When you think of Leighton Moss what images spring to mind? Peaceful reeds swaying in the wind, majestic marsh harriers soaring high or even brilliant bearded tits feeding from the grit trays? What ever your reason to come here, a visit can often be enhanced by looking through a good pair of binoculars and our retail manager Vicki Hickman tells us why...
The other day I took my faithful RSPB 8x 42HD’s out for a wander down to the Causeway hide and, after much deliberation of where to sit I settled in to watch the spectacle of Leighton Moss unfold. I get asked a fair bit about which binoculars to recommend and as I scooted my elbows along the wooden support for a comfy position - that day was no exception. Believe it or not I am a rather amenable person and I happily replied with my top three things I like about this particular pair:
A room with a view by Joseph Huddleston
Before long a hush fell over the hide as a juvenile marsh harrier circled above the water and my trusty binoculars brought the cheeky, pale masked face into fine detail against the dull grey sky. We watched in awe as the bird moved gracefully through the air and I realised that one of the things that this pair of binoculars has made me appreciate even more about nature is colour. By golly is there colour to be seen here at Leighton Moss, from the beautiful, russet coloured chests of black-tailed godwits, vibrant green hues of large emerald moths to the chocolate detailing on an otters face!
Black-tailed godwits by Paul Brady
As with most things in life my hide-buddies and I had various reasons for being there but in between the casual chatter one gentleman in particular said something that sticks in my mind...”For me it’s like when you see a loved one just going about their business, in that moment they are unaffected by your presence, you are unnoticed - a rush of affection comes over you that you can’t help but smile and count yourself lucky to have seen it.”
RSPB HD binocular range by Miki Gillett
Well folks, the August bank holiday is almost upon us and here at Leighton Moss we will be wheeling out our fantastic range of nearly 60 binoculars and over 15 telescopes for your perusal and releasing the optics event team - to help you find your perfect match. No query is too big or too small for the optics event team to tackle, with brands from Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, Viking to RSPB- your eyeballs will be spoilt for choice! And with prices starting from £54.95 we can help you, whatever your budget, get a little closer to nature and capture a moment to make you smile.
For more details about the event click here. Or if you can't make it this weekend why not just pop into our shop on your next visit when our friendly staff are always on hand answer any questions or queries.
As we get towards the end of the summer holidays we still have plenty of activities to entertain the kids at Leighton Moss. Visitor and learning assistant Angela Welbourne tell us what's going on for families this week...
Last week the sensory garden here at Leighton Moss was teeming with trackers, children searched high and low, following maps, scouting for tracks to brass rub, matching tracks to their owners. It was a lot of fun, and the perfect opportunity for mum and dad to enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the picnic tables whilst the kids were busy! Animal trackers is running again on 24th August from 1-3pm.
Can you find a stoat print at Leighton Moss? Image by Martin Kuchczynski
There was also a safari, a mini-beast safari in search of all that wriggles, hops, creeps and crawls. We uncovered newts and toads, slugs and snails with plenty of rummaging through identification books. One microscopic find was a plaited door snail, hardly visible to the naked eye but when put under the hand lens it's spiral shell and goggling antennae were fascinating. 'Climbs trees when raining' said the book, it was raining alright, and sure enough the snail was climbing, who on earth ever gleaned that fact about a microscopic snail? There is another opportunity to search high and low, to discover the secret world of mini-beasts on 25th August you can drop in between 10.30-12.30am or 1.30-3.30pm.
Slimy critters in the sensory garden! Image by Annabel Rushton
Whatever the weather, come and make the most of the rest of the summer holidays here at Leighton Moss this week! For more details visit our events page on our website.
With the wild weather this weekend, it is hard to forget that we are racing towards the final few weeks of British summer time. Whilst the shortening days are twinged with a degree of sadness, I often find myself secretly excited at the prospect of the autumn migration.
August can be a quieter month at Leighton Moss, with many birds heading off to their southerly wintering grounds. Marsh harriers disperse, with juvenile birds exploring an ever increasing area before eventually heading off towards the Mediterranean, maybe even ending up as far as West Africa. Although it may not be a complete goodbye, with national populations of marsh harrier doing well, there is always a chance that we will see a number of adult harriers braving the cold Lancashire winter as annual residents. The same resilience is not true for the local ospreys, which will shortly embark on their mammoth journey to warmer climes. But for now at least, sightings of these impressive fishing machines are still daily over the reedbed pools and occasionally from Eric Morecambe and Allen hides.
Osprey by Martin Kuchczynsk
Sightings of summer visitors like swifts, swallows and martins become less frequent as August melts away. At this time of year the relative peace at Leighton Moss can be interrupted by these tireless travellers as they flock together in noisy clouds of energy, ready for the off. Other summer visitors like willow warblers also prepare to leave, and the reserve often sees an influx of smaller migrants as they move south from more northerly breeding grounds. Just this week, our team of bird ringers caught a record 88 willow warblers in one morning. The same morning also saw more unusual birds for Leighton Moss like a tree pipit and a redstart show up in the mist nets.
Willow warbler by Fran Currie
As many of these summer visitors say goodbye, the reserve barely gets a chance to stand still before welcoming the first of the autumn travellers. Numbers of wading birds passing through will peak in September but areas on the salt marsh are already playing host to a selection of individuals on their annual pilgrimage. Often early to the party, this week's star arrival has to be the aptly named little stint, in fact two have been feeding on the newly flooded salt marsh pools over the last few days. No larger than a house sparrow, this tiny wader can be identified in late August by short black legs and a mottled rufus back.
Little stints by Richard Cousens
Redshanks and greeshanks have also been joined by two spotted redshanks on the pools in front of Eric Morecambe and Allen hides this week, a long with a couple of green sandpipers on the Grisedale pools. Many of these birds using Leighton Moss as a pit stop on their journey between Northern Europe and North Africa.
Swimming otter by Ben Andrew
Migration aside, the shortening days also coincide with an exciting time of year for our resident otters, with the emergence of young pups. Sightings of these enigmatic mammals have been infrequent through the summer months, with the female likely to be hiding away with a new family. But hope that the pups will shortly be venturing out of their Holt has slowly increased and visitors were finally rewarded with the first glimpse of the young family taking a swimming lesson on the causeway pools this week.
So as the rain lashes down over the North of England this afternoon, I will certainly make the most of the last few weeks of August whilst looking forward to an exciting early autumn migration!
If you would like learn more about migration and in particular about the migration and identification of wading birds, why not join our "What's that Wader?" walk on Sunday 4 September. Join Mike and Jane Malpass to help you with identifying wading birds and discover why Morecambe Bay is such a fantastic home for them. Meet at the Eric Morecambe hide car park (SD 475736). Booking and payment in advance essential. Cost Adults £7, (RSPB members £5.50).