News archive

December 2008

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bittern feeding in reedbeds

News from Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve (Autumn 2008)

News from Leighton Moss

This summer we had three successful marsh harrier nests on the reserve with nine young fledged (4, 3 and 2), with the first young bird fledging on 30 June. This year we had one avocet chick, and a young bittern was seen (which means we probably had one successful bittern nest from the 3 attempted). Many thanks to Joe Hagen for the Bittern photograph. Our bearded tits have had a good breeding season. After last year's poor productivity, when only 13 young were ringed, our population has bounced back to over 50 young.

During the Autumn, the migrants have been passing through. In September, ospreys were seen quite regularly on their way south, sometimes stopping over for a couple of days. Marsh harriers have also been a regular sight with our own birds and their fledglings moving on and migrating birds being seen on an almost daily basis. In October, a yellow-browed warbler was caught in mist nets erected for the bearded tit study. Otters have been a regular sight on the Public pool with one rare sighting being in the early afternoon. The red deer rut has been ongoing throughout September and October. Stags have been heard bellowing all over the reed bed.

Bittern sightings have been on the increase with good views reported from most of the reedbed hides. Bearded tit sightings have also been increasing with large numbers visiting the grit trays (twelve at a time) to facilitate their change of diet. Little egret numbers continue to increase, with the trees at Island Mere being a favourite roosting site. The saltmarsh pools have started to pull in more waders and waterfowl as winter approaches. Pintails, wigeons, greenshanks, curlew sandpipers, redshanks and spotted redshanks all being regularly seen. Black tailed godwit numbers continue to rise with 860 seen at one time. Merlins and peregrines have made frequent visits to the wader roosts. Sparrowhawks have been attracted to the starling roost, which now contains over 10,000 individuals. The recent sightings of redwing and fieldfare mean that winter is definitely on the horizon.

Warden's update:
Richard Miller is our new assistant warden and tells us a bit about the recent work on the reserve. Warton Crag management work has gone well in October with the areas where bramble has started to take over targeted for management. In addition, areas of thorn have been designated for coppicing to benefit garden warblers and blackcaps in particular. The reed bed management has suffered yet more setbacks with the water level reaching a high of 107 (should be below 60!) due to high rainfall. As a result, some of the summer-cut areas have not been completed. The water is currently creeping down again so hopefully we can go ahead with the winter reed-cutting programme soon. The willow coppicing has gone ahead for those areas that we could reach in the high water. We had a group from Barclays Bank come out in September to do litter picking and analysis at the Carnforth slag tips area of the reserve. They removed about twenty sacks of rubbish from the high tide line, as part of an ongoing research project around the Morecambe Bay coast.

Visitor news:
Our education team have had a reasonably busy year with some new schools visiting. However, petrol prices have caused a problem with transport costs unfortunately for schools. An exciting new project has just begun with the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, working with 8 schools until May 2009 to promote the area's wealth of wildlife.

Leighton Moss continues to be a popular place to visit throughout the year and our events programme has proved very popular. The new 'What's on' for 2009 will be out before the end of the year. You can pick one up from the visitor centre or look at the reserve page on the RSPB website ( for listings.

A new Leighton Moss Sketch Club has started and is looking for anyone interested to come along and join in. The club is untutored, just bring along your own doodling equipment to take out with you on the reserve. They meet on the 1st Saturday in the month with costs £3 group entry charge for non members. Please get your entry tickets on arrival at the visitor centre, then meet in the tearoom at 10.30 am.
For more information, please contact Marianne Birkby tel: 015395 63671.

We are still looking for volunteers to help in our tearoom and shop - if you can spare a few hours a week then we'd love to hear from you - call me (Jen on 01524 703017).

Finally, the reserve was also proud to win the Sustainable Tourism Award with Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board this year and gained Taste Lancashire Accreditation in our tearoom again.

I hope this has given you a glimpse of what's been happening here this year. Thank you all once again for your support which is extremely valued. Hope to see you soon!

Jen Walker, Visitor and Publicity Officer RSPB Leighton Moss

Friday, 5 December 2008

Adult and children with book and binoculars birdwatching

2009 Programme Now Available

Existing Lancaster Local Group members should have received their 2009 Programme. Please note that the Hilbre Island trip on Wednesday 27 May has been cancelled and will be replaced by a visit to Barbondale - meet 9.15am at Barbon church.
Our 2009 Programme of indoor meetings and wildlife visits includes trips to Martin Mere, Warton Crag, Hodbarrow and Marshside among other places; with talks on Bird Migration, Islay, Baltics etc.
If you are not a member of the Lancaster Local Group, why not join us for only £4 per household?