As you can imagine, it’s all a bit strange right now for those of us who ordinarily spend our days working at Leighton Moss – and we certainly share the frustrations of our visitors who love to while away the hours on our wonderful reserve!
As part of our efforts to keep nature-focused while the reserve remains closed, we’ll be continuing to share the experiences of staff and volunteers as they adjust to a, hopefully temporary, Leighton-free life. In the first of this series of blogs, our warden Richard Smith (pictured below in his natural habitat) gives us insights into some daily connections he enjoys with the wildlife in his neighbourhood…
“Those of you with which I’m acquainted will know I’m an outdoor kind of guy. I wasn’t created to be inside, let alone be in an office. I’m aware that we are all going to find the next few weeks challenging in more ways than one. Working at Leighton Moss meant I was outdoors most of the time.
Not being able to get out on the reserve and do ‘an honest day’s work’ before cycling home and heading out into the fells, running with my wife and friends will be hard for my body to adjust.
Luckily for us we live on the edge of Kendal. Over the next couple of weeks, I thought I would keep you in the loop with what we have been seeing on walk/runs over Cunswick Scar and back across the mono-green lamb-filled fields behind our house.
It might not be bittern booming stuff but actually, it’s just as important to us!
Over the couple of weeks before lock-down commenced we happily noted the return of two pairs of curlews in the fields north of Kendal. At first we could hear their territorial calls during the night and then in early morning and evening.
We have since seen birds from both pairs from the house. My wife from her office window (the box room with an old table masquerading as a desk) and me from my rocking chair that sits by the lounge window. Also, while we have been working in the garden we have seen them patrolling overhead.
The eastern pair are in a great position. They have taken occupation of a small hilltop field with an iconic looking ash tree growing out of the bisecting wall line (incidentally we saw noctual bats around said tree last summer on a number of occasions). We will call this pair the ‘Ashdown’ birds.
The western pair are using fields that we can see from our upstairs windows, again they are using the advantage of high slopping ground that boarder the Windermere road. These birds we have named the ‘Toadpool’ pair after a farm at the Plumgarth’s roundabout.
Between us we ran out along the footpath that crosses these fields three times last week, the loop takes in both areas at a distance of more than 500m let alone the 2m prescribed distance of isolation. On all three occasions we saw territorial flights from one or both locations on fast stuttering wing beats accompanied by haunting calls.
On our Thursday run out we caught the tail end of a fluttering copulation attempt by the Ashdown pair followed by the male scampering around the female, wings out, giving it large so everyone knew – and why not, the sun was out, the weight of winters cloak was falling away, the birds and the bees… sorry I digress!
Yesterday after spending all day smashing up concrete and finally planting the guelder rose and rowan saplings into the garden that I’ve been growing on for years, I took my day’s allotted exercise. With a gluten-free beer in hand and about an hour’s daylight left I wandered up over the first field. It provides a good vantage point over the valley looking up towards Kentmere and out over the two territories.
Over on Ashdown I could see one bird feeding on the crest surrounded by a couple of lesser black-backed gulls, a murder of crows and a swarm of jackdaw; ‘Goodluck’ I said to myself. A noisy commotion drew my attention to the west. Three curlew, one bird being fussed over by two more. One of the fussers took exception the other fusser and showed them the door, and out it went. Looks like the Toadpool male has a bit of work to do!
We can also hear and have seen a pair of oystercatcher cruising around the housing estate. We haven’t been able to pin down a location for these guys as yet but think it’s over towards the River Kent next to the golf course. We will work on it.”
Richard Smith, Warden
Curlew photo: Ian Francis (rspb-images.com)