November, 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

  • Raining Curlew and Ducks: Recent Sightings

    It was a grey and rainy start this week at Fairburn Ings, as a result a small flood made Lin Dike Hide and Arrow Lane inaccessible. However wildlife proved not to be put off by the rain, as 50+ curlews have turned up on New Flash and can be heard making their calls.

    Curlew, Andy Hay (

     The mini flood has now receded, so the Arrow Lane Trail and Link Dike hide can once again be enjoyed, where you can look over Spoonbill Flash, now lively with ducks. This week on Spoonbill flash there’s been: 124 teal, 4 wigeon, 26 shoveler, 3 goosander, 5 golden eye and finally 2 little egrets.

    Teal, Andy Hay (

    Wigeon, Andy Hay (

    The kingfishers are also not put off by the rise in water levels; they remain active and in full view from the Kingfisher Screen.

    It’s worth braving the chill to take a winter stroll along the Riverbank trail, just to take in the silver of the birch trunks and golden leaves. You might even spot a curious robin, hopping among the trees.

    Silver Birch, Andy Hay (

     There have been frequent sightings of a barn owl in the area,  along Newton Lane then at Beck Field Quarry and at the Owl Box across by the moat.

    Starlings, David Kjaer (

    The skies were alive with 2000+ starlings going to roost, which is a wonderful spectacle. The best time to catch a starling murmuration is early evenings throughout November. Volunteers in the visitor centre have also been noticing a smaller group of starlings, flying above the Main Bay during late afternoon. 

  • Goldilocks and the Three Binoculars

    Watching for starlings, Eleanor Bentall (

    And the third pair were just right...

    There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to binoculars and telescopes. You need to look through them, feel the weight and understand how they work to find the right pair for you.

    Whether you’re after your first pair of binoculars or looking to replace your well worn ‘old faithfuls’, the RSPB is here to help and guide you through choosing the perfect pair.

    That first model is too large and heavy. The image is crystal clear but they feel uncomfortable around your neck and you can’t quite reach the focus wheel.  They may be top of the range, but they’re not for you.

    This second set are much too small and you’ll outgrow them very quickly. It’s worthwhile to go for a higher range binocular; you’ll notice the difference in quality.

    Third time lucky. These fit well in your hands and you’re comfortable holding them up for long periods. They’re easy to adjust, the image is sharp and they’re bang in your price range.

    Don’t be daunted by the huge range available, there’s a simple measurement system all binoculars follow: most of the models in the RSPB range are either 8x32, 8x42 or 10x42. The first number is magnification (which should be no more than 10x for bird watching), and the second number is the diameter of the lens, which determines how wide your area of vision is and how much light can get to your eye. They really are personal to you, and what is comfortable for one person’s eyes might be a strain on yours.

    However, if you’re after detail over a long distance, consider a telescope. They are bulkier than a pair of binoculars but if you’re in a fixed spot you’ll get a stunning view, and they’re particularly useful over water. 

    If you want further advice on what to look for then you can pop into the visitor centre to chat or come along to one of our binocular at telescope events:

    Binocular and Telescope Hands-on Weekend

    Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th June, drop in to Fairburn Ings shop between 10am-4pm.

    Our monthly hands-on demonstration, with expert volunteers to offer advice and help you find the right pair.

    Focus on Nature

    Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th August, drop-in 10am-4pm at Fairburn Ings.

    A professional binocular expert from Viking Optical will be here to chat through the range and offer advice on your existing equipment. There will also be a free craft session for families, we'll be making cardboard binoculars to help get closer to nature out on the reserve.

  • Matt Baker kicked it off, here is what has happened since...

    You may have watched Countryfile this weekend and seen Matt Baker in the pond at Fairburn, digging in fresh pond plants. He was lending the warden team a hand and kicking off the exciting habitat improvements that are happening on the Discovery Trail at the moment.

    Matt and the pond dippers, Pete Carr

    What do the improvements involve?

    Pond dipping runs from roughly March to October each year, depending on the weather, and is one of our most popular activities. Digging out the sludge at the bottom of the ponds and adding fresh plants in front of the platforms will ensure there are plenty of hiding places for pond creatures when it warms up next year.


    The area behind the biggest dipping platform is also being excavated to make a larger education space for visiting school groups. Thousands of children visit the reserve on school trips each year, which are really important to help connect local children with nature and inspire the conservationists of the future.


    Pond dipping earthworks

    We haven’t quite got there yet but next on the list is Pickup Pool. The area in front of Pickup Hide has become overgrown with reeds and willows, every few years it needs clearing and tidying to maintain the lovely, muddy scrapes that waders and wildfowl love. Once the machinery gets in there it will look a bit of a mess, but the wildlife will enjoy it, and by the time spring comes around it should look better than ever.

    The current view from Pickup, Liz Armitage

    When can we visit?

    Whenever you like! While the works are ongoing it may cause some disruption but we are doing our best to keep it to a minimum. If you would like to come pond dipping the season should kick off around March next year. It cost £2 per kit, and is free to members. Keep an eye on our social media pages to see when dipping re-opens.

    There is still plenty to see and do in the meantime! The winter weather brings in thousands of birds from the north and the reserve is currently full of berries and autumn leaves. When you visit you could take on the wildlife challenge in the playground, follow our quiz trail, or hire out a bug hunting backpack. You can also check out our events page at

     See you soon, the Fairburn team