We're utterly over the moon that BBC Autumnwatch have decided to base themselves here for the second year in a row. The whole kit and caboodle arrived over the past couple of days and now they're all very much here, set up, and out and about capturing the wonderful wealth of autumn wildlife here at Leighton Moss and in the surrounding Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and around Morecambe Bay.
Once again, The Holt (our education room) and our offices are a hive of activity as they have been transformed into production and editing rooms where the fabulous teams pull together the flawless footage they bring to your screens.
Our pals Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games will be bringing you even closer to our best loved autumn wildlife. I don't know about you, but I am just bursting with excitement to see what the team will discover and develop this year. Last year, one of my highlights was when the nigh vision camera picked up the adult male otter slapping a young otter round the face with his tail to keep it off the fish! Absolutely incredible behavior that we had never seen before!
The big three with our Bethan striking a pose in the garden
So what will be revealed this year? Find out by tuning in every evening from Tuesday to Friday at 8 pm on BBC 2. And if that's not enough for your autumnal appetite, Autumnwatch Unsprung will follow each show (the first three on the red button and the last show on BBC 2) with Nick Baker bringing you even more fascinating facts. And if you still can't get enough of the action, you can tune into Autumnwatch Extra on the red button and through the internet from 7 am all four days.
The reserve is open as normal throughout, so why not come and see the action for yourselves! You could even hop on the train to Silverdale (the station is just 250 m from our door) and if you show your train ticket in the café you can treat yourself to some of Chris Packham's favourite drizzle cake with a 10% discount!
(Images: Jacqui Fereday)
OK, so I went a little overboard on the alliteration there, but there seems to have been a lot of 'red' sightings over the past few days.
Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools there are lots of redshanks and oystercatchers feeding and wading in the mud. The huge flocks of black-tailed godwits that are normally down there, seem to have decided that Grisedale hide is the place to be at the moment, so keep an eye out for a mass of them there.
Grisedale and Tim Jackson hides are the best place on the reserve to spot our largest residents - the red deer. However, as you walk anywhere on site, listen out for the roaring of the stags. I heard one from the Causeway yesterday so their sound really travels. They are doing this because autumn is rutting season - where the stags compete for the females. Look how smug this stag is that he's got a wife!
A very smug stag by Richard Cousens
Despite the wind and some seriously wet weather, we have been seeing the bearded tits regularly. They are coming to the grit trays in twos and threes (although there were nine at once one morning). This year's young ones are also collecting grit from the Causeway itself, so if you are having no luck at the grit trays, cast your eyes down the Causeway towards Public hide. They come to the left hand edge of the path just beyond the grit trays, sometimes up to 12 in number.
Perhaps our most famous residents are the bitterns. Despite some of our visitors thinking they are a mythical creature, we've been getting some cracking views of a bittern at Public hide. Have a good look along the reed edges as they are very well camouflaged and skulk about there.
Whilst you are down at Public and Lower hides, watch out for bubbles under the water and the ducks dashing across the pools in panic. This can mean that an otter is around! We've been spotting them playing in the water, splashing around and catching fish.
Look at those knashers by Keith Scovell
Redwings have been giving fly-overs to rival the red arrows this week. Keep an eye out for these gorgeous winter thrushes as you walk round.
I've been asked about the starlings a lot recently. There are roughly 4000 here at the moment, so they haven't built up to a big murmuration just yet. We think that this is because it has been so mild. I will be sure to let you know when the numbers increase. Hopefully they're not camera shy and will rock up for next week when Autumnwatch is on. We're delighted that the BBC have chosen to be based here for the second year in a row. Make sure you tune in Tuesday-Friday next week, 8 pm, BBC 2 to catch all the autumn action.
The reserve will be open as normal throughout, so why not come and see the drama in real life! We will be running a free park and ride, or why not hop on the train - Silverdale station is just 250 m from our front door. If you don't live locally, why not book a trip to really explore the area? The Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Morecambe Bay have it all for lovers of the great outdoors - breathtaking views, stunning scenery, a wealth of wonderful wildlife, history and culture. Click here for fantastic 'Nature on Your Doorstep Guides' that will help you discover more.
Having had reports of redwings flying over the reserve this last week, I thought they would make an ideal subject for this week's 50th anniversary blog.
These charismatic little birds have been seen at Leighton Moss over winter for our whole history. Redwings are related to blackbirds and thrushes, but unlike their cousins, are not present in the UK all year round. They arrive in autumn, often in flocks with their relative the fieldfare. These birds travel to the UK from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Northern Russia.
Their name is slightly misleading as a more accurate name would be red underwing. Redwings look superficially like a song thrush although they a smaller. When they fly, you can see the stunning rusty red colour under their wings. They also have a very distinctive pale eye stripe.
Redwings absolutely love berries. If you have a hawthorn, rowan, cotoneaster or similar in your garden or community, look out for flocks or 'crowds' of these gorgeous birds at this time of year. If not, then you can help them by putting out raisins and bruised apples.
Redwing by Kevin Kelly
Redwings love cotoneaster berries by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)