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Recent sightings

  • 19 April 2015

    A week of warbling warblers: Recent sightings

     We had Wader Wednesday last week, but I’m going to name the whole of this week Warbler Week because we’ve had so many! Willow warblers, grasshopper warblers, chiffchaff, blackcap, sedge warblers, Cetti’s warblers and whitethroat all... well... warbling to their heart’s content.



    Willow warbler.  Credit to John Bridges (


    The coot chicks have been entertaining families while they pond dip this week. There have been some great views of their brightly coloured, punky hair-dos. It’s a coot’s feet I love the most though; lurid blue and yellow with big flat lobes that look like their feet have been run over with something heavy.


    A cuckoo has been heard a couple of times during the week and also yellow wagtails (up to three seen at a time) in the past few days. A ruddy shelduck has been causing some interest too, mainly on the flashes but flying over the visitor centre too.

    Yellow wagtail thanks to Andy Hay (

    There have been plenty of bumbling Bombus sp. seen this week. If you’d like to find out more about different species of bees, and other insects and beasties, come along to our Minibeast Safari events. Our volunteers Alan and Amanda are a mine of information and the next one is on the 3rd May. See for more information. 


    The blue tit who had us all fascinated by his week spent "digging" at the bottom of the nest box on the nest box camera in the visitor centre, has started to nest!  So all that energy spent preparing the box was clearly worth it and its now bringing in lots of moss to line the bottom.  It's pretty active so definitely worth looking out for if you're in the visitor centre this week.


    And finally, if you watched Springwatch over Easter, they have asked for the public to record their first spring sightings of five species. One of those species is the orange tip butterfly and we’ve had our first sightings of them this week, fluttering past and feeding on flowers.

    Orange tip butterfly.  Photo thanks to Tom Marshall (

    Posted by KateSt

  • 10 April 2015

    Sunshine and sightings: recent sightings


    All the gorgeous sunny weather this week has brought out the butterflies, with brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma spotted. The brimstone, not only is it usually the first butterfly to be seen in spring as it emerges from hibernation on warm days, but it’s also thought to be the species to inspire the use of the name “butterfly”. This is due to its “buttery” yellow colour. Bees are buzzing too with plenty of willow catkins and blackthorn flowers providing early pollen and nectar to keep them going.

    The warm weather this week bodes well for our first Minibeast Safari this weekend (Sunday 12th April) too, there should be plenty of bugs and beasties emerging.  Visit for more information.

    Small tortoiseshell on a thistle. Thanks to Grahame Madge (


    The blue tits are very active around the visitor centre; yesterday (09/04/15), we spotted the first three blue tit fledglings, gathered in the shrubbery by the wildlife garden feeders. There’s also been a blue tit “digging” at the bottom of one of the nest boxes. Caught on our nest box cameras, it looks like its spring cleaning, and is certainly dedicated to the cause – it’s been doing it for 6 days!


    Blue tit fledgling thanks to Ray Kennedy (


    Migrants are returning! Swallows spotted flying over and the sand martins, who returned a few weeks ago, are making good use of the sand martin wall. Willow warblers have been seen too, and regular chiff chaffs calling. A blackcap was also spotted.



    Blackcap.  Thank you to Paul Chesterfield (, for the photo.


    There was a glimpse of a little ringed plover on big hole and avocets seen virtually daily from all ends of the reserve. It was Wader Wednesday on the 8th with redshank, curlew, black tailed godwit and dunlin. Goldeneye, shovellers, pintails and shelduck (one reportedly with an extremely red beak) have also been seen.

    Posted by KateSt

  • 3 April 2015

    Spring is still springing: recent sightings

    Spring is well and truly springing; frogs are spawning, birds are nesting and the trees are ready to burst.

    Avocets are back on the Main Bay islands so we’ve all got our fingers crossed for some more chicks this year. The tawny owls have been lurking fluffily in the hung tree between Bob Dickens and Village Bay. For a while, two of them treated visitors to a sneak peek through the branches, but only one has been spotted in recent days.


     Avocet, Chris Gomersall (


    A bittern was heard booming in the reedbeds on our guided walk for member’s weekend, and we also had great views and songs from skylarks. The chiffchaff’s distinctive song has also been heard. Raptors were out last week with red kites, marsh harriers and a peregrine falcon spotted gliding over the reserve.


    The kingfishers have been showing really regularly from the kingfisher screen, with a number of visitors telling us they’ve seen their first ones at Fairburn this week. Families have been out pond dipping too, watching the frogs and catching lots of diving beetles and water boatman.


    There are a few coltsfoot flowers rearing their heads at the front of the visitor centre too. The sunny yellow flowers appear before the leaves in spring, and the name “coltsfoot” refers to their similarity in shape, to the foot of a horse.

     Great spotted woodpecker, Tom Marshall (


    And finally, this morning, we were treated to two noisy great spotted woodpecker in the trees opposite the balcony of the visitor centre – I think they were demanding the sunshine comes back!

    Posted by KateSt

  • 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

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE4527 (+2km)

Goosander ()
19 Apr 2015
Arctic Tern ()
19 Apr 2015
Cuckoo ()
19 Apr 2015
Cetti's Warbler ()
19 Apr 2015
Tree Sparrow ()
16 Apr 2015
Pink-footed Goose (2)
14 Apr 2015
Wheatear ()
14 Apr 2015
Avocet (1)
13 Apr 2015
Kingfisher (2)
11 Apr 2015
Little Ringed Plover (2)
7 Apr 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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