Nature is powerful, beautiful and more dramatic than some of the best television shows. David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II is a testament to this, watched by millions up and down the country. The series has stretched to the four corners of the earth and back again. But, you don’t have to go so far to witness the wonder of nature! In fact, one of the most interesting areas to witness the power of nature in the form of birds is located here in England.
RSPB Leighton Moss is home to one of the largest reed beds in northwest England, hosting a wide variety of life as a result. The best part about Leighton Moss? It’s only a hop and a skip away from Holgates' flagship park at Silverdale! As winter approaches, there are some fascinating stories unfolding in the reed bed waiting to be witnessed.
So, what can you expect to see when you step into the wondrous world of Leighton Moss?
The area of Leighton Moss has been under the care of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) since 1964 when they purchased it from the Leighton Hall estate. Previously they had leased the land to help protect the wildlife there. It is in Silverdale, located in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Beauty. The area is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and even an Important Bird Area. The importance of Leighton Moss as a habitat cannot, therefore, be understated!
Leighton Moss is not just an important habitat for birds. It is also the perfect habitat for red deer, stoats, damselflies, many species of fungi and of course a wide variety of avid bird watchers!
Species to Spot
Winter is an amazing time of year for the reserve, as many species take advantage of the spacious reed beds. During the colder months, they are often used as nesting sites for many species of raptors and a shallow feeding ground for other animals. The maintenance of these reed beds is some of the most important work that the RSPB undertakes!
The most prevalent birds during the winter season are the bearded tit, nationally rare bitterns, greylag goose, merlin, and water rails.
Bitterns are notoriously secretive birds and often difficult to see. They are akin to a thickset heron, with a fluffy brown plumage that is covered in darker brown streaks. It is a bird that takes flight on rounded bowed wings and moves silently on the edge of reed beds in order to hunt fish. This is one species that is entirely dependent upon reed beds such as those found at Leighton Moss. So much so that it is a species on the Amber List – species with increased conservation concern – and benefit greatly from the conservation efforts of the RSPB.
Here at Holgates, we love being closer to nature. But, we are also increasingly aware of the importance of such natural sites for the preservation of many of our national species. We have found our home in the lush countryside of Silverdale and hope these birds will continue to be our neighbours for generations to come.
One of the most spectacular sights at Leighton Moss during the coming months is the incredible starling murmuration. This is a sight that can sometimes include an incredible 120,000 starlings! But, why are they doing this?
Unfortunately, the why of a starling murmuration is still somewhat of a mystery. There are, of course, theories abound, but no one is quite sure as to the full reason. Many speculate that it is a simple case of safety in numbers, needed more in winter as the greenery fades and they become more exposed to danger. It is impossible for predators such as peregrine falcons to target one bird in such a hoard. Others suggest it is an effort to keep warm during winter. Or even as a method of exchanging information, communicating the best areas to feed in the scarcer food resources that winter offers.
Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that it is one of the most interesting sights to be found on the Leighton Moss reserve at this time of year! This begins in late October or early November but is best seen in the heart of November and December. A true spectacle, even for the novice birder!
Whether you’re looking to enjoy nature and the peace and quiet it brings, or head indoors to take advantage of our fully-stocked facilities, we cater to every taste in our parks. So contact us today on 01524 701508 to start your nature adventure!