Sunday, 7 February 2016

Feb 7th Lackford Lakes

Lackford Lakes
It was a case of new location, new binoculars and new car today. My parents and I have travelled across to Suffolk in their new car to visit somewhere we have never been before. We have heard great things about the Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve of Lackford Lakes, just a few miles from Thetford, so we decided to pay a visit today. My binoculars are also in repair for three weeks, which meant I had to buy a spare pair as an early birthday present (which is next month). It was a great place to test them out on their first outing.

Lackford Lakes has about 9 hides overlooking a series of small lakes and I have been told it is a great place to see interesting species of duck. The staff have been very helpful and told us that there is a female long-tailed duck on one of the lakes on the other half of the reserve. We decided to go see it later after a visit to the 5 hides close to the visitor centre. The trail linking to these hides forms a looping curcuit back to the visitor centre, providing views of some of the lakes and pools. The alder trees surrounding the trail were alive with siskins feeding on the small cones. You could hear a cacophony of their wheezing throughout this part of the reserve.

From the 5 hides overlooking the lakes and scrapes, the wind was blowing across the surface of the water, making them appear like a stormy sea with rough waves. The tufted ducks, gadwall, coots and Canada geese kept vanashing behind these waves on one of the lakes. Out on the shallower pools, teal, pochard, shelducks, shovelers, mallards and greylags added to the growing list of wildfowl along with a lapwing, a heron and a crow that was enjoying taking a bath.

Tufted Ducks, Pochard and Black-headed Gulls
Canada Goose, Coot and Gadwalls amongst rough waves
Canada Geese
Female Tufted Duck
Male Tufted Duck
Canada Geese and Greylag
Grey Heron
Carrion Crow
Long-tailed Tit
We returned to the visitor centre for lunch, while watching the feeder outside. These feeders were attracting blue, great, long-tailed and marsh tits, blackbirds, robins, chaffinches and even a moorhen and a reed bunting. After lunch, we made our way the lakes on the other half of the reserve. Along the way, we came across a fallen tree which had seed scattered all over it to attract nuthatches, coal tits and marsh tits for photographers. They were unbothered by our presence and you could stand a couple of feet from this tree without scaring them off. They were used to people, but that didn't mean they were easy to photograph as they were constantly moving and were gone before I could take a shot.

Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit
From 2 of the remaining 4 hides, there was no sign of the long-tailed duck and we saw mostly the same species of wildfowl as before. We did, however, see a little grebe and a few goldeneyes and mute swans. The goldeneyes in particular are wonderful looking ducks, especially the males with their green heads, white cheeks, yellow eyes and black and white body. The males were chasing each other, defending their patch to display to the brown females. I could hear a few of them calling on the lake, a sign that they are displaying already.

Tufted Ducks
Female Long-tailed Duck
We were making our way towards the final 2 hides, when suddenly everyone was forming a small crowd around part of a lake. Cameras were pointed out onto the lake. The long-tailed duck was here! My first ever! Though it was no where near as stunning as a male bird, which possesses that long tail that the species is named for, this female was still beautiful in its own right. It stands out of the crowd with its white face, black cheeks, dark wings and pale flanks. You could not mistake it for much else! This is a special bird, not just for its looks, but also for the fact that this is actually a sea bird! Normally, long-tailed ducks are winter visitors to our coastline, mainly around Scotland. So to have one inland like this one is very unusual. Apparently, this is the first time in 20 years that one has turned up here and it has been at the lakes since November. How lucky was I to make my first visit here at the same time this female was around?! I will probably never get such close views of one like this again!

After our encounter with the long-tailed duck, we made our way back to the car. The sound of bullfinches calling somewhere in the hedgerow surrounding the car park caught my attention. I couldn't see any, but it was a great send off to our first visit to this reserve. It was a great day and the long-tailed duck was the icing on the cake. We will certainly come again one day soon.


  1. What a fantastic site - and beautiful photos. I've never seen a long-tailed duck, what a lovely bird. Congratulations too on your very well-deserved BBC Wildlife Bloggers Award.

    1. Thanks very much. It was a pleasent surprise when I saw the announcement of the award. I hope this year is just as successful.