With autumn firmly giving way to winter, the wildlife at Leighton Moss is very much gearing up for the colder months ahead. Large numbers of fieldfare (pic by Mike Malpass) and redwing have recently joined the blackbirds, song and mistle thrushes in our orchard, taking full advantage of the glut of apples in our orchard. Wildfowl numbers continue to build and the mass of ducks on Lilian's and Grisedale pools are quite a sight - and sound! Scan through the hundreds of teal, gadwall, shoveler and wigeon to spot handsome pintails and diving ducks such as pochard, goldeneye and tufted duck. A female scaup, regular at Lilian's in recent weeks, adds a little identification challenge for keener birders. The two very late garganey appear to have moved on; time will tell whether this is a temporary shift in the wake of dropping temperatures or they finally figured out that most of their kind had long-headed to warmer climes!

Bearded tits are still being seeing on the grit trays and along the paths, though far less frequently than they were a month ago. At least five marsh harriers are set to winter on the site and there are regular merlin and peregrine sightings from the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides. In excess of 800 black-tailed godwits, large numbers of lapwings, redshanks, dunlin and a few greenshank can also be seen at these coastal pools. Kingfishers may be encountered just about anywhere on the reserve and otters have been making frequent appearances at Causeway and Lower pools. 

Of course, a big feature of the season here is the annual starling murmuration and visitors are keen to know what the birds are doing. The murmurations,as per the last two years, have been slow to get going this winter. We do have c70,000 in total roosting on RSPB properties in the area but they're not really doing much murmurating yet. The best places to observe the birds coming into roost are the Skytower, Grisedale and Jackson hides or from the track leading to the Allen Pools car park.

It is essential that visitors DO NOT park or attempt to pull-over on either the road or the access track: you MUST park in the car park and walk back along the track. Please be aware that the condition of this track is currently poor and great care should be taken when driving along it.
As in previous years, we expect the roost and murmuration will move onto the main reserve before too long. This will allow visitors much better views. Watch this space!    
Beach cleans
We are hosting a series of marine litter picks in the local area and are welcoming members of the public to join us. 
Beach cleans will take place on the following dates:

Tuesday 3 December 12pm-2pm – Carnforth Marsh, meet at Cotestones Farm, Sand Lane, Warton, Carnforth LA5 9NH

Thursday 20 February 10am-12pm – Eric Morecambe Pool, meet at saltmarsh car park

Wednesday 4 March 12pm-2pm – Carnforth Marsh, meet at Cotestones Farm, Sand Lane, Warton, Carnforth LA5 9NH

Please wear waterproofs and sturdy boots (wellies recommended) as it can be wet and muddy on the marsh. A small number of wellies will be available. If you have your own gloves please bring them but we can provide gloves if needed.

To give you flavour of what to expect and some insights into our litter-pick in November, read Charlotte's account below:    

Problems with Plastic

 You might have not heard, but a few of us went down to the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides on November 20 to clean litter that had washed up onto the bank.

This is usually done around twice a year, and it is sad to see how much litter there actually is, but you do get some interesting finds. Such as foreign items. You see, ocean currents which travel around the world, can pull in these plastics so end up travelling very long distances. Or, items that have come from the UK but have stayed in British waters for years before washing up on shore. A few regulars include tennis balls, which we found about 10, and 3 singular flip-flops.

We did also find items from further afield. Such as an ‘Aqua’ water bottle. This brand is owned by the same company as Evian and Volvic, but this is sold in Indonesia which is 7517 miles away! Which shows just how far plastics can travel. Another foreign find was another drinks bottle called Calpis. This is a Japanese soft drink which means it travelled around 5807 miles.

Not only do these bottles travel, they also remain in the ocean for a long time. Scientific reports say it will take at least 450 years for the typical plastic bottle to decompose, though this time can be trebled in some cases. It’s not been in the ocean for close to 450 years, but we found an old Lucozade bottle from 2014 which was promoting the 2014 Brazil world cup. This would have been floating around our waters for 5 years, so if we had not picked it up then it would be polluting the ocean for 445 more.                                                                                                                                                                                      Not plastic, but we did find another Lucozade bottle. It was an old glass bottle from 1999 so that’s 20 years, but if we didn’t find it then it would have been swimming about for a whopping 999,980 years!

 The majority of our finds were plastic, and at least half of the plastics we did find were bottles which could have been recycled. This is why it is so important to not only recycle plastic bottles you do buy, but to also buy reusable bottles you can take with you. These will pay for themselves after a few refills and stop plastic from littering beaches and banks around the world for hundreds of years. The average person buys around 150 bottles per year. If you assume they are all water bottles at 60p, then they are spending £90 a year on water bottles. This is around 11 times the amount of a reusable water bottle! The shop here at Leighton Moss sells them these reusable bottles for £7.99 - which not only allows you to cut back on plastic waste but by buying from the RSPB toy can be sure that profit goes back into our conservation and environmental projects and the running of our reserves.

Charlotte Burton