3 Jan
2014
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Winter ducks at Slapton Ley

A wave takes me by surprise and, dragging Izzy with me, I scurry back up the beach, water lapping at my ankles. Having learnt our lesson, we wander, hand-in-hand, along the shingle shore at a safe distance from the water’s edge. We pause often, to build miniature houses out of large, flat stones for pebble people, to inspect shells, or seaweed, and once, to study a sea wash ball more closely.

Then, we cross over the road and walk beside Slapton Ley, the largest natural lake in South-West England. Today, hundreds of birds are sprinkled over the surface of the water, whilst on the hills above, Canada Geese disguise themselves as a flock of Sheep. Walkers have to skirt around Izzy, who, brandishing her brand new, child-sized binoculars, counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seagulls from the footpath. There are dozens of Wigeon, more Coots and Tufted Ducks than I can possibly count, a handful of Mute Swans and some Gadwall, with delicately patterned feathers that look velvety-soft to touch.

It may be December and we may be wearing gloves, but we buy ice creams from the van, anyway. I  perch on the wooden barriers at the edge of the car park, with Izzy on my knee and we gaze out Common Scoters bobbing on the stormy sea and Pied Wagtails hopping over the shingle at our feet. Cotton wool clouds hang above us in a perfectly blue winter sky.

“It’s New Year’s Eve today,” I inform Izzy, kissing the top of her head. “We’ve had a good year, haven’t we?”

She looks up at me, ice cream dripping from her chin onto her hand-knitted scarf and grins.

Checklist

  • Canada Goose
  • Common Scoter
  • Coot
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Moorhen
  • Mute Swan
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Tufted Duck
  • Wigeon

Practicalities

We parked in the Memorial Car Park, which is pay and display, then walked south along the beach, crossed over the road and followed the footpath back to the car park. After this, we drove to the Torcross Car Park to have a look from the hide looking over Slapton Ley. Next, we drove on to Beesands, where we had a look at Widdicombe Ley and Izzy enjoyed the playground. There are also public toilets at Beesands.

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