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Recent sightings

  • 28 February 2015

    A week of sightings at Fairburn Ings

    It’s been a little while since our last sightings report so we plenty to tell you about. A pair of Egyptian geese paid us a brief visit on the 18th but haven’t been seen since. A pair of smew have been seen most days but can give observers the run around as they flit from one end of the reserve to the other.

    A pair of tawny owls have been roosting along the Riverbank Trail and have been providing great views. They can be tricky to spot if you don’t know where they are hiding so if you want to see them the best bet is to join in one of our daily Ranger Walks which are free and depart from the Visitor Centre.

    We have been blessed with an abundance of raptors in the past week with red kites, peregrines, marsh harriers and up to 10 buzzards seen almost daily. In addition to the tawnies we have also had sightings of barn, little and short-eared varieties of owl too.

    The Cedric’s Pool area has been productive in the last few days with sightings of a pair of bearded tits, up to 4 stonechats and a singing Cetti’s warbler. Wintering wildfowl numbers out on the lakes are steadily building up with plenty of goldeneye, goosanders, shoveler, pochard and a few pintail.  Thanks to Andy Hay (rspb-images) for this super photo of a male bearded tit.

    A little closer to the Visitor Centre the usual tree sparrows, willow tits and bullfinches continue to delight visitors as well as the occasional reed bunting, jay, goldcrest, redpoll and great-spotted woodpecker.

    Finally sad, but interesting, news that a female blackbird that was ringed here at Fairburn in March 2013 was found in Sweden in the August. The sad part of the tale is that unfortunately the poor bird was found dead in the front grille of a car by a lady near Lidkoping. The arrival of redwings and fieldfares from the low countries and Scandinavia in autumn is a well known feature of the annual cycle of migration but, as this ringing recovery demonstrates, our winter bird population are joined by millions of other more familiar species such as; robins, starlings and blackbirds, that visit our temperate shores to escape the harsh winters of mainland Europe. 

    Posted by Beki

  • 16 February 2015

    Is that a smew (drake) I see before me?

    That red-headed smew is still causing havoc, especially now she has a partner in crime. The drake was first seen on Sunday 8th and since then the trixy pair have been up and down the reserve. They have been switching between Main Bay and Village bay a few times a day, with occasional jaunts down to the Cut and Lin Dike.

    Male and female smew, Mike Langman (

    The other big excitement this week has been nuthatch. Up until a few years ago nuthatch were extremely rare at Fairburn but in the past two or three years they have become more commonplace. There has been a sighting nearly every day this week, mainly on feeding stations around the visitor centre, but also down at Pick-up Hide. It is very exciting and if you see one on you visit please do let us know.

    Other notable sightings include raven, one seen over the visitor centre on Friday, and another over Main Bay on Saturday. There have also been two bittern sightings, over the Moat on Thursday and again on Saturday, although the exact location isn’t clear.

    Nuthatch, John Bridges (

    There was quite a stir on Sunday with what were at first thought to be two long-eared owls spotted roosting in the trees near Village Bay Viewpoint, although other reports claim they were tawny owls. It’s still not entirely clear what the final verdict was but it was a lovely sight for visitors on the day!

    Posted by Sally G

  • 6 February 2015

    Where’s that smew?

    That red-headed smew has been giving us quite the run around the past couple of weeks. Each time someone asks where it is we have to run and check the book because it switches between Lin Dike and Village Bay every other day it seems. It has been most recently seen on Village Bay, so if you’re heading down at the weekend that’s the probably the first port of call.

    Water rail have also been popping up all over the place, they were seen on Cut Lane and at Phalarope pool on Friday, and there was even one out on the duck feeding boardwalk on Monday. The Cut also yielded a little grebe and several snipe this week, and a tawny owl and meadow pipit were seen above Main Bay stack.

    On the nest box cams!

    It has been another amazing week for birds of prey. A red kite flew straight past the visitor centre doors on Wednesday morning as we were opening up. There was something in its talons, and we had a magnificent view as it circled above the trees next to the Kingfisher screen. On Wednesday there was also a sparrowhawk over the visitor centre, a peregrine over Main Bay, two more red kite, and several buzzard over Newfield. This morning there was a marsh harrier and a buzzard over Lin Dike hide.

    Sunset over the Ings, Beki Williams

    There should be some bright spells over the weekend, do pop in and say hello. It’s also binocular and telescope weekend, so feel free to drop in for any advice you might want.

