It might be a bit blustery out there, but the sun is shining, so it is the ideal day to come for a stroll round Leighton Moss. There's lots to see - large numbers of teals, wigeons and some shovelers are gathered at Tim Jackson hide, as well as a flock of redshanks and a lone dunlin on the bank. At Grisedale hide you'll see more lovely ducks and possibly catch sight of a majestic red deer stag or two!
Blow the cobwebs away with a trip up the Skytower, our 9 metre elevated viewing platform. You may catch sight of a marsh harrier cruising low over the reeds on the look out for a tasty treat. From up there you get a real sense of the size of Leighton Moss - the largest reedbed in North West England, as well as views across the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and over Morecambe Bay.
If you head to the Causeway, you can take a brand new route! Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and master craftsmanship from Gilleard Bros Ltd, we are excited to have just opened a new boardwalk! This means the Causeway is much more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. The trail takes you along the edge of the reedbed, giving you a better glimpse into the world of our wildlife. A barn owl was seen from there yesterday afternoon, so watch out for its ghostly figure as you walk along. I can't wait until the warblers start arriving in the spring - the birdsong from there is going to be mega!
Brand new boardwalk by Annabel Rushton
When you get to Causeway hide, keep an eye out for otters, as a couple of them are being spotted regularly fishing there. There's also lots of tufted ducks diving for food. If you carry on to Lower hide, be sure to stop to look up and down the main dyke as otter sightings have been good there too. On the path to Lower hide, siskins are flitting about the trees finding food. Once at Lower hide, keep your eyes peeled for an elusive bittern as there have been sporadic views of one flying out.
Down on the saltmarsh, you'll be treated to huge flocks of lapwings swirling around the sky, viewed from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. There's also lots of redshanks and some oystercatchers, as well as beautiful pintails. Keep an eye out for a flash of blue from a kingfisher, as one often perches in front of the hides on the fence posts. You may also catch sight of a merlin too, hunting across the marsh. On the path to the hides we have a feeding area where reed buntings, siskins and linnets are popping out most days.
Whatever the weather, there is always something wonderful to see at Leighton Moss, and once you've been out on the reserve, you can head back in for a warming brew and choice of delicious cakes in our café. See you soon!
We've been having some gorgeous weather on the reserve this week! The sun has been shining, the snowdrops are blooming, and the ducks are mating....hang on, it's not spring yet! It's only February!
We have still got lots of signs of winter - the trees are bare and we've got masses of over-wintering ducks, both around the reedbed and down at the saltmarsh. Wigeons, teals and pintails arrive in the autumn, from their breeding grounds in places like Scandinavia, in order to spend the colder months of the year here. You can spot them sheltering close to the hides on windy days, and out on the pools when it's calmer. There are also huge flocks of lapwings, redshanks and curlews out in front of Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, often huddling together, or flying round in a beautiful display.
Lapwing flock by Brian Salisbury
However, we have been seeing spring-time activity such as these tufted ducks mating. Birdsong is starting to be heard too. If you arrive by train as I do, then there has been a song thrush sitting on the corner every morning recently, singing its heart out.
X-rated tufted ducks by Brian Salisbury
If you visit Causeway and Lower hides, then make sure you look for the otters. There have been two popping up most mornings this week. If you are here early, you may also see the little egrets leaving their roost and heading out onto Morecambe Bay. There have been around 35 roosting in the trees at the back of the pools - they look like hankies when they are all perched on the branches.
When you walk the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, you will notice a bird feeding area. There have been large flocks of siskins as well as reed buntings and linnets visiting there, so keep an eye out for them. When you get to the hides, look out for a flash of turquoise and orange, as a kingfisher has been spotted there, perching on posts and catching fish.
Reed bunting by Martin Kuchczynski Publish
There's lots of activity at the woodland feeding station near the visitor centre too, with nuthatches, marsh tits and a great spotted woodpecker among the delights to be seen. Speaking of garden birds, have you submitted your Big Garden Birdwatch results from the weekend yet? If not, you can do so here.
You may not know it, but today is World Wetlands Day! World Wetlands Day has been taking place on 2 February every year since 1997. It marks the date in 1971 when the first multilateral, international conservation convention was signed in the city of Ramsar in Iran. There are now 169 signatories from across the world. The Ramsar Convention was designed to address the alarming rate at which wetlands were being lost across the world and acknowledged that this loss of wetlands is not only damaging to wildlife but to economies and cultures too.
It is a great day therefore to receive the news that MEPs have voted today to keep the Nature Directives - the European legislation that protects many important wildlife sites including wetlands, and under which Leighton Moss is protected.
The wetland here at Leighton Moss is incredibly important for all sorts of wildlife - from bugs and birds to bats and butterflies, we're giving a home to all nature. There is some very special wildlife (such as bitterns) living here that relies on the rare reedbed habitat that Leighton Moss is famous for, and this reedbed takes a lot of hard work to make it a suitable home.
One of the many tasks involved in managing reedbeds, is to cut back areas where vegetation over-grows. This is to create areas of 'edge' where bitterns can come out and fish. This is usually done by our wardens and volunteers. However, the recent weather has been too wet - we've had the highest rainfall for November and December that we have ever had in our reserve records. This has hampered the wardens ability to get out into the reedbed to do this vegetation work. However, even with more stormy weather on the way, we have a solution!
Introducing Truxor - a ride-on, aquatic, tracked, reed cutting machine! We have temporarily enlisted this latest member of the team as it can go into the wettest conditions to cut back the vegetation. It even rakes what it has cut! It is a pretty nifty piece of kit. As you can see, it's special tracks allow it to float in wet conditions.
Truxor by Robin Horner
There are only a few of these specialist machines in the country. Truxor will arrive on Monday and be here for five days, during which time it will be cutting the vegetation round some of the main ditches on the reserve, including the main ditch to Lilian's hide, and several areas around Causeway pool. Whilst it is working, it will mainly be enclosed in the reedbed, but you will likely catch sight of Truxor as it crosses the pools to get into the reeds. This can sometimes mean that the wildlife temporarily moves away, but it soon returns once the machine has passed through. Having said that, when we had some large machinery in to do mud pumping work here in 2013/2014, the wildlife was totally unfazed, with marsh harriers soaring overhead, ducks dabbling around, and the otters fishing whilst the work was going on. If you are planning to vsit us next week, keep an eye out for a sighting of Truxor carrying out its important, wetland work.