May, 2016

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

  • What a tern out! Recent sightings

    What a fantastic week of sightings we've had at Fairburn Ings this week! Personally, I've seen three new bird species this week; cuckoo (I've only ever heard them before but was treated to a calling fly over by a cuckoo as I stood on the balcony of the visitor centre), black tern and spoonbill (I kept missing the one that appeared last summer, but patience served me well and I saw it this time!)

    I had fantastic views of the black terns on Tuesday evening from Bob Dickens hide. Three were preening on the edge of one of the islands in Main Bay when I arrived, but after a few minutes, one of them took flight.  Wow. They are so graceful in flight, small, agile and delicate beside the more substantial black headed gulls they were flitting past. There have also been arctic and common terns this week!

    Common tern thanks to David Tipling (

    Our cuckoos went a bit quiet during the cold weather, but all the recent sunshine has rejuvenated them and we've had lots of visitors getting great sights and sounds of them! The Coal Tips Trail and the Lin Dike Link are the best spots to see them nip from tree to tree or to really hear the distinctive call.

    Cuckoo thanks to John Bridges (

    Our cutlery-faced friend, the spoonbill, has been giving us the run around a bit this week, mostly turning up in the moat, and visible from the coal tips trail as if you're looking into the heronry.  Which, whilst we're on the subject, the heronry is fantastic at the minute with great views of cormorant and heron chicks (almost too big for their nests now!) and also the little egret nests. I saw one snuggling down on to the nest in the rain on Wednesday, thanks to our ranger volunteer, John, who had spotted it with his telescope.  Our rangers, out nearly every day, are a mine of information, and really helpful in spotting wildlife. If you see them around the reserve, have a chat and they'll be more than happy to show you what's what!

    This illustration by Mike Langman ( shows the sweeping head movement of the spoonbill when it feeds.

    Also this week on the reserve there have been garganey, sanderling, turnstone and green sandpiper!

    Blue tits are nesting on camera on the screens in the visitor centre again this year too. The chicks are tiny at the minute but it still looks really uncomfortable for the parents when they sit on them to keep them warm!  

  • Algae and pond dipping update

    Today, we have suspended pond dipping at the reserve.  This is because over the last 24 hours, a visible patch of algae has appeared at one of the pond dipping platforms.  The water at the pond dipping areas was originally tested and given the all clear but this bit of algae has appeared now.  As blue green algae is present elsewhere on site, we have decided to halt pond dipping as a precaution.


    At Fairburn Ings we take visitor safety seriously so we will not be offering pond dipping as an activity on the reserve until the algae has sufficiently cleared.


    However, we will be offering Wildlife Explorer backpacks at the same price as pond dipping, whilst pond dipping is suspended! So for £2, and free to RSPB members, you can borrow these kits below and explore and discover all the creatures that live on land at Fairburn Ings!


    Just on this one leaf we spotted today, we have butterfly eggs and beetles!


    And this mining bee was spotted on the treehouse - you really can find wildlife everywhere!


    For more information, please contact the visitor centre on 01977 628191 or  For more information about blue green algae please contact Scott Higgins at Leeds City Council Environmental Health on 0113 395 1168.

  • Blue-green algae update at Fairburn Ings

    After a weekend of gorgeous heat and sunshine, ice creams and tank tops, the return of the damp weather has had us all piling the layers back on top of our new tans. Unfortunately the heat wave has also resulted in blooms of algae out on the reserve.

    There have been many reports across social media about blue-green algae in the water at Fairburn Ings and after testing by the Environment Agency, we can confirm its presence in some areas of the reserve.

    Blue-green algae is naturally occurring but the toxins it produces can be very harmful to animals and cause illness in humans. We are advising anyone visiting the reserve to avoid contact with water and dog owners should not allow their dogs near or into the water.

    We are continuing to work with the Environment Agency to monitor the situation, and in time the toxin levels will drop naturally, making the affected areas safe again. We will let you know when this happens.

    This issue does not extend to pond dipping; the pond dipping areas have also been tested and confirmed as safe to use. Pond dipping will continue as usual but if you have any queries please don’t hesitate to speak to a member of staff or call the visitor centre on 01977 628191.


    Fairburn from above, David Wootton (

    We have also been made aware that a number of dogs have become sick, and in some cases have unfortunately had to be put down, after coming into contact with blue green algae at St Aidan’s country park, on the outskirts of Leeds.

    Although St Aidan’s isn’t an RSPB site, as conservation advisors, we have been working with the site owners to alert people of the dangers of blue-green algae and advise them to keep dogs away from the water.

    For more information about blue green algae please contact Scott Higgins at LCC Environmental Health on 0113 395 1168.