What a variety of fantastic wildlife has been seen over the past few days. The marsh harriers are in full flow with 2 males attending 5 females around the reserve. One lucky visitor saw a male and female male a food pass from the Public hide. At the moment, with the females on their nests, the males are bringing in food for them. When the males fly in with food, the females fly up out of the nest to collect the food from them. In a stunning display of aerobatics, the female will fly upside down and catch the food which the male drops to her! Keep an eye out for this awesome behaviour.
We've had a number of osprey sighting this week including one fishing down at the Public/Lower hide end of the reserve, which is usually the favoured place for them as the pools are larger.
2 male garganeys have been spotted down at Griesdale hide, and one was showing at Lower hide. The females have not been reported for a while now, which hopefully suggests nesting!
Bittern sightings have been more regular over the past few days, with a couple of sightings at Lower hide and one at Griedale hide. These beautifully camouflaged birds are not easy to spot, so scan the reed edges round the pools for a chance to glimpse one, although you may be lucky and get one flying out. We've got a sheet in the visitor centre next to the sightings book at the moment asking for details on where bitterns are seen and their behaviour, so if you spot one, please do let us know.
Grey herons are the much more common cousin of the bittern, and we have plenty of them here at Leighton Moss. One lucky visitor spotted one eating a whole eel today! Eels are one of the most abundant fish on the reserve, and provide food for lots of the wildlife that lives here including bitterns, grey herons and otters to name a few. Eels have an amazing life cycle. They spawn on the other side of the Atlantic in the Sargasso sea and the young eels or 'elvers' are carried across the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf Stream. At this point they are only a few centimetres long and are almost completely see-through, which means they are often referred to as 'glass eels'. They swim up the main dyke into Leighton Moss from Morecambe Bay. In order to keep the salt water out (as Leighton Moss is fresh water), there are a couple of sluice gates which the eels have to negotiate. There are special eel ramps up the sides of the sluices which the eels use to get over it. We also have eel traps which help us to monitor their numbers. The traps are harmless to the eels, they just allow us to collect them, and count their numbers, before releasing them onto the other side of the sluice where they swim into the reserve. If they manage not to get eaten, eels will live at Leighton Moss for 10 years. They will them swim back out the way they came in, back across the Atlantic to the Sargasso sea, where they will spawn and then die, and the whole process begins again. I think it's absolutely fascinating. Every year, when the first elvers arrive, we get quite excited. It's phenomenal to think that such tiny creatures have come all that way!
Elsewhere on the reserve a couple of Egyptian geese have been around at Lower hide, where there have also been a few otter sightings. The pair of great crested grebes on Public pool have got chicks which is very exciting! Look out for these stripey little balls of fluff if you are down there.
A very unusual report this week was a female cuckoo, seen down near to Lower hide. Cuckoos are now a rare bird, and we certainly don't get them repotered here a lot, so keep your eyes and ears open for them.
A couple of red kite sightings this week have been reported in the local area. 2 were reported over Warton Crag on 28 May and then one was reported over Carnforth Station today. We are getting more reports of red kites in the area since some were released at Grizedale Forest two years ago, which is truly fantastic news!
Our Red Deer Date with Nature got off to a flying start yesterday with our new Information Assistant Kevin stationed down at Tim Jackson hide most days, happy to help you to find out more about the wildlife down there. If you are visiting over the bank holiday weekend, he would love to see you!