Winter at Lackford Lakes is a special time of year, with crisp frosty days under cerulean blue skies, the place becomes quite magical.
In frozen puddles form various natural patterns from consecutive nights of frost. The odd colourful leaf still hanging on from autumn after all of its comrades have fallen. Flitting through the trees the faint calls of long-tailed tits can be heard as they fly from bush to tree to bush in search of food. The sad sorrowful call of bullfinches alerts you to a flash of bright rosy pink feathers on the male’s chest, while the drab females go unseen. Siskins and redpoll chatter in the alder as they prise open cones for their seeds. In among the tangles of bramble bushes, tiny goldcrests can be seen with a shocking stripe of yellow worn like a mohawk. In hawthorn bushes, travellers from Scandinavia, such as fieldfare and redwings, seek out the much sought-after berries and fallen fruit from autumn gone.
Out on the lakes, geese and ducks call as they bathe in icy waters. Goldeneye dive seeking out tasty crayfish that dwell in the deep. Swans drift lazily through the mist, stopping occasionally to sink their head into the flat mill pond water to graze on underwater weeds. In among the sleeping teal and tufted ducks walk snipe, going almost unseen in their excellent camouflage, probing the soft mud with their long beaks looking for a tasty morsel.
As the day draws in, others come in to roost. Goosander are usually the first – a large tooth-billed duck that patrols along the reed edge. Gulls of all shapes and sizes begin to drift slowly across the sky as they come in from a day’s feeding in the fields and towns to roost in numbers exceeding 15,000 on our sailing lake. Like a snow blizzard, they spiral down before landing calmly on the water.
And what a better way to end the day than by sitting in our visitor centre drinking a hot chocolate with some cake and watching as thousands of starlings bring an end to the day’s proceedings with a mesmeric murmuration. Afterwards, pick up a copy of our What’s On to book up a winter walk to find out more about the wildlife you’ve seen.
Hawk Honey, Visitor officer, SWT Lackford Lakes