It's been a funny old couple of weeks weather-wise - we've had periods of dark days with lots of rain, and consequent path-flooding in parts, and we've seen glorious bright, calm days when the reedbeds glow an autumn gold. Thankfully the water levels have dropped a fair bit now and so the majority of the site is accessible without the need for wellies. At the time of writing, the path to Lower Hide is still submerged in parts but otherwise it's pretty good underfoot. If you are planning a trip, it's probably best to come prepared and bring wellies with you just in case we're on the receiving end of yet more deluges!
Of course higher water levels changes the avian landscape a little and the dabbling ducks move to areas of shallower water to feed and roost while the diving ducks take full advantage of the situation. We've seen a small increase in the number of tufted ducks (photo by David Mower) and a handful of goldeneye but until we get a cold spell I doubt we'll see much change in the wildfowl across the reserve.
Talking of ducks, the cinnamon teal / shoveler hybrid now here for its third successive winter, has been staying faithful to Lilian's Pool and its identity generates much discussion in the hides. It really is a striking looking bird and has been puzzling many birdwatchers who have identified it as everything from Australasian shoveler to blue-winged teal and much in between. Out on the saltmarsh, there are good numbers of teal, pintail, wigeon and shoveler and these can give great views from the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides where visitors may also see spotted redshank and greenshank.
If you're keen to get to grips with your duck and other water bird identification, why not join us on 20 November for a leisurely guided walk where we will look at how to tell these fascinating birds apart - full details here: Wonderful Wildfowl guided walk
Those perennial favourites, bearded tits continue to delight the crowds as they visit the grit trays on calm, dry days. We appear to have four marsh harriers in residence at the moment and these can be seen regularly hunting over the vast reedbeds and terrorising the waterfowl!
Otters too have been wowing visitors with daily appearances at Causeway and Lower hides, with occasional sightings from Lilian's too. The mother and her two grown cubs are continuing to be seen along with what appears to be a newly arrived dog otter which has been active in the last week or so. It's a great time to come otter spotting!
One of the highlights as we head toward winter is the arrival of the starlings and the fabulous murmurations that occur here. Numbers are really building up now and we have around 40-50,000 coming in to roost in the late afternoons. On fine days, the birds can put on impressive displays but when it's grey and drizzly they will often whoosh in, do a couple of laps of the reedbed and then drop down out of sight! As the weeks go by we will likely see an increase; most winters the roost can contain up to 100,000 starlings! (Photo by Jacqui Fereday)
You can find out more about murmurations and starlings here.
Regardless of the weather, there's plenty to see and hear at Leighton Moss at this time of year and of course if it turns a bit nasty out, you can always escape the rain and wind by seeking refuge in our cosy cafe!
We hope to see you soon,
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