Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Short-eared owl release at Leighton Moss

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

The ‘teacher-teacher’ calls of great tits, the drumming of a great spotted woodpecker and the trilling song of a nuthatch can all be heard on your next visit to Leighton Moss. Listen out for the loud repetitive song of song thrushes proclaiming territory. All the birds are tuning up for spring and the delicate white flowers of snowdrops are springing up and now in full flower. In the meadow near the barn moles have been very active, their latest excavations exposing the fresh brown earth. Look out for stonechats in the barn field too, this is one of their favoured spots of late. A barn owl under the cover of night has been taking the opportunity to relax and digest a starling or two in the barn. Starling feathers, skulls and owl pellets litter the floor but other than this the owl will eat every bit of its nightly opportune meal.

Starling murmurations on the reserve have been impressive recently with as many as 50,000 birds some evenings, although numbers may start to tail off now as is typical with the changing season. The best place to see them gathering is the Causeway. Look for them from 4:45pm on a bright dry evening from the hide or from the Causeway track itself.

Starlings at Leighton Moss by Jacqui Fereday

Amongst this week’s most notable highlights was an influx of pochards, following their complete absence on the reserve all winter. Look for them amongst the raft of tufted duck that have been favouring Lillian’s and Causeway pools of late. Their numbers have also increased in recent days with a raft of 47 tufted duck counted on Wednesday (31 January). Lillian’s Hide can also be good for mallards, little egrets, teal and gadwall. Have you seen the two goldeneyes that should be leaving us soon? Lillian’s Hide is the best spot to look for them. Amazing numbers of snipe from Tim Jacksons and Grisedale, including the occasional jack snipe amongst them, are certainly worth looking for on your next visit.

The Eric Morecambe and Allen pools have also been good for impressive numbers of lapwing, with at least 4,000 present. A merlin, that has been hunting on the saltmarsh for the past few weeks has been recorded almost daily by visitors in our sightings book. Look for pink-footed geese grazing on the saltmarsh as they move through the area heading north. Groups of several hundred have been present over the past few days and you never know what might be hidden amongst them!

Four whooper swans dropped in at the shore pools on Sunday (28 January) but didn’t stay for long. Also look out for greenshank, redshank, snipe, curlew and shellduck from the coastal hides.

Redshank by David Mower

In other news duck numbers, particularly shoveler and teal are very good from most hides on the reserve but particularly the Causeway and Lower hides. A kingfisher was reported from Causeway Hide. There are at least three marsh harriers and three great egrets in the area, with the latter being regularly sighted from the Allen Hide, Grisedale and Tim Jackson’s hides.

Water rail are reported less frequently but with so much exposed mud around look carefully for them near the path towards Tim Jackson’s and Grisedale hides. Otters remain as bold as brass, for example keeping the ducks and geese on their toes much to the enjoyment of a full hide of wildlife watchers on a beautiful sunny Friday from Grisedale Hide this week.

Finally, woodland birds such as bullfinches, treecreepers, nuthatches, coal tits, jays, blue tits, marsh tits and great tits as well as our regular and frequently encountered robins have been very active. A walk to Lower Hide or the immediate woodland paths near the visitor centre allow opportunities to encounter and enjoy many smaller birds.

Kevin Kelly with Nick Henderson releasing a rehabilitated short-eared owl

A couple of weeks ago, we released a short-eared owl near the saltmarsh. The bird had been taken into care and rehabilitated by local bird of prey experts Corio Raptor. Our Visitor Operations Manager Kevin Kelly joined Coreo owner, and former seasonal warden at RSPB Minsmere, Nick Henderson to oversee the release of the healthy owl. Corio have been operating for 20 years and recently celebrated the release of their 1000th native raptor! 

Short-eared owl before release

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Marsh tits, Lapwings, Starlings and other wildlife sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Friday 26 January

 A late morning walk to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides on a glorious winter’s day exploded in the vivid fawn coloured pallet of reeds contrasting a deep blue sky. In channels and ditches thin layers of ice slowly melted as a warm winter sun mingled its heat with the cool water’s surface. Steam rose from the damp reeds and wet wood that remained slightly frosty from the night before. All around me warmth met the damp watery surroundings, with the gentle rising of moisture into the crisp atmosphere.

