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Recent sightings

  • 31 July 2015

    Dig this!

    We've been asked by some visitors recently about the lower water levels on Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale pools, as there is more mud exposed than you might normally expect in these areas. If you click on my blog from April here, then it explains all about this important management work we are doing to try and restore the reedbed to prime bittern breeding habitat. If you have any questions about this work, then please do contact us

    Speaking of bitterns, we have had several sightings over the past three weeks from Lilian's hide. Keep your eyes peeled for this elusive resident. We have also been seeing more wading birds coming onto Lilian's pool such as a ruff and flocks of lapwings and black-tailed godwits, all of which enjoy feeding in the exposed mud.

    We are not dropping the water levels on the Causeway and Lower pool end of the reserve, so many of the ducks, coots, mute swans and moorhens can be spotted at that end of the reedbed. Many of our visitors have been enjoying the view from the new Causeway hide this week. The great white egret has been strutting about there, catching fish and delighting all who see this unusual visitor. Otters have also been seen there - look out for them along the reed edges or rolling around in the water with a tasty eel.

      Grey heron takes a second look by Joe Chester

    Our largest residents, the red deer have been spotted out and about at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Why not come along to one of our dusk walks in August to try and see them and other special summer wildlife? Details here.

      Red deer and her calf by Richard Cousens

    When you are in the hides around the reedbed, you will notice that the summer reed cutting work has begun. Huge thanks go to our Estate Worker Gareth, residential volunteer Marianna and former Warden (and still very active volunteer) David for this vital work. The purpose of this first cut is mainly to open up the view from the hides - mowing all vegetation between the hide and the water’s edge to improve the view of any creatures that may be skulking in this area, and opening up areas around the edges of the pools to encourage ducks and geese (and often otters) to loaf in view.

      Gorgeous otter by Richard Cousens

    Obviously, opening up the view for our brilliant visitors is important, but it isn’t the only reason we do it. Cutting the reed back encourages other plants to take advantage of the increased light levels. Flowers like marsh marigold, meadowsweet, yellow flag iris and ragged robin are just a few of the plants that love these areas. This not only gives the pools a lovely flash of colour, but it also provides our insects with a valuable source of nectar.

    Reed cutting is not the only crucial work taking place at the moment. If you head down to the saltmarsh, you'll notice a difference on the Eric Morecambe pool. Our Warden Richard has been down there today with the excavator, creating new islands. This is a piece of work we have wanted to do for a while, but we had to wait for the right conditions. We waited until the wading birds such as avocets and oystercatchers had finished breeding and then the Eric Morecambe pool has been dried out to allow the excavator to get out there without sinking. The islands need to be created in a small time window over the next couple of days before some large Morecambe Bay tides come in at the start of next week and re-flood the pools. It is very exciting! These islands will provide nesting sites for the wading birds to breed on next season. The hides will be open throughout the work, so come and have a look at Richard in action. Whilst you are there, look out for wading birds on the Allen pool such as redshanks and little egrets. We have even started to get some of the first autumn migrants back through such as a green sandpiper and a kingfisher was there whilst Richard was working too.


    Our Warden Richard digging the new islands. Images by Jarrod Sneyd

      Redshanks and black-tailed godwits by Richard Cousens

      Little egret by Martin Kuchczynski

    We've had some stunning images coming through on our social media channels this week. Thank you so much to those who've shared them. If you get some photos of the reserve and wildlife that you would like to show us, then we can be found on Twitter (@Leighton_moss) and Facebook (RSPB North West England).



    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 15 July 2015

    How's the hide coming along?

    If you read my blog last week, you'll know that we are in the process of replacing Public hide. The old one was taken down last week by our wardens and volunteers and then on Monday, Gilleards arrived with the brand spanking new one!

    The weather on Monday was not kind to them as you can see from this picture of Dan, one of the hide creators, when they got here.....

      (Image by Craig Gelder)

    However, being the troopers that they are, the Gilleards gang soon got the new foundations in, despite the weather

      (Image by Robin Horner)

    Then the sun arrived - the flooring went in....

      (Image by Robin Horner)

    Then the sides went up.....

      (Image by Robin Horner)

    All the sides up - looking good from the outside....

      (Image by Richard Miller)

    ...and from the inside....

      (Image by Annabel Rushton)

    The porches and approach are the next step..