    Posted by Sally G

  • 30 January 2015

    Nesting and warbling: recent sightings

    The balcony feeding station came down on Monday as we bid goodbye to Big Garden Birdwatch for the year. Some of the regular birds returned for a few days and looked a little bereft that their dinner had gone missing, but they’ve grown used to the feeders being down in the Wildlife Garden again. There also appears to have been an explosion of finches, with at least seven bullfinches out there the other day.

    Don’t worry though, the wildlife spectacle continues as the nest box cameras were switched on this week. Tree sparrows have already begun nest building and blue tits are popping in and out while they make up their minds about this year’s real estate.  You’re very welcome to settle down with a coffee, it’s better than anything else on telly!

    The smew excitement continues. The female smew which caused a stir down on Village Bay last week was spotted down on Spoonbill Flash on Wednesday and Thursday, and flew past Lin Dike hide this morning.  Please let us know about any new sightings.

    Cetti's warbler, Mike Lane (

    Sunday was a busy day with 300 golden plover over the Newfield area, two whooper swans down at Charlie’s hide and a 12 snipe at big hole.  There were also eight dunlin at Big Hole on Monday and a curlew was seen in along the Lin Dike Link path.

    Grey wagtail,  Andrew Parkinson (

    The long-eared owls returned to the pool beyond the iron bridge at the weekend. There were two roosting on Sunday and they were being serenaded by a nearby Cetti’s warbler. The warbler was heard there again on Monday along with a guest appearance from a green woodpecker and a grey wagtail.

    If you've been recently you will have probably heard the woodpecker drumming in the Discovery Trail, well one has been heard on the Riverbank Trail now as well! Signs of spring indeed. 

    Posted by Sally G

  • 23 January 2015

    Smews and sparrows: recent sightings

    Another amazing week for birds of prey here at Fairburn.  Red kites and marsh harriers have been seen every day, a peregrine was over Hickson’s Pool on Tuesday and today five buzzards were seen together from Pick-up Hide.

    One of the most exciting sighting this week was a female smew out on main bay. It was reported on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and there is still time today so hopefully it’s still around!

    Female smew, Ben Hall (

    Large groups of pink-footed geese flew over on Saturday, Sunday and again on Thursday.  18 pintail were seen heading west over the visitor centre on Monday and 19 skylark were over New Flash on Wednesday. 

    Lin Dike has been busy for non bird sightings with 4 roe deer and a weasel seen there on Sunday. And off along the Riverbank Trail today 7 whooper swans were visible from Bob Dicken’s hide while there were 16 snipe, 5 at Charlie’s and 11 at Big Hole on Thursday.

    Tree sparrow, Andy Hay (

    House sparrow, Ray Kennedy (

    Blue tits started prospecting nest boxes near the visitor centre this week and there have been record numbers of house sparrows to complement our blooming population of tree sparrows. If you’re used to seeing tree sparrows around the visitor centre and Discovery Trail, you can pick out house sparrows fairly easily. They’re slightly smaller, with a grey crown rather than brown, and are missing the distinctive black cheek spot.

    As ever, keep letting us know your sightings!

    Posted by Sally G

  • 17 January 2015

    Signs of spring?

    Snowdrops flowered in the Discovery Trail this week and catkins have started appearing on the alder trees. Cormorants and herons have begun nest building, and woodpeckers have started drumming. So while it may be grey, and it may or not be snowing, it’s time to start looking forward to spring!

    Discovery trail snowdrops, taken by Sally Granger

    Birds of prey have been spotted across the reserve with a sparrowhawk, marsh harrier and kestrel over the flashes and lagoons, and a peregrine not too far from the visitor centre.  Also down on the flashes were eight curlew, several stonechat, a bearded tit and 14 pink-footed geese.

    Two raven flew north-west over the visitor centre on Wednesday and a bank vole was spotted just a stone’s throw from the visitor centre, on the way to Pick-up hide. There have also been two reports of a yellow legged gull, once in the Main Bay gull roost and again on big hole. Both sightings were of a bird in its third year, could it be the same one?

    Female marsh harrier, Chris Gomersall (

    Very jealous of whichever lucky soul caught a glimpse of a brambling just beyond the Kingfisher Screen. While the Kingfisher screen itself has hosted a great variety this week, including a water rail and two goosander.

    Keep warm everyone, I definitely recommend a visit first thing when the reserve is still crisp with frost!

    Posted by Sally G

  • 9 January 2015

    Brimstone and fiery red-breasts: recent sightings

    Well, where to start, there are all sorts of exciting things happening on the reserve at the moment. The beautiful weather has enticed so many people out into the fresh winter wind, and the wildlife hasn’t disappointed either.

