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  • 20 July 2016

    Early summer mornings on the Moss

    An insight into one of my early morning walks around the reserve...

    One of my favourite things about summer is the opportunity to get up early and explore the reserve before work. Dawn really is a magical time at Leighton Moss when the reedbed explodes to life as sunlight creeps across the landscape, interrupting the peaceful slumber of each creature that calls Leighton Moss home.

    Magical dawn. View from causeway hide by David Mower

    Walking down the causeway, reed warblers tune up, often joined by the sporadic call of the Cetti’s warbler. The piercing squeal of a water rail stabs through the still morning air with enough vigor to suggest it has been awake for hours. In contrast, the delicate “peep peep” of a flock of goldfinches breaks over head and the occasional hoot of a coot adds to the chorus.

    Hanging around. Reed warbler by Brian Salisbury

    Popping into causeway hide at this time of day always brings with it a great sense of anticipation. Otters are often more active early in the morning and I have been lucky enough to have some incredible views of them from here. It’s always a good way to wake the senses, spending a  few concentrated moments scanning the still water for a ripple, a tail flick or pair of nostrils breaking the surface, snorting in the fresh morning air.

    A walk farther into the reserve brings with it the hypnotic fragrance of the meadow sweet as it floats across the air along the path to lower hide.  Common spotted orchids stand proud as bees buzz around them in an early morning feeding frenzy. I always find this spot peaceful, particularly at this time of day as willow branches sway in the gentle breeze and dappled light breaks through the canopy.

    Early morning feeding frenzy. Common spotted orchid and bee by Fran Currie

    Continuing towards lower hide, crossing the spring often brings with it an unexpected surprise. Be it a family of greylag geese with a gaggle of fluffy goslings feeding in the shallows, or the fluorescent blue flash of a kingfisher shooting off into the reed cover. I have even been lucky enough to have an occasional chance encounter with red deer at the spring which often results in comical startled reactions from both the deer and myself!

    On reaching Lower hide, a quiet moment to take in the landscape is always first on the agenda. At this time of year everything is so gloriously green. Bright new reeds shoot up in the foreground framed by the emerald shade of the water and deep forest colours of the distant trees. I love watching the swifts, martins and swallows dip and dive over the pools on the hunt for the first of the day’s insects. Tufted ducks bob up and down with amusing buoyancy and dragonflies zip around the reed edges. Magic.

    Dappled light and meadow sweet by Jenni Thornley

    If you are visiting Leighton Moss this week look out for kingfisher at Eric Morecambe and Allen hides as well as an increasing number of wading birds like redshanks, avocets and lapwings. Otters have  been showing well from causeway hide during the day and marsh harriers continue to perform, with six juveniles now fledged. Sightings of osprey are still a daily occurrence and are likely to become more frequent once the chicks from Foulshaw Moss start to explore the wider landscape. 

    Posted by Francesca C

  • 15 July 2016

    Carpet of colours – the magic of Middle-earth.

    This week we have a guest blog from our site manager Jarrod...

    Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay Nature Reserve is about a wealth of wildlife and capturing the essence of nature; not just birds.

    You can wander from the Leighton Moss Visitor Centre into the wider AONB and imagine you’re a hobbit, on some great adventure through Middle-earth.  There are nooks and crannies, rarely visited; a deep lake, limestone pavement, little rickety wooden foot bridges.  In your exploration, perhaps passing by Haweswater Moss and through Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve, you could once again end up on RSPB land at Challan Hall.

    Challan Hall woodland is adjacent to Gait Barrows.  A public footpath there winds its way through an avenue of trees, heading towards Storth and beyond.  Still within the ‘RSPB world’, is a lovely meadow next to Back Wood.  The setting is very picturesque.  It is the only place you can view our wetland site at Silverdale Moss at close quarters (little egrets abound at the moment), but the backdrop is of Arnside Tower and Arnside Knot.     

