Tag: osprey

Autumn Gets Underway

 With things becoming decidedly more autumnal of late, we have been noticing a few changes here on the reserve.

Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools wader numbers are picking up, as we’d expect at this time of year. Good numbers of redshank (photo by Brian Salisbury) and lapwing are usually present and on some days the pools play host to lots of roosting black-tailed godwits. Among the commoner birds one can often find a few greenshank, plus the odd ruff and we had a handful of curlew sandpipers and avocets last week. At this time of year it’s well worth scanning through the gathered birds; there’s always the chance that a scarce shorebird or two may well be mixed in with their commoner cousins. Visitors to the coastal hides have also been reporting sightings of peregrine, osprey, great white egret and kingfisher along with goosanders and plenty of little egrets.

Meanwhile, over on the main reserve at least two marsh harriers are being seen regularly. Their lingering implies that they may well be the first of the birds that will spend the winter with us. Bitterns are being seen daily too – often making quite protracted flights over the reedbeds. 

 Wildfowl is building up across the site, as we’d expect, and along with the shoveler (photo by David Mower), gadwall, pochard, teal and tufted duck we’re seeing increasing  numbers of wigeon returning and up to five garganey have been lingering. Meanwhile overhead, the first skeins of pink-footed geese etch their way across the sky heralding the approach of winter. 

We’ve really noticed the movement of swallows and martins in recent days and I saw what may well turn out to have been my last swift of the year last week; it’s always a bittersweet moment, knowing that I’m unlikely to see another until they return next spring! 

Don’t forget our shop is open from 10.30 am till 4pm daily. If you’re looking for a new pair of binoculars or a scope, you can now arrange a 1-2-1 appointment with one of our friendly experts – each Saturday through September. A member of our knowledgeable team will be more than happy to answer all your questions and help you to find the perfect optical gear to suit your needs and budget. You can just turn up or if you’d rather you can pre-book by contacting us on 01524 701601 or emailing Leighton.moss@rspb.org.uk

We hope to see you soon – till then, take care and keep safe! 


Continue Reading » Autumn Gets Underway...

Back up north five weeks to the day

The Safari was given the opportunity to join CR on a socially distanced trip up to our favourite reserve in south Cumbria. The weather was a bit iffy on the drive up but we were hopeful it would improve by the time we arrived. C informed us it was exac…

Swift Departure and Recent Sightings…

 I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had a mixed week weather-wise! Some days have been very pleasant and mild while others have blighted us with persistent rain. In fact the water levels have risen so dramatically that the wardening team have had to postpone some major management work out in the reedbed. Hopefully we’ll get enough dry days in the near future to see the levels drop and we’ll be able to reinstate the postponed jobs. Also, as the pools recede it will provide some enticing muddy edges for waders such as snipe, black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper and redshank to drop onto, often providing a late summer spectacle from the hides. 

Talking of spectacles, the past week has seen significant numbers of swifts feeding around the reserve. On some days flocks of several hundred could be see as they swept over the reedbeds and meres, often at eye-level, feeding on flying insects. Quite a sight!

These birds will likely be departing any day, as they are one of the earliest of our summer migrants to head back to Africa. It would appear that summer is truly coming to an end.

Swift photo by Chris Gomersall rspb-images.com

In other news, visitors have been reporting lots of sightings of red and roe deer from various points around the reserve. The 9 meter-high Skytower, does provide spectacular views across the site and deer can often be spotted from there so it’s well worth scanning the reeds for signs of these large animals.

 Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual and we are continuing to see a build up in wildfowl. Causeway Hide and Lilian’s Hide are both great places to see a selection of ducks, many of which are in their ‘eclipse’ plumage making identification challenging but fun. Look out for pochard, tufted duck, teal, gadwall, mallard and shoveler – be mindful that other less common species, might just appear at this time too.

Mallard photo by Chris Gomersall rspb-images.com

The marsh harriers continue to roam around the reedbed and we have had regular, if erratic, sightings of osprey and hobby in recent days.

There are plenty of butterflies and dragonflies on the wing, especially on warmer days, and if the birding’s a little quiet in the afternoons these provide a fascinating and welcome distraction.

If you’re visiting us, don’t forget to let us know what you’ve seen – it really helps us build up a better picture of what’s around. Thanks!  




The Sky’s The Limit

 We’re very happy to announce that we re-opened the Skytower this week!

Now, visitors can once again rise above the reedbeds for a fabulous birds-eye view of the reserve and the wider landscape. From this breath-taking vantage point you may be lucky enough to see fishing ospreys, hunting marsh harriers, soaring swifts and grazing red deer amongst a host of other exciting wildlife. We have put some social distancing guidance in place to ensure that everyone feels comfortable while exploring the 9-metre high tower, so do please follow all on-site information.

We’re still busy working on ways to open up some of the hides in the coming weeks – hopefully we’ll have some news to share soon! Of course, we do have an accessible toilet on site too for visitors’ use.

Other great news this week concerned the appearance of our first marsh harrier chicks of the season. On Tuesday morning the adult female from the nest at the back of Lilian’s Pool was observed circling the nest area constantly calling and soon she had enticed two reluctant fledglings to emerge from the reedbeds to exercise their wings. The young pair flapped inexpertly around for several minutes, trying to get the hang of their new skills before disappearing back to the safety of their nest. Hopefully, we’ll see much more of these wonderful birds in the coming weeks as they get to grips with the power of flight. It will be interesting to see if they have any brothers or sisters yet to make that great inaugural leap into the skies!

 Elsewhere on the reserve young birds are very much a feature – ducklings, cygnets, goslings and chicks of multiple species can be seen and heard just about everywhere. Bearded tits are very active at the moment, with family groups being regularly encountered along the Causeway; listen out for their distinctive ‘pinging’ calls coming from the path-side reeds.

 The summer months are not just about birds of course; this is a fabulous time to explore the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and enjoy the profusion of wildflowers and butterflies for which this area is justly renowned. Now is a great time to look out for purple hairstreaks (photo by Jarrod Sneyd) around the visitor centre oaks and when visiting Leighton Moss why not try and make sure your itinerary includes some time spent at nearby Myers Allotment, Gait Barrows, Warton Crag or Arnside Knott for yet more butterfly spotting? 

Another January

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…

Continue Reading » Another January...

Waders Wade In & Other Recent Sightings

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


Recent Sightings & Funding Boost for Rare Butterflies

 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. 

Jon Carter

We’ll glossy over that one!

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…

Summer time and the harriers are easy

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…

Wonderful weather and excellent sightings

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…