Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Leighton Moss

I entered Silverdale on a rickety old bus around about three 'O' clock. To get from Penrith to Silverdale only cost me £3.40 each way so I didn't mind. You could tell it was a local service as it was only a small hired bus and as usual on my travels, anywhere scenic involves a bus full of old people also enjoying a day out. Not a single geared up hiker or avid bird watcher in sight, how disappointing. The rolling stone hills of cumbria had changed to meadows and grass pasture by this time as I stepped off at the station and walked around the corner to Leighton Moss. At the entrance bird feeders had been setup and as you carry on into the reserve another had been setup behind a screen where Gray Squirrels (vermin) could often be seen. The reserve has seven hides of which I visited five. The other two were on a salt marsh on the outskirts of the reserve but it hadn't rained in months and was bone dry so no waders to improve my I.D skills on and so no photographs which was a shame. These two hides were also the only two that faced away from the rising sun facing map SE. Of all the hides I went to I found myself always going back to the Grizedale Hide. It was the best place to see deer, Little Egrets undoubtedly had a nest towards the back and all the usuals Lapwing, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Black Headed Gull, Shell Duck, Reed Bunting, Oystercatcher, Shoveler, Moorhen and Coot (Leighton moss is Coot city) would pretty much tend to be there. Also sighted one Great Crested Grebe, one Heron and one cormorant (not from that hide) over the course of my visit. The Marsh Harrier is however always going to be the highlight of every visitors day. I saw it four times during my stay most of which were of it disappearing but even seeing it briefly, it dominated the reserve and there was no mistaking it.

It was four 'O' clock the next day as I headed down into the reserve. Though it was getting light the sun had yet to surface over the horizon and the morning was crisp and clear. Mist collected over the pools and as I went deeper into the reserve in the hope of seeing a Barn Owl from one of the hides it began tinting orange in the light. I stopped at a small wooden bridge where a still channel of water separated the reeds. (see top image) Silhouettes of warblers and tits darted over the water and into the reeds as I set up the tripod and experimented with the framing. I stayed there taking shots as the sun came up and time ticked by. I think I'll have to get up for mornings like this more often.
The hide was empty as I entered. The door ran smooth, effortlessly quiet. I saw deer both mornings but they were never quite close enough except for when in the shaddow of the reeds where the low suns light could never quite get to. Part of the reason why the moss was so quiet was because the boombs of the Bittern hadn't been heard in weeks. I overheard someone saying how he has come to Leighton Moss for 17 years and counting and always heard it so the chances are it has most likely died. I spent most of my visit at the reserve and heard nothing either, the sad truth is he may be right.

The last hide I went to known as Lower Hide was the furthest situated hide into the reserve. The path to it is long but your guaranteed to see or hear something interesting before you get there. The sun was hot as I trekked the thin path with the tripod on my shoulder and my bins around my neck. A sign stated frogs and toads crossing. They weren't joking. I counted 50 but there must have been in excess of 100 frogs along this one thin path which makes sense really. Its a hot day in summer and I'm surrounded by water. But still, there were so many you'd think they were spiders. It was so difficult to know where to put your feet. I could already see casualties that lay before me, the tiny splattered remains of their former selves. Once in the hide it yielded nothing much, most what was interesting stayed to the back just in sight.

The RSPB were very helpful as they showed me where I might be able to see Peregrine, the best place to find the harrier and I also investigated the Lancashire coast as they recommended and saw a 30+ flock of Oystercatchers. Leighton moss is good and I will definitely go back however I have seen the Somerset Levels which makes Leighton Moss look like a pond. All told a good few days. Thanks to anyone who has read even half of this ramble. Hopefully it might give some people some good info.


  1. I'm really liking where this blog is going Steve :) I'll give you a plug tonight on my update.

  2. Hi Steve,
    Followed Cains plug and look forward to following your blog and viewing your images.
    I did last the course on your posting and enjoyed it immensely.

  3. Thanks very much to both of you. I shall not disappoint.