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Beginners luck!

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Hello! My name is Alice and I am Leighton Moss’ newest Visitor Experience Intern. I am very excited to be following in the footsteps of a long line of amazing interns, and to learn from Leighton Moss' fantastic team of knowledgeable staff and volunteers.

Big smiles for all the amazing wildlife here at Leighton Moss!

This summer I graduated from Bangor University with a degree in Environmental Conservation, a degree that included completing two professional placements. My first placement was based in the Caribbean, where I worked for Echo, an organisation dedicated to protecting critically endangered yellow shouldered amazon parrots on Bonaire. My role was to develop a native plant nursery and assist habitat restoration efforts in order to improve, diversify and increase yellow shouldered amazon parrot habitat. Not only did the placement give me much experience in nature conservation, it gave me a whole host of fantastic wildlife memories. Particular highlights include seeing Caribbean flamingos, great frigate birds and brown pelicans on a daily basis, and learning to dive in my spare time brought close encounters with green turtles, hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, seahorses and octopuses.

I carried out my second placement on Skomer Island, a reserve home to thousands of our breeding seabirds. My role on Skomer was to deliver welcome talks to enthusiastic day visitors, in addition to assisting with survey work dedicated to estimating numbers of puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and manx shearwaters. Wildlife highlights from Skomer included hearing the eerie mating calls of the manx shearwaters, seeing large flocks of gannets who breed on RSPB Grassholm, and seeing a humpback whale breach the water on a boat trip taken in my spare time.

And now, I have arrived at Leighton Moss, eager to develop my skills further and become part of a team dedicated to giving nature a home! I would also have said “eager to create more fantastic wildlife memories”, but after a mere three days of calling Leighton Moss home, I have already had numerous wildlife experiences that I will no doubt be talking about forever. On my first day alone I saw an otter enjoying a spot of fishing at the causeway hide, marsh harriers soaring across the reserve in the dappled sunlight, and...a life time’s encounter of a bittern, stalking its way across the path near the Grisedale hide! I had high hopes of seeing a bittern when preparing for my move to Leighton Moss, but as they are such elusive creatures I only ever thought that I would catch a glimpse of one flying over the reedbed, or booming away in the distance. Yet Leighton Moss exceeded my expectations and gave me a close up encounter of a bittern a mere six meters away!

The sun setting on my perfect first day at Leighton Moss. 

Other exciting sightings have included a female garganey, red breasted mergansers, great crested grebes, little grebes, wigeons, bullfinches, reed buntings, greenfinches, goldfinches, as well as great numbers of teals, gadwalls and lapwings, and a herd of five red deer including an impressive stag!

Watching a red deer stag roaming around Grisedale hide provided a great way to relax after a day in the office!

Leighton Moss’ friendly team and amazing wildlife have already given me such a warm welcome, that I am most excited about calling this fascinating reserve home for the next six months!

Speak soon,

Alice!

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Ringing the reedlings

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With the nights starting to draw in and the leaves beginning to turn on the trees, autumn is certainly on its way and here at Leighton Moss that means one of its most secretive residents is coming out of hiding – the bearded tits or "bearded reedlings". These colourful little birds are one of my favourite species here I always look forward to seeing them out and about around the reserve...

Autumn is the best time of year to come and see the secretive reedbed residents, as they venture out onto special grit trays. We put the grit trays out for them to stock up on grit which helps them digest seeds, their main food source during the cold winter months. It’s one of the reasons they are able to stay here all year round. Like most other small birds, bearded tits feed on insects during the summer, particularly because the protein provides young birds with enough energy to grow quickly. But as the weather gets colder, insects are less abundant and the bearded tits then switch to eating seeds – a clever adaptation which means that they don’t have to migrate south. Sounds simple enough, but seeds are not as easy for the bearded tits to digest and so they also have to eat grit which then helps to grind the seeds up. 

