It has been a week of mixed weather here at Leighton Moss but there have been some fantastic wildlife sightings and a good variety of species for visitors to enjoy.

First and foremost, the starling murmurations. The murmurations continue to occur with the best views from the Causeway and Lower Hides. Thursday 10 and Friday 11 January saw well over 100,000 starlings at Leighton Moss. Do keep in mind that the welcome desk team will be available to answer any queries you have in regards to the murmurations.

Birds of prey have been a delight, with daily marsh harrier sightings being a key attraction. There have been several great sightings of the juvenile marsh harriers from Lilian’s Hide this week but as always, these over-wintering beauties can be sighted across the main site. Other lovely raptors to look out for include: sparrowhawk, kestrel, buzzard, peregrine and merlin.

Short-eared owl. Photo credit: Paul Williams

The key mention for birds of prey however is the short-eared owl sighting on Monday 7 January down by Barrow Scout Fields and also from the saltmarsh Pools.

From the Allen and Eric Morecambe Hides you can expect to see a good variety of waders. As well as thousands of lapwing and building numbers of oystercatcher, there have been reported sightings of knot, dunlin (Tuesday 8 January) and also curlew. There are also an estimated 100 black-tailed godwit, smaller numbers of redshank, spotted redshank, greenshank and little egret. Look out for the goosander and red-breasted merganser among our wildfowl and of course, the ever-elusive American wigeon with his European cousins. There is of course a beautiful kingfisher to sight here too, I would recommend Alan Hide for this.

On the main reserve site, bittern sightings have occurred daily from the Causeway and/or Lower Hides and with cold weather supposedly incoming this could potentially lead to even more sightings if the Causeway Pool edges freeze. Sunday 6 January saw both sightings of the great grey shrike in the fields behind Lower Hide and a pair of bearded tits on the Causeway grit trays. Bearded tits have also been reported from Grisedale grit trays on Tuesday 8 January and from Causeway grit trays Friday 11 January. 

There remains a great mix of wildfowl with the drake’s looking very dapper in their breeding plumage. Causeway Hide and Lower Hide are the best places to see our tufted duck flotilla (estimated 30 ducks) and the goldeneye. Lower Hide has had exceptional views of jack snipe (seen Tuesday 8 January and Wednesday 9 January) and the common snipe can be seen from a variety of locations. The great white egrets remain on the reserve and can also be sighted at different pools. 

Other highlights around the main reserve include great views of siskin and lesser redpoll in the tree tops on the path to lower hide. There have also been sightings of visiting fieldfare and redwing on the reed boardwalk and next to the orchard. The Hideout remains a great place to spot a variety or tits and finches particularly marsh tits and greenfinch. There have also been several Cetti’s warbler calls here and on the way to Lilian’s Hide so keep your eyes peeled.

Marsh tit. Photo credit: Richard Cousens

Rounding up recent sightings are the mammals. Otter sightings have remained excellent with almost-daily sightings from the Causeway and/or Lower Hides. The UK’s smallest carnivore, the weasel, has been seen along the path to Grisedale Hide and also the Causeway Hide and there have also been occasional sightings of the red deer from Grisedale Hide and the Skytower.

Wardens wanderings

The wardens have been busy with reedbed management on the reserve this week. This involves cutting and burning the reedbed in particular areas. This is undertaken to manage reedbed growth – it lessens the debris old growth reedbed creates and keeps the reeds in a fresher state come Spring and Summer (which is what our bitterns need!). If we didn’t remove the reed debris, this would eventually stop water flow in particular pools; reducing oxygen levels, aquatic flora and reducing fish populations as they could not access the first meter of a reedbed (where bittern hunt). This would make Leighton Moss a less appealing place for bitterns and otters to live.

Up on Warton Crag, the team have also been busy repairing the invisible fencing here for cattle. Cattle are currently being used to graze the top of Warton Crag, this is an environmentally friendly alternative to using machinery and there is the added bonus of the cattle fertilising the grass as they move along.

 Until next time folks. 

Naomi. Visitor Experience Intern.