November, 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

  • Sightings are back!

    As the water has gone down since last weeks flooding, our sightings have gone up! The reserve is now completely accessible, and clean up is well underway, which means more sightings to report from our lovely visitors.

    The first siskin of this winter was spotted in the Wildlife Garden this week. They are regular winter visitors to the reserve, with larger numbers coming in from Europe. Bullfinches, long tailed tits, nuthatches and willow tits have all been seen on the feeders around the visitor centre and at Pickup.

    Siskin - Chris Gomersall (


    Whooper swans, pink footed geese and water rail have been seen over the Flashes. Keep a close eye out for water rail around the Flashes and Pickup. Although winter brings in greater numbers of these birds, they are still secretive and can be tricky to spot, more often heard than actually seen.

    Water rail - Mike Richards (

    The Kingfisher screen is living up to it's name these days! The flood water has cleared away the pond weed that had built up on the surface of the water, which is making it a much more attractive spot for kingfishers to perch. Several have been spotted on the sluice gate, making for some fantastic photo opportunities.

    Kingfisher - John Bridges (


    - Laura

  • Surviving the floods

    Watching Fairburn Ings being engulfed by flood water always makes me a little anxious about how our wildlife can possibly survive the devastation.  However, we’ve seen plenty of amazing feats at Fairburn in the past, from swans building up their nests in sync with rapidly rising water levels, to entire coot nests being washed downstream, and the chicks successfully hatching days later. 

    Our latest tale of survival comes from a tiny ladybird.  While repairing some of the damage from the floods at Pickup Hide I noticed the handrails were a looking a little busy with beetles.  On closer inspection most of these turned out to be Water Ladybirds, one of the ladybird species you’re less likely to see out and about, as they are normally found living out in our wetlands on bulrushes and reeds.  At this time of year they are a pale buff colour, and tuck themselves into the hollow stems of bulrushes, or between a leaf and stem to endure the winter months. Into spring they get their bright red warning colour, and move onto green wetland vegetation to look for tasty aphids. 

    Living near water is always a tad risky, so these little ladybirds (they’re only 3-4mm long, that’s about half the size of the common 7-spot ladybirds you’re probably more familiar with) have evolved a rather nifty way of coping with the rising flood waters; they can swim!  When the water levels start to rise, they can float happily along in the current until they find a new plant. Except in this case they didn’t find a new plant, they found Pickup Hide.  I’m not sure if they’ll hang around in the nooks and crannies of Pickup’s handrails now that the flood water has receded, or head back out to spend the winter in our wetlands, but it was reassuring to see that these ladybirds were able to cope with the floods at Fairburn.


    Water ladybirds making use of available nooks and crannies at Pickup Hide


    Water ladybird on a handrail at Pickup Hide

  • Some slightly soggy sightings: recent sightings

    It's been a bit of a soggy week at Fairburn Ings this week, with the flooding on the site.  However, the floods have brought a lot of wildlife up towards dry land at the visitor centre so we've had a fair amount of wildlife spotted from the comfort and warmth inside.

    Flooding at Lin Dike


    We've been unable to access the bird feeders at Pickup hide or the feeder screen because of the floods so the only feeders we've been able to keep topped up this week are the wildlife garden and play area feeders.  The birds have certainly noticed this so there's a wonderful variety of them, in large numbers, visiting very close to the centre.  A great spotted woodpecker has been a regular highlight seen on the wildlife garden feeders.  It's often spotted gorging on the buggy nibbles we've got in the feeders there, or flitting between the trees.  Nuthatch and willow tit, along with a chattering flock of tree sparrows have also been really regularly spotted.


    Great spotted woodpecker thanks to Nigel Blake (


    The tiny high pitched voices of long tail tits can be heard in the hedgerows around the visitor centre too.  This charismatic little bird is always such a lovely sight, and they've visited the feeders a lot this week.

    Long tail tit thanks to John Bridges (

    Its not just birds that have been driven up towards the visitor centre by the floods too, a weasel has been spotted scampering between the play area and the wildflower meadow at the front of the visitor centre.

    Weasels taken by Gordon Lane in the summer at Fairburn Ings