June, 2014

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

  • 'Pickup' some wildlife delights!

    Fairburn Ings is teaming with great wildlife sightings at the moment! Yesterday and this morning we had a pair of spoonbills over at Pickup hide; they have been lingering around Pickup this morning and have been spotted flying over towards the Moat and Lyn Dyke. This is the second sighting of this heavily conserved bird here at Fairburn this year, and is definitely worth a look for their classic spoon bill! Pickup hide has also played home to a family of avocets this week! They travelled from Main bay where they hatched right over to Pickup hide, believably for more safety and perhaps for a bit of a break from the black-headed gulls! These are chicks are about 5/8’s in size so we’re hoping that they will reach adulthood. They are already loosing their downy feathers and adapting their classic black and white plumage. These will hopefully be the first successfully bred avocet chicks ever at Fairburn Ings!

    Avocet chicks - Chris Gomersall (RSPB-images)

    Whilst walking up to Bob Dickens hide the other morning I was amazed at how many brown butterflies were fluttering amongst the undergrowth, they were meadow browns. These are starting to emerge now in June/July and are very similar to speckled woods but without the white eyes on the wings. Other fluttery spectacles include ringlet butterflies and gate keepers which are also becoming more common now in summer. Blue tailed damselflies have been plentiful all along Cut Lane this week, with over 300 being counted in one day! Ruddy darter damselflies have also been spotted this week around the reserve. These are smaller than common darters, males are red and females are more of an orangey-brown, both with forward facing wings. They prefer weedy ponds so the discovery trail is great place to find these amazing damselflies.

    Male ruddy darter – Graham Calow (Nature Spot)

    Viper bugloss has been growing steadily next to the visit centre these past few weeks, this flower is considered an invasive species in some areas as it originally comes from Europe but you still have to appreciate the beautiful colours of this flower. The buds start off pink and turn blue with red stamens poking out of the flower head. Another tiny delicate flower I have noticed growing along cut lane is woody nightshade, or bittersweet. This is a beautiful small purple flower with a long yellow centre which grows right in the hedgerows; you do have to look very carefully to see them! Himalayan balsam is flowering at the moment and lots can be seen down by the kissing gate on the way towards cut lane. Although these are invasive you still can appreciate the striking large pink flowers!

     Woody Nightshade – Victor Thomas Coughtrey

    We had a great viewing of a red kite swooping over Big Hole this morning and a peregrine was spotted by the Pylon next to the flashes. Loads of little egrets have been spotted lately. Seven were seen at Lyn Dyke hide yesterday, with plenty more at Pickup, Lyn Dyke and over by the Flashes. A water rail was also spotted by Parkers pond making the familiar squeaking sound! A mandarin has just been sighted by the duck and swan feeding platform opposite the car park. There is also plenty of juvenile action around the reserve, with juvenile blue tits surrounding the feeders and competing for feed alongside the adults. There is definitely plenty about here at Fairburn Ings so why not pop down this weekend for a spot!


  • Blooming wildlife in the sun

    Its been a beautiful week at Fairburn Ings, with glorious sunny weather pretty much every day. Its meant the reserve has been alive with insects, and the wildflowers are looking stunning, the orchids in particular have been putting on a great show. Head past the Kingfisher Screen and up Red Shale Road, on the left are several southern marsh orchids.  Although we are of course in The North, the southern marsh orchid is much more common here, the northern marsh orchid is occasionally found in the area, but its stronghold is further north, particularly in Scotland. 

    Further up Red Shale Road, on the right before you get to the kissing gate, there is a pyramidal orchid in the field, it is just over the fence, but you can see it quite well from the path.  Head along the Riverbank trail towards the village to find our third orchid, the bee orchid. They are a little bit harder to find and not easily spotted from the footpath, ask in the visitor centre for more details about their location.

    As well as the orchids, there are plenty of other wildflowers in bloom at the moment, the wildflower triangle in front of the visitor centre looks stunning, it is full of hedge bedstraw, and the chicory is about to flower.  Along the dry stone wall there are some lovely vipers bugloss and oxeye daisies. All these flowers attract plenty of insects, including bumble bees and butterflies.