Bearded tits feeding on the grit trays by Keith Kellet

Bearded tits were first seen on the reserve on 4 November 1965, however it wasn’t until 1973 that the first young reedling was spotted and breeding was confirmed for the first time. Numbers of this rare bird have been monitored by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers at Leighton Moss every year since. Over time, the reserve population has increased but will fluctuate year on year as the bearded tits can be very sensitive to extreme weather conditions, like flooding or very hard winters.

Bearded tit at Leighton Moss by Richard Cousens

This year, after a very wet winter where the reserve was completely flooded, it was feared that the bearded reedling population may have been effected. But through “ringing” studies, where young birds have colour coded leg rings fitted, we have found that the bearded tits have beaten the odds and had another good year. We have caught or sighted nine adult males and ten adult females so far this summer, as well as fitted colour rings to 22 nestlings and nine other juvenile birds. This shows that there have been plenty of successful breeding attempts despite the challenging weather conditions last winter.

Bearded tit nestling by Alasdair Grubb

So if you have never seen one of these amazing birds, now’s the time to come and give it a go! I usually find I have most success if I pick a dry, still day and mostly during a morning, as they are usually more active at this time of day. Visit the grit trays on the causeway between 9am and 12pm for the best chance to spot one but be prepared to exercise some patience! 

If you do visit the reserve this week there is plenty of other wildlife to look out for as well. Otters have been spotted from the causeway hide and also down on the salt marsh from Eric Morecambe hide. Marsh harrier sightings have been frequent across the whole of the reserve as well as buzzard over the woodland near lower hide. Wildfowl such as teal, gadwall and shoveler are starting to build on the pools in front of the causeway hide and lower hides. The salt marsh is also fantastic at this time of year with lots of waders passing through on migration. Current highlights include; redshanks, greenshanks, spotted redshanks and good number of lapwings. Good numbers of small birds on the coast line has also meant an increase in peregrine and sparrowhawk sightings from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. 

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Reed all about it

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Leighton Moss is home to the largest reedbed in North West England. Now a rare sight, reedbed is a dynamic habitat that requires constant management in order to give the best home to the wildlife that relies on it. Assistant warden Nick Godden explains some of the recent work he has been doing with colleagues in order to make Leighton Moss the best place for rare wildlife like marsh harriers, bearded tits and bitterns...

This blog was intended to document the mammoth task of planting 6500 reed plugs in an area of the reedbed that has been bare for many years. However, the weather had other ideas. Heavy rainfall on the 20 and 22 August saw water levels across Leighton Moss rise sharply. To make matters worse, that weekend saw a series of spring tides and this meant the only exit route for the reserve’s water was closed. This is the reason why there hasn’t been as many birds in front of some of the hides recently, although views are already improving as we continue to drop the water level. The end result is that the area that we want to plant our reed plugs in is now about 40cm underwater – hardly ideal!

So instead of showing the reed planting I will talk a bit about the areas that we are going to plant into. We call these the Bed Lowered Areas as approximately 10 years ago the ground was lowered by around 30cm in a number of narrow strips. You may have seen them in the distance from the top of the Skytower. Here is an aerial photo of the area taken in 2014 with Lilian’s Hide visible in the top left of the picture.


Aerial photo of the Bed Lowered Areas July 2014. Copyright RSPB 

The aim of the bed lowering was to create areas of deeper reedbed that would be more attractive to breeding bitterns. Unfortunately the reed didn’t grow back as expected so the areas remained bare for years. It turned out that the remaining soil was wet and sloppy and had no oxygen, making it totally unsuitable for reed to grow in. A drastic solution was needed, and that was to dry part of the site far more than had been done before.

The drawing down of water levels on the southern half of Leighton Moss will be well known to many people and was explained in detail in a previous blog: Who's pulled the plug out?. Drawdown was repeated this summer where possible to encourage the reed to spread. The reed is now spreading via underground rhizomes and overground runners as it goes in search of water. New shoots are sent up every few inches along a straight line and the process of colonising these bare areas is now well underway.

