Autumn was in the air this week, in a literal sense, with flocks of pink-footed geese flying over the reserve. These intrepid birds breed in Iceland and migrate to the UK to survive the harsh Icelandic winters. The geese above Leighton are likely bound for the Pilling marsh area in Lancashire, where they will take advantage of the relatively mild conditions, before starting the return journey next spring.
Pink-footed geese by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Autumn could also be experienced closer to the ground, with the earthy bellow of a red deer stag heard on Tuesday evening. Keep your ear drums primed for more acoustic shenanigans as the time of rutting begins.
A plethora of waders were on offer for visitors to the Eric Morecambe pool. Spotted redshanks and little egrets were feeding close to the hide, set against of backdrop of the usual suspects – large numbers of lapwings and redshanks. Amongst the dunlins was a curlew sandpiper. Looking like a ‘jacked up’ dunlin, curlew sandpipers possess longer legs, a more elongate downward curving bill and a white eye stripe.
A special mention goes to the spoonbill sighted on the saltmarsh, at some considerable distance. Have a good scan around this weekend as we’re keen to know if this special visitor is still in the area.
Even before reaching the hides, there were still jewels to be found. Kingfishers were visible around the water channel at the entrance to the pools’ car park, with one kindly perching on the water-depth board.
Kingfisher by Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
A multitude of black-tailed godwits continue to decorate Lilians pool, but for those after less common waders, a grand total of 13 little stints were sighted, not to mention a pectoral sandpiper.
The great white egrets are still here! Speaking of egrets, as mentioned earlier this week, the roost count of 182 broke all previous records. To expand the egret extravaganza, a cattle egret was spotted roosting amongst the regulars. Cattle egret are smaller than little egret and can be further distinguished by their yellow bill.
Now is the time to listen out for musical sneezing along the causeway, because bearded tits are visiting the grit trays. So far, the total stands at two, but larger numbers have also been seen flying overhead.
During the previous blog we highlighted the beauty of teal, still plentiful on the reserve. For those duck enthusiasts out there, a visit to Public hide will reward you with views of pintails and the odd shoveler – a marvellous duck with an oversized bill that appears to have waddled straight from a Lewis Carroll novel. If the wildfowl suddenly take to the skies, look out for the female marsh harrier which has been present intermittently this week.
Finally, we’ve mentioned many of the birds you can see, but what about the equipment you’re using to see them? If you’d like any advice about optics, pop along to our binoculars and telescopes open days this weekend.