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The ‘whoosh’ of wings and circling in the sky – is the spectacle of the week from the Sky Tower. Black-tailed godwits can be heard ‘chattering’ as you ascend the Tower, but then it really is incredible when they all they all ‘get the jitters’ and lift up and wheel around.
We’ve been managing the water levels to help improve reed condition and that’s been creating shallow, muddy areas on Lillians pool – and a great bird spectacle. There have been over 700 black- tailed godwits (761 on Sat 22nd ). Among them have been up to 3 ruff too. There have been over 300 teal (312 on 23rd) with shoveler and gadwall among them (over 60 gadwall across the Leighton pools).
Black tailed godwits, 'skyfalling' - the Lillians spectacle (Copyright David Mower)
Another spectacle is the hirundines, with large numbers of sand martins and swallows (with fewer house martins) feeding over the Causeway and Lower pools in the evening. Summer is ‘packing up’ so to speak. Just a couple of weeks ago, there were large numbers of swifts but the numbers have dropped away with just a couple this evening (27th) over the Causeway Pool. Most of the marsh harriers have disappeared too, though a young bird has been seen regularly, ‘floating’ between the main reedbed, Barrow Scout reedbed and the saltmarsh pools.
Not many swifts left - the summer is closing (Copyright Chris Gomersall, RSPB images)
With the ‘bird frenzy’, you may think we’re ignoring all the small things that make the complex web of life at Leighton. However, if you want to see nature on a tinier scale, why not pop along to our Nature Up-Close event tomorrow (28th). Click here for to find out more – http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-401544
At the other end of the scale the super-sized great white egrets are still spotted regularly round the reserve (3 today, 27th), along with their smaller cousins; there have been up to 50 little egrets seen this week.
Great white egret - backwards and forwards between the pools (Copyright Mike Malpass)
The Leighton speciality – our otters - might be seen so regularly as to be considered mundane – but they never fail to delight. Tails up in the air (full of weed) and fish too big to munch in the water, they’ve been a consistent crowd pleaser, particularly down at Lower Pool. They are regularly seen catching whopper eels - Leighton is a great place for eels. If you want to discover more about these slippery creatures then try our Exciting Eels Family Trail. Click here for more details - http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-401545
These eels escaped being munched by an otter - but after being weighed and released - they need to watch out!
Scarcer passage waders such as ruff (4 on 23rd) and little stint (seen on several days this week) are signs of the shifting season and joined up to 890 lapwing, 425 redshank and 100 dunlin on the saltmarsh pools (23rd). There have been a handful of spotted redshank too, with greenshank floating back and forth between there and Leighton. 16 were on the island in front of the Causeway hide on 26th. It might be the shock of peregrine and merlin which have been hanging around the saltmarsh pools. For an osprey over the saltmarsh yesterday, it was chasing gulls that pushed it close in for great views.
Finally, let’s sign off with a flash of blue. Kingfisher have given their usual lightning bolt glimpses from most of the hides this week.
A lightning flash of blue - or maybe you'll see a Kingfisher sit around if you're very lucky! (Copyright David Mower)
Thanks to Joe Wiseman for capturing of the essence of the site for this sightings blog
Posted by Jarrod Sneyd, Site Manager
Although we are only part way into August, and the summer is very much still in full swing (it has been glorious sunshine today), believe it or not, for many birds, the autumn migration has already begun.
We have seen a great variety of wading birds turning up over the past week or so, both on Lilian's pool, and down on the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools. Over 250 black-tailed godwits have been seen (some of these will have been here all summer as non-breeders, but others have turned up from their breeding grounds in places like Iceland). We've got up to four ruffs, a curlew sandpiper, a green sandpiper, knot and up to three spotted redshanks too. Over 250 redshanks, large flocks of lapwings, over 60 dunlins and plenty of oystercatchers are being spotted on a daily basis. These long-legged, long billed birds can sometimes be tough to identify, especially if they are between their summer and winter plumages, so if you struggle with figuring out your sandpipers from your stints, why not come along to one of our What's that Wader events - details here.
Ruff by Richard Cousens
Spotted redshanks by Martin Kuchczynski. The one on the left is in its grey winter plumage, and the one on the right is moving into its grey winter plumage from its lovely black summer plumage.
Spotted redshank by Alan Foster - the lovely marble effect on its feathers is because it is between its summer and winter plumages.
