Winter at RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire, England - February 2010
Leighton Moss is simply one of the most beautiful areas in Lancashire. It is an important reserve for many bird species both in the winter and the summer. The 3 star species are Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits and Bitterns which depend on the reedbeds for survival and are all quite rare in the UK at the moment.
Leighton Moss is set in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Silverdale. It is a mosaic of woodland, reedbeds, freshwater bodies and coastal lagoons. Trails and walks help you to explore the area and give you a great feel of the reserve, which is great for a day out.
Leighton Moss is the largest reedbed in north-west England, and home to some really special birds such as breeding bitterns, bearded tits and marsh harriers. You might see deer too, not to mention butterflies aplenty!
The reserve and visitor centre are open daily all year round (except 25 December). The reserve is open from 9 am to dusk and the visitor centre from 9.30 am-5 pm (4.30 pm November-January inclusive).
Free to the visitor centre and tearoom. Admission to hides and nature trails: £4.50 adults, £3 concessions, £1 children, £9 family. Free to RSPB members and those who come by public transport or on bike.
Avocets can be seen from the hides overlooking the Allen and Eric Morecambe Pools in spring and summer.
A year-round attraction here in the extensive reedbeds. They form flocks in autumn and can often be seen picking up grit from special tables on the causeway or directly from the paths.
Bitterns can be heard 'booming' from the causeway between march and May. Scan over the reedbeds and you may catch a glimpse of one in flight - particularly in May and June. You may also see one sitting at the edge of the pools on frosty winter days.
Spring brings displaying marsh harriers to Leighton Moss. The males and females are busy feeding their young throughout summer and can often be seen hunting over the reedbed.
Watch from the hides for water rails emerging to feed on the edge of the channels and pool within the reedbed. They may venture out onto exposed mud when the water drops in late summer and autumn or onto ice in winter.
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
Booming bitterns in the reedbeds, best heard from the Causeway. Marsh harriers displaying high above the reedbeds. Butterflies along the reserve trails. The arrival of summer-visiting birds fills the reedbed with the rattling calls of sedge and reed warblers. Birdsong can be enjoyed in the woodland. Buzzards can be seen daily flying over the reserve. On the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools, large flocks of migrant black-tailed godwits stop off on their way to Iceland and the first avocets return to nest.
The special sight of marsh harriers passing food to each other in flight. Red deer grazing the Jackson and Griesdale meres in the evenings. The sight and sound of a busy black-headed gull colony. A chance to see young bitterns venturing out into the edges of the pools to feed, as well as a variety of young waterbirds. A succession of marsh flowers along the reserve tracks. Avocets and their chicks on the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools.
Parties of bearded tits flying across the reeds and picking up grit from the paths. Huge flocks of starlings wheeling above the reedbed before pouring into the reeds to roost. Migrant wading birds, especially greenshanks, ruffs and returning black-tailed godwits on the pools viewed from the Allen and Eric Morecambe hides.
Teals, shovelers and gadwalls join the resident ducks to congregate in large numbers in the pools. Bitterns and water rails can be seen out on the ice during cold spells. Flocks of siskins feed in the alders. Flocks of wigeons and greylag geese graze the saltmarsh at the Allen and Eric Morecambe pools, and are regularly disturbed by wintering peregrines and merlins.
Seven hides with the nearest hide to visitor centre only 160 yards (150 m) away.
Three nature trails: 0.5 miles, 0.8 km to 2 miles, and 3.2 km.
A wide selection of hot and cold food and drinks throughout the day. Parties catered for on request.
The shop stocks:
•Binoculars and telescopes
Education visits to Leighton Moss offer an exciting opportunity for your pupils to explore nature through the first-hand study of birds, other animals and plants. Led by professional RSPB educators, the curriculum-linked programmes are safe, hands-on, thought-provoking and fun. Approved as a safe provider of outdoor education activities by Lancashire County Council, Leighton Moss's risk-assessed programmes help children to understand the value of wildlife and natural places through experiential learning. Leighton Moss has the largest remaining reedbed in north-west England - a magical place where you and your pupils could hear the bitterns booming in the spring, watch the marsh harriers swooping in the summer or see the meres full of over-wintering ducks and geese in the winter. With a well-equipped classroom, shop, picnic area, trails and bird hides, Leighton Moss is the ideal place to bring your class for an unforgettable experience of nature. You can visit any day of the year. Our start times are flexible to suit you. It is advisable to book well in advance for the summer term, which is our busiest time. We can cater for two classes (or approximately 60 children), which will be divided into smaller groups of approximately 15.
Access to hides and viewpoints
Bird-feeding station has a screen, with varied height viewing slots and knee hole extension, which overlooks the birdtables and feeders. Lilian's hide is accessed via 1:20 ramp; a large, glazed, picture window overlooks the lagoon and reedbeds; an induction loop is available. Jackson's hide is accessed via 1:10 ramp; there are no adapted wheelchair places.
Griesdale hide is accessed via 1:10 ramp; there are no adapted wheelchair places. Public hide is accessed via a very shallow, 1:40 ramp; specially adapted places for wheelchairs are at left end of hide. Lower hide is accessed via three steep steps.
Access to visitor centre, shop and tearoom
The front entrance is accessed through double doors, which open both ways, to reception desk on ground floor. The upper floor, with tearoom, is accessed via a stair-lift from the shop and rear entrance of the visitor centre. This lift does not accommodate wheelchairs; transfer from chair to lift via shallow ramp; staff are available to help.
Shop is on the ground floor of the visitor centre; staff are available to help. Tearoom is on the first floor of visitor centre, staff are available to help with carrying trays etc.
Path surfaces and gradients
There are 8 km of trails on the nature reserve. There is a bird-feeding station 50 m from visitor centre, down 1:15 and 1:40 gradients with an adverse camber; the path is surfaced with compacted gravel/rolled stone. From the feeding station to Lilian's hide is 100 m, initially down a 1:20 slope, levelling and then another 1:20 slope to the hide entrance; the path is surfaced with compacted gravel/rolled stone.
From Lilian's hide to Jackson's hide is 535 m. From Lilian's hide to Griesdale hide is 735 m; the path is surfaced with compacted gravel/rolled stone, and narrows to one metre in places. From Lilian's hide to Public hide is 1,000 m; the path is undulating, rolled stone with two non-wheelchair accessible kissing gates; it has a steep gradient of 1:10 along some of its length. There is a 100 m stretch along the public highway.
The final approach to the hide is along a public causeway of rough, rolled stone with a 1:10 slope. Visitors with limited mobility can drive to the start of the public causeway. From Public hide to Lower hide is 820 m; the path is surfaced with compacted mud and stone; it is narrow in places and accessible to semi-ambulant visitors.
Visitors can park in front of and behind the visitor centre; the surface is rolled stone. There is an alternative car park on the opposite side of the road from the visitor centre.
One adapted, unisex toilet accessed via shop and rear entrance to visitor centre.
One wheelchair available for loan, contact reserve staff for availability.