St Aidan's September Sightings

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

St Aidan's September Sightings

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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)


  • Nice report thank you and it is good to see so many great things happening mostly for the positive - I do think your conclusion that open days for Joe public and nesting birds of prey being successful is a very tenuous one. We avoid disturbance precisely because it disturbs and i think maybe the word "lucky" more appropriate that the kestrels and owls managed to get 2 young away despite the proximity of people I might add that if they fail in future is that evidence that the two activities don't mix ? However on this occasion everyone is happy Birds me and those who want Nature reserves to be a facility for human activities :))