Confiding marsh tits near the Tim Jackson Hide flew onto the centre of the path from the nearby trees to collect spilt seed and I stopped to admire them at close range. The ferns on the trees at this spot on the reserve have to be one of my favourite examples of the term epiphytes, a posh term for a plant that grows on a tree using it as a little habitat all of its own. Think of rainforests; this being a tiny slice of the UK equivalent, found here at Leighton Moss.

 

Marsh tit  by Richard Cousens

Entering Tim Jackson Hide, the gently rising steam from the wet window frames and timber exposed to the full force of the sun, the scene was quiet. Teal and mallard rested at the waters edge, the size difference between them standing out for obvious comparison as they dozed side by side. A mute swan flew in to affectionately greet another. Gently they moved together wings raised but neck postured in a smooth curve and briefly gestured in a way that reminded me of great crested grebes with their head movements facing each other before serenely gliding apart and searching beneath the water for submerged vegetation.

 

Three great egrets have been quite prominent and visible from here, Grisedale and the Allen hides of late. Three marsh harriers can be spotted anywhere on the reserve with Grisedale Hide being as good a place as any to see them. A sighting of an otter eating a duck was reported for the second time in recent weeks from Grisedale, with their activity being exceedingly frequent of late from here.  Two cattle egrets remain present in the fields just beyond the reserve. Flocks of hundreds of lapwings are worth looking for with the Causeway Hide being a great place to see them on the stone island. They are even using our newly created floating islands!

 

Lapwing by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) 

Entering Grisedale Hide the scene was similarly quiet although the light was fantastic. It raked shadows across the fields to the back and created amazing reflections in the water. A little egret was looking for something to eat, kicking up the sediment with its black legs in the hope of disturbing a fish, moved along the edge of the pool. Gadwall and teal leisurely swam on the water’s surface. Earlier this week John Wilson, our retired original warden at Leighton Moss, counted the number of water birds he could see in one visit to the reserve. Ducks at Leighton Moss do use an expanse of wetlands including the coastal pools and Barrow Scout so numbers naturally fluctuate. Look for great numbers of wigeon from the Eric Morecambe Hide.

Here are the counts John had on Tuesday of last week (23 January): ducks included 55 wigeon, 28 pintail, 205 gadwall, 105 shovelers, 420 teal, 85 mallards, 20 tufted duck and 2 goldeneyes plus 75 coot. Not forgetting three marsh harriers, which, although not ducks, were counted for good measure.

There were 3 great egrets leaving the roost from Island Mere, which is the group of trees beyond the island from Causeway Hide.

 

Great egret in flight by Richard Cousens

Look out for water rails and snipe on your next visit, both of which are great to look for at this time of year. Bittern reports in the last few days remain principally from the Causeway Hide. Cetti’s warbler have been seen from the causeway, Grisedale Hide and Skytower. With the reed being so thin at this time of year your chances of getting a great view of this chestnut coloured warbler will be improved.

The little egrets roosting at Island Mere on the reserve each evening can provide quiet a spectacle. The starlings have been roosting at this end of the reserve, tending to steal the show as they display over the pool and reflected in the water’s surface. Can you spot the white starling amongst them?!

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Winter wildfowl and a Happy New Year.

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

With water levels gradually dropping, wildfowl on the reserve are back in excellent numbers. Particularly shovelers and pintails, with Causeway hide overlooking a view that is absolutely fantastic for gadwalls, wigeons, teals and tufted ducks that are rafting on the waters surface. Sometimes they will be spooked by an otter or marsh harrier and erupt in spectacular formation before returning and settling again shortly after.

Snowdrops (previous spring) by Mike Malpass

Spring is already showing signs, with the first snow drops starting to bloom on the reserve already. Birds are singing more frequently with the sound of great tits, coal tits, robins and dunnocks filling the air on a morning as the daylight hours grow longer. Although rather early the mild conditions and increased day length is changing the activity of the wildlife. Can you notice the subtle changes to the wildlife at Leighton Moss on your next visit?   

