Springwatch at Leighton Moss

Spring is well and truly underway, with many animals heralding the warmer weather with the birth of their young to the delight of all of the Holgates Parks.


From baby lambs to fluffy chicks, there are certainly many delights to be found in the natural world at this time of year.

For naturalists, this is also the time of year that heralds the coming of BBC’s Springwatch, a delightful and detailed look into the natural world during this pivotal time of year. As close as we are to the Leighton Moss nature reserve, this is a particularly exciting time of year for everyone here at Holgates and especially for bird lovers.

Having previously visited the feathered inhabitants of Leighton Moss during winter, here is a look at the species that take over the reserve when spring is sprung.

Marsh Harrier

For many visitors to Leighton Moss during the springtime, the spectacular food passes performed by mating pairs of marsh harriers are a particular delight. With two breeding pairs and a single female, this aerial display can be seen up and down the hides of the site. Chances of seeing them in action are particularly likely at the Causeway Hide or Barrow Scout.

Part of the harrier subfamily, the marsh harrier is a spectacular example of a bird of prey. This is the largest or the harriers, with the broadest wingspan although it is only a mid-sized raptor. They are found almost worldwide, but the UK population was almost hunted to extinction a during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, it was reintroduced and numbers slowly rose once more. The DDT threat in the 50s and 60s again threatened the marsh harrier population – along with many other raptor populations – but the population has steadily increased.

A rare sight throughout the rest of the UK, the marsh harrier is a particular delight of Leighton Moss and not to be missed!


A small dabbling duck, the garganey is a duck that breeds throughout Europe but is strictly migratory. As such, the entire population travels to Africa, Australia and India during the winter. Optimum breeding habitats are grasslands that are located near to marshes or steppe lakes; so, their appearance at Leighton Moss during the spring should usually come as no surprise. However, the garganey are rare breeding birds in the British Isles and are typically found more towards the south of England, such as in Norfolk and Suffolk. So, the pair spotted this year have been met with great enthusiasm.

Lilian’s Hide has provided a great spectacle for this rare duck, as at least two have been spotted actively from this hide around the reserve this spring. If you are searching for this bird for a photograph to finish your spotting list, then this is your best bet this spring!

The male garganey can be easily identified, with a brown head and a broad white crescent over the eye and across the head. Its body plumage is grey, as is the bill and legs. Females are harder to differentiate, as they often are, as the female garganey is very similar to the female teal duck. More prominent markings on their face are the easiest indicators to differentiate the garganey female.


Our Silverdale Park is the perfect place to base your Leighton Moss adventures, it’s only a stone’s throw away from the reserve after all! So contact us today on 01524 701508 to start your nature adventure!