Leighton Moss RSPB 19.03.19

Overcast, drizzle at the end of the day.

A select baker’s dozen of the Team met outside the Leighton Moss VC under heavy clouds and straightaway faced the challenge of making out the shape of a tawny owl sheltering deep in the ivy high up in one of the tall trees, just across from the feeding station. Yes – no – I think so – was all that could be heard for the next few minutes as all eyes were directed upwards. However, with cricks beginning to set in necks, it was at last decided to head off in search of more readily visible birds and we made our way first to Lilian’s hide. Here,  a pair of decoy terns momentarily caused some excitement, but in reality there was not much sign of life on the water, apart from black-headed gulls, some mallard and a lone teal on the far side of the water.

Our next port of call , the Causeway hide, was much more rewarding, however, and we were all able to enjoy the spectacular sight of about twenty Whooper Swans and then marvel at a fine Marsh Harrier that glided in across the lake, perhaps spooking the swans which proceeded to take off in magnificent formation. Besides these treats there was plenty else to see; lapwing, pochard, coot, tufted duck, gadwall, pied wagtail, great crested grebe, great black gull and cormorant, but sadly no sight of the otters, of which there had been plenty of reports. And it was in pursuit of these mammals that we set off towards the Lower hide where apparently it was most likely for them to be seen. Unfortunately the recent heavy rains had resulted in part of the path being flooded so we were unable to reach the hide, but disappointment was somewhat moderated by being surrounded by plenty of titmice and getting good views of  a couple of marsh tit,  a nuthatch and a song thrush.

On the way back to the VC (and lunch) some of us heard the unmistakable call (or cry?) of a water rail, although spotting the bird was another matter entirely. Lunch for most was enjoyed in the shelter next to the bird feeding station, where not only were we able to admire a succession of woodland birds coming to the feeders, including coal tit, marsh tit, nuthatch, dunnock, robin and some brightly coloured chaffinch, but also to observe a wren gathering moss which it was using to build a nest under the roof of the shelter itself.

After a bit more craning of necks looking for the owl, more successful this time, we set off for the Grisedale hide, pausing on route to admire a small rodent, probably a bank vole, that was making a good meal of some moss at the side of the path and seemed not the least troubled by our presence. From the hide we enjoyed watching a pair of marsh harriers gliding and landing, apparently looking for a nesting sight rather than prey, and we also saw shoveler, gadwall and teal.

Making our way back towards the car park before driving onto the Morecambe hide, we came across a water rail, literally just a couple of feet from the path, preening itself within a tangle of branches, but clearly visible and totally unconcerned by the excitement it was causing. Tearing ourselves away from this close encounter, which enabled us to see what an attractive bird the water rail is, with its striated plumage and long beak, we then made our way to the Eric Morecambe hide, for what turned out to be the last treat for the day. The three or four of the islands visible from the hide were covered with literally hundreds for black tailed godwits, some clearly coming into breeding plumage. We had good views of them and were also able to admire their ‘black tails’ as numbers of them flew back and forth in front of us. A few redshank were mixed in with the godwits, allowing us to appreciate the difference in size between these two species, but keeping more to themselves were some avocets whose black and white colouration and pale grey legs showed particularly well against the darkness of the water. They even took to the water and swam around for a little while, a more unusual view of a bird, more frequently seen wading along the shoreline. Further off were large flocks of teal and widgeon, and out across the water shelduck and shoveler swam back and forth.

With ‘weather’ blowing in from the bay – Heysham power station had suddenly disappeared from view! –  we decided to venture towards Wharton Crag, where in previous years we had seen a peregrine on its nest. On this occasion, however, we were to be unlucky  – perhaps we were a bit too early in the season – but at least we saw plenty of noisy jackdaws, and on the way there one carload of the team glimpsed a little egret in the fields – unusually, the only one seen all day. Finally, the rain that had been threatening for some time set in and so, packing away scopes and binoculars,  we made a hasty retreat to the cars and headed back towards the motorway and home, after yet another good day’s birding.

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Chaffinch
  2. Goldfinch
  3. Blue tit
  4. Great tit
  5. Long-tailed tit
  6. Pheasant
  7. Nuthatch
  8. Greenfinch
  9. Dunnock
  10. Tawny owl
  11. Coal tit
  12. Blackbird
  13. Wren
  14. House sparrow
  15. Robin
  16. Lapwing
  17. Greylag goose
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Cetti’s warbler
  20. Reed bunting
  21. Pied wagtail
  22. Greater black-backed gull
  23. Moorhen
  24. Coot
  25. Cormorant
  26. Tufted duck
  27. Pochard
  28. Whooper swan
  29. Marsh harrier
  30. Great-crested grebe
  31. Grey heron
  32. Mute swan
  33. Common Buzzard
  34. Canada goose
  35. Little grebe (heard)
  36. Song thrush
  37. Carrion crow
  38. Jackdaw
  39. Marsh tit
  40. Treecreeper
  41. Nuthatch
  42. Water rail
  43. Bullfinch
  44. Gadwall
  45. Curlew (heard)
  46. Shoveler
  47. Redshank
  48. Avocet
  49. Shelduck
  50. Black-tailed godwit
  51. Wigeon
  52. Oystercatcher
  53. Collared dove
  54. Wood pigeon
  55. Magpie
  56. Little egret
  57. Mallard


Photos DC




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