Blog Post: Duck spotting

It's a strange time for us all at the moment, but it’s lovely to hear how much nature helps lift your spirits through lockdown. We know for many of you, our Ribble Estuary reserves are a big part of providing enjoyment and solace in the natural world, so with that in mind we have a bit of a duck challenge for you this week... Fairhaven Lake Scaup and tufted duck For visitors to Fairhaven in winter the sight of bobbing black and white ducks upon the lake will be a familiar one. These birds are tufted ducks and each year we see sizeable flocks arrive to spend the colder months with us here at Lytham. Tufted ducks ate relatively common birds and can be found on lakes and large ponds across the country but if you look a little more closely you may spot something unusual among the flotilla of ‘tufties’… This last two weeks has seen a small number of scaup mingling with the tufted duck flock. Scaup are scarce visitors here and, like their more familiar cousins, they are a diving duck and they do look very similar to the tufties. So how can you tell the difference between these handsome birds? Both of these ducks are referred to as "aythya" ducks, derived from the Greek word "aithuia" which is a term for sea-dwelling ducks. Scaup are a truer sea duck than the tufted duck, breeding on Scandanavian coasts and mountain lakes, whereas the tufties take it a little gentler and are more commonly seen on lakes and ponds albeit fairly near the coast. Tufted ducks form larger flocks in winter and it is generally around this time that the scaup make their migrations southward from Scandanavia and Iceland and some join these wintering flocks on inland lakes. Scaup are generally a slightly larger duck and have a much rounder head and a somewhat longer neck. As the name suggests tufted duck have a tufted crest on their head which the scaup lack. Both ducks are similarly coloured. The females of both are brown; scaup females lack the tuft on the back of their heads and have a large white patch at the base of their bill. Female tufted duck can also have a similar white patch but it is much more pronounced in scaup. The males of each may look similar to one another at first glance too. Again, scaup lack the crest and have a greener gloss to their head whereas tufted ducks are much more purple, though this is often difficult to see. The drakes of both ducks have white flanks (sides) but the most easily seen difference is in the colour of their backs – tufted ducks have a black back whereas male scaups have a pale grey back. Both scaup and tufted duck can be seen at Fairhaven Lake and Marshside at the moment. There may well be more scaup dotted amongst tufted duck groups in other local parks and lakes - next time you go out why not see if you can spot one? If you do, then let us know where and when! Female scaup on Fairhaven Lake Jo Taylor Female tufted duck Ben Hall RSPB-images Male tufted duck Grahame Madge RSPB-images Male scaup Mike Malpass NEWSFLASH: There's also been a "new recruit" spotted in the form of a male pochard . This little guy is un-mistakable as he has a red head. Again pochard are diving ducks which is the likely reason why he has joined this group. There was a male pochard on the lake this time last year too, so it's plausible that this is the same bird. If you see any other types of ducks on the lake then please do let us know, we do get the occasional rarity, I think that this year could be our year? Mallard, pochard and tufted duck Jo Taylor Ribble Discovery Centre Work continues in the Ribble Discovery Centre, with the building now ready for some internal re-construction. Please bear with us the moment as we do not currently have a telephone number. For all bird and other wildlife enquiries please ring our wildlife enquiries hotline on 01767 693690 (9:30-16:30, Monday to Friday) For all shop related matters please click here A sneaky look in the centre! Jo Taylor Marshside We're delighted that the car park and both hides are open daily, 8.30am-5pm, along with all the trails. You’ll notice we’ve made some changes to help keep you and our team safe: When visiting us, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage. Hesketh Out Marsh We're pleased to say the car park is open, along with the trails. As with Marshside, please be mindful that it has limited capacity and can quickly become full in fine weather. D o consider visiting at less busy times or have an alternative destination in mind if we are full when you get here. Please do not park along Dib Road, as it causes an obstruction for our neighbours and other visitors. On-site, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage. Jo