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Recent sightings

  • 5 February 2016

    Recent Sightings: A kingfisher down on his luck

    It has been a fantastic week for birds of prey again with the marsh harrier out at about almost every day, visible from both Lin Dike and Pick-up. Also from Lin Dike there have been buzzard, peregrine and sparrowhawk seen. A sparrowhawk and buzzard down near Charlie’s, a couple of red kite over Fairburn village and a short-eared owl up near Big Hole.

    The view from Pick-up hide, Sally Granger

    A bittern has been heard booming up on the stacks, there have been  a few croaky attempts in recent weeks but it sounds like it may be getting its vocal chords in order now as we draw closer to breeding season. Another exciting spot was a mistle thrush in the paddock next to the visitor centre, and to continue the thrush theme, there have been a few fieldfare and redwing seen around the Discovery trail.

    The red-crested pochard is still about and was recorded a few times towards the beginning of the week, while he red-headed smew has now acquired a friend! There have been reports of two smew shifting around the flashes; one adult female and one immature female.

    Male kingfisher, John Bridges (

    Finally, I popped to the kingfisher screen on Tuesday and struck a bit of good luck! A male kingfisher was sat watching the water. It wasn’t just a flash, that bold fellow sat for a good quarter of an hour waiting for a meal to swim his way.

    What was amusing was that he seemed to keep losing concentration; he was distracted by small noises, movements, and big gusts of wind. Every few minutes he would snap his bill and fixed his stare deliberately back on the water. I love the idea that what was a thrilling quarter of an hour for me was actually rather mundane for the poor kingfisher who didn’t look to be getting lucky anytime soon.

    Posted by Sally G

  • 29 January 2016

    Recent Sightings: First Signs of Spring

    Signs of spring are popping up around the reserve, hawthorn has already been spotted coming into flower, and this week we had our first snowdrop sighting in the grass by the visitor centre. Skylarks have been seen on the stacks and around the Lin Dike link a few times, and they have also been heard singing, while both herons and tree sparrows have been seen carrying nesting material. We are go!

    First snowdrops, Sally Granger

    With the Big Garden Birdwatch taking place this weekend there are just a few more days left of the Lounge, flocks of long-tailed tits have been very a very common sight, as have bullfinches and the odd willow tit! We’d love as many people as possible to get involved in the Birdwatch, it only takes an hour to do.  All the details can be found here

    Charlie’s hide has been busy with snipe this week, there were 6 spotted there yesterday and the kingfisher has made several appearances. Aside from the Kingfisher screen, Cut Lane is generally the best place to spot a kingfisher if that is the mission you have set yourself. Keep an ear out for that distinctive ‘peep peep’.

    Water rail slinking at the water's edge, Mike Richards (

    The red-headed smew was still flitting about on the weekend and shifted between Main Bay and Hickson’s flash, but there have been no further reported sightings since then. And the red-crested pochard that’s been around for more than a month now has been up on the moat again, joined by what appears to be some kind of gadwell/wigeon hybrid.

    The marsh harrier has been very busy, with sightings nearly every day from either Lin Dike or Pick-up hide, and there has been a short-eared owl up near Big Hole again. Finally, and perhaps most strangely, a water rail has been hanging around down by the duck feeding platform...hoping for a snack perhaps?

    Posted by Sally G

  • 22 January 2016

    Recent Sightings: Smew, Siskin and Snow!

    The Big Garden Birdwatch Lounge is thrumming with activity. Those two nuthatch have been busy at the feeders, we have also had a reed bunting, bullfinch and a siskin sat almost within touching distance of the visitor centre windows.

    Beyond the balcony a flock of around 20 siskin were spotted in the trees around the visitor centre, and down in the wildlife garden in full view of the lounge there has also been a weasel slinking around.

    Siskin, Chris Gomersall (

    Birds of prey have had another prolific week, with a sparrowhawk over the car park, kestrel and buzzard around the Riverside trail, and a marsh harrier, peregrine and barn owl over the flashes.

    The red-crested pochard was last recoded up on the Moat on Tuesday, and the red-headed smew has been giving us the run around shifting between the Moat, Spoonbill Flash and Village Bay.

    Also at that end of the reserve keep an eye out for stonechat, flocks of golden plover and a few pintail up on Hickson’s flash.

    Up around Big Hole there have been several green woodpecker, a roe deer and a short eared owl. Both goldeneye and gadwell have been putting on courtship displays on Main Bay, and a large flock of around 50 fieldfare has been chuckling away on Cut Lane.

    One major sighting this week was the snow! It was just a sprinkle but the reserve was magical.

    Snowy Fairburn, Sally Granger

    Posted by Sally G

  • 16 January 2016

    Recent Sightings 2016 - Chapter 1

    Fairburn may have been flooded but the wildlife doesn't seem to be too bothered! The recent sightings book is as full as ever and there is plenty to see. 

