We’ve been making the most of the summer holidays and getting down to the hides for a spot of wildlife watching!
Water rails have been seen regularly from Tim Jackson hide. There have been plenty of juveniles around feeding at the waters edge and giving us something to chuckle about as they strut their stuff.
(Water rail by James Ellis)
Many people don’t believe it when we tell them our otters can be seen during the daytime. Although normally seen more at dawn or dusk, the otters at Leighton Moss can’t get enough of the sunshine. This weekend an otter was seen at midday from Public hide. It’s always worth keeping an eye out if you’re heading down there on your lunch break.
Over the weekend a female pied flycatcher was seen on the path to Lower hide. Females are browner in colour than their male counterparts, and lack the white spot above the beak. Commonly confused with their close relatives the spotted flycatcher, the pied flycatcher is smaller with a shorter beak and tail.
(Male pied flycatcher by John Bridges rspb-images.com)
Flycatchers live up to their name and also feed on a variety of other insects including bees, ants, woodlice, caterpillars and millipedes. Look out for them in woodland – our willow scrub habitat towards Lower hide provides the perfect shelter for these secretive birds.
Other sightings at Leighton Moss include six greenshanks at Lilian’s and Public hides, as well as a ruff and dunlin from Lilian’s hide. A great white egret has made its way down to Eric Morecambe hide – there are still three of these stunning birds around so keep your eyes peeled.
Important information: from Tuesday 19-Friday 22 August we are doing some home improvements on the reserve. Contractors will be on the causeway installing a new sluice to allow us better control of the water on-site. The causeway, Public and Lower hides will still be accessible to visitors, although in the interests of health and safety, the contractors may stop access for short periods when needed. Please be aware that there will be large machinery at work and please do as instructed by the contractors. Thank you for your co-operation.
In celebration of our 50th anniversary, since the start of the year, once a week, we have been looking back at a particular aspect of the reserve and its history. This week, it's magical Morecambe Bay.
Morecambe Bay is the size of Manchester, stretching from Barrow-in-Furness in the north, down to Fleetwood in the south. The Lake District and the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty tumble down into the vast expanse of its marvellous mudflats.
Mud might not sound particularly appetising to us, but it is this that draws in quarter of a million birds a year. The mud you see, is a canteen. It is packed full of cockles and shrimps and lugworms and mussels and more. Tasty morsels to feed a variety of appetites. Curlews, lapwings, black-tailed godwits, turnstones, great swirling flocks of knot, and oystercatchers in abundance feed in the Bay. Their differing beak lengths and shapes allow them all to find food within the different layers. It is one of the most important places for wading birds in the country. Why not join us and our pals from Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust on our mud dipping event in Morecambe tomorrow to learn more? Click here for more info.
In 1974, the RSPB purchased an area of Morecambe Bay the size of 2000 football pitches and the rights to a further 800 football pitches worth. This involved mudflats and saltmarsh including the area where the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides and pools now stand. From then on we had our current title of Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve.
Sunset over the Bay by Mike Malpass
Due to its richness in nature, in 2011, Morecambe Bay was designated a Nature Improvement Area (NIA) by the government. The programme involves a number of partners working together - nature conservation organisations, local farmers and landowners, businesses, in order to restore, enhance and connect areas for wildlife and allow people access to experience it.
It's not just birds and mud dwelling creatures that can be found in the Bay, all manner of marine life calls the place home. Porpoises, seals, dolphins and even minke whales can all be spotted from the shore. It is truly unique, which is why every year people come to explore and enjoy its fantastic scenery, landscapes, wildlife and heritage-on foot, by bike, from the back of a horse, even by sail.
If you haven't yet discovered the huge variety of places you can explore around Morecambe Bay, or if you want to find more, why not download these fantastic 'Nature on your Doorstep' guides to help you on your way. Not only do they cover areas with plentiful wildlife, but cultural experiences and places to eat and drink too!
Aerial view of the Morecambe Bay mudflats by David Wootton (rspb-images.com)
Despite severe weather warnings this week, we've actually had a surprising amount of sun here. Sure, there has been some heavy heavy downpours, but everyday, for some of the day at least, we have seen some rays. At this time of year, with sunshine comes nature's mini helicopters. Check out this gorgeous photo of a migrant hawker dragonfly taken this week. I just love how one set of wings is going up and the other down. These stunning insects are motoring around the reedbed at the moment.
Migrant hawker by Richard Cousens
With all these dragonflies around, it's not surprising that we've had sightings of a hobby at Public hide. These gorgeous little falcons resemble a small peregrine wearing red shorts. They will catch dragonflies in the air and eat them whilst still flying!
Osprey sightings are regular at the Public and Lower hide end of the reserve and marsh harriers can be spotted all around the reedbed at the moment. It won't be long before they start heading south so come and enjoy them whilst they're still here.
Otter spotters have been having a great week, with lots of sightings of this furry favourite. A pair of otters were seen chasing a tufted duck, right in front of Lilian's hide on Wednesday morning, and there have been several reports of a mother with two younger cubs at Grisedale hide. This indicates that we could possibly have two families (likely with the same male) on site which is super exciting!
With the reedbed management work that is going on at the moment, there is a lot of mud exposed round the pool edges and some of the meres themselves are shallower. This has meant that around the reedbed we are seeing more of the wading birds that you would normally expect to see at the saltmarsh. A spotted redshank and a ruff have been out and about at Lilian's hide and flocks of black tailed godwits are regularly seen at Grisedale hide. The mud is also bringing out some of our shyest residents-water rails from hiding, giving you a chance to marvel at the colours on these lovely little birds.
Water rail by Richard Cousens
Two great white egrets are still very much present, again enjoy wading into the shallower pools. They are being seen around the reedbed, but most often at Public and Lower hides.
As you head through the woods down to Lower hide, make sure you also keep an eye out for red deer. Our largest residents are showing up there frequently, often in groups.
This weekend we have an art exhibition by Carnforth and District Art Society so pop in for a look at some great pieces, some of which have been inspired by the reserve.