|View from the Public Hide at Leighton Moss|
Having seen none so far this winter, skylarks were very much in evidence along the Lune estuary throughout the 3 hours I was out. Primarily in ones and twos, most were moving in a southerly direction although a couple were simply circling around at height over the marshes. Breeders returning from winter sites to establish territories?
The other birds that seemed uncharacteristically numerous were common buzzards. I appreciate that these birds are widespread and relatively common along the lune these days, but I saw at least 7 individuals between Aldcliffe and Ashton Hall. Three of these were headed purposefully south, at height. Perhaps it was just a good day for buteos to get out and declare their intentions, as opposed to this being actual movement?
Aldcliffe was a little quiet for most of the week from what I could see. I got out most days at one point or another; some days were pleasant and mild, others were absolutely horrendous.
The redhead smew remained faithful throughout at Freeman's Pools. It relocated to one of the small satellite pools in the north west corner while the Lancashire Wildlife Trust staff were on site doing some major habitat management courtesy of Environment Agency diggers. In fact it seemed to be about the only bird that wasn't completely freaked out by this intrusion!
One highlight included a pair of lesser redpoll feeding on rosebay willowherb seeds at the cutting just south of Snipe Bog on Thursday. Redpolls are generally pretty scarce in north Lancashire and are barely annual in the Aldcliffe area.
|Looking out from the Griesdale Hide|
Anyhoo, the reserve was nice and quiet when I arrived and I had most of the hides pretty much to myself. As I headed out to the Griesdale Hide I was accompanied by the almost incessant squealing of water rails emanating from the dense reedbeds. From the hide itself it was fairly standard fayre with a couple of cormorants sat up in a tree and good numbers of wildfowl including teal, wigeon, mallard and gadwall. The two little egrets elegantly fishing in the shallows would have been a remarkable sight not too many years ago but now they are to be expected.
Birds visible from the nearby Jackson hide were much the same, with pintail, greylag and mute swan added to the mix.
Lilian's hide provided a few more birds, including common gull, black-headed gull, tufted ducks and my first pochard of the year. Another year-tick came in the form of a marsh harrier sat preening in a distant willow.
|A robin - what's not to love?|
|Long-tailed tit poses nicely.|
More water rails squealed and I heard the not-too-distant 'ping' of a bearded tit but failed to catch sight of the dapper parrotbill. As I trundled along the path to the Lower hide I bagged a fly-over siskin, had views of a great-spotted woodpecker and plenty of other common woodland birds.
One of the great things about a place like Leighton Moss is that one can get pretty good views of lots of common birds. Most active birders, myself included, tend to ignore the more familiar species as a matter of course, but it's quite hard to ignore even a robin or chaffinch at arm's length. Then the camera inevitably comes out. So, forgive me for posting these shots - I just couldn't help it!
Also, bare in mind that I've been 'starved' of many of these common birds for the last 3 years and am sort of looking at them through 'new' eyes... (my Canadian pals will appreciate them at least!).
The walk back to the reserve was uneventful, but pleasant enough thanks to the bright, mild conditions.
Things have certainly changed since my inaugural visit to this large reserve back in the late 1970s, but one thing remains the same - it's a wonderful place where members of the public can get close and cosy with nature. And that can only be a good thing.
Just to prove that I haven't turned into a total dude, I did stop at Warton Stock Car track (located at the glamorous location of Carnforth Slag Heaps) on my way home to see if I could see the black redstart that's been hanging around there lately. I haven't been to this area for at least 20 years, and had forgotten just how horrible this place is. Anyway, I had the place to myself and soon found the bird, a smart but flighty individual, it appears to be first-year male.