    Perhaps the biggest excitement of the week was the brimstone butterfly sighting near Phalarope Pool on Monday.  We have since found out that this was the first sighting in the UK this year! Brimstones are one of a handful of British butterflies which hibernate in cold weather, so this fellow will be from last year, out taking advantage of a warm day.  They’re known for being one of the first butterflies to emerge each year and carry the common myth that the name ‘butterfly’ derives from their buttery coloured wings.

    Stonechat, Ben Hall (

    There have been several barn owl sightings this week, including one over the flashes and another between Cedric’s and Phalarope. Other excitement in that area includes several stonechats and a few reports of bearded tits.  A peregrine was also spotted flying over the flashes, and of course, the long-eared owls have returned to their roost.

    Reed bunting, Andy Hay (

    Some lovely non-bird sightings include a fox on the trails near to Pick-up Hide, and a close encounter with a couple of roe deer on the Riverbank Trail. 

    Also on the Riverbank Trail there have been several pairs of goldeneye and an Iceland gull on the main bay roost. It takes a sharp pair of eyes to pick out these individuals, Iceland gulls are smaller than most herring gulls and they have very pale plumage. A small number overwinter here and they are usually alone among the roost.

    The balcony feeding station which serves the Big Garden Birdwatch lounge has been a great success and is covered with tits and finches, including several pairs of bullfinches. The tree sparrows have made themselves at home and several robins have been keeping onlookers entertained as they attempt to stake claim to the food. There have also been a few willow tit sightings, several reports of reed buntings and even a couple of redpoll! That, and a cheeky male pheasant stealing a sneaky snack now and then. The Birdwatch Lounge is a lovely spot for lunch, while you’re there don’t forget to take a #selfieonthesofa.

    Posted by Sally G

  • 4 January 2015

    Winter Wonderland at Fairburn

    Just a quick update from Fairburn Ings today.  

    Its a gorgeous crispy day here with the reserve covered in a frosty blanket. The icy weather is encouraging lots of birds to visit our feeders with willow tits, bullfinches, tree sparrows, reed buntings and even a water rail spotted outside the visitor centre today. The long-eared owls are still roosting in their usual spot and several sightings of kingfishers have been reported in the last few days. Birds of prey have been spotted by several lucky visitors with red kite, peregrine, buzzard and marsh harrier all reported.

    Other birds of interest include goosander, goldeneye, treecreeper, siskin, redpoll, stonechat, golden plover and flock of 200 pink-footed geese that flew over the reserve yesterday.

    Large numbers of gulls are coming in to roost on the Main Lake. Among the commoner species have been Iceland and glaucous gulls. 

    It's not long now until Big Garden Birdwatch. In preparation we have set up our own lounge here in the visitor centre where you can brush up your ID skills, make a bird feeder and learn more about how you can contribute to the UK's largest wildlife survey. 

    Posted by Beki

  • 19 December 2014

    Beardies, gulls and a cheeky weasel!

    It’s been a busy old week for birds of prey here at Fairburn.  Buzzards have been spotted nearly every day with sightings at Newfield, Pick-up and from Lin Dike hide. Two red kites were also seen over Newfield at the weekend and another two flew over the visitor centre on Thursday.

    On Monday there was a peregrine over Lin Dike, and another over Cedric’s pool on Tuesday. Down at Cedric’s there was also a water rail and a Cetti’s warbler calling. However, the main excitement there this week were the bearded tits! Two males and a female were reported as well as several other sightings of individuals and plenty of people who heard them calling.

    Red kite, Ben Hall (

    Zooming to the other end of the reserve and out onto the Main Bay gull roost. On Monday evening there was one Caspian gull, but the bumper sighting came on Tuesday night when there were four spotted amongst the crowd.

    There have been regular sightings of Caspian gulls in the roost over the past few weeks. Very similar to the more common herring gulls and yellow-legged gulls, in the past they have been quite a rarity in the UK but the sightings are becoming more common. The identifying features are quite subtle; in the shape of the head, the slightly drooping tip of the bill and distinctive primary feathers.

    Bearded tit, Mike Richards (

    Tuesday’s excitement continued with a bellowing of 12 bullfinches seen between Lin Dike and Hickson’s. There were nine males and three females with a trixy siskin hiding amongst them.

    And finally, in the main car park a weasel put on a little show as it gave chase to a rabbit, an awesome wildlife moment for everyone that was down there.

    Posted by Sally G

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE4527 (+2km)

Pink-footed Goose ()
26 Mar 2015
Water Rail ()
26 Mar 2015
Tree Sparrow ()
25 Mar 2015
Grey Wagtail ()
23 Mar 2015
Goosander ()
18 Mar 2015
Tawny Owl ()
18 Mar 2015
Kingfisher ()
18 Mar 2015

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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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