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The first sounds of a grasshopper warbler were heard by our Warden Richard at the end of last week. It was on the path to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides in the bushes. Listen out for its distinctive call (not surprisingly, it sounds like a grasshopper). Its high reeling song is the best clue of its presence, as they are often pretty difficult to see. They creep through foliage, almost like a mouse. Sadly dramatic population declines have made the grasshopper warbler a red listed bird, but we always have a few on the reserve each spring.
Grasshopper warblers are not the only warbler on site, we have also been joined by willow warblers, which have been seen and heard at the bottom of the Causeway. They are small birds, with a yellow tinge to the chest and throat and a pale stripe above the eye (also known as a supercillium). They look very similar to the chiffchaff, but can be separated by their song. The sound of the willow warbler is a series of descending notes whereas the chiffchaff quite helpfully says its own name. If you'd like to learn more about birdsong, why not book onto one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks - details here.
Willow warbler by Brian Salisbury
Chiffchaff by Martin Kuchczynski
If you’re down on the Causeway looking for the willow warblers then it is definately worth popping into Public hide. I went down there on Thursday evening and the great crested grebes were displaying near the hide- always a fantastic sight! Just as I was getting ready to leave a swarm of swallows, house martins and sand martins flew over the top of the hide, and started catching insects right in front of it. They are wonderfully agile birds and seeing them flying so close was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry! The otters were also around, where the channel narrows between Public and Lower hides.
Our marsh harriers are as active as ever, with pretty much guaranteed views if you’re out and about on the reserve. We have four females and two males here and I had a lovely view from Grisedale hide on Friday of one of the males (can be identified by the pale under wings) hunting over the reedbed. Black-tailed godwits are on both Grisedale and Tim Jackson pools at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled, I spotted some ruff mixed in with them the other day.
Male marsh harrier by Brian Salisbury
A few blackcaps have been seen on site too. If you head out of the centre and turn left, just by our insect home 'Bugingham Palace' both a male and female blackcap have been seen. The male does exactly what he says on the tin, whilst the female Blackcaps have a lovely, almost fluty song which has earned them the nick name of 'northern nightingale.' They are mostly summer visitors but the birds from Germany and North East Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.
Male and female blackcap by Martin Kuchczynski
We feel quite spoilt at the moment, as if all this wasn’t enough, we have the avocets as well! Numbers have quite drastically increased at the moment, with around 80 down on the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. The first couple of nests have been spotted, so we hope for new additions very soon!
History was made the other day when the first bearded tit was spotted on our satellite site Barrow Scout Fields. We all have our fingers and toes crossed that this year will be the first year they nest there.
Lucky visitors spotted a common crane flying over the saltmarsh at the weekend. They are a huge yet graceful bird that you definitely can’t miss. Small numbers pass through Britain in spring and autumn, and there is a population in Eastern England around our Lakenheath Fen nature reserve and a re-introduced population in Somerset. They are by no means commonly seen over the reserve here though. It's a shame it didn't want to stop off.
We also had the very exciting news that ospreys have been spotted flying over the reserve early last week, and for the 14th year running have started collecting nesting material and assembling a nest near Bassenthwaite Lake. If you would like to visit the osprey view point click here for more information. Our pals at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust have also informed us that ospreys are back at their nearby Foulshaw Moss nature reserve. In previous year the ospreys have come to fish at Leighton Moss quite regularly, so we hope to see them again this year.
Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings update.
If you've visited Leighton Moss over the past few months, you'll have noticed a new structure by the side of Lilian's hide. This is our new, elevated viewing platform known as the Skytower. We are really excited about this project as it will allow visitors to see Leighton Moss from a bird's eye view as well as out across the surrounding Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and over to the stunning backdrop of Morecambe Bay. It is not a hide, as it doesn't have a roof, but it is around 9 metres tall, canopy level and will give a heightened experience to those visiting the reserve. Spotting marsh harriers hunting over the reedbed and elusive bitterns moving around will be given a whole new angle.We've had a few enquiries recently about when our Skytower will be opening. It needs another coat of paint, so it's not quite ready yet, but I will post on here once it is.
Posted by Annabel Rushton
The signs of spring are all around us here at Leighton Moss. The whole site is alive with birdsong! In the past few days we've heard the first reed warblers and sedge warblers back for the breeding season, so their raspy sounds have been added to the symphony in the reedbed. Cetti's warblers are regularly heard along the Causeway and the two-tone call of chiffchaffs can be heard around the reserve too.
