Calling all budding wildlife photographers....
Got a digital SLR camera and want to improve your wildlife photography? Then come along to this workshop with Mike Malpass, an experienced, published wildlife photographer. Get his guidance, inspiration and top tips on fieldcraft. This course is suitable for all levels. You need to bring along your own camera, but a buffet lunch is provided. It's taking place on Thursday 15 March from 11 am - 4 pm. Booking and payment in advance are essential, so call 01524 701601 or pop into our visitor centre to book a place. Cost: £25 for non members and £23 for members.
Well the weather has been glorious on the reserve today, with the sun shining down on the reedbed, making it feel incredibley springlike (even if there is still a nip in the air). Several lucky people have reported seeing a kingfisher down at our Griesdale hide. These magnificent birds with their vibrant colours will start to pair off at this time of year, when the male will bring fish to the female to prove his worth as a husband (sounds like an excellent idea to me!)
The glossy ibis is also continuing to put in appearances at Groesdale hide, where it has been spotted several times over the past few days.
The noise on the reserve is amazing at the moment, with the small birds singing their little hearts out. Bullfinches, long tailed tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, blue tits, great tits and coal tits are all being seen in abundance at the feeding station and around the car park. Lots of sightings of great spotted woodpeckers, marsh tits and goldcrests too.
The marsh harriers that spent the winter here, are still regularly showing around the reserve, particularly down at the Public and Lower hides. A bittern was also spotted at Lower hide today.
Down on the saltmarsh, up to 12 avocets have been seen over the past few days, so keep an eye out for them if you're down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides. 2 spotted redshanks have also been seen down there too, among the redshanks.
The red headed smew was seen over the weekend at Tim Jackson hide, so is moving around the reserve a bit.
Other non-bird species are coming to life too. Our warden has reported seeing brimstone butterflies whilst he's been out and about. These beautiful, big, bright yellow buttrerflies a true sign of spring. At the moment, you have to watch your step a little too, as our newts have started to emerge from hibernation, and so can be seen crossing the paths. There has also been an increase in the sighting of our magnificent red deer. Keep an eye out for Britain's largest land mammal down at our Tim Jackson and Griesdale hides.
The glossy ibis, that has taken up residence in the fields on the edge of the reserve since 13 December, has been behaving out of character this week. Since it arrived over 3 months ago, it has spent almost every day in the fields opposite Barrow Scout Fields, and then roosted with the little egrets in the trees at Island Mere at night. However, a couple of times this week, it has been seen at Griesdale hide! The first time it was seen there was on 29 Feb, and then today, someone spotted it in one of the trees from the hide! This unusual bird is normally to be found in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, quite different from the climate here in Silverdale!
Elsewhere on the reserve today, the red-headed smew has been seen at Lilian's hide. It's great to get regular sightings of this often shy bird.
An unusual sight was seen from the visitor centre when a siskin appeared on the feeder at the cafe window. It caused quite a bit of exciement among the staff and volunteers, as it's not one that often appears so close to the centre!
The avocets are continuing to delight visitors down on the saltmarsh. They have been seen from both Eric Morecambe and Allen hides today, along with a couple of greenshanks, a spotted redshank and some lapwings. A lucky visitor also spotted a Merlin from Allen hide, hunting on the marsh. The beautiful snow geese that have been seen around the area for a few weeks now, came up onto the reserve today and were seen from Public hide.
It's that exciting time of year again when lots of our summer visitors are returning back to the UK to breed. It's always a joy when the first marsh harrier of the year returns, so we are very pleased that the first female arrived yesterday. Our marsh harriers come to breed here every spring. They return from places as far away as South Africa where they spend the winter months. We can get up to 5 females and 3 males returning (they don't stick to one partner). Our record for the number of young produced is 14! Let's hope they have a fantastic season this year!
Those of you who visited over the winter will recall seeing marsh harriers here throughout the colder months. It is not uncommon for marsh harriers to over-winter in the UK, but they usually do this further south. This is actually the first winter we have ever had over-wintering marsh harriers here at Leighton Moss. They weren't the marsh harriers that bred here last summer, they left at the end of the breeding season as they normally would. The over-wintering harriers were likely to have come from elsewhere further north, or even Scandinavia. It is not uncommon for us to get marsh harriers passing through here at the start of the winter, but they have never stayed before! 4 were seen over the winter months.
Elsewhere on the reserve, the bittern has continued to be heard booming at the bottom of the causeway. The best time is generally early mornings and evenings. We have also had sightings of bitterns from Griesdale hide.
Some exciting reports came in this morning of barn owl activity on the reserve. One lucky visitor saw 3 of them early this morning near Lower hide. There was also one seen at Allen hide and one spotted from the bench on the path leading to the causeway. 16 whooper swans briefly popped in early on at Lower hide too.
Another unusual sighting today was the report of a hawfinch on the casueway! These stocky finches reside at Sizergh Castle nearby, but we don't often get them on the reserve! A lovely yellow brimstone butterfly was also seen at the entrance to the causeway - a sign of the fantastic weather we've been having this week.
Spring is definitely in the air at Leighton Moss, well, if the bird song is anything to go by. As I write this blog a song thrush is singing away behind the visitor centre, joined by great tits, chaffinches, blue tits and the less tuneful sound of the black headed gulls. We are still excited about the return of the avocets to Leighton Moss, and are hopeful of another successful breeding season. There have been sightings of up to 7 avocets this week seen from the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides.
There has been some excitement about the geese seen on the reserve this week too, with a white fronted geese spotted amongst the greylag geese on Wednesday in the fields near the level crossing, a bar headed goose at Lower hide, a snow goose at Lower, Tim Jackson and the saltmarsh hides and a pink footed goose at Griesdale. The glossy ibis has been seen on several occasions, including one sighting recorded from Griesdale hide, as well as it’s favoured location in the fields near Crag Foot, opposite Barrow Scout field. Also down near the level crossing were some pied wagtails and meadow pipits. The marsh harriers have been delighting visitors with their fantastic aerial manoeuvres over the reed bed, best seen from Lillian’s hide, but there is a good chance of seeing them all over the reserve. There have been sightings of other raptors, including several buzzards soaring high over the reserve and a merlin from Eric Morecambe hide.
There have been some bittern sightings during the week, including one from Griesdale hide, our warden, and some volunteers, have been out on the reserve at dawn and dusk to listen for the boom of the bittern, as yet he’s not been heard.
We’ve had lots of reports from the saltmarsh hides this week, with reports of spotted redshanks, greenshanks, red breasted mergansers, dunlins as well as plenty of redshanks, shelducks, wigeon, teal, pintails, oystercatchers and curlews. Its a good time of the month to go down to the saltmarsh hides with high tides at around 1pm for the next few days.
Elsewhere on the reserve we’ve had goldeneye and great crested grebes at Lillian’s, little egrets, red deer and snipe at Griesdale, a goosander at public hide and lots of treecreepers and marsh tits along the footpaths, as well as goldcrests and nuthatches. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for newts if you visit Leighton Moss, they are currently migrating across the reserve, this fantastic picture of a common newt was captured by Evie Gruchala and it’s our Flickr picture of the month for February.
If you think this all sounds amazing, but struggle to tell your wigeon from your teal, or just want to learn more about Leighton Moss and the work we do, why not come along to one of our Wednesday Walkabouts? Every Wednesday morning we have a guided walk, this month the theme is ‘splash of spring’ so we’ll be taking a look at springtime arrivals onto the reserve, including migrant birds as well as other springtime flora and fauna. The walks leave the visitor centre at 10.30am returning at around 12.30pm and the cost is £2.50 for RSPB members, £5 for non-members.