I've been to a lot of nature reserves in my life. They were, and are, a regular part of family holidays and days out. I now find myself seeking them out, even when I'm not with my parents, as places for peaceful walks, fantastic wildlife, old favourites and new discoveries.
So when my parents visited Preston this week it was hardly a surprise that nature reserves were on the to-do list for the trip. In fact, there was so much reserving done that I'm going to split it into two blogs. We went to three reserves in two days, can you guess which ones? The first was the RSPB's Leighton Moss which was new for me, tomorrow I'll reveal the other two, one each from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Any guesses, post a comment!
You can learn a lot about a reserve, without any leaflets, just by walking around it. I discovered that Leighton Moss is older than me, in fact it's 25 years older. How did I find this? A plaque on a hide told me, since the hide had been opened a few months after I was born to celebrate the reserve's silver jubilee. The thought that this piece of land has been managed for wildlife, to protect it and nurture it, with visitors from all over the place coming to visit for so many years is really humbling. When you start thinking about the plans, number of visitors and work that has been and will be, even on such a local level, your 3 hour visit seems quite insignificant.
As RSPB members we got in free to the reserve (a definite perk of membership) although having forgot my membership card they had to phone to check me out first! Once I was clear we walked through the reeds, past pools and bogs, to several hides. It's a beautiful landscape with hills of fields and woodland surrounding the little valley the reserve lies on. There was no sign of the Glossy Ibis although we looked hard and were assured by others that it was definitely around. The wetlands certainly weren't lacking birds though with heron, little egret and snow goose all easily seen as well as lots of different ducks (more on ducks tomorrow) and songbirds. We spent five minutes lurking by some reeds hoping the water rail which had been calling would emerge but it stayed well hidden.
Next it was time for another customary part of reserve visits, the cafe and the shop. RSPB (and other) cafes have improved immensely as I've grown up and I had a delicious sausage sandwich, broccoli soup and spiced berry hot drink, just what you need on a cold February day when out bird watching. A chance meeting with the reserve's manager Robin Horner revealed that otters have returned to the reserve in recent years and the other resident highlight, the bittern, is still around even if we didn't spot him this time.
It was a great day and since Silverdale train station is literally 2 minutes walk from the reserve entrance and only 40 minutes from Preston by train I hope I'll be back visiting the reserve soon!