Summer at Leighton Moss sees the golden reedbed sea turn to green as the young reeds shoot up. Wetlands like Leighton Moss are some of our most precious environments and are home to many creatures that you won’t find in your back garden...
The marsh harriers really are the royalty of the reedbed, these regal residents have been putting on quite a show in the past few months. You might already know that there are three females nesting at Leighton Moss, each bringing up its own brood of chicks.
In the past weeks we have watched as young marsh harriers from the first nest began to fledge, venturing out from their home in the reeds, testing out their wings and receiving food from their parents in mid-flight food passes. The Causeway and Lower Hides have had wonderful views of the marsh harriers teaching their young how to fly and catch food.
A marsh harrier juvenile by Mike Malpass
Any day now we are expecting to see juveniles taking to the wing from nest two and beginning to explore their home at Leighton Moss.
You might have heard that last week our wardening team were successful in attaching a nest camera to our third nest. You can see the live stream on our website. The camera has given us a unique insight into the secret life of the marsh harriers. It has been fascinating to watch how the family interact and watch on as the female brings in food to feed her chicks. We’ve seen coot chicks, voles, unidentified ducklings and small mammals all fed with love and tenderness to the two chicks.
Marsh harrier chicks from a couple of years ago - Alisdair Grubb
As well as being vital sustenance for our fast growing harriers, the number of young chicks on the reserve has made it a magical place to come see wildlife. Earlier today there were ten tufted duck chicks seen from the Grizedale Hide, and water rail chicks have been spotted along the pathways.
The warm weather has bought with it an influx of dragonflies, as you’re walking through the reeds look out for the electric blue and green emperor, the sunset red common darter, 4 spotted chasers and the beautifully blue and amber broad bodied chasers.
A stunning broad bodied chaser by Dave Middleman
The afternoons at Leighton Moss have been a fantastic time to do a little bit of otter spotting. If you’re in the Causeway or the Lower Hide keep you eyes peeled for these charismatic creatures. There have also been daily sightings of ospreys, with lucky visitors even catching fabulous views of them fishing over the pools here. As you look across the water if you see the ducks scatter and take the sky then this a sign that an otter, osprey or maybe one of the marsh harriers is about.
The flock of black-tailed godwits is growing in numbers, now there are over 100 using the main reserve and the salt marsh. From the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides you are likely to see flocks of redshanks and hear the enigmatic peeping of the oystercatchers. You might even see their ‘piping display’ where they bow, with their bills facing downwards and create a loud and unmistakable piping chatter.
Oodles of oystercatchers by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
The visitor centre is open from 9.30 am-5 pm, but we don’t shut the reserve, so make the most of these long summer sites and come see something a little bit wild at Leighton Moss.
Summer evenings at Leighton Moss are a magical time, after the visitor centre closes at 5 pm the pace on the reserve slows down and you can really enjoy this special place at its most peaceful. It’s also when you might see some of our nocturnal residents; a colony of soprano pipistrelle bats.
The soprano pipistrelle bat is the UK’s most common and widely spread bat species. Very small, reaching a maximum length of 45mm these bats feed mainly on flies such as the swarms of midges and mosquitoes found near wetlands on warm summer evenings.
a tiny soprano pipistrelle by David Mower
The ultimate pest controllers, a single tiny pipistrelle can consume 3,000 insects in one evening alone.
The sopranos roost in the eaves of our woodchip boiler room next to the visitor centre. Local bat expert and RSPB volunteer Gail Armstrong has been monitoring the colony since its discovery in 2012. This summer there are around 350 soprano pipistrelles roosting in the boiler room.
look at that face! a fantastic photo by David Mower
Gail informed me that this is a maternity colony which spends its summer in the walls of the woodchip boiler room, raising young and sleeping during the day. Over the winter they hibernate in a cooler and damper corner of Morecambe Bay.
Soprano pipistrelles have only one pup (or sometimes twins) per year, and have a strong maternal instinct to nurture. For three to four weeks a female will feed her young solely on her milk, then the youngsters will begin to take to the wing for the first time. At six weeks old the pups will be fully independent, whizzing around Leighton Moss in search of insects.
Every evening, around half an hour before sunset, the bats will begin to emerge from their roost. Last night, I spent an evening watching this summer spectacle. First you hear the chattering and nattering of the bats in the rafters, as the light lowers the first of the bats emerge, like little bullets shooting out into the night.
