The crack of ice. Paws and wet fur. In the chill of winter an otter is treading on ice. The water at Grisedale has been frozen for several days now. Otters have been very regular here. Even sleeping for the best part of an hour on an island in front of the hide one morning. The soft contact call of a moorhen is heard but not seen and teal, now back in good numbers, hunker down in groups around the pool.

Otter in the ice by Mike Malpass

Snipe probe the muddy edges in front of the hides at Grisdale and Tim Jackson. Their feathers camouflaged so well as if to seep into the dark earth itself. The occasional jack snipe has been noted amongst our more regular snipe over recent days. A peregrine soars high above the pool at Grisedale. It is still too early for the starlings that come to roost with the best part of 20,000 sleeping on the reserve each night. The days are lengthening. A barn owl was spotted by a visitor from here too lately and a fox has been patrolling the edges of the pool, presumably attracted by the starlings that had roosted in front of Grisedale for the past few nights.

Barn Owl by John Bridges (

Kingfisher reports have been regular from Lillian’s hide. Look out for a variety of wildfowl from here or the Skytower including a pair of goldeneye, this being the best place to reliably encounter them of late. Other ducks include a sizable group of smart looking tufted ducks, teal and the humble mallard. Stonechats have been reported from Lillian’s hide and down towards Grisedale on a regular basis. At least two marsh harriers are wintering on the reserve and are best looked for in the late evenings.

Over at the causeway ducks have returned to the pool in excellent numbers with shovelers being particularly numerous together with wigeon, pintails and gadwall. Individual Cetti’s warblers are making their presence known. Listen out for them, together with water rails along the main causeway. Opportunities for great views of water rail can be found anywhere on the reserve. This is the best time of year to spot this shy member of the rail family.

Given the excellent weather conditions this weekend visitors were treated to an absolutely fabulous time watching some superb wildlife during these bright clear days. A small number of bearded tits were even observed on the grit trays and a handful of lucky visitors watched two bitterns in flight from the causeway. There are still three cattle egrets and three great egrets in the area with the former still best viewed in the fields adjacent to lower hide and the latter regularly using the Allen pool.

The path to the Eric Morecambe Pool has been repaired after the storm damage, although there is also some standing water, and will be open shortly. Please check with the welcome desk on arrival. The Allen hide remains open and all paths on the reserve are clear with the exception of lower hide where a few muddy patches remain. Wildlife highlights from the Allen hide include several reports of merlin, two greenshanks and over 1000 lapwings together with similar numbers of redshanks.

Merlin by Chris Gomersall (

In the woodland smaller birds such as goldfinches, tree creepers, bullfinch and red polls can be encountered. Are you getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch on the 27-29th January? Join us the weekend before, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 January 10am-3.30pm for a special event with drop-in workshops to give you advice and tips about everything you need to know about in preparation for the event. Drop-in workshops will help you brush up on your identification skills, learn more about the best food to feed them at this time of year, how to look after your nest boxes and much more! Follow the link HERE for more information.

Get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch Saturday 20- Sunday 21 January event

Robin Head by Andrew Nayler

The swirling mass of starlings each evening has been the highlight for many visitors as they gather before descending like water down a plug hole into the swaying reeds for the night. With nights lengthening they are now roosting on the reserve from 4pm onwards. The Skytower offered the perfect platform to watch their winter sky dancing when they were roosting in front of Grisedale until the start of this week when they moved to the far end of the reserve. Watch them from Causeway hide.

Starlings flock 

With so much to look for at what is one of the quieter times of year for wildlife why not make a special trip to Leighton Moss where some fabulous winter wildlife is calling this place home?