The feeders at the back of the visitor centre are a flurry of activity at the moment, with great spotted woodpeckers and tree sparrows making regular appearances, so it's definitely worth a peek when you're heading onto the reserve. Among the more common blue tits, great tits and coal tits, we also get marsh tits coming out often too. I am sure you will know what to look out for if you took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend! There's still plenty of time to get your results in if you've not already. Don't forget the Big Schools Birdwatch is still running up until the 13 February too!
Marsh tit by Richard Cousens
Tree sparrow by Martin Kuchczynski
We have had a report of a firecrest on the path to Lower hide, so keep your eyes peeled. This tiny gem shares its crown with the goldcrest for being the UK's smallest bird. They can sometimes be difficult to spot, flitting through trees and bushes in search of insects.
The wildlife on the reserve has been putting on a good show; the otters in particular have been very impressive! The whole family has been seen out and about with quite a few sightings everyday. The best views seem to be from Public and Lower hide, so it’s definitely worth a trip! We have additional bitterns in the winter as they migrate from Europe to escape the cold weather, so it’s a great time to head out and spot them too. Up to three have been seen at once from Public hide.
We are very lucky to not just have marsh harriers on the reserve at the moment, but a merlin, sparrowhawks and peregrines as well! They can be seen from any of the hides, so keep an eye out, particularly down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, where they are on the hunt. Large flocks of lapwings and redshanks can be spotted down there too.
With some wet and windy weather this week, you'd think the wildlife would have stayed hunkered down out of sight. However, those visitors who have braved the storms have been treated to some spectacular sightings...
At Public hide, the otters are still an almost daily occurrence. Whether frozen over, or open and windblown, the conditions on the pool have not put them off. They've been spotted rolling around and fishing in the water, skating on the ice and taking a rest on the islands and edges. They are truly stunning to see.
Otter on an island at Public hide by Martin Kuchczynski
At both Public and Lower hides, bittern sightings have been great too. We have an increase in their numbers at this time of year as our resident birds are joined by some from the continent. They have superb camouflage so can often be difficult to spot, but recently they've been popping up all round the edges of the pools and even flying out too! Why not come along to our next 'Frost Bittern' walk to see if you can see these elusive birds. Details here.
Bittern at Lower hide by Richard Cousens
The ducks on the pools have been battling the almost tidal conditions as the wind gusts across the surface of Lilian's pool. There's a good variety to see with mallards, teal, wigeons, pintail, goldeneye, tufted ducks, pochards and gadwalls all dotted round the reserve.
A blustery landing for the mallards by Richard Cousens
Gadwall on choppy waters by Brian Salisbury
Down on the saltmarsh, a whole host of different wading birds can be seen from the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. Great flocks of lapwings wheeling round the sky, redshanks, black-tailed godwits and among them a spotted redshank, a greenshank, a couple of ruff and some dunlin. A splash of colour has also been added by sightings of a stunning kingfisher and a yellowhammer.
Close to the visitor centre, at our garden feeding station, you are treated to close up views of many of our woodland favourites. Chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches and bullfinches adorn the feeders with colour, alongside blue tits, great tits, coal tits and a Leighton Moss speciality-marsh tits. We're thrilled that the pair of tree sparrows seem to be staying round, fingers crossed for some breeding. They were spotted recently passing a feather to one another, could this be an early Valentine's gift? With Big Garden Birdwatch coming up in a week's time, why not come along to our events this weekend in preparation. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we'll be helping you to discover 'What's that Garden Bird?' (details here), followed by 'Fat Cake Sculptures' in the afternoons - find out more here.
Our terrific tree sparrow pair by Richard Cousens
The perfect gift for your partner by Richard Cousens
The UK’s smallest bird of prey, the merlin, has been seen dashing around the reserve recently. You can tell merlins apart from other falcons (kestrels, hobbys and peregrines) because of their relatively long, square-cut tail and rather broad-based pointed wings, shorter that those of any other falcon. Merlins can be aggressive towards other raptors - the other day a visitor told me when they were out on the reserve they saw a merlin mobbing a peregrine, plucky considering their small size! Leighton Moss is an ideal habitat for them as they favour areas of open country like grassland and costal areas. There have been quite a few sightings recently, a few spots from Lower and Public hides as well as Eric Morecambe hide - look out for them perching on posts on the saltmarsh.
Merlin by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Merlins haven’t been the only birds out and about though, the peregrines are still making regular appearances along with three marsh harriers. A barn owl has also been seen at dusk around the station, so if you’re on your way home on the train, keep your eyes peeled!
The greylag geese can still be seen all over the reserve and they can definitely be heard from pretty much anywhere! Our otter family have been showing really well from Public hide almost every day. Bitterns have been seen from Public hide too. If you fancy blowing the New Year cobwebs away on a winter walk then join us on 13 or 30 January to try and spot our most secret residents as well as plenty more seasonal delights! For more details click here
Thanks to Intern Anya for this sightings update