August, 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

  • Queen of the bumblebees

    We’ve been able to enjoy another nice spell of weather the last couple of days which has meant there were lots of butterflies about basking in the sunshine. Our buddleia outside the visitor centre had heaps of small tortoiseshells on it, along with peacocks, commas, red admirals and the odd painted lady.

    The Temminck’s stint was still around on Spoonbill Flash at the beginning of the week amongst a host of other waders including black-tailed godwits, greenshanks, green sandpipers, ringed plovers and a juvenile ruff. Three curlew sandpipers were reported on this part of the reserve yesterday as well.

    Four spotted flycatchers were seen at Pick-up hide by our ranger volunteers on Tuesday! Also in this area there have been common sandpipers, lapwings, grey herons and a willow tit. We’ve had a pair of late nesting sand martins in our sand martin bank, and visitors have been able to watch the chicks being fed. Pick-up hide has also been the best spot for birds of prey this week including a red kite, a sparrowhawk and a marsh harrier.

    Pairs of great crested grebes and common terns are about on Village Bay, and the kingfisher has been seen from Charlie’s hide as well as at the Kingfisher Screen. The bittern also continues to be seen flying over the Flashes.

    Dragonflies can still be seen when the sun comes out such as darters and hawkers, and damselflies too. You'll probably start noticing less bumblebees about as we head towards the end of summer and those that remain are likely to be the new queens. As the summer season progresses, nests start producing new queens and males instead of worker bees. The male bees will leave the nest to feed on nectar and try to mate, although most don’t succeed. The new queens will mate soon after leaving the nest and then feed heavily on nectar and pollen to fatten themselves up for the hibernation period. These new queens hibernate underground and are the only ones who survive until the following spring as the old queen and her nest naturally come to an end.

  • Muggy bugs and birds

    We had lots of interesting bird sightings yesterday despite the wet weather, with a Temminck’s stint on Spoonbill Flash along with black-tailed godwits, dunlins, ringed plovers and garganeys. A male and a female marsh harrier were seen over the Moat area, whilst green sandpipers and little egrets have been spotted from Pick-up. There’s been a sighting of a black tern on Village Bay and a spotted flycatcher was seen on the Discovery trail. Spotted flycatchers target flying insects from a perch, launching themselves to catch them mid-air, hence the name flycatcher.

    The weather's been quite muggy recently which means there are lots of bugs about. We saw loads of insects on our minibeast safari today including massive southern hawker dragonflies, butterflies like common blues and meadow browns, spiders and grasshoppers. There have been quite a few mating dragonflies around recently, the females will be laying their eggs in the water soon and these will hatch out as nymphs and live in the pond for up to five years. We also saw a common shrew on our safari, some frogs and a wall brown butterfly, which hasn't been seen on the reserve for a few years!

    We got loads of moths in our light trap yesterday morning, 18 different species! We had three poplar hawkmoths in the trap today which we weren't expecting as their flight season is from May till July or early August, however a second generation can emerge at this time usually in the south.

    All these moths and other insects will be providing food for our bats that come out to feed on the reserve at night. We get common pipistrelles, noctules and Daubentons here, and the best way to identify these different bats is by using a bat detector. Bats navigate and find their food using echolocation, and the noises they produce are often at frequencies we can't hear. With a bat detector, you set it to a certain frequency which means you will then pick up the sounds of the bats. You'll most likely see Daubenton's feeding low over water whereas noctules fly higher up over open woodland.

      Image of spotted flycatcher by Andy Hay - RSPB images

  • Investigate those insects!

    The reserve is still buzzing with insect life at the moment, with bees, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies enjoying the benefits of a warmer and drier summer. You can see lots off different species of butterfly around the reserve; just outside our visitor centre we have wildflowers and our wildlife garden, where you could spot red admirals, peacocks, small tortoiseshells and brimstones. If you’re on the Lin Dike trail you’re more likely to see meadow browns or a small copper, whereas on the Riverside trail you can find speckled woods and green-veined whites.

    The most common dragonfly about at the moment at Fairburn Ings is the common darter, but you could also see ruddy darters, brown hawkers and migrant hawkers. The damselfly you're most likely to encounter on the reserve is the common blue but you may also spot the odd emerald damselfly. The best places to see these summer insects is around the ponds or alongside the stream so keep an eye out.

    You'll definitely spot plenty of bees feeding on our various wildflowers as you walk around the reserve. There are lots of common carder bumblebees about which is the one that is mostly a brown/ginger colour, we also get buff tailed and red tailed bumblebees.

    There are plenty of wading birds around on the reserve, with black-tailed godwits and green sandpipers at Pick-up, little ringed plovers on Main Bay and greenshanks on Spoonbill Flash. The bittern continues to be seen flying over the Flashes, and up to 10 garganeys have been spotted on New Flash. Just from our closest hide to the visitor centre, Pick-up, you could watch a variety of wildlife from rabbits and roe deer, to green and great spotted woodpeckers, little egrets and grey herons, to the various finches and tits found on the feeders.

    Four crossbills were reportedly seen on Saturday down at Lin Dike, which are a bird from the finch family. They have a large bill which is crossed at the tip, hence the name crossbill, and this allows them to get seeds from conifer cones and other fruits.

    It’s your last chance to take part in our summer insect safari on Sunday, leaving the visitor centre at 11am and 2pm. We’ve got expert guides to help you find all the best creepy crawlies on the reserve!

      Image of common carder bee on purple loosestrife.