Christmas treat for Suffolk’s birdwatchers

Goosander in Christchurch Park

Goosander in Christchurch Park - Credit: Clare Saul

When it comes to birdwatching, Suffolk has a fine reputation – especially the Minsmere reserve on the North Sea coast which has been the home of Springwatch for the last two years.

Goosanders spotted at Christchurch Park, Ipswich

Goosanders spotted at Christchurch Park, Ipswich

But now birdwatchers are flocking to an even more accessible spot to see one of the latest rarities to set up home in the county.

Three goosanders have taken up residence in Christchurch Park in the heart of Ipswich, moving between the Round and the Wilderness ponds.

They are either three females or two females and a juvenile male – and have become quite a magnet for birdwatchers and amateur wildlife photographers.

Goosanders are scarce, although they are regularly seen on open water in East Anglia during winter months before they head north to breed in the spring and summer.

However they haven’t often been seen in the middle of the town.

A single bird was spotted in the park in early 2014 and that was thought to be the first goosander seen in Ipswich for more than 40 years.

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They are usually much further away from humans – which makes their appearance in the park especially welcome to photographers who have been able to get some very good pictures of the birds.

Goosanders are a member of the sawbill group of ducks. In Britain they breed mainly in parts of Scotland and the far north of England – but are mainly a winter visitor to this country.

They eat fish and have “teeth” in their bills which mark them aside from most other duck species. They are easy to spot among some of the more familiar wildfowl that live in the parks’ ponds. Their red-brown heads are the clearest identifying markings.

Steve Kemp, Manager of the Borough’s Parks Service, said: “We are thrilled at the arrival of the goosanders. It shows we manage varied and valuable habitats for wildlife in our parks and we are pleased the birds are proving to be such a draw for local photographers and other visitors.”

One of the photographers taking stunning pictures of the scarce birds was Clare Saul, who supplied these close studies of the visitors that have attracted so much attention.