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If you come down to Leighton Moss over the next couple of weeks then you will notice our new, large and rather conspicuous residents… a small herd of redpoll cattle. You will see these chestnut coloured cows munching on the grass in the field on your walk to the causeway.
Our new employees first day - Sophie King
As lovely as they are these cows are not just here to look pretty, they have a very important job to do. The redpoll cattle are our new employees - our conservation grazers. We are hoping that after a couple of weeks of chewing the cud that this little field will transform into a little meadow.
Having been ungrazed for a very long time the field is dominated by common grasses. Underneath the layer of grass is a shallow, alkaline, limestone soil. This may not sound very exciting, but limestone soils can contain a ‘seedbank’ of all sorts of unusual flowers.
By eating up the grass our conservation grazers will provide an opportunity for wildflowers to flourish. We’re likely to see flowers such as birds foot trefoil, knapweed, rock-rose and red and white clovers spring into life.
By increasing the number of wildflowers we will be providing a welcome buffet of pollen and nectar for butterflies and bees. Creating a wildflower meadow in your garden is one way you can can give nature a home, to find out how click here.
making a meadow in your garden can help give nature a home - Sophie King
As well as coming to see our new conservation grazers keep your eyes peeled for the solitary ruff which has been seen from the Grisedale hide and for the magnificent displays of the marsh harriers which have been seen hunting, fighting and food passing in the past few weeks - quite the spectacle.
You might also see the small flock of 150 black-tailed godwits which have not yet made their migration north. It’s a great time of year to see nesting birds so look out for lapwings and oystercatchers.
Our assistant warden Nick had quite a treat this week when he came across a marsh tit chick that was not in the least bit camera shy...
Marsh tit chick by Nicholas Robert Godden
There have also been regular sightings of the bearded tits along the causeway where we think they might be nesting and the path is alive with the song of reed warblers and Cetti's warblers. From dawn until mid-morning we have still been hearing the spotted crake, ever elusive I am yet to see this secretive bird myself.
Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides there has been not one, not two but three spoonbills! These great white birds look a little bit out of place in Morecambe Bay, but nevertheless they seem perfectly content.
Three spoonbills by Mike Malpass
Along the coast from the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides is a very special place called Jenny Browns Point where there have been sightings of eiders, shelducks, curlews, over 40 bar-tailed godwits and 1,500 oystercatchers!
Oystercatchers by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
If you fancy getting a little bit closer to nature then this weekend our experts will be offering their free and impartial advice in our binoculars and telescopes open weekend.
Posted by Sophie K
Taking over Annabel's role as Visitor Experience Manager here at Leighton Moss is Fran Currie, here's her first blog...
Spring is always an exciting time for migrating visitors returning from their African wintering grounds. Here at Leighton Moss we get an amazing array of migrant birds, from the tuneful reed warblers to the elegant avocets. Over the last few years there has also been a noticeable increase in osprey sightings, particularly in early spring and late summer as they journey to and from nesting sites in Scotland, Cumbria and Northumberland.
Once extinct from the UK, this beautiful bird of prey has recovered fantastically well in Scotland, and is beginning to recover across England and Wales as well. The first pair retuned to RSPB Loch Garten, Abernethy in 1954, and have subsequently spread to England and Wales, breeding for the first time at Lake Bassenthwaite, Cumbria in 2001, and every year since (you can access this year’s web camera here
Osprey, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Thanks to the work of the Lake District Osprey Project (LDOP), Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT) and partners, ospreys now nest in a number of sites across the county. Ospreys regularly visit Leighton Moss through the whole summer, where they can be seen hovering over causeway and lower pools for a fishy treat. Most of these visits are likely to be from the ospreys at CWT Foulshaw Moss, however other birds are also likely to stop off every now and again.
