Priceless area to see those rare species

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

WITHIN two hours’ drive of our cir­cu­la­tion area, and even less time on the train, the wildlife is wait­ing for you at ev­ery turn in the road – or track – for that mat­ter.

A lit­tle bit of ef­fort, for so much re­ward.

For ex­am­ple, last week­end, on the way to a wed­ding at Mun­caster Cas­tle, Raven­glass, I spied an osprey near their mon­i­tored nest­ing site at Foul­shaw Moss.

The next day I took a de­tour home via the quite won­der­ful Leighton Moss Re­serve at Sil­verdale, and the sight­ings con­tin­ued un­abated – res­i­dent marsh har­ri­ers were very ac­tive around the site, which by the way, is one of the last great reed-beds left in the UK, so a priceless area for many rare species.

On the plus side for vis­i­tors, you are al­most cer­tainly guar­an­teed to see one, and if you’re re­ally lucky the amaz­ing food pass, which in­volves the fe­male fly­ing up to meet the in­com­ing male and then re­ceive a food item mid-air.

It was worth the ef­fort of get­ting to the re­serve just to watch this amaz­ing be­hav­iour.

With the breed­ing sea­son in full swing, males and fe­males across the re­serve are get­ting very friendly, but it means that in some cases, the males are be­ing par­tic­u­larly ag­gra­vated by one an­other.

A regular vis­i­tor to the re­serve wit­nessed an epic mute swan battle re­cently, last­ing over 30 min­utes. I’m pleased to re­port that ‘things’ have now set­tled down and there were no clashes dur­ing my visit.

How­ever, there was plenty of ac­tiv­ity down on the salt-marsh, where av­o­cets can be seen with their chicks from both public hides.

Th­ese un­mis­tak­able birds, with their longcurved bill and dis­tinc­tive black-and-white plumage light up the marshes, and it is per­haps no sur­prise that the RSPB chose the av­o­cet for its logo.

There are also quite a few black-headed gulls, with a cou­ple of Mediter­ranean Gulls mixed in with them.

As you may imag­ine, this duo should re­ally be a lit­tle south of the area.

As with a great white egret which was spot­ted fly­ing over last week, and in­deed the lit­tle egrets dot­ted round the edges of the re­serve – although the lat­ter do now breed in many ar­eas on south­ern Eng­land, and along the west coast.

They are also be­com­ing very com­mon in south­ern Ire­land.

I heard some of the most iconic sounds of spring, in­clud­ing the cuckoo, and lots of those lit­tle brown-jobs just back from Africa and other sun­nier climes, in­clud­ing chif­fchaffs, lesser­whitethroats, Cetti’s and a grasshop­per war­bler, the lat­ter be­ing a great sur­prise, whereas, it is no sur­prise that they sound like grasshop­pers.

Lower wa­ter lev­els on the re­serve have ex­posed more mud, which has re­ally drawn in the wad­ing birds, and ruff, black-tailed god­wits, knot, wood sand­piper and even a whim­brel, have all been spot­ted feed­ing over the past few days.

Down at the pool named af­ter Eric More­cambe, the wader­fest con­tin­ues, with two spot­ted red­shanks, a green­shank, and with 32 nests to date, you should be able to spot a few more av­o­cets.

The staff at Leighton Moss, and vis­it­ing ex­perts, have a whole host of ac­tiv­i­ties and cour­ses which are open to the public through­out the year.

Check out www.rspb. org and visit the Re­serve Sec­tion.

I was hop­ing to catch sight of the rare pied­billed grebe, but dipped out, but the spot­ted crake which I heard deep within the reeds made up for it, as did the fleet­ing glimpse of the iconic bit­tern.

I’ve al­ways been lucky with the bit­tern, and have seen one ev­ery time I have vis­ited the re­serve.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glossop

●● The av­o­cet, with its long-curved bill, lights up the marshes

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