Tag: Nature

Latest Closure Information

As many of you will know, we are temporarily CLOSED to visitors during the current lockdown.

This includes:
Visitor Centre
Toilets
Hides and trails
Café and shop
The public Causeway is open as normal for local, essential exercise only

Anyon…

A Natural New Year

 With the new year fast approaching, many of us will be more than happy to wave goodbye to 2020; an often exhausting and deeply concerning year if ever there was.

As has been mentioned multiple times here and elsewhere, one of the few benefits of lockdowns and travel restrictions was the nationwide increase in nature awareness. Whether we were hearing more birdsong in our towns and gardens or discovering access to the outdoors close to where we live, many of us found some comfort in the natural world. Here at Leighton Moss we welcomed many first-time visitors from the local area and we were delighted to help further inspire and encourage this new-found love of landscapes and our amazing native wildlife.

Despite Covid guidelines preventing us from operating as we normally would we have been thrilled to remain open for much of the year, allowing our regular visitors and those discovering us for the first time, to come and find solace in the reedbeds, meres, marshes  and woodlands of the nature reserve. There has been a great deal of discussion around how being outdoors and connecting to nature can benefit us in many ways, from improving mental health to physical wellbeing and at times like these, ‘nature therapy’ is essential for many of us.

If ever there was a time to make more space for nature in our lives, this is it. Why not make it a New Year’s resolution to immerse yourself further into the fabulous world on your doorstep!   

We would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year and we look forward to a time when things may return to a state that resembles ‘normal’ – one thing for sure, nature will be here to help us cope with whatever we have to deal with in 2021.

Don’t forget, we are open from 10am – 4pm daily with the exception of Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 January.                

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Winter Reed Cuts & Festive Opening

As we hurtle toward the end of what has been an extraordinary year in so many ways I hope, like me, you have been able to take some comfort in nature. Just being outdoors does do wonders for the mind, soul and body.

 In recent days, while going about my onsite business, I have been fortunate to see some wonderful wildlife – red deer in the reed beds, bittern at the water’s edge, multiple marsh harriers hunting over the expansive reeds, snoozing path-side tawny owl, great white egrets stalking for prey, merlin in pursuit of a panicked starling and dazzling bearded tits still coming to grit on the trays! Sheer magic. 

Our wardens and volunteers have been very busy, as always. Visitors have noticed plumes of smoke emanating from the depths of the reserve, as the team have been toiling on a winter reed cut. This helps improve the health of the reedbed by stimulating new growth and it also benefits many of our special wildlife. The work never stops! (Pic by Patrick Keating)       

If you are planning to visit us over the festive period for some nature therapy or to visit the shop or café we’ll be open 10am to 4pm daily except:  

Christmas Eve – Closed

Christmas Day – Closed

Boxing Day – Closed

We will also be shut on Monday January 4 and Tuesday January 5

From all of us at Leighton Moss we wish you a very Happy Christmas and a much improved New Year! 

Stay safe, keep well and we hope to see you soon.

Jon

Breakfast with the Birds

 One of the more positive things to emerge from the first lockdown earlier this year was an increase in interest in nature. Restrictions on travel and calls to stay close to where we live saw many people discovering, perhaps for the first time, places within walking distance of their homes where they could engage with the natural world. For some, bird song seemed more obvious and wonderous, while others simply spent more time in their gardens or local parks and noticed the beauty of spring as it bloomed before their eyes. 

Now we see ourselves in a period of lockdown once more and as autumn tumbles into winter we can experience the joy that nature brings again. Whether we’re kicking around in an ochre and orange palette of fallen leaves or watching a high tide roost of wading birds on the coast there is much to lift the spirits during these difficult times.

