Latest wildlife sightings – February 2020

Latest wildlife sightings – February 2020

What a month. Storms Dennis and Ciara caused chaos across our region and Brockholes Nature Reserve was hit by flooding. Thankfully there was still plenty of wildlife to brighten up the month.

Despite the weather staff, volunteers and visitors spotted a few signs of spring emerging from the sodden ground while birds were spotted starting their courtship displays. From great crested grebes at Mere Sands Wood to snowdrops at Brockholes, read all about our February wildlife sightings.

Foxhill Bank

Spring preparations are in full swing at Foxhill Bank as staff and volunteers cleared the path edges to make way for wildflower seeding. They spotted plenty of scarlet elf cup fungi as they worked – a sure sign that spring is on its way.

A mole above ground at Brockholes nature reserve after floods

Mole at Brockholes by Iain Barker


Imagine our surprise when a Brockholes visitor posted this picture of a mole! Iain Barker spotted it rootling around in the leaves above ground, which isn’t surprising when you consider how much flooding there’s been at the reserve. Moles tend to surface to navigate around obstacles or because their tunnels have become waterlogged.

Wading birds started gathering at Brockholes in larger and larger numbers during February. In a single evening regular birder Bill Aspin counted:

  • 252 curlew
  • 30 oystercatcher
  • 40 lapwing
  • 32 goldeneye

Another visitor counted around 300 lapwings on Number One Pit! The smew was still enjoying the river and lakes during February, while the bittern was spotted on Meadow Lake (below the osprey platform) at the start of the month.

The gloomy weather didn’t seem to stop the turning of the seasons, as towards the end of the month it appeared as though spring had well and truly sprung. Snowdrops popped up along the Guild Wheel path, willow catkins grew their fluffy coats and cowslips were spotted near the play area. Great crested grebes started their delicate courtship rituals, bullfinch pairs flocked around the feeding station and swans were spotted mating. It won’t be long until we hear the pitter-patter of webbed feet.

Mere Sands Wood

Spring seemed to descend upon Mere Sands Wood too, with the reserve’s great crested grebes courting and kingfishers hunting regularly around the hides; building their energy. The woods were full of birdsong and lots of visitors spotted tiny treecreepers wheedling bugs out of the tree bark. Goldcrests were showing well, too, and it was lovely to hear their high-pitched ‘twiddly’ song again.

Unfortunately, the month ended on a sour note. We were heartbroken to find Cyril Gibbons hide burnt to the ground by arsonists, but we won’t let this selfishness keep us down. We’ve started a Facebook fundraiser to help us replace the hide, or you can donate via our website.

A group of roe deer standing in the mist at Heysham Moss nature reserve

Roe deer at Heysham Moss by Tom Dullage

Heysham Moss

Heysham Moss is a wintery wonderland at the moment. Despite some waterlogging after the storms the reserve was still alive with wildlife in February. Visitors enjoyed spotting groups of roe deer looking majestic in the early morning mists, while buzzards soared overhead, mewing all the while. Down on the ground, bracket fungi made the most of birch tree stumps and brightened up the winter landscape with pops of yellow and orange.

Heysham harbour

Storm conditions are renowned for blowing rarities into coastal spots, but it was business as usual around Heysham harbour. That isn’t to say there wasn’t plenty to see – the high tide roosts of oystercatcher and knot still numbered in the hundreds, while pale-bellied Brent geese foraged for gutweed in groups of up to 83 at our highest count. Eider ducks, knot, turnstones and oystercatchers were all spotted in the skeer throughout February, while it was lovely to see a flock of around 18 pintail ducks out at sea.

Some of the most exciting wildlife sightings around Heysham harbour in February included a merlin spooking knot near Naze, and a great skua flying close to the shore near the children’s play area! It was lovely to see a grey seal enjoying Number Two Outflow, while on Ocean Edge saltmarsh, jack snipe were joined by linnets, reed buntings, stonechats and rock pipits.

A stock dove showing its pink chest and green neck

Stock dove by Gillian Day

Middleton Nature Reserve

There was still a bit of a duck bonanza at Middleton Nature Reserve in February. Gadwall, wigeon and teal were all spotted enjoying the ponds and pools, while little grebes and water rails were additional highlights. Visitors also spotted a jack snipe, a pair of ravens and a pair of stock doves, the latter of which is always nice to see. Though similar in size to feral pigeons, they’re very rarely found in towns and gardens and look slightly different. Stock doves have a beautiful bottle-green patch on their necks and a pink chest. They lack the pale rump of feral pigeons and the white neck and wing patches of wood pigeons.


February was quite an exciting month at Seaforth. A pair of black swans was spotted by visitors, while the reserve was also visited by a little gull. We also had a long-tailed duck making the most of the Freshwater Pool.

Elsewhere on the reserve visitors counted more than 8,000 knot, more than 1,500 bar-tailed godwits, a female scaup, and goldeneye in groups of close to 40.

A female hen harrier displaying her white 'ringtail'

Female hen harrier by Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Lunt Meadows

Lunt Meadows continues to be one of the best places in our region to see owls. In February, barn owls continued hunting even through Storm Ciara, while the short-eared owls brought smiles to our visitors. Excitingly, the ringtail hen harrier that’s been spotted intermittently over the past few months put in another appearance. ‘Ringtail’ is the name given to female and immature hen harriers, which are brown with a white rump and a long barred tail.

Can’t wait to spot some of this amazing wildlife on your next outdoor adventure? We’d love to see your pictures and hear about your sightings, so don’t forget to tell us all about them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Simply click one of the icons below.