Skip navigation
Become a member

Help us save nature at places like this. From £4 a month.

Print page

Recent sightings

  • 24 February 2015

    Outstanding Avocets

    After several weeks of anticipation, the moment has arrived, the avocets have returned! Two were seen at the weekend, and they have stuck around with two or three more sightings of the couple over the past few days. We hope to be joined by many more over the next week or so. Here at Leighton Moss we all get very excited about the return of the avocets. Fifty years ago it would have been unthinkable that avocets would ever breed this far up north, but as these birds began to breed more successfully in the south they eventually made their way up to our saltmarshes.

     Chris Gomersall (

     The avocets used to be prevalent, nesting in many areas of the UK, but due to the loss of important wetlands where they lived, they were extinct as a breeding bird by around 1840. However their fate turned as war broke out and the costal marshes of East Anglia were flooded for defence. This created a perfect habitat for them, and a very small number began to return.  The RSPB stepped in and protected the birds at Harvergate Island and Minsmere reserves, and numbers eventually began to increase.  Bringing the avocet back from brink of extinction is one of the RSPB’s greatest successes, and is why the avocet our logo.

    Avocet chick by Richard Cousens

    1997 was the year the very first avocet was spotted on our saltmarsh, with only one bird being seen. Luckily this bird wasn’t just blown off course, as the following years lead to an increase in numbers, with 2011 bringing us 9 fledglings. 2012 was a bumper year with 48 young fledging from 19 nests. It was a very exciting time for everyone, and there was much celebration. 2013 was still a pretty good year for them, with 22 fledging.

    It hasn’t all been plain sailing though and the birds have had plenty to contend with from floods, draughts and predators.

    We totted up how many chicks Leighton Moss has produced, and we found that we have added 109 wonderful avocet chicks to the world. I am sure you will all agree that this is a great success, and none of this would have been possible without the dedication of many staff and volunteers. And of course, if you are an RSPB member you know that your monthly contributions are going towards many wonderful projects like this one, and we, and all the wildlife out there thanks you.

    You would think that we have had enough excitement for one week, but the otters are still fantastic, with brilliant views everyday from Public and Lower hides. The marsh harriers are still putting on a good show, being seen from almost every hide, they are regularly joined by peregrines and merlin. The pools are still busy with teal and pintail mostly, but the odd gadwall and snipe being seen as well.

     As we edge towards spring we look forward to seeing many young chicks out and about, flowers begin to bloom and butterflies start to make an appearance.  But whatever the time of year, there is always something fascinating to see, so why not grab a woolly hat and gives us visit?

    Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings blog. 


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 18 February 2015

    Ducking and diving

    When I was younger and my best friend's dad used to take us out watching wildlife, there's a particular group of birds that were ever present wherever we went - ducks. As a really young child, I thought that a duck was just a duck and there was only one sort, but as I grew older (and was better at sitting still to watch them) I discovered that there's lots of different kinds of ducks and they are fascinating! Some dive under the water for their food, whilst others simply pop their heads under the water and stick their bums in the air to feed under the surface. The more you look, the more you notice their different habits and the huge variety of colours they have which often shimmer in the light if the sun catches them right.

    During the autumn and winter, Leighton Moss has a great variety of ducks. They come to Morecambe Bay from their breeding grounds further north in places like Scandinavia. They are always a welcome sight when they arrive and I am always sad to see them go in spring, but wish them well, hoping they'll return again when the weather gets colder.

    If you head to Lilian's hide at the moment, there are dozens of pintails (in my opinion the most elegant of all the ducks we get here). You'll also spot pairs of tufted ducks too. Wigeons, teal, pochards, mallards and gadwalls can also be spotted swimming around. With spring in the air, the ducks are starting to get a bit frisky and none of them put more effort into finding a girlfriend than the male goldeneyes. If you head down to Public hide, you can see just how much showing off they do to attract the ladies. They pull some spectacular moves - swimming along with their head low, then throwing it back,letting out a loud “zeee-zeee” call. It is entertaining to watch and the female goldeneyes certainly seem impressed as you can see from this picture captured recently. If you're visiting with your family, why not have a go at our 'Love Birds Trail' as you walk round - you'll discover all the funny and unusual ways birds will try to attract a mate.

