December, 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

  • Up the garden path - December 2014

    Here's the latest blog from our Wildlife Garden team

    Hi everyone! Its time for an update on our lovely wildlife garden here at rspb Fairburn Ings. One of the keys to wildlife gardening is creating a variety of habitats and making best use of the available space - no matter how small or awkward. Thats why we have recently installed a fabulous new green roof on the shelter. We've used sedums as they are evergreen, easy to grow and have good wildlife value. It looks pretty good already but will be even better next year when it's more established.  We've also been busy recruiting more wildlife garden volunteers. Matt and Andy have started and there may be a couple more too. Between us we want to make the garden the best it can be for both wildlife and our visitors.

    So, what can we be doing in our own gardens at this time of year? The crucial thing is not to over tidy - all that dead vegetation provides a safe haven for countless creatures, particularly invertebrates, which in turn are food for other wildlife. Believe me, a dead stalk to us is a des res to many others. Seed heads left through the winter not only provide food for birds but can also be a striking feature.  If you feel you really can't leave things then why not create a leaf and twig pile in a quiet corner of the garden - who knows, you may even be lucky enough to get a certain prickly visitor hibernating in there - and we all know how much hedgehogs need our help these days.

    (Log pile image by Andy Hay rspb-images).

    Similarly, log piles can provide a place for amphibians and a whole host of other creatures to overwinter. Deciduous trees and shrubs can also be planted or moved now and, if you have the space, planting a wildlife hedge is a fantastic thing to do.  Just as important as all the tasks, now is also a great time to plan your garden for next year. Is there anything else you can do to attract and support wildlife? Remember the 3 staple requirements of a wildlife garden - food, water and shelter - can you improve what your garden offers in terms of these things?

    As always we will happily answer any questions and give advice where we can. We also love to hear your ideas and comments so next time you see us in the garden come and have a chat. Now is a really wonderful time to visit Fairburn Ings with that lovely crisp air and the leaves crunching underfoot. However, one of the very best things is that the birds are so much easier to see because all the leaves have fallen. Also, because natural food is becoming more scarce many species are more likely to visit the feeder areas which are dotted around the reserve. This provides some great views and also a bit of exercise to work off all those mince pies!

    I'll sign off there but on behalf of the wildlife garden team may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy festive season and we hope to see you very soon.


  • Beardies, gulls and a cheeky weasel!

    It’s been a busy old week for birds of prey here at Fairburn.  Buzzards have been spotted nearly every day with sightings at Newfield, Pick-up and from Lin Dike hide. Two red kites were also seen over Newfield at the weekend and another two flew over the visitor centre on Thursday.

    On Monday there was a peregrine over Lin Dike, and another over Cedric’s pool on Tuesday. Down at Cedric’s there was also a water rail and a Cetti’s warbler calling. However, the main excitement there this week were the bearded tits! Two males and a female were reported as well as several other sightings of individuals and plenty of people who heard them calling.

    Red kite, Ben Hall (

    Zooming to the other end of the reserve and out onto the Main Bay gull roost. On Monday evening there was one Caspian gull, but the bumper sighting came on Tuesday night when there were four spotted amongst the crowd.

    There have been regular sightings of Caspian gulls in the roost over the past few weeks. Very similar to the more common herring gulls and yellow-legged gulls, in the past they have been quite a rarity in the UK but the sightings are becoming more common. The identifying features are quite subtle; in the shape of the head, the slightly drooping tip of the bill and distinctive primary feathers.

    Bearded tit, Mike Richards (

    Tuesday’s excitement continued with a bellowing of 12 bullfinches seen between Lin Dike and Hickson’s. There were nine males and three females with a trixy siskin hiding amongst them.

    And finally, in the main car park a weasel put on a little show as it gave chase to a rabbit, an awesome wildlife moment for everyone that was down there.

  • A Collective of Christmas Sightings

    You’ll know about our charms of goldfinches and parliament of long-eared owls, but has anyone ever turned to you and said ‘oh just look at that mutation of thrushes’? – no, me neither...

    What other weird and wonderful collectives can you see around the reserve?

    Pheasant, Ben Hall (

    Head off around the Discovery Trail where the tame robin has caused quite a stir with visitors this week, he is certainly well fed! Careful though because at any point you could disturb some undergrowth and set flight to a bouquet of pheasants.

    When you sit yourself down at Pick-up hide you are almost guaranteed to see a plump of moorhens pecking around, likely beneath the feeders where a host of tree sparrows are eating their lunch, where a willow tit was also seen this week.

    Mallard, Ben Hall (

    On a good day you might look out upon a brightly coloured spring of teal, and if you’re lucky, a wisp of snipe may have stopped off for a rest. If you carry on around to the Feeder Screen there is always a jolly puddle of mallards splashing and nibbling on fallen seed, and on occasion a bellowing of bullfinches will make an appearance.

    Onwards to the Kingfisher Screen where you might be accosted by a herd of wrens, or a party of jays may ‘skwaaaark!’ overhead. Always stop and have a look because the kingfisher has been spotted a good many times this week.

    Lapwing, Andy Hay (

    When you reach Big Hole you’ll see a deceit of lapwings lining the shore while a covert of coots drift and a bevy of swans swim. Off along the Riverbank Trail and a descent of green woodpeckers might take flight into the trees, although only one was reported this week.

    Green woodpecker, Andy Hay (

    A little grebe was seen at main bay earlier in the week, along with the usual gulp of cormorants and a dopping of goosander floating regally by.

    Why not bring your delight of grandchildren, get in a round of hot chocolate and while away a handful of hours?