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......because bees come after them! Sorry folks, I couldn’t resist. With plants bursting into flower all over the reserve, many of the accompanying insects are starting to be seen here at Leighton Moss. I saw my first bumblebee of the year the other day, nestled in our sensory garden. If you take a wander down to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, look out for butterflies on your way. Many of our visitors have spotted orange tips on that walk recently. Which butterflies are you seeing where you are? Another sure sign that summer is on the way is the emergence of dragonflies. A few broad-bodied chasers have been seen on site, so keep your eyes peeled!
Bee on the lambs-ear plants by Miriam Hooson
Some slightly larger residents of Leighton Moss are also being spotted regularly. Our otter families are showing off at all times of day and in all weathers. Some lucky visitors were telling me this week about how they had travelled most parts of Scotland to see otters, and been unsuccessful, yet spent one afternoon at Leighton Moss and saw six!
No doubt many of you watched the first episode of the new series of BBC Springwatch last night. We absolutely love that programme and are very excited that it is being filmed at our big sister reserve - Minsmere in Suffolk. If it got you enthused about all things reedbed - we have a lot of the same wildlife here, a bit closer to home for you to come and spot in real life perhaps? The ultimate reedbed hunters - our marsh harriers have been seen all over the reserve today. With three nests and lots of hungry mouths to feed there have been plenty of sightings of the two males taking food to their females. At Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, our largest residents - the red deer have started to bring out their spotty babies to snooze in the grass. Down at the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides, we also have nesting avocets with their chicks too!
There have been some slightly more unusual species seen and heard down at our Lower hide. A cuckoo was heard singing down there in the morning, so listen up, you can’t mistake it for anything else, as it says its own name!
Visitors have been reporting lots of views of great spotted woodpeckers at the feeders in the garden, along with nuthatches, bullfinches and a couple of tree sparrows among our other garden favourites.
The sensory garden at the back of our visitor centre is great for exploring - the plants have been selected to be attractive to insects and we have filled it with lots of different nestboxes and bug bungalows. You can also have fun in our den building area and play pit. If you fancy making your garden, school grounds or window box more wildlife friendly why not click on the link here to get your very own Giving Nature a Home guide!
Den building by Amy Grace
There is plenty going on here over the next couple of weeks and we'd love to see you! Click here to see a full list of exciting events.
Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings blog.
Posted by Annabel Rushton
The UK may once again have failed to bring home the goods in last night's Eurovision Song Contest, but here at Leighton Moss, we're really excited that our retired Warden and still active volunteer David Mower has heard a cuckoo calling down by Lower hide! These beautiful birds are a real sign of summer, with a telltale call that says their own name. They were once commonly heard around the UK, but sadly their numbers are now in huge decline and they are being closely monitored to try and understand the reasons why. Find out more here.
Also down at Lower hide, a tawny owl is spending a lot of time snoozing in a tree as you approach the hide. It can be difficult to spot due to its fabulous camouflage, but keep your eyes peeled. It is these owls that make the classic 'twit-toowoo' sound, although when you hear that, you are actually listening to two tawny owls - the females say 'twit' and the males say 'toowoo'.
At both Public and Lower hides, the otters are still regularly coming out and about. A bar-headed goose has also been seen there. These attractive birds are not native to the UK and this one is likely to be an escapee from a collection.
Bar-headed goose by Howard Stockdale
The reedbed is alive with our summer visitors - willow warblers, chiffchaffs, reed warblers and sedge warblers are all blasting out their songs. Listen out for the explosive voice of the Cetti's warbler close to the pond dipping area too, as well as a grasshopper warbler on the way to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. Huge thanks to all those who joined us for our Birdsong for Beginners walk this morning! If you missed it, then there is still space on our next one - details here.
It's the time of year when young animals are everywhere! The first of the years red deer calves have started to be born - look out for them snoozing down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. Our friendly robins (who have reached celebrity status with our regular visitors) have also been spotted feeding their chicks along the paths. As you can see from the cute picture below, young robins don't have the classic orange breast of their parents - they develop these after their first moult at around seven weeks old.
