October, 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

  • Moths, Mice and where is that Water Rail!

    We’ve had a fairly mild and sunny week for half term at Fairburn with many of the usual wildlife suspects around, including juvenile willow tits and tree sparrows busy with nesting material! Apparently the tree sparrows nested well into November back in 2006; if it carries on being mild with plenty of resources around who knows how long they’ll keep it up this year.

    A couple of interesting moths turned up in last nights moth trap a Satellite; a fairly common moth that overwinters as an adult and is often active in mild weather. Interestingly the caterpillar is omnivorous (I did a double take reading this); and will prey on other caterpillars! The moth it’s self is quite richly coloured; reddish-brown to tawny orange-brown and has a small kidney mark on either forewing with two very small satellite dots either side of it. I’ve tried to highlight these diagnostic features in the image taken by our intern Jonny.

    The other moth was a feathered thorn; thorns are a stunning group of moths many of whom rest with their wings held together over their body. The feathered thorn however rests with its wings flat and often has a beautiful white spot near the tip of the forewing. The male has wide and highly feathered antennae.


    Photo © Nick Greatorex-Davies accessed http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=1923 and Peter Orr accessed https://www.flickr.com/photos/orrpix/6304276518/

    We have been getting regular sightings of water rail at Pickup hide; this normally elusive bird is often more easily identified by hearing its piglet-like squeal.

    Photo by Mike Richards accessed at rspb-images.com

    There is obviously plenty of other wildlife to be seen including goldcrests around the discovery trail, lesser redpoll near the river bank, goosanders and the winter gull roost on the main lake.

    As always if you come for a visit please pop in to see us at the visitor center and jot your own sightings in the book.      

  • Recent Sightings: Chatting, diving and faring well

    Bigger than a song thrush but smaller than a mistle thrush, fieldfares are striking winter visitors. Several flocks have been spotted at Fairburn this week, distinctive for their leisurely flight and, if you’re close enough, their beautiful plumage.  Quite heavyset compared to other thrushes, hundreds of thousands arrive each winter to take advantage of our berry stocks and flocks of them travel the countryside in search of food, forming large roosts each evening at dusk. Their arrival is a true sign of winter’s approach.

    Fieldfare, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)

    There have been several stonechat sightings, and some stunning photos sent to us by visitor Barry Nield, head over to our Facebook page, RSPB West Yorks to take a look!  Keep an eye out all over the reserve; they’ve been spotted at both Lin Dike and on the Riverbank Trail.

    Female stonechat, Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    Following on from last week’s blog, more goosander have been seen on the top ponds and plenty of redwings are about. Also, if you are on the Riverbank Trail, pop in to Bob Dickens and the viewpoint to see if you can spot any goldeneye out on the water.  Their short bills and large, almost bulbous, heads are distinctive features to look out for, and of course those bright, piercing eyes.

    Red-throated diver, Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com) 

    Otherwise, there has been a whole host of exciting wildlife seen around the reserve. A red-throated diver flew south over stacks on Monday, a male pintail was spotted up on the moat and two lesser redpoll were heard calling and they flew over the visitor centre. If you come to visit this week make sure to pop in for a chat and a coffee, and to write any of your own sightings in the book.

  • Fairburn's New Warden Intern


    My name is Jonny Holt and I am the new warden intern at Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve. I have previously spent six (very sunny) months at Blacktoft Sands, on the Humber Estuary. With its vast reedbeds and salt marshes Blacktotfts is a spectacularly beautiful reserve. While I was there I learnt many new skills, from reed cutting to bird surveys, my highlight though, has to be, being part of team that helped protect a pair of Montagu Harriers, the UK’s rarest breeding bird of prey!


    I am very excited to be at Fairburn Ings another stunningly beautiful reserve. Autumn has well and truly arrived here at Fairburn. The winds are picking up and the rusty leaves are being swept into thick drifts along the paths, birds are leaving for a warmer climate and animals are preparing for hibernation. The reserve feels like it’s holding its breath in anticipation for winter, but there is no rest for the wicked and the RSPB warden staff are out in force.


    During my first day on the reserve I cleared the drain at Big Hole, a particularly wet and mucky job! Since then I have been involved in planting the green roof in the wildlife garden, removing scrub from the lagoon islands and preparing for Halloween?! Phew it’s been a busy time!

    The diversity of wildlife at Fairburn Ings is amazing. I love mornings and my walk to work through the reserve is always special. On my very first day I saw a kingfisher! It hasn’t stopped there though; I have been lucky enough to see water voles, roe deer, marsh harriers and a sparrow hawk. You never know what you might find and Fairburn continues to surprise me.


    I am really looking forward to meeting and working with the many groups of volunteers. I have always had a passion for wildlife and nature conservation and I know the volunteers feel the same. There is a lot of satisfaction when you see the work you have done, having a positive effect on the wildlife and the reserve.