Wintering ducks reach their peak numbers in February and last week we had an influx of smews, arguably the most beautiful as well as one of the most sought after wildfowl in Britain.

Here is a picture of a female:

Image credit: Ben Hall (

Female plumaged birds outnumber the males and are called ‘redheads’ due to their reddish brown cap and forehead, they have a white cheek. The males are stunning, pure white with a black eye mask and crest and further body stripes. They are called sawbills due to their serrated bill, perfect for holding fish, which they dive for. They may appear on our lakes singly or in small flocks and last year we had our largest flock, 19 birds, in March, but there are currently 21 birds here. The best place to see them is on the Needingworth Lakes 'Barleycroft trail', either on the second main lake on your left after leaving the car park, or on the first large lake on your right. Please do not climb over gates or fences.

Surprisingly, smews, like goldeneyes, breed in northern boreal lakes in Scandanavia and Russia and nest in the holes made in trees by large woodpeckers.

We apologise for the very muddy condition at the beginning of the access trail, work will be done this summer to improve conditions here. The rest of the trail is in better condition.

Barry O' Dowd (Warden)