March, 2016

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

  • Recent sightings: many, many migrant sightings

    What a busy week for sightings, spring is well and truly here. We have the migrants to prove it!

    Sand martins are now becoming quite prolific in the sightings book, going from one or two, to twelve, to sixty, to around two hundred in the past couple of days. Keep an eye out for them over Main bay and Village bay.

    Swallow, Chris Gomersall (

    There was a wheatear and our first swallow spotted down at Lin Dike at the weekend, these beautiful birds are beginning to arrive from Africa ready for the breeding season.

    Out on the Moat the heronry is bursting with spring life, not only do we have cormorant chicks, but some of the heron eggs have also now hatched. Standing on the Coal Tips trail looking down over trees heavy with nests, it’s almost pre-historic.

    Comma butterfly, Grahame Madge (

    Lots of butterflies about too, more peacocks have been spotted but there have now been comma butterflies and small tortoishell seen out on the reserve as well.

    You may have seen them out on Main bay but the avocets are back! These gorgeous, delicate birds are the symbol of the RSPB as they are one of the first birds the organisation helped bring back from the brink of extinction in the UK. They have bred successfully here for the past two years, so fingers crossed for 2016.

    Avocet, Chris Gomersall (

    The stars of the show this weekend were undoubtedly the frogs and toads, head down to the pond dipping platform and the air is filled with the sound of mating, bellowing amphibians. Somehow toads are making it up onto the visitor centre balcony and we have to regularly remove them and put them safely back in the pond.

    Balcony toad, taken by Sally Granger

    A couple of sightings I don’t want to miss from the blog are the hen harrier over Hickson’s flash last weekend. What a spot! Top that off with a goshawk and two ravens over the visitor centre, and I think we can safely say it has been an excellent week for wildlife at Fairburn Ings.

  • Farewell to Cara, our warden intern

    So it had to happen eventually, and even though I got to stay an extra three weeks, after seven months it’s now time to say goodbye to Fairburn and the RSPB internship. I have learned so much, seen so much, worked with loads of different people and am very sad to have to go.

    I first became fond of the place when I visited for a pesticide course in spring last year. On my way in I walked along the riverside trail, I saw swallows, heard willow warblers and saw and heard my very first blackcap. I was really looking forward to working here.

    Since being here I have seen my first green woodpeckers, willow tits and a number of other species normally only see once in a while. There are always tree sparrows around and I’ve often seen nuthatches, bullfinches, stoats, roe deer and long tailed tits. Nowhere else have I ever seen so many owls, short-eared owls, tawnys and my my very first little owl and long-eared owl. 

    One of the things I have really enjoyed here is the fantastic variety of work to get stuck in with; footpath repairs, building fishing pegs, clearing and spraying islands for the breeding season, chainsawing, brushcutting, cleaning and repairing nest boxes, wetland bird surveys and much much more.  

    What I will miss most are the lovely people who work here. I am very grateful to everyone who has been very friendly and welcoming, helping me settle very quickly into a new place where I don’t know anyone. There has been so much good humour, hard work and support. So a big thank you to everyone who has made this an enjoyable experience and very difficult to leave!

  • Recent sightings, in the sunshine!

    I thought last week’s blog would be difficult to follow given the incredible sightings across the reserve.  However, there has been a lot to see and while it may be not as unusual, it is definitely as exciting.

    There have been a few firsts for the year including the first cormorant chick seen in a nest, the first peacock butterfly, first bumblebee AND the first sand martin.  Amazing what a bit of sunshine can do!

    Sand martin thanks to Ben Hall (

    It’s been a few weeks since there have been any marsh harrier sightings reported, but this week there have been a few appearances by an immature male again, so it could very well be the same one as before.

    Out on the feeders there are a lot of male reed buntings looking very smart in their summer plumage, and there have been several appearances by the resident willow tits.

    Reed bunting thanks to Mike Richards (

    Pond dipping season is well underway and there have been a lot of frogs in the pond dipping area, as well as out on the paths.  A bit out of character for a water rail, but one was photographed out beside the duck feeding platform at the weekend too!

    Common frog thanks to Eleanor Bentall (

    Also notable are the two ravens and four red kites seen over the visitor centre on Monday, the jack snipe seen out by Pickup pool on Tuesday, and a woodcock on the Discovery Trail.