      Just look how many girls he's impressing with his moves (image by Richard Cousens)

      A lovely pair of tufted ducks by Brian Salisbury

    When you're at Public hide watching the goldeneyes strut their stuff, also keep an eye out for our otters which are putting in regular appearances at the moment. Some of our most secretive residents - the bitterns are also popping out a lot to prove they're not mythical creatures.

    Down at the saltmarsh, a flock of greylags is hanging out with five white-fronted geese at the moment which is a great sighting for the reserve. They were spotted the other day with a rather unusual creature among them as you can see from this photo

     Is it a bird? Is it a plane? by Richard Cousens

    When you're down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, don't forget to check out the wading birds too - a golden plover has been spotted among the lapwings and a spotted redshank is there among the redshanks and black-tailed godwits, so see if you can pick them out from the crowd.

      Golden plover by Richard Cousens


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 16 February 2015

    It must be winter, there's a white-front coming...

    Some people imagine winter is a quiet time on the reserve, but this couldn't be further from the truth. From otters to great spotted woodpeckers and wigeons to woodpigeons the reserve is packed!

    A pair of peregrines have been seen for the past couple of days, hunting on the saltmarsh and even being mobbed by a rather plucky merlin! It is likely that they are the pair from Warton Crag, so head up there to see them scoping out their nest site. The ravens are already starting to nest there too.

    The marsh harriers have been as regular as ever, with sightings from all the hides on a daily basis. In just over a months time, they will be joined by more coming here to breed - a sure sign of spring!

    Some lucky visitors have spotted bearded tits on the Causeway. Bearded tits are some of Leighton Mosses most charming inhabitants and their distinctive "pinging" sound can be heard all year round. They have been seen quite a few times just on the path outside Public hide, so keep a look out when your on your way out of there.

    As seems to be their daily routine at the moment, the otters have been absolutely fantastic in front of Public and Lower hides, with visitors sitting for hours on end just watching them catch fish and play. When you're walking down to Lower hide, also look out for a lesser redpoll which has been seen a few times among the trees.

    The saltmash has been busy lately with small flocks of black-tailed godwits and redshanks along with a spotted redshank ,a greenshank and a few ruffs. There has also been some lovely views of lapwings, with numbers in their thousands! They swirl around in the air, similar to the patterns that the starlings make here in the autumn. Up to145 dunlin have been seen as well along with up a handful of little egrets.

    Thanks to Intern Anya for these sightings.

    Our Membership Manager Kevin has been on a goose finding mission again and came up trumps on Saturday with five white-fronted geese in amongst a flock of greylags! This is an unusual sighting for Leighton Moss so we're chuffed to bits. They have put in an appearance on Lilian's pool, but have mainly been spotted in the fields by the level crossing. Like the bean goose Kevin found last week, the white-fronted geese you get in the UK have two races - European white-fronts and Greenland white-fronts. It is more common to get the Greenland race on this side of the country with the European white-fronts generally being found on the East coast (they come down from Northern Russia). However, we have in fact got five of the European race here at the minute so they are extra special!

    From the picture you'll notice their distinctive white 'blaze' at the base of their beak. They develop this at the end of their first winter. The adult birds also have the stunning black barring on their chests, which the younger ones lack.

      Three white-fronted geese by Kevin Kelly

    The picture below also shows you the size comparison between the smaller white-fronted geese and the much chunkier greylag geese (image Kevin Kelly)


    With half-term now underway, why not bring the whole family down. There's still a few spaces on our Batbox event on Wednesday, or why not have a go at our Love Birds Trail , running all month, to learn all about the ways in which some of our favourite birds find love.



