Latest wildlife sightings – October 2020

Latest wildlife sightings – October 2020

Autumn is in full swing and nature has been putting on a real show across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. Check out our October wildlife sightings and see what you could spot.

Brown hares at Brockholes, herald moths at Heysham, starling murmurations at Lunt Meadows – there’s so much to see.

Brockholes

Wildlife watchers at Brockholes spotted an incredible range of animals at the nature reserve over recent weeks. Roe deer grazed on Meadow Lake island, with two wading across the lake right in front of the Visitor Village! 21 house martins and seven swallows were counted gathering in the sky one afternoon, getting ready to head off on their epic journey back to Africa for the winter.

Speaking of winter, duck numbers at Brockholes nature reserve are increasing. Gadwall numbers surpassed 50, while shoveler numbers slowly grew, too.

But there weren’t just seasonal highlights to enjoy. Visitors and staff also enjoyed hearing a Cetti’s warbler calling on the eastern reed fringes of Meadow Lake, watched a kestrel drowning a worm in a small pool of rain water, enjoyed the sight of a kingfisher on the river willows and saw a brown hare right by the office block.

Mere Sands Wood

If you enjoy an autumn walk anywhere in our region over the coming weeks, make it Mere Sands Wood. The reserve seems to embody the very season itself.

Last month saw the woodland erupt with fungi including collared earthstars, turkeytail fungus, common earthballs and candlesnuff fungus, while the trees seemed alive with the scrabbling claws of treecreepers, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers. The cherry on top of the month was the sight of four crossbills passing through the pine trees at the back of the visitor centre on 16 October!

Other October wildlife sightings at Mere Sands Wood included plenty of gadwall, as well as wonderful views of what seems now to be a resident great white egret.

A knot standing on a slope covered in stones and shingle

Knot by Margaret Holland

Heysham harbour

The Heysham peninsula is one of the best places for birdwatching in Lancashire, especially as autumn and winter fall and the spectacle of migration takes over. Being nestled on the coast, Heysham gets inundated with summer migrants fleeing our chilly shores and winter migrants seeking solace from even colder temperatures in places like Scandinavia.

Last month, bird recorders on Heysham Head were surprised to spot a yellowhammer and tree sparrow (both relatively rare in this area), as well as a flock of five blackcaps! Sightings in the Red Nab area yielded wigeon, wheatears and Mediterranean gulls, while a beautiful black redstart was spotted near the power station.

Heysham skeer is filling with more and more waders and seabirds every day. Some of the top counts in October included:

  • 2,500 knot
  • 40 turnstone
  • 15 dunlin
  • 73 pink-footed geese
  • Four eider ducks
  • Seven red-breasted mergansers

But it isn’t just winter waders that make Heysham their home during the colder months. It’s around this time of year that we see more juvenile peregrine falcons visiting the area, with October being no exception. We watched in awe as a juvenile peregrine disturbed a group of 2,300 knot into a swirling murmuration, and were lucky enough to see a short-eared owl spiralling over Half Moon Bay before flying west towards Walney.

A drake scaup in the Low Water Channels was another highlight, alongside a gathering of 80 snipe in front of the heliport wall.

Heysham Nature Reserve

Our wildlife sightings at Heysham Nature Reserve took a very exciting turn in October… a yellow-browed warbler was seen near the Dipping Pond on more than one occasion. These tiny birds (similar in size to a goldcrest) breed in Siberia and appear in the UK each year as they migrate south-westwards.

There were also a few quite unseasonal sightings at Heysham Nature Reserve: chiffchaffs, common darter and migrant hawker dragonflies, and red admiral, speckled wood and brimstone butterflies. It was also lovely to find a herald moth in the moth trap – they look uncannily like autumn leaves.

Visitors also delighted in watching several mixed tit flocks roving around the nature reserve. This is a common sight in autumn, with last month’s flocks mostly being made up of long-tailed tits with hangers-on including blue, great and coal tits, and even the odd chiffchaff.

A goldeneye duck on a lake at golden hour

Goldeneye by Fergus Gill/2020VISION

Middleton Nature Reserve

There weren’t just insects enjoying the (somewhat rare!) October sunshine at Heysham Nature Reserve. Around 15 common darter dragonflies and five migrant hawker dragonflies were counted at Middleton Nature Reserve around mid-month, as well as a solitary speckled wood butterfly.

Bird-wise, visitors enjoyed spotting a jack snipe, water rail, little grebe, Cetti’s warbler and small groups of teal, gadwall and shoveler. We even recorded our first goldeneye of the season – a female bird on 28 October.

One evening saw a count of 100 thrushes on the reserve: mainly redwings accompanied by small numbers of mistle thrushes, song thrushes and bonus blackbirds.

Lunt Meadows

At least three short-eared owls were seen over the reedbed at Lunt Meadows in October, but at this time of year sightings of them remain a little patchy. Swan numbers, too, are building, with 27 whooper swans flying over the reserve one afternoon. But it was the migrant thrushes that really stole the show, with up to 70 fieldfare seen mixed in with redwings.

It’s a great time to spot ducks at Lunt Meadows nature reserve. Recent weeks have seen up to 32 wigeon on the main pool, 600 teal and smaller numbers of gadwall, tufted ducks and shovelers. But these all paled into insignificance when a flock of more than 5,000 starlings put on an incredible air show, delighting visitors with a breath-taking murmuration over Altcar Moss.

We love seeing your wildlife sightings from our nature reserves. If you’ve spotted a rarity, a seasonal highlight or simply something that’s beautifully every day, we’d love to hear all about it. Chat to us on social media using the buttons below.

Make your own nature moments

Our nature reserves are wonderful places to get away from it all and connect with wildlife when you need it most. Why not pay us a visit?

Wildlife awaits!

Photo by Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION