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Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve

What to expect during a trip to Leighton Moss RSPB nature reserve, Lancashire, England.

Leighton Moss is a nature reserve owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) near Silverdale, Lancashire, England. It boasts the largest reedbed in northwest England, as well as woodland, freshwater and saltwater lagoons. There are wide variety of birds to see, including a number of specialised species that enjoy the habitats such as bittern, marsh harrier, water rail, bearded tit (reedling), and avocet. I visit the reserve regularly and have now added a gallery 'Leighton Moss' under the 'UK Wildlife' main gallery, covering the wildlife to expect during a visit.

A map of the Leighton Moss area can be found on the RSPB website (Click Here)

There are four main habitat types at Leighton Moss, which are covered below along with some of the wildlife you can expect to see. There are more photos in the Gallery.


There are large expanses of reedbed at Leighton Moss, which is a rare habitat in the north of the UK. This means Leighton Moss is a popular place for birders trying to catch a glimpse of specialised species such as bittern, marsh harrier, water rail, and bearded tit, as well as more common species such as Cetti's, reed and sedge warblers. It can be frustrating trying to see the birds in the reeds, but you can regularly hear the booming of the bittern and other distinctive calls as you walk around the reserve paths, and if you manage to see a bittern flying across or peeking out from the reeds you are guaranteed to have had a memorable day! There is a also a good chance of seeing red deer peering over the top of the reeds.

Bearded Tit or Reedling (Panurus biarmicus)

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)

Saltwater Lagoon

From the Eric Morecambe and Allen hides you get views over saltwater lagoons where many varieties of duck, geese and waders can be observed, as well as raptors and the occasional kingfisher. The most famous bird to see is the avocet, with several pairs breeding here each summer. The lagoons are a good birding spot year round, with migrants in spring and autumn and the occasional vagrant from across the Atlantic making random appearances.

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Freshwater Lagoons

Amongst the expanses of reed beds at Leighton Moss there are areas of open freshwater which supports a wide variety of wildfowl, with swallows and martins overhead. Raptors include marsh harriers, osprey and hobby. Otters are a common site if you arrive early enough.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)


Many of the paths to the various hides on the reserve have areas of broadleaved woodland which supports a wide variety of woodland birds. So as you are walking along you will encounter robins, tits, finches, wrens, treecreepers and nuthatches.

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)

I thoroughly recommend a trip to Leighton Moss. There is always something interesting to see, and as well as the wildlife there is a well stocked shop for birding equipment, wildlife books and bird food, plus a lovely cafe when you fancy a break 😊


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