Latest wildlife sightings – April 2021

Latest wildlife sightings – April 2021

The warm April weather seemed to give spring a bit of a boost and there certainly wasn’t a shortage of wildlife sightings at our nature reserves.

It’s been wonderful to see spring in full swing and hear all about the wildlife you’ve spotted. Here are some of the top wildlife sightings in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside in April.


Warblers well and truly arrived at Brockholes last month. From Boilton Wood to the Guild Wheel to the trees bordering Number One Pit, they were singing from every corner of the reserve. We recorded nine gorgeous warbler species:

  • Willow warbler
  • Chiffchaff
  • Whitethroat
  • Garden warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Grasshopper warbler
  • Sedge warbler
  • Cetti’s warbler
  • Reed warbler

It’s also whimbrel time at Brockholes. These migratory wading birds look a lot like curlews (but have shorter bills and a dark eye-stripe) and stop off at the reserve on their journey from Africa to Iceland. Our highest count last month was 100 whimbrel feeding in the fields close to Brockholes, with many of them regularly visiting Number One Pit and the shingle beds along the river.

Other exciting sightings included small flocks of linnets, a male whinchat on Boilton Marsh, ospreys flying overhead, a pair of common scoters and our first swift of the year, seen scything over the car park on 28 April. Regular birder Bill Aspin also managed to capture this amazing footage of a heron predating sand martins at their nest holes!

April also saw plenty of insect activity. Orange-tip butterflies were seen mating, which means the sprigs of cuckooflower growing in the wetter areas of the reserve will now be peppered with tiny orange eggs. The bee banks near the Visitor Village really sprung into life, with a new species for the reserve recorded by regular visitor Michael Foley. Say hello to the little nomad bee (seen below) – the 58th species of bee to be recorded at Brockholes.

A little nomad bee flying over sandy ground littered with plant stems

Little nomad bee at Brockholes by Michael Foley

Mere Sands Wood

There is always so much to see at Mere Sands Wood, and April was no exception. Kingfishers darted across the lakes in flashes of jewel-blue, large red damselflies hovered around the paths and perched on the reeds and speckled wood butterflies danced in the dappled sunlight of the woodland. We saw the first ducks paddling around with their young in tow, while reed buntings sung from the tops of the gorse bushes. A few eagle-eyed visitors spotted some shy roe deer making their way through the trees, while in the branches above, great spotted woodpeckers and blackcaps put in appearances.

Lunt Meadows

The contractors are still carrying out work at our Lunt Meadows nature reserve and aren’t expecting to be finished for a few more weeks, so Lunt will remain closed for the time being. Our volunteers are hard at work though, repairing damaged fences and screens ready for when you can join us again, and have planted more than 300m of new mixed-species hedges including hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, rowan, dog rose, broom and holly. The berries and flowers will provide much-needed food for the birds and insects that live at Lunt Meadows.

While working on the hedges we discovered that some of the wildflowers we sowed last year have started to bloom, like our cowslips. These plants were once as common as buttercups but declined massively with the loss of the traditional meadows where they once grew. We’re so pleased to see our planting work paying off.

A fox emerging from the trees, photographed across a field

Fox at Heysham Nature Reserve by Tom Dullage

Heysham Nature Reserve

Heysham Nature Reserve is a spring wonderland at this time of year! Last month the reserve came alive with the colour yellow as marsh marigolds, cowslips and gorse started blooming. Bluebells added to the palette, much to the delight of large white and brimstone butterflies.

While the reserve floor flourished with flowers the trees, reeds and bushes erupted with song as goldfinches, wrens, long-tailed tits, chiffchaffs, grasshopper warblers and lesser whitethroats created a wonderful chorus for visitors. One photographer was even lucky enough to spot this beautiful fox emerging from the vegetation one morning.

Heysham harbour

Heysham Bird Observatory’s seawatches are getting very exciting indeed, with April bringing:

  • Arctic skua
  • Red-breasted merganser
  • Whinchat
  • Guillemot
  • Scaup
  • Razorbill
  • Gannet
  • Red-throated diver
  • Harbour porpoise
  • Manx shearwater
  • Kittiwake
  • Fulmar

But there was plenty to see closer to shore too. Rock pipits and a couple of whimbrel foraged below Heysham Head, and little egrets, bar-tailed godwits and the odd dark-bellied Brent goose fed in the skeer. Visitors spotted grey plovers coming into their autumn plumage on the saltmarsh and linnets singing on the south shore.

There was some excitement when a white wagtail was seen feeding next to the lighthouse, 19 whooper swans lingered in the middle channel, and a ring ouzel found itself briefly grounded on the south shore!

A whitethroat sitting in a dog-rose bush with a moth in its beak

Whitethroat by Andrew Parkinson/2020VISION

Middleton Nature Reserve

There were warblers galore at Middleton Nature Reserve in April! It seems as though our spring visitors have well and truly arrived on breeding soil with the following species recorded singing:

  • Common whitethroat
  • Lesser whitethroat
  • Willow warbler
  • Chiffchaff
  • Cetti’s warbler
  • Sedge warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Grasshopper warbler

The warblers were joined by a lesser redpoll and countless other songbirds.

Little Woolden Moss

Breeding season is well underway for the ground-nesting birds that raise their families on our Little Woolden Moss nature reserve. In April we spotted redshanks, lapwings and oystercatchers all diligently tending to their nests. We even had a visit from a spotted redshank, which was likely passing through on its migration back to northern Europe or northern Siberia. What a chilly contrast to the sunshiney bursts of gorse on our reserve!

What have you seen on our nature reserves? We’d to hear all about your wildlife sightings in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside – click one of the icons below to share them with us on social media.