Our resident woodland birds are also tuning up, with wrens blasting out their noisy song (they are remarkably loud for such a tiny bird!) A whole host of tits and finches can be heard and of course the melodic notes of blackbirds, robins and dunnocks.
A bittern has been heard making a few half-hearted grunts on the Causeway, but he hasn't yet tuned up to what you would call a full boom. During the breeding season, male bitterns make an incredible booming sound to attract a mate and warn off other males. It is an unusual noise that sounds like the note you produce when you blow over the top of an empty glass bottle. If you'd like to learn more about birdsong, why not book a place on one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks or upcoming International Dawn Chorus Day?
As well as the stunning sounds throughout the reserve, there are of course spectacular sights too. There are four female and two male marsh harriers around the reedbed and they can be seen displaying and carrying nesting material. Huge thanks go to our dedicated monitoring volunteers who are out every day recording the harrier's movements, working out who has paired with who and where they are nesting.
Male marsh harrier with nesting material by Carl Lane
On Saturday, whilst watching the marsh harriers, one lucky visitor spotted this red kite from Grisedale hide too! The yellow wing tags let us know it was tagged in Yorkshire in 2005! You can identify a red kite in flight by that distinctive fork in their tail which gives them their name.
Red kite by Carl Lane
Red kite by Carl Lane. The yellow wing tags can be seen clearly on this one.
Yesterday we were super duper excited when reports came back to the visitor centre that a male redstart was on the reserve. He was on the fenceposts between the reedbed and the field, best viewed from the pond dipping area. He was a bit of a distance away, but several people managed to see him as he hopped on and off the fence searching for insects. These colourful little birds are migrants from Africa and there have been several of them arriving on sites around Morecambe Bay over the last few days.
Male redstart by Derek Huskisson
Otter sightings continue to be really good from Public and Lower hides. Up to six have been spotted at once. Look out for them rolling around in the water catching eels.
Down at the saltmarsh, the avocets are getting their breeding activity underway. They have been spotted scraping (where they use their legs to scrape out a hollow on the islands to lay their eggs in). There are around 80 adults, so fingers crossed for a fantastic breeding season. Head to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides to see these stunning birds in action.
The weather has been mixed over the first week of the Easter holidays, but come rain or come shine, we've had lots of visitors who have been treated to some great views all over the reserve.
Our bigger residents, like our otter family (who have been regularly spotted at Public hide) and our acrobatic marsh harriers (there are four on the reserve at the moment) tend to steal the limelight a bit, so in this blog I am going to celebrate some of the smaller, yet still fantastic wildlife that has been spotted recently.
Some of our summer migrants have begun to arrive. Small flocks of sand martins have been seen recently. They are the smallest European member of the martin and swallow family. They are very agile fliers, and great fun to watch. They mainly feed on insects over water, which means you can get some lovely views of them over the pools here. Look out for them perching on overhead wires where you are too. These birds, like many of our favourites seen through the summer months, have come across from Africa for the breeding season. This is why the RSPB's work, as part of Birdlife International, is so essential. With our partners, we're working towards providing safe passage for migrants from their distant wintering grounds across to this UK to breed. Find out more here.
Hearing a chiffchaff call is a sure sign that spring is here. They are a rather tiny, olive colored bird, that, like the sand martin, come over from Africa to breed here. A few are on the reserve at the moment, mostly being seen and heard from the Causeway. They are very active birds, flitting through trees and shrubs. Chiffchaffs feed on insects, often picking them from leaves - in fact part of their scientific name Phylloscopus means 'leaf inspector'. Chiffchaffs are one of those helpful birds that say their own name as their call 'chiffchaff chiffchaff chiffchaff.' Some birds however, don't do exactly what they say on the tin, and learning their calls can be a challenge. If you would like some help and advise with bird sounds, why not book onto one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks, or if you fancy an early start, our upcoming, annual Dawn Chorus event.
Chiffchaff by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Goldcrests are perhaps an often overlooked resident but they are around a lot on the Causeway just past Public hide as well as the path to Lower hide. Along with the firecrest, the goldcrest is the UK’s smallest bird. Their tiny, thin beaks are perfectly suited to picking insects out from in leaves and pine needles.