      

    Our meadow near Challan wood - Jarrod Sneyd

    This field is heaven to me.  97% of our unimproved grassland has been lost and it is rare to see ‘jewels’ like this.  Many grasslands are now agriculturally improved and are made up of a limited number of productive grasses (such as perennial rye-grass).  Most are simply different shades of green.  Flowers of different types and colours are few and far between, squeezed out by the tougher grasses.  But here, there are blues and pinks and purples and yellows……. And it is alive with insects (including horseflies on this particular occasion)  

       

    Eye-bright, Meadowsweet and Betony are just some of the flowers blossoming in this meadow - Jarrod Sneyd

    Pictures don’t always capture all the colour – but it’s obvious when you’re there.  And then delve deeper…….

       

    Not to forget Oxe-eye daisys, Greater birds-foot trefoil and Black knapweed - Jarrod Sneyd

    So, will you be Bilbo Baggins and enjoy the ‘firework display’ of colour?..... before heading off on a mysterious journey?  To find this particular meadow, just chat to one of the team in the Visitor Centre and they will give you the map to Middle Earth! 

    So, send your answers to our Facebook page………..

    What is a meadow?

    And…. what on Middle-earth has this plant got to do with it??

    Find out what it's all about in the next blog from our Site Manager in early august. 

     

     

     

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 12 July 2016

    Close encounters

    Getting out and enjoying nature is always rewarding. I find that whether I see a mallard or a marsh harrier when I go for a walk around the reserve I come back with a clear mind, feeling refreshed and inspired. There are some days however when taking a walk in nature, that you unexpectedly stumble upon a magical wildlife moment that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry. 

    Yesterday a couple of visitors had one of these wonderful encounters whilst sat in the Lower Hide at the far end of the reserve. Two juvenile marsh harriers approached the hide, and hovered in front of the glass, getting an eyeful of those who came to watch them! 

    No more than two feet away our visitors could see the colour of their eyes and detail of their talons as the inquisitive harriers regarded their viewers. 

     One of the marsh harrier chicks by Keith Scovell

    It must have been a truly wonderful experience and it makes you think how rare such close encounters with the wild world are, and how important places like Leighton Moss are now, and will continue to be in the future. 

    The marsh harriers have been doing really well this year, so far two of the three nests have successfully fledged and the skies a full of these first time fliers. 

    Recently we've had the occasional report of a bittern at Leighton Moss, this morning that has been confirmed as our Visitor Operations Manager Kevin saw one flying from the Lilians Hide. We're not sure who this bittern this or where it's come from, but as you can imagine we're all very excited! So if you're going out onto the reserve this week keep your eyes peeled for this magnificent bird, and please let us know if you spot it! 

      A bittern in flight by Dave Dimmock 

    You might see the family of redstarts in the field to the right of the path to Lower Hide. Redstart chicks are quite noisy, so if they're around they're quite easy to see. There has also been a family of young Jays flitting around the garden making a racket, and if you visit us in the next few days you are likely to see gadwall chicks, which seem to be everywhere! 

      One of the young jays from the garden this week at Leighton Moss by Wendy Hassam

    For the past couple of weeks of there have been regular sightings of otters throughout the day and ospreys seen almost daily from the Causeway and the Lower Hides. 

    In other news @CumbrianRambler Beth pipe has bought our attention to a local bylaw in Lancashire which makes it illegal to pass Leighton Moss and not stop for coffee and a cake...

      Delicious delights from the cafe by  Anya Kuliszewski

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 7 July 2016

    getting to know the moths at the moss...

    This Sunday we have another of our fascinating Meet the Moths at the Moss events, from 11 am-12 pm. All ages are welcome, the event is free (normal admission charges apply) and there’s no need to book.

    Moths have been recorded at Leighton Moss for over 50 years now, and so far we’ve found over 500 different species.  During the summer we run these moth events so people can drop in see the incredible diversity and beauty of these mysterious insects, alongside learning how and why we monitor their numbers.

