September, 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: crisp mornings and grey sky afternoons

    It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, the lovely Rachel and Kate have been keeping this page fresh over the last few months and as this is the first summer I’ve spent at Fairburn I’m at a bit of a loss where to begin. Having now seen the reserve through a full cycle of seasons there is so much I could talk about.

    It’s been wonderful to see everything turn green and fill with birdsong, to see the Coal Tips dancing with wildflowers and the Riverbank Trail dappled with light. One of the best things about the summer here has been seeing so many families enjoying the outdoors together.

    Autumn leaves, Beki Williams

    But now we’re coming into my favourite season, it was this time of year I first came to the reserve and knowing what to expect is making my anticipation for autumn even greater. The colours have mellowed form bright green to earthy browns, and whether it’s a crisp morning or a grey-skied afternoon, there is freshness in the air.

    There have been lots of kingfisher sightings at the screen this week. Now breeding season is over the warden team have been able to get in and clear the vegetation. It has opened up the view and cleared the water to make fishing that much easier. He (or she) has been spotted at least a few times a day.

    Lots of migrants are passing through on their journey south with more osprey sightings this week, along with passage swallows and wheatear.  Wader sightings are picking up too with reports of dunlin, greenshank, redshank and ruff from Lin Dike hide.

    Greenshank, Chris Gomersall (

    Eagle eyed visitors may have spotted some large work parties this week. Staff from Yorkshire Water have been helping the warden team clear scrub across the reserve and in doing so they came across these two beautiful caterpillars; a pale tussock moth caterpillar and a garden tiger moth caterpillar.

    Pale tussock moth caterpillar, Andrew Tiffany

    Garden tiger moth caterpillar, Andrew Tiffany

    We’d love to hear about your wildlife sighting and any signs of autumn you see across the reserve. Please do share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Autumn is coming! Recent sightings

    Autumn is coming!  There's dew on the grass in the mornings, the berries are ripening on trees and shrubs, and leaves are starting to drop.  That lovely, distinctive, earthy, "wet leaves warming in autumn sunshine" smell is up too.  I've been breathing it in deeply as I've walked around the Discovery trail this week, making the most of it.

    I've really enjoyed admiring all the lush berries this week.  Hawthorn seems to be having a very productive year with their bright red jewel-like berries shining on branches in big bunches.  Guelder rose and dog rose also seem to be having a bumper year.  When thrushes like fieldfare and redwing start to arrive from Scandinavia, they're certainly going to find a feast at Fairburn!

    Hawthorn berries, rosehips and elderberries all on the Discovery Trail.

    It wasn't just berries that I spotted on dog rose this week.  My eye was drawn to a particularly bare looking stem on the Discovery Trail, and as I looked along the completely nibbled stem, there they were! A little cluster of larvae, happily munching away on the leaves.  A bit of leafing through books and Googling, and they were identified as large rose sawfly larvae... aren't they beautiful!?

    Pickup hide has been a good one for waders this week with black tailed godwit, redshank and snipe regularly seen.  Spoonbill flash has seen ruff, golden plover, dunlin this week too and then three grey plover at Village Bay on Saturday morning.  We even had the first corncrake seen on the reserve since 1964, on Sunday!!!!

    Black tailed godwit thanks to Gordon Langsbury (

    As you explore the trails in the coming weeks, take a closer look at dead wood if you spot some.  There's plenty of fascinating fungi popping up, and will continue to in the next few months.  As its notoriously difficult to identify different species, I embrace this and just admire from afar, the huge diversity of shapes, colours and textures that fungi produce.  This one was spotted on a log that was brought in on the floods, near Pickup hide:

  • Raptor-tastic recent sightings

    It's been quite a corker of a week for sightings this week; particularly for raptors.  We've had up to four marsh harrier, at least three red kites, buzzards, a fairly regular hobby, and peregrine, plus kestrel and a little owl! Lots of people have spotted an osprey (I have missed them every time, and everyone who has seen it, has enjoyed rubbing it in!)

    Osprey thanks to Chris Gomersall (

    Waders at Lin Dike and on the flashes have been nicely varied too with black tailed godwit, greenshank, common sandpiper, green sandpiper, ruff and up to 10 snipe.

    Water rail have been a good addition to the sightings list with sightings of them daily on the flashes - they're notoriously shy and skulking birds so take your chance to see them now while they're being a bit more flamboyant and showing off!

    Water rail thanks to Mike Richards (

    Hawkmoth caterpillars have been active this week with Andy, our Assistant Warden, spotting this eyed hawkmoth caterpillar whilst out doing some scrub clearance on the reserve.  Skelton Grange Environment Centre came to visit on their team day out, and spotted an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar creeping across the Discovery Trail footpath too.  It was in the last stages of being a caterpillar (the colours change when they get close to pupating) so we think it might have been looking for somewhere to bury itself under ground and pupate for the winter.