September, 2011

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's
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Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

  • Is it Autumn yet?

    You can really feel the changes of the seasons on the reserve, and the change into Autumn is one of the most obvious and beautiful. It's also the time when we'll get interesting sightings of birds on their migration down to warmer climes...and me wishing I could go with them! Keep an eye out and let us know what you see, we'll add it to the recent sightings board in the visitor centre and on here.

    The last few days have seen quite a few redpoll, siskin (5 were seen yesterday), and swifts near the flashes, as well as not one but two of my favourite birds...ruffs! I just love the patterning on their back and wings and their elegant shape. Also, did you know that the word 'poll' is an old word for head? So the redpoll is named so because of it's very distinctive red spot on its head...a good way to remember for us newbie birdwatchers.

    Sparrowhawks, buzzards, and kestrels have been spotted all over the reserve and kingfishers spotted both at the Kingfisher Screen on 22 September and from Village Bay Hide yesterday. Surprisingly there are loads of dragonflies around the Discovery Trail still. Butterflies are also still around but not nearly as many as we've been getting used to over the summer months, with meadow brown, common blue, green veined white, small copper, red admiral's having been spotted in the last 3 days.

    Yesterday there were reports of red crested pochard from Village Bay Hide as well as 3 field fare in the field opposite the visitor centre. We're sure there's more about so let us know what you see!


  • Top of the raptor pops at Fairburn Ings

    We’ve had a fantastic week for raptors, with a Top Ten different species seen in the space of a few days!! Here's the count down of birds of prey at Fairburn Ings 

    10. Kestrals have been seen over the visitor centre during the week

    9. Peregrines were seen over Newfield plantation, and the Flashes

    8. Hobby seen near the visitor centre several times, plus sightings at Cut Lane and Newfield plantation

    7. Red kites seen over Ledsham village

    6. Buzzards have been seen in large numbers from Lin Dike, as well as sightings at Pickup, Lin Dike and Newfield plantation

    5. Sparrowhawks have been seen over Cut Lane, the Discovery Trail, Pickup Pool and Cedric’s

    4.  Marsh harriers at New Flash, Pickup Cedrick’s Flash, Hickson’s Flash and over the visitor centre.  

    3. A merlin has been seen at the Flashes for most of the week and from Pickup Hide

    2. Osprey have been seen from Lin Dike and New Flash on a couple of occasions. 

    1. A hen harrier was seen from Lin Dike on Tuesday

    Although it isn't technically a bird of prey, artic skua's are pretty scary for sea birds.  It was seen on Monday from Lin Dike.

    We’ve had the first stonechat of the winter at Cedric’s this morning, plus a whinchat.  A black tern at Hickson’s pool and Lin Dike.  A stoat was seen at Pickup hide early this morning.

    Yesterday we had sightings of a great white egret from Lin Dike and over the visitor centre.  2 whinchat were seen at Cedric’s, plus a wheatear, a white wagtail, black tern and 5 black tailed godwits.


  • A final farewell to Fairburn Ings (as a member of staff of course...)

    Well... what can I say... Friday was my last day working at the reserve as some of you may already know, I’m going to work for Welcome to Yorkshire in a new role (in which I will be working with and promoting the RSPB in Yorkshire, of course!)

    I wanted to say my goodbyes in a blog so that I can share some of my highlights and experiences of working here with you all and hopefully inspire you to either visit the reserve, volunteer or become a member of the RSPB.

    It’s been a fantastic 3 years being firstly the Visitor Services Manager, then Site Manager for a year and finally Visitor Experience Manager where I was lucky enough to work on developing the visitor experience at St Aidan’s alongside Fairburn Ings.

    Some of my highlights include having the pleasure of working with such a fantastic team of friendly and passionate people, working with the media on stories like the tennis balls for Harvest mice and the amazing long tailed tit’s and kingfishers pictures (both you can see on the images on the community page), seeing my first long-eared owl and hearing a bittern boom, getting up at 4am for a Dawn Chorus tour of the reserve and of course….. making friends with Broady the Bullfinch who was one of my all time favourites- she cheered me up no end- for those of you who never met Broady, she was a female bullfinch that landed on a visitor’s head one day and stayed at the reserve for a few months. I could go on there are so many….

    Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way, there were a few challenges thrown my way such as chasing the cattle across the fields in a flood with Karen shouting “grab a stick to make yourself look bigger”, standing at the top of Redshale Road carrying out a radio interview in -10 conditions last winter or constantly trying to improve the visitor experience with such a small space to work in- I’m sure this was a challenge for you too with the coffee machine in a different position every time you visited (sorry about that!).

    I still live local to the reserve and will be visiting regularly and hopefully will see some of you soon. Here’s my ten favourite things to do at the reserve ….

    1. Being lucky enough to see a Kingfisher at the drop of a hat- although I was never patient enough to wait longer than 30 seconds- but with that in mind I still saw more than my fair share!
    2. Crunching the leaves in the winter on the riverbank trail on a nice walk before work- looking out for mushrooms and wildflowers on my way.
    3. Taking my dog Eddy for a walk around the trails- she loves it just as much as I do!
    4. Watching Nick build the dry stone wall was a particular favourite of mine, as we’ve been able to see it’s development over time- I especially loved it in the summer when the bright red poppies were growing against it!
    5. Bringing my brother and sister pond dipping when they were younger.
    6. Being involved in the amazing events such as Wild Wednesdays, spooky things at the Ings and learning lots of interesting facts at moth and bat nights in the summer.
    7. Going for a brisk walk in the snow when the reserve looks like a magical winter wonderland
    8. Sitting with a nice cup of tea whilst watching the many different garden birds on the feeders (we counted over 20 species in the big garden birdwatch last year)
    9. “Testing” the birds nest swing whilst doing the weekly checks- it’s back in action now so go and have a swing or play on the dragonfly!

    10.  Eating the amazing homemade lemon cake- I think it would be unfair if the cake didn’t get a mention somewhere!

    And my final note has to be an admission that I am still very much a  beginner to birdwatching but my passion for wildlife and nature is stronger than ever.  Although my skills have very much improved since my first month, when I reported on recent sightings that there had been a golden eagle at the reserve (much to the amusement of the work experience lad who thought it would be funny to write it in the book knowing I was just about to post them on the website)… I’ve learnt so much since then and have had some great people to teach me along the way and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!

     So no matter how little or how much you think you know about birds and wildlife- there’s always something to enjoy or learn at the reserve!