The response in vegetation growth has been rapid. To document this we take regular photos from a number of fixed points around the reedbed. And the photos below make it clear that the plan is working! Reed isn’t always the first plant to colonise these bare areas en masse, this is particularly evident in the second set of photos where rushes are coming in first. The reed then takes advantage of the more consolidated and oxygen rich ground to spread into.


Fixed point photographs showing the spread of reed and other wetland plant species in the bed lowered areas following drawdown of the water. From left to right: August 2014 and August 2106. All photos copyright RSPB. 

These photos were taken from near Grisedale Hide and show an even more dramatic spread of reed and rush following the drawdown. From left to right: August 2014, August 2015 and August 2016. All photos copyright RSPB.

We’re really pleased with how the vegetation is responding to us changing the way we manage our water levels of the last three years. The pictures above show very clearly that wetland plants, but most importantly reed, are starting to spread into previously inhospitable areas and thriving. It is still helpful to plant some reed in the barest areas to speed up the process and to introduce some reed that will grow a bit more vigorously. Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather so that we can get out there soon and start planting!

 As soon as the team can get out and plant the reeds we will be updating you with another blog of how they have been getting on, so watch this space!

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The sights and sounds of autumn

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What's your favourite season? In this week's guest blog, our Visitor Operations Manager Kevin Kelly explains why he loves this time of year.....

Autumn is an incredible time for bird migration. The numbers involved are far greater than spring, due to this year's young joining in on the arduous journey. That is not the only incredible part though. There is also the sheer wonderment that these juvenile birds, are almost pre-programmed to navigate to their winter home.

Later this week I will also be partly migrating. I will be heading north to a gem of an island on the same latitude as parts of Norway. The island of Fair Isle, out on its own in the sea between mainland Shetland to the North and Orkney to the South. It is for the very reason above that I will be making that journey - bird migration.

Late September and through October is an exciting time of year in the calendar for someone interested in birds. Waves of southbound geese begin their movement, accompanied by thousands of winter thrushes. An almost daily conveyer belt of birds pass over Fair Isle, with many making landfall to refuel and rest before ambling south.

One of my highlights of this autumn spectacle is the change in sounds. The distinctive calls of pink-footed geese as they fly in formation, giving way to the high pitched “Tseeep” of redwings as they make their way to our gardens, parks and nature reserves for the coming winter months. A harsh “chatter” of fieldfare contrasting with the gentle “tssit” of the tiny goldcrests. Nature's musical in full swing.

Fast forward a few weeks and I will be heading south to the Isles of Scilly to witness more migration in action and witness the contrasts and similarities in species involved. This time of year often brings species caught up in the wrong winds, either sent over the Atlantic by strong westerly winds, or pushed across from the east from places like Siberia to the UK. Bushes and trees can be alive with hundreds of goldcrests, chiffchaffs and small numbers of rarer warblers such as the diminutive yellow-browed warbler with its distinct “Tseeweep” call.


Spot the yellow browed warbler by Kevin Kelly

Autumn has been good so far at Leighton Moss, with the best mix being found on the saltmarsh at the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides. The pools have been awash with wading birds. Up to five avocets have been joined by 90 plus little egrets, 26 greenshanks and four spotted redshanks. Other sightings have included little stints, and over one thousand black-tailed godwits too. In the reedbed, otter sightings have been great at the Causeway hide as well as regular calling bearded tits, getting ready to start visiting our grit trays later this month. A single marsh harrier has been keeping an eye on the daily increasing numbers of wintering ducks, with pintails, shovelers and teals starting to grow in numbers. The next few weeks should see a wave of migrants passing through with many stopping here for the winter, the change in sounds will soon become evident as autumn builds through the coming months to its musical crescendo.

If you would like to learn more about the sights and sounds of autumn, why not join us for a Birdwatching for Beginners walk? Details here.

 

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Managing meadows in Middle Earth

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This week, our Site Manager (and Legolas of Leighton Moss) Jarrod Sneyd gives his thoughts on the magic of meadows and an exciting area in development at Leighton Moss....

