Latest wildlife sightings – August 2020

Latest wildlife sightings – August 2020

What a month! August brought sultry, humid evenings as well as furious storms, and nature responded in-kind. As well as early fungi we had a few reserve firsts, plus lots of seasonal favourites.

Take a look at our latest wildlife sightings for the month of August and plan some wild adventures at our nature reserves in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside to spot these wonderful species. 


August was a brilliant month to spot birds at Brockholes. Goldfinch families delighted visitors by feeding noisily from the seedheads around the car park, while the in focus team were lucky enough to spot tree sparrows, a raven and even a redstart on their wanders around the reserve. 

Meadow Lake has been a hive of avian activity. Highlights have included: 

  • Juvenile greenshank
  • Common sandpiper
  • More than 250 lapwing
  • Curlew
  • Little grebe and chicks
  • Gadwall
  • Great white egret
  • Hobby 

Now this is where things get exciting. Our wintering bittern has returned to Brockholes earlier than ever. This is the first time we’ve recorded a bittern on-site during August, with the bird landing on the 28th of the month. Visitor Charles Thody was also surprised to photograph a gannet on Number One Pit! It was likely blown in by the recent storms and it soon became clear just how exhausted the poor thing was. Unfortunately it didn’t survive. 

There was better news among the insect residents of Brockholes nature reserve. A real caterpillar bonanza seemed to begin, with visitors spotting elephant hawkmoth caterpillars among Himalayan balsam and buff tip moth caterpillars on willow. There was an influx of migrant hawker dragonflies, too; their blue and yellow flashes adding beautiful late summer colour to the lakes, pools and woodland glades.

A jay standing on a tree stump where it has cached some acorns

Jay by Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Mere Sands Wood 

The latest wildlife sightings at Mere Sands Wood brought a distinctly autumn feel to the reserve. Jays were busy gathering acorns in the woodland, while the dimpled globes of earthball fungi started appearing amongst the leaf litter. 

There were still lots of summer sights to enjoy, however. Towards the end of August hobbies were spotted displaying right over the hides, one lucky visitor snapped an incredible picture of a little grebe feasting on a dragonfly, and Mere Sands Wood’s kingfishers showed regularly at Rufford Hide. 

Wigan Flashes 

August wasn’t just a busy month for wildlife – volunteers at Wigan Flashes were busy creating bee banks near Turner’s Flash to help mining bees thrive on the reserve. Created from mounds of loose soil, the south-facing bee banks catch sunlight and offer the perfect place for mining bees to create new nest burrows. They bury into the soil, excavating a burrow, and lay a single egg in each cell on top of a stock of pollen which the hungry grub will eat when it hatches. 

A water rail standing at the edge of a lake

Water rail by Margaret Holland

Middleton Nature Reserve 

The season seemed to turn towards the end of August at Middleton Nature Reserve in Heysham. Though common darter; brown, migrant and southern hawker; emperor and black-tailed skimmer dragonflies were seen hunting on sunny days, moth sightings took a distinctly autumnal turn with shaded broad bar and common wave moths reported by visitors. 

Three water rails were heard squeaking, two gadwall were spotted (our first records at Middleton Nature Reserve since spring), and snipe became more conspicuous. Summer didn’t entirely disappear, however. Regular visitor Janet Packham was lucky enough to snap a picture of a swallow plucking flying ants from the surface of one of the pools, and a member of staff recorded a very noisy mixed feeding flock of tits and warblers. The group numbered at least 40 and was made up of immature long-tailed tits, blue tits, coal tits, willow warblers and chiffchaffs. 

Heysham harbour 

August saw wader numbers gradually increase around Heysham harbour. It was wonderful to watch little egrets shrimping around the skeer, the odd whimbrel flew back in and we recorded our first turnstone of autumn. Other impressive wader groups included: 

  • 40+ redshank
  • 30+ knot
  • 425 dunlin
  • 1,100 knot
  • 53 bar-tailed godwit 

As the month went on, the turnstone count climbed ever higher, with 65 counted on the heliport seawall one day amongst 400 redshank! A group of 19 linnets was spotted out on the saltmarsh, while a juvenile merlin was recorded resting on the Ocean Edge foreshore rocks before flying towards Red Nab. What a sight! 

A lime hawkmoth caterpillar resting on a tree trunk at Heysham Nature Reserve

Lime hawkmoth caterpillar by Janet Packham

Heysham Nature Reserve 

Is there a more impressive caterpillar than the lime hawkmoth? This stunning specimen was discovered at Heysham Nature Reserve by regular visitor and photographer, Janet Packham. The caterpillar will turn a gorgeous purplish-grey colour when it’s ready to pupate, bury into loose leaf litter near its larval foodplant and emerge as an adult in May. 

Chat Moss 

August was a month for rarities on the Chat Moss peatlands in Greater Manchester. Our Project Officer, Jamie, spotted a black darter dragonfly – previously rare in the area and the UK’s smallest resident dragonfly. The large-flowered hemp nettle was discovered at Astley Moss for the very first time, and Josh Styles of the North West Rare Plant Initiative found the incredibly rare toad rush smut fungus (Entorrhiza aschersoniana), also at Astley Moss! This fungus is found in only 15 other places in the UK and forms white balls at the roots of the toad rush plant. 

We’d love to know what you spot on our nature reserves. Let us know by getting in touch on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! Click one of the buttons below to connect with us.