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Recent sightings

  • 10 February 2016

    A beautiful day to watch birds of prey

    It’s a beautiful day here in sunny Silverdale and what better way to spend it then basking in the sun and watching some wonderful wildlife!

    The sight of birds of prey swooping and soaring through the clear blue sky is truly magical and here at RSPB Leighton Moss we have not been short of these magical moments. Our marsh harriers are being seen every day from all around the reserve, with amazing views from our 9m high Skytower where they cause at bit of a stir on the water below, sending up flocks of ducks who are trying to avoid being the next meal.

    Some marsh harriers migrate to Africa for the winter but we’ve been lucky enough to keep a couple of ours here as the temperature is warm enough and there is enough food available. The marsh harriers here at RSPB Leighton Moss nest on the floor of the reedbed but others have adapted to live on farmland and nest in crops as reedbed habitat has become rarer due to agricultural development.

    Soaring marsh harrier by Mike Malpass

    We also have 2 barn owls that are roosting onsite, to the back of the Causeway pool. They can be seen making feeding journeys from there out towards Barrow Scout fields, making a flying visit past the Skytower.

    Perched in trees around the Causeway pool, a sparrowhawk and a peregrine falcon have both been seen, cunningly watching for potential prey. These amazing hunters are extremely successful, with peregrine falcons having the great advantage of being the fastest animal on the planet, reaching speeds of 180km/hr. If you want to see nature in action this is a great time to visit us!

    Peregrine falcon by Sue Tranter (

    Down at the Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides there’s lots to see, with teal, wigeon, shoveler and greylag geese as well as the odd dunlin and redshank that have come in of the coast for a bit of shelter from the recent stormy weather. The Grisedale hide is a great place to see our red deer who regularly emerge from out of the reeds. The red deer can also be seen from the top of the Skytower where you can get a bird’s eye view of them trekking through the reedbed.

    Whilst walking down to the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides keep an eye and an ear out for siskin, reed bunting and linnet in the trees along the path. Once you reach the hides you will be treated to pintail, oystercatcher and flocks of swirling lapwings. Watch out for kingfishers zooming across the saltmarsh pools as well as the UK’s smallest bird of prey- the merlin – which can be seen perched on a fence near to the hides.

    Merlin by Chris Gomersall (

    Not forgetting our wonderful otters that are being seen every day from the Causeway and Lower hides. The Causeway can now be accessed by our brand new boardwalk that was officially opened this weekend and allows visitors to explore the reedbed like never before.

    If you’re looking for activities to do this half-term holiday we have lots on offer for families from our Giving Nature a Home family trail to self-led games and activities.

    See you soon!

    Posted by LizzieH

  • 7 February 2016

    Brews, birds and a brand new boardwalk

    It might be a bit blustery out there, but the sun is shining, so it is the ideal day to come for a stroll round Leighton Moss. There's lots to see - large numbers of teals, wigeons and some shovelers are gathered at Tim Jackson hide, as well as a flock of redshanks and a lone dunlin on the bank. At Grisedale hide you'll see more lovely ducks and possibly catch sight of a majestic red deer stag or two!

    Blow the cobwebs away with a trip up the Skytower, our 9 metre elevated viewing platform. You may catch sight of a marsh harrier cruising low over the reeds on the look out for a tasty treat. From up there you get a real sense of the size of Leighton Moss - the largest reedbed in North West England, as well as views across the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and over Morecambe Bay.

    If you head to the Causeway, you can take a brand new route! Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and master craftsmanship from Gilleard Bros Ltd, we are excited to have just opened a new boardwalk! This means the Causeway is much more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. The trail takes you along the edge of the reedbed, giving you a better glimpse into the world of our wildlife. A barn owl was seen from there yesterday afternoon, so watch out for its ghostly figure as you walk along. I can't wait until the warblers start arriving in the spring - the birdsong from there is going to be mega!

