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Recent sightings

  • 27 August 2014

    The last of summer sightings

    The summer holidays are drawing to a close so it's been great to see lots of families on the reserve this week, making the most of being outdoors before it's back to school time. The end of the summer holidays means that it won't be long until autumn! With the changing of the seasons, it means we have to start saying farewell to some of our best loved summer wildlife. The swifts have already set off back to Africa and we are seeing flocks of swallows gathering on wires, preparing to make their journey. You may see them all swooping around together feeding on insects - they need to fatten up for their long flight. It's sad to see them go and I always wish them a safe journey as there are many perils and obstacles for them to overcome as they head south for winter. We've also said goodbye to most of our marsh harriers, with only one young one being infrequently seen now. You never know though, we may get some coming through as they leave reedbeds further north. For the past few winters we have even had some decide to stay at Leighton Moss. 

    As we wave some birds off, others begin to arrive. The first wigeons and even a pintail have been spotted on the reserve. These ducks have spent the spring and summer breeding further north in places like Scandinavia and they come south to Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay for the colder months. 

    Sightings of a whole host of wading birds have been fantastic recently.  Down on the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools you can spot flocks of black-tailed godwits, dunlins, redshanks, 15 greenshanks, four ruffs and a couple of knot. 

      Black-tailed godwit by Kevin Kelly

    A kingfisher has been putting in some stunning appearances down at the saltmarsh - flying round and perching on posts round the edge of the pools. There are still two great white egrets too (with a third one less regularly seen). They have been spotted not only at the saltmarsh but also at Lilian's and Public pools. 

    A hobby has been hunting over Public and Lower pools recently too. It's not surprising really when you see all of the dragonflies around. Migrant hawkers and brown hawkers are flitting about like small helicopters around the reedbed. 

    Down at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, the red deer are still making regular appearances, with one hind (female red deer) bringing out her calf (young red deer), which only looked to be about three weeks old. This is unusual as we would expect most of the young to be born around June time so they would be older by now. Deer aren't the only special mammals to be seen with sightings of otters from Public hide and a stoat on the Causeway over the past few days too. 

    A spotted flycatcher has been seen by one of our wardens along the path to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides, and a lucky visitor also spotted one on the path to Lower hide. 

    If you are visiting on Thursday or Friday this week, just to let you know that the wardens are doing some reed cutting work. It is a vital part of looking after the reedbed to keep it ship-shape for all of the wildlife. It is very interesting to watch so if you'd like to see our wardens in action, they will be cutting at Public and Lower pools on Thursday and finishing off at Lower pool on Friday. When they are carrying out this work, it can cause the wildlife to move to other parts of the reserve for a while, but they quickly return once the wardens have finished. 

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 24 August 2014

    Welcome back waders

    If you head down to the saltmarsh hides this week you’re in for a treat. It’s that time of year when wading birds are flocking back to our pools – and what a sight they are!

    Looking out over Allen pool you’ll see a wonderful selection of waders. Black-tailed godwits, redshank and dunlin are just some of the fantastic species that have made their way back to Leighton Moss.

    Watch out for curlew sandpipers from Eric Morecambe hide. Over the next few weeks there should be plenty of these small birds coming down to feed in the shallows. There are a lot of dunlin around at the moment which have a very similar appearance – however, curlew sandpiper have a white eyestripe and a longer bill with a more pronounced down-curve. This allows them to feed in slightly deeper water.

    Curlew sandpiper by Mike Langman (

    If you spot them in flight, look out for their bright white rumps!

    From the saltmarsh car park you can see flocks of long-tailed tits as well as a noisy charm of goldfinches. Goldfinches tend to stick together in large groups and can be heard chirruping away with their dainty call from the tops of trees before shooting away with their beautiful swooping flight pattern.

    Goldfinch by Richard Brooks (

    Perhaps the most distinctive of all the finches, these birds have vivid red, white and black facial markings and golden feathers which line their wings.

    If you’re thinking of making the most of the Bank Holiday weekend, come on down to Leighton Moss on Monday 25 August! From 10 am we’ll be hosting a glorious Garden Party to celebrate our 50th anniversary.

    Get stuck in and make nestboxes and insect feeders to nature a home in your own back garden! There will also be the chance to find out about your favourite creatures and take part in some excellent arts and crafts. Donations welcome, no need to book!