What you looking at?! Goldcrest by Brian Salisbury
The first time I saw a kingfisher, was when I was down at the saltmarsh hides. It flitted across the water and landed on a post right in front of the hide. It then went on to grapple with a fish that seemed to be almost the same size as itself! I am sure many of you that have seen kingfishers, were, like me surprised at how small they were! If you haven’t seen a kingfisher yet, then you should definitely come down to Leighton Moss! They are often being seen by the sluice on the Causeway, as well as down on the saltmarsh from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. They are sometimes difficult to spot because they fly so rapidly but their unmistakable blue and orange colour often means we just catch a glimpse of this jewel as they fly by.
We have had quite a few sightings of a weasel on the reserve at the moment. They have mostly been seen down on the Causeway, so keep your eyes peeled! Weasels are the smallest carnivore in the UK, and are great fun to watch. They travel across the ground in a series of short jumps, and can move pretty rapidly. They are excellent climbers too, and will traverse pretty much anything in the search of food. Look out for them standing upright, checking their surroundings for danger. They are particularly fond of catching rabbits.
Huge thanks to intern Anya for this sightings update.
After a cloudy start to the day (sadly covering most of the eclipse, although we did get a quick glimpse through a break in the clouds), spring is defiantly in the air at Leighton Moss. Avocets have reached around 50 in number and they are mating on the saltmarsh (ooh er!) - head down to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides for views of the action like the image below. There is a spotted redshank and a greenshank down there as well, who are regularly joined my flocks of dunlin, lapwing and oystercatchers.
X-rated behavior from our avocet by Wendy Noblet
The great-crested grebes have been seen displaying on the pools. Seeing great-crested grebes like this is one of the most amazing natural wonders you can see at this time of year. They are delightfully elegant water birds that have beautiful ornate head plumes which led to them being hunted to near extinction in the UK. Grebes dive to feed and also to escape predators, preferring this to flying. Almost like penguins, they are clumsy on land because their feet are placed so far back on their bodies. They have an elaborate courtship display that is being seen at Leighton Moss at the moment. They rise out of the water and shake the beaks. Look out for them doing the famous 'weed dance' where the pair dive under the water and emerge with water weeds in their beaks. They then rise out of the pools together presenting the weeds. Lilian's and Public pools in particular are a good place to look.Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have some grebe chicks showing themselves over the next few months, if so look out for them riding on their parent’s backs.
We are hoping for another great breeding season for our marsh harriers this year. Whatever the weather, there is a good chance of seeing them out and about around the reedbed. There has been some great views from Lillian’s hide, and we even saw the first skydancing today - where they display to one another by rising and then plummeting through the air with twists and turns. It is incredible!
There have been some great views of reed bunting on the causeway so keep your eyes peeled. Since 1970 there has been a dramatic decrease of around 67% in the UK’s breeding population of reed buntings, a decline which is also mirrored in other farmland species. We are lucky to have such a good population at Leighton Moss, and there is good chance of seeing them on the reserve.
The otters have been wonderful as always, with a pair of cubs are often being seen from Public and Lower hide.
A certain sign of spring is a single sand martin spotted today flying round the reedbed. A chiffchaff has also been singing out its name at the top of the Causeway.
Whilst we are always thrilled to say hello to these spring arrivals, it also means saying farewell to those birds that visit us for the winter. At the moment our wardens are out every evening listening out for the bittern booming. He hasn't been heard yet, but their efforts have been rewarded with views of 'gull calling' on three consecutive nights. Gull calling is fascinating behavior from bitterns that happens at this time of year. In spring, those bitterns that have come over here from Europe for the winter, start to head back to their own breeding grounds. When the conditions in the weather make it right for their migration, they will fly up and circle round the reedbed making a sound very like that of a gull (hence the name gull-calling). This is to round up others as if to say 'come on gang, it's time to go'). This is also behavior that females will exhibit when they are displaying to potential males. Six bitterns have been seen in total over the past three nights, with some heading off and others dropping back into the reedbed. It is an ideal time to come down of an evening to try and see them from the Causeway. It is a really good indicator of just how many of these elusive birds have been hiding out, undetected in the reedbed.
There is more than just fantastic wildlife at Leighton Moss; the reserve also has a packed events calendar. For more information click here.
Thanks to Intern Anya for contributing to this sightings update.
Quite a few visitors have been reporting views of bank voles over the past few weeks. As you head out of the visitors centre through the sensory garden and down onto the path to Public and Lower hides, there is a little stream and a few dead logs. This is where they have been seen most, often posing for the cameras, just like this one! When you’re walking down the causeway keep your eyes peeled as they are sometimes seen amongst the reeds. They are also regularly spotted on the path to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides on a tree opposite the insect home.
