August, 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

  • Awesome August Sightings

    Sightings blogs have been a bit thin on the ground recently, apologies for that! We’re back in the swing of things after our Big Wild Sleepout and I’ve got lots to tell you about.

    There’ve been lots of different waders to be found at the minute especially over the Flashes.  Look out for green sandpiper, common sandpiper, curlew and dunlin. There’s also been a few black-tailed godwits knocking about, and there’s been snipe and ruff in recent weeks as well.

    Little egrets have been a regular feature so far this month and have provided us with some great views as they’re been flying over the visitor centre.  We also had a great white egret pay us a quick visit last weekend!

    Little egret - Paul Chesterfield (

    It’s been a lovely few weeks for raptor fans with regular sightings of peregrines, marsh harriers and red kites.  We’ve also had buzzard, hobby, kestrel and sparrow hawk and even an osprey was seen flying over on the 19th.

    Osprey - Chris Gomersall (

    Head over to Cut Lane and Charlie’s Hide if its kingfisher’s you’re after, they’ve been spotted down there a few times.

    We had a spotted flycatcher ‘spotted’ on the 15th (sorry...couldn’t resist) – don’t be fooled by their dull brownish colouring because they’re anything but dull! Spotted flycatchers dash from their perch to catch their dinner before returning to the same spot.  Other notable sightings include whinchat, wheatear and linnet all seen over the flashes or from Lin Dike.

    One of the more unusual sightings in the book from the past few weeks was “red tailed bumble bee nest dug out by badgers”. That was the day before Big Wild Sleepout so campers on the guided walks were lucky enough to see it and one of our volunteers Liberty managed to get a photo!

    Badgers dug up this bumble bee nest! Photo thanks to Liberty Monkman

    August has certainly been a busy month so far, let’s see what the rest of the month will bring!

  • A big adventure... Big Wild Sleepout!

    “How did you sleep on Saturday night?” I, along with nearly 100 others, slept out on the reserve as part of Big Wild Sleepout at the weekend. Woken by geese honking, and some people, peeking from their tents in the morning, glimpsed roe deer grazing amongst dew soaked grasses.

    View of the Pickup campsite on the landscape.  Thanks to Liberty Monkman for the photo

    It all kicked off at 12pm on the Saturday, with families arriving, pitching their tents and getting stuck in with the activities, including advanced shelter building which proved to be very popular once things got going.

    Later that afternoon, everyone split up to go on a range of guided walks with staff and volunteers. One of the highlights for a lot of people was the bumble bee nest that had been dug up by a badger!

    While all this was going on, preparations were underway for Steve Wright’s workshop on how to make natural dyes and charcoal – which meant it was time to light the fire!

    Steve’s workshop was a huge success (it carried on almost an hour longer as everyone enjoyed it so much!). Steve worked his magic, turning purple dyes to blue in front of our eyes, and showing us what we could use for different colours. Soon the trees and fences were covered in funky tie dyed cloth and people were covered with charcoal. One Dad had a very fetching charcoal beard and there were a number of people with cat-like whiskers!

    Getting stuck in with natural dying with Steve Wright - Photo thanks to Liberty Monkman


    After tea we all gathered round the campfire for a wildlife quiz. We all got stuck in, getting really competitive to see who would come out as the winner- we had some real wildlife experts in our midst! When all the questions were over and all the prizes were handed out to the winners it was time to grab our torches and head out onto the reserve to see what night time wildlife we could spot.

    The evening walks were definitely one of the Big Wild Sleepout highlights; seeing the reserve at a time nobody usually does makes you feel really special. We saw loads of tiny frogs and toads littering the paths and even a giant toad make a daring escape from the searching light of our torches. With a bat detector on hand we heard (and saw) tiny pipistrelles hunting overhead and Daubenton’s scooping their prey off the surface of the water. A couple of groups caught a glimpse of barn owls swooping over the fields near Pickup hide.

    Out at night - Photo thanks to Joe Seymour

    To top off the night we had beautifully clear skies for a spot of stargazing! And what could have been a more perfect end to the day than seeing shooting stars and the International Space Station pass over us? There were many who left a bit emotional as they made their way back to the tent for some much needed z’s.

    Sunday dawned bright and early (extra early for some who had been up since 5am!) and promised a day of fun! We opened up the moth trap to see who had been visiting during the night (highlights included a yellow underwing) and cracked on with some crafts. Bug homes, buntings and flapping hen harriers (our nod to Hen Harrier day) kept the kids, and kids at heart, entertained while tents were dismantled, and parachute games were fun for all!

    Giving bugs a home and parachute games on the Sunday morning - Photo thanks to Liberty Monkman


    Big Wild Sleepout is a fantastic chance to experience nature from a different perspective – one little girl said at the end “I feel much closer to the animals” and another, aged three, said “The adventures were fun. We had a bat adventure and an owl adventure!”

    Families spent time together, created memories together, and all in nature’s home.

    Blog by Kate and Tallulah

  • Big Wild Sleepout is very nearly here!!

    Everyone at Fairburn Ings is getting super excited which can only mean one thing – it’s nearly Big Wild Sleepout time! I hope everyone’s ready; have you got your tent (do you know how to put it up?) and your torches at the ready? I’ve spent all week asking every friend and family member if they have a tent I can borrow and have ended up with a pop up thing that I’ll be struggling to put down!

    The idea behind Big Wild Sleepout is to spend a night in nature and experience the natural world from a unique perspective. Whether you’re joining us on the reserve or even just camping out in your back garden it’s going to be amazing to see what happens in nature after dark!

    It all kicks off here on Saturday afternoon with activities including minibeasting, pond dipping and guided walks. We’re also running a natural dye and charcoal making workshop, where you’ll get the chance to give tie dying a go and camouflage your face Rambo-style with charcoal! In the evening we have a quiz for round the campfire where you can test your night-time knowledge, before heading back onto the reserve for a guided walk with a difference!

    I'm really looking forward to the evening guided walks - Photo credit RSPB, (

    Evening walks give you the chance to experience some of the wildlife you don’t get during daylight. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see some bats (bat detectors will be on hand!), owls and amphibians! For those of you who aren’t too exhausted after a busy day, there will also been stargazing carrying on late into the night!

    Sunday is a bit more laid back, but there’s still plenty to get stuck into! Get your face painted as your favourite animal or do something crafty like making a bug home or a flapping hen harrier. There will also be loads of games to play all morning (keep the kids occupied while the tents are packed up!). We'll also be unpacking our moth trap to see what paid us a visit in the night!

    Like I said, we’re all really excited and can’t wait for everything to kick off tomorrow at 12pm! If you’re coming down we’d love to see some of your photos of the event – you can tweet them to us @fairburnings or post them to our Facebook page (RSPB West Yorks).