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Ring necked pheasant male

If you’re struggling to imagine how excited I got at the announcement of the Beeb’s  Springwatch Easter special at Bempton Cliffs, watch this…

Yep, that’s pretty accurate. As Mrs Walking Photographer, Ted (Crawling Photographer) and Alfie (our lurcher) will testify, I’m absolutely nuts about Springwatch. Nearly every Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch results in a big list of new places to visit and explore. So I was particularly excited to see that this Easter special features somewhere we had already been. I’d even done a rather sketchy blog post on the place in 2012: Birding at Bempton” (I know, but alliteration was all the rage back in 2012. Honest.)

With Springwatch at Easter being based in an area we’re already familiar with, we get more time to get through the existing bucket list before it inevitably starts growing again at the start of the next Springwatch series. One of the recently bagged locations from the list was Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve

A series of firsts at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve

Rich Bunce Walking Photographer at Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve

If you’re struggling to imagine how excited I was at visiting Leighton Moss for the first time, scroll to the top of this page and play the Youtube video.

The person who calls the shots these days (Crawling Photographer) made it perfectly clear we needed to visit the RSPB Cafe first.  I was pleased we did, a delicious homemade flapjack and coffee set me right up!

One of the things that really impressed me was that we were able to take Alfie through the ‘public route’ of the reserve. It was on this route that we stopped to take a look in the public hide and it was here we saw our first ever bittern. The bittern was picked out by a RSPB volunteer and just as well as they are so well camouflaged against the reed bed. It was an unbelievable start!

We walked on and took turns to walk Alfie while one of us walked along to the “sorry no dogs” hide aka the lower hide. It was at this hide I saw my first ever British freshwater otter, well four actually. I was panning the reed bed furthest away and noticed some movement. From the rustling bunch of reeds emerged two otter cubs and an adult. The two young otters proceeded to play and splash in the water, it was then I noticed another adult otter on a reed bed slightly closer to the hide but still too far away to get a decent shot (photographically speaking!). I couldn’t quite believe it and had to restrain myself from running and skipping back to Mrs Walking Photographer to tell her what I’d seen.

It wasn’t long before Crawling Photographer was demanding another visit to the Cafe so we headed back there for an awesome lunch (BBQ pulled pork baguette if you don’t mind, thank you very much!).

After lunch we took a whistle stop tour of the rest of the reserve at Leighton Moss. The hides were incredible, they were more like luxury cabins. In the last hide we visited we saw a huge red deer sitting on a bank surrounded by water and reeds, it was a majestic sight. As we prepared to head back to the car park I took one last long look over the reserve when I noticed a largish predator like shape hovering over the far reed beds. A look through the binoculars and an exclamation from the twitcher next to me confirmed it was a Marsh Harrier. Another first!

After such an amazing first trip, I’m almost a little hesitant to return. But I have to admit, I’m hooked on this place and their BBQ pulled pork. It wont be too long before we’re back, that’s for sure!