Volunteer warden Larissa recently spotted an osprey over the reserve and was eagle eyed enough to notice that it also had a tracker on its back. She put two and two together and was hopeful that this bird was in fact a juvenile from Bassenthwaite known as “number 14” (you can read about his unbelievable story here
Number 14 being ringed, Phil Cheesley
Having previously worked for the LDOP, I was able to get hold of number 14’s satellite tracking data which produced a map showing that this amazing bird had in fact visited Leighton Moss at the time and date Larissa spotted him!
Satellite map of number 14’s visit to Leighton moss, Phil Cheesley
For me this discovery has a special resonance as number 14 was the first chick hatched on my very first season working at the LDOP. Since then, through his tracking data, I have followed his migration to the Island of Bioko in Africa and back, ending up in Cumbria again this year. I can’t help but marvel at the awe-inspiring journey these birds make year on year, particularly given the ever increasing strains on the natural world, it truly demonstrates nature at its best.
So, if you are ever lucky enough to see an osprey at Leighton Moss, take a minute to think about where it might have come from and the epic journey it might be about to embark on.
If you are visiting the reserve this week, as well as ospreys, you might also want to look out for spoonbills at Lillian’s hide and Eric Morecambe and Allen hides, black-tailed godwits and a pair or garganeys at Grisedale hide, marsh harriers food passing over the causeway as well as swifts, swallows and martins feeding on insects over lower pools. Great crested grebes in front of Lower hide and reed and sedge warblers have been also been heard regularly on the causeway and path to Lower hide.
Snoozing away on the pool in front of Lillian’s Hide this morning was the sleepy spoonbill. The spoonbill is quite an uncommon visitor to the north-west of England, but this one has been a resident for over a week, making itself right at home in sunny Morecambe Bay.
Between naps the spoonbill is a fascinating bird to watch as it wades through the muddy waters swooping its spoon shaped bill from side to side in search of unsuspecting creatures which live beneath the water’s surface.
Our sleepy spoonbill by Martin Kuchczynski
One of our more fantastically outrageous birds at the reserve is the small flock of ruff which have be seen from the Grisedale, Tim Jackson and Lilians Hides, but for the past couple of days we have only had sightings of one male.
For the majority of the year a ruff is an inconspicuous, small brown wading bird. But when spring comes along they get on their glad rags and transform into their spectacular summer plumage. The males develop distinctive ornamental head tufts and neck ruffs in all different colours.
Interestingly there are a small percentage of males which instead of transforming into their flashy summer plumage resemble females. By imitating a female these sneaky ‘cheater’ males are unnoticed by other males and infiltrate their territories to steal matings with females.
We are all very excited about the having the ruffs here at Leighton Moss, it’s been fantastic to watch the males parading around and displaying their incredible summer feathers. Pop into the visitor centre or keep an eye on our recent sightings blog to stay updated about these enigmatic visitors.
A ruff strutting its stuff by Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
Over the past week Leighton Moss has been treated to fantastic views of some of the UK's most wonderful birds of prey. There have been regular sightings of ospreys and our resident marsh harriers are providing a daily spectacle.
I've got my eye on you - a marsh harrier by Richard Cousens
Unusual for this time of year there has been regular sightings of bearded tits in the area surrounding the small bridge at the far end of the causeway. We think there might be a nest in this area as the bearded tits have been seen darting across the path and flitting about amongst the reeds.
If you have visited Leighton Moss recently then share your stories and your photos on our Twitter or Facebook page.
If you have read my previous blog you might already know that we have been hearing a spotted crakes ‘whiplash’ call from within the reedbed for the past few weeks. Well now we know that there are least two of these elusive and rare birds at Leighton Moss.
To discover how many are here and where they are our wardening team is planning a late night survey across the reserve to listen for the whiplash call of the spotted crakes. This will give us a much clearer insight into how many of these secretive birds are skulking about in the reedbed. Check back on the recent sightings blog to find out how the survey goes or join us for our Birdsong for Beginners walk Sunday 29 May to hear these unusual birds.
