I'm very happy to report that the water levels have almost returned to normal (whatever that is!) and there is now access to all the hides (except Lower Hide which remains closed to the public) for those visitors who may have forgotten their wellies. Obviously the pools are still holding more water than we'd expect them to at this time of year but that doesn't seem to be deterring the wildfowl - duck numbers continue to climb with each passing day. Lilian's Hide is great at the moment with two scaup still present along with pochard, tufted duck and scores of shoveler, teal and gadwall. Little grebes too are easy to see here as are mute swan family flotillas.
Elsewhere, the bearded tits have been entertaining the crowds as they come to gather grit from the trays at Causeway and along the path to Grisedale. With a camera streaming live footage of the trays to the café, visitors can enjoy a spot of lunch or cake and coffee while watching these amazing birds preparing for their winter diet of seeds!
Red deer are another focus of the season and the stags can be heard roaring from deep in the reed beds, particularly in the mornings and again at dusk. Our Facebook group page has been inundated with fabulous photos of impressive males as they display their imposing antlers. Occasionally a couple of the boisterous testosterone-fuelled stags will clash with one another, providing a breath-taking spectacle for those lucky enough to be in the hide.
With autumn truly upon us it's no surprise to see redwings and fieldfares around in recent days. These attractive Nordic thrushes are a real treat to see as they pass over in flocks or descend upon hawthorn hedgerows in search of the plentiful berries. Other highlights this week include a couple of very late swallows and a ring-tailed hen harrier which was photographed jousting with a male marsh harrier at Grisedale on Wednesday morning.
It really is a magical time of year to visit Leighton Moss, as one of our wonderful Live Interpretation volunteers, Kathleen, knows only too well. Here she shares with us her experience of being on the reserve during the recent floods...
Navigating the route needed more thought than usual, and there was more time to observe and to chat to the robin on his usual perch. Was he/she confused by the strange conditions, or didn’t they much aﬀect life in the trees?
I was startled by the call of a water rail from the reeds beside the path - not because this isn’t a regular occurrence, but because it seemed to be much closer than usual.
Emerging out of the trees I was greeted by bright sunlight glinting on the water. Looking more closely at the path surface beneath I could clearly see pond life which had escaped from its pond-dippable pools - whirligig beetles and pond skaters, amongst other things, busily rushing to and fro. Dragonﬂies skimmed over the reed tops in the sunshine; nothing had changed for them.
Now I was assailed by the quiet rustle of stems, and an exaggerated, overwhelming wet smell of reedbeds. What a surprise to see a single meadowsweet stem in full ﬂower at the edge of the almost-invisible path!
Looking ahead it was hard not to smile at the sight of one of the benches stranded amongst water - as though it had ﬂoated out from its normal position. Adding to the surreal moment were a couple, relaxing on the bench in the sunshine, with lower legs and feet stretched out into the water. The only life visible at the grit trays was a confused dunnock, normally a ground feeder, forced to hop along the wooden fence rail looking for food. Perhaps my hope for bearded tits on the trays was a bit greedy, though…
With a feeling of relief (wading through water certainly ﬂexes a few unused muscles) I reached the hide.
And what a great sight from within: wigeon, teal, shoveler, mallard, gadwall, a very ﬁne male pintail, tufted ducks. A splendid red deer stag brieﬂy emerged from the edge of the reeds, then quietly vanished from whence he came, followed by a deer hind. A female marsh harrier quartered the reed tops nearby. She seemed agitated; had the high water level created fewer or more hunting opportunities for her?
After a brief rest it was time to wade back, passing Cetti's warbler, robins, dunnock, marsh tit, coal tit, great tit, blue it - and not forgetting a stunning nuthatch.
Was the reserve closed by the ﬂoods? Not at all; it simply oﬀered up a truly magical experience.