      (Image by Annabel Rushton)

      (Image by Annabel Rushton)

    Plus we'll of course need a roof and windows, but the new hide is coming along very nicely and it's going to have a new name - Causeway hide

    Elsewhere on the reserve, our new Skytower is providing our visitors with a stunning bird's-eye view of the site, surrounding area and of course, the wildlife. Yesterday an osprey flew right past, and an otter came out splashing around on Lilian's pool. The great white egret is on Lilian's pool most mornings, as are flocks of black-tailed godwits. The young marsh harriers are out and about a lot, with their parents dropping in with food. They enjoy sitting on the perches, bushes and the wooden screen that you can see from the top of the tower. Come and see all the action soon!




    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 8 July 2015

    Where's Public hide gone?

    If you take a stroll down the Causeway at the moment, you will notice something very obvious is missing! Yesterday, our Assistant Warden Alasdair, and a group of trusty volunteers dismantled Public hide. It has served us well for 25 years, but it had become dilapidated and was in need of replacement. There is now a great gap where it once was, and we have erected some temporary mesh fencing, but you can still get down the Causeway and look through onto the pool at the wildlife.

      The site of former Public hide by Alasdair Grubb

    The replacement hide is due to arrive on Monday 13 July. New foundations will have to be put in before it can be erected, so bear with us whilst it is installed as it can take a couple of weeks.

    Whilst the team were dismantling the old Public hide, an osprey was flying low overhead. It could be seen from both Lilian's and Lower hides. We often get them coming to fish here during the summer months, sometimes from the nearby Foulshaw Moss nest site, so keep your eyes peeled for these big, beautiful birds.

    Our largest residents, the red deer are frequently popping out at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. They've got their babies (calves) at the moment, so look out for theses spotty little cuties, gambolling on the banks of the pools.

    A pair of garganey have been sighted a couple of times - both on Public pool at the weekend, and Lilian's pool today. They are shy ducks, so can be quite elusive. The male is not currently sporting his finest plumage as he has moulted, but look out for these lovely birds nonetheless.

    The marsh harriers are a-go-go around the reedbed, with some young ones learning to hunt, and others still relying on their parents. Look out for them from all the hides.

    The lower water levels on Lilian's pool have been drawing in flocks of black-tailed godwits to feed in the mud. You can recognise them by their rusty red plumage and their long, thin beaks and legs - ideal for wading about in shallow water.

    We had a great surprise on Sunday, when a rare visitor in the form of a white-winged black tern showed up. This very unusual migrant breeds on freshwater marshes from South East Europe to Central Asia and spends its winters in Africa, Southern Asia and Australia. It was briefly spotted again on Monday morning but has now moved on again. There have been a few reports of these impressive fliers elsewhere around the UK though, so keep an eye out, as they are on the move.  

    Huge thanks to Dave Melia for sharing these images of this fab bird in action.......


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 3 July 2015

    Sunshine and sightings

    Phew, it's hot out there! It's like being abroad round here at the moment. Who needs the Costa del Sol when right here in Morecambe Bay we've got sun, sea, sedge warblers and slices of cake!

    Summer is synonymous with marsh harriers here at Leighton Moss and they're at that point where the young are fledging the nest. We have three nests here, and the young marsh harriers have been spotted taking those first tentative flights around the reedbed. In the nest where we've had the webcam, the youngest of the three chicks has been left by his older siblings and our Assistant Warden Alasdair snapped the picture below of him trying to use the camera stand to get some lift off! Look out for the young marsh harriers perching unsteadily in the willow trees or trying to make a shaky landing in the reeds - they're so comical to watch at this age, they're like wobbly toddlers. Once fledged, the females stay with them for another few weeks, encouraging them to find food for themselves, before they make the journey south for winter, some making it as far as Africa!

      "To infinity, and beyond" - young marsh harrier trying to get some extra height by Alasdair Grubb

    The low water levels at Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides mean that more mud is exposed. Water rails are emerging regularly along the reed edges and large flocks of black-tailed godwits and a great white egret are enjoying feeding in the mud. If you drive or cycle in from Warton, you'll also notice lots of little egrets taking advantage of the lower water on Barrow Scout Fields.

    At the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, there are still a couple of fluffy oystercatcher chicks out on the islands. A Mediterranean gull is still being seen down there along with lapwings and avocets.

