It’s been a rather lively week here at Leighton Moss with yet more summer migrants arriving and a very special discovery near Lower Hide!
Just to keep you in suspense, we’ll look at the new arrivals first. Joining the swallows, sand and house martins the first notable influx of swifts (pic by Chris Gomersall rspb-images.com) has taken place and several of these scythe-like masters of the air can be seen hawking for insects over the reserve. For me, these aerobatic screamers are the true sign of summer.
Through the reedbed the cacophonous sound of singing reed warblers is almost constant, while sedge warblers are best seen and heard along the path toward the Allen Hide. A grasshopper warbler continues to reel away here too and a strikingly handsome male whinchat, surely one of our most dazzling summer visitors, was spotted there on May 1.
More garganey have arrived, though thanks to the often secretive nature of these beautiful ducks we can only ever guess at how many might actually be out there!
Marsh harriers are busy with breeding duties with four active nests on the reserve at the moment. Although they can seen well from just about everywhere, the best views are often to be had from Grisedale Hide; currently a favourite location for photographers hoping to capture a perfect shot of these fabulous raptors.
Out on the saltmarsh pools and our hides overlooking the magnificent visa of Morecambe Bay, the breeding season is undeniably in full swing. Pairs of garrulous black-headed gulls jostle for nest space while elegant avocets squeeze in to care for their nests and eggs. The bulk of the black-tailed godwits have moved north leaving just a few hundred behind. Check through these and you may find the odd ruff, greenshank, knot or spotted redshank.
Our ever-reliable otters continue to please onlookers – the mother still has her trio of growing cubs with her while the lone dog otter can often be seen fishing for eels at Lower of Causeway pools.
The exciting piece of news alluded to in the opening paragraph concerns the behaviour of a bittern near Lower Hide. Seen daily for around a week, this same bird is displaying behaviour to suggest that it is a female with a nest. After lengthy watches and some very good photos being posted on our Facebook group it became clear that the bittern is a female and that she is almost certainly tending to newly hatched young in the nest. This terrific news follows confirmation that bitterns bred at Leighton Moss in 2018 for the first time in a decade – all that intensive work carried out by our ecologists and wardens has definitely paid off! Hopefully we will see yet more pairs staying to nest on the reserve in the coming years. (Bittern pic copyright Mike Malpass)
In other news, I am delighted to introduce another (non-avian) arrival to Leighton Moss - our new residential volunteer. Over to you Lucy...
"Hello everyone, my names Lucy Ryan and I’m the new Visitor Experience Intern here at Leighton Moss. I’ll be here for the next six months, so I look forward to getting to meet many you.
I am moving up here from Canterbury in Kent, where I have just completed a Practical Conservation Internship, with the RSPB Blean Woods Team. Focusing on woodland, heathland and wet grassland management. For a whole host of species, from nightingales and woodpeckers to lapwing and the rare heath fritillary butterfly. The internship was a great opportunity to learn more about habitat management, from completing ride network expansions, to invasive species control and hydrological management. But with a real interest in making connections between people and nature, I’m really excited about the opportunities this internship will offer.
Before turning my hobby of traveling and exploring nature reserves into my career choice, I spent time working in a variety of wildlife parks and zoos, in England and elsewhere. With some time spent working as the Assistant Conservation Manager of a Madagascan reserve. Where I worked with ecotourists from around the world on activities from mangrove planting, to guided night walks and lemur surveying. My main wildlife focus was once primates, but I have more recently come to love the nature we have right here on our doorsteps, which I think we should all appreciate more often. Whilst I’m by no means a professional birder, a recent trip to the RSPB Mull of Galloway where I saw osprey, guillemot and gannets alongside the regular bird sightings as part of the Blean Internship has definitely started me on my way.
I only started this internship on the May 1, but I’ve already had a few personal wildlife highlights from spotting the tawny owl in the nest box just down the path to the right of the garden, to identifying my first little grebe and spotting seven red deer down by the Grisedale Hide on my first night. A species that until now has always eluded me, despite my best efforts.
During my internship, I aim to keep you updated on any interesting sightings, reserve news, events and activities. I’m sure you’ll see me around the reserve, in the visitor centre, helping out with events and wandering around the reserve in the evenings topping up on my bird ID skills and taking photos".