Our lakes are fantastic. They take runoff from our homes, save on our water bills, prevent flooding, and are homes to a variety of water birds. Here’s a guide to some of the birds on our lakes. You’ll see Canada Geese, and Black Headed Gulls, and others too.
Male pochard, May 2020. Pochard family, July 2020 Pochards. Aytha ferina. There are reckoned to be about 600 breeding pairs in the UK, so it’s pretty special to have a brood raised here this year.
Diving Tufted duck, and young. July 2020 A male. Notice the tuft at the back of the head, which is often hard to see. Tufted duck. Aythya fuligula. The yellow eye is the easiest way to distinguish between the female tufted duck, and the Pochard. These, and the Pochards, are diving ducks – which makes them really fun to watch. Note, this is the same genus (Aythya) as the Pochard. About 7,500 breeding pairs in the UK. Including one here, this year.
Goosanders. Mergus merganser. Diving ducks. Don’t usually breed in the north of England. Likely Scandinavian visitors. The male is the red-head. The colour is like that of the Pochard, but these have scruffier head plumage, and a hooked beak.
RSPB to the rescue. The female waits for her mate to return. Please keep dogs out of the water. It’s not safe for them! Mute Swans. The male swan was injured by fishing line, in March 2020. Some fool lost his remote controlled boat on a duck island, and tried to recover it with fishing tackle. Here, the RSPB do their thing! There’s a pair that breeds here regularly, building a tall nest in the reeds. They’ve raised three cygnets this year, which seem to be doing well.
Coot. May 2019. A coot. Fulica atra. Similar to a moorhen, but the white head plumage gives us the phrase ‘bald as a coot’, so that’s how you can remember which is which. These guys have webbed feet, unlike the moor hens. I’ve not seen a coot here, this year.
Moorhen. Gallinula chloropus. Note the lack of webbing on the feet. Moorhens have fared better than the coots here. They’ve just produced a second clutch of young.
Look carefully, there’s a heron in that tree. Little Egret. Angry duck! Heron. Two or three Grey Herons ( Ardea cinerea) regularly feed on our lakes. Mostly fish, but here you can see they’re not fussy. They are very timid, though. They nest in tree tops. There’s a great heronry at the RSPB’s Fairburn Ings, between here and Leeds. The Little Egret ( Egretta garzetta) is a heron, too: the name ‘egret’ comes from the French ‘ Aigrette‘, meaning little heron. So it’s a little little heron.
Black Headed Gulls ( Chroiocephalus ridibundus). We see a lot of these in winter, when -confusingly- they lose the black colour from their heads. In summer, they have black faces.
Greater Canada Goose ( Branta canadensis). You’ll likely see these earlier in the year, being chased away by the swans. In previous years (2019 and earlier) they’ve bred on the lakes, but this year they’ve all been chased away. They can be noisy so-and-sos!
Mallard ( Anas platyrhynchos). A very common duck. The breeding male has a bright green head, from October to May, but looks a lot like the female in the rest of the year. Notice the white fronted male above: that’s an Aylesbury duck-a domesticated mallard.
You might also see a kingfisher feeding – especially when the beck is murky.