One of the most rewarding things we can do of course is feed the birds. Whether you have a garden, a backyard or a balcony in a block of flats there’s almost always somewhere to hang a feeder or a fat-ball! And if you’re spending more time indoors, this at least allows a little bit of nature to come to you. There’s nothing better than sitting with a nice hot brew watching the local birds coming and going and taking advantage of an easy food source. Here at Leighton Moss we’re blessed with an array of birds that come into our garden area to avail themselves of the buffet on offer! Marsh tits, siskins and bullfinches jostle among the more numerous chaffinches, goldfinches and blue and great tits. Meanwhile blackbirds, fieldfares (photo by Mike Malpass) and song thrushes feast on the fallen apples in the orchard.

For many of us, the list of birds visiting our feeders at home may be a little more modest but it is certainly no less interesting! Even in my relatively small semi-suburban space I can expect to see coal tit, blue tit, great tit, robin, dunnock, wren, blackbird, collared dove and house sparrow on a regular basis while long-tailed tit, goldfinch, chaffinch, song thrush and goldcrest may drop by occasionally. I’ve even been blessed with waxwings!  

One way to share your sightings is by posting them on Twitter of Facebook with the hashtag #BreakfastBirdwatch. This RSPB initiative was initially launched back in March as we went into the first lockdown and it has been revitalised in recent weeks in response to current restrictions. We feel it is vital that nature can still be enjoyed by as many people as possible – it doesn’t matter if you’re a keen birder, a family or someone self-isolating, we want everyone to join in! #BreakfastBirdwatch take place every weekday between 8am and 9am – it’s a great way to start the day and who knows, maybe you’ll spot something you’ve never seen before! 

Jon

     

      

Brilliant Boost for Bitterns

 Despite the reserve currently being closed to the public, there is still plenty going on behind the scenes at RSPB Leighton Moss! 

Our wardening team have been as busy as ever, still catching up with jobs they were unable to do during the first lockdown as well as cracking on with seasonal tasks that are priorities at this time of year. One of the main projects currently underway (when water levels allow, at least!) is the mammoth construction of the large cell-bed in the south-eastern section of the main reserve.

This project involves the construction of a 600 metre bund, made from clay and earth, which will result in an overall 9 hectare cell area. There will be a sluice structure installed to control water both entering and leaving this cell which will allow us to manage water levels within the project area, independently of those on the wider nature reserve.

This work, funded in-part by EDF Energy and the Lancashire Environmental Fund, will produce ideal ditch and shallow pool habitat for eels as well as improving overall water quality by isolating the new cell from the main reedbed for much of the year. 

European eel is one of the fish species most severely affected by over-fishing in recent decades. This, combined with habitat degradation, barriers to migration (such as weirs) and reductions in water quality in many European wetlands and waterways, is having a major impact on the global eel population. Of course, eels are critical components in the food chain on a site such as Leighton Moss and are essential to the success of bitterns.    

 Our warden Richard Miller says: “The purpose of this dynamic project is to create a hydrologically independent cell within the Leighton Moss reedbed with deep ditches and pool features. This is essential, as reedbeds are transient habitats that will deteriorate without ongoing maintenance.”

He adds: “The key aim is to accelerate the rejuvenation of habitats at on the nature reserve for struggling wetland wildlife, particularly two threatened species – bittern and European eel – and to ensure the site continues to be the great wildlife experience that visitors come to experience and enjoy.  It is also an essential BETTER element in the principles of BIGGER, BETTER, more CONNECTED set out in the government white paper ‘Making Space for Nature’; principles which drive our efforts within the wider Morecambe Bay Local Nature Partnership area and the RSPB Priority Landscape, that encompass Leighton Moss and its satellites sites.”

Having proven highly successful at other wetland sites, this cell-bed work will improve overall habitat for bitterns and it should result in increasing the number of these scarce reedbed dwellers at Leighton Moss in the years to come.   

Woodlands; looking after your mind, body, and soul.

