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Recent sightings

  • 12 October 2015

    Misty Mornings

       A misty morning on Causeway pool by David Mower

    The reserve looks enchanted in the mornings as the mist settles over the reedbed. It may seem quiet and still but it is teeming with life. The bearded tits are showing really well on the grit trays and are most active from around 8 am until about 12 noon, but can be seen around the reserve anytime of the day, especially if you know what to listen out for. Bearded tits have a distinctive ‘ping-ping’ call, (click on the bearded tit link to access the audio guide) so if you hear this call as you are walking around the reserve, wait a few minutes and you may be lucky enough to see them flying out of the reeds. Why not join us on our bearded tits guided walk to learn more about these brilliant birds.

      Mr and Mrs bearded tit by Richard Cousens

    Mornings are a great time to see red deer, the sight of a stag appearing out of the reeds on a misty morning really is magical. Head down to Grisedale hide first thing and you should be lucky enough to see one of these majestic animals.

    As the sun comes out in the afternoon so do the birds of prey, there is a young marsh harrier around, as well as lots of buzzards. The marsh harrier was recently nestled on the bank of the Causeway pool, with perfect views from Lower hide. Despite its watchful eye, the pool was full of an array of ducks such as wigeons, teals, gadwalls and pochards.

    A yellow-browed warbler was discovered by our ringers over the weekend on the path to Lower hide, and there was another seen on the path to Grisedale hide. As their name suggests, these tiny little birds have a distinctive yellow eye stripe. They are on an epic migration south to India and South East Asia, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for them when you are out and about.

    The unicorns of the bird world - bitterns have become more regularly seen with several visitors, including TV's fabulous Simon King, spotting one at Lower hide on Saturday. This end of the reserve seems to be the best, with views from both Causeway and Lower hides. We get more bitterns arriving at this time of year as they come from Europe to spend the colder months here, so keep an eye out for them around the reed edges, or the occasional fly-by. 

    Down at the saltmarsh amongst the gathering of black-tailed godwits and redshanks a couple of snipe have managed to squeeze onto one of the islands. The water level is particularly high at the moment due to the high tides so there isn’t much land available for the birds-it is looking quite cosy down there on the islands. As well as snipe there have been sightings of kingfisherruff, and three pink-footed geese on the pools and a stonechat on the path to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. Most surprising of all is the presence of up to four avocets there! Avocets nest here in the spring, but they move off south once breeding has finished, so it is very unusual to have them here in autumn.

      Standing room only by Brian Salisbury

    You can also discover what comes out at night with our Creatures of the Night Family Trail that is running throughout October, bring your family team to have a go.

    See you soon!


    Huge thanks to Visitor Experience Intern Lizzy for this recent sightings update.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 30 September 2015

    A second summer

    I've been out on the reserve a lot over the past couple of days and it is so warm! We're definitely having a second (or some might argue first) summer at the moment!. The buddleia bush outside our offices is literally covered in red admiral and peacock butterflies, with the odd brimstone, painted lady and a few small tortoiseshell butterflies among them. The late nectar source is great food for them and shows the advantages of providing this sort of plant for butterflies and bees. For lots of ideas to attract wildlife into your garden, check out our giving nature a home ideas here.

    Out on the reserve, we're still seeing lots of dragonfly activity in the sunshine. Common darters are whizzing around the reedbed and some migrant hawkers too. Although the weather is unseasonably warm, the bearded tits have begun to come to the grit trays in the mornings. These lovely little birds change their diet from insects to reed seed in the autumn, so they need grit to help them to digest it. Come along to one of our bearded tit walks to learn more about these special reedbed residents.

    The variety of water birds is fantastic on the pools - masses of teal, wigeon, gadwall have arrived to spend the winter here, along with moorhens (sometimes having a punch up!) and coots galore as well as magnificent mute swans. The great white egret is still being spotted at Causeway and Lower hides, as well as regular sightings of otters - up to 5 at once!

      Moorhen fight, coots keeping out of it by Martin Kuchczynski

    If you're down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, keep an eye out for the spectacular 14-point red deer stag who has been posing for the cameras recently. A much smaller, but equally as lovely mammal that we have been seeing a lot of is the stoat. One has been seen around the woodland feeding station and also on the Causeway.