Robin feeding young by Richard Cousens
With the lower water levels on the southern end of the reedbed, wading birds are often amassing at Lilian's hide to take advantage of the exposed mud. Huge flocks of black-tailed godwits in particular can be seen feeding, but have a good scan round, as you never know what else may be among them.
With half-term this week, why not bring your children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews along to our Family Ramble in the Reeds on Thursday? This interactive walk is guaranteed to get the whole family discovering and exploring new things - click here for info. If you can't make Thursday, there's always our self-led Marvellous Minibeasts Trail running every day in May too!
When the new series of BBC Springwatch starts we know spring is definitely in full swing. This year the program is once again coming from our big sister reserve - the fabulous Minsmere in Suffolk. The series will be packed full of exciting wildlife action, so tune in at 8 pm on Monday 25 May for the first installment. Our very own Assistant Warden Alasdair Grubb has gone down to assist the camera crew, so look out for his name in the credits, and who knows, maybe even a glimpse of him on our screens! The program will celebrate all that spring has to offer, but if you fancy getting a bit closer to the action then why not come and see it in real life here at Leighton Moss!
One of our most anticipated days of the year arrived last week. After days of waiting and worrying, mallard ducklings have finally arrived! Anyone who has been to Leighton Moss will know that we are often joined by friendly mallards at the front of the visitor centre, but if you’re wondering around site at the moment you’ll be sure to spot lines of ducklings following mum along the paths.
All manner of young wildlife is out and about at the moment. A lucky visitor spotted a red deer calf sunning itself in the reeds on Friday, look out for them from Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides.
Can you see me? Red deer calf by Brian Salisbury
A red kite has been seen flying over the reserve so keep your eyes peeled. They seem to be making more and more regular appearances, not surprising considering the success of the conservation work that has gone into saving this species.
When you think of large conservation projects you may think of the panda or the Sumatran tiger, but it is a little known fact that the red kite has actually been subject to the longest continuous conservation project in the world. The first Kite Committee was formed in 1903 by concerned individuals appalled at the continuing destruction of kites, who initiated the first nest protection schemes. The RSPB is thought to have been involved continuously since 1905. In the 1980s the red kite was one of only three globally threatened species in the UK, and so it was a high priority for conservation efforts. 93 birds of Swedish and Spanish origin were released at various sites across the country, which continued for many years. Local to here are the red kites at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District and Harewood House near Leeds.
The first successful breeding of red kites was recorded in 1992, and two years later kites raised in the wild reared young themselves for the first time. Successful breeding populations have now become established across the UK. The birds have now made one of the most successful recoveries of any species, so we're chuffed to have them passing over Leighton Moss!
Another once incredibly rare raptor that has made a come back and is also being seen in the Morecambe Bay area is the osprey. They are nesting nearby at a Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve called Foulshaw Moss. Click here to see a live nest webcam and read their blog. As Leighton Moss is so close to the nest point we hope to see the male fishing on the reserve more and more as he will soon have plenty of mouths to feed!
Our very own resident marsh harriers are being very active around the site. We have three females sitting on nests and two males providing for them. The males are being very active and you can see them from all the hides round the reedbed.
With the breeding season in full swing, males and females throughout all of nature are getting very friendly, but it means that the males are being particularly aggravated by one another. A regular visitor to the reserve witnessed an epic mute swan battle recently, lasting over 30 minutes! A greylag goose got involved and then called for back up and things got very heated! Have a look at the fabulous photos that captured the events as they unfolded......
Epic swan battle by Richard Cousens
Our resident otter family are still putting in lots of appearances at Public and Lower hides. Our retired Warden David Mower recently captured this beautiful picture
Down at our saltmarsh there is plenty of activity - the avocets can be seen with their chicks from both Allen and Eric Morcambe hides. There are also quite a few black-headed gulls down there with two Mediterranean gulls mixed in with them, so keep a look out! A great white egret was also seen flying over the other day, and there are lots of little egrets dotted around so make sure you look closely.
