Hello readers, we've had a busy week here at Leighton Moss with lots of fantastic wildlife sightings to delight visitors old and young. 

I'll start this blog off with the key wildlife highlight this week - a red kite sighting. The red kite was seen on Saturday 9 February and flew South over the reserve, last seen from Tim Jackson Hide. This was fantastic to see, as red kites are not common in the Lancashire area. Known for its reddish-brown body, deeply forked tail and angled wings, the red kite is another beautiful raptor which we nearly lost to extinction. The red kite has since greatly benefited from reintroduction programmes and now holds a green conservation status in the UK.

Male red kite. Photo credit: Chris Gomersall.

Next on the agenda is our starlings. They have certainly been giving our staff, volunteers and visitors the runabout in terms of where they are going to roost! At the moment their chosen place seems to be Barrow Scout Fields. Sunday 10 February saw an excellent mumuration over Barrow Scout Fields with an estimated 100,000 starlings present. The sound the often-huge flock creates as they come into roost can be likened to sea waves breaking. Add the rolling black waves of the starlings and it makes for a very surreal, impressive spectacle to witness. If you cannot get down to the coastal Pools, the Skytower is also an excellent place to watch the show. 

Moving on, there have been daily otter sightings from Causeway and/or Lower Hide. The mother otter has shown very well and has frequently treated visitors to successful hunting spectacles and all three cubs continue to do well. 

Bittern sightings remain excellent from Causeway and/or Lower Hide. As I have highlighted before, the reedbed channel on the right-hand side of the Causeway Hide has lent itself excellently to sightings of not only bittern but snipe and water rail. Snipe can frequently be seen in front of the other hides on the reserve. In particular Lilian's Hide, where one visitor counted 30! The water rail down on the path towards Tim Jackson and Grisedale Hide remains in its not-so-elusive state with almost-daily sightings occurring. Listen out for their pig-like squeal calling out from the reedbed, particularly along the Causeway path. 

Bearded tits have also been seen and heard in the reedbed this week. Do keep in mind that the birds are residents of Leighton Moss all year so while not guaranteed, you may get some fantastic sightings out of gritting season. One lucky photographer took some excellent shots of a male bearded tit in the reeds, which he has posted on the Leighton Moss Facebook group. Around this time of year is when the bearded tits are scouting for potential nest sites, so this suggests there are many more sightings to be had in the near future!

With the recent work in front of Lilian's Hide, a number of wildfowl and waders have taken advantage of the new loafing site. In addition, stonechats (males and females) have been seen searching for food in the freshly-cut area. This was a first for me and wow! What a handsome fellow the male stonechat is! 

Causeway Pool has also been host to a variety of wildfowl including up to ten goldeneye (some of which have been seen breeding) and large flotillas of tufted duck. A less-frequent visitor has been the occasional whooper swan, a beautiful addition to our resident group of mute swans. Look out for little grebes in front of Causeway Hide, their small size and whinnying trill make for a distinctive, albeit compact bird. 

There remains to be a good number of pintail, gadwall, teal, shoveler, wigeon and mallard who can be seen across the reserve.  

Male goldeneye. Photo credit: Zul Bhatia.

Speaking of Grisedale Hide, this has been an excellent location to sight our marsh harriers. There are at least five of these wonderful raptors on-site and they are also very vocal at the moment so do listen and look for them. 

Down on the saltmarsh pools is business as usual. There is an excellent variety wildfowl including goosander, red-breasted merganser, shelduck and hundreds of wigeon. Waders to look out for include lapwing, oystercathcer, redshank, and greenshank. We have also had frequent kingfisher sightings from here (often Allen Hide) and the odd great white egret

That rounds up our recent sightings this week folks. Until next time. 

Naomi. Visitor Experience Intern.