      Slinky stoat by Alan Foster

    Down on the saltmarsh pools, large flocks of redshanks and black-tailed godwits are often huddled in front of the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, or voraciously feeding in the exposed mud. Views of kingfishers are phenomenal with at least one regularly coming to perch right outside Eric Morecambe hide or often using the sluice pipes. Three pink-footed geese were grazing on an island in front of Allen hide this afternoon and little egrets and grey herons were enjoying the flooded marsh beyond. A merlin has been spotted a lot sitting on the posts at the back of the pools too.

      Male kingfisher by Martin Kuchczynski

    We had a report of a bluethroat in front of Eric Morecambe hide today which is very exciting! It came to sit right on the fence in front. Unfortunately it didn't hang around for long so only a couple of people got to see it, but keep your eyes peeled if you are down there.

    Huge thanks to all who include their sightings in the sightings book. Remember, you can add them on Bird Track too!

    As we move into October, why not bring your family along for the Creatures of the Night Family Trail. Running everyday throughout the month, this self-led trail is free to take part and helps you discover more about all that squeaks, snuffles and screeches on the reserve at night.

    See you soon!


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 22 September 2015

    Hardy beardies change their diet

    As the summer months come to an end and the autumn sets in, many species are beginning to migrate to warmer climates in search of food. However one bird that is braving the cold is the bearded tit. There have been recent sightings of the bearded tits each morning as they have been on the Causeway collecting grit from the grit trays. These birds primarily eat insects which are less available in the winter so it would seem they are a prime candidate for migration. But instead, the bearded tits cleverly adapt their diet to eating seeds from the reeds. These seeds are tough though, so in order digest the seeds bearded tits also have to eat the grit to grind down the seed. We provide this for them on trays so they can easily find it, and it also means visitors can get close views of them. Why not join one of our bearded tit walks in October to discover more about these special reedbed birds. Details here.

      Two female bearded tits on the grit trays by David Mower

    Red deer sightings have been great from Grisedale hide in the mornings. One handsome stag has fourteen points on his antlers! Stags shed their antlers every year around mid-March to April and each year they grow back with more points! This therefore can give a rough indication of the deer’s age, meaning our stag is around 14 years old! The antlers are made of bone and grow up to an inch per day!

    Also down the Causeway the otters are on full form and at least four have been seen together which always makes a fantastic spectacle! Who doesn’t love otters?! Otters survive the colder months due to their thick insulating fur, unlike most mammals that live in the water which rely on a layer of blubber.

    As the nights draw in and before it gets too chilly this is the perfect time to see bats flying round at dusk. On the reserve we had over 400 soprano pipistrelles roosting, which have been spotted in the evenings, as well as common pipistrelles and noctules. These are most easily distinguished using a bat detector which identifies bat species by picking up the frequency with which they echo-locate. If you would like to become a bat detective yourself, you can purchase your very own bat detector from our shop.

    Huge thanks to our intern Lizzy for this recent sightings update. Don't forget to pop what you've seen on your visit into our sightings book. You can also update your bird sightings on Bird Track

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 16 September 2015

    Autumn changes

    I will start with an important update; On Thursday 17 September, the skytower will be closed in the morning for filming. It will be temporarily closed off from 9-12.30 pm whilst filming takes place. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. The rest of the reserve is open as normal throughout for you to enjoy.

    With the sun shining this morning, but a definite chill in the air, it got me thinking about autumn, and all the spectacles it brings. Autumn is one of my favourite times of year for wildlife. Returning ducks and geese begin to arrive from their breeding grounds in the far north, and migrating wading birds also make that southern journey too. Here at Leighton Moss we have had the first signs of those visitors with an increase in ducks, such as wigeons, pintails and teals. If you want to learn more about identifying the different ducks and other birds around the reedbed, book a place on our next Birding for Beginners walk - details here.

      Pintail by Sue Tranter (


     For many their journey has been a long tiring direct flight from Iceland, Greenland and other northern countries, with Leighton Moss the first time they have landed since setting off on their fantastic travels.