    The morning starts with opening up the moth trap in the garden and finding out what’s inside. Fingers crossed we’ll find some show stoppers like the spectacular poplar hawkmoth and the peculiar buff tip which camouflages itself by resembling a twig.

      The fascinating buff tip moth - David Mower

    The trap itself works by moth charming, attracting the night time wanderers to a bright light which will lead them down a funnel and into the trap. Once in the trap the moths settle down for the evening, then when morning comes they seem to be in a state of stasis, allowing us to pot them up for a closer look. Some moths (particularly the hawkmoths) will walk straight onto your hand and you can watch while they vibrate their wings, warming up until they take flight!

      A poplar hawkmoth warming its wings before taking flight - Fran Currie

    After finding out what’s in the trap it’s off to The Holt, here we have moths on display which have been found in traps all over North Lancashire. At our last event we had over 130 species of moth on display! It’s a fantastic opportunity to get a close up look of something which you normally only get a fleeting glimpse of.

    As well as being a great chance to see these wonderful winged creatures, recording moths in moths traps is important as it allows us to see how their numbers change across the country. For instance at June’s Meet the Moths we had a blood vein moth, quite unusual as it’s only the second recording of this moth at Leighton Moss. A common moth in the south, it’s possible that it might be spreading north.

      The unusual but beautiful blood vein moth, could it become a regular at Leighton Moss? Photo - Brian Hancock

    We hope to see you this Sunday, if not then maybe you will make it to our next event on Saturday 13 August (11 am-12 pm).

    Moths aren’t the only wonders at Leighton Moss this weekend, all week we have had fantastic sightings of otters from the Causeway Hide. Mainly in the mornings, visitors have been treated to seeing otters do some leisurely fishing in the pools.

      Can you spot an otter at Leighton Moss - Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

    You are certain to see the marsh harriers which continue to be extremely active as adults and juveniles fill the skies at Leighton Moss.  And we’ve had daily sightings of ospreys which come fishing at the main reserve and down at the saltmarsh. Our most regularly visiting ospreys are nesting nearby at Foulshaw Moss, and they are furiously fishing to feed their pair of fast growing chicks. You can watch their live webcam on the ospreys nest here.

    It’s been great to hear how many sightings of bearded tits we’ve had this week, mainly along the boardwalk and the causeway, but also from inside the Causeway Hide!  There are small groups fluttering across the pathways, so listen out for the distinctive ‘pinging’ call which you can hear on the RSPB website. Sightings are high due to the number of young birds on the reserve, they’re out and about grabbing food, feeding on insects and are extremely active in the reedbed.

      Listen out for beardies in the reedbed - Martin Kuchczynski

    Our flock of black-tailed godwits can normally be seen from the Grizedale Hide, this is a great spot for seeing the deer and their young as well. Down on the saltmarsh there are the usual suspects; lapwings oystercatchers, little egrets, grey herons and redshanks.

    If you’re heading out into the local area there are flocks of over 100 curlews and oystercatchers at nearby Jenny Browns Point. We’ve also had reports of hawfinches zipping about the Arnside and Silverdale area as well as a green sandpiper spotted at one of our satellite sites Silverdale Moss. 

      Keep your eyes peeled for hawfinches! Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 5 July 2016

    wardening around

    This week we have a guest blog from residential warden volunteer Kat. Before coming to Leighton Moss Kat was a residential volunteer down at RSPB Old Hall Marshes in Essex, where she spent the winter herding Konik ponies and clearing scrub on the ancient grazing marshland. Kat has kindly agreed to tell us about a day in her life as a residential warden volunteer.... 

    Nine months ago I heard about the RSPB’s residential volunteering scheme from a friend and was eager to give it a go myself. In fact I enjoyed my first six month placement so much that I decided to do another one which brought me here to Leighton Moss.

    Here is a typical day as a residential warden volunteer...

    Hide checks provide the first task of the day. The squeaking brakes of the reserve bicycle briefly interrupt the peace and tranquility of the morning, as I do my rounds, taking note of what is out and about to keep the visitor centre updated on what people can expect to see on their visit.