They emerge quite slowly at first, then before you know it bat after bat is whizzing out over your head. On these warmer summer nights the reserve feels alive with the beautiful of song thrushes and blackbirds. Swifts and martins zip over the still pools, whilst tawny owls emerge from their day time slumber.
Leighton Moss's lovely tawny owl by martin Kuchczynski
If you want to make an evening trip down to Leighton Moss then you are more than welcome, we don’t shut the car park or any of the hides, and we open a gate just to the side of visitor centre to allow access to the site.
If you read last week’s blog by Fran then you will have heard that our first marsh harrier chicks have began to fledge. This week we’re hoping that the chicks of nest two will begin to take to the sky. In anticipation of this wildlife event our wardens have manage to get a camera onto the nest, which is currently streaming live footage onto our website! Stay tuned to get a glimpse into the early years of these magnificent birds of prey.
One bolshy marsh harrier chick by Alasdair Grubb
Elsewhere on the reserve there are still over 100 black-tailed godwits, large numbers of gadwalls and tufted ducks both of which have been seen with young. The glorious great-crested grebes have been showing well from the causeway hide along with a pair of pochard and we have had sightings of otters in front of Lillian’s Hide,
There are large numbers of lapwings and redshanks down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides, their numbers are likely to increase as more birds return from their inland breeding grounds. There are also small numbers of avocets and little egrets.
Also this weekend, Leighton Moss is one of the hosts to the wonderful Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail. Located in these two beautiful villages at the edge of Morecambe Bay the arts trail is a series of exhibitions, workshops and demos by local artists. For more information on the arts trail click here.
Have you heard of the tramper? Our all terrain, off road mobility scooter, which is available free to hire at Leighton Moss.
The tramper scooter has been funded in partnership by the Arnside and Silverdale AONB Sustainable Development Fund, the RSPB, Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire and District Ramblers Association, the Arnside Ramblers, Yealand Manor and Leighton Hall.
The RSPB working with the Arnside and Sivlerdale AONB and other partners are committed to improving access for all in this beautiful corner of the world. The partnership worked together to introduce the tramper scheme to improve access to the countryside for those with limited mobility.
This free to hire, four wheel drive mobility scooter is perfect for exploring the countryside. It is available for use for anybody over the age of 14 at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale.
Booking is essential, please call the visitor centre at Leighton Moss on 01524 701601. We’re open seven days at week from 9.30 am-5 pm.
Angela who lives in the local area, and her family recently took the tramper for a roll around the reserve, here’s how she got on...
“How do you balance the needs of a six and seven year old with boundless energy and their eighty year old infirm granny? I have often visited Leighton Moss with my children and my mum and found the combination quite limiting and frustrating. My Mum expends most of her efforts just using the stair lift to get into the cafe, and once the children have eaten their sunshine beans and completed this months colourings and word-searches it is usually time to go home, having not actually been able to get out on the reserve at all. But now at Leighton Moss they have the perfect solution........the tramper.
Sunny afternoons at Leighton Moss by Angela Welbourne
The tramper is an all terrain mobility scooter available to hire free of charge within Visitor Centre opening hours. After a short induction on how to operate the vehicle we were able to go out together as a family and access areas of the reserve never before seen by Granny and complete the family trail. “Ooh I never knew the reserve was so big, what a lovely place” said Mum “Come on Granny put it into hare mode, pleeeaaase” said Fin which was followed shortly after by “Granny wait for us, granny, granny, we haven’t had a chance to write the answer down yet!” as my mums confidence grew in her driving skills, progressing from tortoise to hare she disappeared round the corner deeper into the reserve.
It was really refreshing, opening up new horizons for my mum and giving us the now rare opportunity for shared new experiences as a family with varying needs. We hared all the way out to Grizedale hide before heading back to the cafe for cake. I’ve no doubt we’ll be back to explore the boardwalk sometime soon.....infact I think I might have become a tramper enthusiast.....searching out other tramper opportunites. Today Leighton Moss tomorrow.......who knows. My brother is keen to go round the world on one and he is able bodied! But for now we will just have to live out our tramper dreams through our mum. “
On a roll by Angela Welbourne