Priceless area to see those rare species
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