While we may not like to concede the fact that summer is coming to an end, much of nature seems committed to telling us that autumn is just around the corner!
Many of our residents and summer visitors have pretty much finished breeding and lots of young birds have now fledged and are fending for themselves. A few exceptions include late broods of coot, moorhen, little grebe and mallard. Despite multiple attempts it seems that great crested grebe nests haven't been as successful this year and just one recently hatched chick has been seen from Lower Hide. Given that this same nest was plundered by hungry otters last week it's a surprise that even one young grebe made it! Such are the trials of life in the natural world. Pic of great crested grebe copyright rspb-images.com
On a more positive note bitterns continue to be seen at various locations around the reserve and some fabulous photos were posted to our Facebook group of a bird feeding in the open near Lower Hide in recent days. The marsh harriers, having performed so well for many weeks seem to have become somewhat elusive lately. It may be that they are temporarily leaving Leighton Moss to go in search of fresh hunting areas or perhaps some have departed for their wintering grounds already.
The most notable comings and goings right now, as one would expect at this time of year, involves waders. The Eric Morecambe and Allen pools are without question the place to be if you want to witness post-breeding migrants on the move. Heading south from their nesting grounds, adult dunlins, greenshanks, black-tailed godwits and the like are stopping off to take advantage of the smorgasbord to be found in the muddy pools. Amongst the commoner species passing through, bird watchers may get lucky and discover something a little more unusual. A second pectoral sandpiper dropped in briefly last Thursday afternoon while a couple of curlew sandpipers have been pleasing the assembled birders in the hides. If you are intrigued by waders or struggle to get to grips with their identification, why not book onto one of our What's That Wader events in August and September?
At the coastal pools, spoonbills remain in situ while the number of little egrets continues to climb to levels unimaginable a couple of decades ago.
Talking of migrating... Leighton Moss stalwart Kevin Kelly is heading north to pastures new in early August. A familiar face to many of our regular visitors, Kevin is a top birder and ringer and has been a mainstay here for several years. We will miss his enthusiasm, knowledge, support and friendship enormously at Leighton Moss and I hope that you will join us in wishing him and his family well as they start an exciting new life in the Shetlands. Here are a few words from the man himself...
"As I write this, the sun is shining, and swifts are twisting and stooping against a back drop of blue sky as I glance out of the office window. As I reflect on the incredible journey they have made my mind flits to the northward journey that awaits me. Now I am not comparing myself or my journey to that of a swift of course, as aside from little legs, I think the similarities stop there. However, I have reached that point where it is time to discover new adventures and take my passion and gathered knowledge to pastures new to help wildlife flourish in another part of the UK.
The next chapter in my working life will take me from the stunning, wildlife rich haven that is Leighton Moss, to the breath-taking beauty and incredibly special Shetland. Whilst I will be leaving behind special species such as bearded tits, marsh harriers, bitterns and marsh tits. I will be sharing my life with red-necked phalaropes, puffins, arctic terns and thousands of seabirds.
The last 7 years at Leighton Moss have been incredible, with memories for life of not only the landscape and the wildlife, but the people I have met through this role, from colleagues to visitors, all have made it very special.
When I started my RSPB life at Leighton Moss, there were no bitterns breeding (an absence of 4 years, 7 years ago). And I am pleased to say I have been here as part of the team, turning back the clock on the habitat to rejuvenate the reed-bed and bring bitterns back as a breeding species for consecutive years. In addition, I have had a host of special wildlife moments. Confirming the breeding of Cetti’s warblers for the first time, when I encountered an adult feeding fledgling (how their population has gone from strength to strength since).
I have enjoyed annual departing bittern in spring, stood in awe, as gull calling bitterns circle and gain height before heading off to their continental breeding grounds.
Another great memory was finding a pied-billed grebe at lower hide (only a second ever county record, and less than 50 records ever in the UK). This American vagrant spent some welcome time onsite with many visitors coming to enjoy the bird. There are many more memorable moments from what is truly a spectacular place.
My new adventure takes me to the stunning Shetland, with a range of habitats and sites to look after. My new office will be at the breath-taking setting of Sumburgh Head lighthouse, at the Southern tip of Shetland. Other sites include, Loch of Spiggie a fantastic site, protected for its important fen-basin habitat. Heading north, vast swathes of peatland habitat, a home for breeding waders on Yell are protected. With a mosaic of mires special enough to attract and hold breeding waders that include red necked phalaropes on both Unst and Fetlar. The latter being a real strong hold for this unique, diminutive wader. An exciting boat crossing to the island of Mousa may deliver Orca and other cetaceans, before landing on the island to enjoy the incredible spectacle of thousands of storm petrels.
Throw the vast array of spring and autumn migrants as well as the amazing breeding seabirds, and glorious wildflowers, it is easy to see why the temptation was always there to head North. Very North."
Thank you for the update JC, will be calling round to LM very soon been busy the last month or more so will catch up later.
Your not getting away with it so lightly Kevin, got my tent in the car and a full tank lol
On a serious note I know you will envoy it up there like you did at LM so will wish you all the best mate take care and hope to met again sometime.
We will miss you at Leighton Moss Kevin, but your enthusiasm, knowledge and sheer joy at what you do has surely earnt you your dream job on Shetland. Best wishes to you all for the future, Pauline and Gordon. ps: see you soon!
Good luck for the future Kevin, you will be missed. Thank you everything you have done, all the help you have given us and the amazing singing and ringing sessions. We have learned so much from you.
Great update Jon, thanks.
@ Kevin ...…. Although we still haven't forgiven you for leaving ! Mike and I both wanted to wish you and your family all the very best for your new and exciting adventure where you'll be nearer to the Arctic circle than LM ! We can't begin to imagine all the wonderful bird/wildlife/sea-life you will encounter way up in Shetland but hope that one day we can experience some of it for ourselves and catch up with you again. Farewell Kevin, thanks for making our trips to LM that much more enjoyable with all your valuable expertise, interesting information and not forgetting the jovial banter, etc., and good luck for the future. Hazel and Mike
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