    The flashes were busy with 70+ curlew and 30+ goldeneye on New Years Day, and more than 100 golden plover were seen over this week.

    It’s also been a busy week for birds of prey with peregrine and marsh harrier over Lin Dike, a red kite, sparrowhawk and a very busy kestrel  over the Visitor Centre, and a short-eared owl up over the stacks.

    Red kite, image Ben Hall (

    The Big Garden Birdwatch lounge is back in the Visitor Centre and the feeding station is once again up on the balcony. We’ve already had willow tits at the feeders so do pop in to relax on the sofa and watch the birds up close.  

    Even better, we’re currently offering a free hot drink with any purchase in the shop until the end of January, why not enjoy it in the lounge?

    Nuthatch, image Nigel Blake (

    Our two ringed nuthatches are visiting the feeders very regularly, however we have had an unconfirmed sighting of a third, unringed bird. If you spot an unringed nuthatch around the Visitor Centre we would LOVE to know.

    Red-crested pochard, image Ben Hall (

    One of our star sightings has been the red-crested pochard.  It has been up on the Moat for a good couple of weeks now.  It is slightly larger than a pochard with and orangy-brown head and red beak.

    We’ve also had a bittern heard booming near the Moat, they’re not the biggest booms yet but seem to be building up ready for the main event nearer to breeding season. As usual please do let us know what you spot.

    Posted by Sally G

  • 18 December 2015

    A favourite way to start the day

    Sitting with a cup of coffee in the centre and watching the usual squirrels hanging upside down to get the nuts from the feeders, and the pheasants and red legged partridge hoovering up dropped seeds is now my favourite way to start the day. Stoats and weasels are now on my list of things to watch for, as quite a few people have reported seeing them running around. One of my favourite sightings of the week was of a very pretty grey wagtail. It was taking a bath in the puddles on top of the storage containers, and was also spotted over the road from the front of the visitor centre.

    Out on the reserve, snipe and reed bunting have been spotted in the reeds at Pickup hide, along with a treecreeper around the feeders.

    It’s nice to have little egrets being seen more often around the Flashes, and whooper swans are being seen there more often too.

    Little egret - Paul Chesterfield (

    Along the Riverbank trail, quite a few goldcrest have been seen. Goldcrests are the smallest bird in the UK, and tend to tag along with other flocks of small birds. Keep an eye out for that flash of gold on their heads.

    Goldcrest - Paul Chesterfield (

    Goosander, goldeneye, shoveler, pochard, teal, tufted ducks and great crested grebes have all been seen on the Main Bay. There are also plenty of curlews around at the moment, mainly around the Flashes.

    Curlew - Andy Hay (

    - Laura

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 11 December 2015

    That festive feeling

    Only two weeks until Christmas, and things are starting to feel very festive around the visitor centre. The Christmas tree is up, and outside we have a tree strung up with all kinds of food for birds to enjoy, including strings of monkey nuts and berries. It's proving particularly popular with robins, who will quite happily sit atop the tree and watch for whatever delicious food you're putting out for them next!

    The festive larder

    There have been great crested grebes being seen more often again from Charlie’s Hide, with goosander, pochard, shoveler, pintails and goldeneye spotted on the Main Bay through the week too.

    Keep a close eye out for treecreepers in the trees along the Riverbank trail, as they've been seen several times this week. They start from the bottom of a tree and spiral their way up to the top, foraging for insects under the bark, then fly to the bottom of the next tree and start the process again. So if you see a small bird scuttling up a tree, it’s a treecreeper, but if it's scuttling down, it's probably a nuthatch.

    Treecreeper - Mike Langman (

    Bullfinches are looking particularly lovely at this time of year, and are an easy spot with their bright red chests. Siskins, a regular visitor to the reserve during winter, are starting to arrive in greater numbers and have been seen around the feeders at Pickup hide and the visitor centre.

    - Laura

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 5 December 2015

    Rediscovering Fairburn Ings

    Yesterday we had a visit from the volunteers and staff at Bempton Cliffs. Before coming to Fairburn Ings, I spent 6 months at Bempton Cliffs so it was great to see lots of familiar faces and have a good old catch up. I joined them for a walk around the reserve and a spot of bird watching, something I haven’t done in a while I’m ashamed to say!

    First stop was Pickup hide, where we had our first sighting of willow tits on the feeders. The weather that day was beautiful, and the view from the hide was particularly picturesque in the winter light.

    Marching onwards, silence descended on the group as we reached the Kingfisher screen and waited patiently for a kingfisher to appear on top of the gate. No luck this time sadly. Undeterred, we carried on up the hill and stopped to enjoy the view over Big Hole. As we carried on to the Riverbank Trail, I realised I hadn’t actually walked this trail since all the leaves had dropped. The whole path looked so much bigger and brighter with no more leaves blocking the sun, and the views onto Main Bay were fantastic. One of the highlights of my internship has definitely been getting to see reserves change over all 4 seasons, and there’s no better place to see that change than Fairburn Ings.

