With all of this gorgeous weather we have been having, butterflies have been flitting around among the flowers in our garden and out on the reserve, so I thought they would make a nice subject for one of our 50th anniversary blogs.
So just how many different types of butterfly are there here then?
There are 59 different types of butterfly in the UK. Leighton Moss is home to a fantastic range of them during the summer months, with 35 different species recorded to date. Butterflies have been a feature of the reserve for its whole 50 year history. More common ones such as red admirals and small tortoiseshells add dashes of colour along the edges of the paths at this time of year, when there is an abundance of wildflowers in bloom. Up on Warton Crag you can spot much rarer butterflies such as the high brown fritillary.
In the spring and summer, our Wardens carry our surveys every week to see how butterfly numbers are doing. Due to differing life cycles, you get peaks of when you see more of some species than others at certain times. For example, brimstones are often the first ones in the year to appear, and have been known as early as February if the weather is mild, whereas pearl bordered fritillaries only tend to start being seen in June.
Brimstone by Mike Malpass
Unfortunately, over the last 50 years butterflies have suffered a rough time in the UK. The State of Nature Report launched in May last year showed that 72% of butterfly species have declined, including a 24% decline in the more common garden butterflies such as peacocks. This is largely due to the loss of places where they live.
Pearl-bordered fritillary by David Mower
You can really help butterflies by planting flowers to provide feeding areas for them in your garden or community. For more information on how to help give a home to them and other wildlife, click here. You can also assist them by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count, which is running until 10 August - click here for details.
You may have noticed that I missed doing a 50th anniversary blog last week - apologies for this, but it does mean you will be treated to two this week to catch up!
A month ago, I chose a reedbed favourite at this time of year - reed warblers so I thought this week would be good to look at their cousin, the sedge warbler.
Now they won't be around for too much longer (although this glorious weather might mean they hang about a bit), as sedge warblers are migrants. They arrive here in mid-April from Africa in order to breed., and will have 4-5 young in a brood (sometimes they will have a second brood).
As you walk through the reserve, you can't fail to hear one. Now they can sound remarkably similar to reed warblers, but whereas the reed warbler remains fairly level in their song, the sedge warbler gives itself away by sticking in some fluty bits. If you are listening out for them along the trails then you sometimes have to wait a moment for the sedge warbler to add in its fancy notes to establish which one of the two you are hearing. Sedge warblers often differ in their location within the reedbed too. It isn't a hard and fast rule, but generally sedges (sedge warblers) are on the edges, and reeds (reed warblers) are within the reeds. Sedge warblers will often sit up high on top of the reeds or willow to sing, whereas reed warblers tend to skulk low down a little more.
Sedge warbler by David Mower
Once you do catch sight of them, sedge warblers do differ in their appearance from reed warblers. The most distinctive difference being that sedge warblers have a beautiful white eyestripe. I always remember it as 'sedges have a stripe' so the two 'S' sounds go together.
Sedge warblers have always been present here from the beginning. They breed in reedbeds but are also happy to raise their young in a variety of other place too such as marshes, riverside scrub and in trees or bushes alongside wet ditches. They have also been known to nest in the edges of crop fields! Sedge Warblers eat a variety of food including aphids, mayflies, grasshoppers, lacewings, moths, beetles and flies. They also feed on berries such as elderberries in autumn.
If you've not heard or seen one before, come along in this fine weather before they head off south!
Something’s been causing quite a stir at Leighton Moss this weekend...
Three great white egrets have been seen across site since Saturday lunch time.
On Monday 21 July, they could be seen well from Lilians hide, with one having a curious snap at some dragonflies! At lunchtime the hide was all aflutter with people wanting to get a glimpse of these stunning creatures.
This statuesque white bird is a treat for the eyes. They move by stalking through the water, lifting their enormous black feet and showing off their bony ankles. They are around the size of a grey heron and feed in a similar way, watching their prey and snatching up fish from shallow water.
Great white egret by Mike Malpass
Although we already have a stable colony of little egrets (their close cousins), it is uncommon to see great white egrets at Leighton Moss. Three is a brilliant surprise!
Down at the saltmarsh hides, 120 dunlin could be seen, along with knot, greenshank and redshank, as a large amount of waders begin to arrive.
Dunlin are now in their summer breeding plumage and can be spotted by their black bellies and down-curved black bill. Over the past 20 years, dunlin numbers have dropped by 50 per cent – Leighton Moss provides a key habitat for them to feed throughout the year.
Dunlin by Sue Tranter (rspb-images.com)
Dragonflies and damselflies are still in abundance across the reserve, particularly on the Causeway near Public hide, where you can follow brown hawkers down the path.
Come on down and enjoy your summer in Silverdale - pack and picnic and bring that camera - there's so much to see!