September, 2017

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

  • St Aidan's September Sightings

    After a relatively quiet August, it’s all ‘kicking off.’ For the humans, six benches have been installed around St Aidan’s and four more will follow soon. However, be prepared to share …

    Kestrels, red kites, buzzards, hobbies, peregrines, sparrowhawks and marsh harriers have all regularly been hunting across the site. Since the recent grass cutting on the hillside it has exposed resident frogs and rodents and successful hunters are chased for their spoils; crow chases raptors, red kite chases crow, kestrel chases kestrel and so on.

    kestrels arguing over a hapless frog

    Along the hillside fence-line/shrubs and the paths adjacent to the Ridge & Furrow, the little birds are becoming more visible after the moult period; stonechat, whinchat, wheatear, meadow pipit, sedge warbler, reed bunting and a growing goldfinch flock use the path pools to take mud baths.

    wheatear on path between ridge & furrow/eastern reedbed

    On the reedbeds and surrounding lakes recent sightings include lapwing, martins (sand/house), swallows, snipe, redshank, curlew, turnstone, wood duck and since last week increasing numbers of ruff, ringed plover and little stint.

    little stint on eastern reedbed (not the best pic but nice reflection)

    The causeway is attracting pied wagtails, linnet, chiffchaff and even a weasel was seen. Around the Shann bridge area are both marsh & willow tit. As are green woodpeckers, who also visit the hillside.

    At the dragline (the big machine called ‘Oddball’), the little owl parents are still making regular appearances after raising their chicks. If you visit on a sunny day look where the sun shines as they are renowned sunbathers.

    Spot the owls making good use of the industrial furniture

    The owls and kestrels have used the dragline compound for a few years to raise their broods and this year both produced two young. Proves they are not affected by the Dragline open days when visitors can go inside ‘Oddball’ and see how the walking excavator worked during the site’s open cast mining days. The most recent event was 9-10th of September which was well supported and shows how the site’s attractions can complement one another.

    If you wish to know more about ‘Oddball’ and future open days, visit the website at

    Also still around, especially on warmer days, are plenty of damsel/dragonflies and butterflies. The summer saw special highlights such as marbled whites and clouded yellows.

    Although August was relatively quiet, it would be unfair not to mention the osprey, who stayed over 25 days until early September, flitting between St Aidan’s and Fairburn for its fishing forays and roosting at Swillington Park.

    Osprey leaving Fairburn in late afternoon

    The same happened last year but during September; maybe this was the same bird?

    Bowers lake path will be closed week commencing 25th September for predator fence work, which will protect next year’s red list young and their parents, such as lapwings and redshank.

    For more details of sightings, please see the log book in the visitors centre and ask our friendly team.

    Departing from a bench with “nice pantaloons”

    Yours, K Sp-8 (Sept 17/01)


  • Catch your wildlife connection

    It’s a fantastic sight to watch our young wild explorers run with eagerness onto our sites, parents walking behind them with picnic in hand. With this time of year teeming with beautiful sights, smells, and sounds it’s a perfect day out for the whole family.


    David Broadbent (

    Our wonderful wildflowers are still in bloom at Fairburn Ings; Chicory, with its delicate blue petals is a favourite for visitors and pollinators this summer. Hiding behind the tall wildflowers and chicory near the entrance to the visitor centre you might often see myself under the gazebo, with all our goodies to start your wildlife adventure. The children are always excited to hear they can go mini-beast hunting on land and in water with our pond dipping kits – an adventure awaiting them to discover leeches, bugs and butterflies! It’s this enthusiasm for wildlife that really brightens my day, our future generations wanting to discover nature on their doorstep.


    Ruddy darter - Evie Scott

    It’s really important that we embrace this positive attitude towards nature and wildlife. We must encourage a sense of responsibility, empathy and oneness with nature, so we can enjoy what it provides us for years to come. The positive impacts of nature on our children’s physical, mental and social wellbeing is something we cannot buy, but we can ensure that wildlife is given a home. One of our biggest threats to wildlife is unfortunately the dis-interest in it. We need to plant the seed for children, let their passion and enthusiasm for wildlife flourish.


    Gavin Orr

    So that’s why the RSPB developed the Wild Challenge! It’s a free digital awards scheme for families to enjoy activities all year round, to experience and help nature! The plan is for all, and is a great way for you and your family to experience and amplify your connection with nature whether you are at home, the park or at one of the spectacular reserves. Activities include bug safaris, mammal tracking, or having a wild sleep out!


    So next time you’re visiting Fairburn Ings or St Aidans make sure to notice the beautiful blue common damselflies darting across the ground, the bright orange dragonflies; the common darters and brown hawkers dancing above your head, and the small furry voles and shrew scuttling across the play area path. It’s easy to miss these spectacular sights, but make sure to give yourself time to connect back with nature.

     For more information on the wild challenge and sign up visit: