Our recent 'star bird', the pectoral sandpiper present at the Allen Pools, went AWOL earlier this week having delighted hundreds of visitors during its short stay. Wader watchers still had plenty to enjoy as the post-breeding season got underway with an increase in the number of black-tailed godwits and greenshank plus dunlin, knot, common sandpiper and little ringed plovers showed well in front of the hides. The unseasonal whooper swan remains on the Eric Morecambe Pools along with a growing number of little egrets and at least 4 spoonbills. Pic of common sandpiper by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Elsewhere on the reserve crowd-pleasing bitterns, bearded tits, kingfishers and otters have been seen on and off while ospreys continue to make daily appearances. The active young marsh harriers may be seen just about anywhere around the reedbeds as they get to grips with being masterful aerial predators! After a couple of weeks absence, a hobby has been reported in recent days.
While birds are clearly a huge focus of the work we do here at Leighton Moss, we are also involved in many other conservation projects including some fantastic partnership work that has been going on at Challan Hall Allotment, one of our nearby satellite sites. Thanks to generous funding, work can begin later this year to restore this area for some very rare butterflies.
Historically the Challan Hall site had a wonderful mixture of open limestone pavement and grassland, as well as woodland, all of which are required by a number of declining butterfly species. However, since the 1940s the area has become increasingly overgrown and the open areas that used to benefit a whole host of wildlife have mostly been lost to predominantly woodland. Since 2001, the RSPB have owned the site and their small team of wardens and volunteers have been maintaining it. This restoration has been able to take place thanks to the generous support of the Lancashire Environmental Fund, Arnside & Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Grants Fund (operated by Arnside & Silverdale AONB and the Arnside/Silverdale Landscape Trust working together), and with assistance from wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation.
The surrounding landscape is home to a number of nationally rare and threatened butterflies such as high brown fritillary and Duke of Burgundy. Initial restoration work over two years has been planned in collaboration with Natural England, who manage nearby Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. The hope is for the work to provide more wildlife corridors between these existing nature reserves to link populations together, as well as creating new areas to try and help boost the numbers of these rare butterflies. Pic of high brown fritillary by David Mower
Traditional practices using local workers are being restarted in the woodland including coppicing, where trees are cut down in patches over a number of years and then allowed to re-grow. Initially this creates a flush of wild flowers, especially violets for the rare fritillaries to lay their eggs on. A whole range of other wildlife also benefits from having trees at a range of ages, including bats and birds. Some overgrown areas of limestone pavement and grassland will also be opened up, bringing more sunlight into the reserve.