With Christmas just a few days away, I thought I would update you on all the latest sightings that you will hopefully get the chance to come and see over the festive period.
We have a great variety of little birds at our feeding station in the garden and through the woodland. From the more well-known robins and blue tits, to more unusual nuthatches and marsh tits, keep your eyes peeled for the sight and sound of these favourites during your visit. It won't be long until we'll be asking for your help to count them in your own gardens for Big Garden Birdwatch 2015!
Winter is one of the best times of year to see some of our most secretive wildlife here at Leighton Moss. Recently sightings of our most elusive residents - the bitterns have been almost daily from Public hide, with some sightings at Lilian's and Lower hides too. We have more bitterns here through the colder months as additional birds come over from Europe. Keep a particular eye on 'Al's Alley' - a strip cut through the reeds to the right of Public hide by one of our wardens Alasdair. Another of our shyest residents are water rails. They have also been nipping out in 'Al's Alley', as well as views of them round the edges close by at Lilian's hide.
Bittern on the ice by Keith Scovell
Water rails are good skaters too by Keith Scovell
Up to four otters have been out playing a lot at both Lilian's and Public hides. The large dog (male) otter has also been seen fishing down at Lower hide. The work our wardens have been carrying out in recent years means that fish stocks are really good. Plus we've installed a replacement sluice on the Causeway which means we can manage the water level at Public and Lower hides separately to the water level at Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, creating the ideal conditions for the different wildlife.
If you head down the Causeway, keep an ear out for Cetti's warblers. They have been heard singing their explosive song in that part of the reserve, which is a fantastic sound to hear. They suddenly just strike up, like someone putting money in a jukebox and have a raspy sound. Also keep an eye out for bearded tits which have been seen coming onto the Causeway path itself to pick up grit.
Around the reedbed, we have three marsh harriers - two adult females and a youngster. Up until four years ago, we only ever had marsh harriers here in the breeding season when we usually have four to five females and a couple of males. However, for the past few years, we have had up to four marsh harriers through the winter too. These reedbed birds of prey are a stunning sight as they glide over the reeds looking for prey.
There are large numbers of ducks on the reserve, both on the pools at Leighton Moss and also on the saltmarsh. See if you can spot the difference between them - mallards, pintails, shovelers, teal, wigeons, pochards, tufted ducks, goldeneyes, gadwalls, shelducks, goosanders and red-breasted mergansers.
Huge flocks of waders are also gathered on the saltmarsh. As I drive to work each morning past that part of the reserve, I often see large numbers of lapwings in the sky - wheeling round and twirling in the way often associated with starlings. They really are a sight to behold. Look out for them as well as redshanks, black-tailed godwits and oystercatchers at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. One of our regular visitors was also treated to close up views of this lovely little wren whilst they were there, along with seeing one of our most colourful residents - a kingfisher.
Wren by Richard Cousens
I have had a few enquiries as to when we open over Christmas, so here's a reminder:
Christmas Eve 9.30 am-3 pm
Christmas Day CLOSED
Boxing Day 10 am-4.30 pm
New Year’s Eve 9.30 am-3 pm
New Year’s Day 10 am-4.30 pm
All other days are normal visitor centre opening hours for December and January (9.30 am-4.30 pm). Please note that both the visitor centre and the nature reserve are closed on Christmas Day.The reserve is open from dawn until dusk every day but Christmas Day when it is closed.
If you are bringing children with you on your visit, why not take part in Bertie Bittern's Christmas Wish self-led trail, to discover what Bertie has wished for. The Holt (our education room) will also be open most days with interactive boards and Christmas colouring and quizzes.
We look forward to seeing you!