Trip reports

Coach Outing to RSPB Leighton Moss

Coach Outing to RSPB Leighton Moss
Marsh tit - Brian Robertson

Sunday, 29 May 2016

After a week of East Coast haar it was a treat to travel west and come into clear, blue skies and experience hot sunshine. The earlier-than-usual start didn't deter us from a bit of "coach birding", and we saw 5 members of the crow family, including jay, both tree- and house sparrows, and 3 of our ariel acrobatic summer visitors: swift, barn swallow and house martin. Over Shap Summit we saw our only curlew of the day.

On our arrival at RSPB Leighton Moss, Alan, one of the volunteers, gave us a brief history of the Reserve, and indicated some of the birds to look out for. His teaching was rewarded well as having told us how to recognise the call of a spotted crake, Anya identified one calling later in the day. In the Sensory Garden several birds were spotted during the day: dunnock, bullfinch, goldfinch and chaffinch, with greenfinch and nuthatch heard.

Everyone enjoyed good views of marsh harrier, some from the new SkyTower, looking down on them quartering the reedbeds, some watching from a hide, and possibly everyone saw the character who clearly had a favourite tree near Causeway Hide and spent much of the afternoon in it. Marsh tits were seen at two locations, and long tailed-, coal-, blue- and great tits were also noted. In the reedbeds, reed bunting and both reed- and sedge warbler were seen.
The vegetation on the various trails between the hides added wren, robin, blackbird, song thrush, goldcrest and treecreeper but, despite our efforts, blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler were heard rather than seen, as was a distant cuckoo. We definitely couldn't miss the loud and insistent call of Cetti's warbler, and Anne was fortunate to actually see one.

On the various pools were grey heron, mute swan, greylag- and Canada geese, shelduck, gadwall, teal, mallard, pintail, shoveler, tufted duck, moorhen, coot, black-tailed godwit (some showing Summer plumage), lapwing and redshank. Most exciting were the osprey flying over one of the Causeway pools, and Winnie's spot of a water rail beside the Causeway. The usual gulls and woodpigeon were seen and joined our growing list, along with grey- and pied wagtail, skylark, pheasant and starling. We had done a reasonable amount of walking so lunch was much appreciated and, uncharacteristically, seats in the shade were popular.

In the afternoon there was a choice of birding locations. Some opted to stay on the main part of the Reserve and go to places not visited in the morning or re-visit a particular hide, while others took the chance to be dropped off from the coach and walk to the Eric Morecambe hide. Sadly, the avocets normally seen here had been predated by fox, but there were 3 spoonbill, great crested grebe, little egret, oystercatcher, goosander and lesser whitethroat. The group had a distant view of a raven mobbing a common buzzard (or possibly a marsh harrier?), probably protecting its nest on the nearby crags.

For the day the group had gathered a list of 58 species seen in the Reserve, a further 7 heard, and 8 more seen on the journey. The general feeling was that there had been some very good views of certain species, and some "special" species not frequently seen to make our day - and, of course, the glorious weather!

Val Donaldson, Coach Outings Organiser