As promised in Saturday's blog here is an update from head warden Richard Miller on the work to repair the water management system at the salt marsh...
Dinsdales successfully moved their excavators to the problem area on Monday afternoon, which involved a 2.5 km trip across the saltmarsh, climbing over creaks, watching out for tidal debris and winding around deeper pools. On arrival, they got straight into the first part of the job, which was breaking up the existing concrete sluice to use it as erosion protection for the new bank. They then began the process of scraping and digging material to use in the construction of a solid foundation to set the water control pipes on.
The old sluice broken up by Jarrod Sneyd
On Tuesday, they managed to install two of the three planned water control pipes and began to build the bank around them. Eventually the bank will be around 13 metres wide at the bottom and 5 metres wide across the top giving a really stable barrier to hold back the tide and hold in the lagoon water.
New pipes going in by Jarrod Sneyd
Fingers crossed the weather stays on our side, although there is some heavy rain forecast for Thursday, which may hamper our efforts slightly.
I will be moving our excavator out to the Allen pool later on today and will be using it to clear some vegetation and to improve and create some islands improving the habitat for feeding and nesting birds this coming year.
The wildlife visible from the Eric Morecambe hide has been largely unaffected with greenshank, redshank, black-tailed godwit and avocet all present on the pool. Little egrets are also present as well as some juvenile peregrines, which have been practicing their hunting skills by chasing some of the other birds on the pool including some disgruntled looking shelduck!
Juvenile avocet by Kevin Kelly
On the main reserve otters have been showing really well from lower and causeway hide, as have the marsh harriers. Great crested grebes are still carrying chicks around on their backs in front of causeway hide and redshanks have been also been spotted from here. Cetti's warbers also continue to be heard from the causeway path. A green sandpiper has been present at grisedale hide along with red deer and a few black-tailed godwits.
Continue to keep an eye on the blog page for more updates as the work happens.
Summer is an amazing time to visit Leighton Moss at any time of day. We are open dawn to dusk so visitors can experience the reserve "out of hours" even when the visitor centre is closed. During August we are also running a series of guided walks at dusk and here's why I can't wait for them...
Last week I wrote about how much I love to wander the reserve early in the morning before I head into work. I am a bit of an early bird so dawn at Leighton Moss is definitely my favourite time of day, but every now and again I might spend an evening out that takes me by surprise. Early mornings are often full of sound, but the still quiet of an evening brings a lovely peace that can be rarely matched.I have been lucky enough to experience some of my favourite wildlife moments at this time of day. One in particular stands out.
It was an evening last August and the weather was so glorious I could not resist a stroll down to lower hide after I had finished my shift in the visitor centre. The sun was low and cast a golden glow over the reedbed, creating warms shafts of light that spilled out on the causeway as I ventured along it. It is easy to rush along the trails without appreciating the sounds and smells, but that evening I remember taking my time as I examined the wild flowers twinkling away in the deep green reeds.
A relaxing twenty minutes later I was creeping into lower hide. Setting out on my walk I had not planned to look out for anything in particular, so it was with great delight that the first thing I caught in my binoculars was an otter! I watched it for around fifteen minutes as it bobbed up and down, eventually catching and eating a huge eel. What a result!
Otter at causeway hide by Richard Cousens
If that wasn’t nearly enough just a few minutes after losing sight of the otter, a bird of prey flashed past the hide window. It was so quick I barely got my binoculars on it, but I managed to see just enough of it's red underside to see that it was a hobby! Having worked on sites where hobbys are common I have been privileged enough to see many of these beautiful little predators in the past, but never at Leighton Moss. Until now! I couldn't believe my luck.
Hobby by Mike Malpass
After the thrill of seeing my first Leighton Moss hobby, there wasn’t much else to do than sit back and relax whilst I watched a great white egret fishing on the edge of the reeds. Tufted ducks popped up and down and the first few bats emerged, dipping low over the water, catching insects.
Sunset from lower hide by Fran Currie
Like I said, early mornings will always be my favourite, but that evening was hard to beat!
If you fancy experiencing Leighton Moss at this special time of day, “Wildlife watch at dusk” takes place Monday 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 August (7 pm-dusk). Join one of our knowledgeable guides for a relaxing evening walk to try and spot bats, red deer and other special summer wildlife. Cost: Adults £7 (RSPB members £5.50). Booking and payment in advance essential. Meet in The Holt next to the garden.
You may remember a particularly bad period of stormy weather back in early spring. Here at Leighton Moss we felt the affects of this weather first hand when a massive tide devastated our water control system on the salt marsh area of the reserve. After a summer of short term patch up jobs, we now have a small window of opportunity to repair the damage and head warden Richard Miller explains how...
Life is always challenging on the reserve. Constant bombardment from the weather and tides can play havoc with our best laid plans. It was around this time last year, we were involved in a desperate bid to hold back the forces of nature, and keep one of our prime areas of nesting and feeding habitat from becoming un-manageable.
I am, of course, talking about our Allen pool which is one of a series of saline lagoons situated to the landward side of a rather large area of inter-tidal grassland known as saltmarsh. Inter-tidal is the key word here, as the vast majority of the area to the West of the Carnforth to Silverdale railway line is at the mercy of the Morecambe Bay tides. These tides can be, as many people will have witnessed, ferocious.
Ariel view of saltmarsh David Wootton rspb-images.com
The Allen pool stared its life back in 1983, when an exceptionally dry summer gave the reserve staff perfect conditions to lovingly craft a haven for wildlife. The aim being to both increase food abundance for migrating waders and wildfowl; and to provide opportunity for other species, specific to this habitat, to colonise the area and nest.
One such bird did turn up; the avocet. Spring 2001 was the first year this special little wader bred on the west coast of England since before the war. This was a very proud moment for staff at Leighton Moss to witness, particularly given their hard work in creating an ideal home for them. Since then, avocets have continued to nest on the islands and marsh edges of the saline lagoons, with the Allen pool islands being particularly favoured.
Avocets in flock by Andy Hay rspb-images.com
So this spring, when the tides raged and punched a hole through the bank that holds water inside the Allen pool, we knew we were going to have problems. Earlier in the year avocets did attempt to nest, but the lack of water was making conditions for them difficult. Unfortunately because of this, no avocets managed to nest successfully. We made attempts to hold water in the pool through the course of the year, but these have been temporary patch-ups while we waited for a better time to bring in heavy machinery to try a permanent fix. We now have a window of opportunity with a gap between high tides up until 20 August. Repairing the bank now gives it time to settle and allow a layer of vegetation to develop on top which should prevent any more tidal erosion.
Devastation at the Allen pool by Jarrod Snyed.
Enter Dinsdale Moorland Specialists Ltd. This contractor is a really experienced and knowledgeable team of people who specialise in doing large scale conservation work in difficult ground conditions. We have used them before at Leighton Moss to help dramatically improve one of our satellite reedbed creation sites nearby.
Dinsdales will be working on the Allen pool from Monday 25 July and will be on site for around ten days. They are completely reinstating the broken bank, and at the same time installing three big pipes as a water control system. These will effectively let the tide in and out of the pool, giving us control over the levels, providing food for birds that feed in all water depths.
I am also going to be out on the Allen pool in our own excavator “The Beaver” next week, creating islands and depressions as well as carrying out some vegetation cutting. This will mean I will be blogging about the work as it happens and keeping you up to date with pictures of the work through the week.
Keep an eye on our blog page for updates from Richard on the work as it happens through the week.