If you are planning to visit us soon then keep your eyes peeled for the flock of 150 black-tailed godwits, look out for the lovely garganeys, great crested grebes, shelducks, shovelers and pochards. Listen out for the electric sounds of our aerial acrobats the lapwings or just enjoy the sounds and smells of nature in the reedbed and the woodland at this very special home for nature.
Come down and smell the garlic in our incredible edible woodland at Leighton moss by Sophie King
Swept in on the blustery winds Monday afternoon was a flock of black terns. On Saturday one black tern was sighted, but on Monday 15 flew in. The black tern is a small and elegant bird which almost looks like an overgrown swallow.
A stunning photo of a black tern
Visitors reported sightings of the terns from 3 pm and come 5 o’clock I wasn't the only member of staff making my way up to the Lower Hide to see these unusual visitors. Darting and skimming over the water's surface, the black terns were quite a spectacle. Leaving just before dusk, the terns seemed to be using Leighton Moss as a pit stop on their epic migration, and they were treated to a buffet of insects which were abundant on the surface of the warm water.
For birds on migration such as the black terns, places such as Leighton Moss are of vital importance. Without these natural sanctuaries providing food, water and shelter then many migrants wouldn't complete their journeys. This network of reserves needs to be spread beyond our borders. Some of you may have already heard of our campaign; Birds without Borders, where we are working with European partners towards a safer passage for birds on migration.To learn more about how our Birds without Borders project is helping to protect species like the black terns click here.
Visitors were also treated to incredible views of two ospreys on Monday, which arrived at the reserve in the afternoon, leaving not long after six. These magnificent birds were taking advantage of the plentiful supply of fish and to watch them hunt really is very special. The osprey will hover, looking completely still, almost like a picture in the sky, before they see something move below the water's surface. Diving at phenomenal speed, the osprey will plunge into the water from great heights to catch its prey.
Although the ospreys do not nest at Leighton Moss, during the summer months we can be visited by them daily. These magnificent birds of prey are very special to the RSPB and I do hope that you manage to see them here. One of the pair was carrying a satellite transmitter on his back and we can confirm that this was No.14 from the Basenthwaite nest in the Lake District. The transmitter was fitted to No.14 when he was a chick in 2013, since then it has recorded him visiting 32 different countries across Europe!
A fantastic shot of a diving osprey by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
On the spot list for many keen bird watchers this weekend was the pair of garganeys, a small but elegant duck, the male has a characteristic broad stripe above his eye. These notoriously secretive ducks have been seen displaying, so fingers crossed the pair will decide to stay and breed at Leighton. With only 14-93 breeding pairs in the UK this would be wonderful news for nature.
A male garganey enjoying a good splash about by Richard Cousens
On Wednesday we were treated to the arrival of one of the UK's most enigmatic birds, the fantastical spoonbill. It's name comes from its large spoon shaped bill which it sweeps through the shallow water, snapping shut when it comes across an unlucky insect or fish. We haven't had a spoonbill breeding at Leighton before, but this one at least seems to be enjoying the reedbed. Not the most active of birds, visitors are most likely to see the spoonbill having a little snooze in the sunshine.
three fantastical spoonbills by Mike Malpass
Fantastic news regarding our marsh harriers, we now have three confirmed nests, with two females on eggs and one nest already hatched out! Over the upcoming months the females will need more food for themselves and their young, so look to skies to see some aerial acrobatics, as the males deliver food to the females in spectacular mid-flight food passes.
If you want to see wildlife a little bit closer, maybe buying your first pair of binoculars or thinking of upgrading then come along to this month's Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend. Where our wonderful and knowledgeable experts will be offering their impartial advice. With opportunities to try out all kinds of scopes and binoculars. Running over the whole weekend Saturday 28, Sunday 29 and Monday 30 May, drop in 10 am-4 pm to see what is on offer. The event is held in The Holt, normal admission prices apply to non-members, no additional charges for the event.