    There's lots of mammal activity at the moment too. A fox cub has been spotted round the woodland feeding station. Foxes will actually eat seeds if they come across them so it has been snacking on fallen sunflower hearts, as well as eying up a cheeky rat for its next meal. Our biggest residents, the red deer are best seen at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Why not come along to one of our evening Wildlife Watches in August to try and see them as well as other fantastic summer wildlife such as the bats that hunt insects in our woodland.  

    Otter sightings are still great from Public and Lower hides, and as you head down towards Lower hide from Public hide, keep an eye out for kingfishers on the main dyke. There's a lot of fish in the water around the Causeway bridge, making it a favoured spot for our most colourful residents to catch a meal.

     Kingfisher by Richard Cousens

    Whilst I'm talking about Public hide, you may have noticed recently that it has reached the end of its life. It has served us well for decades, but wooden buildings like this don't last forever and it is past its best. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, we're excited to be able to replace it! The old Public hide will be coming down in the week commencing 6 July, with a new one going up the following week. Expert hide makers Gilleards who built the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides have constructed it. I'll keep you updated as to how its getting on.



    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 22 June 2015

    Father's Day phalarope

    We've had a great weekend here at Leighton Moss. A lot of excitement was caused on Saturday when a female red-necked phalarope was spotted on the Eric Morecambe pool. Unfortunately it only stayed for about an hour before flying off over the marsh, but with fewer than 10 sightings of this little bird on the reserve ever, it was great to have it here even for a brief time.

    If you have never seen (or even heard of) a red-necked phalarope then here's a picture (not taken here)

      Red-necked phalarope by Chris Gomersall (

    Now it's quite interesting that the phalarope turned up here just before Father's Day. In the world of birds, we are used to the males being less involved when it comes to raising the chicks. However, in red-necked phalaropes, it is the opposite. The females are larger and more colourful than the males and are actually the ones that pursue and fight over their mate! They will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and then it is the male who carries out incubation. The males are the ones to raise the chicks, while the females may attempt to find another mate. The female that was here at Leighton Moss on Saturday may well be the same bird that has been spotted at our Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve recently.

    Elsewhere at Leighton Moss, we've been getting some great views from Lilian's hide. As the water levels are lower, the exposed mud has drawn in the wading birds and large flocks of black-tailed godwits are enjoying feeding there. This morning the great white egret was among them too!

    Otter sightings have been brilliant from Public and Lower hides. All those who attended our Birdsong for Beginners walk on Sunday were treated to some fantastic views of them. If you missed it, why not book a place on the next one, details here.

    The marsh harriers are very active all over the reedbed. With three nests, there are lots of hungry mouths to feed. The first young marsh harrier fledged on 18 June so no doubt others will follow suit over the coming weeks. They are like toddlers when they first fledge - wobbly on their feet and their wings. You will see them perching in an ungainly fashion in the trees around the reedbed and taking their first shaky flights. It doesn't take them long to learn though, as they have to be able to migrate south at the end of the summer. Keep up to date with one of our marsh harrier nests by viewing our live webcam here.

    If you've been visiting Leighton Moss for a few years, you'll know that three years ago we received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lancashire Environmental Fund, Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Rural Development Programme for England and Higher Level Stewardship to improve some of our facilities. We replaced four of our wildlife watching hides, created our beautiful wildlife sensory garden and have built the Skytower.  This elevated viewing platform will give our visitors a bird's-eye view of the reserve and is due to be opened by mid-July which is very exciting! More on that to come....



    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 17 June 2015

    Otters and egrets and warblers oh my!

    The sun has been cracking the flags here this week, but sadly, it has taken a turn today and it's a bit grey and drizzly. That doesn't mean that wildlife sightings have been dampened though!

    Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, the great white egret is still around. You can distinguish it from the little egrets by its size as well as the fact it has a yellow rather than dark beak. It also has dark feet (as opposed to the little egrets which look like they're wearing marigolds!) We also still have avocets and oystercatchers on the saltmarsh with chicks - Springwatch eat your heart out!

    Our marsh harriers continue to be very active around the reedbed as they have hungry mouths to feed. We are excited to have been able to get a camera on one of the nests, showing three very healthy chicks! Check them out on our webcam here.

    Otter sightings have been brilliant from Lilian's hide, as well as Public and Lower hides. Look out for the bubbles underwater and their tails flicking up above the surface. Often all the ducks on the water will rush off in one direction if the otter is below the surface so keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs.

    The warmer weather we've been having has brought out insects in abundance. We've spotted small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies up on our nearby Warton Crag nature reserve and the sunshine has also been bringing out beautiful broad-bodied chaser dragonflies like this one.

