Naomi’s blog: ‘Fowl weather’ and recent sightings

Naomi Wadsworth, our new Visitor Experience Intern, provides an update on recent sightings this past week:

Hello bloggers, it’s been a rather blustery week here at Leighton Moss, and whilst this may not have been the best weather for visitors, one man I spoke to described it as “fowl weather”, and indeed there have been multiple species gracing our presence. So without further ado:

At Lilian’s Pool there continues to be a fluctuating number of black-tailed godwits, with redshank, spotted redshank, greenshank, ruff and knot occasionally in the mix. Dabbling ducks to sight include mallard, teal, shoveler, pintail, wigeon and gadwall. You can often spot a grey heron acting as a silent sentry over this pool too.

Black-tailed godwits in flight (Mike Malpass)

The Causeway Pool has also been excellent for birds. A kingfisher continues to be sighted in a dazzling flash of orange and blue (another has frequently been sighted at the Allen Pool). Great white egret numbers have reduced slightly from their peak of six, but birds continue to frequent the area and can be sighted in the wider AONB area. Mute swans continue to be sighted in all their grace, and we have also had some whooper swans drop in. Along with the common terns a juvenile black tern put in a brief appearance for a lucky few sat in Lower Hide. Water rail have been heard around the Causeway and Lower hides so with a little patience (and perhaps some luck) you may sight them. The cormorants continue to provide some great fishing spectacles and the little grebes can be sighted daily. There are also diving ducks here with pochards having been sighted infrequently over the week.

Our otters have been providing some remarkable experiences at both the Lilian’s and Causeway pools. One was sighted hunting on Lilian’s and then proceeded to eat their prey right below the hide, with lucky visitors reporting they were able to hear the otter eating. The same has also occurred at Causeway.

The star species of course has been the grey phalarope (pictured below) which was blown off course during our period of bad weather. This beautiful artic-breeding wader was present at the Allen and Morecambe pools on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 September. This was a lovely encounter to witness as only 200 of these birds are seen on our coasts per year.

Grey phalarope (Phil Boardman)

Our marsh harrier numbers have fluctuated over the past fortnight, with as many as four sighted in one day over the main site and the coastal pools. There is a strong chance that these birds will be wintering here now. I have enjoyed watching them dip and glide with the winds over the undulating reedbed, it is rather beautiful to watch. There has also been frequent sightings of buzzards and a hobby. Another species to look out for are over-flying pink-footed geese, the largest flock we have had so far is 76.

The Morecambe and Allen pools have been visited by goosanders, red breasted mergansers, up to 20 greenshank (which I believe is a record) and there have been frequent sightings of the leucistic greenshank at these pools. There have also been redshank, kingfisher, a curlew sandpiper and many more!

Now is the perfect time to visit the reserve to watch red deer herds as they enter the rutting season. Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides provide the best views, but they can also be found along the path to the Lower Hide.

Our final ‘Singing and Ringing’ event of the year was a success, with participants being given the opportunity to get closer to several lovely birds including a male bearded tit (pictured below), a goldcrest, common redpoll and Cetti’s warbler. This was a great event to attend with visitors learning about the species and the ringing process.

Bearded tit ♂ (Judith Young)

On a final note, our bearded tits have begun using the freshly installed grit trays on the Causeway. The wardens have done a fantastic job of constructing our new viewing platform, I have personally enjoyed watching a male and female on the grit trays from here. Whilst the bearded tits are unreliable (in the sense that some days they are not here) as time marches on and we get into October, this will be a prime place to see them.