With the lower water levels on part of the reserve, not only are the wading birds enjoying feeding in the mud, but usually shy birds such as water rails have been popping out regularly along the edges of Lilian's pool, and we have had several reports of a bittern, both from Causeway hide (formerly Public hide) and Lilian's hide. We've still got two great white egrets around too. They are flying between the reedbed and the saltmarsh, so keep your eyes peeled for them wherever you go. A young marsh harrier is still hunting over the reedbed. Most of this year's adults and young have moved off south, but who knows, this one may decide to stay the winter here.
Don't forget to add your wildlife sightings to our recent sightings book whilst you are here, and remember, you can also record what you've seen on Bird Track too!
It's not just birds that call Leighton Moss home. Along the path edges, the fluffy white flowers of meadowsweet add a lovely scent to the air, along with purple loosestrife and water forget-me-nots. Our biggest residents, the red deer have been seen at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. They come out both in the day and in the evenings - join us on one of our Monday evening walks for a chance to see Britain's largest land mammal. We've also been seeing some of our smallest mammals too - water shrews and bank voles have been dashing across the paths, whilst some lucky visitors have had views of cute stoats!
Stoat in action by Craig Linford
Our only flying mammals have been out hunting insects of an evening. We have a roost of over 400 soprano pipistrelle bats on the reserve, but also get common pipistrelles and had six Daubenton's bats feeding over Causeway pool one morning this week! To learn more about these incredible creatures, book a place on our upcoming bat night. Click here for details.
Have you ever spotted an otter? Our visitors have been seeing them regularly from Lower hide over the past few days. If you notice the ducks and other water birds suddenly shooting across the pool in one direction, it can often be a sign of otters coming along under the water. Look out for their tails flicking up and their backs arching above the surface like mini Loch Ness monsters!
Some of our smallest, and often overlooked creatures are moths. Over the last 51 years as an RSPB nature reserve, almost 600 different kinds of moth have been recorded here! They're not just the ugly cousins of butterflies you know - come along to our Meet the Moths at the Moss event on Saturday to fine out more about them.
Posted by Annabel Rushton
With the glorious weather set to continue over the weekend, why not come and see us, there's lots to see and do!
The lower water levels at Lilian's pool have been drawing in the wading birds. Up to three ruffs, a couple of green sandpipers, dunlins and flocks of redshanks, lapwings and black-tailed godwits are all enjoying feeding on the exposed mud, along with water rails. Up to three great white egrets have also been seen around the reedbed and down on the saltmarsh. If you'd like to learn more about identifying wading birds, why not pop along to one of our upcoming What's that Wader events? Details here.
Got it! Great white egret by Martin Kuchczynski
Water rail by Martin Kuchczynski
Redshank by Brian Salisbury
As mentioned in my blog last week, our Warden Richard has been doing some home improvements down on the saltmarsh, creating new islands for the waders to breed on at Eric Morecambe pool. The starlings that have been gathering of an evening in small numbers have certainly been enjoying using the excavator to roost on! It won't be long before they are back in massive numbers again in autumn.
Starlings roosting on the excavator by Richard Cousens
It's a bird of prey paradise here at the moment. A hobby has been seen a few times over the last few days, particularly at Tim Jackson hide. With regular peregrine sightings on the reserve, the two can look similar, so make sure you check again for the trademark red shorts of the hobby. Ospreys have been passing through as they begin to move off their breeding sites further north. They often use Leighton Moss as a service station en route. Our adult marsh harriers and some of the young appear to have all made tracks south, but we are still getting daily sightings of a young one around the reedbed. On a day like today, you can't beat the views from the top of the Skytower.
Our largest residents, the red deer are popping out with their spotty calves - head to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides for the best chance of spotting them. In the evenings, we're also getting great views of bats. We have a roost of over 400 soprano pipistrelles on site, so they head out of an evening hunting insects in the woods which is very exciting! We also regularly spot common pipistrelles and noctules too. If you'd like to learn more about bats, why not book a place on our upcoming bat night, details here.
Don't forget to let us know what you've seen on your visit by filling in the daily sightings book in our visitor centre, and sharing your photos on Facebook (RSPB North West England) and Twitter (@Leighton_moss). You can also report any birds you see on Bird Track.
With the sun out, the sensory wildlife garden is alive with hoverflies, butterflies and bees. Why not bring the kids along to explore the den building area and have a go at the Exciting Eels Family Trail? We've got lots of other special events too, find out more here.