Mediterranean gulls by Brian Salisbury
You can hear some of the most iconic sounds of spring around on the reserve at the moment, from chiffchaffs to Cetti’s warblers. One of the slightly more unusual spring singers around is a grasshopper warbler (not surprisingly, it sounds just like a grasshopper). They have been heard from the path to Lower hide and down on the path to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
With so much to offer on the reserve at the moment and half term just round the corner, why don’t you grab a waterproof (just in case!) and come and see us!
It's been fine weather for ducks today at Leighton Moss! The rain was belting down this morning but thankfully that didn't put the wildlife off coming out and about, and they were rewarded with the sun emerging this afternoon.
If you have been down to Lilian's, Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides recently you will have noticed that it looks like someone has pulled the plug out. You can read all about why this is occurring in my blog here. The lower water levels have exposed more mud, which has really drawn in the wading birds. Ruff, black-tailed godwits, knot, a wood sandpiper and even a whimbrel have all been spotted feeding in the mud over the past few days from Lilian's hide.
Black-tailed godwits by David Mower
Down at the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools, the wader fest continues with two spotted redshanks, a greenshank and lots of avocets. The avocets are nesting (32 nests in total), so we should start to see their little fluffy chicks hatching out any day now. Two Mediterranean gulls are also down there too.
As you walk round, the sound of warblers fills the air - grasshopper warblers have been heard close to both Eric Morecambe and Lower hides, as well as lesser whitethroats. There are several Cetti's warblers singing around the reedbed. If you'd like to learn more about the impressive sounds of our birds, why not book a spot on one of our upcoming Birdsong for Beginners events, details here.
Cheeky Cetti's warbler by Martin Kuchczynski
The female marsh harriers are hunkered down on their nests at the moment (three nests in total so far) so they are not visible, but the two male marsh harriers are very active around the reedbed. Whilst the females are nesting, the males are the bread-winners so they have to ensure they are bringing in enough food for their expectant females.
A male garganey has been seen infrequently seen at Lilian's hide. They are a shy duck, so can be out and about one moment and then disappear into the reeds the next - keep an eye out for his distinctive white eye stripe.
We've not had any sign of the rare pied-billed grebe since Monday, but the spotted crake continues to be heard along the path to Lower hide, so keep an ear and an eye out for that. Pop into Public hide too, for views of arguably one of our most elegant residents - the great crested grebe.
Look at that ruby eye! Great crested grebe by Martin Kuchczynski
It's not just birds that love Leighton Moss. Our reliable otters are still being seen most days down at Public and Lower hides, and up to five red deer stags have been seen from Grisedale hide. Along the paths, the wildflowers are really coming out now too, adding lovely splashes of colour to the reserve. Come and see it all soon!
As I was cycling to Leighton Moss the other day, I noticed lots of excited looking visitors walking along the road to get to the causeway, something must have happened! I stopped and asked what had been seen and was informed that a pied billed grebe had been found the previous evening by our very own Kevin, and that it wasn’t just rare, it was ultra rare! Needless to say, hundreds of dedicated birdwatchers flocked to the reserve to spot this small and chunky member of the grebe family. Looking back over the records, this is the first record of this American grebe at Leighton Moss, and it has only been seen once before in Lancashire.
A pied billed grebe was seen in Gloucestershire, before this birds arrival so it is believed that that it is the same individual we now have at Leighton Moss at Lower hide. The bird is normally found in ponds throughout the Americas, and heads north to Canada to breed (hence why it may be heading north here, despite the fact it’s on the wrong continent!).
