We've had a glorious couple of days here, to the point where you could even get away without a coat. It seems like ages since we've seen the sun but it's here at last. One of the best signs of spring is when the butterflies start to appear again. Today I was out in our wildlife garden and I spotted my first brimstone butterfly of the year. It always makes me smile - they're so attractive. Interestingly, brimstones are the reason that butterflies are called butterflies. They are often the first species to emerge and are bright yellow (the colour of butter) and they fly. Pretty accurate description really.
If butterflies are one of the sights of spring at Leighton Moss, then the black headed gulls are certainly one of the sounds. They have returned to the islands in front of Lilian's hide once more in order to breed. You can watch their comical antics as they squabble and bicker over a bit of reed, an inch of space, anything at all really, they seem to enjoy arguing.
Black headed gulls by David Mower
One of our best loved signs of spring - the avocets are building further in numbers, with 29 now out on the saltmarsh. Look out for them from Eric Morecambe and Allen hides.
An undeniable sound of spring is the song of the chiff chaff, and the first few have been heard on the reserve. The path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides is good at the moment. Chiff chaffs are a pretty helpful bird if you're a novice at bird song. They say their own name, making them easier to pick out than some.
There's been a fair bit of bittern activity down at the Public and Lower hide end of the reserve. Fingers crossed for some booming now the weather has warmed up.
The firecrest has been intermittently showing up again. The path to Lower hide seems to be one of the favoured spots.
Otters have been spotted right in the middle of the day, swimming around, catching eels and generally enjoying the sunshine. Their movement was described to me today by one visitor as like that of the Loch Ness monster, as they hump their backs out of the water. I thought it was an accurate depiction really, maybe Mossy could be our own version of Nessy. You certainly stand a much better chance of spotting ours, especially if you head to Public and Lower hides.
As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, we are holding a history exhibition this weekend to celebrate all that Leighton Moss has achieved during this time and also looking back on our past before we were an RSPB nature reserve.
Why not come along? It is running between 10 am and 4 pm both Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 March in our Education Room. There will be old photos and memorabilia, as well as stories and memories of the site since it became an nature reserve in 1964, and its history beforehand.
The first Warden of the reserve, John Wilson is still a very active volunteer and will be at the event to pass on his fond memories and experiences of working here all these years.
John Wilson and David Mower carrying railway sleepers in order to make the path to Grisedale hide in 1972.
Thanks to funding from the Arnside and Silverdale AONB and the Heritage Lottery Fund, local archivist Ken Howarth has been recording the memories of the Wardens and many other local people who have tall tales and amusing stories to tell about the area, its stunning landscape and fascinating heritage.
We’ve already had lots of people sending us their old photos and recollections of the reserve and area, which we’re really thankful for. If anyone has anything at home, we would love for them to bring along memorabilia and pictures. There will also be a ‘Memory Booth’ over the exhibition weekend so we can record memories directly on the day.
For anyone visiting tomorrow (Wednesday 5 March), just wanted to let you know that there will be some disruption at the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides as our Wardens put out some electric fencing. The purpose of this fence is to protect the avocets from land predators whilst they are nesting, and is a vital factor in their breeding success. The rest of the reserve will be unaffected. For details of the impressive history of how the avocet, both nationally and at this reserve, click here.
Ours aren't at this stage yet, but the fence will help them when they are. Image by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
The long-tailed duck was out and about on Lilian's pool today, as was the scaup on Public pool. Marsh harrier action has been fantastic, with lots of sightings from most hides around the reedbed.
The otters were spotted at Lower hide both this morning and early afternoon. Red deer have also been out at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides.
The firecrest has emerged once again in the past few days, with sightings on the path to Lower hide.
As many of you know, we are clebrating 50 golden years of giving nature a home this year, as we first became and RSPB nature reserve back in 1964. Part of our ongoing celebrations is a history project, kindly funded by the Arnside and Silverdale AONB and the Heritage Lottery Fund. This weekend we are having an exhibition called Looking back at Leighton, where you will get the chance to see old photos of the site before it was a nature reserve, the development of the area, captivating stories and memories of local people and memorabillia too. Click here for details.