Friday 31 January 2020

Dip Into The World Of Dabbling Ducks

Cheshire Wildlife Trust's latest newsletter provides help with dabbling duck identification.

Dip Into The World Of Dabbling Ducks

Winter is a wonderful time to see wildlife, particularly for fans of our feathered friends. As the cold grip of the Arctic winter takes hold on the lakes, pools and marshes of Northern Europe and Russia, huge numbers of swans, ducks and geese retreat to the relative warmth of the UK. Our lakes, rivers, reservoirs and coasts are a winter home for an estimated 2.1 million ducks!

Are you a dabbler or a diver?

Ducks can be split into two broad groups: dabblers and divers. As the name suggests, diving ducks feed mainly by diving underwater, using their strong feet (and sometimes their wings) to swim. Dabbling ducks, however, feed predominantly at the surface, sometimes even grazing on land. Many dabblers can often be seen upending, with their heads underwater and their bums in the air.

We’ve pulled together an introduction to the dabbling ducks you’re most likely to see this winter, with a quick guide on how to recognise both males and females. So why not wrap up warm, head to your nearest water body and search for some spinning shovelers, whistling wigeon or pristine pintails.

The dabbling duck ID guide

Top tip: a useful way of identifying ducks (especially females) is to look at the speculum – this is a coloured patch on the secondary flight feathers, which are the feathers at the trailing edge of the wing, close to the body. The speculum is often a distinctive colour and can easily be seen in flight, and regularly seen on swimming or standing birds.

Mallard (male)

Mallard male

The classic duck. Males have a yellow bill and a green head, separated from the brown breast by a thin white collar. The body is mostly grey, with a black rump. The black middle tail feathers curl upwards. The speculum is dark blue with a white border

Mallard (female)

Mallard female

Females are a streaky brown all over. They have a patchy orange and black bill (see gadwall for comparison). Like males, they have a dark blue speculum with broad white borders. This is obvious in flight and can sometimes be seen when the duck is on the water or ground.

Gadwall (male)

Gadwall male

Slightly smaller and slimmer than a mallard. Males are mostly grey, with a wavy pattern (known as vermiculations) that is strongest on the breast. They have slightly browner heads, brown feathers on the back and a black rear. The bill is greyish-black and the speculum is small and white.

Gadwall (female)

Gadwall female

Females are very similar to female mallards, though slightly smaller and slimmer. The best features to look for are the small white speculum on the wing (much smaller than in male gadwalls) and the bill, which is dark with a neat orange stripe along each side (patchier orange and black in mallard).

Pintail (male)

Pintail male

An elegant duck, with a small brown head, a long neck that's brown at the back and white at the front, and grey body. The black middle feathers of the tail are very long. The speculum is dark green, with a white border at the back and a rusty border at the front. The bill is black with blue sides.

Pintail (female)

Pintail female

Like a slim, elegant mallard, with a long, slender neck and long, pointed tail feathers (not as long as in male). The head is a richer brown than the greyish body, the bill is dark grey and the speculum is bronze-brown with a thick white border at the trailing edge and a narrow white border at the front.

Shoveler (male)

Shoveler male

Similar size to a mallard. Males have a glossy green head, a yellow eye and a huge, broad dark bill. The belly and sides are a rich chestnut brown and the breast is white. The speculum is green, with a white border at the front and a large blue patch on the forewing. Shovelers often feed in pairs or groups, spinning around each other.

Shoveler (female)

Shoveler female

Resembles a female mallard, but with a huge, broad bill (paler than the male's). The speculum is a dull green (blue in mallard), with a white border at the front and no white on the trailing edge (mallard has a white trailing edge).

Teal (male)

Teal male

Our smallest duck (about 2/3 the size of a mallard). The head is chestnut with a yellow-bordered green patch on each side. The body is grey with a horizontal white line running along it, and a yellow patch either side of the rear. The speculum is bright green.

Teal (female)

Teal female

A very small, streaky brown duck, with a small, dark bill that often has orange towards the base. The speculum is bright green, with a broad white bar in front of it and a narrower one at the trailing edge of the wing.

Wigeon (male)

Wigeon male

Smaller than a mallard, with a short neck and small, blue, black-tipped bill. They have a round, chestnut head with a creamy-yellow patch on the forehead. The body is mostly grey, with a white belly, pinkish breast and black rear. The speculum is green with a large white patch in front of it. Often gives a whistling call.

Wigeon (female)

Wigeon female

Females are mostly a mottled brown, though the shades can vary from greyish-brown to a richer red-brown. They have a small, round head and short, blue bill with a black tip. The belly is white and the speculum is dark and they lack the large white patch of the male. Often in large groups, grazing.

See them in action

Dive deeper into the world of dabbling ducks with our video identification guide!

Where to see dabbling ducks

Cheshire Wildlife Trust care for many wetland nature reserves across our region of Cheshire, Halton, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Warringon and Wirral. Here are some of best wild places for dabbling ducks.

Compstall Nature Reserve, Etherow Country Park
Gowy Meadows, Thornton-le-Moors
Hatchmere, Frodsham
Marbury Reedbed, Northwich
Trentabank Reservoir, Macclesfield Forest

Let us know how you get on!

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Bumblebee Identification Session at Chester Zoo

RECORD are holding their first Drop In Session of the year at Chester Zoo next month.

