In the last few days, after having seen temperatures plummet, we have returned once more to damper, milder conditions. The ice that covered the pools earlier in the week is gone and the ducks that were huddled around the small patches of open water have now spread out across the reserve. A stop in Lilian's or Causeway hides will reward you with the sight of hundreds of birds busy dabbling or diving for food. Little grebes, goldeneyes, tufted ducks and coots appear frantic in their efforts to find sub-aquatic meals while shovelers, (pic by Hazel Rothwell) pintails, gadwall, wigeon, teal and mallards sift and pick leisurely in their quest for sustenance.
Meanwhile the seemingly ever-present marsh harriers appear to be constantly searching the reedbeds and water edges for prey; a short time spent anywhere on the reserve right now will almost certainly result in a sighting of at least one or two of these impressive raptors. Bitterns too have been something of a feature in recent days with multiple reports of flying birds, primarily from the Causeway area. Bearded tits are still being seen, though as we'd expect by early December their appearances along the paths and grit trays are dwindling significantly.
As anyone who has visited us lately (or looked at our Facebook page!) will be aware of the poor condition of the access track to our Eric Morecambe and Allen pools car park. In the past we have always maintained this stretch of track, even though the RSPB does not own it. I am happy to report that we have now arranged to repair and renovate this track and our wardening team are currently working hard to complete this work by the weekend.
If you're planning on visiting Leighton Moss before the weekend, please bear in mind that the track will closed to traffic, though there will be pedestrian access for those happy to walk from the visitor centre.
The starlings are continuing to roost off the main reserve, at Barrow Scout. So, if you wish to observe the thousands of birds descending into the reedbeds, you can do so from the Skytower or even from the Jackson and Grisedale hides. Please note that the birds aren't really murmurating as such yet - the majority are simply flying in to roost. Once the coastal hides track has been re-opened, visitors may view the starlings by parking in the Allen / Morecambe car park and walking back up along the access track. Please do not park on the track under any circumstances, or stop on the road.
As in previous years the starlings are likely to relocate to the main reserve shortly. The murmurations over Causeway can be spectacular and once this start happening we will post news here, on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Pic by Alistair Grubb.