Well, we've been going bittern bonkers at the minute. Up to three have been coming out at once in the reedbed at Public hide. These normally shy residents, seem to want to come out and prove they are not a mythical creature! Scan round the pool edges for them, as well as having a look down 'Al's Alley', an area cut through the reeds to the right of Public hide, that was created by one of our wardens Alasdair. With the weather set to get colder, we could even get more in over the next few weeks, as they come across from Eastern Europe to spend the winter months here.
Seeing double! Two bitterns by Les Walton
The deer are also being spotted in pairs, although getting even closer to one another than the bitterns. Check out this gorgeous snap of two red deer snuggling up. Head to the Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides for the best chance of seeing our largest residents.
Red deer snuggling by Richard Cousens
Talking of large mammals, the otters are still putting in daily appearances at Public hide. The mother and her two cubs have been out playing in the water at all times of day. You may even see one emerge with a fish in its mouth like this fabulous photo.
Otter with perch by David Mower
The bearded tits are also still coming down to the grit trays of a morning which is quite late in the season for them really.
The pools around the reserve are currently home to a variety of ducks - wigeons, pintails, goldeneyes, mallards, teals and shovelers are all here in good numbers. If you need help with identification, then there are still spaces available on this Sunday's Birding for Beginners, we'd love to see you, details here.
As you can see, some of our star species are putting on a great show at the moment, so come along and see what you can spot (we'd love to see your photos if you get any), and then of course treat yourself to a warming brew and a cake in our café afterwards.
We've been getting some cracking little egret photos sent in recently, so I though it was about time they were the focus of my 50th anniversary blog.
I can remember as a child seeing one on the children's news show 'Newsround.' It had turned up on the south coast and was causing a twitch because back then, they really weren't that common at all. They first came to the UK in any great numbers from the late 1980's, following a natural expansion in their range from France. This is likely to be due to changes in climate. They first bred in Dorset in 1996 and are now a common sight in much of England, with around 450 pairs and over 1,600 individuals.
Check out those feet! Little egret by Richard Cousens
If you are not familiar with little egrets then they are a stunning, pure white cousin of the grey heron. They are smaller than a heron in size and have dark legs, but their feet are bright yellow, making them appear to be wearing washing up gloves. They have an attractive plume on the back of their head as well as on their chest and it is this that makes their history a dark one. It was for these plumes that thousands of egrets were slaughtered in the 1800s in order to make fashionable head wear. It was due to their plight that the RSPB was founded in 1889 in order to campaign against the plume trade. Read more about our fascinating history here.
Two fisherman together. Little egret and kingfisher by Martin Kuchczynski
Here at Leighton Moss, the first ever little egret was seen on 25 May 1970, but then there wasn't another one seen until 15 June 1975, when one stayed for four days. The third sighting came on 29 June 1981 and that time one stayed around until 6 July. As you can see, sightings were very sporadic of just one bird at a time. From the mid-nineties until the early 2000's there was regularly one or two little egrets a year, even reaching up to four birds in some years. However, from the mid-2000's onwards, their numbers really began to grow here into the tens and they have topped 140 in the past couple of years! The biggest numbers are usually in the autumn and winter, when they come into roost in the trees at Island Mere (the trees you can see in the middle of the pool from Public hide). They gather together in this way for safety in numbers. In spring and summer we have fewer little egrets on-site as they move off to their breeding grounds (they have not bred here yet, although they do breed just down the coast at our sister reserve Burton Mere Wetlands). Having said that, we usually have 30-40 non-breeders that stay through the warmer months, so little egrets can be seen at Leighton Moss (and indeed around Morecambe Bay) all year round.
In honour of the golden anniversary of Leighton Moss, the “golden” wildlife has truly put on a spectacular show. At the moment we are hosting golden plover, goldeneyes and goldcrests, which can all be seen from Lilian’s and Tim Jackson hides.
Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The past week has been brilliant for wildlife at Leighton Moss with the otters in particular granting visitors with wonderful views. The mother otter and her cubs have been showing very well outside Public and Lower hides. I was down at Lower hide the other day and was treated to a good forty-five minutes of the cubs playing-right in front of the hide!
You can get some great views of a variety of ducks from Lilian’s, Tim Jackson and Grisdale hides. The majority of the birds down there are teals, wigeons and shovelers. A goosander has also been spotted at Lilian’s hide. If you'd like to learn more about how to tell the difference between these charismatic birds, then why not book onto our Birding for Beginners course - details here.
Our birds of prey have also been impressing with some great views of marsh harrier, peregrine, merlin and sparrowhawk. During the starling murmerations in particular, the sparrowhawk and peregrine can be seen hunting the starlings adding to their great performance of aerial acrobatics. For the opportunity to see this autumnal spectacle, we recommend getting here around 3 pm and the visitor centre team can direct you to the place with the best chance.
Huge thanks to our intern Anya for providing these sightings.