I can imagine Bilbo Baggins, with his hairy feet, dancing through the meadows of the Shire. What I’m less sure of is whether hobbits kept cows or other livestock.  These are, of course, essential for a traditional meadow and clearly for a pasture.  So, I suspect there were cows in Middle Earth, but perhaps they were miniature ones?!

Were there cows in the Shire? (Image by J.Sneyd)

In my last blog I asked what a meadow is. Today I start by referring to a wonderful book by George Peterken aptly named – Meadows (British Wildlife Publishing, 2013).  Of course, all you social media enthusiasts probably ‘Googled’ it in an instant.  We should trust the old naturalists (the wizards of the wild!) more than our computers, though I would say that as I live in a Middle Earth kind of world!  So, what does the wise naturalist say? 


Well, Peterken says that "Meadows are grasslands that are mown for hay, which means they must be ‘shut up’ in spring and allowed to grow without grazing by animals until they are cut in summer." It’s only after the grass has been cut for hay that animals are put onto the field and can graze.  As they graze the vegetation after it’s been cut - it’s often referred to as a'ftermath grazing'.

A pasture is different in that it can remain available for grazing right through the year. So, a bit of grassland, depending on how you want to manage it, could be termed a 'meadow' or a 'pasture'.


This is a flower rich pasture with common spotted orchids amongst many flowers at Gait Barrows, not far from Leighton Moss. This was being grazed by the cow above (it had some friends to help too) in the period that would normally be ‘closed’ if it was technically to be a meadow. (Image by J.Sneyd)

Really, regardless of whether an area of grassland is a meadow or a lightly grazed pasture, Site Managers and Wardens alike, want to have fields full of flowers and lots of insects.

We have just leased a new field near the visitor centre (alongside the new path to the boardwalk). It hasn’t been managed specifically for wildlife for a while – and now we want make sure it’s got more flowers and insects. 

And here’s where the magic that Gandalf would love comes in – though perhaps not with quite the same thunderbolt effect....!


Yellow rattle by D.Mower

If we take a field that’s got more grass (and just a few species of grass at that) and turn it into one with more species and lots of flowers… then the plant I showed in my last blog… yellow rattle (above), can help  provide that little bit of magic.  Yellow rattle (or hay rattle as it’s often called) parasitizes grasses – it takes nutrients from them – and so can often result in the grass not growing as tall or as densely.  This helps to provide the conditions that allow other plants (that are normally  ‘fighting’ for space to grow), to compete with the grass…..

…….and so begins the Battle for ‘Fieldor’. Wonder what Tolkien would have made of that?

Hopefully, in a future blog we’ll be able to show how school children and hay rattle can start our big adventure and just how together we can make it happen …………

 

The field at the edge of the reedbed ….. wait and watch (it’ll take a few years) Image by J.Sneyd



 


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Blog Post: Birding at breakfast

