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Recent sightings

  • 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

  • 15 July 2014

    Down at the hide...

    It’s been the perfect weekend to enjoy a stroll in the sunshine. Leighton is certainly looking rather attractive, if I don’t say so myself. On Sunday night I took a wander down to Grisedale hide to make the most of the summer evening.

    Along the path just after Lilians, you can see the spindly enchanter’s nightshade. Despite its extravagant name, this white flower is small and can go by unnoticed by the path’s edge.

    Its likes to grow in shady conditions, so the darker spots under our willow trees provide the perfect habitat. Its broad, heart-shaped leaves soak up as much light as possible. Enchanter’s nightshade is not related to other members of the nightshade family and can grow up to 70 cm in height.

    Winding through the reeds, other wildflowers such as meadowsweet, purple-loosestrife and self-heal are coming out beautifully. The meadowsweet overhanging the pathways links back to our farming past where farmers used to strew the barn floor with this aromatic wildflower, making mucking-out time a little easier on the nose.

    Meadowsweet by Jennifer Lane

    Grisedale had a lot to offer: at around 7 pm, two red deer hinds grazed on the right-hand bank, looking spectacular in the evening light.

    Ten little egrets came onto the front pool. While some posed and preened, others looked for food on the water’s surface. Cormorants started to roost in their favourite tree and a grey heron was spooked from the reeds.

    Little egret by Mike Malpass

    Mallards, gadwall and coots could be seen across the pool. There are many dabbling ducks all across site at the moment with some great views at Public, Lilians and Tim Jackson. Look out for gangly-looking chicks which are venturing out on their own at this time of year!

    Path to Grisedale by Jennifer Lane

    With the scents of reed and meadowsweet in the air, it was definitely an evening to remember.

    There’s so much to see as the nights stay bright here at Leighton Moss. Why not try one of our fantastic Wildlife Walks at Dusk every Monday night throughout July and August, where you can see a great range of plants, birds and animals well into the evening. Check out our website for more details.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 14 July 2014

    Reed cutting on the reserve this week

    Down on the saltmarsh today, just as Kevin (our Membership Manager) predicted there would be this week, a wood sandpiper was spotted! The pools have dried out a little in all this hot weather so the wading birds are enjoying feeding in the mud. There are eight greenshanks and lots of redshanks, black-tailed godwits and a spotted redshank down there too.

    In the reedbed, there are plenty of coots and a variety of ducks (which are all looking a bit brown and sorry for themselves as they have moulted their breeding plumage). Look out for their 'speculum' (patch of colour on the wing) to help you identify them at this time of year.

    Summer is a great time of year for seeing our largest residents - the red deer coming out and about with their calves to lie by the pool edges and graze the fresh reeds. Keep your eyes peeled for them as you head round the reedbed.

    The marsh harrier action continues, so you should see them hunting low over the reedbed, or the youngsters wobbily trying to land in bushes around the reedbed.

    Why not come along to our Wildlife Watch at Dusk this evening to see what is around?


    If you are planning to visit this week, just to be aware that the summer reed cutting is taking place:

    On Tuesday 15 July, the wardens will be cutting at Tim Jackson hide in the morning and Grisedale hide in the afternoon.

    On Wednesday 16 July, the wardens will be reed cutting at Lilian's hide in the morning and Public and Lower hides in the afternoon.

    Reed cutting is an essential part of the reserve management to make it an ideal home for the wildlife that lives here. Whilst the wardens presence tends to cause the wildlife to move away from the area being cut, this is temporary and everything returns very rapidly after they have finished that area. You are of course welcome to go into the hides to watch this interesting work being carried out. For information about why we cut the reeds and what is all means, click here to read Alasdair's blog from last summer's reed cut.

      Richard reedcutting by David Mower


    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 12 July 2014

    Dragons galore

    With all the gorgeous weather we have been having this week, the dragonflies have been out in abundance. As I went round the reserve yesterday migrant hawkers, enormous brown hawkers and broad-bodied chasers were all darting around the reedbed like little helicopters, landing on reeds momentarily so I could look at them a little closer. All the paths were alive with them so you should spot them wherever you go.

      Migrant hawker by Paul East

    Marsh harrier sightings are very good around the reserve. There is a particular bush, straight across the back from Lilian's hide, where I have seen one of the females perched several times over the last few days, but you should also spot them from Grisedale hide and at the Public and Lower hide end oft he reserve too. 

    Red deer are starting to bring out their spotty little calves to play in the sunshine at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides. 

    Down on the saltmarsh, the warm weather means that the water in the pools has dropped. This exposes lots of squishy mud which the wading birds love. Eight greenshanks, a spotted redshank, black-tailed godwits and redshanks are all enjoying feeding in the mud, along with dunlins. Kevin predicts that we may get a wood sandpiper passing through soon, so keep an eye out.

    Up on Grisedale pool, the exposed mud at the back has seen large numbers of lapwings, black-tailed godwits and also a green sandpiper feeding there.

