13th Sept. I was down at Washington WWT this evening with Sam and Malcolm as we attended a Bat talk and walk. A good turn out of WWT members and folk there from the Durham Bat Group. It was an enjoyable evening. A couple of live and recovering bats were shown to us in close up. The Noctule Bat looked as if it could give quite a bite with those sharp teeth! The other recovering bat was a Whiskered Bat. Conditions for the walk were far from ideal as it was quite cold and windy, but we soon found Soprano Pipistrelle Bats with the aid of the bat detectors. Sam was first to detect them. The guy who led the talk had been sceptical that there were any Soprano Pipistrelle Bats in the vicinity of the trust grounds, but now knows better. I have to say I have never knowingly seen or heard a Soprano Pipistrelle Bat before so a lifer for me. Common Pipistrelle was also found and they do sound very different.
‘The Soprano Pipistrelle is a small bat that was only formally separated from the Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus in 1999. The two species were first distinguished on the basis of their different-frequency echo-location calls.’
We went down to the river in the hope of detecting Daubenton’s Bat, but had no success. I have seen these before and have actually watched one out hunting in the noon day sun. There was some thought that a Long Eared Bat might be around after someone had picked up sounds on the detector, but it was never seen/confirmed. A very enjoyable evening and a nice friendly group of people.
15th Sept. It was an early start today. Well, early as far as RSPB LG trips go. We left Newcastle at 8:00am as we headed for the A69 and M6 to take us to Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Kestrel, Common Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen on the way, but no Ravens over Shap.
On arrival Sam, Mark, Marie and I headed straight for the causeway and public hide to look for Bearded Tits. (We were told later that it was a little early in the year to see them feeding at the grit trays). We met with no success. However we did see a couple of Reed Warblers and birds on the water included Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Shovellers, and Gadwall. The stars here however were two Migrant Hawker Dragonflies and photos where managed at distance. The Migrant Hawker is one of the first dragonflies I really took a lot of interest in and one early identification marker I learnt about was the champagne glass shape on the base of the abdomen, which was clear to see today. What I did notice was that because of timing the reed-beds were very quiet. The last time I had been to Leighton Moss they were ringing with the song of Reed and Sedge Warblers. We decided to walk to the Eric Morecambe Hide at the estuary. It’s quite a walk and eats into birding time considering we only have a few hours to spend here.
One of two Migrant Hawker Dragonflies near the hide.
I’d been keeping my eyes peeled for the one remaining female Marsh Harrier we had been told was about and I was soon rewarded. The four of us had good sightings of this bird as it flew low over the reed-bed.
Once down to the hide we found around twenty Little Egrets, Grey Herons, large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank, Curlew and more Gadwall. Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Shoveller were also present. As far as I’m aware no one found the Spotted Redshanks that had been present the previous day and without my scope today I had no chance of picking up the distant (so I’m told) Curlew Sandpiper. I’m not sure if anyone really did. No one with a scope I spoke too seemed to have seen it. Greenshank were present somewhere, but I failed to find them. I did have the camera gear and so got some decent images although many were very distant. We did have some more very nice sightings of another female Marsh Harrier, initially far out in the estuary but later much closer and flying over one of the pools. I reckon this was a second female Marsh Harrier in the area still.
Grey Herons and Little Egrets near to the Eric Morecambe Hide
The walk had been worth it and we were further rewarded on the up hill return with a sighting of three young Swallows being fed as they sat on a ledge of an old barn type structure. More images were taken. I’m also wondering in hindsight if a Dragonfly with yellow marking we briefly saw was in fact a Black Darter!
We’d allowed time to look in at Lillian’s, Tim Jackson and Griesdale Hides. This area was a little bit over populated by people for my liking and I’m afraid I feel there is a bit too much emphasise from the RSPB on shopping and cream scones on the information handed out. Everyone’s needs must be catered for of course, just not my style. I don’t remember seeing anything of note from Lillian’s Hide, but we did have nice sightings of a Red Deer and Great Spotted Woodpecker from the Tim Jackson Hide along with more Black-tailed Godwits.
On he walk back to the centre we stopped at one of the cuts in the reed-bed and were joined by others. Nothing was seen here other than Robin and Long-tailed Tits. Then the others moved off and we had one of the sightings of the day when a Bearded Tit made a kind of ‘flash past’. I’d seen the bird in the reeds and as I lifted the binoculars it shot across the open space as another had done before it. We four were the only ones in the group to see this species today and I didn’t hear any other reports from visitors. As if to mark our success a Sparrowhawk also flew over the reed-bed in front of us.
I was surprised later to find that we had not only been the only ones lucky enough to find Bearded Tits, but that few others if in fact any others, had seen the Marsh Harriers. Some did see the Peregrine Falcon and Marsh Tits, both missed by me. The reserve had been very quiet of birds and perhaps a visit earlier in the year may have been more appropriate, but it had been a good day none the less. I stumbled across Leighton Moss many years ago when I was returning with friends from Morecambe one evening. I really loved the place, but had little time to view it. I shocked myself today when I remembered how long ago that visit had been. It had been a wonderful summers evening. I’ve been back of course and on one occasion spent a few days in Silverdale which allowed me to visit the reserve early morning and evening. That in my view is when you find the best atmosphere. It was during this visit that I first watched a Grey Heron struggling to swallow a large eel. I remember that event as though it were yesterday. The Silverdale and Arnside area has a wonderful atmosphere about it without the flood of tourism that you have a little further north in southern Lakeland.
I eventually caved in yesterday and visited the café for a cup of tea. There was no time to look at the books however in what I know is a good collection. We were soon heading back to Newcastle when for the first time on an RSPB LG trip a participant sighted a monkey, species unknown. I won’t name the participant but I am surprised he didn’t mange a photograph! Common Buzzard was seen again.