Dabblers and divers are filling up College Lake this month, says
TO MANY people a duck is a duck is a duck, but look more closely at these wildfowl and you’ll notice there are several fascinating differences between dabblers and divers.
Take the mallard, one of the easiest birds to spot if you’re near a lake, pond or river.
They quack, waddle as they walk on their large webbed feet, and look very funny when they’re swimming on the water’s surface and suddenly tip up.
The mallard is a dabbler or puddle-duck that feeds on or close to the surface of the water.
Because their feet are roughly central to their body they can tip up easily, giving that comical ‘duck’s tail’ as they feed on small insects in the underwater grasses and mud.
Dabblers like the mallard and gadwall, have shovel-shaped bills to help them feed.
The shoveler is an aptly-named bird that often swims in pairs, spiralling in one spot to stir up the mud from below before they ‘sieve’ insects from the gritty debris.
Divers prefer to plunge below the surface to feed. Tufted duck and pochard are two of the divers you’ll see at College Lake.
The narrow wings and feet of divers are set back on the bird’s body so that they’re streamlined to swim underwater for fish and insects.
Watch them slip below the surface in one place to pop up a few minutes later several yards away gulping down their prey.
Divers usually run across the surface of the lake as they take flight, and then come back fast, often skidding on the water until they stop.
The broad wings of dabblers give them the power for vertical take-off, and they can land with pinpoint accuracy.
Come to College Lake this winter and be amazed by the dabblers, including teal, wigeon with their distinctive whistling call, gadwall, shoveler and of course the mallard; and the divers, including pochard, which is usually resting on the islands during the day, and the tufted ducks with their piebald plumage and blue bills.
Go to bbowt.org.uk/collegelake to plan your visit to this wonderful wildlife site.