    Wading birds have started to increase, with a mixture of redshanks and black tailed godwits in the largest numbers. They have been joined by up to 3 spotted redshanks, a couple of ruffs, and singles of both knot and little stint. If you want some advice in identifying wading birds (they can be quite tricky, especially in their winter plumage), why not come along to our next What's that Wader event, details here.

    This time of year also signals the change in nature. The change in the colours of the leaves on the trees, the change in the colours of the ducks as they regain their colour for the coming winter, and a change in feeding habits for some birds too. One of our star birds at Leighton Moss, the bearded tit, change their diet in the autumn to switch from eating insects to reed seed. In order to digest the seed they take little bits of grit from our grit trays to grind down the seed and make it easier to digest. They have been spotted already on the trays, which are located down the causeway on the right hand side. As the month progresses and we drift into October and November that is when they become more regular in this area, as the need to switch their diet becomes more necessary with the lack of insects around. Why not join one of our wildlife walks in October focused around bearded tits and their habits.

    There have been lots of reports of marsh harriers on the reserve at the moment, with a couple of adult females joining a juvenile bird. They have been seen frequently from Lilian's hide.

    Our fantastic otters have also been entertaining, with stunning views from the Causeway hide and Lower hide too. There have been some lingering highlights too with at least one great white egret still present on the reserve.

    We hope to see you soon


    Posted by kevin

  • 8 September 2015

    Exciting September sightings

    It's been an absolute hive of activity here at Leighton Moss over the past few days - our Wardens have been out doing the end of summer reed cutting. This important work is to open up the viewing from the hides. It also stops the ditches from clogging up with reeds and the cut vegetation also provides loafing areas for the vast numbers of over-wintering ducks that have already started to arrive. There is a noticeable increase in teal on the reserve already, and over the coming weeks we will be seeing more pintails, shovelers, pochards and goldeneyes to name just a few, as they all begin to arrive from their breeding grounds further north to spend the winter here. Why not come along to our next Birding for Beginners to help you with identifying them all - details here

    Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides there is a great variety of wading birds - knot, two green sandpipers, spotted redshank, greenshanklapwings, oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits have all been seen recently. Why not come along to our What's that Wader event this Sunday to learn more about them. Details here. 11 buzzards have also been seen over the saltmarsh, which is a stunning spectacle to look out for.

    We've been getting some cracking views of otters from both the Causeway and Lower hides. On Sunday, a female was seen with two pups from the Causeway hide and then today this happened..........

      Otter and great white egret at the same time at Lower hide!!!!! Huge thanks to Philip Armitage for sharing on our Twitter. Absolutely awesome moment!

    We've been seeing up to three great white egrets dotted around the reserve - both in the reedbed and down on the saltmarsh, so keep your eyes peeled for them along with their smaller cousins, the little egrets.

    Have you been up the Skytower yet? Tomorrow our Wardens will be reed cutting around Lilian's pool, so it will be a great opportunity to get a bird's-eye view of them in action. Whilst they are working, the birds in that area will likely move off for a while, but they return very quickly once the work has finished. It won't affect any of the wildlife other than those on Lilian's pool.

    Don't forget to report any of your sightings in our sightings book. You can also report them on Bird Track too. 

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 27 August 2015

    Skyfall from the Skytower – black-tailed godwits do a James Bond

    The whoosh of wings and circling in the sky is the spectacle of the week from the Skytower.  Black-tailed godwits can be heard chattering as you ascend the tower, but then it really is incredible when they all ‘get the jitters’ and lift up and wheel around.  We’ve been managing the water levels to help improve reed condition which has been creating shallow, muddy areas on Lilian's pool – and a great bird spectacle.  There have been over 700 black-tailed godwits!  There have been over 300 teals with shovelers and gadwalls among them.

    Black-tailed godwits, 'skyfalling' - the Lilian's pool spectacle by David Mower

    Another spectacle is the hirundines, with large numbers of sand martins and swallows (with fewer house martins) feeding over the Causeway and Lower pools in the evening. Just a couple of weeks ago, there were large numbers of swifts but the numbers have dropped away with just a couple this evening over the Causeway Pool.  Most of the marsh harriers have disappeared too, though a young bird has been seen regularly, floating between the main reedbed, Barrow Scout Fields and the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools.

