Tag: osprey

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

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Bittern updates and Recent Sightings

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 …

Half term events, bitterns, osprey and new arrivals. Plus more recent sightings

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…

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…

New arrivals and new starts

It’s been a rather lively week here at Leighton Moss with yet more summer migrants arriving and a very special discovery near Lower Hide!
Just to keep you in suspense, we’ll look at the new arrivals first. Joining the swallows, sand and hou…

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)

    

    

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)

    

    

More Signs of Spring & Recent Sightings

What a difference a few days make!
Despite the rather cool conditions, there has been a notable arrival of migrants around the reserve in the past week. Amongst the many sand martins frequently feeding over the meres, a few swallows and house martins h…

More Hints of Spring & Recent Sightings

After the promising and much-heralded blip back in February which lulled us into believing that spring was well under way, things have returned defiantly to winter once more! Of course, it may be colder and wetter than it was a couple of weeks ago but on the face of it, it’s more like a normal early-mid March. Though unlike last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ we’re currently on the receiving end of what might be termed the ‘Pest from the West’! The days however are getting longer and a little milder (honest); these are the real cues that signal changes in nature.

Marsh harrier by Mike Malpass

Our marsh harriers (photo by Mike Malpass) have been busy sky-dancing, when conditions allow, and some observed behaviour suggests early pairing may have taken place. One couple in particular spend a great deal of time together and look to be prospecting nest sites in the reed bed. The best places from which to view the harriers at the minute are the Skytower and Lilian’s or Grisedale hides.  

Other indications of a looming spring include the continued, if sporadic, arrival of sand martins. Ones and twos have been seen primarily over Causeway Pool. These diminutive long-distance migrants are amongst the first of our summer visitors to arrive and here at Leighton Moss we can see gatherings of several hundred feeding over the meres by April. There is always the fear that some of these early pioneers may succumb to poor weather and a lack of flying insects to feed on, but if they get it right and survive it allows them to take the pick of the prime nesting sites before the later birds arrive.  

Avocets (photo by David Mower) too continue to gather at the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools having spent the winter further south. The current high water levels are encouraging for these island nesters, assuming they can find a good spot before the black-headed gulls establish their territories. Numbers of these elegant waders often fluctuate quite a bit before the breeding colony gets settled.

So far, we haven’t been able to confirm any bittern booming – despite concerted efforts to listen during optimum conditions. Last year we had a male ‘tuning up’ in the second week of March but it’s still early days and we can hope to hear this distinctive sound as soon as the weather calms down a little! Whether any of our wintering birds departed during the warm spell back in February remains to be seen.

The forecast for the coming week doesn’t exactly inspire us to feel optimistic about more spring arrivals but as soon as we get a little shift to the south in the winds we can expect things to change significantly. Wheatear, osprey, little ringed plover, garganey, chiffchaff and a host of other early migrants will take advantage of a change in wind direction and positively pour in from the continent and beyond.

Meanwhile, visitors can enjoy superb views of many species of wildfowl and waders, along with regular otters and a wealth of woodland birds.   

If you are planning to visit us soon, do check out our programme of events and see if there are any guided walks or activities that you may wish to join us on! 

Jon Carter, Visitor Experience Manager

             

Autumn’s arrival and recent sightings

Autumn has arrived at Leighton Moss, and promises a period of cool transformation following one of the hottest summers on record. In the coming months the intrigue and enticement of migration movements through Morecambe Bay and the main sight itself will be realised in the dramatic increase in wintering waterfowl and wader numbers. There has been an unbroken continuity to much of the wildlife activity on the reserve, outlined in my previous blog, which nevertheless includes some exceptional natural spectacles. Substantial flocks of waders (black-tailed godwits, redshanks, or lapwings) still engage in their cycles of alighting, dwelling, and departing – occasionally prompted by a peregrine – and confront visitors with nature’s magnitude. Bird roosts are still a treasure to watch, notably 90 little egrets and now 3 great white egrets at Island Mere, and the evening cormorants in the willow tree at Grisedale (whose dead branches jutting skyward provide perfect parapets for over 30 of them). The cyclone of swallows and sand martins at Lilian’s and Causeway, particularly at the close of day, are still entrancing. Visitors can continue to expect a modest gathering of greenshank on the island, and great crested and little grebes in the mere, at Causeway. Generally, Grisedale and Tim Jackson have been quieter of late, but are still an excellent place to anticipate red deer, and green sandpipers have briefly sojourned here in the past couple of weeks.

Roosting cormorants, by Richard Cousens

There have been noteworthy developments in bird activity witnessed on the reserve in the past couple of weeks. Our beloved marsh harriers appear to have dispersed from the site after a very successful breeding season (with two successful broods totaling 6 fledged juveniles), yet, for the time being, an adult pair remain at Causeway. There are now 3 ruff on Lilian’s pool, with 2 spotted redshank seen here at times but also at Grisedale and Tim Jackson, all these birds being in adult winter plumage. There have been good views of a water rail chick at Lilian’s too, dabbling and scampering around on the left hand side of the island close to the hide, with parents close by – other water rails can, with patience, be glimpsed outside Causeway and Lower. Up to 5 garganey now reside at Lilian’s, a couple drakes in eclipse among other female and juvenile birds; very occasionally a spontaneous, unanticipated outburst from Cetti’s warbler happens around the Causeway. Kingfisher sightings have been reported from Lower hide and from the coastal hides, and another solo bird, a lone common tern, has afforded great views of itself circling in front of Lower hide and perching on the wooden posts out in the water, perhaps beside a grey heron, black-headed gull or cormorant. So if you spot a common tern from Lower hide, be assured it’s not a plastic one!

Juvenile water rail, by Mike Malpass

On the 27th August, there were four ospreys seen together on the saltmarsh, with one actually venturing into the Eric Morecambe pool. Visitors caught sight of one attempting to deal with a huge seabass that it had landed. One or two ospreys have continued to visit Causeway, and though we can expect a declining frequency in their visits (with the young at Foulshaw Moss having fledged and preparations being made for southward migration) visitors still have every chance of spotting these marvellous raptors, perhaps with a little fortitude. Similarly, otters have made some remarkable appearances at Causeway of late. On the first day of the month, three individuals were spotted moving in the mere between Lower and Causeway hides. The previous Thursday one voracious individual spent an hour or so hunting in front of Causeway hide, and twice, having deftly obtained an eel, proceeded to devour it on the wooden island in full view of a captive audience, prompting a frenzy of elation.

Finally, a handsome anomaly was discovered at Lilian’s hide a couple of days ago, and seen again at Causeway the following day – a leucistic greenshank! Leucism is a pigmentation condition in birds which entails an apparent bleaching of plumage. This results in the striking and somewhat ghostly appearance exhibited by birds such as this individual.

Shot of a leucistic greenshank (centre), taken by Matthew Smith 

Since it can never be emphasised enough, I will say that this stunning variety in birds, not to say anything of the other wildlife on the reserve, reiterates the splendid job done by the RSPB Leighton Moss staff and volunteers, to conserve a special place which is vital and thoroughly appealing to wildlife,