A fantastic addition to the reserves year list was a common crossbill photographed by one of our lucky visitors which was a real treat to see. Whilst crossbills are resident in the UK all year round they are a scarce visitor to Leighton Moss, and their habits mean they often spend much of their time at the tops of trees and dense conifer plantations or other pine forests, making them difficult to see. This one was just passing through, seen in the tops of a stand of trees near the junction to Grisedale and Tim Jackson hide, after the wooden bridge. Crossbills will begin nesting as early of mid-February depending on the availability of seed cones. They use their special crossed bills to prize open the cones and access the seeds inside.

Female crossbill by Mike Owen

A rather excellent sighting of two otters accidentally flushing a bittern was reported earlier this week. Bittern sightings have been regular but infrequent so far this month. Spend your time watching the channel of cut reed viewable to the right of Causeway Hide as the most reliable spot on the reserve where a secretive bittern might venture out in search of food.

Looking back at a time when otters were absent from Leighton Moss, and even much of Northern England, to now is remarkable. The boldness of their character hasn’t come much better than a few days ago when an otter bounded out of the water barely more than a few meters away from the hide window at Tim Jackson’s hide, much to the amazement of the small team of Leighton Moss staff that had headed down to the hide early that morning. It happily stayed for a few minutes in full view before swimming away. You may recall several weeks ago the amazed fortunate visitors that saw on otter walking casually during the middle of the day through the bird feeding station in the garden next to the visitor centre! It is good to see them doing so well.

Otter by Ben Andrew

Other sightings on the reserve include regular reports of great white egrets and snipe from Tim Jackson’s hide. At least four Cetti’s warblers have been heard on the reserve with one being particularly visible from the corner at the boardwalk to the Causeway on occasion. Being so far North Cetti’s warblers tend to suffer winter conditions more than their southern counterparts, with sites like Leighton Moss in the North of England currently representing one of their most northerly sites.

This weekend we had a tawny owl that had found its way into Grisedale hide. After careful examination by a trained member of staff, and a few cuts and scrapes from the owl objecting to its rescue, it was released in the garden where it found a patch of ivy to roost. From its roosting spot visitors had sneak peek views of a few feathers through the foliage on the decidedly damp day of its release, providing a tantalising glimpse of a rather nice owl.

Starlings are still one of the reserves winter wildlife spectacles this week providing the forecast stays dry during your visit. Whilst never doing quite the same thing each night the numbers coming into roost are without a doubt spectacular. They are currently roosting at the edge of the reserve overlooked from Tim Jackson hide. The sky tower still offers the best vantage point to look for them and with the evenings opening up they are roosting progressively later with a current time of going into the reeds at just after 4.30pm. Get their 20 minutes before hand and watch the skies. With so many coming into roost the audible woosh of wings is very clear, or indeed come and make a day of it and round it off with the ultimate crescendo.

Starlings

We would like to wish all our blog readers another great year of wildlife watching experiences. No doubt some have made New Years resolutions to make a year list. Even if you decide not to take your ‘listing’ too seriously, keeping a record of the wildlife you have seen can be a great way to learn and improve your knowledge and wildlife watching skills as well as maintaining the motivation to get out and enjoy the natural world.

The reserve team are very excited by the promising signs of 2018 being a great year for wildlife at Leighton Moss. With improvements to the reserve, most notably the repair of the Eric Morecambe pool, offering new opportunities for wildlife such as breeding waders on the newly formed islands and better habitat for migrating waders too in spring and autumn, 2018, fingers crossed looks set to be a quality year for wildlife down at the shore pools, and with the addition of new islands on the main reserve too, come and enjoy the new changes and let us know your thoughts.

Steven, Intern at Leighton Moss

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Sightings & Big Garden Birdwatch. Are you ready?

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

The crack of ice. Paws and wet fur. In the chill of winter an otter is treading on ice. The water at Grisedale has been frozen for several days now. Otters have been very regular here. Even sleeping for the best part of an hour on an island in front of the hide one morning. The soft contact call of a moorhen is heard but not seen and teal, now back in good numbers, hunker down in groups around the pool.