    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 7 February 2015

    What an ice place to visit

    The weather is mighty fine at the moment (it might be cold but it's lovely and sunny), and both visitors and wildlife alike are making the most of it. The otters are being as active as ever with several sightings everyday from Public and Lower hides. Up to six of them have been spotted together. In early mornings when it’s been a chilly night and the pools are frozen over, you can get some fantastic views of the whole otter family exploring on the ice as they look for food. Bittern sightings are still fairly regular too, best views seem to be from Public hide. When you arrive have a look in our recent sightings book for the most up-to-date views.

    I was heading down to the saltmarsh the other day and had a beautiful view of two stonechats sitting on the wire fence that runs parallel to the track. I saw one male and one female. Listen out for their loud, striking call that sounds like two stones being hit together.

    There has been a large flock of lapwings around on the saltmarsh too, which is a great sight when a merlin or peregrine dives in amongst them - it’s a like mini murmuration! There are around twenty to thirty dunlin there too along with redshanks, a spotted redshank and a greenshank seen from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.

    A pair of barn owls have been seen around the reserve at dusk. On Thursday evening at 5 pm, two of our members of staff had stunning views of two barn owls flying over Barrow Scout Fields on their way home!

    The ducks have been tackling the chilly conditions by finding open water on the ditches or heading to the saltmarsh pools and there has been a good variety - pintails, gadwalls and pochards to name but a few!

    There are still large flocks of greylag geese flying over, so look up when you’re out and about! The three bean geese are still being spotted among them so make sure you have a good look through the whole flock. They are often grazing on the fields down by the level crossing or out on the saltmarsh.

      Greylag geese by Sue Tranter (

    Thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings update.

    Please be aware that on Monday 9 February, the track to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides car park will be closed whilst we install a pipe to help us to manage water levels on Barrow Scout Fields.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 2 February 2015

    Who's bean to see us?

    Happy World Wetlands Day everyone! As an internationally important wetland, Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve is home to a great abundance of special and important wetland wildlife. We're pretty excited by the fact that we've had up to three bean geese around over the past few days. The first sighting came from our Membership Manager Kevin on Thursday, with one in among greylag geese and pink-footed geese on the farmland by Barrow Scout Fields. Since Thursday, with lots of eyes on the flock, we have found that there are three bean geese in total. They are moving around a lot so can be difficult to track down, but the fields by the level crossing and also the saltmarsh are the main places to look.

    There are two races of bean geese that come to the UK - tundra bean geese and taiga bean geese. This means that they are the same species, but with slightly different variations in their appearance and where they're found. Bean geese are a very unusual sighting for Leighton Moss, but the three that have been spotted are tundra bean geese. They look very similar to pink-footed geese as they are closely related, but essentially tundra bean geese are orange in all the places that pink footed geese are pink - this includes the legs and a band of colour on the beak. By contrast taiga bean geese have a longer, much more orange beak than the tundra race and are larger. In terms of seeing them in winter, you are more likely to see tundra bean geese on this side of the country (though not commonly), and taiga bean geese on the East coast, particularly in Norfolk.

    Tundra bean goose by Mike Langman (

    Taiga bean goose by Mike Langman (

    Both races of bean geese found in the UK come from Siberia and Northern Europe but they differ in where they breed (either on the tundra or in the lakes of the taiga forest). They then migrate south to Western Europe for the winter.

    The bean geese are not the only ones that have been drawn to Leighton Moss to escape colder weather elsewhere. We have additional bitterns on the reserve through the winter months as our resident birds are joined by those from the continent. Public hide is the best place to spot them at the moment, particularly when the pools are frozen up like today. You also have a good chance of spotting another of our most elusive birds - the water rails whilst the pools are iced over.

    Our otters are also regularly popping out in front of Public and Lower hides. Up to six have been seen at once which is fantastic! In this frozen weather they skate across the ice, and when it thaws, they can be seen rolling around in the water catching eels.

      The three musketeers by Richard Cousens

    We have had a report of a stoat down towards Grisedale hide, that is in partial ermine. Stoats are chestnut brown for most of the year, but during the winter months they change their coat to white to blend in with snow. The one seen here isn't pure white, but it has a half-changed outfit on, so it looks a little undecided as to what the weather is doing.

