Something’s been causing quite a stir at Leighton Moss this weekend...
Three great white egrets have been seen across site since Saturday lunch time.
On Monday 21 July, they could be seen well from Lilians hide, with one having a curious snap at some dragonflies! At lunchtime the hide was all aflutter with people wanting to get a glimpse of these stunning creatures.
This statuesque white bird is a treat for the eyes. They move by stalking through the water, lifting their enormous black feet and showing off their bony ankles. They are around the size of a grey heron and feed in a similar way, watching their prey and snatching up fish from shallow water.
Great white egret by Mike Malpass
Although we already have a stable colony of little egrets (their close cousins), it is uncommon to see great white egrets at Leighton Moss. Three is a brilliant surprise!
Down at the saltmarsh hides, 120 dunlin could be seen, along with knot, greenshank and redshank, as a large amount of waders begin to arrive.
Dunlin are now in their summer breeding plumage and can be spotted by their black bellies and down-curved black bill. Over the past 20 years, dunlin numbers have dropped by 50 per cent – Leighton Moss provides a key habitat for them to feed throughout the year.
Dunlin by Sue Tranter (rspb-images.com)
Dragonflies and damselflies are still in abundance across the reserve, particularly on the Causeway near Public hide, where you can follow brown hawkers down the path.
Come on down and enjoy your summer in Silverdale - pack and picnic and bring that camera - there's so much to see!
It’s been the perfect weekend to enjoy a stroll in the sunshine. Leighton is certainly looking rather attractive, if I don’t say so myself. On Sunday night I took a wander down to Grisedale hide to make the most of the summer evening.
Along the path just after Lilians, you can see the spindly enchanter’s nightshade. Despite its extravagant name, this white flower is small and can go by unnoticed by the path’s edge.
Its likes to grow in shady conditions, so the darker spots under our willow trees provide the perfect habitat. Its broad, heart-shaped leaves soak up as much light as possible. Enchanter’s nightshade is not related to other members of the nightshade family and can grow up to 70 cm in height.
Winding through the reeds, other wildflowers such as meadowsweet, purple-loosestrife and self-heal are coming out beautifully. The meadowsweet overhanging the pathways links back to our farming past where farmers used to strew the barn floor with this aromatic wildflower, making mucking-out time a little easier on the nose.
Meadowsweet by Jennifer Lane
Grisedale had a lot to offer: at around 7 pm, two red deer hinds grazed on the right-hand bank, looking spectacular in the evening light.
Ten little egrets came onto the front pool. While some posed and preened, others looked for food on the water’s surface. Cormorants started to roost in their favourite tree and a grey heron was spooked from the reeds.
Little egret by Mike Malpass
Mallards, gadwall and coots could be seen across the pool. There are many dabbling ducks all across site at the moment with some great views at Public, Lilians and Tim Jackson. Look out for gangly-looking chicks which are venturing out on their own at this time of year!
Path to Grisedale by Jennifer Lane
With the scents of reed and meadowsweet in the air, it was definitely an evening to remember.
There’s so much to see as the nights stay bright here at Leighton Moss. Why not try one of our fantastic Wildlife Walks at Dusk every Monday night throughout July and August, where you can see a great range of plants, birds and animals well into the evening. Check out our website for more details.
Down on the saltmarsh today, just as Kevin (our Membership Manager) predicted there would be this week, a wood sandpiper was spotted! The pools have dried out a little in all this hot weather so the wading birds are enjoying feeding in the mud. There are eight greenshanks and lots of redshanks, black-tailed godwits and a spotted redshank down there too.
In the reedbed, there are plenty of coots and a variety of ducks (which are all looking a bit brown and sorry for themselves as they have moulted their breeding plumage). Look out for their 'speculum' (patch of colour on the wing) to help you identify them at this time of year.
Summer is a great time of year for seeing our largest residents - the red deer coming out and about with their calves to lie by the pool edges and graze the fresh reeds. Keep your eyes peeled for them as you head round the reedbed.
The marsh harrier action continues, so you should see them hunting low over the reedbed, or the youngsters wobbily trying to land in bushes around the reedbed.
Why not come along to our Wildlife Watch at Dusk this evening to see what is around?
If you are planning to visit this week, just to be aware that the summer reed cutting is taking place:
On Tuesday 15 July, the wardens will be cutting at Tim Jackson hide in the morning and Grisedale hide in the afternoon.
On Wednesday 16 July, the wardens will be reed cutting at Lilian's hide in the morning and Public and Lower hides in the afternoon.
Reed cutting is an essential part of the reserve management to make it an ideal home for the wildlife that lives here. Whilst the wardens presence tends to cause the wildlife to move away from the area being cut, this is temporary and everything returns very rapidly after they have finished that area. You are of course welcome to go into the hides to watch this interesting work being carried out. For information about why we cut the reeds and what is all means, click here to read Alasdair's blog from last summer's reed cut.
Richard reedcutting by David Mower