Remember March 2020? Our lives changed in completely unexpected ways as the UK was placed into lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. The next three months became a blur of working from home, home-schooling, bingeing true crime on Netflix and hand sanitiser. But then along came summer and, as restrictions were lifted, we were excited to venture out of Manchester and explore somewhere different to the local ex golf course.
One Friday, we decided home school wasn’t for us. It was time to head out somewhere. Rowan has always loved birds, so we decided to bunk off and visit RSBP Leighton Moss to see what we could find.
Leighton Moss is in Carnforth, and as we drove down the M6, I told Rowan about the wag man whose job is to catch children bunking off school. At first he didn’t believe me, but I can be convincing. Rowan pondered on this newly discovered person, then decided he would be fine “because he was in the car”. I felt it was only fair to let him know that they used drones to locate scallywags who should be in school; a few minutes down the road, Rowan was closing the sunroof and sitting with his blanket on his head so “he wouldn’t get caught”.
After getting a bit lost, we eventually pulled into the car park, excited to find out what the day had in store. The restrictions that were still in place meant that the usual activities would not be available, so we made our way to the notice board to find out what we might see, and to have nosey at the map – always love a map.
Just inside the entrance we found the wildlife garden, planted with beautiful flowers to attract insects and birds, and a pond where a family of ducks were hanging out.
It was here that Rowan first encountered the cheeky robin. We had bought bird seed with us (we had plenty from one of our Beavers lockdown projects – pop bottle bird feeder). Rowan was desperate for the bird to jump on his hand, but the robin was a little too nervous to take that final step – and my camera clicking really wasn’t helping, much to Rowan’s annoyance.
In a small, green clearing we found a bird feeding station, so we sat and watched so many different types of birds pop down for a bit of dinner.
After sitting for a while, I managed to drag Rowan away to find the Skytower, promising we would return to eat our dinner at one of the tables overlooking the feeding station. We followed a trail through the woods for a short distance, passing displays giving ideas on how to provide homes for wildlife in your garden.
Leighton Moss has the largest reed bed in the North West and the habitat is perfect for a number of birds including marsh tits and bitterns. Standing at nine metres high, the Skytower gives visitors an overhead view across the site – perfect for wildlife spotting, and Rowan was able to watch the birds on the lake with his binoculars. Social distancing requirements meant that only family groups were allowed on the platform at any one time so, as more people arrived, we made our way down and back to the wildlife garden for dinner.
We grabbed a table close to the fence and tucked into our picnic overlooking the birds. It wasn’t long before we had a visitor – the cheeky robin. He still didn’t want to jump on to Rowan’s hand, but he was more than happy to sit at the table with us for a bit of dinner.
Rowan really enjoyed watching the birds flying in and out, looking up each of them in his bird book. His enthusiasm for them was infectious – we spotted bull finches, marsh tits (or was it a willow tit) and many others. It was so relaxing, just sitting, and watching, and being somewhere new after a few months of staying in.
After dinner, we explored a little more, taking a stroll through the rest of the site. We found a boardwalk through the reed beds, and Rowan was really impressed with the information board explaining the two metre social distancing rule in the form of bird wing spans.
There was a lot to spot as we wandered round. Rowan wanted to have a go at taking some photos with my camera, so I held my breath as I handed it over, making sure the strap was round his neck to avoid any accidents. He did a good job – the bee is one of his. It’s funny to look back at how small he is in these photos. It was only two years ago, but he seems SO much older now. (yep – I am still plugging away, trying to catch up on these posts).
We passed a hide over-looking a pond and shortly after, another information board explaining the incredible journey of the eels that visit Leighton Moss. They arrive at the reserve as one to two inch long elvers, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean. These intrepid creatures may finish their journey here, as food for the resident wildlife, but should they survive, they will grow to about a metre long before swimming back across the Atlantic to spawn.
Continuing on our way, we discovered a short stroll through some woodland, relishing the cool shade of the trees before heading back to the wildlife garden and bird feeding station.
It had been a brilliant day out, and Rowan wanted to check out the birds again before we headed back to Manchester. We found another hide and made our way inside to see what we could see. It seemed the resident squirrel had decided it was their turn and the birds weren’t getting a look in, but Rowan was just as fascinated.
Leighton Moss is definitely somewhere we will return to. Now the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted, we’d like to have a nosey at some of the activities and events at the site. If you’d like to have a look for yourself, you can find more information here.