Would you believe I went to Leighton Moss today ... and came away with no photos!! Was that a poor visit? Absolutely not. The sightings more than made up for it and I hope you'll see why. In chronological order.
I started at the estuary hides, where there didn't seem to be much more than Redshanks and Lapwings (possibly because the tide was out). Then, a Spotted Redshank was pointed out to me as it flew over. Thanks to the woman who spotted it (sorry) from it's call.
On to the main reserve, where the staff advised heading for the Causeway in case the Bearded Tits were out before trying to hunt for the Purple Heron. After half an hour with a small group of us listening to pinging in the reeds and going "it sounds nearer ... it's further away ... it's behind us, how did it do that?" a male finally poked its head out of the reeds by the grit tray and I had my first ever Bearded Tit sighting. Which then slunk away again as soon as I pointed the camera at it!
Causeway Hide was very quiet, so on to Lower Hide, which also looked pretty quiet ... until an Otter appeared in the reeds right in front of the hide ...and disappeared again before I could get the camera out! Still my first Leighton Moss and indeed English Otter (I've only seen them in Scotland before). On the way back it started raining so I hid in the cafe for lunch and watched the Chaffinches, Bullfinches and Marsh and Blue Tits on the feeder about two feet away through the window. Nice companions to have for lunch.
On to Jackson Hide (passing Treecreeper and Goldcrest on the way), where I found a Peregrine dropping into a tree to eat its lunch. Too far for a photo, but with the scope I was treated to spectacular and gory detail which I won't go into here!
A Marsh Harrier showed at Grisedale (not sure whether juv or female or both), but sadly not a single sign of the Purple Heron while I was there.
Still some time left and I thought the tide would now be in, so maybe worth going back to the estuary hides to see if had pushed some birds in, as someone had told me they'd seen Little Stints there. One of my better decisions! When I arrived at Eric Morecambe Hide I asked where the Little Stints were but before anyone could show me, everything took off in panic. A raptor was soon spotted and the murmurs started. "Is it a Marsh Harrier? ... No, wait ... is that a Hen Harrier? I think that's a Hen Harrier. It is a Hen Harrier. What's a Hen Harrier doing here?" What a great sighting of this rare bird as it flew over Allen pool and off towards the estuary. When the excitement was over, the re-located Little Stints were re-found amongst a mixed flock of Ringed Plover and Dunlin (my thanks to the patient man next to me for pointing them out) and a Great White Egret popped up in a ditch.
So, apologies for not having photos to illustrate this with, but I thought a sightings list like that was worth reporting. Not bad at all :)
Sounds like a great day regardless of no photos - photos are always an added bonus but nothing really beats "watching".
Nice sightings Nige, I am going up again tomorrow and heading to the marsh hides first, hopefully might get some pictures seeing its going to be another nice day just hope it is, i will be taking my wellies too because there were pools of water on the tracks yesterday and with it raining since I bet its wet out there, hope to see the Gold crest again and what ever pops its head up I will be looking out for it.
Wow great sightings Nigel, great report too I could almost see those birds you described so well. I can understand the non use of the camera as I did a trip to Conway Reserve last week and although we had a great count of the birds, I didn't manage to get a photo of half of them as they are so fast or I just enjoyed looking at them. No Hen Harrier though, or Peregrine, or otter :(
Sadly I have took a load of pictures today and some look quite nice but we will see when I open them up in DPP :)