While it may not be entirely evident from the weather, summer is almost upon us! It’s an uplifting time to visit Leighton Moss: the reserve is full of fledglings making their first clumsy flights and the paths are lined with common-spotted orchid and yellow flag iris. Juvenile marsh harriers are beginning to be seen in the air – always a positive reminder of conservation success!
The windy weather makes prime opportunity to see rarities blown in off the coast. Throughout the week, we have had visits from two common terns on Causeway Pool, dipping and diving over the water, feasting on the abundance of insects over the pools. The hirundines are also joining in on the aerial action and we had a bit of a ‘one that got away’ moment last Monday morning when a couple of regular visitors, both experienced birders caught sight of a red-rumped swallow at Lilian’s Pool. The distinctive rare migrant was amongst a large group of swallows and martins as they moved rapidly through the reserve, sadly too quickly for other local birdwatchers to catch up with it. Red-rumped swallows are very rare visitors to this part of the country and if accepted will become the first record for Leighton Moss and the local area. (image of red-rumped swallow by Ron Knight, flickr.com: Creative Commons)
Sightings of wildfowl are now on the up, with unsuccessful breeding birds beginning to move to their wintering grounds and soon to be moulting into their eclipse plumage. Tufted ducks, wigeon, gadwall and pintail have all been spotted in the past week, but soon they will become quite tricky to distinguish. Throughout the breeding season, the drakes are well dressed in their flamboyant finery, to help attract a mate. When they moult, they lose their primary feathers, making them unable to fly and at the mercy of peckish predators. In an effort to stay safe when they’re this vulnerable, they opt for more inconspicuous attire, and look almost indistinguishable from the females, making it a real challenge for your ID skills. Breeding season hasn’t been entirely unsuccessful for the wildfowl at Leighton Moss, but duckling numbers have been rather low this year, so please do pass on your sightings to our Welcome team on your visit.
Down on the salt marsh, our ground nesting wading birds, who are particularly vulnerable to predation are taking a second chance at raising a brood. Avocets are establishing new nests right in front of the Allen hide; these later youngsters often stand a much better chance of survival as there is decreased predation pressure further on in the breeding season.
Much like previous weeks, bittern sightings are still very much a regular occurrence; their long feeding flights across the reserve are delighting visitors who are having fantastic views of this otherwise elusive bird. Ospreys can still be seen on most days, fishing from the Causeway Pool, accompanied by otters bobbing in and out of the water.
We hope to see you making the most of the warm weather in the coming weeks – don’t forget to keep up to date with our official Facebook and Twitter to be the first to hear about any unusual sightings! You can also see how our great black-backed gull family are getting on if you head on over to our nestcam Youtube page!
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