After a related bird, the Atitlan grebe became extinct it is now the only remaining member of its genus, making it a rather special little bird indeed! We hope that it stays, we’ll be sure to keep you informed.Pied-billed grebe by Kevin Kelly
We are just completely spoilt at the moment, as if that mega rarity wasn’t enough; a spotted crake has also been heard from the bridge on the way down to Lower hide. They are especially secretive during the breeding season, and are only usually heard and not seen. Their song however is very distinct. They make a series of ‘whiplash’ sounds, normally very early morning and early evening, and will continue through the night. So make sure you have your eyes and ears open! I was near RSPB Insh Marshes in Scotland last summer and saw a spotted crake being startled by a snipe. It has a rather comical reaction as it jumped up and down and fluttered towards cover with its legs dangling, which is a classic reaction for this species.
Joining the two unique arrivals above, we also have a male garganey out at Lilian’s pool at the moment, they are a scarce and very secretive breeding duck in the UK, and so we’re glad to have one on the reserve at the moment. They are smaller than mallards, but bigger than teals and the males are easily recognised as they have a broad white stripe over the eye. If you see one in flight, look out for a pale, almost bluish forewing.
A normally secretive, night time hunter has been spotted during the day, dosing in a tree. As you head on the path to Lower hide, look out for a tawny owl perched amongst the branches. I stood and watched it for an hour or so on Monday, I had a feeling that it was only pretending to sleep though, as every now and again it opened one eye!
As you head out of the centre and towards the path to get to the Causeway, look out and listen for chiffchaffs and willow warblers. We have quite a few out and about on the reserve at the moment so keep your eyes peeled. Some people struggle telling these two species apart, as I did until one of our wardens here at Leighton Moss gave me a few handy hints. They do look very similar, especially if you only get a brief glance. Some good points to remember are the colour of their legs. Chiffchaffs have dark brown legs and willow warblers have pinkish red legs (but this does vary and isn’t a key feature on it’s own). Willow warblers are also more thinly built and look a bit more delicate than chiffchaffs, with a cleaner looking appearance below. The other key feature are their wings. The wings of willow warblers are longer as they migrate further, chiffchaffs in comparison have smaller, stubbier primary feathers as their migration isn’t as far. If this all sounds a bit daunting then you’ll be happy to know that there is a far easier way to tell the two species apart...their songs! Chiffchaffs helpfully sing their own name “chiff chaff chiff chaff” (though if you do wait long enough they do sometimes get muddled and get it the wrong way round). Willow warblers on the other hand have a lovely fluty descending tremolo.
If you would like to learn a bit more about bird calls then why not join Andy Chapman on one of our upcoming Birdsong for Beginners events. Click here for more information.
As well as the rarities on the reserve the otters, marsh harriers and avocets have all been wonderful, check the recent sightings book and board when you arrive for more information, and the staff on the front desk will be happy to tell you what’s out and about!
If you have had great visit to Leighton Moss then why not pop a review on Tripadvisor? Click here.
Thanks to intern Anya for this recent sightings
Posted by kevin
The first sounds of a grasshopper warbler were heard by our Warden Richard at the end of last week. It was on the path to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides in the bushes. Listen out for its distinctive call (not surprisingly, it sounds like a grasshopper). Its high reeling song is the best clue of its presence, as they are often pretty difficult to see. They creep through foliage, almost like a mouse. Sadly dramatic population declines have made the grasshopper warbler a red listed bird, but we always have a few on the reserve each spring.
Grasshopper warblers are not the only warbler on site, we have also been joined by willow warblers, which have been seen and heard at the bottom of the Causeway. They are small birds, with a yellow tinge to the chest and throat and a pale stripe above the eye (also known as a supercillium). They look very similar to the chiffchaff, but can be separated by their song. The sound of the willow warbler is a series of descending notes whereas the chiffchaff quite helpfully says its own name. If you'd like to learn more about birdsong, why not book onto one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks - details here.
Willow warbler by Brian Salisbury
Chiffchaff by Martin Kuchczynski
If you’re down on the Causeway looking for the willow warblers then it is definately worth popping into Public hide. I went down there on Thursday evening and the great crested grebes were displaying near the hide- always a fantastic sight! Just as I was getting ready to leave a swarm of swallows, house martins and sand martins flew over the top of the hide, and started catching insects right in front of it. They are wonderfully agile birds and seeing them flying so close was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry! The otters were also around, where the channel narrows between Public and Lower hides.
