OK, so I went a little overboard on the alliteration there, but there seem to have been a lot of 'red' sightings over the past few days.
Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools there are lots of redshanks and oystercatchers feeding and wading in the mud. The huge flocks of black-tailed godwits that are normally down there, seem to have decided that Grisedale hide is the place to be at the moment, so keep an eye out for a mass of them there.
Grisedale and Tim Jackson hides are the best place on the reserve to spot our largest residents - the red deer. However, as you walk anywhere on site, listen out for the roaring of the stags. I heard one from the Causeway yesterday so their sound really travels. They are doing this because autumn is rutting season - where the stags compete for the females. Look how smug this stag is that he's got a wife!
A very smug stag by Richard Cousens
Despite the wind and some seriously wet weather, we have been seeing the bearded tits regularly. They are coming to the grit trays in twos and threes (although there were nine at once one morning). This year's young ones are also collecting grit from the Causeway itself, so if you are having no luck at the grit trays, cast your eyes down the Causeway towards Public hide. They come to the left hand edge of the path just beyond the grit trays, sometimes up to 12 in number.
Perhaps our most famous residents are the bitterns. Despite some of our visitors thinking they are a mythical creature, we've been getting some cracking views of a bittern at Public hide. Have a good look along the reed edges as they are very well camouflaged and skulk about there.
Whilst you are down at Public and Lower hides, watch out for bubbles under the water and the ducks dashing across the pools in panic. This can mean that an otter is around! We've been spotting them playing in the water, splashing around and catching fish.
Look at those knashers by Keith Scovell
Redwings have been giving fly-overs to rival the red arrows this week. Keep an eye out for these gorgeous winter thrushes as you walk round.
I've been asked about the starlings a lot recently. There are roughly 4000 here at the moment, so they haven't built up to a big murmuration just yet. We think that this is because it has been so mild. I will be sure to let you know when the numbers increase. Hopefully they're not camera shy and will rock up for next week when Autumnwatch is on. We're delighted that the BBC have chosen to be based here for the second year in a row. Make sure you tune in Tuesday-Friday next week, 8 pm, BBC 2 to catch all the autumn action.
The reserve will be open as normal throughout, so why not come and see the drama in real life! We will be running a free park and ride, or why not hop on the train - Silverdale station is just 250 m from our front door. If you don't live locally, why not book a trip to really explore the area? The Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Morecambe Bay have it all for lovers of the great outdoors - breathtaking views, stunning scenery, a wealth of wonderful wildlife, history and culture. Click here for fantastic 'Nature on Your Doorstep Guides' that will help you discover more.
Having had reports of redwings flying over the reserve this last week, I thought they would make an ideal subject for this week's 50th anniversary blog.
These charismatic little birds have been seen at Leighton Moss over winter for our whole history. Redwings are related to blackbirds and thrushes, but unlike their cousins, are not present in the UK all year round. They arrive in autumn, often in flocks with their relative the fieldfare. These birds travel to the UK from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Northern Russia.
Their name is slightly misleading as a more accurate name would be red underwing. Redwings look superficially like a song thrush although they a smaller. When they fly, you can see the stunning rusty red colour under their wings. They also have a very distinctive pale eye stripe.
Redwings absolutely love berries. If you have a hawthorn, rowan, cotoneaster or similar in your garden or community, look out for flocks or 'crowds' of these gorgeous birds at this time of year. If not, then you can help them by putting out raisins and bruised apples.
Redwing by Kevin Kelly
Redwings love cotoneaster berries by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
With the return of BBC Autumnwatch in just over two week's time, we're feeling very autumnal here at the moment. We hosted the programme here last year and are thrilled that they have chosen to base themselves here again. The programme will be broadcast live at 8 pm from 28-31 October on BBC 2. You will also be able to get updates and stories throughout the day on the red button from Autumnwatch Extra. Each evening, the main programme will also be followed by Autumnwatch Unsprung (the first three nights will be on the red button and the last one on BBC 2). The wildlife is certainly getting ready for the cameras as we are getting cracking views of lots of our autumn favourites:
Red deer stags can be seen bellowing and clashing antlers down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. The young males are even having a go at one another, but the large, 13 point stag makes sure they know who's boss.
One of the tell tale signs of the season at Leighton Moss is bearded tits coming out and about. This year, whilst they are still being seen on the grit trays in the morning, they are also picking up grit from the Causeway itself so look out for flocks of them on the ground there.
Female bearded tit by Martin Kuchczynski
Male bearded tit by Martin Kuchczynski
We have had a couple of bittern sightings from Public hide this week which is great. These shy birds increase in numbers here during the colder months as our resident population is joined by continental bitterns. Make sure you scan the reed edges for this well camouflaged bird.
Otter spotters have been treated to regular sightings of one of our best loved mammals from both Public and Lower hides. The pools there are home to an abundance of fish such as eels, tench, pike and rudd, so are a favoured place for the otters. Likewise, the large dyke that runs under the causeway from those pools hosts lots of fish which has meant that kingfisher sightings have been great down there.
Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools, three spotted redshanks, two whooper swans, a couple of great white egrets and a super speedy peregrine have all been highlights among the crowd of redshanks, oystercatchers, lapwings and black-tailed godwits.
In the woods at the top of the Causeway a chiffchaff and yellow-browed warbler have been heard which is very exciting! These lovely little migrants are summer visitors and should be well on their way by now. Nine lesser redpolls have also been seen in that area and three Cetti's warblers have been seen and heard along the Causeway too.
The reserve is open as normal throughout the filming of Autumnwatch so as well as watching the action on TV, why not come and see it for real. We'll be putting on a free park and ride so there'll be plenty of room for cars, or why not come on the train? Silverdale station is just 250 m from our front door and if you travel here that way (or bus or bike), you'll get free entry and 10% café discount.
If you're not local, why not stay a while longer? There's plenty to see and do in the this stunning area. These brilliant 'nature on your doorstep' guides will give you some ideas and for places to stay, click here.