This was the best of May – the small brown birds

Wisely reiterating endlessly

What no man learnt yet, in or out school.

Sedge warbler by David Mower

These final lines from the Edward Thomas’ poem ‘Sedge-Warblers’ seemed to me a fit way to open my first blog. Partly, this is because the songs of sedge warblers – and their partners in bamboozling vocality, reed warblers – have been some of the best parts of my May. I was familiar with neither species before arriving at Leighton Moss 3 weeks ago. Now most days, after completing a reserve ramble, my ears ring with their wild cacophony. Passing and pausing along the trails that lead into the heart of the reserve, one becomes audience to unrelenting songs that emanate from the reeds. Constantly shifting and altering into new tones and phrases in fast succession, seemingly stretching “as long as any lark’s”, they leave the listener baffled and compelled. The energy these birds devote to their enduring performances is consistently amazing. They are surely some of the prime vocalists here at Leighton Moss.

It is at this time of year that our natural spaces are richest with song, and with the considerable diversity of birdlife at Leighton Moss visitors are sure to be struck by melodious outpourings. Strolling around the reserve recently, I often have the impression of touring an amphitheatre midway through an operatic performance. Joining their reed-based relatives, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, Cetti’s and willow warblers continue daily to add to the evocative symphony.

Cetti's warbler by Mike Malpass

The wave of pleasant weather that has graced us recently has provided ample clarity to enjoy the reserve’s varied spaces, enhanced by the strength of the light. Visitors on hot afternoons can cherish everything from the warm golden hues of the reedbeds, to the dignified rafters of birch, oak and ash at the reserve’s entrance, their shades splintered with sunlight, and the sumptuous moss-laden, lichen-thick corners of aged willows and sallows flanking the main trails.

This week I was given a day tour around the reserve by David Mower, Warden at Leighton Moss for 27 years. It was an incredibly valuable opportunity, and for the majority of the day I remained an attentive listener whilst David provided a thorough account of the history of the reserve, the different approaches to reedbed management and the achievements made since the 1960s, the varying fates of wildlife on the reserve, his hopes for the reserve, and a reiteration of the considerable importance of the work done to preserve and promote Leighton Moss and places like it. There is a gentleness and humility to David, who freely spends most of his week in our Visitor Centre introducing people to the reserve and attempting to recruit more support to aid the work done at Leighton Moss in particular, and the RSPB more general.

Joe Fraser-Turner, Residential Volunteer Intern

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