      The dawn chorus and squeaky breaks at Leighton Moss - Kat Suchecka

    Back at the wardens office a group of our wonderful volunteers await and we all pile into the ranger and head off to one of our satellite sites, Silverdale Moss to do a black-headed gull count. We are greeted upon arrival by a cacophony of screeching calls from the gull colony, the noisy birds swooping and circling above the strips of reed. A fluffy lapwing chick flits about the rushes watched closely by its protective parents, alert and ready to see off any predator which may threaten its young, whether it is crows or even marsh harriers! We do our count of both birds and visible nests before jumping back into the ranger and driving back to the reserve for lunch and to work out a plan for the afternoon.

      The RSPB created Silverdale Moss in 2005, it is a reedbed around the size of 42 football pictches

    The weather is good so we drive down to the saltmarsh on Morecamebe Bay which is one of my favourite places to work as it has been the scene of some of my most memorable wildlife moments. I have seen a short-eared owl fly up from right in front of me on a breeding bird survey and on one occasion found myself a few meters away from a sparrowhawk as it tucked into its prey!

      Just metres away from a sparrowhawk! Kat Suchecka 

    Nest finding is one of my favourite parts of my role. The behaviour and calls of breeding wading birds act as clues as to whether the birds are breeding, nesting or even if they have chicks.

    We scan the flat expanse of green in search of lapwing nests which can be as easy as watching a bird zigzagging its way back to a nest after being displaced by a passing crow or as difficult as looking for a head poking up out of the grass!

      Nest finding can be like looking for a needle in a haystack - Kat Suchecka

    We also keep our ears open as well as our eyes as if you get too close to a bird with chicks it will give out an alarm call. When it comes to redshanks we have to listen very carefully as the skylarks of the area have added the redshank alarm call to their song!

    Then we return back to the office where I update my records before finishing for the day.

    This is just one day of my time here at Leighton Moss. Residential volunteering is something I would highly recommend as you gain a wealth of skill and experience and the opportunity to work with the warden team. Not only do you get to learn about how the work the RSPB does benefits nature, you get to be a part of it.

    If you're going out on the reserve this week then look out for the marsh harriers, of the three nests one has successfully fledged, giving visitors great views of three juveniles learning to hunt and fly. We have had daily sightings of ospreys, otters and even bearded tits. There are still lots of young birds around the reserve, you might see tufted duck families or water rail chicks crossing the paths scurrying into the reedbed. There is a great crested grebe nest to look out for from the Causeway Hide alongside some growing in size goslings and cygnets. 

    The flock of black-tailed godwits is flitting between the main reserve and the saltmarsh. Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools we've had sightings of avocets. curlews, common sandpipers, spotted redshanks, greenshanks and dunlins alongside the noisy oystercatchers and redshanks. Listen out for the songs of lesser whitethroat and skylarks as you walk along the paths to the hides. 

    You might want to make a special trip to Leighton this Sunday for our Meet the Moths at the Moss event (11 am-12 pm). There's no need to book, just drop in to see the masses of moths we find at the reserve and in the wider area. 

      The peach blossom moth is a regular visitor to Leighton at this time of year, fingers crossed we see one of these beautiful moths this Sunday! Photo by Fran Currie

     

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 1 July 2016

    wonders of the wetlands

    Summer at Leighton Moss sees the golden reedbed sea turn to green as the young reeds shoot up. Wetlands like Leighton Moss are some of our most precious environments and are home to many creatures that you won’t find in your back garden...

    The marsh harriers really are the royalty of the reedbed, these regal residents have been putting on quite a show in the past few months. You might already know that there are three females nesting at Leighton Moss, each bringing up its own brood of chicks.

    In the past weeks we have watched as young marsh harriers from the first nest began to fledge, venturing out from their home in the reeds, testing out their wings and receiving food from their parents in mid-flight food passes. The Causeway and Lower Hides have had wonderful views of the marsh harriers teaching their young how to fly and catch food.