Otter in the ice by Mike Malpass

Snipe probe the muddy edges in front of the hides at Grisdale and Tim Jackson. Their feathers camouflaged so well as if to seep into the dark earth itself. The occasional jack snipe has been noted amongst our more regular snipe over recent days. A peregrine soars high above the pool at Grisedale. It is still too early for the starlings that come to roost with the best part of 20,000 sleeping on the reserve each night. The days are lengthening. A barn owl was spotted by a visitor from here too lately and a fox has been patrolling the edges of the pool, presumably attracted by the starlings that had roosted in front of Grisedale for the past few nights.

Barn Owl by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

Kingfisher reports have been regular from Lillian’s hide. Look out for a variety of wildfowl from here or the Skytower including a pair of goldeneye, this being the best place to reliably encounter them of late. Other ducks include a sizable group of smart looking tufted ducks, teal and the humble mallard. Stonechats have been reported from Lillian’s hide and down towards Grisedale on a regular basis. At least two marsh harriers are wintering on the reserve and are best looked for in the late evenings.

Over at the causeway ducks have returned to the pool in excellent numbers with shovelers being particularly numerous together with wigeon, pintails and gadwall. Individual Cetti’s warblers are making their presence known. Listen out for them, together with water rails along the main causeway. Opportunities for great views of water rail can be found anywhere on the reserve. This is the best time of year to spot this shy member of the rail family.

Given the excellent weather conditions this weekend visitors were treated to an absolutely fabulous time watching some superb wildlife during these bright clear days. A small number of bearded tits were even observed on the grit trays and a handful of lucky visitors watched two bitterns in flight from the causeway. There are still three cattle egrets and three great egrets in the area with the former still best viewed in the fields adjacent to lower hide and the latter regularly using the Allen pool.

The path to the Eric Morecambe Pool has been repaired after the storm damage, although there is also some standing water, and will be open shortly. Please check with the welcome desk on arrival. The Allen hide remains open and all paths on the reserve are clear with the exception of lower hide where a few muddy patches remain. Wildlife highlights from the Allen hide include several reports of merlin, two greenshanks and over 1000 lapwings together with similar numbers of redshanks.

Merlin by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

In the woodland smaller birds such as goldfinches, tree creepers, bullfinch and red polls can be encountered. Are you getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch on the 27-29th January? Join us the weekend before, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 January 10am-3.30pm for a special event with drop-in workshops to give you advice and tips about everything you need to know about in preparation for the event. Drop-in workshops will help you brush up on your identification skills, learn more about the best food to feed them at this time of year, how to look after your nest boxes and much more! Follow the link HERE for more information.

Get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch Saturday 20- Sunday 21 January event

Robin Head by Andrew Nayler

The swirling mass of starlings each evening has been the highlight for many visitors as they gather before descending like water down a plug hole into the swaying reeds for the night. With nights lengthening they are now roosting on the reserve from 4pm onwards. The Skytower offered the perfect platform to watch their winter sky dancing when they were roosting in front of Grisedale until the start of this week when they moved to the far end of the reserve. Watch them from Causeway hide.

Starlings flock 

With so much to look for at what is one of the quieter times of year for wildlife why not make a special trip to Leighton Moss where some fabulous winter wildlife is calling this place home?

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Christmas quackers and other recent sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Please note that if you are planning to visit us over the festive season we are open daily, except on Christmas Day when the entire reserve will be closed (the only exception being the Causeway as it is a public right of way).

The visitor centre, shop and café will be open from 9.30am until 3pm on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and from 10am till 4.30pm on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Wigeon by David Mower

Despite the almost constant drizzle in the past week, the water levels have continued to drop. The notably milder conditions too have allowed the pools to thaw and as a consequence the reserve is once again something of a duck lover’s paradise.

Large numbers of dabbling ducks including wigeon, pintail, gadwall, teal and shoveler can be found throughout the site while a handful of goldeneyes and tufted duck may be seen from Lilian’s and Causeway hides. Snipe have been showing fantastically well from Jackson and Grisedale hides lately and a kingfisher has also been entertaining the crowds. Otters, of course, are always a treat to see and many visitors have been getting great views.   