If you are interested in warblers then we are awash with them! As you walk around the reserve you will hear sedge warblers loudly chattering away their incomprehensible song. A tune so complex it is thought that they never sings the same song twice. The reed warblers are happily chirping in the reedbed, melodious blackcaps and willow warblers can be heard in the woodlands and the simple but effective song of the chiffchaff will greet you in the garden. You might also hear the unmistakable grasshopper warbler, whirring and churring in the distance.
At the end of the month the extremely knowledgeable Andy Chapman and myself will be looking into the mysterious world of birdsong in Birdsong for Beginners. A fantastic way to help you start unraveling the complex and fascinating language of our feathered friends. Sunday 29 May (7.30-10 am) Booking in advance is essential. Cost £15 (RSPB members £12) includes a well deserved bacon or veggie sausage bap and tea of coffee.
Today we were joined by volunteer and birdsong extraordinaire – Andy Chapman, who took us on a walk through the reedbed and garden to discover and decipher the world of birdsong in our Birdsong for Beginners guided walk. If you read my previous blog you will know that I am a newcomer to the world of birdsong and have been working hard over the past few months to learn who’s who and what’s what at Leighton Moss. All of those grueling afternoons spent sitting in the garden listening to birdsong paid off as this morning when I helped to introduce some first time listeners to the birdy wall of sound.
As visitors arrived we were greeted by the noisy nuthatch, which seems to have claimed the visitor centre at Leighton Moss as his patch. I don’t think any of us will be forgetting the nuthatches racket for a while.
Noisy nuthatches! Picture by Paul Liley
Leighton Moss is a great home for nature with a fantastic diversity of birds, so we were treated to birdsong from garden favourites such as the tiny but mighty wren and the wonderful whistling of blackbirds. But we also heard the woodlands alive with willow warbler, one of the most melodious but lesser known birdsongs. As well as the explosive Cetti’s warbler at the far end of the boardwalk, which erupts into song from the reedbed.
It has been a fantastic morning with lovely people and a well deserved breakfast bap to round it all off. We will be running two more Birdsong for Beginners walks this year on Sunday 29 May and Sunday 19 June (by which time I will be a birdsong pro). For more information click here.
If you can’t wait till the end of May to dive into the world of birdsong and you can brave an early start then we are running an extra Dawn Chorus walk Sunday 8 May from 4-7.30 am. While the early start may seem daunting, this is a very rewarding walk. You will hear the first blackbirds and robins burst into song before the reserve explodes into life, a truly stunning symphony of birdsong. This walk is not advertised on our website so please call the visitor centre on 01524 701601 for more information and to make a booking.
Birdsong aside it’s been a fantastic week here at Leighton Moss. The past few days of sunshine have bought out the blossom on the trees and the welcome hum and buzz of bees. Butterflies are on the increase, with brimstones and peacock butterflies down the boardwalk. It is that lovely time of year where the sunshine brings everything back to life.
Blooming lovely. Picture by Sophie King
We have had our first sightings of this year’s common sandpiper which is most likely on its way to summer breeding grounds in Scotland. You might see this small wading bird from the Allen or Eric Morecambe Hides at the saltmarsh.
We have also had reports of ruffs in full breeding plumage. For most of the year the ruff will look like a fairly normal, brown wading bird. Then comes spring, where the ruff likes to look his best. The male ruff has a fantastically flamboyant plumage of puffed up head tufts and a large ornamental collar of feathers. These fantastic birds have been seen at Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides down at the saltmarsh and at the Grisedale Hide.
Also causing a spectacle at Leighton Moss is the large flock of black-tailed godwits. Between 2,000 and 3,000 black-tailed godwits have been flitting between the main reserve and Morecambe Bay. It’s quite a sight when a marsh harrier flies above and spooks the whole flock into synchronised flight!