    Riverbank triail

    From Bob Dickens hide and Village Bay viewpoint, we saw goldeneye, tufted ducks and lots and lots of pochard. The water levels are still high on the Main Bay, so the islands are still underwater.  Only the tops of shrubs are still sticking out, a favourite spot for cormorants to perch.

    Cormorant - Andy Hay (

    Just before heading onto a very muddy Cut Lane, we spotted two very elegant goosander on the river around the arches. These two were a textbook example of the differences in colouring between males and females. Walking down Cut Lane I glimpsed a flash of blue speeding away from me down the river. One more kingfisher sighting on the books for me!

    In the bushes around Charlie’s hide, an amazingly well camouflaged fieldfare was perched on the branches. It took a good while to spot it even with binoculars, and there were a few confused people wondering what on earth we were looking at. From Charlie’s Hide itself, a heron, great crested grebe and lots more tufted ducks were spotted.

    Heron - Andy Hay (

    I had such a fantastic day getting out on to the reserve again. When the days are shorter and colder, it’s very easy to go into full on hibernation mode, which I have to say I am guilty of. Blowing the cobwebs away with a good walk, and seeing the huge variety of wildlife at this time of year has reminded me that there is a world beyond my sofa!

    A final note on the birds I’ve spotted being blown around outside the office window whilst writing this post. A great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, long tailed tits, goldfinches, tree sparrows, blue tits and great tits on the feeders, plus a flock of about 10 red-legged partridge scuttling around the car park.

    And a photobombing squirrel...


    - Laura

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 28 November 2015

    Sightings are back!

    As the water has gone down since last weeks flooding, our sightings have gone up! The reserve is now completely accessible, and clean up is well underway, which means more sightings to report from our lovely visitors.

    The first siskin of this winter was spotted in the Wildlife Garden this week. They are regular winter visitors to the reserve, with larger numbers coming in from Europe. Bullfinches, long tailed tits, nuthatches and willow tits have all been seen on the feeders around the visitor centre and at Pickup.

    Siskin - Chris Gomersall (


    Whooper swans, pink footed geese and water rail have been seen over the Flashes. Keep a close eye out for water rail around the Flashes and Pickup. Although winter brings in greater numbers of these birds, they are still secretive and can be tricky to spot, more often heard than actually seen.

    Water rail - Mike Richards (

    The Kingfisher screen is living up to it's name these days! The flood water has cleared away the pond weed that had built up on the surface of the water, which is making it a much more attractive spot for kingfishers to perch. Several have been spotted on the sluice gate, making for some fantastic photo opportunities.

    Kingfisher - John Bridges (


    - Laura

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 20 November 2015

    Some slightly soggy sightings: recent sightings

    It's been a bit of a soggy week at Fairburn Ings this week, with the flooding on the site.  However, the floods have brought a lot of wildlife up towards dry land at the visitor centre so we've had a fair amount of wildlife spotted from the comfort and warmth inside.

    Flooding at Lin Dike


    We've been unable to access the bird feeders at Pickup hide or the feeder screen because of the floods so the only feeders we've been able to keep topped up this week are the wildlife garden and play area feeders.  The birds have certainly noticed this so there's a wonderful variety of them, in large numbers, visiting very close to the centre.  A great spotted woodpecker has been a regular highlight seen on the wildlife garden feeders.  It's often spotted gorging on the buggy nibbles we've got in the feeders there, or flitting between the trees.  Nuthatch and willow tit, along with a chattering flock of tree sparrows have also been really regularly spotted.


    Great spotted woodpecker thanks to Nigel Blake (


    The tiny high pitched voices of long tail tits can be heard in the hedgerows around the visitor centre too.  This charismatic little bird is always such a lovely sight, and they've visited the feeders a lot this week.

    Long tail tit thanks to John Bridges (

    Its not just birds that have been driven up towards the visitor centre by the floods too, a weasel has been spotted scampering between the play area and the wildflower meadow at the front of the visitor centre.

    Weasels taken by Gordon Lane in the summer at Fairburn Ings

    Posted by KateSt

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE4527 (+2km)

Smew ()
9 Feb 2016
Tree Sparrow ()
9 Feb 2016
Goosander ()
7 Feb 2016
Marsh Harrier ()
7 Feb 2016
Kingfisher ()
7 Feb 2016
Pink-footed Goose ()
5 Feb 2016
Cetti's Warbler (1)
4 Feb 2016
Bittern ()
1 Feb 2016
Shelduck ()
9 Feb 2016
Gadwall ()
9 Feb 2016

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 53.74373,-1.31765
  • Postcode: WF10 2BH
  • Grid reference: SE451277
  • Nearest town: Castleford, West Yorkshire
  • County: West Yorkshire
  • Country: England

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