Although the clocks were only turned back just over a week ago, those long summer evenings seem a distant memory. At St Aidan’s winter is really beginning to show its face. The first frost of the year made an appearance yesterday and the numbers of birds don’t seem to slow. This morning we've had sightings of woodcock and water pipits!
Although not as frequent, St Aidan’s Nature Park is still a pit stop for migratory pink footed geese. More skeins have been flying over giving their distinctive ‘wink wink’ sound. There has also been large numbers of greylag and canada geese using the ridge and furrow and hillside fields.
When the flocks of geese are not demonstrating their fabulous formations, a range of birds of prey can be spotted across the skyline. Kestrels continue to use the hillside and meadows surrounding the visitor centre to hunt, giving spectacular displays to our visitors enjoying a coffee and a scone.
Kestrel at St. Aidan's - Iain Sterland
The site also remains a great spot to watch buzzards and red kites circling high above the centre.
A star bird of prey species is the marsh harrier. This week two marsh harriers have been spied hunting every day either on the ridge and furrow or the reedbeds. Furthermore, a sparrowhawk was spotted earlier in the week hunting around main lake and Lowther.
Marsh harrier, Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
The kingfishers are still being their lively selves as they are observed flitting between the reedbeds. A particular favourite perch of theirs are the ‘no fishing signs’ placed on the eastern and western reedbeds.
A regular wader visitor which is always enjoyable to see dabbling through the wet grassland is the curlew. Both small and large flocks are being seen on the ridge and furrow and main lake for the past week. Other waders that have been viewed in small numbers include dunlin, ruff and snipe.
Snipe - Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
In the past week the site has also seen a rise in the number of roe deer sightings. Just yesterday there was a group of four individuals in the fields on the hillside whilst another group were spotted in the same place just a few days before.
The wintering wildfowl are just as spectacular as ever with a lovely number of male pintail gracing the Main and Lemonroyd Lakes. Other ducks sighted include goosander, goldeneye, pochard, shoveler, gadwall, teal and wigeon.
One of my favourites of the site which continues to be seen in abundance are the stonechats. Their plump body and rosy plumage is still being sighted around the hillside path, the reedbeds and pastures.
Male stonechat, Ben Hall
The final species that prefers to be heard rather than seen is the elusive water rail. Our rangers Steph and Steve were lucky to catch a glimpse of one emerging from the eastern reedbed on the 3rd November.
Water rail - Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
As for short-eared owls, they've been here but haven't been seen for around a fortnight. We'll be updating you when they start being sighted regularly!
St Aidan’s visitor centre and car park have now switched to winter hours therefore, both the carpark and visitor centre will shut at 4pm until the end of January 2018.
Bowers lake path is still CLOSED as the predator fence work continues, and the Ridge and Furrow is dug for more habitat creation/exposed muddy edges.