Glorious views of Morecambe Bay. Picture by Mike Malpass
There have also been regular sightings of avocets from Lillian’s Hide. These enigmatic wading birds are normally found on Morecambe Bay and you can see their breeding grounds from the Allen Hide. It seems that this year they have decided to branch out and come for a dip at the main reserve too, making fantastic viewing for our visitors. You might recognise the avocets charactieristic upturned beak from the RSPBs logo? These elegant birds are one of our most staggering success stories, extinct as a breeding bird in the UK by 1842. Now, thanks to the habitat management and protection by the RSPB there are now over 400 breeding pairs nationally!
So far we know there are six avocet nests down at the Allen Pool. Fingers crossed we will be seeing some chicks over the upcoming weeks. Check our recent sightings blog to stay updated or pop into the visitor centre where we can tell you more about these wonderful waders!
We've got our fingers crossed for avocet chicks again this year. Picture by Roy Brown
I have been a residential volunteer at Leighton Moss for just over a month now and in the past couple of weeks, spring has stepped up a gear. The woodlands and garden are alive with birdsong and with the help of the wonderful and knowledgeable staff, volunteers and visitors at Leighton Moss I have been starting to pick apart this wonderful world of sound.
It’s just spectacular to walk along the pathways and hear the enormous diversity of life here at the reserve. Trying to untangle who’s who and what’s what can be daunting, but once you open your ears and your eyes to the world around you; you see the magic in unpicking its mysteries.
You can hear the melodious blackbirds, robins and dunnocks, the chatterings of chiffchaff and great tit, the churring of chaffinches, the racket of wrens and nuthatches and the three dimensional, otherworldly, mindboggling creations of the song thrush.
A song thrush belting out its beauty of a song. Picture by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Over the past few weeks the influx of summer migrants has stepped up a gear and we have been flooded with willow warblers. About the same size as a blue tit, this small warbler is actually very similar to a chiffchaff. The two birds are very tricky to tell apart by sight alone, instead their song is the most common identification tool. While a chiffchaff will very distinctly sing the two tone song of its name - "chiff chaff chiff chaff chiff", the willow warbler sings a more melodic and fluid song of descending notes. As you walk around the garden and woodlands the air is filled with the songs of these two little birds.
These aren't the only warblers we have been joined by; in the garden listen out for the song of the blackcap, so called because of the males distinctive jet black cap. The blackcaps song is one of the loveliest sounds of Spring, sweet and melodic with rich clear notes. See if you can spot one in the trees or singing from a patch of brambles as you walk through the garden. You will also hear reed warblers and sedge warblers singing as you walk through the reedbed. Loud and proud these noisy little birds have no idea that their songs are described as 'unmusical', 'lacking melody' and 'grating'. A good place to hear the reed warbler is if you head down to the end of the pond dipping platform where we have had one happily singing away all week. One trick to tell the songs apart of the reed warbler and sedge warbler is to imagine yourself conducting to the song of a reed warbler, whereas a sedge warbler is apparently 'un-conductable'.
Look out for that distinctive jet black hood of a blackcap in the garden. Picture by Martin Kuchczynski
In the very early hours of the morning our first spotted crake was heard near the causeway. This elusive bird is very secretive and skulks about in the dense vegetation of the reedbed. You will only know it's there if you hear its distinctive 'whip-lash' call. The spotted crake is specially protected, in the last 10 years there have only been 30-80 pairs breeding in Britain. Which is why places like Leighton Moss are so important to these mysterious birds. The best time to hear the 'whip-lash' of the spotted crake is at dawn and dusk. While the visitor centre is open from 9.30 am-5 pm we don't close the reserve or hides, so keep your ears open if you go for an evening walk down the causeway.
An illustration of the elusive spotted crake by Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
If you fancy taking a dip into the world of birdsong then join us for the first of three Birdsong for Beginners walks this Sunday, where our experts (and me!) will help you to decipher the mysterious languages of the woodland. Or if you're willing to brave the early morning then join us for our Dawn Chorus walk in celebration of international dawn chorus day on Sunday 1 May.
