The weather may been a little mixed in recent days but it hasn't stopped our visitors from enjoying some fabulous moments here at Leighton Moss!

The continued emergence of young marsh harriers has been a real treat and at the time of writing at least four young, three from one nest and one from another, are eagerly exploring their surroundings. With a minimum of three active nests we can certainly expect to see more of these fabulous raptors as the chicks make their first flights. Visitors have been getting truly amazing views of the harriers from the Grisedale Hide and the Skytower in particular. 

Bitterns have also been wowing the crowds as they make regular flights around the reserve. Feeding birds have also been seen at Grisedale and Causeway. We still don't really know how many nests have been successful but hopefully the appearance of young bitterns in the coming weeks will give us some indication of how they're doing.     

 Over on the Eric Morecambe and Allen Pools more waders are starting to arrive, as we'd expect at this time of year. Joining the nesting avocets are growing numbers of lapwing, redshank and black-tailed godwit along with a few greenshank and common sandpiper. A fine spotted redshank (pic from archive by Mike Malpass) in dazzling breeding plumage has been the star of the show so far but as the days go by anything could show up on these saline lagoons!      

Great white egrets, little egrets and spoonbills can also be seen from the coastal hides and early-morning visitors have been enjoying great views of a hunting barn owl alongside the path from the parking area. A rather unseasonal drake scaup has also dropped onto the pools and seems to finding the place to its liking - quite unexpected!     

Most visitors to Leighton Moss will have met and chatted with our Welcome team, members of which can currently be found on a daily basis in the small wooden building at the front of the Visitor Centre. Here you can find out what's been sighted around the reserve as well as getting guidance on which areas to explore in order to get the best from your day. Some of the team here are much valued volunteers and below, you can read about one of our newest recruits... Over to you Beth!      

 "My ten months of lockdown brought about an array of fleeting hobbies. An attempt to learn Spanish came to an abrupt end when it was apparent that the closest I’d be getting to the Canary Islands would be Costa Del Morecambe. But, the most surprising pastime of all, and the only one which has continued into our “new normal,” was birdwatching.

The change in the pace of lockdown life allowed me to notice the smaller things. The arrival of Spring wasn’t its usual blur of pastel hues, but instead, each day presented a new subtle sign that sunshine was on its way.  I watched the succession of Spring blooms and was in awe of how the changes in nature transformed my jaunt around the park. In an attempt to escape the news, Springwatch became a comfort show and the catalyst for my interest in birds. 

Once restrictions lifted earlier this year, I visited my local RSPB reserve: Leighton Moss. The reedbeds feel like an impenetrable jungle, fizzing with life. It’s thrilling to walk down the paths, knowing that there might be a Bittern metres away in the dense vegetation. I left Leighton Moss feeling excited but also a little downtrodden. This habitat, which should be in abundance throughout Britain, had felt like such an alien landscape.

Birds are a tangible indicator of a healthy ecosystem. It’s such a joy to add a rare bird, like a Marsh Harrier, to your spotting list. But the scarcity of most of our native birds is a stark reminder that nature is in crisis. RSPB’s mission to “Give Nature A Home” is a matter of urgency. I felt compelled to get involved.

Being a part of the Welcome Desk team means we have direct communication with the reserve’s visitors. As a nature newbie, it’s been a joy to quickly gain so much knowledge from some of our more experienced birdwatchers. But teaching new visitors about the history of the reserve and hearing them come away with a memorable wildlife moment has been the most rewarding experience. In a society where so many people, including myself, have previously felt so divorced from nature, connecting people to these environments is the key to tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis. In my role as a volunteer for the RSPB, I hope I’m doing my small part to do just that."