We've been asked by some visitors recently about the lower water levels on Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale pools, as there is more mud exposed than you might normally expect in these areas. If you click on my blog from April here, then it explains all about this important management work we are doing to try and restore the reedbed to prime bittern breeding habitat. If you have any questions about this work, then please do contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking of bitterns, we have had several sightings over the past three weeks from Lilian's hide. Keep your eyes peeled for this elusive resident. We have also been seeing more wading birds coming onto Lilian's pool such as a ruff and flocks of lapwings and black-tailed godwits, all of which enjoy feeding in the exposed mud.
We are not dropping the water levels on the Causeway and Lower pool end of the reserve, so many of the ducks, coots, mute swans and moorhens can be spotted at that end of the reedbed. Many of our visitors have been enjoying the view from the new Causeway hide this week. The great white egret has been strutting about there, catching fish and delighting all who see this unusual visitor. Otters have also been seen there - look out for them along the reed edges or rolling around in the water with a tasty eel.
Grey heron takes a second look by Joe Chester
Our largest residents, the red deer have been spotted out and about at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Why not come along to one of our dusk walks in August to try and see them and other special summer wildlife? Details here.
Red deer and her calf by Richard Cousens
When you are in the hides around the reedbed, you will notice that the summer reed cutting work has begun. Huge thanks go to our Estate Worker Gareth, residential volunteer Marianna and former Warden (and still very active volunteer) David for this vital work. The purpose of this first cut is mainly to open up the view from the hides - mowing all vegetation between the hide and the water’s edge to improve the view of any creatures that may be skulking in this area, and opening up areas around the edges of the pools to encourage ducks and geese (and often otters) to loaf in view.
Gorgeous otter by Richard Cousens
Obviously, opening up the view for our brilliant visitors is important, but it isn’t the only reason we do it. Cutting the reed back encourages other plants to take advantage of the increased light levels. Flowers like marsh marigold, meadowsweet, yellow flag iris and ragged robin are just a few of the plants that love these areas. This not only gives the pools a lovely flash of colour, but it also provides our insects with a valuable source of nectar.
Reed cutting is not the only crucial work taking place at the moment. If you head down to the saltmarsh, you'll notice a difference on the Eric Morecambe pool. Our Warden Richard has been down there today with the excavator, creating new islands. This is a piece of work we have wanted to do for a while, but we had to wait for the right conditions. We waited until the wading birds such as avocets and oystercatchers had finished breeding and then the Eric Morecambe pool has been dried out to allow the excavator to get out there without sinking. The islands need to be created in a small time window over the next couple of days before some large Morecambe Bay tides come in at the start of next week and re-flood the pools. It is very exciting! These islands will provide nesting sites for the wading birds to breed on next season. The hides will be open throughout the work, so come and have a look at Richard in action. Whilst you are there, look out for wading birds on the Allen pool such as redshanks and little egrets. We have even started to get some of the first autumn migrants back through such as a green sandpiper and a kingfisher was there whilst Richard was working too.
Our Warden Richard digging the new islands. Images by Jarrod Sneyd
Redshanks and black-tailed godwits by Richard Cousens
Little egret by Martin Kuchczynski
We've had some stunning images coming through on our social media channels this week. Thank you so much to those who've shared them. If you get some photos of the reserve and wildlife that you would like to show us, then we can be found on Twitter (@Leighton_moss) and Facebook (RSPB North West England).
If you read my blog last week, you'll know that we are in the process of replacing Public hide. The old one was taken down last week by our wardens and volunteers and then on Monday, Gilleards arrived with the brand spanking new one!
The weather on Monday was not kind to them as you can see from this picture of Dan, one of the hide creators, when they got here.....
(Image by Craig Gelder)
However, being the troopers that they are, the Gilleards gang soon got the new foundations in, despite the weather
(Image by Robin Horner)
Then the sun arrived - the flooring went in....
Then the sides went up.....
All the sides up - looking good from the outside....
(Image by Richard Miller)
...and from the inside....
(Image by Annabel Rushton)
The porches and approach are the next step..
Plus we'll of course need a roof and windows, but the new hide is coming along very nicely and it's going to have a new name - Causeway hide
Elsewhere on the reserve, our new Skytower is providing our visitors with a stunning bird's-eye view of the site, surrounding area and of course, the wildlife. Yesterday an osprey flew right past, and an otter came out splashing around on Lilian's pool. The great white egret is on Lilian's pool most mornings, as are flocks of black-tailed godwits. The young marsh harriers are out and about a lot, with their parents dropping in with food. They enjoy sitting on the perches, bushes and the wooden screen that you can see from the top of the tower. Come and see all the action soon!
