The sheltered waters of the ponds attract many different birds. Herons fish here in the early morning, while moorhens and mallard are resident all the year round. Dabchicks (Little Grebes) are sometimes difficult to see during the summer, staying well concealed in the bankside vegetation.

One of the most impressive local birds, which you will usually find on the upper pond at Soudley, is the Mandarin Duck. He's unmistakable, with bright multi-coloured plumage, magnificent and handsome - and he knows it. In contrast, the female is a drab grey-brown with white face markings.

The Mandarin Duck was originally introduced into England from north-east Asia as a parkland bird, but they now live wild, especially in lakes beside wooded areas. Their diet is mostly vegetable, including nuts and seeds. The nest is usually in a hole in a tree.

In spring, Willow warblers and Chif-chaffs arrive to breed in the damp 'carr', where in late summer flocks of finches and Long-tailed tits hunt for seeds and insects. Goldcrests and Coal tits prefer the conifers, often flitting about at a considerable height.

A pair of binoculars can be a great advantage in watching the bird life around the ponds, but it is surprising how many birds can easily be identified without them. Ravens, for example, often fly overhead and can be recognised by their habit of sometimes rolling and cartwheeling in flight, and by their deep coaking call. Watch out for them high up in the air. You may sometimes also see a high soaring buzzard.

Mandarin duck

Above: the Mandarin Duck


Above: a pair of Mallards

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