Our marsh harriers are as active as ever, with pretty much guaranteed views if you’re out and about on the reserve. We have four females and two males here and I had a lovely view from Grisedale hide on Friday of one of the males (can be identified by the pale under wings) hunting over the reedbed. Black-tailed godwits are on both Grisedale and Tim Jackson pools at the moment, but keep your eyes peeled, I spotted some ruff mixed in with them the other day.
Male marsh harrier by Brian Salisbury
A few blackcaps have been seen on site too. If you head out of the centre and turn left, just by our insect home 'Bugingham Palace' both a male and female blackcap have been seen. The male does exactly what he says on the tin, whilst the female Blackcaps have a lovely, almost fluty song which has earned them the nick name of 'northern nightingale.' They are mostly summer visitors but the birds from Germany and North East Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.
Male and female blackcap by Martin Kuchczynski
We feel quite spoilt at the moment, as if all this wasn’t enough, we have the avocets as well! Numbers have quite drastically increased at the moment, with around 80 down on the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. The first couple of nests have been spotted, so we hope for new additions very soon!
History was made the other day when the first bearded tit was spotted on our satellite site Barrow Scout Fields. We all have our fingers and toes crossed that this year will be the first year they nest there.
Lucky visitors spotted a common crane flying over the saltmarsh at the weekend. They are a huge yet graceful bird that you definitely can’t miss. Small numbers pass through Britain in spring and autumn, and there is a population in Eastern England around our Lakenheath Fen nature reserve and a re-introduced population in Somerset. They are by no means commonly seen over the reserve here though. It's a shame it didn't want to stop off.
We also had the very exciting news that ospreys have been spotted flying over the reserve early last week, and for the 14th year running have started collecting nesting material and assembling a nest near Bassenthwaite Lake. If you would like to visit the osprey view point click here for more information. Our pals at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust have also informed us that ospreys are back at their nearby Foulshaw Moss nature reserve. In previous year the ospreys have come to fish at Leighton Moss quite regularly, so we hope to see them again this year.
Huge thanks to Intern Anya for this recent sightings update.
If you've visited Leighton Moss over the past few months, you'll have noticed a new structure by the side of Lilian's hide. This is our new, elevated viewing platform known as the Skytower. We are really excited about this project as it will allow visitors to see Leighton Moss from a bird's eye view as well as out across the surrounding Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and over to the stunning backdrop of Morecambe Bay. It is not a hide, as it doesn't have a roof, but it is around 9 metres tall, canopy level and will give a heightened experience to those visiting the reserve. Spotting marsh harriers hunting over the reedbed and elusive bitterns moving around will be given a whole new angle.We've had a few enquiries recently about when our Skytower will be opening. It needs another coat of paint, so it's not quite ready yet, but I will post on here once it is.
The signs of spring are all around us here at Leighton Moss. The whole site is alive with birdsong! In the past few days we've heard the first reed warblers and sedge warblers back for the breeding season, so their raspy sounds have been added to the symphony in the reedbed. Cetti's warblers are regularly heard along the Causeway and the two-tone call of chiffchaffs can be heard around the reserve too.
Our resident woodland birds are also tuning up, with wrens blasting out their noisy song (they are remarkably loud for such a tiny bird!) A whole host of tits and finches can be heard and of course the melodic notes of blackbirds, robins and dunnocks.
A bittern has been heard making a few half-hearted grunts on the Causeway, but he hasn't yet tuned up to what you would call a full boom. During the breeding season, male bitterns make an incredible booming sound to attract a mate and warn off other males. It is an unusual noise that sounds like the note you produce when you blow over the top of an empty glass bottle. If you'd like to learn more about birdsong, why not book a place on one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks or upcoming International Dawn Chorus Day?
