great variety of species.

A chance to spend a relaxed and informative day learning new identification skills or brushing up on those you already have.  The wide variety of habitats at Lackford encourages a great range of bird and butterfly species and you will have the opportunity to see and hear a good number of both. This day is suitable for beginners and those with less experience. Booking is essential for this event so please visit our website for more details.

It was Naturally Art this weekend with our nature inspired art weekend for 5-10 year olds. This week there was an under the sea feel to it and was enjoyed as always by all who attended. If you would like your child to get involved, then book them onto our next session on the 10th Sept

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

red eyed damselfly © Joe Jackson
SWT Lackford Lakes

Well the weekend and this week so far have been one minute sunshine and then the next rain, but it has not stopped the wildlife here at Lackford Lakes.

Fledging birds have been seen all over the reserve despite the terrible weather. Blue tits, treecreepers, long-tailed tits and blackcaps are being spotted all over. The kingfishers have been visible around the Hawker Pool. The parents have been seen carrying large fish to the nest bank so please keep your eyes open for fledging Kingfishers!

Last weekend a spotted flycatcher was seen for the second time at Lackford feeding over the centre pool. It is often perched on the edge of the branches and will dart in and out to catch its dinner. If you do see this amazing bird please let us know in the visitor centre!

Damselflies and dragonflies are being seen all over Lackford. Look out for their striking colours and the beating of the wings flying past you.   

Four spotted chaser © Joe Jackson 

Sadly our dragonfly & damselfly identification on 25th June is now FULLY BOOKED. But... do not fear, every Saturday throughout June at 1pm we will be doing Discover the moths of Lackford

There is no need to book but be ready at the visitor centre just before 1pm.

The above video was taken at lackford two weekends ago and shows some of the species that are around at the moment.

Over the last few days our bee orchards have been flowering. We have at least 3 in bloom at the moment with many more preparing to burst into colour in the coming weeks.

One other event that has taken place this week is the appearance of a good range of butterfly species:brown argus, speckled wood, green veined white, red admiral and holly blue but on the top of the list is the painted lady making its appearance for the first time.

Great crested grebe on its nest © Gregory Veness

There are no new birds to add to our list but a count of 100 lapwing are on The Slough, along with the odd common tern.