      Brand new boardwalk by Annabel Rushton

    When you get to Causeway hide, keep an eye out for otters, as a couple of them are being spotted regularly fishing there. There's also lots of tufted ducks diving for food. If you carry on to Lower hide, be sure to stop to look up and down the main dyke as otter sightings have been good there too. On the path to Lower hide, siskins are flitting about the trees finding food. Once at Lower hide, keep your eyes peeled for an elusive bittern as there have been sporadic views of one flying out.

    Down on the saltmarsh, you'll be treated to huge flocks of lapwings swirling around the sky, viewed from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. There's also lots of redshanks and some oystercatchers, as well as beautiful pintails. Keep an eye out for a flash of blue from a kingfisher, as one often perches in front of the hides on the fence posts. You may also catch sight of a merlin too, hunting across the marsh. On the path to the hides we have a feeding area where reed buntings, siskins and linnets are popping out most days.

    Whatever the weather, there is always something wonderful to see at Leighton Moss, and once you've been out on the reserve, you can head back in for a warming brew and choice of delicious cakes in our café. See you soon!

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 3 February 2016

    Is it spring?

    We've been having some gorgeous weather on the reserve this week! The sun has been shining, the snowdrops are blooming, and the ducks are mating....hang on, it's not spring yet! It's only February!

    We have still got lots of signs of winter - the trees are bare and we've got masses of over-wintering ducks, both around the reedbed and down at the saltmarsh. Wigeons, teals and pintails arrive in the autumn, from their breeding grounds in places like Scandinavia, in order to spend the colder months of the year here. You can spot them sheltering close to the hides on windy days, and out on the pools when it's calmer. There are also huge flocks of lapwings, redshanks and curlews out in front of Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, often huddling together, or flying round in a beautiful display.

      Lapwing flock by Brian Salisbury

    However, we have been seeing spring-time activity such as these tufted ducks mating. Birdsong is starting to be heard too. If you arrive by train as I do, then there has been a song thrush sitting on the corner every morning recently, singing its heart out.

      X-rated tufted ducks by Brian Salisbury

    If you visit Causeway and Lower hides, then make sure you look for the otters. There have been two popping up most mornings this week. If you are here early, you may also see the little egrets leaving their roost and heading out onto Morecambe Bay. There have been around 35 roosting in the trees at the back of the pools - they look like hankies when they are all perched on the branches.

    When you walk the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, you will notice a bird feeding area. There have been large flocks of siskins as well as reed buntings and linnets visiting there, so keep an eye out for them. When you get to the hides, look out for a flash of turquoise and orange, as a kingfisher has been spotted there, perching on posts and catching fish.

      Reed bunting by Martin Kuchczynski Publish

    There's lots of activity at the woodland feeding station near the visitor centre too, with nuthatches, marsh tits and a great spotted woodpecker among the delights to be seen. Speaking of garden birds, have you submitted your Big Garden Birdwatch results from the weekend yet? If not, you can do so here.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 27 January 2016

    Unusual suspects

    This morning on their daily checks of the reserve, the wardens caught sight of a very exciting winter visitor, a long-tailed duck. These sea ducks are usually found on the coast but the stormy weather has brought the duck inland where it is more sheltered. Males are very striking to look at, with their long thin tails (hence the name) and distinctive black and white markings. They also have an impressive, yodel-like call. The long-tailed duck seen this morning was thought to be a female or first winter male. These ducks don’t breed in the UK and will make the journey back to its arctic breeding grounds in the spring.

    Male long-tailed duck by Sue Tranter

    Female long-tailed duck by Mike Malpass

    The storms have also pushed other more usual birds inland from the saltmarsh such as teal, wigeon and shoveler which can now be found in their numbers sheltering in front of the Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. There are still the odd pintail and shelduck down at the saltmarsh as well as redshank, oystercatcher, ruff and green sandpiper all commandeering the islands and these can be seen from the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides.

    Another unlikely presence on the reserve at the moment are snowdrops. These plants usually come into bloom in spring time, marking the end of winter. The crazy, warm weather has confused these little plants and they are popping up around the reserve.

    Snowdrops in winter by Lizzy Holiday

    A common sight at the moment is our otters; these are seen regularly out on the Causeway pool and lately are also being seen from Lillian’s hide and the Skytower. We also have 2 marsh harriers that are seen near enough everyday from various places around the reserve.

