Head outdoors to catch the seasonal highlights at Lancashire’s RSPB nature reserve, as hundreds of birds return to roost from their summer habitats.
Bird watchers looking out of Lillian’s hide. © Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
As the seasons turn, there’s no better time to catch the spectacle of birdlife returning to Britain than at the north west’s largest remaining reedbed. Keep watch as you follow the trails right to the heart of the reserve. A little patience and quiet rewards those who take cover in the special bird hides, in the comfort of which many of the shiest birds can be spotted. Family events run throughout the year and an informative visitor centre provides free Wildlife Explorer packs for children along with the all-important tearoom.
Grey heron Ardea cinerea, wading near reeds. © Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Well known for its feathered communities of bittern, marsh harrier and avocet at other times of the year, Leighton Moss sees vast flocks of starling form aerobatic smudges against autumn skies – their fascinating displays heralding the onset of winter. These overwintering birds return to Britain from as far afield as Russia and large numbers choose Leighton Moss as their adopted home. Bearded tit are only to be found in the reedbed, though do not fare well in harsh winters and are noticeably in decline – hear the noisy chatter of these small brown birds as they make their presence felt. Another species in decline is the Black-tailed godwit, which prefers warmer climes in winter, though those from northern Europe tend to travel only as far as Leighton Moss! Spot these newcomers, along with ruffs and greenshanks as they take advantage of the food and shelter offered by the reserve. Open all year round except Christmas Day, the site is the ideal place for family exercise, where it is possible to walk for miles and barely register exertion.