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Mornings are a magical time to get out and about exploring nature before work. Here, our Membership Recruitment Manager Anya Kuliszewski explains why she loves to do just that....   During my time working and volunteering for the RSPB, I have been lucky enough to visit many of the fantastic nature reserves we have in the north of England. You would think I spend a lot of my time out and about but I can normally be found in the visitor centre. I love to chat to visitors about the important work we do and all the latest wildlife sightings, but I do try and explore as much as I can too - this means I often come down to Leighton Moss in the morning before work. I love the reserve early in the morning. I usually head down to the Causeway and Lower hides.  I regularly spot the family of otters hunting for breakfast. At the moment the three young otter cubs have been delighting visitors throughout the whole day. They are often fishing with their mother and it's great fun to watch them splashing around. As otters can stay under water for over four minutes, it's always entertaining to see where they are going to pop up next, often sending flocks of ducks into panic! Mornings are also a great time to spot some of the more secretive resident that call Leighton Moss home -  water rails and bitterns . Could you get a better spot to have breakfast? The path down to Lower hide is one of my favourite spots on the reserve. At the moment it's fantastic for a range of small birds with regular sightings of marsh tits and even the elusive bearded tit. We are starting to have regular sightings of our iconic bearded tits. Throughout the whole of October they will be visiting the grit trays on the Causeway. It's always worth listening out for them when you are walking down our new boardwalk too. Their metallic pinging is really distinctive, if you hear it then just stand still and they may pop across the path in front of you!    Over the past few days marsh harriers have once again been seen quartering over the reserve. Lots of these birds will migrate down to Africa but we are lucky and a few usually stick around through the winter - fingers crossed! One of the highlights at Leighton Moss at the moment are definitely the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. At this time of year we get clouds of wading birds over the saltmarsh.  My personal favourite is the dunlin . They are small, gorgeous silvery wading birds that flock together on the pools throughout winter. I love watching them move with such synchronicity - merlin often disturb them, sending them swirling up into the air. With the stunning backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the wading birds here are one of the most fantastic wildlife spectacles in the UK.   Dunlin flock (rspb-images.com)   Starlings are another star species that call Leighton Moss home through the autumn. We are starting to get flocks of local birds creating mini-murmurations above the saltmarsh. Let's hope we get a big influx of starlings from Europe to create those fantastic displays! Keep an eye on future blogs, we will keep you posted!   Starling in the reeds by Ged Gill If you're new to birdwatching and want to learn more about identifying our feathered friends, why not come along to one of our Birdwatching for Beginners events this autumn - details here

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Blog Post: Wildlife Explorers

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Do you remember the first time you held a snail in your hand? Or marveled at the detail in a leaf skeleton? For me, I'll always be transported back to my childhood listening to the hypnotic call of a lapwing as it dips and dives through the sky. What ever magical moment introduced you to the natural world for the first time, chances are it happened when you were young. Here at Leighton Moss we host a Wildlife Explorers Club once a month, where kids can have fun in the outdoors and connect with nature. Wildlife explorer Charlotte Cassidy, tells us about the club and what they did in September's meeting... The wildlife explorers is a fun club for keen naturists run at Leighton Moss. It is run by volunteers on the first Saturday of each month (prices are £2.00 for non-members and £1.00 for members) starting at 10:00-12:00. Conga by David McHugh This month(September) we got to know everyone that was new. As it was the first Wildlife Explores club after the holiday (we don’t have one in August) there was a lot. We made name badges with one of our favourite animals on. There was a range of animals from butterflies to tigers. It was a fun activity where everyone got to know each others name in the process.   Pearl boarded fratillary by Caroline Clay Next, we took old shoe boxes and made them into our personal storage spaces where we can put all of our craft work, pictures and anything else to do with wildlife in them when we next come. Everyone enjoyed this because you could put anything on your shoe boxes.  Then we played a game where we had to throw a parrot around the room and say the persons name who you were throwing it to. It gradually got harder as we added more birds in.  Finally we had a break from our hard work and sat down to our well earned juice and biscuits.   Soprano pipistrelle by David Mower Next time we will be learning about bats so why don’t you come down to Leighton Moss and come and join in and have some fun!    Written by Charlotte Cassidy, age 11. If you know someone who might enjoy being a Wildlife Explorer, why encourage them to not join in the fun? For information on Wildlife Explorers please contact Rachel Verrall, email – wildlife.explorers.leighton@gmail.com. Tel – 01524 37770 / 07968537998.  