If you read our guest blog this week by the fantastic Anya, you will know that RSPB looks after over 200 nature reserves like Leighton Moss as well as working to create more habitats in adjoining sites. Here at Leighton Moss our wardening team have created two new reedbeds since 2005; Barrow Scout fields and Silverdale Moss. Our aim is to make habitats like reedbeds bigger, better and more connected. In this blog I will talk about three of our star species which have benefited from some of this wonderful work; otters, bearded tits and marsh harriers.
Otters disappeared from the waters of Leighton Moss in the mid 90’s, their numbers had dramatically decreased across the UK and they were in big trouble due to persecution and water pollution. In 2006 thanks to some European funding and a helping hand from a huge floating digger we’ve turned our water problems around and have had the otters back with a vengeance! We caught a couple of otters on film down at Barrow Scout fields this week, making the most of their new reedbed. The cheeky duo were having a late night ramble in the reedbed when they stumbled upon our camera trap.
One of our resident otters at Leighton by Dave Hall (not by our camera trap!)
Nick, our assistant warden, came back from an early morning jaunt around the reserve with some very exciting news today; we have two pairs of nesting bearded tits, one on eggs and one with chicks! The bearded tits are one of our most enigmatic, charming and important little birds. Leighton Moss is the only site in the north west of England where bearded tits live and because they are so special to us, we’ve even made them their own little homes; wonderful wigwams made from reed. We have been monitoring bearded tit numbers in the reedbed for over 50 years and over the next few weeks we’ll be keeping an eye on their nest boxes to see how they’ve fared over the wet winter. The bearded tits are fast breeders, having up to three broods per year, so fingers crossed things are looking good for the little beardies!
On the left our fabulous handmade bearded tit nest boxes ready to go out into the reedbed by David Mower and a resident bearded tit by Mike Malpass on the right
The marsh harriers have had an action packed week; these majestic birds of prey have been stealing the show and putting on a fantastic display for all of our visitors. If you have read my previous blog you will already know that we have had two males and two females for quite some time now, but this weekend we were joined by a third female! Fantastic news for us ... and also for our male marsh harrier who has hopefully found himself a mate. With three nesting females and only two males, the boys are going to have to do a lot of fishing to keep their ladies happy! While the female is nesting and incubating her eggs, which can take from 31 to 38 days, the male marsh harrier will have to supply her with food, which he delivers to her in spectacular mid-flight food passes. We expect to see a lot of marsh harrier action over the upcoming months, come down to witness their dramatic food passes, soaring skydances and their silent glide over the reedbed.
A marsh harrier making landing in the reedbed look easy - picture by Chris Gomersall
Thanks to the work by RSPB staff, an enormous troupe of volunteers and the support of our wonderful members we have been giving nature a home at Leighton Moss for over 50 years. Come down and visit us over the upcoming weeks and you will see that alongside our stars of the show we are a haven for a massive diversity of wildlife. As you take a stroll through the garden and along the trails listen out for willow warblers which have been flooding into the reserve in the last week. Nip down to the pond dipping platforms to hear the first of the reed warblers singing in the reeds. Look upon the hundreds of sand martins displaying their agility as they skim the water’s surface for insects at dusk. See if you can spot the tawny owl which has taken up roost in the woodland and watch the flocks of black tailed godwits as they take to the sky in their thousands. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the mighty osprey which makes a special trip to Leighton Moss to enjoy the fish.
Leighton Moss waking up and shaking off the morning mist - picture by David Mower
A big thank you to Anya for this weeks guest blog!
Spring at Leighton Moss has always been my favourite time of year. One of the over-wintering ducks still around is the pintail. With lovely, chocolate-coloured heads and immaculate tails feathers they are one of the most popular and attractive ducks on the reserve. Other ducks like teal may stay here to breed. Teal may be small ( the UK's smallest duck in fact) but on closer inspection you can really appreciate their elegance. Let's hope they stay to breed so we can admire them all year round!
