If you haven't seen them already, there's still plenty of chance to come down and see the starling spectacle. They have been coming in at around 3.30 pm and for the past few nights have favoured displaying at the Public and Lower hide end of the reserve (although they actually went down to roost near Lilian's hide this evening, they did their murmuration at Public and Lower hides). Our admin lady Jenni was on the causeway as they came overhead and said the whoosh from their wings was incredible. It is the mumuring sound that all those thousands of tiny wings make, beating at the same time, that gives us the word 'murmuration' to describe the large starling flocks dancing across the sky.
The reason for the huge build up in starling numbers at this time of year is becasue we are joined by those from continental Europe, coming to spend the winter here. They gather together in large flocks for safety in numbers. I am often asked why they don't crash into one another, with so many of them flying round at once (around 50,000 at the moment). Studies have shown that their reaction time is less than 100 milliseconds, so they are able to adapt very quickly to what their neighbour is doing (I think they'd make pretty good Formula One drivers).
This evenings starling roost was joined by a couple of marsh harriers flying below. Up until three winters ago, we never had marsh harriers here through the autumn and winter, they were only here in spring and summer for breeding. However, since 2011, when we had a single harrier here for the winter, they have become a regular site at leighton Moss through the colder half of the year. This year, there are four marsh harriers on the site. Look out for them flying low over the reedbed hunting for small mammals.
Regular sightings of the otters through the day have delighted visitors. They have been coming out and about at all times of day, particularly Public and Lower hides. You often see them with an eel they have caught.
Otterly beautiful by Phil Boardman
The long-tailed duck that has been here since Autumnwatch is still present on Lilian's pool. Winter is the best month for a variety of ducks here at Leighton Moss, and out in the wider Morecambe Bay. At the moment, Tim Jackson pool is full of teals. There are also wigeons, pintails, goldeneyes, shovelers and pochards, all of which have come from further north to spend the winter here. It's a great game to play in the hides, trying to spot the differences between them. If wigeons make you wonder and pintails leave you pondering, why not book a place on this Sunday's Birding for Beginners walk? Details here.
One of our Assistant Wardens Al saw a couple of red deer locking antlers this morning. Nothing too strenuous or aggressive, just a couple of young ones having a play fight. The best places to try and spot our largest residents is at Tim Jackson and Grisedale hides.
Our most colourful resident - the kingfisher has been almost daily in its appearance in the main dyke. There is a lot of fish in there, making it an ideal spot for them. The bridge over the causeway is the best place to stand to catch a glimpse.
If you are planning a visit down to the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides this week to spot wading birds, please note that Network Rail are carrying out major works on the railway bridge. Access to the hides is therefore on foot only. There is unfortunately no vehicular access to the car park there. This work could take up to three weeks. Please ask at the visitor centre for an update if you are unsure. This doesn't effect our main car park.
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