Tag: osprey

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

Summer Has Arrived?

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

The flight of the bittern

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…

Unusual sightings & otters in print!

It’s been another sunny, if a little chilly, week here at Leighton Moss. The expected arrival of summer migrants continues apace with our first reed warblers being heard early in the week and there has been a notable influx of willow warblers; many are singing around the reserve.   

The marsh harriers continue to nest-build while at the same providing visitors with some breath-taking views and at least one bittern is booming regularly at all times of the day. Ospreys are dropping in, or passing through, on a daily basis and a red kite paid a brief visit mid-week. Other scarce incomers included a smart breeding-plumage spoonbill which spent a few days at the back of the Eric Morecambe Pools and a fine drake green-winged teal appeared on the Allen Pools. This American rarity  is quite distinct from our familiar teal, the most obvious difference being the vertical white stripe toward the breast as opposed to a horizontal white tripe along the body. The appearance of this transatlantic globe-trotter attracted plenty of interest from the region’s birders who also enjoyed great views of the female scaup still present on the Causeway Pool along with the tufted ducks and pochards

The avocet colony seems to have peaked at around 60 birds and they can be seen making their nest scrapes on the islands in front of the saltmarsh hides. Good numbers of black-tailed godwits remain on the pools and some birdwatchers have been spotting birds with colour rings on their legs. Each of these godwits is individually identifiable and the data gathered from these sight records helps build a picture of the birds’ often complex migratory habits. Please do forward details of any ringed birds that you may see.

Other recent sightings of interest include kingfishers, a lingering merlin and of course our very obliging otters! Talking of which, today sees the publication of a new book entitled Tails from the Reedbed written by local otter enthusiast Elaine Prince. This book is filled with unique and revealing first-hand accounts of many close and intimate encounters, collected over a decade of almost daily observations at Leighton Moss. This engaging volume, which contributes significantly to our knowledge of otters should delight anyone who loves these aquatic mammals and the natural world in general. Our very own former warden John Wilson says Tails from the Reebed is “a wonderful read for anyone interested in wildlife”.

Copies of the book are available in our shop priced £7.99

Jon Carter

Photos: copyright of Charlotte Cassidy (Spoonbill) and Mike Malpass (Green-winged teal)