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Blog Post: Bashing for butterflies

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Back at the end of June, a group of volunteers went up Warton crag to do some habitat management. Only a little way down the road from Leighton Moss, Warton Crag is a mosaic of limestone grassland, bracken and scrub, with a bit of woodland mixed in. It is home to so many wonderful and exciting species, so a day up there is always guaranteed to be good! Residential warden Larissa describes their day... It’s a meltingly hot day up on the crag, with the sun shining down from a perfect bright blue sky. The view across Morecambe Bay takes my breath away every time (as does the walk up!) and the tide is slowly creeping in over the Saltmarsh, painting in all the creeks and channels with silver. The crag is a gorgeous golden-yellow in the meadow areas, covered in wildflowers such as slender St. John’s wort, hawkweed, bedstraw, tormentil, rockrose and bird’s foot trefoil, and filled with many Meadow Brown butterflies and Ringlet butterflies flitting among the flowers. Wildflowers on Warton Crag by Larissa Bennett Margrave A merry gang of volunteers, we are at the Crag today to clear the bracken. It’s important habitat management for the rare fritillary butterflies that breed here, including Pearl-bordered, Small pearl-bordered, Dark Green and High Brown fritillary, whose larvae all feed exclusively on violets. Clearing large areas of bracken lets light in for the wildflowers to grow, creating meadows full of knapweed which provides plenty of nectar for the adults to feed on. Pearl-bordered fratillary by Caroline Clay We pull the bracken out by hand at the base of the stem, and it slides out with a short tear, which makes us sound surprisingly similar to a small herd of cattle munching away! Between pulling, we spot Common Lizards basking on the limestone rocks that are scattered about, and hear bullfinches and blackcaps calling from the surrounding scrub. The nesting peregrines soar overhead and a bright flash of orange as a Dark Green fritillary goes speeding past low over the top of the bracken makes everyone pause. We look back at the area we have been working on – seeing the clearings behind makes it really satisfying work, and indicates that it is definitely time for lunch! High Browns are the rarest fritillary on Warton Crag, having declined nationally by 79% since the 1970’s. They fly from June through into August, and the caterpillars feed on the Common dog violet and Hairy violet, which grow beneath the bracken. The management at the moment is aiming to increase the amount of violets present, as a food source for the larvae. It also aims to create plenty of edges to the bracken litter, as it is the favoured place for them to lay their eggs. The bracken creates its own micro-climate, which can be up to 15-20°C higher than the surrounding vegetation! This enables the caterpillars, which overwintered as eggs, to grow much more quickly in the cool early spring weather when they emerge. High Brown fratillary by David Mower The RSPB purchased part of Warton Crag back in 1987, and has been managing it in a way beneficial to the butterflies, and (plenty of other wildlife!) ever since, helping to look after some of the most beautiful and amazing creatures. As we make our way back down we check for some of the less wonderful critters (depending on your point of view!) that might be trying to hitch a ride – all the bracken is also a favourite spot for ticks!   

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Blog Post: Plentiful plovers

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One of the best things about being the visitor experience manager at Leighton Moss is the variety of work I get to do. Take this afternoon for example when I was lucky enough to get a break from my keyboard as I joined our site team to look at the new water control system in action down on the salt marsh... A trip down to our coastal section of the reserve would not be complete with out a cheeky peek into Allen hide and Eric Morecambe hide to see what wildlife was around. I love the view from the two salt marsh hides, with sparkling saline lagoons framed by a vast, often dramatic skyline, they really show off Morecambe Bay at it's finest. And then there's the birds. Stunning flocks of black-tailed godwits dance across the islands, whilst redshanks feed busily in the shallow waters and little egret skulk, bright white against the reed edges.  Black-tailed godwit by Kevin Kelly As my colleagues and I entered Allen hide this afternoon we were greeted with fantastic views of a gorgeous grey plover , still in summer breeding plumage. What a stunner! A few minutes later we were looking at a juvenile little ringed plover . It's always fantastic to see large numbers of birds gathering on the reserve as we head towards autumn, but having a variety of more unusual  visitors really brings the place in to vibrant life. Grey plover by Andy Hay (rspb-images.org.uk) On to Eric Morecambe hide and we were greeting by an excitable chatter on entering, as visitors enjoyed close up views of greenshanks and two spotted redshanks . One greenshank was even feeding meters away from us, picking food out of the fresh flow of water from one of the drainage pipes. Standing so close, I didn't need binoculars to appreciate it's crisp white front and lovely mottled feathering on it's back. There were also fantastic flocks of teal starting to build as the first ducks arrive here from their summer breeding grounds. After our cheeky detour into the hides we headed out onto the salt marsh towards the newly constructed water control system. In order to create the right water levels and conditions for wading birds to feed, staff at the reserve must continually manage this system. Today, Richard Miller our warden wanted to open one of the pipes that controls the water levels on the Allen pools in order to drop the water levels slightly. Hopefully this will leave more exposed mud around the island edges for wading birds to find fresh invertebrates to eat. Many of these birds, like the grey plover, will only stop here to fuel up on this energy rich food before they continue on migration. Other birds like the black-tailed godwits or redshanks may stay here for the rest of the autumn and winter.  Kingfisher by Ben Andrews (rspb-images.org.uk) Else where on the reserve, otters have been regular visitors to the causeway and lower pools this week, along with a single marsh harrier . Kingfishers have also been seen regularly at Lilian's hide  and from the sky tower as well as the last of our swallows , house martins and sand martins .  Don't forget it's our " What's that Wader ?" walk on Sunday 4 September. There's still time to join Mike and Jane Malpass to help you with identifying wading birds and discover why Morecambe Bay is such a fantastic home for them. Meet at the Eric Morecambe hide car park (SD 475736). Booking and payment in advance essential. Cost Adults £7, (RSPB members £5.50).    

