An Otter, Bearded Tits and a Sunny Weekend

Causeway Robin

We’ve had some pretty wet weather this autumn, but the weekends have often coincided with sunny spells. Back in early October we had just such a weekend. I didn’t head off for a long walk at any point, but instead I was out several times, in various company, for a number of short walks, which, taken together, added up to a very memorable weekend.

My friend and colleague the Proper Birder had alerted me to the fact that otters and bearded tits had both recently been spotted from the public footpath across Leighton Moss, so on the Saturday morning I took A and B for a stroll there. We discovered that the causeway path was flooded, and without wellies, had to curtail our walk rather sooner than anticipated. We did converse with a friendly robin however, and admired a particularly large inkcap.

Inkcap 

That afternoon I was operating a Dad’s Taxi Service, dropping A with some friends for a sleepover. Our friends live in a wonderful spot at the head of the Lyth valley. The sun was shining and butterflies were fluttering around their garden. We decided to take a stroll, going ‘off-piste’ and taking a direct route up onto Lord’s Lot. Perhaps not one of the Lake District’s biggest or most frequented hills, but a cracking viewpoint all the same.

Bouldering 

We stopped a little short of the top on a gratifyingly rocky little knoll…

A rocky knoll 

…with expansive views of Scout Scar, and the  Lyth Valley…

The Lyth Valley 

…and also a view across the actual summit to some more famous and recognisable Lakeland fells…

Langdale Pikes seen across Lord's Lot 

On the way home I stopped off to buy myself some wellies so that early the next morning B and I could take a pre-breakfast trip back to Leighton Moss…

Early morning preening 

We settled down in the public hide, watched a late marsh harrier gliding over the reed beds, and then B tugged excitedly on my sleeve, “Did you see it Dad? The otter?”

I didn’t. It was right in front of the hide apparently. I managed to miss it the next time too. But then I was looking in the right direction when something large and sleek fluidly cleared the surface and then duck-dived beneath it again. It was a very fleeting glimpse. “Maybe it was a fish,” I suggested. “Bit big for a fish,” B snorted derisively.

When we saw it again it was heading away from us. Then it swam across the back of the mere, either close enough to the surface for us to follow its wake, or with its head above water….

An otter! 

Not a great picture of an otter I know, but I don’t really care, I’ve been waiting to see the local otters for years. Magic.

By the grit trays there was a fair collection of Very Serious Men and their Extremely Expensive Optical Equipment. No bearded tits though.

Proper birders 

Home for breakfast, B and I found that TBH and S had not, as we’d thought, been asleep when we left, but had heard us set-off and were a bit miffed to have been left behind. We mollified them with a promise of an immediate return to the Moss, just as soon as we polished off our fry-up.

Here’s S in his bird-watching outfit…

S 

You can see that he’s well wrapped up – it wasn’t as warm as the day before had been. Never-the-less, butterflies were out sunning themselves again….

Red Admiral 

Comma 

Back by the grit trays, S wasn’t intimidated by the Serious Birders penis substitutes expensive tackle*, he pushed right-in to get a peek at….

S takes on the proper birders 

…the bearded tits…

Pair of bearded tits 

TBH was disappointed that the ‘beards’ weren’t full-on flowing ZZ-Top style thatch. Very lovely birds though, and something else I’ve waited many years to see. Switching over from a summer diet of insects, the tits are picking up grit which will help them to digest the hard seeds which they eat in the winter months.

Guelder Rose leaf 

The boys….

Taking a rest 

…were very taken with the flooded paths and so we wandered a little farther, past the public hide and round to lower hide were we watched a heron fishing right in front of the hide.

Bramble leaves 

Peeling, back-lit birch bark 

Flooded paths 

The paths were clearly already beginning to drain, but the water was still quite deep in places…

Even more flooded paths 

Tiny clouds 

Joy of sticks 

 

New boots and... 

I was chuffed with my new boots, even if they are green.

As we wended our way back to the car, we were treated to some quite close views of a circling buzzard.

Leighton Moss Buzzard I 

A buzzard at Leighton Moss? That would be a Leighton Buzzard then? (Sorry)

Leighton Moss Buzzard II 

Preening swan

*Yes, yes – I have camera envy.

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An Otter, Bearded Tits and a Sunny Weekend

9 thoughts on “An Otter, Bearded Tits and a Sunny Weekend

  1. Your camera manages great photos anyway! And those big cameras look heavy for a walk. Lovely shot of the robin.

    I saw otters playing at the London Wetlands Centre recently, they’re such graceful, joyful creatures to watch.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks Emily,
      I’ve only seen wild otters once before, many years ago. Walking with a friend, we spotted a pair playing in a cascade in the river. We watched them for an hour. At times they swam immediately below our spot on the riverbank. They’re amazing creatures.
      The big cameras do look very cumbersome, and there’s absolutely no prospect of me ever being able to afford one, so it’s a moot point anyway.

  2. You found your mojo then! Where was it? Behind the Sofa, under the large pile of crap in your study 🙂

    Who needs Autumnwatch when we have your blog, great photos as ever (with the slightly unnecessary camera rant) especially the bearded tits. Never seen an freshwater otter in the wild but I have seen sea otters up close when I was in California – much bigger – seal sized)

    I see what you did with the Leighton Buzzard gag – very clever

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      The honest answer is that I got to the bottom of a huge pile of marking and found it there. ‘The toad work’ and all that.
      I remember you telling me about the sea otters, but I didn’t realise that they were that big! South Lakeland Wildlife park have recently acquired a pair of very large otters which are very entertaining to watch, but I don’t remember the species (not sea otters though).
      You’re right, the camera rant was completely unwarranted. (Aren’t most rants). What really annoyed me was the condescending attitude of some serious birders – and I should stress the ‘some’: most are very welcoming to amateurs and children alike, but that day we encountered some rather sniffy types. (I know – you can get them everywhere).

      1. I guessed perhaps you’d come across a “we have more right to be here than you” type – perfectly acceptable rant in that case 🙂

        The sea otters are great to watch, saw them pretty much every time we walked on the coast in the north of the state. They always do that lying on their back in the water, hitting shelfish with stone to open them. It’s how you find them, just listen out of the knocking sound.

        Saw them in the Monterrey Bay aquarium as well when I thought they were seals. Easily the best Aquarium I’ve ever been to

  3. Leighton Moss has certainly become a reliable place to spot Otter. I have just returned from northern Scotland and while I saw loads of Otter sign, I did not even get a glimpse of one. Mind you sometimes it was hard to see more than a few feet through the pouring rain.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Yes – there seem to be regular sightings at Leighton Moss these days, though usually not be me!
      Trips to Scotland are always a gamble I suppose – I hope your trip wasn’t a complete wash out.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I think Bob Parrat’s in Milnthorpe may not be the place for pink patterned wellies. They only offered me black or green. Next time I’ll make more of an effort.

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