Ribble Rivers Trust
Woodlands; looking after your mind, body, and soul.
Today is both National Stress Awareness Day, and the mid-point of International Stress Awareness Week. Our mental and physical health have never been more important, with many of u…

Work nears completion on Primrose Lodge fish pass

Ribble Rivers Trust
Work nears completion on Primrose Lodge fish pass
What is thought to be England’s longest fish pass is nearing completion. The fish pass is being created as part of the Primrose Lodge Blue and Greenway Project (PLBGP), whichContinue…

Return to the Moss – a volunteer’s story

 In this week’s blog we invited volunteer Jennie to share her experiences of how the current Coronavirus pandemic affected her visits to Leighton Moss both before lockdown and again after the reserve re-opened… 

Return to the Moss By Jennie Chapman, RSPB volunteer

A bright and chilly mid-March morning. I dug out my blue polo shirt and navy fleece from the bottom of a drawer, found my name badge in the jacket pocket and pinned it in place opposite the RSPB logo. I had returned from a period of working abroad and was thrilled to be getting back to my volunteer role, welcoming visitors to Leighton Moss. It was fantastic to be back at my ‘home reserve’, and I was looking forward to sharing my passion for the place and for the brilliant birdlife that thrives there; but, beneath the excitement, there was an unease that was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. A new and highly contagious disease – a type of ‘coronavirus’, scientists explained – had spilled over Chinese borders and was ravaging northern Italy and Iran; Spain, where I had been living, had just gone into hard lockdown; and the first UK fatalities were being recorded. Nervous jokes about substituting handshakes for elbow bumps were proffered in exchange for rueful chuckles that were a little too forced. Touch points were assailed with frequent applications of disinfectant. Visitors covered their hands with their coat sleeves to open doors. In the visitor centre loos, conspicuously diligent efforts were applied to the formerly mundane business of handwashing, now elevated to a matter of national import. My first day back was quite unlike any I had experienced previously, but I had returned to the Moss and I couldn’t be happier.

A week later, the country went into lockdown, and Leighton Moss and its 200+ sister reserves across the UK were closed indefinitely. 

Adjusting to the ‘New Normal’

Sixteen long weeks later, and a few weeks after the reserve began the gradual process of reopening to the public, I was among a small number of volunteers to return to duties. The RSPB takes the business of keeping its volunteers safe and happy extremely seriously, and has been scrupulous in ensuring that none is put at risk – meaning that only those volunteers who do not fall into a vulnerable category have returned to visitor-facing roles. I consider myself tremendously lucky to be fit and healthy, and to be able to use that privilege to support Leighton Moss and the RSPB. 

There have certainly been some changes to adapt to. In order to reduce the risk to both staff/volunteers and visitors, the whole welcome operation has been shifted outside. Where we once had at our disposal a hi-tech interactive graphic display to bring our descriptions of habitats and species to life – press this button to hear the boom of the bittern, or that one for the ping of the bearded tit – now we improvised with old-school posters on display boards (my one attempt to mimic bittern vocalisations resulted only in profound embarrassment for all concerned, and a concession that this sort of thing was probably best left to the professionals, i.e. the bitterns themselves). This bit made me laugh! Portable card readers were sourced to replace the tills that we could no longer use, and the distribution of maps was suspended. Our initial offer was limited to selected paths and trails and nothing more; toilet facilities with an enhanced cleaning regime followed. The reopening of two of our wildlife-watching hides and the Skytower viewing platform, fortified with an antiviral armoury of one-way systems, limits on user numbers, social distancing measures, ‘test and trace’ contact slips and hand sanitation points, felt nothing less than momentous. Tentatively and incrementally, we proceeded with caution into a world transformed.   