If you take a stroll down the Causeway at the moment, you will notice something very obvious is missing! Yesterday, our Assistant Warden Alasdair, and a group of trusty volunteers dismantled Public hide. It has served us well for 25 years, but it had become dilapidated and was in need of replacement. There is now a great gap where it once was, and we have erected some temporary mesh fencing, but you can still get down the Causeway and look through onto the pool at the wildlife.
The site of former Public hide by Alasdair Grubb
The replacement hide is due to arrive on Monday 13 July. New foundations will have to be put in before it can be erected, so bear with us whilst it is installed as it can take a couple of weeks.
Whilst the team were dismantling the old Public hide, an osprey was flying low overhead. It could be seen from both Lilian's and Lower hides. We often get them coming to fish here during the summer months, sometimes from the nearby Foulshaw Moss nest site, so keep your eyes peeled for these big, beautiful birds.
Our largest residents, the red deer are frequently popping out at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. They've got their babies (calves) at the moment, so look out for theses spotty little cuties, gambolling on the banks of the pools.
A pair of garganey have been sighted a couple of times - both on Public pool at the weekend, and Lilian's pool today. They are shy ducks, so can be quite elusive. The male is not currently sporting his finest plumage as he has moulted, but look out for these lovely birds nonetheless.
The marsh harriers are a-go-go around the reedbed, with some young ones learning to hunt, and others still relying on their parents. Look out for them from all the hides.
The lower water levels on Lilian's pool have been drawing in flocks of black-tailed godwits to feed in the mud. You can recognise them by their rusty red plumage and their long, thin beaks and legs - ideal for wading about in shallow water.
We had a great surprise on Sunday, when a rare visitor in the form of a white-winged black tern showed up. This very unusual migrant breeds on freshwater marshes from South East Europe to Central Asia and spends its winters in Africa, Southern Asia and Australia. It was briefly spotted again on Monday morning but has now moved on again. There have been a few reports of these impressive fliers elsewhere around the UK though, so keep an eye out, as they are on the move.
Huge thanks to Dave Melia for sharing these images of this fab bird in action.......
Phew, it's hot out there! It's like being abroad round here at the moment. Who needs the Costa del Sol when right here in Morecambe Bay we've got sun, sea, sedge warblers and slices of cake!
Summer is synonymous with marsh harriers here at Leighton Moss and they're at that point where the young are fledging the nest. We have three nests here, and the young marsh harriers have been spotted taking those first tentative flights around the reedbed. In the nest where we've had the webcam, the youngest of the three chicks has been left by his older siblings and our Assistant Warden Alasdair snapped the picture below of him trying to use the camera stand to get some lift off! Look out for the young marsh harriers perching unsteadily in the willow trees or trying to make a shaky landing in the reeds - they're so comical to watch at this age, they're like wobbly toddlers. Once fledged, the females stay with them for another few weeks, encouraging them to find food for themselves, before they make the journey south for winter, some making it as far as Africa!
"To infinity, and beyond" - young marsh harrier trying to get some extra height by Alasdair Grubb
The low water levels at Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides mean that more mud is exposed. Water rails are emerging regularly along the reed edges and large flocks of black-tailed godwits and a great white egret are enjoying feeding in the mud. If you drive or cycle in from Warton, you'll also notice lots of little egrets taking advantage of the lower water on Barrow Scout Fields.
At the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, there are still a couple of fluffy oystercatcher chicks out on the islands. A Mediterranean gull is still being seen down there along with lapwings and avocets.
There's lots of mammal activity at the moment too. A fox cub has been spotted round the woodland feeding station. Foxes will actually eat seeds if they come across them so it has been snacking on fallen sunflower hearts, as well as eying up a cheeky rat for its next meal. Our biggest residents, the red deer are best seen at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Why not come along to one of our evening Wildlife Watches in August to try and see them as well as other fantastic summer wildlife such as the bats that hunt insects in our woodland.
Otter sightings are still great from Public and Lower hides, and as you head down towards Lower hide from Public hide, keep an eye out for kingfishers on the main dyke. There's a lot of fish in the water around the Causeway bridge, making it a favoured spot for our most colourful residents to catch a meal.
Kingfisher by Richard Cousens
Whilst I'm talking about Public hide, you may have noticed recently that it has reached the end of its life. It has served us well for decades, but wooden buildings like this don't last forever and it is past its best. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, we're excited to be able to replace it! The old Public hide will be coming down in the week commencing 6 July, with a new one going up the following week. Expert hide makers Gilleards who built the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides have constructed it. I'll keep you updated as to how its getting on.
