Latest wildlife sightings – March 2021

Spring has sprung and our nature reserves are full of life! Check out our latest wildlife sightings and see what you could spot during your next wild day out.

Mere Sands Wood

From flowering coltsfoot to lesser celandines and marvellous marsh marigolds, March was prime-time for spring flowers at Mere Sands Wood in Rufford. The nature reserve bloomed with colour, and we even saw long-tailed tits begin nesting on the dry heath. In the woodland, scarlet elfcup fungi were still at their bright-red best, and song thrushes erupted into song amongst the coppiced trees. Dunnocks, robins, blue tits and nuthatches really ramped up their chorus, and frogs and toads appeared more frequently as they made their way to their breeding pools.

One roe deer nuzzling another in the shelter of trees at Brockholes nature reserve

Roe deer at Brockholes by Nancy Lisa Phillips

Brockholes

Brockholes nature reserve was a riot of spring sights and sounds in March. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs were back singing in Boilton Wood, long-tailed tits were busy building their nests and sand martins returned to whizz over Number One Pit. Great-crested grebes were spotted performing their courtship dance and insects began emerging to feed in the sunshine: look out for red-tailed bumblebee queens, ashy mining bees, and small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies on your next visit.

March was also a month of more unusual wildlife sightings. A common scoter paid a visit to Meadow Lake, two common cranes flew over the reserve, an osprey followed not far behind and a green sandpiper dropped in to refuel.

Not that these rarities took the shine off the more every day nature moments. Brockholes’ roe deer showed really well last month, and Nancy Lisa Phillips managed to snap the beautiful photograph above.

Heysham Nature Reserve

Blossom, brimstone butterflies, wrens singing at the top of their lungs – Heysham Nature Reserve really came to life over the past few weeks. It was lovely to see the fluffy hazel catkins turning into chunky beacons of bright yellow pollen, ready and waiting for buff-tailed bumblebee queens to refuel on their hunt for nest sites. Other wildlife highlights included:

  • Long-tailed tits
  • Bullfinches
  • Goldcrests
  • A fox
  • The reserve’s first chiffchaff of the year
  • A female great spotted woodpecker calling noisily
A great skua in flight against a blue sky with wings outstretched

Great skua by Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Heysham harbour

As usual there was no shortage of brilliant bird sightings around Heysham harbour. Rock pipits were spotted along Red Nab, in the lighthouse area and around the saltmarsh, where jack snipe, ringed plovers and even a weasel were also recorded. The pale-bellied Brent geese stuck around in good numbers, with 38 recorded as the highest count of the month. The skeer was busy with eider ducks, red-breasted mergansers, goldeneye and even a couple of long-tailed ducks. Speaking of ducks, it seems like a good time to enjoy watching incredible numbers of wigeon – a 180-strong raft drifted past the foreshore one March morning, while another day saw 168 feeding in the channel next to Number Two Outflow.

March was a month of firsts for Heysham harbour, with the first chiffchaffs and sand martins of the year passing through. Staff also recorded the area’s first wheatear of the year near the lighthouse.

The Heysham seawatches proved very exciting. We saw:

As a bonus to end the month, a skylark was heard singing briefly over the old Pontins land. They were once a common summer sound around the area, but sadly, we only really hear calls from passage birds these days. Could that be changing?

Middleton Nature Reserve

It was business as usual at Middleton Nature Reserve in Heysham last month, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to see! Gadwall and water rails were still regular sights on the ponds, and the Cetti’s warbler showed no sign of toning down its chorus on Central Marsh. Swans started nesting and peacock, small tortoiseshell, brimstone and red admiral butterflies all emerged to gorge on nectar from freshly-bloomed flowers and pollen-laden catkins.

Waxy-looking cottongrass heads on Little Woolden Moss

Seeded hare's-tail cottongrass by Andrew Osborne

Chat Moss

It’s the time of year when ground-nesting birds return to the Chat Moss peatlands to raise their families, and we were delighted to see more and more oystercatchers, curlews, redshanks and lapwings begin nesting at Little Woolden Moss in March. This means that it’s more important than ever to stick to the footpaths and keep dogs on leads when visiting our peatlands, as any kind of disturbance could cause the birds to leave their nests; leaving their eggs vulnerable to going cold and to attacks from predators.

More new life bloomed in the form of fresh gorse flowers which added some beautiful splashes of colour to Little Woolden Moss, while the hare’s-tail cottongrass set seed. As you can see in the picture above, once this happens, the flowers change into waxy strands which will grow and ripen into the fantastically fluffy cottongrass heads you see towards the end of spring.

Elsewhere, on Cadishead Moss, we saw a yellowhammer drop by, while on Astley Moss our brilliant volunteers were busy creating willow tit nesting habitats. We do this by cutting selected birch trees at the woodland edge down to willow tit nesting height; the willow tits then burrow into the trunk to create a nest hole and use the resulting wood chippings to line their nest. We really hope these threatened birds will take a shine to their fancy new homes soon.

Lunt Meadows

Unfortunately, Lunt Meadows nature reserve is still closed while we repair flood damage, but it was lovely to see that the wildlife certainly wasn’t deterred by all of the machinery and activity on-site.

On the pools and scrapes we saw:

  • Redshanks
  • Pochards
  • Shelducks
  • Shovelers
  • Oystercatchers
  • Lapwings
  • Teal
  • Great crested grebes
  • Little grebes
  • A little egret

Reed buntings were seen along the riverbank and in Reedbed One, next to the archaeology site. We watched a kestrel hunting gracefully over the grasslands near the car park and a grey partridge sitting in a tree (not pear!) near Homer Green Pond. Cetti’s warblers and skylarks filled the air with beautiful song around Showrick’s Bridge.

We’d love to see what you spot on our nature reserves during your days out in the wild. Click one of the icons below to share your sightings with us on social media.