    From the Causeway hide there are a few goldeneye, tufted ducks and greylag geese, as well as our beautiful mute swan family, which always manage to look so graceful whatever the weather.

    Our woodland bird feeding station is always alive with activity, with nuthatches, bullfinches and chaffinches all coming in to feed on our tasty RSPB seeds and nuts, which are all available to buy in our shop. With the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend why not pop down for a practice run. We also have a Big Garden Birdwatch themed family nature trail around our wildlife garden, where you can discover more about the birds you are likely to see this weekend.

    See you soon!

    Posted by LizzieH

  • 19 January 2016

    Do you want to build a snowman....

    It’s not often we get snow here at Leighton Moss but this weekend saw a blanket of white settle over the reeds and trees, transforming the reserve into a winter wonderland.

    Snowman/Olaf by Carol Brownhill

    We've had a couple of sightings of fieldfare this year; these birds are winter migrants and can arrive anytime from October with numbers building up all the way through winter. Fieldfares are members of the thrush family and spend the winter in large flocks of anything from a dozen to several hundred birds. They like to eat berries so can be found feeding on hawthorn hedges and holly trees as well as other berry producing species. They can sometimes come into gardens in search of food so keep an eye out for them during The Big Garden Birdwatch weekend at the end of the month. If you would like the chance to see them in your garden but don’t have any berries growing then try putting out apples and raisins for them.

    Fieldfare enjoying some berries by Richard Cousens 

    If you want to get some practice in for The Big Garden Birdwatch, come and check out our woodland bird feeding station, which has been alive with activity, with bullfinch, chaffinch, nuthatch and goldcrest all making regular appearances. The wooded areas around the reserve are also great for spotting jays, redpoll and siskin.

    A jay in the snow by Martin Kuchcynski

    The cold weather over the weekend caused the pools to freeze over and this can only mean one thing: ice skating otters! The otters move around on the ice in search of food and this creates great viewing spectacles for visitors. Bitterns and water rails too are also seen more regularly during the colder months as they too venture out onto the ice in search of food. There have been a number of bittern sightings from lower hide over the past few weeks, so be sure to look out for them if you’re heading down that way.

    From the Skytower there have been a number of barn owl sightings, with two being seen some days in the late afternoon. The Skytower is also a great place to see our marsh harriers which are seen almost every day from various places around the reserve.

    Down at the saltmarsh there are lapwing, curlew, redshank as well as goldeneye, red-breasted merganser and lots of teal as well as a sighting of a merlin.

    The paths are all clear of water now so there is no need to bring your wellies; walking boots are fine to access all the hides.

    See you soon!

    Posted by LizzieH

  • 13 January 2016

    Bitterns and barn owls

    The water level is finally beginning to drop! Hoorah! And all the paths are now open on the reserve. You will still need waterproof boots to get around some parts and wellies to get down to Lower hide, but most of the paths are thankfully now clear of water!

    There’s loads to see out on the reserve with the marsh harriers flying above the reeds and the otters playing in the water in front of the Causeway and Lillian’s hide. Both are seen on a daily basis and have definitely been the highlights of the past few weeks here at Leighton Moss.

    Our 9m high Skytower is providing visitors with some very special wildlife encounters. Cetti’s warblers have been seen fluttering around in the reeds below, unaware they are being watched from above. These birds are usually heard and not seen, they have a very distinctive, loud call which makes them easy to identify, but catching sight of one is another story. Whilst you’re up there keep your eyes open for a passing barn owl. Two have been sighted in the area around the Skytower and Lilian’s hide in the late afternoon. These gorgeous birds usual hunt during the night but it’s not unusual to see barn owls hunting during the day, particularly in mid-winter.

    Recent photo of a barn owl flying above Lilian's pool by Andy Cope

    Another welcome sight on the reserve is the elusive bittern. One has been spotted a few times over the past couple of weeks from Lower hide and another was possibly sighted flying over the path to the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides; it is thought to have been heading to the reed bed at Silverdale Moss, one of our satellite sites. Winter is a good time to see bitterns as their continental cousins fly over to spend the colder months here. In previous years when the temperature has been lower and the pools have frozen over they have ventured out onto the ice in search of food, which provides amazing views of these otherwise very secretive and well camouflaged birds.

