Fresh arrivals and recent sightings

I have the great pleasure of handing this week's blog over to Naomi Wadsworth, a new Visitor Experience Intern at Leighton Moss. Here she is in her own words, introducing herself and updating you on recent sightings:

Hello bloggers! My name is Naomi and I suppose you could say I’m the new kid on the reserve. I am overjoyed to be spending the next 6 months supporting the RSPB Leighton Moss team as your new Visitor Experience Intern, where I will be following in the footsteps of a long line of fantastic interns. I look forward to meeting many of you!

Naomi Wadsworth, new Visitor Experience Intern at Leighton Moss

This summer I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in Sustainable Development with Sociology. Growing up in the Lake District and then the Trossachs fostered a deep appreciation and love for our landscapes and wildlife. As I learned more about the threats nature faces, I resolved to pursue a degree which would aid me in my desire to protect that which I love.

During my time at university I joined the Sustainable Development Association and assisted with the organisation and facilitation of successful events such as sustainability question time and a sustainability conference. I also worked as a student tutor for two years, helping students in younger years in my degree, improve their understanding and course grades. I was also part of a student group who started our own vegetable garden on campus, where different seasonal produce continues to be grown and shared.

Last summer I had the privilege of volunteering at RSPB Loch Garten on Operation Osprey. I fell in love with the magnificent raptors and whilst I never saw EJ, Loch Garten’s star osprey (who has recently turned 21), I was moved by her story and the conservation efforts of the RSPB to bring ospreys back from extinction. Loch Garten offered lots of amazing wildlife encounters with the crested tits, Scottish crossbills, a white-tailed eagle and red squirrels! I also thoroughly enjoyed working in the visitor centre with such a dedicated team. I discovered bringing both adults and children closer to nature and igniting new interests was so personally satisfying that I realised that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career. This led me to apply for an internship with the RSPB and here I am. Admittedly, I have much to learn when it comes to our wildlife, but what better place to learn than that of a leading reserve with a fantastic, knowledgeable team? Already I have been present for some wonderful spectacles and first sightings: the female marsh harrier swept across the reedbed on my first evening at the reserve, and a friendly pair of marsh tits and I were subject to the down-draft of hundreds of black-tailed godwits' wings as they flew to roost.

During my internship I will be keeping you updated on news, events and activities. Whilst here I hope to advance the great work undertaken at this leading reserve and encourage further charitable support. My personal aim (besides developing my skill set) is to reconnect people with nature and empower them because together we can give nature a home. You’ll most likely find me in the centre where I’ll offer you a warm welcome, or on the reserve assisting with other activities such as guided walks and school visits. I may even organise new activities for you to enjoy – perhaps something sustainability related? My first large project involves organizing the Leighton Moss Christmas market so watch this space! One final key role I have is keeping you updated on sightings and oh my! What a week of action we have had here so hold onto your tail feathers, if the weather forecast is right it’s about to get bumpy!

Stepping into autumn’s cooler embrace we can expect to welcome a multitude of various wader and wildfowl species arriving at Leighton Moss throughout the upcoming weeks. The water levels on the main site have more than recovered after one of the hottest summers on record, and for the previous few weeks the main action has been sighted at Lilian’s and Causeway pools.

At Lilian’s pool is a flock of black-tailed godwits, with the number of birds present altering daily. There are a few individuals who remain in their summer plumage, to the delight of the various raptors who frequent the area. This colony number may very well increase as these Icelandic birds migrate to the UK for the upcoming winter. Amongst this substantial group of waders are a modest number of redshanks (our sightings book suggest 127 so far) with smaller numbers of spotted redshanks, greenshanks and the occasional ruff, knot and dunlin also present. A family of water rails continues to frequent Lilian’s, with a juvenile being sighted almost daily scampering in front of the hide, and many others are present on site, so with a little time and patience you may sight these secretive birds, particularly around Causeway. Garganey, gadwall and shoveler ducks continue to be sighted at Lilian’s, and one female marsh harrier remains at the main site, sighted flying around the main reserve and stirring up trouble at the Allen pool.

Pintail, by Ben Hall

At Causeway, new arrivals and frequent visitors have been treating visitors daily. Kingfisher sightings have been reported with increasing occurrence. The great white egret population has grown to as many as 6 (depending on the day) but have been sighted in the wider AONB. A fantastic territory battle took place last week between a grey heron and great white egret, with the grey heron chasing the great white egret for several minutes. This was an exciting aerial display to witness, as the large bodies of these birds belies their grace and aerial skill, with both birds occasionally skimming the water. Other species include cormorants, teals, pochards and other wildfowl arriving for the winter are also causing a splash. Causeway in particular has been an excellent place to spot numbers of pintails and wigeons.

Over the past week there have been some very exciting unexpected arrivals at Leighton Moss too. For the first time this year, a drake common scoter was found at Causeway. This all-black diving seaduck is an interesting anomaly, but not unheard of, and a consequence of the recent strong westerly winds. Whilst common scoters do breed in-land, they are an infrequent visitor to the reserve. There was also a common tern spotted at Causeway (pictured below) whose aerial skills delighted our visitors. This photogenic bird put on an excellent show, and like the common scoter is not a frequent visitor. Most recently, a guillemot was recorded at Allen pool on 13 September, another blink and you’ll miss it moment unfortunately. There is the potential for more unexpected rare visitors however, as the tail winds of hurricane Florence may very well send some more migrant and sea birds off course.

Common tern, by Mark Wilson

Our resident mammals are also treating visitors to wonderful sightings. With rutting season approaching, increasing numbers of red deer hinds and stags are being sighted from Grisedale hide. I have enjoyed watching these magnificent creatures patrol their land at dusk, with the evening lighting adding to their aesthetic appeal. Otters continue to be spotted from the causeway hide at various times of day, with some remarkable hunting trips being viewed. Stoats have also made brief appearances along the causeway footpath. Such a wonderful variety of wildlife highlights to great and ongoing work undertaken at RSPB Leighton Moss and is a testament to the dedication of the reserve team.