Look at that little face! Bank vole by Richard Cousens
Bank voles live in woodlands, hedgerows and in parks and gardens. Their main diet consists of fruit, nuts and small insects. They aren’t particularly fussy though, and can sometimes be seen visiting bird tables. The one in this photo seemed particularly keen on some bird food left by passersby!
With the average bank vole having three or four litters each year, with around six young in each, like many rodents, they certainly increase their numbers quickly! Bank voles can be found throughout the majority of Britain but were absent from Ireland until the 1950 when they were accidentally introduced. A rather unusual mega-sized version of the bank vole arrived on Skomer Island several centuries ago, and remains to this day. They provide rather a tasty snack for any predators, as they are twice the size as normal bank voles! Although bank voles population are relatively stable, if their numbers decline it would have a massive impact species further up the food chain, like barn owls. Leighton Moss is a haven for these animals but the further loss of woodlands and hedgerow habitat around the UK, poses a threat to this charming little species. There has been lots of research into the decline of many owl species and it has been found that there is a direct correlation between vole populations and owl populations. Let’s hope the vole population at Leighton Moss continues to thrive. We probably have them to thank for the fact we have been getting great barn owl sightings down on the saltmarsh near Barrow Scout Fields.
The saltmarsh is a hive of activity at the moment, with avocets growing in numbers all the time. The European white-fronted geese are also still around, look out for them in amongst the greylags. Kingfishers are also being seen flitting in front of the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
The marsh harriers are showing really well at the moment from pretty much all of the hides round the reedbed. In the next few months look out for iconic skydance of these birds. The male drops food to an expectant female below in mid-air. It is a truly wonderful sight and something I look forward to every year. They aren’t the only raptors around though, with peregrines and a merlin being seen regularly too, particularly on the saltmarsh. The peregrines nest at nearby Warton Crag, so head up there to look out for them, along with ravens.
Nesting is certainly on the minds of many of our birds at the moment. The noisy black-headed gulls are back in force on the islands in front of Lilian's, Public and Allen hides. Our resident pair of great black-backed gulls are bonding on the island in the middle of Public pool where they nest every year. This is one of the only places these birds nest in the whole of Lancashire! From our larger, more noisy residents to some of our smaller (but often no less noisy) ones - the house sparrows have been spotted collecting nesting material.
Black-headed gulls noisy nesting by Richard Cousens
Great black-backed gulls pairing up by Martin Kuchczynski
Male house sparrow preparing for nesting by Brian Salisbury
The otters are being as fantastic as ever, with the young often being seen frolicking in front of the Public and Lower hides. The otter family can often be seen catching eels, which is great fun to watch!
Bittern sightings have been good at Public and Lower hides, and we are coming into booming season, so keep an ear open for our male tuning up!
If you would like tips and advice on identifying the birds and wildlife at Leighton Moss, why not book a place on our Birdsong for Beginners event, details here.
Thanks to Intern Anya for this latest sightings blog.
As spring approaches everyone looks forward to the return of summer visitors, and the arrivals are already starting. A rather keen-eyed visitor spotted a Mediterranean gull from Lillian’s hide, it was mixed in with the black-headed gulls. They are slightly larger than black-headed gulls, with a more prominent black hood during the breeding season, and a bigger, redder bill. Mediterranean gulls were a very rare bird in the UK until around 1950, but as their numbers recovered in the Mediterranean they have become a bit more widespread in winter and they are breeding in small numbers in the UK too. Maybe they will become an increasingly common sight at Leighton Moss over the next few years?
Mediterranean gull by Sue Tranter (rspb-images.com)
Black headed gulls are already frequent visitors to the reserve, and the saltmarsh hosts a large breeding population over the summer months, often nesting near our avocets, right in front of the hide! Our numbers of avocets have increased massively of the past week or so, going from about three to almost 30! They are treating visitors to great views, often strutting right in front of Eric Morecambe and Allen hides. I love doing a spot of birding on the train, and the other day when I was passing the reserve I had a great view of the avocets, as well as oystercatchers and redshanks. Pretty successful for a whistle-stop tour!
Public and Lower hides have been busy as ever, with some lovely views of great-crested grebes, bittern and otters. Most of the pools on the reserve are boasting good numbers of teals, pintails and goldeneyes. They will soon be heading north to their breeding grounds so come and see them before they go! The fields around the reserve are still popular with the greylag geese and the European white-fronted geese are still being spotted.
