July, 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

  • Many hands make light work!

    We had some extra help on the reserve yesterday – eight enthusiastic volunteers from HSBC came to help us dig ragwort in the wet grasslands, and assist with some repairs at Pickup Hide.

    We spend many days at this time of year digging up ragwort, so it was great to have a few additional hands on board to help out. Common Ragwort is a native plant in the UK, but it’s toxic to livestock, including the lovely Highland Cattle that conservation graze the reserve. For this reason we use special forks to dig up ragwort in the areas where the cattle graze.

     In the afternoon HSBC made lots of noise with hammers to lend a hand with some boardwalk repairs at Pickup Hide. The new mesh they laid will stop the wooden boards from  becoming slippery in wet weather. Fortunately the loud banging didn’t put off the wildlife, and we could see common sandpipers, green sandpipers, snipe, and lapwing all feeding in the muddy edges of Pickup Pool.

    A huge thank you to the volunteers from HSBC for all their hard work!


  • Weekend wildlife

    There was plenty about to see this weekend, despite the slightly wetter weather which brought in quite a few damp visitors on Sunday! The wet weather was great for frogs and toads though, bringing lots of baby ones out.

    The kingfisher was on good form; two were seen perched at the Screen and one at Pick-up on Saturday, and two were seen down at Lin Dike on Sunday. There were loads of sightings of little egrets at various spots on the reserve, with 10 recorded at the Flashes.

    Three green sandpipers were spotted from Pick-up hide, along with a few snipe, a common sandpiper and some little grebes. The great-spotted woodpecker was a regular visitor to the feeders by Pick-up as well. Our ranger volunteers Gary, Elliot and Alan were really pleased to spot a bittern on Sunday flying over the Lin Dike area as well as redshank, greenshank and little ringed plover.

    Elsewhere on the reserve there were three yellow wagtails, two dunlins and an Arctic tern. At Big Hole on Saturday, there were two yellow-legged gulls and a possible Caspian gull sighting. A raven was also reported flying over Fairburn village on Friday afternoon by our warden Steve.

    The reserve is alive with insects, there is something buzzing, fluttering or hovering everywhere you look! Heaps of white butterflies are about which can be tricky to identify, we get small whites, large whites and green veined whites on the reserve. The wild flowers are full of a variety of bees such as red-tailed and buff-tailed. We found an Old Lady moth in our visitor centre this morning and one young visitor discovered a water scorpion in their pond dipping bucket!

  • Pickup Hide is the place to be!

    There’s been some great wildlife spotted from Pickup Hide this week.  The pool is quite sheltered and seems to be popular with mallards raising their young.  The water and reedbeds also attracts a wide variety of other bird life.  On Sunday there were 6 snipe plus a green sandpiper, there have been little egrets feeding there regularly, with 3 or 4 seen throughout the week, and 6 there today!  There have also been oystercatchers, lapwings, redshank, grey herons, and even one of the most elusive birds on the reserve, a water rail, which was seen on Thursday.  We often get grey wagtails on top of the sand martin bank, and there is still a sand martin making use of the sand martin bank.  The feeders at Pickup are popular with tree sparrows, chaffinches, green finches, great tits and blue tits plus the occasional jay.  Pickup Hide is only 2 or 3 minutes walk from the visitor centre, so its easily accessible to pretty much anyone.  Just a bit of patience and a pair of binoculars is all you need, if you don’t own any then you can borrow a pair at the visitor centre, just ask one of the team.

    Elsewhere at Fairburn it’s insect heaven, we’ve had hundreds of butterflies, lots of gatekeepers, meadow browns, small tortoiseshells, plus the occasional comma, I took this photo of a comma on some purple loosestrife by the small pond dipping pond.  There are plenty of dragonflies and damselflies around too, we have lots of common blue and azure damselflies, they are often seen flying along the footpaths, basking in the sun. 

    Earlier this week there were several sightings of a redstart near Phalarope pool, just a passing visitor though, it hasn’t been seen since Wednesday.  Also on Wednesday, Darren(our site manager) and Chris (our visitor experience manager), spotted a bittern at Phalarope pool.

    At Lin Dike we’ve had sightings of little egrets, greenshank, redshank, little ringed plover, lapwings, plus two green woodpeckers on the path down to Lin Dike.  The kingfisher has been seen at the kingfisher screen this week, but sightings are infrequent there, a better location may be Cut Lane and Charlie’s Hide, where an otter  was spotted last Sunday.

    It’s a great time of year to visit Fairburn Ings, there so much to see.  You don’t have to know the names of everything to enjoy your visit, but if you do want a bit of help identifying wildlife then ask one of our volunteer rangers, who are often out and about on the reserve, or ask in the visitor centre.