The ruff and the spotted

On The Trail Of Nature's Secrets Pictured Richard Hampshire

On The Trail Of Nature's Secrets Pictured Richard Hampshire

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August is always an exciting time as although the wildfowl look shabby and dishevelled in post breeding season moult, there are still a few vivid and vibrant stragglers reflecting the northern lights.

It is at this time that we get a selection of wading birds heading south from the arctic into Africa.



The black tailed godwit is particularly resplendent in rich chestnut colours whilst birds like the spotted redshank still look dashing in black with white flecking.

Perhaps the most eclectic however is the ruff.

This bird can often stump many a birdwatcher as they are something of a harlequin with no two individuals alike in the male form. They get their name from the extravagant breeding plumes around their neck much like a tudor nobleman, these are moulted in summer but we still see a few on show. A few ruff still breed in the UK but they are very rare as habitat is lost to drainage.

They breed in a Lek with males competing in an arena to show their prowess to the femlaes.

Like many animals life is not straight forward, a black ruff signifies a typical macho male ready for a fight.

A white ruff denotes a ‘satellite male’ that loiters on the edge of a lek hoping to sneak mate with a female whilst the rest are fighting. Recently a brown and drab female look alike male has also been discovered which can avoid the fighting and intermingle and sneak mate with females undetected. People think humanity is diverse but nature is just as cosmopolitan.

Ruff will be moving through Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low Nature Reserve in the next month.

Tophill Low Nature Reserve is located 4 miles from the A164 at Watton and is open daily from 9am to 6pm.

Admission £3.30 adults, £1.50 concessions, sorry no dogs. For more information visit or follow us on @tophilllow

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