We've had a great weekend here at Leighton Moss. A lot of excitement was caused on Saturday when a female red-necked phalarope was spotted on the Eric Morecambe pool. Unfortunately it only stayed for about an hour before flying off over the marsh, but with fewer than 10 sightings of this little bird on the reserve ever, it was great to have it here even for a brief time.
If you have never seen (or even heard of) a red-necked phalarope then here's a picture (not taken here)
Red-necked phalarope by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Now it's quite interesting that the phalarope turned up here just before Father's Day. In the world of birds, we are used to the males being less involved when it comes to raising the chicks. However, in red-necked phalaropes, it is the opposite. The females are larger and more colourful than the males and are actually the ones that pursue and fight over their mate! They will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and then it is the male who carries out incubation. The males are the ones to raise the chicks, while the females may attempt to find another mate. The female that was here at Leighton Moss on Saturday may well be the same bird that has been spotted at our Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve recently.
Elsewhere at Leighton Moss, we've been getting some great views from Lilian's hide. As the water levels are lower, the exposed mud has drawn in the wading birds and large flocks of black-tailed godwits are enjoying feeding there. This morning the great white egret was among them too!
Otter sightings have been brilliant from Public and Lower hides. All those who attended our Birdsong for Beginners walk on Sunday were treated to some fantastic views of them. If you missed it, why not book a place on the next one, details here.
The marsh harriers are very active all over the reedbed. With three nests, there are lots of hungry mouths to feed. The first young marsh harrier fledged on 18 June so no doubt others will follow suit over the coming weeks. They are like toddlers when they first fledge - wobbly on their feet and their wings. You will see them perching in an ungainly fashion in the trees around the reedbed and taking their first shaky flights. It doesn't take them long to learn though, as they have to be able to migrate south at the end of the summer. Keep up to date with one of our marsh harrier nests by viewing our live webcam here.
If you've been visiting Leighton Moss for a few years, you'll know that three years ago we received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lancashire Environmental Fund, Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Rural Development Programme for England and Higher Level Stewardship to improve some of our facilities. We replaced four of our wildlife watching hides, created our beautiful wildlife sensory garden and have built the Skytower. This elevated viewing platform will give our visitors a bird's-eye view of the reserve and is due to be opened by mid-July which is very exciting! More on that to come....
The sun has been cracking the flags here this week, but sadly, it has taken a turn today and it's a bit grey and drizzly. That doesn't mean that wildlife sightings have been dampened though!
Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, the great white egret is still around. You can distinguish it from the little egrets by its size as well as the fact it has a yellow rather than dark beak. It also has dark feet (as opposed to the little egrets which look like they're wearing marigolds!) We also still have avocets and oystercatchers on the saltmarsh with chicks - Springwatch eat your heart out!
Our marsh harriers continue to be very active around the reedbed as they have hungry mouths to feed. We are excited to have been able to get a camera on one of the nests, showing three very healthy chicks! Check them out on our webcam here.
Otter sightings have been brilliant from Lilian's hide, as well as Public and Lower hides. Look out for the bubbles underwater and their tails flicking up above the surface. Often all the ducks on the water will rush off in one direction if the otter is below the surface so keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs.
The warmer weather we've been having has brought out insects in abundance. We've spotted small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies up on our nearby Warton Crag nature reserve and the sunshine has also been bringing out beautiful broad-bodied chaser dragonflies like this one.
Broad-bodied chaser by Richard Cousens
The reserve is alive with the sound of our summer visitors - Cetti's warblers, reed warblers, chiffchaffs, sedge warblers, blackcaps and willow warblers are popping up all over the site and our Warden Richard regularly hears a grasshopper warbler singing down on the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides as he cycles to work each morning. The sound of swifts screaming over the reserve as they zoom around hunting insects is a very welcome one too! If you'd like to learn more about identifying birdsong, why not book a place on our Birdsong for Beginners walk this coming Sunday? Details here.
Cetti's warbler by Mike Malpass
Speaking of Sunday - it will be Father's Day this coming weekend (21 June). Why not bring your dad along to the reserve where he will be treated like a king for the day - gaining free entry to the reserve and a free tea and scone in our Café. You could also treat him to a new pair of binoculars or a telescope by trying them out at our Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend.
Everyone at Leighton Moss was delighted to hear about the success of the ospreys in the Lake District. Two chicks have hatched at Bassenthwaite this year. This is the 15th year of successful hatching for the Lakes ospreys, that’s more than 30 chicks! The ospreys at nearby Foulshaw Moss have also got three chicks. The parents sometimes come and fish here at Leighton Moss, so keep an eye out for them at Public and Lower hides.
Though they're smaller than ospreys, our very own marsh harriers are equally spectacular and are being very cooperative at the moment. I saw a fantastic food pass from Lilian’s hide the other day. The female swiveled onto her back and caught food that was dropped from above by the male, a truly fantastic sight! They are showing all over the reserve, you would be very unlucky to spend a day out and about and not see them.
On the other hand, a roosting tawny owl is incredibly difficult to spot; even though you may be standing right next to it! It is one of the most incredibly camouflaged birds I’ve ever seen - its dappled feathering fitting in perfectly with the bark around it. Keep your eyes peeled for it in the trees around Lower hide. Whilst you're there, have a look for a great white egret that has been seen by several of our regular visitors. It is quite active, so has also been seen down at Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
Great white egret by Richard Cousens
The otters are being as wonderful as ever, often playing and catching fish at Public and Lower hides for hours on end. Visitors who have travelled all over the country in search of otters have said that they have had their best views ever at Leighton Moss-praise indeed!
Things are also rather busy down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides too. There are plenty of avocets down there and the two Mediterranean gulls have stuck around. They can be seen from the Eric Morecambe hide. We've recently also been spotting a pair of pintails down there. These elegant ducks normally breed further North in places like Scandinavia so we generally see them here during the winter when they come south. This pair have obviously decided not to make the journey with the others. I wonder if we'll get some pintail ducklings!!
The reedbed is alive with the sound of warblers at the moment, listen out for reed warblers, sedge warblers, chiffchaffs, blackcaps and willow warblers as you walk round. If you would like to learn more about how to identify different bird songs then why not come on our Birdsong for Beginners walk on Sunday 21 June? Details here.
Willow warbler feasting on a damselfly by Richard Cousens
If you're planning to visit us this Saturday, come along to our Meet the Moths at the Moss event in the morning - you'll discover all about these fascinating (and often overlooked) creatures. Details of the event here.
Huge thanks to intern Anya for this latest sightings post. This will be Anya's last blog for a few weeks as she has just started working on the Manchester Peregrines Date with Nature, so look out for her if you're shopping in Manchester in the coming weeks. Congratulations Anya!
Don't worry, we'll still be keeping you up to date with the latest goings on here in her absence.