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Blog Post: Spectacular waders

Posted on - In Leighton Moss (RSPB)
Visitor operations manager Kevin Kelly tells us all about the wonderful world of waders... With autumn in full swing from a birds perspective, one particular family of our feathered friends are in the midst of their mind-boggling migration. If you haven’t guessed it, the clues in the title. Wading birds is a broad title encompassing a whole range of specific families that make up this large avian category. As the name suggests, wading birds wade, in varying depths of water. Some preferring exposed mud, whilst others prefer deeper water in order to feed successfully. They have a fantastic array of different bill types in order to feed, ranging from small stubby bills that prod and stab into the mud, to long pointed bills which allow for much deeper feeding. The end of August through September is the peak time for numbers of waders to arrive here at Leighton Moss, with some at the end of their journey, happy  to stay for the winter on the Morecambe bay estuary. But for others this is a critical fuelling station where food, rest and protection are essential before continuing their incredible southward travels. The Morecambe bay estuary is an internationally important site for wading birds such as  oystercatchers  and  knots  that will remain throughout the winter in large numbers.  Avocets by Richard Cousens It is a great time of year to experience the salt marsh in action, as waves of waders pass through with the range of species almost changing from day to day. It is interesting to observe these daily changes with a pulse of birds such as  ruffs ,  greenshanks  and  spotted redshanks  peaking in numbers at the end of August and into September before continuing on their journey. These are joined by scarcer visitors such as  curlew sandpipers ,  little stints  and  wood sandpipers , rarer birds still like  pectoral sandpipers  are sometimes caught in the mass movement and arrive onsite too. Wood sandpiper by Kevin Kelly The last few weeks has seen an impressive array of waders on the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools. With recent sightings including, 12 greenshanks, two spotted redshanks, two little stints, seven  avocets  and singles of wood sandpiper and  little ringed plover . Add to that a swell of  redshanks  and  lapwings  and the pools are awash with hungry migrant waders. Thanks to some fantastic work to install a new water control system in this area (as mentioned in previous blogs ), we are now able to have greater control over the water levels, allowing us to manipulate this to meet the desires of our visiting hungry travellers. So as the reserve sees a near constant arrival of new birds of all different shapes and sizes you might need a hand telling the difference between the plovers and the sandpipers. Why not pop down to our " What's that Wader ?" walk on Sunday 4 September. Join Mike and Jane Malpass to help you with identifying wading birds and discover why Morecambe Bay is such a fantastic home for them. Meet at the Eric Morecambe hide car park (SD 475736). Booking and payment in advance essential. Cost Adults £7, (RSPB members £5.50).