    Not many swifts left - the summer is closing. Swift by Chris Gomersall (

    With the ‘bird frenzy’, what about all the small things that make the complex web of life at Leighton Moss?  However, if you want to see nature on a tinier scale, why not pop along to our Nature Up-close event tomorrow.

    At the other end of the scale, the super-sized great white egrets are still spotted regularly round the reserve, with up to three seen, along with their smaller cousins - there have been up to 50 little egrets seen this week. 

    Great white egret by Mike Malpass 

    The Leighton Moss specialty – our otters, might be seen so regularly as to be considered mundane, but they never fail to delight.  Tails up in the air (full of weed) and fish too big to munch in the water, they’ve been a consistent crowd pleaser, particularly down at Lower Pool.  They are regularly seen catching whopper eels - Leighton Moss is a great place for eels.  If you want to discover more about these slippery creatures then try our Exciting Eels Family Trail every day in August.

    These eels escaped being munched by an otter - but after being weighed and released - they need to watch out! 

    Scarcer passage waders such as ruff and a little stint (seen on several days this week) are signs of the shifting season and joined up to 890 lapwings, 425 redshanks and 100 dunlins on the saltmarsh pools.  There have been a handful of spotted redshanks too, with greenshanks floating back and forth between there and Leighton Moss.  It might be the shock of a peregrine and a merlin which have been hanging around the saltmarsh pools.  For an osprey over the saltmarsh yesterday, it was chasing gulls that pushed it close in for great views.       

    Finally, let’s sign off with a flash of blue.  Kingfishers have given their usual lightning bolt glimpses from most of the hides this week.

    A lightning flash of blue - or maybe you'll see a Kingfisher sit around if you're very lucky! Image by David Mower

    Thanks to Joe Wiseman for capturing the essence of the site for this sightings blog

    Posted by Jarrod Sneyd, Site Manager

  • 13 August 2015

    It's wader-ific and mammal-tastic here!

    Although we are only part way into August, and the summer is very much still in full swing (it has been glorious sunshine today), believe it or not, for many birds, the autumn migration has already begun.

    We have seen a great variety of wading birds turning up over the past week or so, both on Lilian's pool, and down on the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools. Over 250 black-tailed godwits have been seen (some of these will have been here all summer as non-breeders, but others have turned up from their breeding grounds in places like Iceland). We've got up to four ruffs, a curlew sandpiper, a green sandpiper, knot and up to three spotted redshanks too. Over 250 redshanks, large flocks of lapwings, over 60 dunlins and plenty of oystercatchers are being spotted on a daily basis. These long-legged, long billed birds can sometimes be tough to identify, especially if they are between their summer and winter plumages, so if you struggle with figuring out your sandpipers from your stints, why not come along to one of our What's that Wader events - details here.

      Ruff by Richard Cousens

      Spotted redshanks by Martin Kuchczynski. The one on the left is in its grey winter plumage, and the one on the right is moving into its grey winter plumage from its lovely black summer plumage. 

      Spotted redshank by Alan Foster - the lovely marble effect on its feathers is because it is between its summer and winter plumages.

    With the lower water levels on part of the reserve, not only are the wading birds enjoying feeding in the mud, but usually shy birds such as water rails have been popping out regularly along the edges of Lilian's pool, and we have had several reports of a bittern, both from Causeway hide (formerly Public hide) and Lilian's hide. We've still got two great white egrets around too. They are flying between the reedbed and the saltmarsh, so keep your eyes peeled for them wherever you go. A young marsh harrier is still hunting over the reedbed. Most of this year's adults and young have moved off south, but who knows, this one may decide to stay the winter here.

    Don't forget to add your wildlife sightings to our recent sightings book whilst you are here, and remember, you can also record what you've seen on Bird Track too!