    All visitors please be aware that the road to the saltmarsh hides over the level crossing (on the way to Warton) will be closed from 11.45 pm on Saturday 30th August until 10.30 am on Sunday 31 August.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 18 August 2014

    Fantastic flycatchers!

    We’ve been making the most of the summer holidays and getting down to the hides for a spot of wildlife watching!

    Water rails have been seen regularly from Tim Jackson hide. There have been plenty of juveniles around feeding at the waters edge and giving us something to chuckle about as they strut their stuff.

    (Water rail by James Ellis)

    Many people don’t believe it when we tell them our otters can be seen during the daytime. Although normally seen more at dawn or dusk, the otters at Leighton Moss can’t get enough of the sunshine. This weekend an otter was seen at midday from Public hide. It’s always worth keeping an eye out if you’re heading down there on your lunch break.

    Over the weekend a female pied flycatcher was seen on the path to Lower hide. Females are browner in colour than their male counterparts, and lack the white spot above the beak. Commonly confused with their close relatives the spotted flycatcher, the pied flycatcher is smaller with a shorter beak and tail.

    (Male pied flycatcher by John Bridges

    Flycatchers live up to their name and also feed on a variety of other insects including bees, ants, woodlice, caterpillars and millipedes. Look out for them in woodland – our willow scrub habitat towards Lower hide provides the perfect shelter for these secretive birds.

    Other sightings at Leighton Moss include six greenshanks at Lilian’s and Public hides, as well as a ruff and dunlin from Lilian’s hide. A great white egret has made its way down to Eric Morecambe hide – there are still three of these stunning birds around so keep your eyes peeled.

    Important information: from Tuesday 19-Friday 22 August we are doing some home improvements on the reserve. Contractors will be on the causeway installing a new sluice to allow us better control of the water on-site. The causeway, Public and Lower hides will still be accessible to visitors, although in the interests of health and safety, the contractors may stop access for short periods when needed. Please be aware that there will be large machinery at work and please do as instructed by the contractors. Thank you for your co-operation.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 15 August 2014

    What to watch out for this weekend

    Despite severe weather warnings this week, we've actually had a surprising amount of sun here. Sure, there has been some heavy heavy downpours, but everyday, for some of the day at least, we have seen some rays. At this time of year, with sunshine comes nature's mini helicopters. Check out this gorgeous photo of a migrant hawker dragonfly taken this week. I just love how one set of wings is going up and the other down. These stunning insects are motoring around the reedbed at the moment.

      Migrant hawker by Richard Cousens

    With all these dragonflies around, it's not surprising that we've had sightings of a hobby at Public hide. These gorgeous little falcons resemble a small peregrine wearing red shorts. They will catch dragonflies in the air and eat them whilst still flying!

    Osprey sightings are regular at the Public and Lower hide end of the reserve and marsh harriers can be spotted all around the reedbed at the moment. It won't be long before they start heading south so come and enjoy them whilst they're still here.

    Otter spotters have been having a great week, with lots of sightings of this furry favourite. A pair of otters were seen chasing a tufted duck, right in front of Lilian's hide on Wednesday morning, and there have been several reports of a mother with two younger cubs at Grisedale hide.  This indicates that we could possibly have two families (likely with the same male) on site which is super exciting!

    With the reedbed management work that is going on at the moment, there is a lot of mud exposed round the pool edges and some of the meres themselves are shallower. This has meant that around the reedbed we are seeing more of the wading birds that you would normally expect to see at the saltmarsh. A spotted redshank and a ruff have been out and about at Lilian's hide and flocks of black tailed godwits are regularly seen at Grisedale hide. The mud is also bringing out some of our shyest residents-water rails from hiding, giving you a chance to marvel at the colours on these lovely little birds.

      Water rail by Richard Cousens 

    Two great white egrets are still very much present, again enjoy wading into the shallower pools. They are being seen around the reedbed, but most often at Public and Lower hides.

    As you head through the woods down to Lower hide, make sure you also keep an eye out for red deer.  Our largest residents are showing up there frequently, often in groups. 

    This weekend we have an art exhibition by Carnforth and District Art Society so pop in for a look at some great pieces, some of which have been inspired by the reserve.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 12 August 2014

    Bumble through the flower beds

    After the recent downpours, you might think our wildlife had gone into hiding! But take another look...

