April, 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

  • Coots looking cute... and other recent sightings

    It’s been a busy week down at Fairburn Ings; the reserve is just buzzing with life. The arrival of swifts now, added with the sand martins and swallows that were already here, have really added to the buzz. I stood on the duck feeding platform yesterday and the air was thick with a fog of flitting and fly catching, swooping over the heads of the six avocets dabbling in the shallows. Shelducks paddled in the background as well as a few yellow wagtails gathered in the shrubbery to the left. And it was only five minutes spent down there!


    Avocet thanks to Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)


    The coots are still entertaining everyone from the pond dipping platform. There are eight chicks altogether, but not all seen at the same time usually. You can hearing them “peeping” to each other from the reeds. Four chicks and both adults were out really close to the platform yesterday with the adults diving down and bringing up food for the chicks – a really magical thing to watch so close up.


    Coot thanks to Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)


    There are SO MANY blackcaps this year. If you can’t see them amongst the fresh leaves on the trees, you can certainly hear their rich, enthusiastic song. Whitethroat were spotted around big hole, and there was a kestrel spending a lot of time there yesterday. It swooped low and, angled to the sun, the gorgeous sandy red colour was illuminated in the sunshine, and then it hovered in the sky – gorgeous!


    Lots of flashes of yellow have been spotted with yellowhammer, yellow wagtail and brimstone butterflies all spotted fluttering around.


    Romance and dancing is in the air, with plenty of courting behaviours being seen. The iconic dancing of the great crested grebes has been seen, as well as courting great spotted woodpeckers and robins feeding their partners.


    Peacock butterfly thanks to Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)

    It’s not just been birds spotted this week either, mammals have been making an appearance too. Weasels have been spotted a number of times right across the reserve, as well as bank vole appearing in the wildlife garden. Peacock, orange tip and brimstone butterflies have been seen a lot still and we can add speckled wood to the butterfly list too.

  • A week of warbling warblers: Recent sightings

     We had Wader Wednesday last week, but I’m going to name the whole of this week Warbler Week because we’ve had so many! Willow warblers, grasshopper warblers, chiffchaff, blackcap, sedge warblers, Cetti’s warblers and whitethroat all... well... warbling to their heart’s content.



    Willow warbler.  Credit to John Bridges (rspb-images.com)


    The coot chicks have been entertaining families while they pond dip this week. There have been some great views of their brightly coloured, punky hair-dos. It’s a coot’s feet I love the most though; lurid blue and yellow with big flat lobes that look like their feet have been run over with something heavy.


    A cuckoo has been heard a couple of times during the week and also yellow wagtails (up to three seen at a time) in the past few days. A ruddy shelduck has been causing some interest too, mainly on the flashes but flying over the visitor centre too.

    Yellow wagtail thanks to Andy Hay (rspb-images.com).

    There have been plenty of bumbling Bombus sp. seen this week. If you’d like to find out more about different species of bees, and other insects and beasties, come along to our Minibeast Safari events. Our volunteers Alan and Amanda are a mine of information and the next one is on the 3rd May. See www.rspb.org.uk/events for more information. 


    The blue tit who had us all fascinated by his week spent "digging" at the bottom of the nest box on the nest box camera in the visitor centre, has started to nest!  So all that energy spent preparing the box was clearly worth it and its now bringing in lots of moss to line the bottom.  It's pretty active so definitely worth looking out for if you're in the visitor centre this week.


    And finally, if you watched Springwatch over Easter, they have asked for the public to record their first spring sightings of five species. One of those species is the orange tip butterfly and we’ve had our first sightings of them this week, fluttering past and feeding on flowers.

    Orange tip butterfly.  Photo thanks to Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

  • Sunshine and sightings: recent sightings


    All the gorgeous sunny weather this week has brought out the butterflies, with brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma spotted. The brimstone, not only is it usually the first butterfly to be seen in spring as it emerges from hibernation on warm days, but it’s also thought to be the species to inspire the use of the name “butterfly”. This is due to its “buttery” yellow colour. Bees are buzzing too with plenty of willow catkins and blackthorn flowers providing early pollen and nectar to keep them going.

    The warm weather this week bodes well for our first Minibeast Safari this weekend (Sunday 12th April) too, there should be plenty of bugs and beasties emerging.  Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/events for more information.

    Small tortoiseshell on a thistle. Thanks to Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)


    The blue tits are very active around the visitor centre; yesterday (09/04/15), we spotted the first three blue tit fledglings, gathered in the shrubbery by the wildlife garden feeders. There’s also been a blue tit “digging” at the bottom of one of the nest boxes. Caught on our nest box cameras, it looks like its spring cleaning, and is certainly dedicated to the cause – it’s been doing it for 6 days!


    Blue tit fledgling thanks to Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)


    Migrants are returning! Swallows spotted flying over and the sand martins, who returned a few weeks ago, are making good use of the sand martin wall. Willow warblers have been seen too, and regular chiff chaffs calling. A blackcap was also spotted.



    Blackcap.  Thank you to Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com), for the photo.


    There was a glimpse of a little ringed plover on big hole and avocets seen virtually daily from all ends of the reserve. It was Wader Wednesday on the 8th with redshank, curlew, black tailed godwit and dunlin. Goldeneye, shovellers, pintails and shelduck (one reportedly with an extremely red beak) have also been seen.