As well as the stunning sounds throughout the reserve, there are of course spectacular sights too. There are four female and two male marsh harriers around the reedbed and they can be seen displaying and carrying nesting material. Huge thanks go to our dedicated monitoring volunteers who are out every day recording the harrier's movements, working out who has paired with who and where they are nesting.
Male marsh harrier with nesting material by Carl Lane
On Saturday, whilst watching the marsh harriers, one lucky visitor spotted this red kite from Grisedale hide too! The yellow wing tags let us know it was tagged in Yorkshire in 2005! You can identify a red kite in flight by that distinctive fork in their tail which gives them their name.
Red kite by Carl Lane
Red kite by Carl Lane. The yellow wing tags can be seen clearly on this one.
Yesterday we were super duper excited when reports came back to the visitor centre that a male redstart was on the reserve. He was on the fenceposts between the reedbed and the field, best viewed from the pond dipping area. He was a bit of a distance away, but several people managed to see him as he hopped on and off the fence searching for insects. These colourful little birds are migrants from Africa and there have been several of them arriving on sites around Morecambe Bay over the last few days.
Male redstart by Derek Huskisson
Otter sightings continue to be really good from Public and Lower hides. Up to six have been spotted at once. Look out for them rolling around in the water catching eels.
Down at the saltmarsh, the avocets are getting their breeding activity underway. They have been spotted scraping (where they use their legs to scrape out a hollow on the islands to lay their eggs in). There are around 80 adults, so fingers crossed for a fantastic breeding season. Head to Allen and Eric Morecambe hides to see these stunning birds in action.
The weather has been mixed over the first week of the Easter holidays, but come rain or come shine, we've had lots of visitors who have been treated to some great views all over the reserve.
Our bigger residents, like our otter family (who have been regularly spotted at Public hide) and our acrobatic marsh harriers (there are four on the reserve at the moment) tend to steal the limelight a bit, so in this blog I am going to celebrate some of the smaller, yet still fantastic wildlife that has been spotted recently.
Some of our summer migrants have begun to arrive. Small flocks of sand martins have been seen recently. They are the smallest European member of the martin and swallow family. They are very agile fliers, and great fun to watch. They mainly feed on insects over water, which means you can get some lovely views of them over the pools here. Look out for them perching on overhead wires where you are too. These birds, like many of our favourites seen through the summer months, have come across from Africa for the breeding season. This is why the RSPB's work, as part of Birdlife International, is so essential. With our partners, we're working towards providing safe passage for migrants from their distant wintering grounds across to this UK to breed. Find out more here.
Hearing a chiffchaff call is a sure sign that spring is here. They are a rather tiny, olive colored bird, that, like the sand martin, come over from Africa to breed here. A few are on the reserve at the moment, mostly being seen and heard from the Causeway. They are very active birds, flitting through trees and shrubs. Chiffchaffs feed on insects, often picking them from leaves - in fact part of their scientific name Phylloscopus means 'leaf inspector'. Chiffchaffs are one of those helpful birds that say their own name as their call 'chiffchaff chiffchaff chiffchaff.' Some birds however, don't do exactly what they say on the tin, and learning their calls can be a challenge. If you would like some help and advise with bird sounds, why not book onto one of our Birdsong for Beginners walks, or if you fancy an early start, our upcoming, annual Dawn Chorus event.
Chiffchaff by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Goldcrests are perhaps an often overlooked resident but they are around a lot on the Causeway just past Public hide as well as the path to Lower hide. Along with the firecrest, the goldcrest is the UK’s smallest bird. Their tiny, thin beaks are perfectly suited to picking insects out from in leaves and pine needles.
What you looking at?! Goldcrest by Brian Salisbury
The first time I saw a kingfisher, was when I was down at the saltmarsh hides. It flitted across the water and landed on a post right in front of the hide. It then went on to grapple with a fish that seemed to be almost the same size as itself! I am sure many of you that have seen kingfishers, were, like me surprised at how small they were! If you haven’t seen a kingfisher yet, then you should definitely come down to Leighton Moss! They are often being seen by the sluice on the Causeway, as well as down on the saltmarsh from Allen and Eric Morecambe hides. They are sometimes difficult to spot because they fly so rapidly but their unmistakable blue and orange colour often means we just catch a glimpse of this jewel as they fly by.
