Hello all, the week commencing Monday 12 November has provided several exciting new arrivals for visitors to sight or if you are like me; to wish you had seen.

In my last blog I highlighted the appearance of a great grey shrike and I am happy to tell you that the bird has remained in the area. It has been sighted between Wednesday 14 November and Saturday 17 November inclusively. The bird was seen in the fields close to the path to Lower Hide and was also sighted in trees along the nearby path. There have been no reported sightings since Saturday 17 November so this could suggest the bird has moved on, or it is simply in a different area out of sight to visitors.

Other exciting news is the arrival of a drake American wigeon on Wednesday 14 November and is still present at the time of writing (Tuesday 20). This is another rarity many visitors have been fortunate to see out on the Allen and Eric Morecambe Pools. American wigeon are similar to their familiar European counterpart but have a lovely peppered grey head with a green eye mask and creamy white crown stripe. Amazingly this bird was first spotted and identified by 2 RSPB staff as they passed the pools on the train while heading into work!

American wigeon (front) with Eurasian wigeon (back). Photo credit: Jon Carter

Returning cattle egrets arrived on Sunday 11 November. We currently have three in/around the area of the reserve, the most recent sighting has been on Tuesday 20 November in fields to the Eastern edge of the reserve. They have been living up to their name however, being sighted in fields with cattle.

In addition, the first reported waxing sighting in the North West comes from the Heysham area. The prospects of Leighton Moss having a waxwing winter look are looking more promising!

Another noteworthy species is the bittern. The previous couple of weeks have seen the wardening team undertaking reed bed management - cutting down the reedbed near to the Causeway and Lower hides. At Causeway they have opened up a channel for fish to navigate to the right-hand side of the hide. This has created a new fishing spot for bitterns and other species of bird. The reed bed cutting also increases visibility for visitors to sight the bitterns (and other birds such as snipe) as well as providing a place for wildfowl to spend time loafing. Since this reed cutting was completed there have been daily sightings of bitterns, giving many visitors a rare chance to see these secretive birds. Thank you warden team!

BitternPhoto credit: Alan Saunders

The bearded tits are also continuing to show relatively well, they were last sighted on the Grisedale grit trays Monday 19 November. At this time of year, we expect sightings to once again return to infrequent glimpses as the birds have (for the majority at least) had their fill of grit.

A pair of hawfinches  (picture below) were sighted in the trees along the Lower Hide path on Friday 16 November, another infrequently sighted bird on our reserve. Along these paths one can also see and hear flocks of siskins and lesser redpolls.

Hawfinch. Photo credit: Andy Hay

The marsh harriers remain to be sighted frequently, from several of the hides on the main reserve (particularly Causeway and Grisedale). There is also a large flock of fieldfares on the site that are taking advantage of the winter berries and fallen apples on the reserve, the birds have been sighted close to the orchard and also around the Lower Hide woodland.

Overall, the main reserve still retains a good variety and number of wildfowl for visitors to enjoy including goldeneye at Causeway Pool, pintails at Lilian’s and Eurasian wigeon at the Grisedale and Tim Jackson hides. The coastal pools are still the favoured home of the waders so keep your eyes peeled for redshank, spotted redshank, black-tailed godwits, greenshank, dunlin and curlew amongst others. I should also highlight that there are a couple of great white egrets in the reserve area still, with a great white being spotted from Lilian’s Hide on Tuesday 20 November.

Otters continue to be sighted frequently from the Causeway Pool. The most recent sighting being on Sunday 18 November. As we fall into cooler temperatures, frozen pool edges will promise some fantastic sightings for you to enjoy… skating otters anyone?

That wraps up sightings for the past week but we also have some excellent upcoming events for you to attend. There is the activity-filled nature tots on Thursday 22 November (leaves and stick themed) and the Christmas Market on Sunday 2 December. The market will be taking place in The Holt and within our garden, you can look forward to tasting some quality food and drink whilst browsing what our fantastic local businesses have to offer. Bring along your family and friends for a festive day out as the reserve will be open as normal, the market makes for a fun-filled bonus and the chance to get some Christmas shopping done! There is also the final optics day of the year on Sunday 2 December. If you are looking to upgrade your own set of optics or to buy a pair for a loved one this is the perfect time to visit as you will receive expert advice to find the optics suited to your needs.

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