Winter at Lackford Lakes is full of atmosphere. . . Sophie Mayes, Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s wild learning officer, shows us around and introduces us to some of the wildlife you can see there
Winter at Lackford has its many moods and this year has been no different. As we have moved into winter, we have already experienced cold crisp sunshine, moody misty mornings, and frosty frozen landscapes. The winter wildlife, such as the ducks on the lakes and the small birds like the redwings, which are feasting on the hawthorn berries along the track, all form part of this winter atmosphere around Lackford Lakes.
When you first arrive at the lakes in the morning, one could be forgiven for thinking the reserve was hibernating as with the many misty cold mornings before the sun fully rises not much apart from the resident sheep can be seen around and perhaps, like us, the reserve hasn’t fully woken up.
Throughout the day though the mood on the lakes becomes one of business and joy, as the winter ducks, such as wigeon, gadwall and teal, all go about their day, exchanging information, feeding and competing for the best areas. It is worth stopping at the sailing lake benches on the blue route with your binoculars to view these ducks that come in many shapes and sizes. A couple of goldeneyes have been spotted occasionally on the sailing lake, too, although they are hard to spot among all the shovelers and tufted ducks. You can also see gaggles of geese and mute swans.
Away from the lake, the slough is also alive with winter ducks, but if you look close to the fringes of the lake then wading birds like snipe can be spotted camouflaged among the vegetation.
Back at the centre, the feeders which can be viewed from the fence are constantly being visited by an array of small birds. We have seen only one redpoll thus far but expect more to appear over the next few weeks. The tits family, however, seem not to be worried about social distancing as the blue tit, great tit, marsh tit and long-tailed tit are all enjoying munching on the sunflower hearts. If you walk further down to ash carr along the green route and head towards the stump, you can be almost sure to see the nuthatch and tree creeper as well as jays and the very festive robin.
Towards the end of the day the mood shifts once again as the winter sun begins to dip, the sailing lake starts to become a place of rest with hundreds of gulls coming in to roost for the night. The gulls can be seen almost 3pm on the dot coming in from fields nearby. This roosting site is important for not only warmth and protection through winter but the important exchange of information. During this time, reed buntings can also be seen zipping into the reeds trying to avoid the sight of the sparrow hawk which is often waiting nearby for an easy dinner.
It is the views, though, over the sailing lake which really signal the end of the day, as the winter sun gives off bright hues of orange and pinks into the sky and the birds become silhouetted against the lake.
Whatever mood you find Lackford in during your visit, the best way to experience it is with a hot chocolate and a warm sausage roll in hand! Which you can purchase from the visitor centre hatch on the side of the building. Our friendly staff are also able to give advice for the small birds in your garden, as well as help you purchase some lovely Christmas gifts for loved ones.
The hatch and toilets are open 10am-3.30pm every day and our reserve is open 8am-5pm.
We look forward to seeing you.