Dabbling Ducks feed in shallow water or in floating weed, by flipping upside down, with their tails sticking up in the air. You can find some at the Pits all year round, for example, the familiar mallard and the distinctive shoveler with its broad, spade-shaped bill.
In the winter, many more ducks arrive to escape the freezing weather in Scandinavia and Siberia. These include hundreds of teal, our smallest duck. The male teal is easily identified by the bright, iridescent green stripe across its face. As is usual with ducks, the female teal is duller: if you spot a small, brown duck with a green wing flash then it’s probably a female teal.
You still have to be lucky to see them but sightings of otters seem to have become more frequent recently. They have been spotted on Hayling Pit and Heronry Lake, often in small groups. Their return to the Ouse Valley, and to most other rivers in the UK, is one of the great success stories in nature conservation and a result of big improvements in water quality.
Now that most trees have lost their leaves, the evergreen ivy, twisting its way up their trunks, is much more conspicuous. Ivy flowers from September to November and its nectar and berries are a valuable food source for insects and birds in autumn and winter.
It’s said that Robins are associated with Christmas because Victorian postmen wore red uniforms but maybe it’s simply because robins are so numerous and prominent at this time of the year. Our local resident birds keep singing and defending their territories all through the winter and they are joined by many more from the continent.