Tree sparrow by Martin Kuchczynski

Both goosanders and red-breasted mergansers have been spotted on the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools where visitors have also been treated to sightings of merlin, greenshank and great white egret in recent days. Brambling and tree sparrows are still being seen from time to time among the chaffinch flock near the path to the coastal hides.

Bearded tits have become more elusive since they stopped using the grit tray quite so often but can usually be heard and, with luck and patience, seen along the Causeway. Reed buntings are a familiar sight along here too as they feed on the reed heads. Stonechats may be encountered anywhere on the reserve at the moment as we appear to have at least two very mobile pairs doing the rounds.

Starling bu Ged Gill

Starlings have been leading us a bit of a merry dance of late; large numbers are coming to roost on and around the reserve but they don’t seem inclined to perform murmurations on these damp, dull afternoons. Some birds head straight into the reed bed while others wheel around for quite some time before deciding where they’re going to spend the night. Hopefully we’ll see some brighter, crisper evenings in the new year and the starlings will settle back into a more reliable routine!

Finally, on behalf of all the staff and volunteers here at Leighton Moss I’d like to wish all our visitors and supporters a wonderful Christmas and prosperous 2018.

Jon Carter, Visitor Experience Manager

       

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Nice weather for ducks?

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

In this blog Andy, our residential volunteer reserve warden, reflects on the rainfall over the past few months, wildlife on the reserve and the work of the warden team during the winter season. As we shall see, Andy really has come to appreciate getting first hand experience of putting the word wet into wetland. 

Although no ducks have been available for comment, their webbed feet carried their votes to those pools where the seeds of submerged vegetation remained within their reach, most particularly Tim Jackson’s and Lower Hides.  June to October were the wettest since our records began in 1987 and we had ¾ of our average annual rainfall in those four months alone. Leighton Moss is very low-lying land, in the 1800s it was still an arm of the Irish Sea, and so it is very difficult for us to lose surplus water and secure safe access for our management work.  

Wet weather, ironically, creates problems for how we manage our wetlands.  One thing we can do to help is to remove water weed from the ditches of the reserve using long-handled forks called cromes.  Navigating the canal by boat and working in our waders in lines along the banks of the main ditch has given us the chance to see parts of the reserve that members of the public are unable to access.  There’s something very therapeutic about the activity and trying not to fill one’s waders with water adds a little drama; it’s best to save the diciest edges until the end of the day!

“Preparing to Row” by Andrew Francis

At Tim Jackson, Grisedale and Lower Hides we have opened-up views, created loafing areas, floating islands of reeds for ducks and waders and provided open areas for wildfowl foodplants, like water docks, to grow.  You may have heard the sound of brushcutters or seen us raking up the cut material into big piles.  Cutting new lines into the reeds helps to bring shy reedbed birds like bitterns and water rails onto the open pools.  You may have seen the new grit trays towards Grisedale hide where they are set into a recess cut into the reeds.  We would be very pleased to hear from you if you have seen bearded tits on the new grit trays.

Sculpting the more visible reedbed into suitable habitat is very rewarding work, especially when we can see birds using the newly cut areas, we hope that you can see and enjoy the results as much as we do. Regular cutting keeps the reedbeds clear of detritus allows freshwater fish, such as the rudd, to circulate and encourages the bitterns that feed on them.  We hope that water levels will fall and allow us to cut in larger swathes of the reedbed.    

Weather proof bird by Andrew Francis

Whatever opportunities the weather allows us we are never short of work here at Leighton Moss. The high water has not kept us away from the drier reedbed edges with their own diverse and less reed-dominated fenland habitats.  In these fenland areas we are preventing the encroachment of willow scrub, with chainsaws, particularly from the Allen fields and towards the Lower Hide.  Towards Lower Hide willow cutting and coppicing has opened up the rare tussock-sedge habitat and we have left some standing dead-wood which provides habitat for wood-boring insects.  We have done some opening up of the winter finch feeding station near the Allen Hide. At the moment you can enjoy great close views of big flocks of greenfinches, chaffinches and reed buntings along with the more occasional tree sparrows and bramblings.