      Broad-bodied chaser by Richard Cousens

    The reserve is alive with the sound of our summer visitors - Cetti's warblers, reed warblers, chiffchaffs, sedge warblers, blackcaps and willow warblers are popping up all over the site and our Warden Richard regularly hears a grasshopper warbler singing down on the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides as he cycles to work each morning. The sound of swifts screaming over the reserve as they zoom around hunting insects is a very welcome one too! If you'd like to learn more about identifying birdsong, why not book a place on our Birdsong for Beginners walk this coming Sunday? Details here.

      Cetti's warbler by Mike Malpass

    Speaking of Sunday - it will be Father's Day this coming weekend (21 June). Why not bring your dad along to the reserve where he will be treated like a king for the day - gaining free entry to the reserve and a free tea and scone in our Café. You could also treat him to a new pair of binoculars or a telescope by trying them out at our Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 9 June 2015

    Hey hey ospreys!

    Everyone at Leighton Moss was delighted to hear about the success of the ospreys in the Lake District. Two chicks have hatched at Bassenthwaite this year. This is the 15th  year of successful hatching for the Lakes ospreys, that’s more than 30 chicks! The ospreys at nearby Foulshaw Moss have also got three chicks. The parents sometimes come and fish here at Leighton Moss, so keep an eye out for them at Public and Lower hides.

    Though they're smaller than ospreys, our very own marsh harriers are equally spectacular and are being very cooperative at the moment. I saw a fantastic food pass from Lilian’s hide the other day. The female swiveled onto her back and caught food that was dropped from above by the male, a truly fantastic sight! They are showing all over the reserve, you would be very unlucky to spend a day out and about and not see them.

    On the other hand, a roosting tawny owl is incredibly difficult to spot; even though you may be standing right next to it! It is one of the most incredibly camouflaged birds I’ve ever seen - its dappled feathering fitting in perfectly with the bark around it. Keep your eyes peeled for it in the trees around Lower hide. Whilst you're there, have a look for a great white egret that has been seen by several of our regular visitors. It is quite active, so has also been seen down at Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.

       Great white egret by Richard Cousens

    The otters are being as wonderful as ever, often playing and catching fish at Public and Lower hides for hours on end. Visitors who have travelled all over the country in search of otters have said that they have had their best views ever at Leighton Moss-praise indeed!

    Things are also rather busy down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides too. There are plenty of avocets down there and the two Mediterranean gulls have stuck around. They can be seen from the Eric Morecambe hide. We've recently also been spotting a pair of pintails down there. These elegant ducks normally breed further North in places like Scandinavia so we generally see them here during the winter when they come south. This pair have obviously decided not to make the journey with the others. I wonder if we'll get some pintail ducklings!!

    The reedbed is alive with the sound of warblers at the moment, listen out for reed warblers, sedge warblers, chiffchaffs, blackcaps and willow warblers as you walk round. If you would like to learn more about how to identify different bird songs then why not come on our Birdsong for Beginners walk on Sunday 21 June? Details here.

      Willow warbler feasting on a damselfly by Richard Cousens

    If you're planning to visit us this Saturday, come along to our Meet the Moths at the Moss event in the morning - you'll discover all about these fascinating (and often overlooked) creatures. Details of the event here.

    Huge thanks to intern Anya for this latest sightings post. This will be Anya's last blog for a few weeks as she has just started working on the Manchester Peregrines Date with Nature, so look out for her if you're shopping in Manchester in the coming weeks. Congratulations Anya!

    Don't worry, we'll still be keeping you up to date with the latest goings on here in her absence.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 26 May 2015

    Why are A’s like flowers.....?

    ......because bees come after them! Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist. With plants bursting into flower all over the reserve, many of the accompanying insects are starting to be seen here at Leighton Moss. I saw my first bumblebee of the year the other day, nestled in our sensory garden. If you take a wander down to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, look out for butterflies on your way. Many of our visitors have spotted orange tips on that walk recently. Which butterflies are you seeing where you are? Another sure sign that summer is on the way is the emergence of dragonflies. A few broad-bodied chasers have been seen on site, so keep your eyes peeled!

      Bee on the lambs-ear plants by Miriam Hooson

    Some slightly larger residents of Leighton Moss are also being spotted regularly. Our otter families are showing off at all times of day and in all weathers. Some lucky visitors were telling me this week about how they had travelled most parts of Scotland to see otters, and been unsuccessful, yet spent one afternoon at Leighton Moss and saw six!