    It's not just birds that call Leighton Moss home. Along the path edges, the fluffy white flowers of meadowsweet add a lovely scent to the air, along with purple loosestrife and water forget-me-nots. Our biggest residents, the red deer have been seen at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. They come out both in the day and in the evenings - join us on one of our Monday evening walks for a chance to see Britain's largest land mammal. We've also been seeing some of our smallest mammals too - water shrews and bank voles have been dashing across the paths, whilst some lucky visitors have had views of cute stoats!

       Stoat in action by Craig Linford

    Our only flying mammals have been out hunting insects of an evening. We have a roost of over 400 soprano pipistrelle bats on the reserve, but also get common pipistrelles and had six Daubenton's bats feeding over Causeway pool one morning this week! To learn more about these incredible creatures, book a place on our upcoming bat night. Click here for details.

    Have you ever spotted an otter? Our visitors have been seeing them regularly from Lower hide over the past few days. If you notice the ducks and other water birds suddenly shooting across the pool in one direction, it can often be a sign of otters coming along under the water. Look out for their tails flicking up and their backs arching above the surface like mini Loch Ness monsters!

    Some of our smallest, and often overlooked creatures are moths. Over the last 51 years as an RSPB nature reserve, almost 600 different kinds of moth have been recorded here! They're not just the ugly cousins of butterflies you know - come along to our Meet the Moths at the Moss event on Saturday to fine out more about them.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 7 August 2015

    Sunny holiday sightings

    With the glorious weather set to continue over the weekend, why not come and see us, there's lots to see and do!

    The lower water levels at Lilian's pool have been drawing in the wading birds. Up to three ruffs, a couple of green sandpipers, dunlins and flocks of redshanks, lapwings and black-tailed godwits are all enjoying feeding on the exposed mud, along with water rails. Up to three great white egrets have also been seen around the reedbed and down on the saltmarsh. If you'd like to learn more about identifying wading birds, why not pop along to one of our upcoming What's that Wader events? Details here.

      Got it! Great white egret by Martin Kuchczynski

      Water rail by Martin Kuchczynski

      Redshank by Brian Salisbury

    As mentioned in my blog last week, our Warden Richard has been doing some home improvements down on the saltmarsh, creating new islands for the waders to breed on at Eric Morecambe pool. The starlings that have been gathering of an evening in small numbers have certainly been enjoying using the excavator to roost on! It won't be long before they are back in massive numbers again in autumn.

      Starlings roosting on the excavator by Richard Cousens

    It's a bird of prey paradise here at the moment. A hobby has been seen a few times over the last few days, particularly at Tim Jackson hide. With regular peregrine sightings on the reserve, the two can look similar, so make sure you check again for the trademark red shorts of the hobby. Ospreys have been passing through as they begin to move off their breeding sites further north. They often use Leighton Moss as a service station en route. Our adult marsh harriers and some of the young appear to have all made tracks south, but we are still getting daily sightings of a young one around the reedbed. On a day like today, you can't beat the views from the top of the Skytower.

    Our largest residents, the red deer are popping out with their spotty calves - head to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides for the best chance of spotting them. In the evenings, we're also getting great views of bats. We have a roost of over 400 soprano pipistrelles on site, so they head out of an evening hunting insects in the woods which is very exciting! We also regularly spot common pipistrelles and noctules too. If you'd like to learn more about bats, why not book a place on our upcoming bat night, details here.

    Don't forget to let us know what you've seen on your visit by filling in the daily sightings book in our visitor centre, and sharing your photos on Facebook (RSPB North West England) and Twitter (@Leighton_moss). You can also report any birds you see on Bird Track.

    With the sun out, the sensory wildlife garden is alive with hoverflies, butterflies and bees. Why not bring the kids along to explore the den building area and have a go at the Exciting Eels Family Trail? We've got lots of other special events too, find out more here.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 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

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
12 Oct 2015
Scaup ()
12 Oct 2015
Water Rail (1)
12 Oct 2015
Black-tailed Godwit ()
12 Oct 2015
Spotted Redshank (2)
12 Oct 2015
Bearded Tit ()
12 Oct 2015
Cetti's Warbler ()
12 Oct 2015
Yellow-browed Warbler (1)
11 Oct 2015
Kingfisher (1)
10 Oct 2015
Marsh Harrier (1)
10 Oct 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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