The sun shone for my visit to St Aidan’s this week. The place just sparkled!

I started my walk with a stroll along the Hillside. Great tits, blue tits and long tailed tits accompanied me as I crunched through the icy puddles, warming their voices ready for spring. The great tits are already practising their ‘teacher, teacher’ calls. Emerging from the still-bare trees I found a flock of greylag geese grazing in the field, but in between honks, the air was sprinkled with skylark song. Other reported Hillside & Pasture birds this week include pink-footed geese and fieldfares.

Unusually, this fieldfare was alone in a tree, behind the dragline

Carrying on down towards the reedbeds, I watched a carrion crow chasing a female marsh harrier away. She flew off towards Bowers lake for a bit of peaceful hunting. A male marsh harrier has been spotted this week too – along with red kites, a sparrowhawk and buzzards over Ridge & Furrow and the Visitor centre. Bowers currently features wigeon, teal and great crested grebes – and an occasional visit from a great white egret that has been sharing its time with Fairburn.

Female marsh harrier – RSPB Images: Ben Hall

Walking down towards the crossroads gave me views of reed buntings and stonechats. They didn’t seem to mind the work going on behind them to build a predator fence along the edge of the Ridge & Furrow. To my right the coots were starting to get noisy and territorial. They have quite spectacular fights at breeding time! A great crested grebe, developing breeding plumage, kept out of the way. I looked out for the kingfisher at the crossroads, but no luck for me today.

Great crested grebe, all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Continuing on along the Causeway, I noticed the male goldeneye is still single and showing off on Main lake. I hope he manages to find a mate soon, what with Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching!  

Male goldeneye looking coy

On Lemonroyd, goosanders, shovelers, gadwalls and mute swans politely shared the water. Great crested grebes have been seen pairing off there, so it’s worth having a look to see if you can spot them doing their mating dance. 


These mute swans on Main lake looked like love’s young dream – although an almighty clatter of wings alerted me to another swan who certainly didn’t want to share the space, as he chased off a potential rival. Other sightings on Main lake this week include curlew - listen out for them calling their own names, ringed and golden plover, pochard, pintail, shelduck, wigeon and teal, as well as oystercatchers and dunlin which are more commonly seen on the coast.

Down by Shan House Bridge and along the path towards Astley, siskins, redpolls, goldfinches and a variety of tits flitted through the trees, making the most of what seed there is left. Astley is currently home to coots and moorhens, gadwall and pochard and lapwings.

And so I headed back for a welcome cuppa at the Visitor centre. Spring is starting to push its way through. I noticed the very beginnings of the coming season’s pussy willow alongside the path.

A peep of pussy willow