    WIth more lovely weather to come this weekend, why not come and see us. After all the wildlife watching, you can treat yourself to an ice cream in the cafe too!

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 4 July 2014

    Deer, oh my!

    Look out to the fields near Lower Hide and you’ll see something rather spectacular this July.

    It’s that time of year again where red deer are out and about in their numbers. As our largest land mammal, these delicate-looking creatures are always a treat to spot in the wild!

    Hinds are keeping their calves close in mother-calf groups, making sure their young ones get the maximum protection and stay close to food sources. Deer eat a variety of plants including grasses, heather, bilberry and tree shoots, and will sometimes go to extremely lengths to get their fill. Check out these acrobatics!

    Red deer reaching by Brian Salisbury

    Stags can be seen wading across the pool at Grisedale hide, displaying their antlers, up to their haunches in water. At this time of year their antlers will be covered in a fuzzy velvet. This fluff is richly filled with replenishing blood vessels, nerves and bone, building up the strength of the antlers for the rutting season.

    Red deer by Brian Salisbury

    Our red deer really have been making some stunning appearances lately, just in time for our Wildlife Walks at Dusk. Every Monday evening in July and August we’ll be taking to the paths at Leighton Moss to track down some amazing summer sights.

    Join us from 7.30-9.30 pm where we’ll looking out for bats, owls, deer and much more. Check out the website for more details.

    But it’s not only deer which have been around. July is turning out to be a pretty busy month her at Leighton. A green sandpiper has been spotted at at Grisedale hide. Spotted redshanks can still be seen down at Eric Morecambe and Allen hides, while there are plenty of great crested grebes fishing across Public hide.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 2 July 2014

    Summery sightings

    Well it's July, and that means it's officially summer! OK so it remains to be seen whether the weather will agree, but one thing is for sure, our summery wildlife is definitely putting in an appearance.

    Down on the Eric Morecambe and Allen pools, a spotted redshank, some dunlin, redshanks and black-tailed godwits have all been seen, along with avocets, oystercatchers and lapwings. A peregrine has been spotted hunting down there, as have the marsh harriers.

    In the reedbed, you'll probably catch views of the marsh harriers from several of the hides too. The young are likely to fledge over the next few weeks. They are very big now and so their parents are in and out with food a lot. There are four adult females and two males around the reserve to keep an eye out for.

    The sounds of summer can still be heard ringing out in the form of a Cetti's warbler, often singing by the pond dipping pool. As you stroll along the paths, it is not only your eyes and ears that can take in the experience but also your sense of smell. The wildflowers are blooming along the track edges - meadowsweet in particular has a heavenly scent.

      Meadowsweet by Andy Hay (

    Our largest residents - the red deer are out and about, particularly in the evenings, but can often be spied during the day time too. Why not come along to one of our wildlife watch at dusk events on a Monday evening.

    If you are visiting on Thursday 3 July or Friday 4 July, please be aware that access to Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides will be closed at certain times for a private event. On Thursday 3 July, it will be closed from 1.30-3.30 pm and on Friday 4 July it will be closed from 10.30 am-3.45 pm. The other five hides are open as normal.

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 26 June 2014

    Moths and Art this Weekend

    It's been another glorious week weather wise and that is looking like it's set to stay over the weekend, so come and explore the reserve.

    We're getting regular osprey sightings. Grisedale pool and Island Mere seem to be the favoured spots. Look out for one in the large Scot's pine tree, in the middle of the group of trees at Island Mere, snacking on a tasty fish. With them breeding at nearby Foulshaw Moss, and with two hungry chicks to feed, they love coming over to Leighton Moss for a meal. 

    The marsh harrier young are equally hungry. Though some of them have fledged, they still come back into the nest and can be quite demanding. Look out for the parents hunting low over the reeds.

    Our largest residents - the red deer will be giving birth at the moment, so you may be lucky and see some young, spotty calves around the edges of the pools with their mums, down at TIm Jackson and Grisedale hides. 

    On the saltmarsh, there have been regular sightings of a couple of Mediterranean gulls. They have been spotted pecking the black-headed gull chicks, in order to force them to regurgitate their food and then snaffle it up for themselves!!

    The young avocets are getting pretty big now, with just a bit of brown on their backs, distinguishing them from their parents. Redshank chicks have also been spotted. Keep an eye out for them on Eric Morecambe and Allen pools.

    With the sun shining, damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies, hoverflies and bees are abundant in the garden. All the plants in there were specially selected to be beneficial to them. Why not bring a picnic or get a take away from our cafe and watch them flit around the flowers. 

    As it is National Insect Week this week, we've got one of our 'Meet the Moths at the Moss events on Saturday morning. Why not come along to learn all about these interesting creatures. Details here.