The ever elegant pintail by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Signs of Spring are never far away at Leighton Moss, from the indignant calls of a nesting nuthatch to the occasional early peacock butterfly emerging. I spend most of my days in the Visitor's Centre and from here I've noticed two nests, watching with fascination the comings and goings of the nuthatch and song thrush family in the car park.
Out on the reserve I think it's a really magical thing to just stand still, look and listen. You may spot a blue tit or a blackbird repeatedly visiting hidden nests in the hedgerow. You may see a stoat skulking in the shadows, or hear a vole rustling amongst the leaves.
An almost too cute bank vole! Photo by Richard Cousens.
Take a moment to notice the bird song. You will hear the fluted calls of the willow warblers and the buzzing of emerging bees. Whatever you see or hear will be special. There is something peaceful and calming about such stillness when the rest of the the world is moving around you.
Moving at last, you wander along reed-lined paths. Looking down, you may spot a toadlet making its first journey, or a brimstone alighting on a reed. From the hides you can see that sunshine- yellow marsh marigolds are starting to bloom. Look out for marsh harriers tumbling through the air above your head as you walk on down the causeway. Many of our winter species are heading to Europe to breed, to be replaced by sand martins and swallows which have now arrived on the reserve. Looking over the pools you can see them dipping as they feed on insects.
The golden reedbed by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
A sadder story is the decline of some of our country's best-loved species like starlings. The population of these tenacious and adaptable birds once boomed, taking advantage of many different habitats. Unfortunately, since 1980 ,the story has been different. We have lost over 66% of the entire UK population and and the cause is largely unknown.
The starling is not an isolated case. With over 60% of UK species declining there has never been a more important time to give nature a home. We are losing habitat at an alarming rate, with over 99% of all our wildflower meadows gone. The RSPB tackles this by managing over 200 crucial nature reserves like Leighton Moss, as well as providing education, advocacy and also working with landowners to help wildlife flourish.
Sunset starling murmurations at Leighton Moss by Alasdair Grubb
Our aim is to save nature. As simple as that. We want to expand our existing reserves,as we have done here are Leighton Moss, by creating more habitat in adjoining sites. At Leighton we have created new satellite sites in the nearby reedbed at Barrow Scout fields and Silverdale Moss. The sites were planted in 2005 and species including barn owl and marsh harrier are being seen regularly at both sites.
An inquisitive marsh harrier by David Mower.
None of this work can be done without you. Isolated habitats aren't a long term solution. We need to create corridors between them, so by putting up bird feeders in your gardens, (don't forget 100% profit from out RSPB shops and cafe goes to conservation) a bug hotel or creating a hedgehog highway you really will be helping. If we buy more land and make existing land better for wildlife, our dream will quickly become a reality. "If you build it they will come" .
So next time you pop in and see us, why not buy a hedgehog house or some bird food? You could also have a walk around our wildlife garden to get some ideas for your own patch. We have a fantastic selection of birds, like siskins, lesser redpolls and bullfinches. What will you get in your garden?
Many species like ospreys, bitterns and red kites have been brought back from the brink of extinction in this country. If you are lucky you could see a bittern skulking in the reeds from Causeway and Lower hide. Ospreys have arrived back in the UK in the past couple of weeks, if you would like to see one why not pop along and see us at the Lake District Osprey Project? You may even be lucky enough to see one fishing at Leighton.
There are plenty of success stories so let's all continue to give nature a home together. We can all do something, so that extra slice of cake with your bird friendly coffee really does help to save nature! Lemon drizzle anyone...?
It’s been a wonderful week here at Leighton moss with spring really kicking into action! The big news from this weekend is that one of two female marsh harriers is probably on eggs. This is fantastic news for nature as the marsh harriers numbers had declined in the UK to only one breeding pair by 1971. Incredibly, thanks to the hard work by the RSPB and the support of members this decline has been reversed, now there are over 400 breeding pairs in Britain. It really is an inspirational story to demonstrate the power we have to reverse population decline not just in the UK but abroad as well.