Richard, bund and Excavator picture by Andrew Francis

We are also pleased to report that repairs to the banks that hold water in the Eric Morecambe Pool are complete.  Last autumn’s high tides damaged the banks resulting in a loss of water from the scrapes with the receding tides and we had to wait until the worst storms of winter and the breeding birds had finished before carrying out the major land working required.  Grass-growth and hessian netting have helped to consolidate the banks and the repaired sluices and pipes allow us to alter water levels in Allan and Eric pools independently. 

Whether we are cutting reed or willow we are resetting nature’s clock so that habitats stay young rather than growing old and tired.  The work is labour-intensive but it’s fun, helps bring people together and provides the best results for nature.

Andy Francis

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Icy otters and other recent sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Boardwalk by Steven Williams

Water rail by Paul Williams

With parts of the country under a blanket of snow the winter temperatures have dropped to freezing and most of the pools, with the exception of the far north of the reserve, became iced over. Otters were observed treading on the ice, ducks have been gingerly sliding around and the frozen conditions have pushed out water rails in search of soft muddy spots to feed. A walk to Grisedale and Tim Jackson Hide usually rewards sightings of them walking bold as brass to the side of the paths.All of the paths are open and the water levels have now subsided. The boardwalk and Sky Tower have thawed out and are open as usual after being temporarily closed for safety reasons. Please be prepared for all conditions and wrap up warm!

Otter on ice by Mike Malpass

A handful of bittern sightings have been reported from Causeway Hide and Lower Hide; these are the best places to chance your luck. After a brief dusting of snow and some icy air temperatures, the good news is that the next few days are forecast to bring milder conditions. Hungry robins are very active and may even pop onto an open hide window, cheekily hoping for handouts.

Pond at Leighton Moss by Steven Williams

Bittern by Alan Saunders

Listen for the ‘ping-ping’ sound of bearded tits, they are being heard often from the boardwalk and causeway. Look out for reed buntings and woodland birds such as marsh tits, treecreepers and nuthatches on your next visit. With the winter conditions moving most of the wildfowl to the north of the reserve, ducks are best observed from Lower Hide where shoveler, gadwall, wigeon and teal are the most numerous. Keep an eye out for goldeneye, pintail and tufted duck amongst them. Pintail in particular are great to see. These very elegant ducks are only here for the winter.

Pintail by Ben Hall

You may have a chance encounter with a peregrine falcon or sparrowhawk anywhere on the reserve. Several reports of peregrines and the occasional merlin are noted in our sightings book. These falcons typically roam widely at this time of year in search of food. Marsh harrier sightings continue to be made around the reserve with at least two birds present. Their habit of cruising over a winter reedbed and spooking the ducks is certainly a fabulous seasonal highlight.

A visit to Grisedale Hide can be good for snipe where the occasional great egret may also be encountered. See if you can spot the pair of stonechats that have taken up temporary residence here too! All three of our increasingly regular egret species are still here including ongoing reports of cattle egret. Starling numbers have increased to around 30,000 although they have chosen to roost away from the reserve for the past few nights. For the latest please refer to Twitter or call the visitor center. With starling activity changing by the day we will bring you the latest news over the coming weeks.

School visit by Lucy Hunt

Before the freeze, we had lots of water on the reserve but that didn't deter the children from one local school from taking a paddle on the wild side!

Twenty splash-suited and Welly-booted children from the Lancaster Steiner School and Storth Primary School ventured out on the flooded paths of Leighton Moss this week exploring the watery world and seeing wildlife up close. The sun shone on the ice-topped pools and frosty leaves and the children really got to experience nature at this special time of year. Great fun, fresh air and a few soggy socks.

Class teacher, Angela Welbourne, said ‘It couldn’t have been better. We loved it!’

