Posted: Monday 30th November 2015 by Rachel

Mallards on iceMallards on ice - Derek Moore

The first frost of the winter came as a bit of a shock to me. Even in the office, I have a warm mug of tea, not just to drink; it’s also a convenient hand-warmer. Whenever I visit a nature reserve at this time of year, I pile on the layers of clothes and remember my gloves and a hat

Wetlands are perhaps one of the best places to visit at this time of year. During the Autumn, our resident ducks are joined by a number of different species sometimes in very large numbers. Amongst the mallards and tufted ducks, there could be shovelers with a long, broad shovel-shaped bill; small teal with a bright green wing patch; smart pintails with long, pointed tail feathers; and pochards with chestnut-coloured heads. These ducks have flown from Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia and continental Europe where the winters are much colder and food is hard to find. They will stay here for the winter and then return north to breed.

Whenever I watch them from inside a bird hide, wearing thick socks and woolly gloves, I can’t help but wonder how cold my feet would be if I dangled them in the water. Fortunately ducks have a clever way of keeping their feet warm so they can swim on the lakes and even stand on ice. Ducks and many other birds have a counter-current heat exchange in their legs. As warm blood from the body flows down the legs, it passes close to the cold blood returning from the feet and going back into the body. The heat is transferred; making the cold blood going back to the body warmer, and the warm blood going into the feet colder. The ducks feet are always cool so when they are in water or standing on ice they don’t lose vital body heat.

There are a number of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust wetland nature reserves that attract large numbers of wintering ducks as well as a range of other bird species.

South Lincolnshire:

Despite being a drained arable farm prior to 2009, the new fenland reserve of Willow Tree Fen is already attracting large numbers of wildfowl such as wigeon, teal and mallard. There are also waders including lapwing, redshank and snipe. Willow Tree Fen is between Baston and Spalding on the road that connects the small hamlets of Tongue End and Pode Hole.

Deeping Lakes consists of a number of flooded gravel pits which in winter hold large numbers of ducks, gulls and geese including goldeneye, shelduck and pochard. Wintering thrush species, redwing and fieldfare, are also attracted to feed in the hedgerows on the reserve. Deeping Lakes is south east of Deeping St James off the B1166.


Whisby Nature Park just outside Lincoln is one of our most well-known nature reserves. In the winter, water levels in the lakes are at their highest and wildfowl are numerous. There is an extensive network of paths, waymarked trails of varying lengths and birdwatching hides. 
Whisby Nature Park is south of Lincolns, clearly signposted from the A46.

Much of Kirkby Gravel Pits consists of flooded sand and gravel pits. Autumn and winter bring migrant wildfowl and waders including congregations of teal and other ducks. It is particularly good for smew. Kirkby Gravel Pits is about 1.5km south of Kirkby-on-Bain, Woodhall Spa.

North Lincolnshire:

Messingham Sand Quarry was created by the excavation of sand which has left a series of lakes. These lakes are a haven for wintering wildfowl including teal, wigeon, mallard and pochard. 
Messingham Sand Quarry is east of the B1400 Messingham to Kirton road opposite Scallow Grove Farm, Messingham.

In winter many more wildfowl can be seen at Far Ings including wigeon, teal, goldeneye and gadwall, goosander and occasionally smew. Among the wildfowl, look for bittern and water rail. 



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