Hello bloggers, for this recent sightings blog I thought I would try a new layout and give you a brief rundown of bird and wildlife species to look out for in different locations around Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay reserve.

Firstly, the starlings have been giving the reserve team the run around in terms of where they are murmurating. The past few evenings has seen them murmurating and going to roost at Barrow Scout Fields close to the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides. There are well over 100,000 starlings and they have been performing brilliantly as of late. Please do be mindful of the volume of traffic during the roost time as there is a much smaller car park here.

Down at Causeway Pool

If you want to sight bitterns, Causeway Hide is certainly the place to go. The reedbed channel to the right of the hide has provided some excellent sights as of late, and you may even see the bittern take flight across the reedbed here too. Sightings have occurred daily for the past week, so it is worth spending some time here. Also, the reedbed channel to the right has provided excellent snipe and water rail sightings, so do take a second look!

Dabblers to look out for include teal, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, gadwall and mallard. We also have a large flotilla of tufted duck (approximately 30) and a smaller number of goldeneye. Perhaps my favourite resident at Causeway, the little grebe, can often be seen fishing in front of the hide. One rarity to look out for are two drake pochards, who have been absent since the breeding birds of summer. This is a really special visitor, the pochard species is facing a rapid decline; they are red list species so do take the opportunity to see them. 

Drake pochard. Photo credit: David Mower.

The island in front of Causeway Hide will normally host a group of cormorants and lapwings. You do however get the occasional drop-in species at this spot such as greenshank. Grey heron are often spotted hunting here and with there currently being four great white egret (roosting at Causeway) on the reserve, visitors may get the chance to see the grey heron chase off a great white egret or two, it is a brilliant spectacle to watch.

Otter sightings from Causeway Hide have also been excellent, with the otters showing off their fisherman skills and treating visitors to fantastic views on the stone island in front of the Hide. 

At Lower

Much the same as Causeway Hide, otter and bittern sightings have also occurred at Lower Hide. Lower Hide is also great for snipe, jack snipe, little egret and also the same variety of waterfowl as Causeway Hide. It is also worth mentioning the walk to Lower Hide however, as the woodland and willow scrub habitat is home to a huge variety of birds and mammals. Look out for fieldfare in the fields parallel to the reserve and also marsh, blue, coal and great tits, especially in the glade areas. You can also see siskin and lesser redpoll in the tree tops and the past couple of days (January 18 and 19) have also had sightings of brambling and chiffchaff, a lovely olive-brown warbler with a wonderful call.

Chiffchaff. Photo credit: John Bridges

The path to Lower Hide is also the area to go when searching for the great grey shrike, but carry on towards Storrs Lane and look into the fields (especially treetops and hedgerows) to find it. The shrike has been sighted on 18 and 19 January, so keep your eyes peeled.

Lilian’s

Like all of the main reserve, there is a good spread of waterfowl present at Lilian's Pool. The island in front of Lilian’s is used by a large variety of species which has included in the past week black-tailed godwits and greenshank. Curlew have also been sighted from here as well as sparrowhawk, great-white egret, little egret and snipe

Grisedale Hide:

The main residents at Grisedale Hide are snipe but there is also the occasional great white egret alongside a good number of waterfowl. Grisedale Hide is also a great place to see red deer and marsh harrier. Like any hide however, you never quite know what may unexpectedly appear –chiffchaff's and reed bunting's have been sighted at Grisedale Hide as of late. The path to the Grisedale and Tim Jackson Hides is also a prime place to spot water rail scampering across the dyke in the willow scrub habitat.

Reed bunting. Photo credit: Zul Bhatia. 

Down at the Saltmarsh Pools

Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides play host to a huge number and variety of waders. At this time of year, Morecambe Bay plays a vital, life-sustaining role for our wintering and resident guests. Species to look out for include: lapwing, oystercatcher, black-tailed godwit, redshank, spotted redshank, greenshank, knot, dunlin and curlew. Other usual suspects include goosander, red-breasted merganser, greylag geese, shelduck, wigeon and kingfisher (the posts and pipes in front of Allen Hide are good places). The drake American wigeon is still present, just very elusive among the huge wigeon flocks present at the saltmarsh. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a stonechat on the path to these hides. Raptors to look out for include marsh harrier and peregrine

The Garden and Visitor Centre

You never quite know what you will see in the garden. Wednesday 16 January saw a kestrel perched in the treetops in the garden and also the screaming call of a jay. Not the nicest of noises to welcome you to the reserve, but a colourful visitor to look out for. Also look out for bullfinches, goldcrests, treecreepers, nuthatches, house sparrows and greenfinches here.

Another note on our marsh harriers, this lovely species will hunt across the entirety of the reedbed; there is no one fixed position to sight them, it is worth scanning the reedbed from the Skytower to sight them too. Recently, visitors have captured some excellent photographs of some of the marsh harriers with their talons locked in combat; there are some excellent sightings waiting for you!

Big Garden Birdwatch 

We now only have one week to go before the 40th Big Garden Birdwatch so if you have not signed up yet, you can download a digital pack here! This is a really easy activity to take part in, and your input really does make a difference. This is top class citizen science which allows the RSPB to monitor the bird populations in the country, track changes and provide us with information so we can plan and take action to help declining species. 

If you have bought a bird feeder especially for the Big Garden Birdwatch, I would recommend you put it up in the next couple of days so that the birds have time to adjust to it and start using it. 

Until next time!

Naomi. Visitor Experience Intern. 

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