    Another star species, the bearded tit, is still being seen out and about down the Causeway and on the grit trays. Like the bittern these little birds are quite secretive and are usually hidden in amongst the reeds so these sightings are always fantastic.

    Down at the saltmarsh there are huge numbers of lapwing and curlew with a golden plover recently spotted in amongst them. There have also been lots of sightings of kingfisher, these brightly coloured birds often perch outside the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides, which creates great photo opportunities and a chance to see these beautiful birds up close.

    King of the saltmarsh by Martin Kuchczynski

    There are around 1000 teal paddling about in front of Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides at the moment as well as wigeon, shoveler, pintail, gadwall and pochard. There are also several goldeneye out on the Causeway pool which is one of our wintering ducks. These migrate from more northerly areas such as Scandinavia and northern Russian where they are found in lakes and rivers of boreal forests.

    Don’t forget it’s the Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of the month (30-31 January), you can find details here. We also have a binocular and telescope event the same weekend, so if you need some advice on the best pair of binoculars or the best telescope for you head down to Leighton Moss where one of our friendly team can help you.

    Hope to see you soon!

    Posted by LizzieH

  • 8 January 2016

    Some sun at last!

    We've seen some sun this week! The water levels on the paths have dropped quite a lot, so you can now get to the Causeway hide with walking boots. You still need your wellies to get to Lower hide, Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, but the path to Lilian's hide and the Skytower is all clear of water. Despite the wet conditions, there's still loads to see....

    There are large flocks of ducks around including wonderful wigeon and these terrific teal. Winter is a fantastic time to spot the differences between them all as the males look superb in their brightly coloured plumage.

      Male teal by Richard Cousens

    There are nine goldeneye on Causeway and Lower pools. With the unseasonably warm weather this winter, they have even been seen displaying! As you head down the path to Lower hide, flocks of siskins and redpolls are flitting around in the trees. These lovely little winter visitors feed on the alder seeds there. If you're taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch later this month, keep an eye out for them among your other garden birds too.

    Wherever you are around the reedbed, keep your eyes peeled for one of our largest birds - the marsh harriers. Up to three are hunting regularly over the reserve. Another of our reedbed favourites - a bittern has been spotted at Lower hide this morning too!

    Why not head to the top of the Skytower to see the stunning view out over the reedbed and surrounding Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This elevated viewing platform provides a great vantage point to look out and spot some of our best-loved wildlife. Water doesn't put off the otters and we've been seeing one regularly on Lilian's pool. A Cetti's warbler has also been seen from the top of the tower. These normally secretive little birds don't know you're looking down on them in among the reeds.

    In the early evening and in the mornings, a ghostly figure has been passing along the reed edge near Lilian's hide - a barn owl hunting for a tasty vole or water shrew. You can also see the little egrets leaving the roost in the mornings, flying over the reserve, out towards Morecambe Bay.

    If you head down to the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools, you'll notice the fields on the edge of the reserve are flooded. This is providing a fantastic feeding area for huge numbers of curlews and lapwings, which I always love to see on my morning commute on the train. The path to the hides themselves is dry, so pop down there for the chance of seeing one of our most well dressed residents - the kingfisher!

      Beautiful blue - kingfisher by Richard Cousens

    See you soon!

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 5 January 2016

    Wet Winter Wonderland

    Those who have read the recent sightings blogs will know about the current high water levels on the reserve due to the recent heavy rainfall we've been having. Fortunately the water level is beginning to drop slightly and Lilians Hide and the Skytower are now accessible without wellies. We have also re-opened the path to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides but you will need your wellies to get down there, as well as the rest of the reserve, so grab a pair and let’s get paddling!

    The otters are having a great time in their watery playground. They are seen every day from the Causeway hide and have even been seen from Lilian's hide and the Skytower, splashing around and hunting for fish. The marsh harriers too have been seen daily; we currently have three on site and they can be seen from pretty much anywhere on the reserve with the best views from Lilian's hide and the Skytower as they hunt over the reeds.

