May, 2013

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

  • Baby birds and a baby deer too!

    We were treated to some lovely weather again this bank holiday weekend, and we were particularly thankful as our new sister site RSPB St Aidan’s opened on Saturday! The wildlife must have been enjoying the sunshine too and there was plenty about for visitors to see.

    This year’s BBC Springwatch has kicked off and we’ve had some lovely spring moments on the reserve too. Beki spotted a robin fledgling in the car park, flapping about and having food delivered by mum and dad. We’ve also seen a juvenile siskin on the feeders in the wildlife garden today. As far as we know, this is the first time siskins have bred here at Fairburn Ings so it’s pretty exciting! This is due to the late arrival of spring which has delayed lots of our wildlife this year. Graham, one of our volunteers managed to get this great pic of the young siskin:

    We can now confirm that avocets are nesting on one of the islands in Main Bay! It has been a while since they’ve nested here on the reserve so this is some more great news. Also on the bay we’ve had little ringed plovers, a pair of garganey and a couple of Arctic terns. Down by the Cut there has been a pair of oystercatchers seen with their young and also two pied wagtails.

    On Saturday morning a bittern was spotted at the back of Pick-up and one has been heard down towards Lin Dike. A juvenile heron has also been seen at Pick-up, the first to be spotted so far from our heronry. Elsewhere on the reserve, we’ve had a spotted flycatcher near the boardwalk and yellow wagtails at Lin Dike.

    We’re getting more sightings of dragonflies and damselflies such as a four-spotted chaser, azure damselflies and large red damselflies. There are plenty of butterflies about as well including small coppers, large whites, holly blues and orange tips.

    Mammal wise, a roe deer with a fawn was seen at the North Flashes on Tuesday, and we’ve had a stoat seen at the Kingfisher screen earlier in the week.

  • What can you see at Fairburn Ings?

    If you’ve never been to Fairburn Ings nature reserve before, you really should come take a look. There’s heaps of wildlife to see and loads of fun stuff to get involved with. We’ve got pond dipping and quiz trails for kids, and you can keep up to date with all our events at our website,'ve been here for over 2 months now and absolutely love the place!

    Just outside our visitor centre we’ve got a wildlife garden with a small pond, rockery, herb garden and feeders which attract lots of birds. We get plenty of tree sparrows, blue tits, great tits and greenfinch, along with nuthatches, bullfinch and there is still the odd siskin around.

    Further into the reserve at our closest hide, Pick-up, we get a range of waterfowl including pochard, gadwall and shoveler. On your way round the reserve you’re very likely to see butterflies such as the lovely orange tips, brimstones, speckled woods and holly blues, as well as various bumblebees. We’re getting a couple more sightings of damselflies too as we head towards summer, such as the large red damselfly.

    If you venture further out into the reserve, you could see and hear a variety of warblers such as blackcaps, whitethroats, sedge and garden warbler. At the flashes you might see garganey, teal and snipe, whilst over the opposite end of the reserve there are arctic and common terns, plus little ringed plovers and turnstones.

    In the Main and Village Bay area there are a tremendous number of swifts at the moment, more than I have ever seen before. Swifts spend the majority of their lives flying, only touching ground to breed. So by the end of their life they can have flown millions of miles!

    We get birds of prey over our reserve as well; you could catch a glimpse of buzzards, kestrels or even a marsh harrier. We’ve also had a few hobby sightings in the last few days which has long pointed wings and is about the same size as a kestrel.

    Hobby - RSPB image

    There is also a brand new RSPB site opening just up the road from Fairburn Ings called St Aidan’s, where you can explore 7.5 miles of footpaths and bridleways. This site was formerly an open cast mine but is now home to an amazing variety of wildlife. It opens to the public on Saturday 25 May so come and check it out!

  • How do you tell the difference between a male and a female kingfisher?

    Its turning out to be a slightly unusual Spring, its not that long ago that we were clearing snow from the car park and footpaths, last weekend we had beautiful, hot, sunny weather, and this week we've had much cooler temperatures and plenty of rain.  Needless to say the wildlife seems to be coping with whatever the weather can throw at them with plenty of sightings over the last few days.

    The kingfisher has been seen pretty much every day for the last few weeks, usually the male, and usually at the Kingfisher Screen.  If you hang around there long enough the kingfisher is likely to make an appearance.  The key to telling the difference between a male and female kingfisher is the beak colour.  The males beak is all black, the female has a pinky orange tinge to the lower part of the beak.  I remember it by thinking that the lady wears lipstick!

    This brilliant photo of a female kingfisher was taken by Andy Hay (rspb images)

    We’ve had lots of summer migrants arriving at Fairburn Ings over the last few weeks, the iconic call of the cuckoo has been heard around the reserve, but only a few sightings, mainly from the Lin Dike end of the reserve.  The air is full of bird song, mainly coming from warblers like the willow warbler, sedge warbler, chiff chaff, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and blackcap.  But some of our garden birds have been in good voice too, robins, chaffinches, green finches, dunnocks, blue tits, great tits and tree sparrows are all making themselves heard.

    Another indication summer is just round the corner is the number of insects on the reserve, the sunny weather brought out the butterflies and we had lots of sightings of orange tips, as well as brimstones, peacocks and green veined whites.  There hasn’t been much dragonfly or damselfly action yet, but the banded demoiselle last week shows that they are about.  The insect influx is providing lots of food for the swifts, swallows and martins which gather at Fairburn Ings to breed.  In the evening they can be seen swooping over the water catching mouthfuls of bugs, it sounds a bit grim, but looks amazing.

    There seems to have been a lot of wader action here recently, yesterday there was a greenshank at Charlies hide and a dunlin at Bob Dickens Hide.  On Friday and Saturday a turnstone, some little ringed plovers, dunlins and a greenshank were all seen all on Main Bay, plus a yellow wagtail on Friday.  We’ve also had sightings of black tailed godwits on New Flash and the avocets are still seen regularly on Hicksons.

    We’ve had several sightings of birds of prey, buzzards seen over the visitor centre on Friday, a peregrine over village bay on Sunday and a hobby there on Saturday, plus several sightings of marsh harriers, usually down at the Lin Dike end of the reserve