If you and your class would like to visit Leighton Moss at any time of year, please contact Carol Bamber, Learning Officer for a memorable out-of-classroom experience - carol.bamber@rspb.org.uk or 01254 703015

 

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Icy otters and other recent sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

Boardwalk by Steven Williams

Water rail by Paul Williams

With parts of the country under a blanket of snow the winter temperatures have dropped to freezing and most of the pools, with the exception of the far north of the reserve, became iced over. Otters were observed treading on the ice, ducks have been gingerly sliding around and the frozen conditions have pushed out water rails in search of soft muddy spots to feed. A walk to Grisedale and Tim Jackson Hide usually rewards sightings of them walking bold as brass to the side of the paths.All of the paths are open and the water levels have now subsided. The boardwalk and Sky Tower have thawed out and are open as usual after being temporarily closed for safety reasons. Please be prepared for all conditions and wrap up warm!

Otter on ice by Mike Malpass

A handful of bittern sightings have been reported from Causeway Hide and Lower Hide; these are the best places to chance your luck. After a brief dusting of snow and some icy air temperatures, the good news is that the next few days are forecast to bring milder conditions. Hungry robins are very active and may even pop onto an open hide window, cheekily hoping for handouts.

Pond at Leighton Moss by Steven Williams

Bittern by Alan Saunders

Listen for the ‘ping-ping’ sound of bearded tits, they are being heard often from the boardwalk and causeway. Look out for reed buntings and woodland birds such as marsh tits, treecreepers and nuthatches on your next visit. With the winter conditions moving most of the wildfowl to the north of the reserve, ducks are best observed from Lower Hide where shoveler, gadwall, wigeon and teal are the most numerous. Keep an eye out for goldeneye, pintail and tufted duck amongst them. Pintail in particular are great to see. These very elegant ducks are only here for the winter.

Pintail by Ben Hall

You may have a chance encounter with a peregrine falcon or sparrowhawk anywhere on the reserve. Several reports of peregrines and the occasional merlin are noted in our sightings book. These falcons typically roam widely at this time of year in search of food. Marsh harrier sightings continue to be made around the reserve with at least two birds present. Their habit of cruising over a winter reedbed and spooking the ducks is certainly a fabulous seasonal highlight.

A visit to Grisedale Hide can be good for snipe where the occasional great egret may also be encountered. See if you can spot the pair of stonechats that have taken up temporary residence here too! All three of our increasingly regular egret species are still here including ongoing reports of cattle egret. Starling numbers have increased to around 30,000 although they have chosen to roost away from the reserve for the past few nights. For the latest please refer to Twitter or call the visitor center. With starling activity changing by the day we will bring you the latest news over the coming weeks.

School visit by Lucy Hunt

Before the freeze, we had lots of water on the reserve but that didn't deter the children from one local school from taking a paddle on the wild side!

Twenty splash-suited and Welly-booted children from the Lancaster Steiner School and Storth Primary School ventured out on the flooded paths of Leighton Moss this week exploring the watery world and seeing wildlife up close. The sun shone on the ice-topped pools and frosty leaves and the children really got to experience nature at this special time of year. Great fun, fresh air and a few soggy socks.

Class teacher, Angela Welbourne, said ‘It couldn’t have been better. We loved it!’

If you and your class would like to visit Leighton Moss at any time of year, please contact Carol Bamber, Learning Officer for a memorable out-of-classroom experience - carol.bamber@rspb.org.uk or 01254 703015

 

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

American duck drops in and other recent sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

The good news is, as I write this, the pathways to all hides are now accessible without the need for wellies. Water levels are still very high and it could easily change with the next downpour but if the forecasts are right, we should be okay for a while. Watch this space, check our Twitter and Facebook accounts or call the visitor centre for updates.

Green-winged teal by Mike Malpass

As we anticipated, the recent drop in temperature has brought more wildfowl onto the reserve and the best places to observe good numbers of dabbling ducks are undoubtedly the Grisedale and Jackson Hides. Wigeon, pintail, shoveler, teal and gadwall are among the most numerous species present. On Saturday (2 Dec) morning a fine drake American green-winged teal dropped in and showed reasonably well over the remainder of the weekend. It hasn’t been reported since Sunday but it may well still be around. Diving ducks are still at something of a premium, although goldeneyes have been around in small numbers and are best looked for on the deeper waters.

