May, 2015

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's
Do you love Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's? Share your thoughts with the community. Or if you're thinking about visiting and would like to find out more, ask away!

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

  • Chicks, Kingfishers and Cuckoos...and other Recent Sightings

    BBC Springwatch is finally back on our tellies!  It’s a great way to inspire people to get out and about to discover all the wildlife that lives near them.   Here are some of the recent sightings from Fairburn from the last week.

    Spring is well and truly here judging by the number of chicks around! A lot of you will have seen our blue tit chicks from the nest box camera; they are doing well even with the scares from a woodpecker trying to get into the nest box.  Plenty of chicks can be seen on Main Bay and from Charlie’s Hide – shelduck, oystercatcher and even great-crested grebe chicks riding on their parents back. There have also been frequent sightings of a garganey from Charlie’s hide.   


    Great-crested grebe chick riding on parent's back - Chris Comersall (

    Also spotted up at Charlie’s hide as well as at the screen are kingfishers! We’ve been treated to some great views of them this past week, with many people (myself included!) seeing their very first one!  It’s well worth spending a bit of time at the Kingfisher screen to see if one puts in an appearance.


    Kingfisher - John Bridges (

    Down at Pickup hide there have been sightings of lapwings (I’ve now heard that sweet call in person!), ringed plovers, little ringed plovers and a jay has been seen on the feeders at both Pickup and the Feeder Screen. Lucky visitors have also had amazing views of a roe deer and its fawn in the long grass in the distance. 


    Roe deer - Andy Hay (

    Along the Discovery Trail pond dippers have been really successful, with plenty of tadpoles, great diving beetles and even a few newts!  Plenty more dragonflies and damselflies are emerging and we have a few more butterflies around on sunny days such as small coppers. If you’re visiting us tomorrow (30 May), we have another Minibeast Safari running where you can learn more about different insects.      

    Yet again, I am ending this blog with a cuckoo.  After finally hearing my first one last week, we have had visitors seeing or hearing a cuckoo almost daily, which is a real treat!

  • A Special Guest...and other Recent Sightings

    We've had a very special visitor causing quite a stir this week at Fairburn – if you've visited us in the past week or so you may have heard us all talking about our guest or you may even have had the chance to see it for yourself!  I even briefly mentioned this wonderful bird in last week’s blog! Drum roll please... It is of course the spectacular spoonbill! We’ve had daily sightings of this impressive bird; with his punky feathers and brightly tipped orange bill he is in full breeding plumage! All he needs now is a girl to impress! Many who've been to see the spoonbill have also been treated to sightings of little egrets and some of our heron chicks who have yet to leave their nests.

    Little egret - Paul Chesterfield (

    Last Sunday was a fantastic day for raptors with 9 different species seen in total, including a hobby, an osprey and even a hen harrier that stayed with us for a few days before moving on! It’s always an amazing experience seeing birds of prey soaring overhead and seeing so many different species in one day is astounding! We’re still getting regular sightings of a marsh harrier over the Flashes, so be on the look out!

    Marsh harrier - Chris Gomersall (

    Staying on the Flashes, we've had a few lapwings in the area. Lapwings get their name from the odd, erratic way they fly. They are also known as peewits, after their really sweet sounding “pee-wit” call. I challenge you not to crack a smile when listening to that super cute sound!

    Lapwing in flight - John Bridges (

    Over on Main Bay, there has been plenty of activity as well. There have been around 25 Caspian gulls seen, along with common terns, shelduck and oystercatchers. The little ringed plovers are still showing well from both Pickup and Lin Dike hides.

    In the world of bugs, there are loads of dragonflies and damselflies emerging right now! If you’re coming down for the bank holiday be sure to be on the lookout around the discovery trail and beyond for flashes of colour as a dragonfly or damselfly whizzes past! Why not join our Minibeast Safari running this bank holiday Monday (25 May), where our expert volunteers can show you lots of different creepy-crawlies!

    And finally, if you read one of my last blog posts you may know that I have never heard a cuckoo before. Well I can now finally say that I have! Yesterday afternoon I heard that distinct call while out walking round the discovery trail! It was an amazing moment for me and definitely a highlight of my time at Fairburn so far!

  • Dawn Chorus Walk - Sunday 17 May

    I’ll confess as my alarm began blaring at 5 am on Sunday morning I did wake up in a very confused state of mind.  As someone only recently out of her student days, 5 am still seemed like the middle of the night (which begins at about 3 am and lasts through to about 11 am!). But it appears I was mistaken; the sun was rising and the dawn chorus was in full swing – hardly the middle of the night!

    Arriving at the visitor centre, the kettle was on and tea-making in progress before the public began turning up from about 6.30 am.   We had a fantastic turn out for the dawn chorus walk – around 25 early rising visitors and a handful of staff and volunteers in total.  Shortly after everyone arrived, we set off onto the reserve to have a look and a listen to what birds were about. 

    In total we saw or heard 50 species, which we were pretty happy about given the weather wasn’t ideal (wind whistling in your ears makes it hard to hear birdsong). The highlight for me was probably a very obliging willow warbler, who was perched in the tree tops, warbling away despite being blow around by the wind. Other species seen/heard include whitethroat, yellowhammer, blackcap, mistle thrush and skylark in addition to many others!

    Willow warbler - John Bridges (

    After our lengthy walk, we returned to the visitor centre to warm up with a much needed hot drink! I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and learnt a lot; it was definitely worth getting up at the crack of dawn for!  

    Oystercatchers at dawn (taken at RSPB Dungeness, Kent) - Ben Hall (