Nature’s New Cheerleaders

In this strangest and, for many people, saddest of summers, it has been uplifting to welcome visitors whose paths might not have crossed ours otherwise. Families who would normally be in Spain, Greece or the Algarve are holidaying in the UK and finding themselves pleasantly surprised at what it has to offer. But our first-time visitors aren’t only holidaymakers. People who live locally but have never visited before, many of whom cite the frenetic pace of normal life by way of explanation, are coming too. I’m always intrigued as to what brings people onto the reserve, and among those new visitors I’ve spoken to on the topic, a fair proportion have described a heightened appreciation for nature and wildlife, instigated by the deprivations of the lockdown. Formerly expansive and complex social worlds have been replaced by the small, safe, self-contained realm of the home. In this shrunken sphere, our balconies, yards and gardens, and the bees, birds and butterflies that visit them, became lifesavers – as did our daily local exercise, prescribed by government edict and undertaken with all the assiduity of a sacred duty. Pubs, cafés, and restaurants; shops and cinemas; gyms and leisure centres; kids’ playgrounds; even others people’s houses: all were now off-limits – but canal towpaths, coastal promenades, city parks and rural woodlands remained, and here we watched spring unfold with a mindful intensity that, owing to our full and hectic lives, many of us hadn’t really had the opportunity to exercise before. We slowed down and literally smelt the flowers. The colours of spring dazzled and popped like never before, its rhythms heard more clearly without the competing noise of road and air traffic. Without other distractions, many of us had the space to really observe, appreciate and find solace in nature in a way we hadn’t previously. Now, as we tiptoe toward something vaguely resembling normality, those who found joy in nature during the long days of lockdown are keen to keep that spark of inspiration alive, and are finding in our reserves a place to kindle that flame. If any positives are to be found amid the indisputable horrors of the pandemic, then this must surely be among them.

It is not only adults who have been bitten by the nature bug this year. From my conversations with families who visit, it seems that many children have spent more time outdoors than normal, and many have become enthusiastic proponents for nature as a result. A pair of eight-year-old twins described in detail the pond and bug hotel they had forged in their garden, and the wildlife that came to visit. A girl of around the same age had had such fun learning to identify the birds on the feeders in her garden that she’d asked for – and received – a field guide for her birthday, which she had proudly brought with her to Leighton Moss. “We were dead surprised,” her dad mused. “She wasn’t really into wildlife at all before this. But all her clubs and dancing classes haven’t been running, so we’ve just had time to be in the garden, together, watching the birds.” It seems the lockdown has cultivated quite a cadre of young enthusiasts in that activity: “you have to be extremely still and extremely quiet,”  one young boy explained with emphatic solemnity, “and you should wear clothes that make you look like a tree.” Duly noted. A little girl of around five told me conspiratorially that “grandma has a new friend.” Has she? That’s nice for her! What’s her friend’s name? “We’re not sure” she conceded. “It’s a robin.” It seemed Grandma’s friend had established territory in her garden, and grandmother and granddaughter had spent happy locked-down afternoons watching him patrol the perimeters of his kingdom. She was excited about the prospect of seeing his friends at the reserve. I very much hope she saw at least one of them.

The Reassuring and Restorative Rhythms of Nature

Changes and challenges there have been, and no doubt more will arise as we inch towards a liveable existence in the shadow of a pandemic. Speaking for myself as an RSPB volunteer, there have inevitably been adjustments and adaptations – but ultimately, the fundamentals of the welcome role remain constant. We are there to inform, enthuse and inspire our visitors about the wonderful sanctuary for wildlife that is our reserve, and to bring them with us in fulfilling the RSPB’s mission to give nature a home. I can’t pretend that a brew and a slice of quite exceptional cake in our café, maybe followed by a browse through the gift shop, doesn’t enhance the Leighton Moss experience for many. But even as our world was turned upside down, nature persisted: nests were built, chicks were raised, blossoms and buds bloomed, migratory species made their perilous journeys across oceans and over continents. The rhythms of nature reassured and restored us, and that is worth more than all the cake in the world. Just.  

 

Thanks to Jennie for writing such a heartfelt and insightful post – if you have been inspired by her story and would like to know more about volunteering with us, please drop us a line to: Leighton.moss@rspb.org.uk  

The salmon run; an epic upstream journey

Salmon are one of the most well known creatures in our rivers, and every year they provide one of natures greatest spectacles; the salmon run. This amazing annual journey takes salmon from the ocean to the rivers they were born in. The journey begins w…

Primrose Lodge Blue and Greenway update

Ribble Rivers Trust are proud to announce that the first phase of the Primrose Lodge Blue and Greenway Project (PLBGP) is now complete! The first phase of this ambitious plan involved coppicing trees then desilting the redundant mill lodge, as well as …