A good place to spot the nesting marsh harrier is from the Causeway hide where the female marsh harrier has made her nest in the dense reedbed where she will lay around four eggs. She will have to incubate her eggs for over a month and so will have very little time to hunt. During this time the male will bring her food, he won’t however visit her nest, instead the female flies up to meet the male as he calls her from the sky. The pair perform magnificent, acrobatic food passes where the female catches food from the male midflight. If you look to the skies over the next few months you might witness this spectacle.
Keep your eyes to the skies! A fantastic food pass captured by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
A male marsh harrier is actually a bit of a bachelor, preferring to build his own nest, called a ‘cock nest’, instead of sharing the females. Whilst he will bring the female food during her incubation period, the male marsh harrier is not a faithful bird. They are known to have up to three mates, making a lot of work when he needs to supply food to them all!
The marsh harriers aren’t the only ones who have been getting down to business over the past few weeks. If you take a stroll down to the pond dipping area you will find it full of frog spawn, just this morning we found a tiny little toadlet trying to get into the visitor centre. Fortunately the very helpful staff from the visitor centre pointed it back in the right direction. If you want to find out more about what lives in the murky waters of Leighton moss then bring the family down for a drop in session of pond dipping this Thursday in ‘What Lives Beneath’. Last week our amateur pond dippers managed to scoop up all sorts of creep creatures including deadly backswimmers, a predator of the water which swims upside-down on the prowl for their unsuspecting prey, as well as cute little newt nymphs which with their feathery gills on their sides look like miniature water dragons.
Back where it belongs, a toad by Anya Kuliszewski
On the pools at Leighton moss everybody is dressed to impress and in their full breeding plumage. The great crested grebes are performing their elaborate courtship displays and the mute swans have got us all seeing hearts as they dance across the water. We still have a number of our winter residents; tufted ducks, teals, wigeons, shovelers, cormorants, greylag geese, pintails and shelducks. Look out for long legged waders; black tailed godwits, little egrets, snipes, redshanks and that ever tricky to spot – spotted redshank. Last but most definitely not least there are 40-50 avocets at the saltmarsh which can you see from the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
Seeing hearts by Richard Stead
It’s been a very exciting week as the reserve has been inundated with new arrivals! There are hundreds of sand martins as well as a number of swallows which can been seen darting about over the waters surface hunting for insects. On Monday the first reed warbler of the year was heard along the Causeway, a record breaking early arrival at Leighton moss! The reed warbler is an expert at climbing and clinging onto reed stems. It is so well camouflaged that the best way to find it is to listen for its noisy, rather unmusical chatterings from within the reedbed. Also singing along the causeway are the willow warblers which have migrated here from their wintering grounds in Africa, and the extremely vocal Cetti's warblers which stay here all year.
A reed warbler by David Mower
There’s been a lot of territorial behavior here at Leighton moss! Birds declare their territories by their song, so what to us is the beautiful and musical sound of spring is actually something a little bit more serious. Just outside the visitor centre we have a nuthatch declaring that the land is his from daybreak until nightfall. For such a tiny bird he really does know how to make himself heard! And he’s not the only one who’s taking a piece of Leighton moss for his own, to name but a few as you walk around the garden you may hear; chiffchaffs, chaffinches, song thrushes, blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, goldcrests ,coal tits, marsh tits, great tits and blue tits. If you want to learn more about untangling this complex and magnificent musical tapestry or just enjoy listening to the birdsong symphony then join us for Birdsong for Beginners or (if you can brave the early start) our spectacular Dawn Chorus Walk followed a well deserved full English breakfast!
I'm hungry already! Photo by Keith Palmer
On a final note I would like to introduce some new residents to Leighton moss this week...
Mallard ducklings! Photo by Larissa Bennett Margrave
Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)
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