      A marsh harrier juvenile by Mike Malpass

    Any day now we are expecting to see juveniles taking to the wing from nest two and beginning to explore their home at Leighton Moss.

    You might have heard that last week our wardening team were successful in attaching a nest camera to our third nest. You can see the live stream on our website. The camera has given us a unique insight into the secret life of the marsh harriers. It has been fascinating to watch how the family interact and watch on as the female brings in food to feed her chicks. We’ve seen coot chicks, voles, unidentified ducklings and small mammals all fed with love and tenderness to the two chicks.

      Marsh harrier chicks from a couple of years ago - Alisdair Grubb 

    As well as being vital sustenance for our fast growing harriers, the number of young chicks on the reserve has made it a magical place to come see wildlife. Earlier today there were ten tufted duck chicks seen from the Grizedale Hide, and water rail chicks have been spotted along the pathways.

    The warm weather has bought with it an influx of dragonflies, as you’re walking through the reeds look out for the electric blue and green emperor, the sunset red common darter, 4 spotted chasers and the beautifully blue and amber broad bodied chasers.

      A stunning broad bodied chaser by Dave Middleman

    The afternoons at Leighton Moss have been a fantastic time to do a little bit of otter spotting. If you’re in the Causeway or the Lower Hide keep you eyes peeled for these charismatic creatures. There have also been daily sightings of ospreys, with lucky visitors even catching fabulous views of them fishing over the pools here. As you look across the water if you see the ducks scatter and take the sky then this a sign that an otter, osprey or maybe one of the marsh harriers is about.

    The flock of black-tailed godwits is growing in numbers, now there are over 100 using the main reserve and the salt marsh. From the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides you are likely to see flocks of redshanks and hear the enigmatic peeping of the oystercatchers. You might even see their ‘piping display’ where they bow, with their bills facing downwards and create a loud and unmistakable piping chatter.

      Oodles of oystercatchers by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    The visitor centre is open from 9.30 am-5 pm, but we don’t shut the reserve, so make the most of these long summer sites and come see something a little bit wild at Leighton Moss. 

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 24 June 2016

    what comes out after dark...

    Summer evenings at Leighton Moss are a magical time, after the visitor centre closes at 5 pm the pace on the reserve slows down and you can really enjoy this special place at its most peaceful. It’s also when you might see some of our nocturnal residents; a colony of soprano pipistrelle bats.

    The soprano pipistrelle bat is the UK’s most common and widely spread bat species. Very small, reaching a maximum length of 45mm these bats feed mainly on flies such as the swarms of midges and mosquitoes found near wetlands on warm summer evenings.

      a tiny soprano pipistrelle by David Mower

    The ultimate pest controllers, a single tiny pipistrelle can consume 3,000 insects in one evening alone.

    The sopranos roost in the eaves of our woodchip boiler room next to the visitor centre. Local bat expert and RSPB volunteer Gail Armstrong has been monitoring the colony since its discovery in 2012. This summer there are around 350 soprano pipistrelles roosting in the boiler room.

      look at that face! a fantastic photo by David Mower

    Gail informed me that this is a maternity colony which spends its summer in the walls of the woodchip boiler room, raising young and sleeping during the day. Over the winter they hibernate in a cooler and damper corner of Morecambe Bay.

    Soprano pipistrelles have only one pup (or sometimes twins) per year, and have a strong maternal instinct to nurture.  For three to four weeks a female will feed her young solely on her milk, then the youngsters will begin to take to the wing for the first time. At six weeks old the pups will be fully independent, whizzing around Leighton Moss in search of insects.

    Every evening, around half an hour before sunset, the bats will begin to emerge from their roost. Last night, I spent an evening watching this summer spectacle. First you hear the chattering and nattering of the bats in the rafters, as the light lowers the first of the bats emerge, like little bullets shooting out into the night.

