We’re into the third week of storms with no prospect of birding or ringing for several days. Storm Ella is lined up to be next. Almost every day has been so awful that I have struggled to get out birding or ringing, even for the occasional “window…
Waders are still very much the focus of many visitors’ attentions at the moment and the Allen Pool continues to deliver. Recent sightings have included spotted redshanks, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, curlew sandpipers, ruff, little stint and greenshanks amongst the expected commoner species. Following some very high tides and some attendant westerly winds the Morecambe Pool has filled up, enticing a regular great white egret and several little egrets. As the water levels drop here, yet more waders should welcome the supply of fresh food and provide birders with great viewing and photography opportunities. (Photo of curlew sandpiper by Richard Cousens)
As well as the shorebird spectacle, the coastal hides have been great for raptor watching with osprey, marsh harrier, peregrine and merlin making frequent appearances. Kingfishers may also be seen here and a surprisingly prolonged visit by an otter was made on the morning of Thursday 5. (Photo of osprey by Richard Cousens)
Elsewhere on the reserve, spotted redshank and greenshank have been joining the mass of common redshanks on the stone islands providing quite a challenge for keen-eyed birdwatchers sitting in Causeway Hide. Bitterns too have been spotted from this hide as well as from the Lower Hide. Previous research has shown that young bitterns often disperse from their breeding grounds at this time of year so we may well see a downturn in such regular sightings in the near future. Of course, numbers will go up again as birds from further afield arrive to spend the winter with us.
We have plenty of events going on in the next few weeks, so why not book onto one of our guided walks?
Birding for Beginners Sunday 22 September
Dusk Discoveries Thursday 26 September
What’s That Wader? Saturday 28 September
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.
The Safari met up with JG at the private reserve in south Cumbria last week and had a great day which started somewhat umpromisingly with some heavy drizzle. We set off along the trail passing the ‘Adder’ wall’ but no Adders today , the rain keeping th…
Following on from the successful fledging of three bitterns from one nest in recent weeks, the marsh harriers have now taken centre stage. With a trio of youngsters each from two nests near Grisedale Hide it’s just about impossible to not see the…
What a wonderful week we have had here at Leighton Moss. Evidenced by some of the amazing photos coming out on our Facebook group, the sky has been blue, the bird song strong and the great sightings have continued.
The major theme across the reserve at…
Two weeks into summer, the damp conditions continue but don’t let that put you off! Grab a rain jacket and some walking boots whilst great sightings continue across the reserve. The main story at the moment is the large number of young birds. Visitors can expect to see ducklings, cygnets, coot chicks, lapwing chicks and rooving song bird broods all around the reserve.
Our female bittern continues to excite visitors with those long feeding flights across the reserve from the nest near lower hide. Whilst the gap between those flights has now increased slightly, it suggests that the size of her young is increasing. So hopefully we will get some amazing views of those young feeding at the reedbed edge sometime soon.
The four marsh harrier nests on site remain a hive of activity, with wonderful views of those spectacular food-passes and some of the females completing feeding flights in recent days. Suggesting those young are also of a larger size. In previous years the months that follow have allowed for some wonderful displays of their young taking practice flights, sunbathing and learning to hunt. Hopefully we won’t be waiting too much longer to see it all again. For those of you that are yet to see marsh harrier young, here’s a picture of what we have to look forward to from the reserve in previous years.
Ospreys continue to visit the Lower and Causeway pools almost daily, on those feeding flights down from Foulshaw Moss. Kingfisher activity continues to excite visitors in the same areas. Whilst the young bearded tits down by Lower hide have been providing visitors with some excellent displays. So I would definitely suggest a visit down there at the moment.
The black-headed gull colony on the main reserve remains a hive of activity, with some excellent examples of nest building on display (especially on those artificial islands visible from skytower and Lillian’s hide). For those of you visiting the reserve in the early morning and evening, Red deer sightings continue to come in from around the reserve. Whilst earlier this week one lucky visitor managed to gain some excellent views of the tawny owlet which regular visitors to the reserve will have heard about nesting just along the path to the Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. (Pic by David Mower).
Meanwhile down on the Allen pools, the black-headed gull colony is increasing with lots of gull chicks now on display. Whilst we await a second round of avocet chicks, with a handful of nests still to hatch. There are currently around seven avocet chicks and lots of avocet activity down on the saltmarsh pools. Non-breeding waders at the pools include black-tailed and bar-tailed godwits, knot and a few greenshank. Whilst a grasshopper warbler was spotted down along the path to the Allen hide (9 June) and a lesser whitethroat heard singing briefly near the carpark (12 June).
On the events front, tomorrow marks the start of our popular Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend (15, 16 June). There’s still a couple of places left on tomorrows (15 June) Singing & Ringing guided walk and for those of looking to improve your photography skills wildlife photographer Mike Malpass and his wife Jane will once again be hosting a Photographic guided walk on July 13. Booking and payment in advance is essential for both events. Please contact the visitors centre on (01524) 701601 to secure your place.
Lucy Ryan – Visitor Experience Intern
For those of you still yet to see the wonderful long flights of our nesting bittern, there is still time with the female still making consistent flights across the reserve and down to Barrow Scout in search of food. Whilst the go-to place on the …
Hello everyone, The spring bank holiday and school half term are almost upon us now. So for those of you still yet to make plans for what we hope will be a sunny week ahead. Here is what’s happening at Leighton Moss over the coming days. (* Famil…
There is no doubting the star attraction onsite at the minute, with many visitors enjoying their first views of bittern. Our dutiful female is still making consistent and sometimes long flights, to go in search of food for the young. At this stage we d…