    Bees have been all over the garden, waiting out the bad weather.

    Bumblebees make good use of our mint, but also have a particular preference for blue and purple flowers such as lavender and willowherb.

    (Bumblebee by Mike Malpass)

    There are 24 types of bumblebee in the UK, with eight being common in our gardens. These include the white-tailed, buff-tailed and red-tailed bees. Known for their furry, chunkier bodies, they play a vital role in helping plant-life to flourish.

    At Leighton Moss you’ll notice many bees with a fluffy head, the colour of highland cattle. These are called common carders, just one species of bumblebee.

    (The garden in full bloom by Jennifer Lane)

    If you fancy venturing out further than the garden, we’ve had some other interesting sights across the reserve:

    An osprey has been seen regularly across Public pool. The birds nest regularly at nearby Foulshaw Moss where they fledged three chicks on 24 July. They have been using our meres to pick up a spot of supper.

    A hobby has also made an appearance. Hobbies are around the size of a kestrel and feed on small birds and large insects. When they catch their prey they transfer it from their talons to their beaks mid-flight. Now that’s a talent...

    The rain hasn’t scared away our great white egrets, which can still be seen from Lilians hide as well as Public and Lower hides.

    Let's just hope the sunshine stays this time!

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 5 August 2014

    Glossy ibis glides in!

    We might have had a spot of rain lately, but those birds don’t seem to mind one bit!

    The three great white egrets are still here, dividing their time between all the pools. One can be seen very well from Lilian’s hide, catching lunch and preening in full view of visitors.

    On Monday 4 August a glossy ibis was spied from Lilian’s hide. One of our volunteers spotted it later sharing the little egret roost at Public pool.

    Glossy ibis by Ken Harrison

    The glossy ibis is always a dazzling bird to see. A stray from southern Europe, this stunner has an iridescent plumage. When those feathers catch the light, the glossy ibis can appear black, purple, red and even green!

    The glossy ibis is closely related to the spoonbill (a member of the ibis family) and has a down-curved bill, perfect for picking out insects from shallow silt and mud.

    The waders are definitely on their way in – on Tuesday 5 August, close to 400 black-tailed godwits arrived at Lilian’s pool. They stayed for a while, safe in their flock, before moving over to Public pool.

    Black-tailed godwit by Chris Gomersall (

    Greenshank can still be seen at the island at Public pool, and a good-sized gathering of knot, dunlin and ruff have taken up residence at the saltmarsh hides.

    Our Wildlife Walks at Dusk are going down a treat, with young deer frequently seen at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. These spotty calves teeter along the banks on spindly legs while hinds munch on the short grass between the reeds. Every Monday night in August you have the chance to watch these spectacular animals in action.

    For more information on these walks visit our website.


    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 1 August 2014

    Great whites are alright

    As Leighton Moss is celebrating 50 golden years of giving nature a home this year, once a week we have been looking back on different elements of the site and what makes it so special.

    For the past few weeks the reserve has been home to not one, not two, but three great white egrets!

    If you are not au fait with them, great white egrets are a large, stately member of the heron family. They are roughly the same size as the more familiar grey heron and have a similar stature with a long slender neck, long legs and long spear-like beak. However, whereas the grey heron is mainly grey with white and black markings, great white egrets are pure white. Apart from size, great white egrets can be distinguished from other egrets (such as the little egrets that we get a lot of here) by their legs which are dark at the bottom and yellow at the top, and their yellow bill (though the bill can become darker in the breeding season).

      Great white egret by Mike Malpass

    When great white egrets are in their breeding plumage, their lower neck and back have long, fine plumes called 'aigrettes' (from the French word for egrets) which are used for decoration and display. These feathers are gorgeous and soft, and it was for these that thousands of egrets of all kinds were slaughtered in the 1800s in order to make fashionable head wear. It was due to their plight that the RSPB was founded in 1889 in order to campaign against the plume trade. Read more about our fascinating history here.

      Look at those feathers! Great white egret preening by Mike Malpass

    Great white egrets like to nest in colonies on large, swampy, shallow lakes, ideally with some bushes and reeds. They breed across southern Europe and are a partial migrant, so over-winter in the Mediterranean and Africa. They are also found in North and South America and parts of Asia.

