January, 2015

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

  • Nesting and warbling: recent sightings

    The balcony feeding station came down on Monday as we bid goodbye to Big Garden Birdwatch for the year. Some of the regular birds returned for a few days and looked a little bereft that their dinner had gone missing, but they’ve grown used to the feeders being down in the Wildlife Garden again. There also appears to have been an explosion of finches, with at least seven bullfinches out there the other day.

    Don’t worry though, the wildlife spectacle continues as the nest box cameras were switched on this week. Tree sparrows have already begun nest building and blue tits are popping in and out while they make up their minds about this year’s real estate.  You’re very welcome to settle down with a coffee, it’s better than anything else on telly!

    The smew excitement continues. The female smew which caused a stir down on Village Bay last week was spotted down on Spoonbill Flash on Wednesday and Thursday, and flew past Lin Dike hide this morning.  Please let us know about any new sightings.

    Cetti's warbler, Mike Lane (rspb-images.com)

    Sunday was a busy day with 300 golden plover over the Newfield area, two whooper swans down at Charlie’s hide and a 12 snipe at big hole.  There were also eight dunlin at Big Hole on Monday and a curlew was seen in along the Lin Dike Link path.

    Grey wagtail,  Andrew Parkinson (rspb-images.com)

    The long-eared owls returned to the pool beyond the iron bridge at the weekend. There were two roosting on Sunday and they were being serenaded by a nearby Cetti’s warbler. The warbler was heard there again on Monday along with a guest appearance from a green woodpecker and a grey wagtail.

    If you've been recently you will have probably heard the woodpecker drumming in the Discovery Trail, well one has been heard on the Riverbank Trail now as well! Signs of spring indeed. 

  • And it's goodbye from him

    Here's a blog from Jonny, our warden intern.

    My time as an RSPB warden intern is coming to an end. I can honestly say it’s been an amazing experience!


    Surveying is a key element of our work and it’s an aspect of the work I particularly enjoy. Spring and summer are particularly busy times and getting up at sunrise can be a bit tricky sometimes but you do get to hear the most amazing bird song. Of course its not just about birds other wildlife surveys include butterflies, amphibians and small mammals. These surveys have strengthened my knowledge of habitat management and the impact conservation can have on wildlife.


    Habitat management is at the heart of what we do, as we make the reserve as suitable as possible for the wildlife. Organising and leading volunteer work parties in tasks such as scrub removal, reed cutting and fencing has been fun and I’ve made some great friends. Seeing the positive effect that habitat management has on wildlife is very rewarding and your left feeling that you really are ‘making a difference’.


    I’ve had some amazing wildlife moments! Watching acrobatic marsh harriers pass food to one another in mid–air over the reedbeds and flocks of starlings performing murmurations over the lagoons are experiences that will stay with me for a very long time!


    I am leaving to start a full-time warden position at Holkham Nature Reserve on the North Norfolk Coast. So if you’re ever there on holiday come and say hello. I would like to say a huge thank you to the RSPB staff for being so helpful and supportive. I’ve loved every minute and I will definitely be back to visit, after all you can’t take Yorkshire out of a Yorkshireman!


    And its good bye from me…

  • Smews and sparrows: recent sightings

    Another amazing week for birds of prey here at Fairburn.  Red kites and marsh harriers have been seen every day, a peregrine was over Hickson’s Pool on Tuesday and today five buzzards were seen together from Pick-up Hide.

    One of the most exciting sighting this week was a female smew out on main bay. It was reported on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and there is still time today so hopefully it’s still around!

    Female smew, Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

    Large groups of pink-footed geese flew over on Saturday, Sunday and again on Thursday.  18 pintail were seen heading west over the visitor centre on Monday and 19 skylark were over New Flash on Wednesday. 

    Lin Dike has been busy for non bird sightings with 4 roe deer and a weasel seen there on Sunday. And off along the Riverbank Trail today 7 whooper swans were visible from Bob Dicken’s hide while there were 16 snipe, 5 at Charlie’s and 11 at Big Hole on Thursday.

    Tree sparrow, Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

    House sparrow, Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)

    Blue tits started prospecting nest boxes near the visitor centre this week and there have been record numbers of house sparrows to complement our blooming population of tree sparrows. If you’re used to seeing tree sparrows around the visitor centre and Discovery Trail, you can pick out house sparrows fairly easily. They’re slightly smaller, with a grey crown rather than brown, and are missing the distinctive black cheek spot.

    As ever, keep letting us know your sightings!