We still have three cattle egrets coming into the evening roost at the north end of the reserve. This exotic trio can often be seen in the company of the cows grazing in the fields near the path beyond Lower Hide or even from the Sky Tower. One or two great egrets are also being seen out on the saltmarsh and on the reserve while the ever-present little egrets can often be seen stalking around in the shallower areas.

Kingfisher by Mike Malpass 

Kingfishers have been showing very well at the Eric Morecambe and Allen Hides lately, along with good numbers of waders and wildfowl. Occasional forays by hunting peregrines, merlins and marsh harriers over the pools and saltmarsh periodically cause a commotion as hundreds of birds rise into the air in panic – quite a sight!

Water rails continue to be seen, and particularly heard, as the high water levels force them out in to the open to search for food and the odd bearded tits are still visiting the grit trays along the Causeway.

Otters have proven to a big hit with visitors recently with regular sightings from around the reserve; Causeway and Lilian’s Pools are the most reliable spots but these wandering mustelids can pop up just about anywhere.

Starlings by David Mower

The starling murmuration is still a sight to behold – large flocks of birds pile in over the reeds in the late afternoon and can provide a great spectacle from the Sky Tower on calm, bright days. The best place to watch the pre-roost gathering is from the track leading to the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides car park, though please note that parking is not allowed along the track itself.

Before...

Visitors to Leighton Moss may have noticed that the bridge crossing Myer’s Dyke, near the pond-dipping pools, has been completely rebuilt recently. Despite the wardening team taking this task on during the recent downpour that resulted in widespread flooding, they managed to complete the job in just a couple of days. Impressive stuff!

.  During...

  After.

Source Leighton Moss (RSPB)

American duck drops in and other recent sightings

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)

The good news is, as I write this, the pathways to all hides are now accessible without the need for wellies. Water levels are still very high and it could easily change with the next downpour but if the forecasts are right, we should be okay for a while. Watch this space, check our Twitter and Facebook accounts or call the visitor centre for updates.

Green-winged teal by Mike Malpass

As we anticipated, the recent drop in temperature has brought more wildfowl onto the reserve and the best places to observe good numbers of dabbling ducks are undoubtedly the Grisedale and Jackson Hides. Wigeon, pintail, shoveler, teal and gadwall are among the most numerous species present. On Saturday (2 Dec) morning a fine drake American green-winged teal dropped in and showed reasonably well over the remainder of the weekend. It hasn’t been reported since Sunday but it may well still be around. Diving ducks are still at something of a premium, although goldeneyes have been around in small numbers and are best looked for on the deeper waters.

We still have three cattle egrets coming into the evening roost at the north end of the reserve. This exotic trio can often be seen in the company of the cows grazing in the fields near the path beyond Lower Hide or even from the Sky Tower. One or two great egrets are also being seen out on the saltmarsh and on the reserve while the ever-present little egrets can often be seen stalking around in the shallower areas.

Kingfisher by Mike Malpass

Kingfishers have been showing very well at the Eric Morecambe and Allen Hides lately, along with good numbers of waders and wildfowl. Occasional forays by hunting peregrines, merlins and marsh harriers over the pools and saltmarsh periodically cause a commotion as hundreds of birds rise into the air in panic – quite a sight!

Water rails continue to be seen, and particularly heard, as the high water levels force them out in to the open to search for food and the odd bearded tits are still visiting the grit trays along the Causeway.

Otters have proven to a big hit with visitors recently with regular sightings from around the reserve; Causeway and Lilian’s Pools are the most reliable spots but these wandering mustelids can pop up just about anywhere.

Starlings by David Mower

The starling murmuration is still a sight to behold – large flocks of birds pile in over the reeds in the late afternoon and can provide a great spectacle from the Sky Tower on calm, bright days. The best place to watch the pre-roost gathering is from the track leading to the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides car park, though please note that parking is not allowed along the track itself.

 Before...

Visitors to Leighton Moss may have noticed that the bridge crossing Myer’s Dyke, near the pond-dipping pools, has been completely rebuilt recently. Despite the wardening team taking this task on during the recent downpour that resulted in widespread flooding, they managed to complete the job in just a couple of days. Impressive stuff!

During...

 After.

Jon Carter