......because bees come after them! Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist. With plants bursting into flower all over the reserve, many of the accompanying insects are starting to be seen here at Leighton Moss. I saw my first bumblebee of the year the other day, nestled in our sensory garden. If you take a wander down to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, look out for butterflies on your way. Many of our visitors have spotted orange tips on that walk recently. Which butterflies are you seeing where you are? Another sure sign that summer is on the way is the emergence of dragonflies. A few broad-bodied chasers have been seen on site, so keep your eyes peeled!
Bee on the lambs-ear plants by Miriam Hooson
Some slightly larger residents of Leighton Moss are also being spotted regularly. Our otter families are showing off at all times of day and in all weathers. Some lucky visitors were telling me this week about how they had travelled most parts of Scotland to see otters, and been unsuccessful, yet spent one afternoon at Leighton Moss and saw six!
No doubt many of you watched the first episode of the new series of BBC Springwatch last night. We absolutely love that programme and are very excited that it is being filmed at our big sister reserve - Minsmere in Suffolk. If it got you enthused about all things reedbed - we have a lot of the same wildlife here, a bit closer to home for you to come and spot in real life perhaps? The ultimate reedbed hunters - our marsh harriers have been seen all over the reserve today. With three nests and lots of hungry mouths to feed there have been plenty of sightings of the two males taking food to their females. At Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, our largest residents - the red deer have started to bring out their spotty babies to snooze in the grass. Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, we also have nesting avocets with their chicks too!
There have been some slightly more unusual species seen and heard down at our Lower hide. A cuckoo was heard singing down there in the morning, so listen up, you can’t mistake it for anything else, as it says its own name!
Visitors have been reporting lots of views of great spotted woodpeckers at the feeders in the garden, along with nuthatches, bullfinches and a couple of tree sparrows among our other garden favourites.
The sensory garden at the back of our visitor centre is great for exploring - the plants have been selected to be attractive to insects and we have filled it with lots of different nestboxes and bug bungalows. You can also have fun in our den building area and play pit. If you fancy making your garden, school grounds or window box more wildlife friendly why not click on the link here to get your very own Giving Nature a Home guide!
Den building by Amy Grace
There is plenty going on here over the next couple of weeks and we'd love to see you! Click here to see a full list of exciting events.
Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings blog.
The UK may once again have failed to bring home the goods in last night's Eurovision Song Contest, but here at Leighton Moss, we're really excited that our retired Warden and still active volunteer David Mower has heard a cuckoo calling down by Lower hide! These beautiful birds are a real sign of summer, with a telltale call that says their own name. They were once commonly heard around the UK, but sadly their numbers are now in huge decline and they are being closely monitored to try and understand the reasons why. Find out more here.
Also down at Lower hide, a tawny owl is spending a lot of time snoozing in a tree as you approach the hide. It can be difficult to spot due to its fabulous camouflage, but keep your eyes peeled. It is these owls that make the classic 'twit-toowoo' sound, although when you hear that, you are actually listening to two tawny owls - the females say 'twit' and the males say 'toowoo'.
At both Public and Lower hides, the otters are still regularly coming out and about. A bar-headed goose has also been seen there. These attractive birds are not native to the UK and this one is likely to be an escapee from a collection.
Bar-headed goose by Howard Stockdale
The reedbed is alive with our summer visitors - willow warblers, chiffchaffs, reed warblers and sedge warblers are all blasting out their songs. Listen out for the explosive voice of the Cetti's warbler close to the pond dipping area too, as well as a grasshopper warbler on the way to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. Huge thanks to all those who joined us for our Birdsong for Beginners walk this morning! If you missed it, then there is still space on our next one - details here.
It's the time of year when young animals are everywhere! The first of the years red deer calves have started to be born - look out for them snoozing down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Our friendly robins (who have reached celebrity status with our regular visitors) have also been spotted feeding their chicks along the paths. As you can see from the cute picture below, young robins don't have the classic orange breast of their parents - they develop these after their first moult at around seven weeks old.
Robin feeding young by Richard Cousens
With the lower water levels on the southern end of the reedbed, wading birds are often amassing at Lilian's hide to take advantage of the exposed mud. Huge flocks of black-tailed godwits in particular can be seen feeding, but have a good scan round, as you never know what else may be among them.