We have had quite a few sightings of a weasel on the reserve at the moment. They have mostly been seen down on the Causeway, so keep your eyes peeled! Weasels are the smallest carnivore in the UK, and are great fun to watch. They travel across the ground in a series of short jumps, and can move pretty rapidly. They are excellent climbers too, and will traverse pretty much anything in the search of food. Look out for them standing upright, checking their surroundings for danger. They are particularly fond of catching rabbits.
Huge thanks to intern Anya for this sightings update.
After a cloudy start to the day (sadly covering most of the eclipse, although we did get a quick glimpse through a break in the clouds), spring is defiantly in the air at Leighton Moss. Avocets have reached around 50 in number and they are mating on the saltmarsh (ooh er!) - head down to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides for views of the action like the image below. There is a spotted redshank and a greenshank down there as well, who are regularly joined my flocks of dunlin, lapwing and oystercatchers.
X-rated behavior from our avocet by Wendy Noblet
The great-crested grebes have been seen displaying on the pools. Seeing great-crested grebes like this is one of the most amazing natural wonders you can see at this time of year. They are delightfully elegant water birds that have beautiful ornate head plumes which led to them being hunted to near extinction in the UK. Grebes dive to feed and also to escape predators, preferring this to flying. Almost like penguins, they are clumsy on land because their feet are placed so far back on their bodies. They have an elaborate courtship display that is being seen at Leighton Moss at the moment. They rise out of the water and shake the beaks. Look out for them doing the famous 'weed dance' where the pair dive under the water and emerge with water weeds in their beaks. They then rise out of the pools together presenting the weeds. Lilian's and Public pools in particular are a good place to look.Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to have some grebe chicks showing themselves over the next few months, if so look out for them riding on their parent’s backs.
We are hoping for another great breeding season for our marsh harriers this year. Whatever the weather, there is a good chance of seeing them out and about around the reedbed. There has been some great views from Lillian’s hide, and we even saw the first skydancing today - where they display to one another by rising and then plummeting through the air with twists and turns. It is incredible!
There have been some great views of reed bunting on the causeway so keep your eyes peeled. Since 1970 there has been a dramatic decrease of around 67% in the UK’s breeding population of reed buntings, a decline which is also mirrored in other farmland species. We are lucky to have such a good population at Leighton Moss, and there is good chance of seeing them on the reserve.
The otters have been wonderful as always, with a pair of cubs are often being seen from Public and Lower hide.
A certain sign of spring is a single sand martin spotted today flying round the reedbed. A chiffchaff has also been singing out its name at the top of the Causeway.
Whilst we are always thrilled to say hello to these spring arrivals, it also means saying farewell to those birds that visit us for the winter. At the moment our wardens are out every evening listening out for the bittern booming. He hasn't been heard yet, but their efforts have been rewarded with views of 'gull calling' on three consecutive nights. Gull calling is fascinating behavior from bitterns that happens at this time of year. In spring, those bitterns that have come over here from Europe for the winter, start to head back to their own breeding grounds. When the conditions in the weather make it right for their migration, they will fly up and circle round the reedbed making a sound very like that of a gull (hence the name gull-calling). This is to round up others as if to say 'come on gang, it's time to go'). This is also behavior that females will exhibit when they are displaying to potential males. Six bitterns have been seen in total over the past three nights, with some heading off and others dropping back into the reedbed. It is an ideal time to come down of an evening to try and see them from the Causeway. It is a really good indicator of just how many of these elusive birds have been hiding out, undetected in the reedbed.
There is more than just fantastic wildlife at Leighton Moss; the reserve also has a packed events calendar. For more information click here.
Thanks to Intern Anya for contributing to this sightings update.
Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)
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