    No doubt many of you watched the first episode of the new series of BBC Springwatch last night. We absolutely love that programme and are very excited that it is being filmed at our big sister reserve - Minsmere in Suffolk.  If it got you enthused about all things reedbed - we have a lot of the same wildlife here, a bit closer to home for you to come and spot in real life perhaps? The ultimate reedbed hunters - our marsh harriers have been seen all over the reserve today. With three nests and lots of hungry mouths to feed there have been plenty of sightings of the two males taking food to their females. At Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, our largest residents - the red deer have started to bring out their spotty babies to snooze in the grass. Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, we also have nesting avocets with their chicks too!

    There have been some slightly more unusual species seen and heard down at our Lower hide. A cuckoo was heard singing down there in the morning, so listen up, you can’t mistake it for anything else, as it says its own name!

    Visitors have been reporting lots of views of great spotted woodpeckers at the feeders in the garden, along with nuthatches, bullfinches and a couple of tree sparrows among our other garden favourites.

    The sensory garden at the back of our visitor centre is great for exploring - the plants have been selected to be attractive to insects and we have filled it with lots of different nestboxes and bug bungalows. You can also have fun in our den building area and play pit. If you fancy making your garden, school grounds or window box more wildlife friendly why not click on the link here to get your very own Giving Nature a Home guide!

      Den building by Amy Grace

    There is plenty going on here over the next couple of weeks and we'd love to see you! Click here to see a full list of exciting events.

    Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings blog.








    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 24 May 2015

    Forget Eurovision, we've got the best songs around!

    The UK may once again have failed to bring home the goods in last night's Eurovision Song Contest, but here at Leighton Moss, we're really excited that our retired Warden and still active volunteer David Mower has heard a cuckoo calling down by Lower hide! These beautiful birds are a real sign of summer, with a telltale call that says their own name. They were once commonly heard around the UK, but sadly their numbers are now in huge decline and they are being closely monitored to try and understand the reasons why. Find out more here.

    Also down at Lower hide, a tawny owl is spending a lot of time snoozing in a tree as you approach the hide. It can be difficult to spot due to its fabulous camouflage, but keep your eyes peeled. It is these owls that make the classic 'twit-toowoo' sound, although when you hear that, you are actually listening to two tawny owls - the females say 'twit' and the males say 'toowoo'.

    At both Public and Lower hides, the otters are still regularly coming out and about. A bar-headed goose has also been seen there. These attractive birds are not native to the UK and this one is likely to be an escapee from a collection.

      Bar-headed goose by Howard Stockdale

    The reedbed is alive with our summer visitors - willow warblers, chiffchaffs, reed warblers and sedge warblers are all blasting out their songs. Listen out for the explosive voice of the Cetti's warbler close to the pond dipping area too, as well as a grasshopper warbler on the way to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. Huge thanks to all those who joined us for our Birdsong for Beginners walk this morning! If you missed it, then there is still space on our next one - details here.

    It's the time of year when young animals are everywhere! The first of the years red deer calves have started to be born - look out for them snoozing down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Our friendly robins (who have reached celebrity status with our regular visitors) have also been spotted feeding their chicks along the paths. As you can see from the cute picture below, young robins don't have the classic orange breast of their parents - they develop these after their first moult at around seven weeks old.

      Robin feeding young by Richard Cousens

    With the lower water levels on the southern end of the reedbed, wading birds are often amassing at Lilian's hide to take advantage of the exposed mud. Huge flocks of black-tailed godwits in particular can be seen feeding, but have a good scan round, as you never know what else may be among them.

    With half-term this week, why not bring your children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews along to our Family Ramble in the Reeds on Thursday? This interactive walk is guaranteed to get the whole family discovering and exploring new things - click here for info. If you can't make Thursday, there's always our self-led Marvellous Minibeasts Trail running every day in May too!


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
3 Aug 2015
Black-tailed Godwit (2)
3 Aug 2015
Greenshank (3)
3 Aug 2015
Curlew Sandpiper ()
2 Aug 2015
Water Rail (1)
1 Aug 2015
Ruff (1)
1 Aug 2015
Little Stint (1)
1 Aug 2015
Spotted Redshank (1)
1 Aug 2015
Wood Warbler (1)
25 Jul 2015
Whinchat (2)
24 Jul 2015

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Where is it?

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

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