With half-term this week, why not bring your children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews along to our Family Ramble in the Reeds on Thursday? This interactive walk is guaranteed to get the whole family discovering and exploring new things - click here for info. If you can't make Thursday, there's always our self-led Marvellous Minibeasts Trail running every day in May too!
When the new series of BBC Springwatch starts we know spring is definitely in full swing. This year the program is once again coming from our big sister reserve - the fabulous Minsmere in Suffolk. The series will be packed full of exciting wildlife action, so tune in at 8 pm on Monday 25 May for the first installment. Our very own Assistant Warden Alasdair Grubb has gone down to assist the camera crew, so look out for his name in the credits, and who knows, maybe even a glimpse of him on our screens! The program will celebrate all that spring has to offer, but if you fancy getting a bit closer to the action then why not come and see it in real life here at Leighton Moss!
One of our most anticipated days of the year arrived last week. After days of waiting and worrying, mallard ducklings have finally arrived! Anyone who has been to Leighton Moss will know that we are often joined by friendly mallards at the front of the visitor centre, but if you’re wondering around site at the moment you’ll be sure to spot lines of ducklings following mum along the paths.
All manner of young wildlife is out and about at the moment. A lucky visitor spotted a red deer calf sunning itself in the reeds on Friday, look out for them from Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides.
Can you see me? Red deer calf by Brian Salisbury
A red kite has been seen flying over the reserve so keep your eyes peeled. They seem to be making more and more regular appearances, not surprising considering the success of the conservation work that has gone into saving this species.
When you think of large conservation projects you may think of the panda or the Sumatran tiger, but it is a little known fact that the red kite has actually been subject to the longest continuous conservation project in the world. The first Kite Committee was formed in 1903 by concerned individuals appalled at the continuing destruction of kites, who initiated the first nest protection schemes. The RSPB is thought to have been involved continuously since 1905. In the 1980s the red kite was one of only three globally threatened species in the UK, and so it was a high priority for conservation efforts. 93 birds of Swedish and Spanish origin were released at various sites across the country, which continued for many years. Local to here are the red kites at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District and Harewood House near Leeds.
The first successful breeding of red kites was recorded in 1992, and two years later kites raised in the wild reared young themselves for the first time. Successful breeding populations have now become established across the UK. The birds have now made one of the most successful recoveries of any species, so we're chuffed to have them passing over Leighton Moss!
Another once incredibly rare raptor that has made a come back and is also being seen in the Morecambe Bay area is the osprey. They are nesting nearby at a Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve called Foulshaw Moss. Click here to see a live nest webcam and read their blog. As Leighton Moss is so close to the nest point we hope to see the male fishing on the reserve more and more as he will soon have plenty of mouths to feed!
Our very own resident marsh harriers are being very active around the site. We have three females sitting on nests and two males providing for them. The males are being very active and you can see them from all the hides round the reedbed.
With the breeding season in full swing, males and females throughout all of nature are getting very friendly, but it means that the males are being particularly aggravated by one another. A regular visitor to the reserve witnessed an epic mute swan battle recently, lasting over 30 minutes! A greylag goose got involved and then called for back up and things got very heated! Have a look at the fabulous photos that captured the events as they unfolded......
Epic swan battle by Richard Cousens
Our resident otter family are still putting in lots of appearances at Public and Lower hides. Our retired Warden David Mower recently captured this beautiful picture
Down at our saltmarsh there is plenty of activity - the avocets can be seen with their chicks from both Allen and Eric Morcambe hides. There are also quite a few black-headed gulls down there with two Mediterranean gulls mixed in with them, so keep a look out! A great white egret was also seen flying over the other day, and there are lots of little egrets dotted around so make sure you look closely.
Mediterranean gulls by Brian Salisbury
You can hear some of the most iconic sounds of spring around on the reserve at the moment, from chiffchaffs to Cetti’s warblers. One of the slightly more unusual spring singers around is a grasshopper warbler (not surprisingly, it sounds just like a grasshopper). They have been heard from the path to Lower hide and down on the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
With so much to offer on the reserve at the moment and half term just round the corner, why don’t you grab a waterproof (just in case!) and come and see us!