As the clocks go back and we edge ever closer to winter, there is a tangible change on the nature reserve. The bearded tits are still visiting the grit trays, though less regularly (due in part to the rather wild, windy and wet conditions we've endured of late) and the red deer stags are still trying to impress the hinds, though the fervour is somewhat reduced. But there is a distinct late-autumn feel, as the leaves are finally turning and falling and a multitude of funghi is evident across the site. Out on the pools the majority of ducks have completed their post-breeding moult and are starting to look pretty dapper while passing whooper swans occasionally drop by to remind us that winter is very much on the way.

Another signifier of the looming seasonal change is the appearance of decent numbers of redwing coming in to roost at dusk. These dazzling migratory thrushes will spend the days foraging for berries across the AONB before gathering in the late afternoon and heading to Leighton Moss where they spend the night in communal roosts. Their larger and noisier cousins fieldfares however remain pretty conspicuous by their absence - a lack of easterly winds and presumably plentiful food in northern Europe means that relatively few have crossed the North Sea as yet - will we see large scale arrivals from the continent in the coming weeks?

Redwing photo by Mike Malpass

 Of course another bird that we associate with roosting here during the colder months is the starling. As many of you will be aware the reserve is a fantastic place to witness murmurations, and in most years we can see up to 100,000 starlings wheeling around over the reedbeds prior to going to roost. Several years ago, the peak of activity would occur in early winter but recently the large murmurations have taken place well into December and through to February.

Each year around this time we start to get asked by visitors 'when's the best time to see the murmuration' and the honest answer is, we don't really know! All sorts of things can influence the numbers of birds coming here to roost and one of the main factors is migration. While the birds that we first see on site will be relatively local (ie British and Irish starlings) the main bulk of the large winter flocks will come from the continent and as far away as Russia. In particularly cold winters we will receive more starlings as they flee the harsh conditions, while in milder winters fewer will make the long journey south and west to the UK. So, as climate change continues to give us generally milder winters, the less inclined the starlings will be to move large distances. As ever, we will monitor the Leighton Moss murmuration and post updates on our Facebook page and Twitter account - so do keep checking if you wish to witness this stunning annual spectacle! Starling photo by Jarrod Sneyd

In other news, recent sightings include a very late swallow on October 30, lots of otter sightings at Causeway Pool, an increase in wildfowl overall (though fluctuating as water levels rise), lots of siskins around the Visitor Centre, at least four marsh harriers and point-blank views of black-tailed godwits, knot and snipe at Lilian's. Out on the Eric Morecambe and Allen Pools a few greenshank and spotted redshank can be found among the more numerous commoner waders. 

We look forward to seeing you soon  - and don't forget to pop into the shop and grab your festive goodies (we have a great selection of cards, decorations, calendars and gifts) and to stock up on bird food!

And if you are thinking about buying a new pair of binoculars or a telescope, why not come to our Binocular and Telescope Open Weekend on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November - our friendly, knowledgeable team will be happy to answer all your questions and help you find the perfect optical gear to suit your requirements and budget.

Jon    

   

                                

Anonymous