    They emerge quite slowly at first, then before you know it bat after bat is whizzing out over your head.  On these warmer summer nights the reserve feels alive with the beautiful  of song thrushes and blackbirds. Swifts and martins zip over the still pools, whilst tawny owls emerge from their day time slumber.

      Leighton Moss's lovely tawny owl by martin Kuchczynski

    If you want to make an evening trip down to Leighton Moss then you are more than welcome, we don’t shut the car park or any of the hides, and we open a gate just to the side of visitor centre to allow access to the site.

    If you read last week’s blog by Fran then you will have heard that our first marsh harrier chicks have began to fledge. This week we’re hoping that the chicks of nest two will begin to take to the sky. In anticipation of this wildlife event our wardens have manage to get a camera onto the nest, which is currently streaming live footage onto our website! Stay tuned to get a glimpse into the early years of these magnificent birds of prey.

      One bolshy marsh harrier chick by Alasdair Grubb

    Elsewhere on the reserve there are still over 100 black-tailed godwits, large numbers of gadwalls and tufted ducks both of which have been seen with young. The glorious great-crested grebes have been showing well from the causeway hide along with a pair of pochard and we have had sightings of otters in front of Lillian’s Hide,

    There are large numbers of lapwings and redshanks down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides, their numbers are likely to increase as more birds return from their inland breeding grounds. There are also small numbers of avocets and little egrets.

    Also this weekend, Leighton Moss is one of the hosts to the wonderful Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail. Located in these two beautiful villages at the edge of Morecambe Bay the arts trail is a series of exhibitions, workshops and demos by local artists. For more information on the arts trail click here.

     

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 20 June 2016

    Introducing the tramper...

    Have you heard of the tramper? Our all terrain, off road mobility scooter, which is available free to hire at Leighton Moss.

    The tramper scooter has been funded in partnership by the Arnside and Silverdale AONB Sustainable Development Fund, the RSPB, Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire and District Ramblers Association, the Arnside Ramblers, Yealand Manor and Leighton Hall.

    The RSPB working with the  Arnside and Sivlerdale AONB and other partners are committed to improving access for all in this beautiful corner of the world. The partnership worked together to introduce the tramper scheme to improve access to the countryside for those with limited mobility.

    This free to hire, four wheel drive mobility scooter is perfect for exploring the countryside. It is available for use for anybody over the age of 14 at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve in Silverdale.

    Booking is essential, please call the visitor centre at Leighton Moss on 01524 701601. We’re open seven days at week from 9.30 am-5 pm.

    Angela who lives in the local area, and her family recently took the tramper for a roll around the reserve, here’s how she got on...

    “How do you balance the needs of a six and seven year old with boundless energy and their eighty year old infirm granny?  I have often visited Leighton Moss with my children and my mum and found the combination quite limiting and frustrating.  My Mum expends most of her efforts just using the stair lift to get into the cafe, and once the children have eaten their sunshine beans and completed this months colourings and word-searches it is usually time to go home, having not actually been able to get out on the reserve at all. But now at Leighton Moss they have the perfect solution........the tramper.

      Sunny afternoons at Leighton Moss by Angela Welbourne 

    The tramper is an all terrain mobility scooter available to hire free of charge within Visitor Centre opening hours. After a short induction on how to operate the vehicle we were able to go out together as a family and access areas of the reserve never before seen by Granny and complete the family trail. “Ooh I never knew the reserve was so big, what a lovely place” said Mum “Come on Granny put it into hare mode, pleeeaaase” said Fin which was followed shortly after by “Granny wait for us, granny, granny, we haven’t had a chance to write the answer down yet!” as my mums confidence grew in her driving skills, progressing from tortoise to hare she disappeared round the corner deeper into the reserve.