We've had a great weekend here at Leighton Moss. A lot of excitement was caused on Saturday when a female red-necked phalarope was spotted on the Eric Morecambe pool. Unfortunately it only stayed for about an hour before flying off over the marsh, but with fewer than 10 sightings of this little bird on the reserve ever, it was great to have it here even for a brief time.
If you have never seen (or even heard of) a red-necked phalarope then here's a picture (not taken here)
Red-necked phalarope by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Now it's quite interesting that the phalarope turned up here just before Father's Day. In the world of birds, we are used to the males being less involved when it comes to raising the chicks. However, in red-necked phalaropes, it is the opposite. The females are larger and more colourful than the males and are actually the ones that pursue and fight over their mate! They will defend their mate from other females until the clutch is complete and then it is the male who carries out incubation. The males are the ones to raise the chicks, while the females may attempt to find another mate. The female that was here at Leighton Moss on Saturday may well be the same bird that has been spotted at our Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve recently.
Elsewhere at Leighton Moss, we've been getting some great views from Lilian's hide. As the water levels are lower, the exposed mud has drawn in the wading birds and large flocks of black-tailed godwits are enjoying feeding there. This morning the great white egret was among them too!
Otter sightings have been brilliant from Public and Lower hides. All those who attended our Birdsong for Beginners walk on Sunday were treated to some fantastic views of them. If you missed it, why not book a place on the next one, details here.
The marsh harriers are very active all over the reedbed. With three nests, there are lots of hungry mouths to feed. The first young marsh harrier fledged on 18 June so no doubt others will follow suit over the coming weeks. They are like toddlers when they first fledge - wobbly on their feet and their wings. You will see them perching in an ungainly fashion in the trees around the reedbed and taking their first shaky flights. It doesn't take them long to learn though, as they have to be able to migrate south at the end of the summer. Keep up to date with one of our marsh harrier nests by viewing our live webcam here.
If you've been visiting Leighton Moss for a few years, you'll know that three years ago we received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lancashire Environmental Fund, Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Rural Development Programme for England and Higher Level Stewardship to improve some of our facilities. We replaced four of our wildlife watching hides, created our beautiful wildlife sensory garden and have built the Skytower. This elevated viewing platform will give our visitors a bird's-eye view of the reserve and is due to be opened by mid-July which is very exciting! More on that to come....
The sun has been cracking the flags here this week, but sadly, it has taken a turn today and it's a bit grey and drizzly. That doesn't mean that wildlife sightings have been dampened though!
Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, the great white egret is still around. You can distinguish it from the little egrets by its size as well as the fact it has a yellow rather than dark beak. It also has dark feet (as opposed to the little egrets which look like they're wearing marigolds!) We also still have avocets and oystercatchers on the saltmarsh with chicks - Springwatch eat your heart out!
Our marsh harriers continue to be very active around the reedbed as they have hungry mouths to feed. We are excited to have been able to get a camera on one of the nests, showing three very healthy chicks! Check them out on our webcam here.
Otter sightings have been brilliant from Lilian's hide, as well as Public and Lower hides. Look out for the bubbles underwater and their tails flicking up above the surface. Often all the ducks on the water will rush off in one direction if the otter is below the surface so keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs.
The warmer weather we've been having has brought out insects in abundance. We've spotted small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies up on our nearby Warton Crag nature reserve and the sunshine has also been bringing out beautiful broad-bodied chaser dragonflies like this one.
Broad-bodied chaser by Richard Cousens
The reserve is alive with the sound of our summer visitors - Cetti's warblers, reed warblers, chiffchaffs, sedge warblers, blackcaps and willow warblers are popping up all over the site and our Warden Richard regularly hears a grasshopper warbler singing down on the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides as he cycles to work each morning. The sound of swifts screaming over the reserve as they zoom around hunting insects is a very welcome one too! If you'd like to learn more about identifying birdsong, why not book a place on our Birdsong for Beginners walk this coming Sunday? Details here.
Cetti's warbler by Mike Malpass
Speaking of Sunday - it will be Father's Day this coming weekend (21 June). Why not bring your dad along to the reserve where he will be treated like a king for the day - gaining free entry to the reserve and a free tea and scone in our Café. You could also treat him to a new pair of binoculars or a telescope by trying them out at our Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend.
Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)
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