Late Summer at Leighton Moss

You may have gathered by now that Leighton Moss is one of my favourite places to visit, especially in late summer and early autumn. This year, as is often the case in mid-September, the weather has been beautifully calm, warm and sunny. The green reed beds of the summer months have begun to take on a multitude of golden hues.

At this time of year the birds always seem to me to be taking a bit of a break after working so hard to build nests and rear their young. The garden at home always goes a bit quiet and I picture to myself the exhausted parents taking a well-earned holiday minus the children!
Reed Warbler
Marsh Harrier numbers have been steadily increasing at Leighton Moss, with several successful nests this year.
A few choose to overwinter here instead of migrating to Africa.

There was a bit of a spat between a Marsh Harrier and the Buzzard. No harm done to either one though.
Colourful dragonflies whizz to and fro, never settling for more than a few seconds before they are off again, performing miniature acrobatic displays as they flip upside down to catch their prey in mid-air.
Otter spotting is always top of my list and I usually see at least one whenever I visit. This fella was enjoying his breakfast of eels, as you can see.

 Down on the saltmarshes are wading birds such as Greenshanks, Ruffs, Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits..
Black Tailed Godwits
 Back on the main reserve, Red Deer enjoy the lingering warmth of late summer. The quiet before the storm of the Autumn rut. This year's fawns still have a few spots visible on their coats.

 To my surprise a Moorhen was still busy collecting nest material. I've since learned that they can have multiple broods and that adolescent members of earlier broods help to feed and guard the younger chicks. There were indeed a couple of juveniles close by.
 A juvenile Robin was sun-baking on the path, totally unfazed by my close proximity as I passed by.
Also completely unpeturbed by my presence was a European Water Shrew. This is only the second time I've ever seen one; both times at Leighton Moss.

 Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos.


North Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria

With its spectacular panoramic mountain and sea views, North Walney is among the best coastal nature reserves in the UK. The huge variation in its habitats, including sand dunes, dune heathland, hay meadows, tidal mud flats, vegetated shingle and salt marshes all serve to make the visitor feel as if they are in a truly wild and remote location.
 The Coniston fells are to the north, the Isle of Man out to the west, across the Irish Sea. 
 A Kestrel hovers, looking for a meal, while a young Goldfinch poses for a quick photo.
Ragwort, although toxic to some animals such as horses, is extremely beneficial to more than 150 species of insect including bees and butterflies, providing a very important source of nectar and pollen. The orange and black stripey caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth can usually be spotted in huge numbers on this plant, although there seem to be far fewer nowadays than I recall seeing as a child. 

 Harebells, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red Clover, Thistle and Meadow Vetchling are amongst many wildflowers which grow in abundance on the reserve.
The former industries of sand and gravel extraction have left behind deep holes which have since become permanent ponds and important habitats in their own right.
   Black Combe in the distance.
 This reserve, along with several others in Cumbria, is home to the rare Natterjack Toad. I don't think this little fella was a Natterjack, but I think he was a toad of some description rather than a frog. He could certainly move fast, hence the blurry photo!

Wild Thyme, Rosebay Willowherb and Yarrow provide yet more nectar for many bees and butterflies, including the Gatekeeper, Common Blue and Small Copper.

 Dragonflies and Damselflies are also here in abundance, taking advantage of the midgies and mosquitos around the ponds.
 I think these are a Common Darter and a Southern Damselfly, but I'm not an expert and therefore not 100% certain.

 A Swan family with four Cygnets came to see if we'd brought them anything to eat; they were disappointed on this occasion.
Walney Geranium
Sea Holly
Puffball Fungus

Fledgling Stonechat
As we headed towards the dunes at the northern tip of Walney, Black Combe was bathed in sunshine, revealing its many dips and slopes.
 Ubiquitous wind turbines on Kirkby Moor and many more on the horizon. Love them or hate them; there's no escaping them.

Fox Moth Caterpillar

A Curlew going home to roost
Hobbit House?
Overtaken by the tide
Beach Fungi

Rounding the northern tip of reserve, the beach stretched away for miles with not another person in sight, which just happens to be my favourite scenario.
We sat amongst the dunes and ate a picnic as the sun went down. 

 Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos.

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