Wednesday 12th February, 6.30- 9 pm
Mottershead Suite, Cedar House, Chester Zoo

Book your place on eventbrite here

We’ll have museum specimens, guides and microscopes on hand to use, so you can familiarise yourself with the bumblebees you are likely to encounter in Cheshire this year. If you’re new to invertebrate identification, we’ll help get you started and work together to understand what features to look out for. For anyone with an existing interest, it’s a great chance to find out some more detail about this group through practicing species identification in a friendly setting.

*Please note* This is not a formal workshop, just an opportunity to 'give it a go' along with other interested people in a shared learning environment.

These Drop-in Sessions are run in collaboration with the Tanyptera project.

Whilst each session will have a theme, you’re welcome to work on your own tasks making use of the RECORD/World Museum facilities. You can request museum reference specimens, equipment and literature in advance to help check identifications / practice with a particular group. Feel free to bring your own material too.

There is no need to be present for the whole session but if you would like to attend please book via eventbrite.

Email for more information or to request specimens or equipment for the session.

If you book on but can no longer attend, please cancel your place on eventbrite or by emailing us as soon as you can so that someone else can take your place.

Kind regards,
Tel: 01244 383749
RECORD LRC, Cedar House, Chester Zoo, Caughall Road, Upton, CH2 1LH.

Monday 27 January 2020

Have Your Say On Wirral's Local Plan For 2020 – 2035

Have your say on the local plan

Wirral Council has submitted a Local Plan Action Plan to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The new Local Plan for Wirral is an important document which will help to shape the future of the Borough. The new Plan will set the long-term vision, objectives and policies for the Borough over a 15 year period between 2020 and 2035. The Plan will set the context for and help drive the regeneration of Birkenhead, it will support appropriate housing growth, encourage new employment and help protect our natural and heritage assets.

Following approval at a special meeting of Cabinet and an extraordinary meeting of full Council, Wirral's Issues and Options Local Plan 2020 - 2035 was approved for public consultation.

It can be accessed via the Council website

Use the website to have your say on Wirral Council’s proposed plans for development and regeneration in the borough.

Please have a look at it. There is much paperwork, but the important part is the Issues and Options report, especially for us as a Wildlife Trust, sections 4, 7 and 8.

Consultation will commence on Monday 27 January and run for 8 weeks until Monday 23 March.

All documents relating to the Local Plan will be available on the website for comment when the consultation commences.

Getting the right policies in place now will help to defend wildlife in the future.

Please read and respond, either directly via the Council consultation, or by sending comments to

Please send anything to us by end of February, as our volunteer team and the Planning Officer at Cheshire Wildlife Trust need time to put our response together before the consultation ends.

Sunday 26 January 2020

A Planet Full Of Plastic

Wirral Wildlife’s stall at Science Under The Stars. The dinosaur was only prevented from gobbling up a CWT recruiter by the size of the doorway.
Wirral Wildlife’s stall at Science Under The Stars. The dinosaur was only prevented from gobbling up a CWT recruiter by the size of the doorway.

We were pleased to be asked to attend two local events this month.

On Thursday 23rd January Heswall Primary School presented this year’s Science under the Stars with the theme ‘A Planet Full Of Plastic’.

Learning about plastic pollution on our beaches
Learning about plastic pollution on our beaches

Over 1,000 people attended the premiere of 'A Planet Full of Plastic (and how we can help)', a unique conservation film produced by local schools about reducing the use of single-use plastic, inspired by Neal Layton's book, which shares the same title.

View it at

Our stall at Message In A Bottle.
Our stall at Message In A Bottle.

On Saturday 25th January we were at Claremount Church, Wallasey as part of ‘Message in a Bottle’, an event to highlight the problems created by plastic. We took the message about plastic pollution on our beaches while others showcased actions such as recycling, litter picking and upcycling.

The Recycle Right stall at Message In A Bottle.
The Recycle Right stall at Message In A Bottle.

Monday 13 January 2020

Science Under The Stars

Science Under The Stars
Thursday 23rd January

4 - 6 pm
Heswall Primary School, Whitfield Lane, Heswall, CH60 7SD

A special outdoor evening of scientific discovery for teachers, trainee teachers, school childre, families and UK scientific and conservation organisations.

Free entry.

Enjoy hands on scientific adventures, visit the inflatable planetarium, use telescopes, make bird feeders, cuddle a snake, make a torch to follow the ocean themed UV outdoor trail and watch an exciting 3D film.

Wirral Wildlife will be at the event with a stall highlighting the problems caused to wildlife by plastic waste. Other organisations will include Chester Zoo, Wirral Rangers, Trust for Conservation Volunteers, RSPB, Ness Gardens and Wirral Animal Sanctuary.

Parking on the site will be limited. Walking to the venue is highly recommended.

Saturday 11 January 2020

Prize Quiz Deadline Reminder

Beside the seaside. The view from Hilbre Island. Photo: Duca di Spinaci, Flickr

For anyone who wants to enter this year’s Prize Quiz, a reminder that we need to receive your entry by the closing date of 31st January.

All answers are all seaside themed. Good luck!

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Message In A Bottle

Claremount Methodist Church in Wallasey are hosting an event to persuade Coca Cola to change their ways and reduce plastic pollution.

Saturday 25th January
12-3 pm
Claremount Methodist Church, Claremount Road, Wallasey, CH45 6UE

Everyone is invited to join in the lunch and listen to inspiring speakers.

Please bring a clean empty plastic bottle of Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Powerade, Innocent, Oasis or Smart Water to put your message in.