    It was really refreshing, opening up new horizons for my mum and giving us the now rare opportunity for shared new experiences as a family with varying needs. We hared all the way out to Grizedale hide before heading back to the cafe for cake. I’ve no doubt we’ll be back to explore the boardwalk sometime soon.....infact I think I might have become a tramper enthusiast.....searching out other tramper opportunites. Today Leighton Moss tomorrow.......who knows. My brother is keen to go round the world on one and he is able bodied! But for now we will just have to live out our tramper dreams through our mum. “

      On a roll by Angela Welbourne 

    Posted by Sophie K

  • 17 June 2016

    Marsh harrier majesty

    A walk down the causeway at RSPB Leighton Moss in summer isn’t complete without a glimpse of a majestic marsh harrier. It has been a fantastic year here for these birds, with five adults in total, three females and two males, on the reserve since early spring. 

    Marsh harriers are one of the RSPBs biggest success stories at Leighton Moss, with the first ever breeding pair arriving here in 1987. In the last couple of years we have seen a great increase in the success of youngsters fledging the nest and we hope that 2016 will be just as good! It really is remarkable when you think that in the 1980s, though harriers were a regular spring passage migrant at the reserve, their numbers had been vastly depleted due to persecution. At the low point at the end of the 1970s, there was only one pair in the country. Thanks to the RSPB’s great work in creating new reedbed, marsh harrier numbers have soared again in recent years and there are now around 400 breeding females in the country.

    Female marsh harrier by David Mower

    Marsh harriers usually start courtship in April when they arrive back from their southerly wintering grounds which can be as far away as Africa. Despite this epic migration, male birds waste no time in trying to attract the ladies. At the height of their efforts, they perform a spectacular “sky dance”, flying hundreds of metres above the reedbed and plummeting back towards the ground, twisting and turning in a whirlwind of movement and colour.

    During May and June our marsh harriers settle down to nest, with the female birds incubating for around a month and males providing most of the food for her as she sits on the eggs. Always able to entertain, even this simple exchange of food can be a thrilling sight, if you’re lucky enough to catch it! Marsh harriers perform a “food pass”, often in mid air, where the female is called off the nest by the male who drops her dinner for her to catch upside down. Causeway hide and lower hide have been the best places to catch this amazing display of aerial acrobatics so far this year.

    Marsh harrier food pass by Ben Hall

    This week has seen the emergence of the first lot of harrier chicks on the reserve. Reports of a single chick were first made on Monday, followed by more regular sightings through the week. The next few weeks will be an exciting time to visit as more chicks fledge the nests and begin to explore their surroundings. Identifying young marsh harriers is usually straight forward, particularly in the early stages of their development. As well as being much darker in colour than the adult birds, they are clumsy and uncoordinated as they get to grips with flight and hunting in the reedbed. In previous years, visitors to lower hide have been treated to incredible close up views of young marsh harriers, hopping around the front of the hide looking for easy prey, like worms and other invertebrates.

    If you are planning on visiting the reserve this weekend as well as marsh harriers there is plenty of other fabulous wildlife to get excited about. Up to five spoonbills have been sighted regularly at Eric Morecambe and Allen hides along with redshanks and as well as a single spotted redshank. Ospreys have been visiting the reserve on a daily basis, spotted most regularly hunting over the pools in front of lower hide. Lilian’s hide has been excellent for close up views of black-tailed godwits as well as a couple of ruffs. As well as birds, Leighton Moss provides a home to a diverse range of plants and the path to lower hide is currently alive with fantastic wild flowers, such as common spotted orchid, ragged-robin and woody nightshade,.

    Common spotted orchid, ragged-robin and woody nightshade by Fran Currie

    Posted by Francesca C

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Avocet (4)
25 Jul 2016
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
23 Jul 2016
Spotted Redshank (2)
22 Jul 2016
Water Rail ()
21 Jul 2016
Woodcock (1)
19 Jul 2016
Shelduck (4)
25 Jul 2016
Gadwall (20)
25 Jul 2016
Buzzard (1)
25 Jul 2016
Dunlin (6)
25 Jul 2016
Great Black-backed Gull (1)
25 Jul 2016

Contact us

Where is it?

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

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