    Though it is not the main gritting season, bearded tits have been seen and heard in and around the grit trays on the Causeway, so keep an eye and an ear out for these elusive little birds.

    The three marsh harriers that have frequented the reserve through the autumn and winter are still here, so look for them around the reedbed. They also sometimes head across to the saltmarsh to hunt too. Down at the saltmarsh, we have been re-building the sluice at Eric Morecambe pool as it was undermined by a strong tide recently. We're holding it back temporarily at the moment, but is will need more work in the summer. The water level on the Eric Morecambe pool has dropped significantly due to the water being able to escape, but this means that the mud is exposed so the birds are enjoying it. If you head down there, look for redshanks, dunlins, lapwings, a spotted redshank and a greenshank.

     Please be aware that on Monday 9 February, the track to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides car park will be closed whilst we install a pipe to help us to manage water levels on Barrow Scout Fields.


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 27 January 2015

    Flurry of activity at the feeders

    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.

    Thanks to Intern Anya for these sightings.


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 16 January 2015

    Who's been coming out of hiding?

    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

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 8 January 2015

    A most magical sight

    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 (

    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

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 3 January 2015

    Goosing around

    I am sure if any of you have visited the reserve recently you will have been lucky enough to see and hear the graylag geese over the reserve. There have been great views from almost all of the hides, but the best views seem to be down at the saltmarsh hides (Allen and Eric Morecambe hides). Greylag geese are the largest and the bulkiest of the wild geese native to the UK and Europe. The wintering flocks that we have at Leighton Moss are truly stunning birds, and incredibly exciting to watch! If you arrive on the reserve early in the morning you can hear there “chuckling” all over the reserve, and there iconic V-shaped flocks flying towards the saltmarsh. It is from greylag geese that the typical, white 'farmyard' type geese are descended, and if you look closely at greylags, you can certainly see the resemblance. We also get flocks of pink-footed geese flying over in 'V' formation at this time of year.

      Greylag geese by Sue Tranter (

    Yellowhammers have been seen down at the saltmarsh hides, an exciting spot for any birder. The males are unmistakable with their bright yellow head and underparts, brown black streaks with a black and chestnut rump. In flight it shows white outer tail feathers. Look out for them at the top of hedges or bushes singing.

    Whilst you are down at the saltmarsh, keep an eye out for the lapwings flocking together. We have been treated to some epic views of them whirling and wheeling round in the sky, similar to that of a starling murmuration.

    The otters are still being seen regularly, up to five at Public and Lower hides at any one time. Bitterns have also been seen almost daily from Public hide! Some wonderful photographs are being snapped, so grab your camera and see if you can spot this normally very secretive bird. Thanks to everyone who has sent through their snaps of otters and bitterns on the ice, if you've got some (or any of our wonderful reserve and its wildlife) that we can use in our promotions, then please send them to

      Mute swan and otter by Ann Johnson

      Can you see me? Bittern by Anna Johnson

    Three marsh harriers are being seen regularly, often granting visitors with wonderful views, hunting right outside the hide! They aren’t the only raptor on the prowl though, a pair of peregrines seems to enjoying the hunting around Leighton Moss, with some wonderful views of their exciting flying acrobatics from Lower hide.

    Thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings update

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Marsh Harrier (1)
27 Feb 2015
Water Rail ()
27 Feb 2015
Bar-tailed Godwit (200)
26 Feb 2015
Tree Sparrow ()
25 Feb 2015
Bean Goose (Tundra) (1)
25 Feb 2015
Black-tailed Godwit (400)
25 Feb 2015
Avocet (2)
24 Feb 2015
Spotted Redshank (1)
24 Feb 2015
White-fronted Goose (European) (5)
22 Feb 2015
Bearded Tit ()
21 Feb 2015

Contact us

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 54.16814,-2.80107
  • Postcode: LA5 0SW
  • Grid reference: SD478750
  • Nearest town: Carnforth, Lancashire
  • County: Lancashire
  • Country: England

Get directions

Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.