    (Photo of vipers bugloss along the drystone wall at Fairburn Ings by Beki Williams)

    At this time of year we put our moth trap out regularly in the hope of seeing some hawkmoths, we’ve not been disappointed this week, with lots of elephant hawkmoths, and poplar hawkmoths, we also had a new one for me, a lime hawkmoth, it just looks like a camouflaged fighter jet with the beautiful green colours.  Also in the moth trap we’ve had a buff arches, green silver lines, drinker and much more. If you want to get a bit of a closer look at some of these moths then be at the visitor centre on Sunday 29 June for our Meet the Moths event, we’ll be checking our light trap from 10am, come and help us identify the catch.

    (Photo of lime hawkmoth by Beki Williams)

    There have been plenty of sightings of little egrets recently, usually from Lin Dike hide, although they do occasionally drop into Pickup Pool as well.  Also down at Lin Dike a redshank and a ringed plover have been seen with their young, there have also been several reports of grasshopper warblers calling and a female garganey on Cedric’s Pool.  We had lots of reports of kingfishers over the weekend, the young have fledged now and its likely they are finding their feet on the reserve, so we’ve seen them at Pickup pool, the feeder screen, the pond dipping pond and the Kingfisher Screen as well as down on Cut Lane.  

    For the most up to date sightings information please pop into the visitor centre and check the recent sightings book, and don't forget to let us know what you've seen when you visit.

  • From bee orchids to bitterns...

    What a weekend we’ve had for sightings at Fairburn! From bee orchids to bitterns it’s been a great time to visit us here in sunny West Yorkshire. Southern marsh, pyramidal and bee orchids have been spotted around the reserve looking beautifully delicate contrasting against the lush greenery. Bee orchids are so named for their bee-like-look which they have evolved to attract certain types of bees, unfortunately we don’t have the correct species of bumblebee in the UK so bee orchids are self-pollinated here. These can be spotted along the Riverbank trail with some close to Bob Dickens hide. We’ve had a few sightings of emerald damselflies this week alongside the now common azure and common blue damselflies. Ruby-tailed wasps have been spotted around the discovery trail this week. These are very pretty with their shimmery turquoise heads and red abdomen and are a type of solitary wasp. They can sometimes be classed as ‘cuckoo wasps’ for laying their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees and wasps! I was lucky to see a photo of ladybird eggs and larvae this week... it’s always worth asking what discovery trail camera people have seen! You just don’t recognise these as being linked to the classic ladybirds we’re all so used to seeing. It is definitely worth taking your time walking around the discovery trail this time of year as there is so much to see in amongst the wildflowers and hedgerows.


    Bee orchid – Jane Mowson (RSPB ranger)

    One little bird that hasn’t been in the sightings book for a while is the treecreeper. These lovely little bobbing birds have been described as ‘tree mice’ and nest behind loose bark in trees, in ivy or even behind building cladding. One was seen along the board walk on the discovery trail but they can quite often be seen creeping up and zooming down trees around Village Bay hide. There have been regular sightings of a little egret at Pickup hide skulking in amongst the reeds over the past week. It amazes me how these beautiful white birds keep themselves looking so immaculately white whilst wading through the murky water! I was excited to see that we now have sightings of juvenile lapwings at New Flash! It’s great to see these amazing birds breeding successfully. New Flash also holds pochard broods and little grebe juveniles.

    Juvenile lapwing – Andy Hay (RSPB-images)

    We managed to have two very exciting sightings yesterday; the first of a water shrew over by New Flash! These are largest shrews in Britain with long pointed snouts, short black velvety fur and small white tufts behind their small ears. Water shrews only have a lifespan of 19 months and are not very common in the UK so it’s great that we’ve had a sighting of these elusive little mammals. Also yesterday we had an amazing sighting of a bittern flying towards Main Bay! Bitterns have had a lot of publicity lately after Springwatch captured the first wonderful footage of bittern chicks, which I’m sure all nature-lovers enjoyed (they did it for me!). I managed to hear my first booming bittern two months ago standing at the pond dipping platform here at Fairburn, and boy what an incredible sound they make! These really are brilliant birds and having them in the sightings book really was a treat when I got into work this morning!

    Bittern – John Bridges (RSPB-images)