Latest wildlife sightings – September 2019

It’s been a busy month in our region. Insects have been making the most of the last pollen and nectar, many summer migrant birds have started flying back to warmer climes and fungi are popping up absolutely everywhere! Here are our latest wildlife sightings.
A migrant hawker dragonfly flying through the air at Brockholes Nature Reserve

Migrant hawker at Brockholes by Sam Lee

Brockholes Nature Reserve

It was lovely to still see plenty of butterflies and dragonflies on the wing at Brockholes in September. Small white, common blue and speckled wood butterflies flitted between flowers while migrant hawker, southern hawker and common darter dragonflies rested beside the pools (and did their best to avoid the talons of hungry hobbies!). Goldcrests flitted along the hawthorn tunnel and a very obliging kingfisher showed off close to Kestrel Kitchen on Meadow Lake.

We were over the moon to have a juvenile wood sandpiper show up on Meadow Lake, but that wasn’t the only excitement we had last month: we had our earliest recorded Brockholes bittern! The previous record was 27 October.

As usual, Boilton Wood is proving fantastic for fungi, with a plethora of puffballs, earthballs, turkeytail, dead man’s fingers and many more mushrooms popping up on trees and the forest floor.

Upper Coldwell Reservoir

September meant it was time for our annual grass-of-Parnassus count at Upper Coldwell Reservoir in Nelson. The wet weather didn’t dampen our spirits, especially when we counted more than 1,000 of these scarce plants – that’s more than double last year’s count!

While we were there we also spotted common frogs, heard plenty of meadow pipits peeping overhead, and were glad to see some splashes of colour on a grey day in the form of devil’s-bit scabious and harebells.

An elephant hawkmoth caterpillar making its way along the footpath at Mere Sands Wood

Elephant hawkmoth caterpillar at Mere Sands Wood by Ted Stevens

Mere Sands Wood

Mere Sands Woods’ famous autumn/winter cormorant roost is already off to a flying start with impressive numbers of birds flying in for the evening towards the end of September. And that isn't the only development at this special reserve - the Visitor Centre refurb has begun in earnest!

Last month visitors also spotted a great white egret, and kingfishers posed for pictures close to some of the hides. One visitor also found an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar tearing along the footpath in search of a place to pupate. This moths name comes from the fact that the caterpillar looks a little like an elephant’s trunk – what do you think?

Heysham harbour

The transition from summer to autumn is always exciting on the Heysham Peninsula, especially around the harbour. Huge numbers of birds can be seen migrating to and from our shores, with wader and wildfowl numbers swelling. Thousands of pink-footed geese were seen flying overhead while an unexpected roost of 4,500 knot was spotted on the heliport wall.

One morning, a low tide check of the outfalls revealed a great skua (or ‘bonxie’) trying to catch a black-headed gull! But that wasn’t the only excitement – Leach’s petrels were spotted on more than one occasion around the stone jetty.

Middleton Nature Reserve

It was lovely to a stunning black darter dragonfly resting on vegetation at Middleton Nature Reserve. These dragonflies are usually heathland and moorland species so this is quite unusual. It may well have paid a visit from nearby Heysham Moss.

As well as dragonflies we counted lots of warblers and other small migrant birds on their way back to their wintering grounds, including whitethroat and lesser whitethroat. And while many songbirds are on their way out, ducks are on their way in, with 16 gadwall counted one day.

An American golden plover on the Pump Pool at Lunt Meadows

American golden plover at Lunt Meadows by Marc Gannon

Lunt Meadows

It’s all been happening at Lunt Meadows over the past few weeks! The month got off to an unbelievable start when two American golden plovers arrived on the Pump Pool. Not that they had an easy time of it – they were seen being harassed by the local lapwings, geese and even a merlin!

Speaking of raptors, they put on a real show for visitors throughout September. Marsh harriers were seen regularly; kestrels, sparrowhawks and the first short-eared owl of the season put in appearances; and in a four-hour window a marsh harrier, hen harrier, peregrine falcon, buzzard and kestrel were all spotted out and about over the reserve!

We saw a large increase in snipe during September, with more than 300 counted on one day. Eagle-eyed visitors also spotted a jack snipe among them. Several ruff, a water rail and increasing numbers of pink-footed geese were also highlights.

What have you seen at our nature reserves recently? We love seeing your pictures and hearing about your sightings, so don’t forget to tell us all about them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!