Leighton Moss 28.03.17

Bright, sunny and warm of the time of year, rain later

Earlier in the year than usual the Team gathered outside the Visitor Centre at this premier RSPB just after 10.30am. First impressions were aural; the call of the first of many Chiffchaff, the whirring of a Greenfinch and the raucous song of a Robin all struck our ears, but eyes soon took over as Collared Dove, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and a solitary Redwing all presented themselves for our enjoyment in the vicinity of the feeding stations. Progress towards the Causeway Hide was slowed by attempts to spot another Chiffchaff high in the tree tops and, much lower down, to seek out a Cetti’s Warbler whose song burst out of a dense bush as we passed. Overhead, a Peregine circled, and on the reeds, a Reed Bunting dutifully presented itself.

In Causeway Hide we were treated to the first flypast of the day by a Marsh Harrier and some enjoyed the spectacle of a Great Crested Grebe that was having some difficulty in disposing of a rather large fish that it had caught, before it was apparently robbed of its prize by an aggressive Cormorant. Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Teal were all in evidence and a Little Grebe was glimpsed some distance off. Having decided to proceed onwards to Lower Hide, our progress was delayed by the reported sighting of Bearded Tits, busy at this time making their nests amongst the reeds, but sadly only a few were lucky enough to glimpse these elusive birds.

In twos and threes we pressed on along the woodland path, more Chiffchaff, friendly Pheasant (cock and hen) and Marsh Tits all showed themselves. At Lower Hide, a Marsh Harrier again performed for us, Lapwing displayed, a solitary pair of Canada Geese appeared, a Grey Heron flew in, a motionless Snipe was spotted at the edge of the reeds, and a pair of Goldeneye went through a bizarre mating ritual. Whilst the female watched, her head level with the water, the male circled round, twisting back his head and neck, and puffing out his chest. Then, in what seemed to be the climax, the male grabbed the female by the head, spun her round in the water a couple of times before mounting the by now giddy creature who disappeared momentarily beneath the water.

Exhausted just by watching this energetic spectacle, and beginning to feel pangs of hunger, the Team headed back to the VC for lunch. Collecting sandwiches from the cars, some of us heard the distinctive call of a Green Woodpecker, but this bird was evidently somewhere on the adjoining golf course and remained hidden from view. Post prandial visits to the Grisedale and Tim Jackson Hides afforded good views of more Shoveler and Teal, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, a Pintail and, fleetingly, of a Great White Egret. However, the most intriguing sight perhaps was that of a Little Egret fishing in the shallows: moving slowly forward, it jigged one of its legs about to stir up the mud and disturb prey which it then attempted to catch plunging its long beak forward into the water.

With time now beginning to press and sky darkening with the threat of rain, it was decided to drive on to the estuary hides. There further treats were in store, with views of Redshank, Oystercatcher and Avocet, and, for the second week running, of Mediterranean Gulls, with two birds  presenting themselves in virtual isolation on one of the small islands in front to the hides.

The first drops of rain falling on the windows of the Eric Morecambe hide prompted our departure, but even though the rain was becoming heavier, one final stop at Wharton Crag in search of the Peregrines that make their nest there was decided upon. At first only Jackdaws in considerable number were in noisy evidence, but just as some of the less stout-hearted had already got back into cars, movement was spotted and sharp eyes then made out a lone Peregrine whose blue-grey plumage blended in with the grey rock face, almost to the point of invisibility. Suitably buoyed, we did then at last head for home after a truly satisfying day’s birding.

Bird list (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Canada goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Pintail
  8. Shoveler
  9. Wigeon
  10. Teal
  11. Pochard
  12. Tufted duck
  13. Goldeneye
  14. Pheasant
  15. Little grebe
  16. Great crested grebe
  17. Cormorant
  18. Little egret
  19. Great white egret
  20. Grey heron
  21. Marsh harrier
  22. Common buzzard
  23. Peregrine falcon
  24. Moorhen
  25. Coot
  26. Oystercatcher
  27. Avocet
  28. Lapwing
  29. Redshank
  30. Black tailed godwit
  31. Snipe
  32. Black headed gull
  33. Mediterranean gull
  34. Lesser black backed gull
  35. Wood pigeon
  36. Collared dove
  37. Sand martin
  38. Dunnock
  39. Robin
  40. Song thrush
  41. Redwing
  42. Blackbird
  43. Cetti’s warbler
  44. Chiffchaff
  45. Goldcrest
  46. Wren
  47. Great tit
  48. Coal tit
  49. Blue tit
  50. Marsh tit
  51. Willow tit
  52. Long tailed tit
  53. Bearded tit
  54. Nuthatch
  55. Treecreeper
  56. Magpie
  57. Jackdaw
  58. Carrion crow
  59. Chaffinch
  60. Goldfinch
  61. Greenfinch
  62. Bullfinch
  63. Reed bunting
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