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Leighton Moss - BirdForum Opus

Photo by HelenB
View over the reedbeds from the Griesdale Hide, looking south-east

England, Lancashire


An internationally important site, the Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve has the largest reedbed in NW England and is home to several special birds, such as Bearded Tits, Eurasian Bitterns and Marsh Harriers. It is located near the town of Carnforth in northern Lancashire.


Photo by Ruth Daniels
View from the Warton Crag overlooking the Eric Morecambe Hide

Notable Species

The reserve was featured on 'Hands On Nature' for the famous booming call of the Eurasian Bittern. Bearded Tits can also been seen among the copious reedbeds. Other birds of note: Marsh Harrier, Little Egret and Water Rail.


Eurasian Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, Osprey, Red Kite, Great White Egret, Sandwich Tern, Little Gull, Garganey, Black-necked Grebe


Photo Ruth Daniels
Warton Crag from the Car Park

Birds you can see here include:

Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Eurasian Bittern, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Ruddy Duck, Western Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Common Pheasant, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Ringed Plover, Eurasian Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Common Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Skylark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Eurasian Wren, Dunnock, European Robin, Eurasian Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Bearded Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Eurasian Bullfinch, House Sparrow, Common Starling, Eurasian Magpie, Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow

Other Wildlife

Red Deer, Water Shrew, Otter

Site Information

Photo by HelenB
Map of the reserve photographed from a noticeboard. Click on image to see a larger version

History and Use

Leighton Moss is one of the most popular RSPB reserves and has over 100,000 visitors a year.

The reedbed at Leighton Moss is the largest in northwest England and is important because it is home to several species of birds which require this specialized habitat. These are Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers, Water Rails and Great Bitterns. It is also used by wintering waterfowl.

The reedbed requires maintenance year round. The reeds are cut in both summer and winter, and the water levels are managed all year. The RSPB is restoring another 200 hectares of reedbed, which involves clearing dead vegetation and digging ditches, before the new seedlings can be planted by hand.

The nearby saltmarsh and sandflats of Morecambe Bay, also provide important habitat for breeding Common Redshanks and wintering Eurasian Oystercatchers, Red Knots and wildfowl.

Areas of Interest

Photo by HelenB
Paths are cut through the reedbeds

Warton Crags

About 2.5 miles south of Leighton Moss where Peregrines nest, along with Jackdaws. Little Owl can sometimes be seen too. Choughs have also recently been spotted on the crag.

To get to the Crags turn left from the main car park at Leighton Moss and then left at the T junction. Take the first left again at a Y junction and continue over the level crossing. After a sharp right hand bend turn left onto Crag Road, the quarry car park will be on your left hand side. A further 400 yards on you're almost into Warton village (if you reach the Black Bull pub you've gone too far). The main car park is on the left just before the village.

Access and Facilities

Opening hours:

  • Daily (except 25 December): Reserve: 9am - dusk; Visitor Centre: 9:30am - 5pm (4:30pm in Nov., Dec. and Jan.). Nature trail open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Entrance fees:

  • Free entry to visitor centre and cafe
  • There are entrance fees for access to the hides
  • Free to RSPB members and people arriving by public transport or bicycle


Photo by HelenB
Inside of one of the older hides at Leighton Moss
  • Visitor Centre with cafe offering hot and cold meals and drinks; shop, stocking books, binoculars, telescopes, birdfood, etc
  • Toilets, including disabled
  • Educational facilities available for school groups
  • Three nature trails: well maintained and varying in length from 0.5 mile to 2 miles
  • Seven hides, the nearest hide to visitor centre is only 160 yards away and has large window as well as normal ones. 4 hides are wheelchair accessible.
  • A new Eric Morecambe hide, overlooking the saltmarsh section of Leighton Moss, was officially opened in late October, 2012. The new one has larger windows and wheelchair access.

The reserve is 4 miles/6 km north of Carnforth (about 10 - 15 minutes). From junction 35 on the M6, take the A6 north (signposted to Milnthorpe). Follow the Brown Tourist signs for Leighton Hall to begin with, and then follow the Brown RSPB sign from the left turn towards the village of Yealand Conyers, where you will then turn right (north) to the village of Yealand Redmayne. Follow the narrow road (Storrs Lane) until you come to the entrance to the RSPB visitor centre on the left. Additonal parking is available across the road.

Grid Ref: SD478750

Contact Details

RSPB Leighton Moss, Storrs Lane
Silverdale, Carnforth
Lancashire, LA5 0SW, UK
Tel: 01524 701601
Email: [email protected]

Recommended Citation

External Links


2520years's review

I took my family there recently and we were all very impressed. Once there, you're greeted by a tea room, RSPB shop, clean toilets etc. The first hide after that is a feeding station, the second is a large, warm excellently maintained building. I say 'building' because it has huge windows overlooking one of the lakes. We could have stayed there all day and imagined it would be superb in the cold winter months. We were also thrilled to see a Marsh Harrier in the distance.

As we walked around the paths we saw many birds in the trees, fields, reed-beds and along the brook. It was a very relaxing and friendly atmosphere even though the Reserve was busy with the Spring Fair. In one hide we could see some deer, along the paths there were various butterflies...the place was teaming with nature.

I had to leave my family behind to go to the Public Hide which was another ten minutes walk away. It was a shame because some Black-headed Gulls were nesting almost touching distance from the peep-holes. My daughter would have loved that, but she was satisfied with her free loan of a back-pack from the shop and getting her face painted (part of the Spring Fair).

My only regret was I had to miss three hides (including the Eric Morecambe hide) because we ran out of time.

I'm definitely going back because I missed some hides and didn't hear the bittern or see a bearded tit. I'm pretty sure I'd be going back anyway, if only to take advantage of the warmest hide I've experienced!


  • Extremely well kept. Varied walks available. Good facilities.


  • Some walks are quite far.

Gerald and Mary's review

Main area from visitor centre, good crop of birds Water Rail numerous tits, Common Reed Warbler, Western Marsh Harrier, missed the bittern, as too late to get to furthest hide. 2nd site Eric Morecambe Hide, numerous waders, Common Kingfisher, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank. Will revisit September 2007


  • Easy access Good parking at both sites


  • Long walk with Scope but worth it

Content and images originally posted by HelenB and 2520years