Following on from the successful fledging of three bitterns from one nest in recent weeks, the marsh harriers have now taken centre stage. With a trio of youngsters each from two nests near Grisedale Hide it’s just about impossible to not see these amazing raptors at the moment. The adult birds are busy bringing in food for the growing harriers and spectacular food passes can be seen (much to the delight of many visiting photographers) at close quarters. I was briefly in the hide during a lunch break one day this week and in one ten-minute period saw nine different harriers and witnessed three juveniles sweeping up from the reeds to meet the adult male as he brought in a prey item for the brood – what a fabulous sight! (Pic of marsh harrier by David Mower)

Meanwhile, the Foulshaw Moss ospreys continue to drop by daily to hunt. They typically tend to favour Causeway and Lower pools; these are deeper waters and as a consequence home to larger fish. Similarly, this section of Leighton Moss is preferred by our otters. Visitors have been reporting the mother and her three cubs fairly regularly but it seems this family unit is starting to become a little more independent and otters have been seen in ones and twos in recent days.

 For us birders, summer is often highlighted by the return of the first returning waders. These are often failed breeders that have already left the nesting grounds in the north. They are soon followed by others that may have left the parenting duties to their breeding partner (in several species the female leaves the male to raise the chicks while she heads back south). As the season goes on juveniles will start to appear and occasionally among them some scarcer birds. (Pic of greenshank by Mike Malpass)

Gulls are also on the move and we can see a build up in such species as Mediterranean gull at coastal sites. A few of these handsome birds have been spotted amongst the black-headed gull colony at the Eric Morecambe and Allen Pools in recent weeks and on a couple of occasions have been seen predating the eggs of their smaller cousins.   

 On sunny days the reserve can be alive with dragonflies. Look for broad-bodied chasers, black-tailed skimmers, emperor dragonflies and common darters as well as common blue and blue-tailed damselflies as you wander the paths and scan the pool edges. (Pic of blue-tailed damselfly by Mike Malpass)

As always, you can keep up to date with visitors’ sightings and photos on the official Leighton Moss Facebook group page or by following us on Twitter.

And don’t forget, if you do visit us please put your own sightings in the book!  

Jon Carter