A sure sign of spring here is the arrival of the marsh harriers. We have had three over-wintering here, but they have recently been joined by another male. One of our eagle-eyed (or is that harrier-eyed) survey volunteers spotted that he is the dark male that has been here in previous years. We often call him Voldemort after the Dark Lord in Harry Potter! Look out for him showing off to the females with his aerial displays.
The first sand martin of the year has also been spotted! It was battling its way around in the wind and the rain. The swallows and house martins will also be on their way. Have you seen any where you live?
If you would like to brush up on your bird identification, why not come along to one of our Birdsong for Beginners events - details here.
Leighton Moss has a wealth of wildlife to offer, but that’s not where the fun ends! For one night only, we are going to be a cultural hotspot as we play host to Beaford Arts and China Plate. They are presenting ‘The Common’, a performance work of five dialogues about life and land, exploring what the rural environment means to its people.This is a free event, but booking is essential. The performance is followed by a buffet. Click here for further details and how to book.
Despite snowy showers and rather chilly temperatures many visitors have braved the elements and have been well rewarded with great views are some rather unusual visitors...
If you have read some of our previous blogs you will know that there were up to three tundra bean geese around last month. Another sighting of a single bean goose was reported on Friday down near Barrow Scout Fields. There has also been up to five European white-fronted geese as well over the past week or so. Both the bean geese and the white-fronted tend to be mixed in amongst the greylags so grab your binoculars and test your ID skills! The fields around the level crossing along with the saltmarsh seem to be their favoured spots.
Over the weekend, a green-winged teal was spotted amongst a flock of teal, shovelers and wigeons. They are not commonly seen at the reserve as they are an American duck, so it is pretty exciting as we haven't got many records of them here. The best way of telling our usual teal from the green-winged teal is looking for the white stripe on their side whilst they are swimming about. On the majority of the teal you will see out on the pools the stripe runs horizontally, whereas the green-winged teal has a vertical line (basically they look like someone has tip-exed the stripe the wrong way!). The cream coloured patch on the bottom of the green-winged teal is also slightly smaller. This is a tricky bird to see, particularly when you are picking it out of a flock of other teal, but well worth the trouble as it is a very special visitor. I had the very briefest of glances the other day, before it sheltered from the hail storm behind some reeds! The best views of the green-winged teal have been from Tim Jacksons hide, but also some sightings at Grisedale hide.
When I was down at Tim Jackson hide the other day looking for the teal, I also had the most charming view of a little egret. They are a fairly common sight on the reserve but I still love to see them. They look so exotic, and rather out of place in the snow and howling gales of Leighton Moss!
Little egret by Richard Cousens
Over the past couple of weeks a song thrush has been seen and heard from the car park at the front of the visitor centre and on the road leading to the train station. They have the most unmistakable call, so listen out when you’re on your way in and out of the centre. They are a sure sign that spring is on the way, so it's great to hear them. If you are hoping to brush up on your bird song identification, why not join us on one of our Birdsong for Beginners events? Details here. There's also still space on our popular Dawn Chorus event if you fancy an early rise. Details here.
Song thrush by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
The otters have been as regular as ever, with fantastic views from Public and Lower hides. Keep an eye out for them at Lilian's hide too. The bitterns have been slightly more elusive, but still with the odd view from Public hide.
Snipe sightings have been regular from almost all of the hides, but one seems to be showing really well from Lower hide and we had up to nine today in front of Lilian's hide. They are well camouflaged so you have to make sure you have a proper look.
Marsh harriers have been showing brilliantly from all of the hides in the reedbed. I had a great view the other day from Lillian’s hide - a female was hunting over towards the back of the pool. She hung just above the reeds then dropped to the floor to grasp her prey.
Barn owls and tawny owls have both been seen around the reserve over the past few weeks. The barn owls have been particularly keen on hunting down at the saltmarsh, so keep your eyes peeled! If you're down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides then also look out for kingfishers, they often land on a post right in front of the hides, you would think they were posing for the cameras!
If you fancy trying to capture the beauty of wildlife then why not take part in one of our digital photography workshops? If you have an SLR camera and want to improve your wildlife photography skills then join Mike Malpass for guidance, inspiration and tips on field craft. Mike is an experienced, published wildlife photographer and welcomes people of all experience to join him on this event. Click here for more information.
Thanks to Intern Anya for these recent sightings
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 (rspb-images.com)
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.
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
Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)
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