Brief update on recent sightings

Sightings of our mother bittern have been increasing lately, a tantalising prospect for all visitors. These regular flight paths now seem to cross from her nest (located close to the main dyke behind Lillian’s pool) past the front of Grisedale hide and on towards Barrow Scout, one of our satellite sites situated close to the Morecambe and Allen pools. Grisedale and the Skytower have been affording lucky visitors with excellent vistas of these classic ‘food flights’.

Hundreds of young birds on the reserve continue to soar closer to adulthood. The clamour of fledglings can be heard from most paths, with young warblers and tits especially noticeable. Causeway hide remains an ideal setting for watching waterfowl younglings, with two pochard broods still showing well (one totaling 10, the other with 8) and numerous gadwall and mallard adolescents also present here as well as at Grisedale and Tim Jackson pools. Young coots and pied wagtails remain in attendance. The great black-backed gull brooding on the central island at Causeway can be seen fending off unwanted carrion crow intrusion now and then.

Great crested grebe chick by Richard Cousens

In addition, a second great-crested grebe pair has established a nest on the north-western bank opposite Causeway hide, and we look forward to the arrival of a new brood in the near future. The first pair of parents can be seen dwelling with their youngsters close to Lower hide. A pair of little grebes give themselves away after their sporadic dives close to the hide. Mute swans with cygnets, greylag and Canada geese with goslings are still conspicuous at Tim Jackson and Grisedale pools. The grunts and whistles of water rail, and the pinging of bearded tits, can occasionally be heard along the Causeway bridleway, though picking them out from their concealment proves rare.

As can be expected at this time of year, much remains unchanged. Chiff-chaff, willow, sedge, reed and Cetti’s warblers, with reed buntings among them, are still very audible, particularly on the boardwalk. Foulshaw Moss ospreys have not wavered in their enthusiasm for fishing at Causeway pool. Otters have been more frequently sited at Grisedale of late, exercising their curiosity and making their way across the reserve along main dyke.  Our three male marsh harriers remain the most active and evident of our specialist species on the reserve at the moment, with spectacular close-up sightings from Causeway and Grisedale. Despite appearing sparse in comparison with previous years, swifts continue to be a delightful presence above the reserve. Large numbers of froglets and toadlets continue to hurl themselves across the paths on suicidal journeys, and their numbers have been added to by newts

Little egret in flight by Martin Kuchczynski

Its also been nice to see the return of little egrets after a short term of absence. Up to 4 have been seen at one time from Grisedale hide, and, alongside the odd great white egret, they can be spotted strafing above the reserve.

Down at the coast, after the heatwave and mass evaporation which had left very little water down at the salt marshes, the recent rainfall has restored water levels and aided the dispersal of avocets. At least 20 have fledged, some being sighted along Morecambe bay. Black-headed gulls have been doing extremely well and are in good number – at least 800 pairs with a number of chicks. There are still over 100 black-tailed godwits, with bar-tailed godwits varying in much smaller numbers against the large flocks of their relatives. On the 16th a knot was spotted in amongst them. The WeBs counts on the 15th recorded 6 turnstone and 9 goosander from Jenny Brown’s point. Still to be sighted at the coast in varying numbers are oystercatcher, lapwing, curlew, redshank and shelduck.