I’m Sally, the new visitor intern. What a whirlwind – two days ago I was lurking beneath the trees of a woodland reserve in the depths of the midlands. Now, here I am back in Yorkshire at last. Phew.
Fairburn Ings - David Wootton
I’ll be here for the next six months and suffice to say, I’m pretty excited. This is one of my favourite times of year and I’m ready to absorb as much as I can. I’ll admit now that my natural history knowledge has some fairly hefty gaps in it, but with autumn and winter on the horizon and a whole new habitat to learn and explore, I have no doubt that I can make a start on rectifying the situation. This blog will more than likely track my adventures in learning over the coming months (fair warning).
All jokes aside, one of the best things I have found about the RSPB is that it isn’t a place to be nervous of lacking knowledge, it is the complete opposite. The RSPB is full of passionate people who just want to share what they know and inspire as many people as possible to want to enjoy and care for it. If you’re interested, get involved!
Having only made it around half of Fairburn so far, I can’t speak definitively, but I’m almost completely certain that I’m going to love it. I already love how open it is and the massive variety of life here. I’m sure you already know better than I how awesome it is, and if you don’t then I heartily encourage you to find out (and tell me why you think so).
Fairburn Ings - Andy Hay
Don’t hesitate! Don your boots, this is the perfect time of year to wrap yourself up against the lazy wind and get outside. The first leaves are beginning to turn and there is a strange lull of anticipation before the influx of winter visitors.
I’ll see you out there.
Well 6 months have been and gone and now I am here on my final day here as visitor officer Intern at Fairburn Ings! Its been a whirlwind of an adventure but just to give you a sum up of my best bits...
Firstly the amazing wildlife, having no real experience of identifying birds or wildlife before the Internship I was really excited to be able to say ‘I know what that is!’ I remember one of my first weeks here and spotting a treecreeper along the riverbank path, I’d never seen one before I came to Fairburn Ings apart from in books and I definitely had one of them ‘wow’ moments when I stood frozen to watch it. Since then I have developed a love of wildflowers, identifying trees, small mammals and I’m even starting to learn my fungi although it may take a while! I have also helped with amphibian lamping (evening walks looking for frogs) and bat detecting evenings around Fairburn to find out the ecology of the reserve which has been very exciting and have learned loads. One evening was spent moving frogs from in front of the Landover down the track whilst in the pouring rain!
Tree creeper – The Guardian
From writing press releases, blogs, newsletters, updates to twitter and facebook, doing radio interviews, interacting with reserve visitors and updating the discovery trail I have been given some wonderful opportunities throughout this Internship and learned valuable skills which I’ll keep forever. One of the things I have loved most is creating reserve interpretation including the discovery trail boards, dragonfly wind-chimes, butterfly bunting and wildflower hangings around the trail. It’s great knowing that you’re helping people learn new things everyday! I have loved walking past the butterfly bunting and hearing people say ‘oh that’s what that was!’
Brown Argus butterfly – Alan Kelly
I have also enjoyed taking part in a number of the reserves events such as the Bat walk, Big Bike ride, Storytelling sessions, Big Wild Sleepout at Lotherton Hall, Mini-beast safaris and Meet the moth sessions. The RSPB has so many wonderful ideas for events and I’ve loved being apart of them; from having my face painted at the Big Wild Sleepout to spurring people on at the Big Bike Ride its been awesome to see so many people get involved with the RSPB and spreading the word!
I have also been kept busy organising and running four family volunteering sessions at Fairburn Ings, which some of you have no doubt heard or seen photos of. We started off with a day of willow cutting up on the lagoons; we then had a day using this willow to weave a fantastic dome and tunnel in the playground. We then moved on to creating our bug village and after an extra session yesterday the willow den and bug village are now officially complete and look epic! I think the most enjoyable part for me has got to be the families and all the wonderful people who took part. It’s something they can be proud of and come back to say ‘I made that!’ I’m so glad I was apart of it.
Willow weaving 28/08/14 – Joe Seymour
Ultimately the best part of my Internship so far has been the reserve, the staff and volunteers here are just the best bunch of people and make the reserve a lovely place to work and visit! From the busy pond dipping platforms, beautiful wildflowers, amazing shop cake, friendly visitors, lovely hides, bird-full feeding platforms; Fairburn Ings is such a great reserve and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to volunteer here. Thank you Fairburn Ings!
Autumn is definitely in the air at Fairburn Ings! Just a quick walk around the reserve and you can already see leaves starting to look tired and droopy compared the fresh, bright reds of the newly emerged berries. I love watching the gradual change in the leaves as they turn steadily more and more reddish as the season changes. Rose-hips, blackberries and hawthorn berries are great for so many of our small rodents on the reserve and though you might not always see them they are definitely there! Just keep an eye open for small burrows in amongst grass, on banks or along hedge/ fences and that’s a definite sign of the presence of a bank vole, field vole or common/ pigmy shrews. Below is a picture of a bank vole which has the definite rounded-nose of the vole and longer tail than the field vole. Field voles also leave lots of broken blades of grass outside their burrows which are cut at around 45 degree angles. Have a look under the hazel trees for signs of cracked hazelnuts signalling the presence of squirrels, birds and rodents quickly munching on a cheeky hazelnut. Squirrels tend to break the nut right in half leaving nice clean halves whereas rodents leave obvious gnawing holes on the nut. Take a look you’ll be amazed what you can identify from just a few field signs!
Bank Vole – Guy Roberts (RSPB-images)
Yesterday we had a first for the year at Fairburn Ings – a stonechat was spotted at Pickup hide! Male stonechats have lovely striking black heads with a orangey-red breast and brown back, females do still have the orangey-tinge to their chests but lack the obvious black heads of the males. The birds get their name for the sharp call which sounds like two stones being tapped together. They are usually seen on upland heaths and coastal areas the rest of the year where they usually breed but during the winter months they tend to move around more so that’s why we’ve got some visiting Fairburn Ings. We’ve also had a goldcrest this week at Lin Dike, which are quite rare visitors to the reserve and being so small very hard to spot! There tiny beaks are often used to pick out insects from between pine needles just to give you an idea of how small and delicate they are!
Stonechat – Steve Round (RSPB-images)
Fungi around the reserve are changing every week now so make sure you keep an eye! I’m definitely having fun trying to ID all the different species; some of the names are actually quite funny! Down Cut lane before Charlies hide there are quite a few shaggy inkcaps which are long, white and thin with shaggy white bits on the top. These prefer grass areas and recently disturbed soil in late summer to early autumn. Another common fungi visitor to Fairburn Ings is Birch polypore with a flat-bell like look to them as they grow on Birch trees along the Riverbank trail. They always remind me of shelves the way they sort of hand along the side of the tree! There are also quite a few fly algaric’s which are the classic, unmistakable red and white mushrooms and can be in amongst the birch trees along the riverbank path. Identifying mushrooms is a hard task but can be fun to see all the amazing types you can get... remember there are lots of the things on the reserve floor too!