      Elephant hawkmoth by David Mower 

    Elephant hawkmoths are one of many moths that dispel the myth that these insects are dull in colour. Just look at that gorgeous green and pink colouring. They are like this to blend in with the colours of one of their favourite food plants - rosebay willow herb. Come along to the event to learn more even more fascinating facts.

    It is also the last weekend in June, which can only mean one thing - Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail. Come along to see Marianne Birkby's art work, a lot of which has been inspired by Leighton Moss wildlife. You can also pick up a trail guide from our shop to aid you in getting round the other exhibitions in the area. 

    Posted by Annabel Rushton

  • 21 June 2014

    Use your senses!

    Our sensory garden is in full bloom and things are looking absolutely stunning!

    Bees have been out in abundance, buzzing across the flower beds looking for a juicy meal. Hoverflies and common blue and blue-tailed damselflies zip across the paths: watch out for these slivers of electric blue darting around your ankles. Brimstone, orange tip and peacock have also made the garden their home.

    Bumble bee by David Mower

    All across the site, particularly down the causeway, you can see common spotted orchids. These delicate clusters of purple flowers are brilliant for bees and insects. Stoop down and have a sniff for yourself!

    But if you’re after another sensory overload, you can smell the beautiful meadowsweet which is just opening up along the pathways. Although their leaves look very similar to stinging nettles, their gorgeous haze of white flowers gives off the real scent of summer.

    You can also see ragged robin across site giving us just a flavour of the bright wildflowers to come this year. This starry-shaped plant is brilliant for honey bees and is commonly found in boggy areas. Head down towards Lower Hide for the best views. 

    Ragged robin by David Mower 

    We regularly get a great spotted woodpecker on our feeding station, along with a healthy mix of finches – bullfinches, goldfinches and chaffinches are just some of our daily visitors, and give some stunning close-up views.

    With so much wildlife across site, this is perfect news for Big Wild Stocktake event. Get yourself down to reserve tomorrow (Sunday 22 June) for this nature extravaganza! Check out our drop-in sessions including Pondemonium and Meet the Mini Mammals where you can get up close to some fantastic wildlife! Take a look at our events programme to find out what will be there on the day.

    Posted by Jennifer L

  • 21 June 2014

    An evening on the reserve

    After a "wildlife-less" day at work (putting up marquees for the Big Wild Stocktake this weekend), I thought i'd stay on to go and explore the reserve a little. A tramp through the reedbed was just what I needed. Sedge and reed warblers were feeding young all around me, squadrons of swifts screaming over-head, and the majestic male marsh harrier floated just over my head! I even found badger footprints in the middle of the reedbed (a fairly rare sight for us). Then I needed pop out onto the saltmarsh to look for ringed plover nests. These birds nest on shingle; they're absolutely beautiful little birds but it's extremely hard to find nests. The eggs look just like little pebbles - camouflage is brilliant!

     Ringed plover by Alasdair Grubb

    I managed to find a couple of nests (3 eggs in each). The sound of oystercatchers and skylarks singing at the top of their voices, with the view over Morecambe Bay, up to the Lakeland fells was fantastic.

    After this, I popped up to check one of our badger setts; I've built myself a little "tree hide" to sit and watch from, but had yet to try it out. The wind was perfect (my scent would blow away from the sett), so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I'd been sitting there for half an hour watching very little but blackbirds and pheasants, when I heard the scratching of earth in the undergrowth. From my hide, I can't see the sett entrance because of the angle, but I could hear the "yelping" of cubs. Then I had brief glimpses of them running around in the long grass in the distance - it was great. All of a sudden, I heard scratching on rock and a large female badger appeared over the cliff... followed by 2 cubs! They were trundling around, playing and fighting around the base of the tree, two metres below me! Only then, did I realize I had my camera, so I tried to film them, but not very successfully, as they scampered soon after. The next minute, two roe deer bucks hopped over a wall and grazed at the base of the tree too!

     Badgers by Alasdair Grubb

    I've done a "rustic" video of the ringed plover, badgers and deer if you want a look, though i'll apologise now for the poor quality, I was happy just watching until I realized I had my camera with me! Click here to see it.

    This really was a wonderful way to spend an evening on the reserve. Most 23 year-olds would be happier sat in a beer garden on a sunny evening in June, but I think i'll struggle to beat sitting up a tree watching a family of badgers playing below me, watching the sun set over the Bay, and a tablecloth of cloud resting on the Bowland fells

    Posted by Alasdair Grubb

Your sightings

Grid reference: SD4775 (+2km)

Water Rail (1)
29 Jul 2014
Little Ringed Plover (3)
29 Jul 2014
Curlew Sandpiper (1)
29 Jul 2014
Bar-tailed Godwit (1)
24 Jul 2014
Spotted Redshank (2)
23 Jul 2014
Shoveler (10)
29 Jul 2014
Buzzard (1)
29 Jul 2014
Knot (1)
29 Jul 2014
Dunlin (180)
29 Jul 2014
Bullfinch (1)
29 Jul 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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