Surprise Surprise!

On Tuesday I met Andy at 0600 at Oakenclough for our first ringing session since early spring, an unproductive period for ringing when the weather was predominately cool and wet.  We don’t normally head up to the hills until real autumn migration …

Spoonbills and Pectoral Sandpiper Drop In

It’s been an interesting few days here with tons of marsh harrier activity plus a couple of ‘unexpected’ arrivals!  

 The first of these showstoppers were four spoonbills which appeared on the Eric Morecambe Pool on Tuesday. Before long the flock had expanded to five individuals and by weekend it was down to three! I must admit, I do wonder where these birds have spent the past few weeks; have they travelled far or are they part of a potential and as yet unknown breeding colony? Time may tell. With spoonbills nesting on our reserves at Fairburn Ings and Burton Mere Wetlands it’s surely only a matter of time before they start breeding somewhere in our region. Spoonbill pic from archive by Mike Malpass.

 The other ‘newsworthy’ avian arrival involved a pectoral sandpiper which was found on the morning of Sunday 14 at the Allen Pools. These scare waders, originating from Siberia and North America, are the most regular of the scarce Nearctic shorebirds to appear in the UK but they’re still a real treat to see on home turf. This is quite an early record so once again I can’t help pondering where it’s come from – has it spent the summer unpaired and alone on some remote Scottish Isle having arrived in Britain last autumn? Who knows – but it does illustrate nicely why ringing can help unravel so many mysteries of migration and vagrancy. Pic of pectoral sandpiper by Jean Roberts

Talking of ringing, the growing post-breeding black-tailed godwit flock included a bird earlier this week that was ringed in Holland, probably as a chick, while a little egret sporting a pair of red rings identified it as an individual hatched near Hartlepool in May 2018.

Elsewhere on the reserve bitterns keep popping up in random places! They have been seen from just about every hide in recent days and you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Not so the case with dragonflies which can be encountered on all parts of the site, especially on still warm and sunny days. Look our emerging common darters, dashing Emperors and brown hawkers as they hunt for small flying insects.    

With the summer holidays approaching fast you might like to know that we have launched self-led pond-dipping here at Leighton Moss recently – families can hire a pond-dipping kit (net, specimen tray, identification charts and magnifying glass) for just £3.50. Come and explore the amazing wildlife that calls our pond home!

Jon Carter