    In recent times great white egrets have become increasingly seen in the UK. They are rare but regular. The first record here was in 2003 with one bird which was very exciting! There are records of one here in 2004 too, but then none were seen again until 2007. Since then we have had great white egret records every year. The first bumper year was 2009 when three were here right the way through to the winter. Throughout the years that they have been coming to Leighton Moss, they have been seen not only in the reedbed, but in some years, they have been down on the saltmarsh.  

    We're having a great year for them at the moment, with three on-site. They are being seen daily at Lilian's, Public and Lower hides, catching fish in the shallow pools. Check out this video taken by our intern Ed.

    So far, the only place in Britain where great white egrets have bred is on the Avalon Marshes in Somerset (first year was 2012), however who knows what will happen here in the future, there was a time when it was unthinkable that avocets would breed this far north and now look at us!  


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 30 July 2014

    Commas cause quite a commotion...

    Thanks to some careful management, the meres are getting shallower. This is proving brilliant for spotting some extra wildlife that might otherwise be more difficult to see at this time of year.

    At Lilian’s hide, several water rails are pottering about with their young closeby. Looking at these birds head-on they look distinctly two-dimensional: their flat shape allows them to manoeuvre easily through the reeds and stay hidden from predators. Water rails are secretive birds and can usually be seen better in winter when they are forced to come out to the pools edges to find food.

    Water rail by David Mower

    Down at Grisedale hide, snipe can be more easily seen at the edges of the pool, weaving in and out of the reeds. Grey herons and mute swans use Lilian's and Grisedale hides as their bases - the cygnets may almost be reaching adult size now, but they still follow their parents closely through the dykes and waterways.

    Over the weekend, butterflies and dragonflies have been out enjoying the sunshine with brown hawkers fighting each other in the air to defend their fiercely guarded territories. This beautiful comma butterfly was also seen on site. Its frilled edges make its flight pattern look slightly erratic as they flit between the ferns. However this interesting shape also gives it the appearance of a withered leaf when its wings are folded, providing excellent camouflage.

    Comma butterfly by Adam Grayson

    You’ll be pleased to hear our three great white egrets are still about. One can be seen regularly strutting across Lilian’s pool throughout the day, and another is frequently seen from Public and Lower hides amongst a group of little egrets.

    But get down soon or you might miss them!

    To read more about what we’re doing to make the site better for our bitterns, click here.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 22 July 2014

    Enter the egrets!

    Something’s been causing quite a stir at Leighton Moss this weekend...

    Three great white egrets have been seen across site since Saturday lunch time.

    On Monday 21 July, they could be seen well from Lilians hide, with one having a curious snap at some dragonflies! At lunchtime the hide was all aflutter with people wanting to get a glimpse of these stunning creatures.

    This statuesque white bird is a treat for the eyes. They move by stalking through the water, lifting their enormous black feet and showing off their bony ankles. They are around the size of a grey heron and feed in a similar way, watching their prey and snatching up fish from shallow water.

    Great white egret by Mike Malpass

    Although we already have a stable colony of little egrets (their close cousins), it is uncommon to see great white egrets at Leighton Moss. Three is a brilliant surprise!

    Down at the saltmarsh hides, 120 dunlin could be seen, along with knot, greenshank and redshank, as a large amount of waders begin to arrive.

    Dunlin are now in their summer breeding plumage and can be spotted by their black bellies and down-curved black bill. Over the past 20 years, dunlin numbers have dropped by 50 per cent – Leighton Moss provides a key habitat for them to feed throughout the year.

    Dunlin by Sue Tranter (

    Dragonflies and damselflies are still in abundance across the reserve, particularly on the Causeway near Public hide, where you can follow brown hawkers down the path.

    Come on down and enjoy your summer in Silverdale - pack and picnic and bring that camera - there's so much to see!

    Posted by Jennifer L

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
29 Aug 2014
Glossy Ibis ()
5 Aug 2014
Spotted Redshank (2)
30 Aug 2014
Water Rail ()
28 Aug 2014
Curlew Sandpiper ()
28 Aug 2014
Black-tailed Godwit ()
28 Aug 2014
Greenshank ()
28 Aug 2014
Kingfisher ()
28 Aug 2014
Little Stint ()
28 Aug 2014
Ruff ()
24 Aug 2014

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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