Trip reports

Leighton Moss

Leighton Moss
Otter - Steve Settle

Saturday, 15 December 2018

With a forecast of freezing rain, and the knowledge of ongoing motorway roadworks, it was decided to change the destination of the December trip from Brandon Marshes Country Park, near Coventry, and instead go to Leighton Moss RSPB for the day.

We started the visit by first going to the Eric Morecambe hide on the saltmarshes.

The water level here was quite high and as a result there were very few waders, but conversely, numerous ducks having been displaced from the frozen pools in the main reserve.

There were a couple of dozen black-tailed godwit, a dozen or so curlew, three greenshank, and a couple each of redshank and lapwing. Also present away from the pools were a few little egrets. The duck numbers were made up by large numbers of teal, wigeon, and pintail, along with mallard, shoveler, and gadwall. Other wildfowl present were a few distant mute swans, a couple of red breasted mergansers, and a single goosander.

A water rail tried but failed to pass unseen under the windows of the hide. A kestrel flew across the pools, and a magpie and some carrion crows further helped disturb the few waders that were on the Allen pool.

A few wrens darted in and out of the long grasses and a couple of friendly robins kept us company on the walk to and from the hide.

We then drove to the reserve centre car park to visit the remaining hides.

On the walk to the Causeway hide a great white egret flew above us, a buzzard was seen high in the sky, and another half a dozen robins took it in turns to accompany us.

From the Causeway hide we observed a number of teal, wigeon, and mallard grouped in one ice free corners of the mere. There were a few distant cormorants and a dozen mute swans. A single little grebe plied the waters and a few goldeneyes flew in. A few moorhen and coots could be also be seen. The marsh harriers made an appearance with at one time there being three in the air at once. The male hunting over the mere caused all the coot to group in a single small raft, constantly looking skywards for the harrier.

Unfortunately, the harriers didn't flush any bitterns, which, because of the water levels, would have been deep within the reeds. We were however fortunate enough to see the dog otter come out of the reeds and walk some distance along the ice, before comically falling through, and then continue its journey by swimming.

Back at the feeding station at the centre there were great tit, blue tit, coal tit, and long tailed tit, but no obvious marsh tit. Other birds on or around the feeders included house sparrow, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, bullfinch, dunnock,

collared dove, woodpigeon, nuthatch, and
pheasant.

At Lillian's hide there were no promised snipe and as before a number of teal and wigeon, with lesser numbers of mallard and gadwall.

At the Tim Jackson hide the water was completely frozen over, and just as someone said, "you don't normally see much here, but I've never been in here and not seen a bird", a grey heron walked into view.

At Grisedale hide, the water was again frozen, other than the free-flowing sluice water which held ducks similar to those already seen. But a marsh harrier then appeared and sent them all skyward before they circled and returned to the ice-free water.

And, as before, in the walk between these hides, we were accompanied by another dozen friendly robins.

The forecasted rain then began to fall, so we called it a day, and headed home.

5 attended, 51 species seen.