I am sitting in my office looking out of the window, it’s late afternoon and it’s starting to get dark! Where has the summer just gone?
The winter is just around the corner and this obviously brings new challenges to the management of the West Suffolk Reserves but it also brings lots of seasonal wildlife visitors to Lackford Lakes. I think the best way to describe the reserve in its winter mood is to take you on a tour of the hides and try to describe what you might see.
Orchid hide: A great place to start a day’s winter birding at Lackford, it overlooks the sailing lake, which is roughly 12 acres, so there’s always plenty of bird life. Early winter is a good time to see widgeon feeding on the last of the summer weed growth and I would expect to see 20 or more pairs of the long-billed shoveller duck swimming round and round dabbling at the lake’s surface. If you scan the lake through a set of binoculars you should pick out the sharp white wing bars of a male goldeneye.
Bill’s hide: Looking out over the Slough Lake, again good wildfowl numbers can be seen, but take time to scan the muddy edge – elusive snipe should be feeding in the soft margin and you might get lucky and spot some noisy redshank. Bills hide is always good for the tiny teal duck, several hundred can be seen, but best of all is their lovely whistling sound. In this hide you can almost set your watch with the arrival of the stunning goosander, they tend to drop on to the Slough Lake at 3.30pm, have a social gathering, then swim to your left to roost for the cold winter’s night.
Reed hide: A small cosy hide when, even in winter, I still see kingfisher perching only 20ft away. Next door in the double decker hide the resident little egret comes into sight standing proudly in the cold water looking for the next meal.
Bess’s hide: This is where I take my time to scan the mature alder trees for large groups of redpoll and siskin. They are usually hanging upside down feeding on the split alder cones.
Next month,I will continue my winter walk around Lackford, in the meantime I hope to see you on the trails wrapped up warm and glowing with excitement for the wildlife to be found.
PICTURES: Joe Davies, Jason Thorpe, Neil Phillips, Ian Goodall