    We have had numerous Cetti’s warbler sightings from around the reserve. You will most likely hear them before you see them as they have a loud, sudden burst of song, you can have a listen here. Cetti’s warbler are a rare sight here in the north of England, they are predominantly found in southern areas of the country but only began breeding in the UK in the 1970’s. It is thought that global warming has brought them over from southern European countries and they are now continuing to extend north with Leighton Moss as one of their most northerly points.

    Cetti's warbler by Mike Malpass

    The bearded tits are still being seen regularly on the Causeway path and the grit trays; they are more commonly seen in the autumn so it’s great to see them so regularly this time of year.

    We have large numbers of teal at the moment as well as pintail, goldeneye, shoveler, gadwall and pochard. These are best viewed from the Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, as well as the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides. Down at the saltmarsh there are also a few hundred lapwings as well as oystercatcher, greenshank and ruff.

    Lapwing by Andy Hay (

    Our woodland feeders have been attracting lots of hungry birds such as redpoll, siskin, goldcrest, nuthatches and bullfinches. With the Big Garden Birdwatch coming up at the end of the month why not head down there for a practice run. We also have a Big Garden Birdwatch family trail running throughout January so why not come down and have a go.

    Hope to see you soon!

    Posted by LizzieH

  • 27 December 2015

    Get those wellies on!

    If you have been keeping an eye on these recent sightings blogs, you will be aware of the amount of water we have had recently. With a further down pour over the last few days we have had to close the path to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. The rest of the hides are accessible in wellies, so It’s time to put on your wellies, and wade out onto the reserve in search of winter wildlife. If you haven’t been here when the water level is high, you really should try it. Small fish swimming around your feet and mallards paddling around on the paths, it certainly is a very different experience!

    I pulled my wellies on yesterday and headed out. It is a great time of year with lots of birds grouping together in feeding flocks, and passing through the trees and bushes oblivious to my presence. One such flock near Lilian’s hide contained five blue tits, two great tits, two treecreepers, two goldcrests, eight long tailed tits and a single marsh tit. Not a bad start. After splashing around near Lilian’s hide it was clear that water rails were going to be much easier to see than normal. With three darting across the watery paths in this area. Water rails are normally secretive birds, given away by their squealing pig like sounds. However in the winter and on occasions when the water level is high, they are forced to come out of cover in search of food and can give some fantastic views.

    Next stop was the Causeway. With a Cetti’s warbler explosive song greeting me as I trudged through the water. A quick look in Causeway hide, a brief view of an otter and seven goldeneyes as well as a quartering marsh harrier emerging from the adjacent reed edge.

    After more views of water rails and a flock of siskins passing by overhead, I made my way to the grit trays. I was delighted to be met by the sight of four bearded tits on the trays before another pair joined them. Bearded tits are my favourite birds, and at this time of year they have switched their diet from insects to reed seed. In order to grind down the reed seed for digestion, they consume little bits of grit which they store in their throats to grind it down. They normally do this in the autumn, but will top this up through the winter, as well as search for fallen seed on the trays too.

    I made my way back to the café for a cup of coffee, pretty pleased with my quick paddle on the reserve.

    It is fantastic weather today, and the weather looks okay for tomorrow too. So remember to bring your wellies, with all hides and the skytower requiring them.  Come and have a splash around in search of wildlife.


    . Copyright (Annabel Rushton)


    Merry Christmas!

    By Kevin Kelly

    Posted by kevin

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Marsh Harrier (1)
12 Feb 2016
Water Rail (3)
12 Feb 2016
Red-breasted Merganser (4)
12 Feb 2016
Barn Owl (1)
12 Feb 2016
Goosander (3)
11 Feb 2016
Black-tailed Godwit ()
11 Feb 2016
Greenshank (1)
11 Feb 2016
Cetti's Warbler (1)
11 Feb 2016
Bearded Tit ()
11 Feb 2016
Pink-footed Goose (35)
10 Feb 2016

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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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