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Another week has passed and we are fast approaching July which (allegedly) will kick off with a heat wave! A perfect opportunity to get out, enjoy the warmth and spot some wildlife, and there’s plenty to see at Fairburn Ings!
One of my favourite stories of the past week came from a couple I met down at the feeder screen. They told me they’d seen a green woodpecker bullying great spotted woodpeckers off the feeders! I wish I had arrived just a few minutes earlier and had the chance to see what I’m sure was quite a spectacle.
Who'd win in a fight? Green woodpecker thanks to John Bridges (rspb-images.com) & Great spotted woodpecker thanks to Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)
There’s been lots of activity on the flashes – ringed plover, curlew, redshank and wigeon have all been spotted. Some have also been treated to some great views of a barn owl hunting and a marsh harrier soaring through the skies.
Marsh harrier - Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
If you’re at Pickup hide, look out for the big mouths of little sand martin chicks as they poke their heads out of the wall. We’ve still got avocets and chicks over there as well as oystercatchers and their chicks. The avocets at the duck feeding platform are delighting families as they feed the ducks and swans. Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook page over the next few days for a special chick themed blog post!
Avocet with chick, photo thanks to Tim Jones.
You don’t have to venture far from the visitor centre to get some special encounters with wildlife. This week someone was lucky enough to see a bank vole in the wildlife gardens! Wildflowers are everywhere at the moment and many can be seen walking up from the car park, though if you do venture a bit further there are some beautiful orchids to be found!
Posted by Tallulah
The world has gone a bit dinosaur mad at the moment with the release of the newest Jurassic Park film - well we have plenty of modern-day dinos here at Fairburn Ings! Looking at some birds it isn’t hard to see their dinosaur lineage; cormorants are probably one of the most pre-historic looking birds we have on the reserve – they look like pterodactyls flying overhead.
Cormorant - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Ducks don’t look much like their scaly ancestors, but there are loads of different types with a range of different patterns and colours. It’s been quite a nice week for ducks, with wigeon, garganey and teal all spotted. Male teals have a chestnut brown head and distinctive green eyespot; male wigeons also have a chestnut head with a yellow patch on their forehead.
Teal - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Wigeon - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
On the flashes we still have frequent sightings of bittern, as well as redshanks and even a secretive water rail. The legs of these birds have a particular reptilian quality about them (like lots of birds) and they walk a bit like how velociraptors are thought to have walked!
Redshank - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
On the subject of raptors, we have a few different ones here at Fairburn. Don’t worry, the ones here won’t hunt you down and ambush you in the visitor centre! Modern day raptors are fantastic predators that use their keen eyesight to hunt and feed on other animals (smaller than you and I). Thursday was a great day for raptors on the reserve, with red kite, marsh harrier, kestrel, hobby and buzzard all seen!
Red Kite - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The demise of the dinosaurs paved the way for mammals to take over. You might have seen a bit of footage from our new mammal log that me and David the warden intern have worked on. We’ve had a lot of success with it so far with mice and voles caught on camera. We’ve also had a few surprises that I won’t spoil for you, but keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for more footage!
We’ve had a blast of summer this week (looking out the window today it’s hard to believe), with plenty of sunshine and balmy temperatures! The British weather may be unpredictable, but that doesn’t stop some of us from getting out there to see what’s about no matter what’s thrown at us. So with that, here are the latest sightings from Fairburn Ings.
The regulars are still down at Lin Dike; bittern are still being spotted almost every day, but they have also been seen flying over the flashes. Grasshopper warblers and Cetti’s warblers can both be heard around the Lin Dike hide. Garganey are still seen pretty frequently, and we’ve also had sightings of wigeon from the hide as well as on Spoonbill flash.
Plenty of warblers are singing away along the Lin Dike trail as well – listen out for willow warblers, sedge warblers and reed warblers (a good tip for telling them apart is that sedge warblers sing from the top of reeds while reed warblers sing from within the reed bed – so if you can it, it’s probably a sedge warbler!).
I walked the Lin Dike trail with two of our ranger volunteers for the first time this week (shocking given how long I’ve been here now!), and we heard and eventually saw a green woodpecker. I’d never seen a green woodpecker before (apart from THAT photo - you know the one) and I was really surprised by just how green they are in real life. I think they’re quite comical, with their bright colours, loud ‘yaffling’ call and the undulating way they fly.
Green woodpecker - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
There are plenty of cute chicks around at the minute, have a look for oystercatcher and avocet chicks. You might have seen that our blue tit chicks fledged a couple of weeks ago, but some of our tree sparrows have stepped up to the plate and are now delighting people in the visitor centre.
We’re running another Minibeast Safari tomorrow (14 June), and there are loads of bugs out there to find right now. This morning in our moth trap we had an unexpected huge burying beetle! As their name suggests, these beetles work in pairs to bury dead animals to feed their larvae on – it all sounds a bit grim but beetles and other bugs like these play a really important role in nature!
On the lighter side, there are all sorts of different butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies to have a look at. On my walk the other day I saw lots of common blue and holly blue butterflies, and one of our rangers Ginny took this great photo of a four-spotted chaser.
Four-spotted chaser - Ginny Sibley
It’s been a lovely sunny and dare I say warm weekend here at Fairburn Ings, with plenty of people paying us a visit over the past couple of days. There’s been lots of different wildlife about for people to spot; over at the pond dipping platforms there are some huge tadpoles (or so I’ve been told by some of our excitable younger visitors)!
There’s been lots of activity down at Lin Dike, with fairly frequent sightings of bittern in flight. There’s been at least one sighting reported everyday so it’s definitely worth heading over to take a look. People have also heard the loud and distinct song of a Cetti’s warbler at Lin Dike, sometimes even from the car park! It’s is also worth looking out for a garganey that has been seen a few times from the hide.
Bittern - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
There have been a few different raptors seen this week, including a hobby, red kite and common buzzard. We still have regular sightings of a marsh harrier from Pick Up hide. Lapwings can also still be seen from Pick Up. While you’re at Pick Up hide take a look at the feeders, we’ve had willow tit and great-spotted woodpecker seen there this morning.
Great spotted woodpecker - Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)
My Twitter feed has been flooded this week with pictures of painted lady butterflies as they’ve been migrating north. We’ve had our first sighting here at the visitor center this week, probably related to the fairly warm weather we had towards the end of last week. Other butterflies seen this week include lots of common blue, some holly blue and small copper and a few large white. If you're into your butterflies and moths, why not take a look at Paul Miguel's Photography workshop which is running this Saturday (13 June); full details at http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-400411
Painted lady - Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
BBC Springwatch is finally back on our tellies! It’s a great way to inspire people to get out and about to discover all the wildlife that lives near them. Here are some of the recent sightings from Fairburn from the last week.
Spring is well and truly here judging by the number of chicks around! A lot of you will have seen our blue tit chicks from the nest box camera; they are doing well even with the scares from a woodpecker trying to get into the nest box. Plenty of chicks can be seen on Main Bay and from Charlie’s Hide – shelduck, oystercatcher and even great-crested grebe chicks riding on their parents back. There have also been frequent sightings of a garganey from Charlie’s hide.
Great-crested grebe chick riding on parent's back - Chris Comersall (rspb-images.com)
Also spotted up at Charlie’s hide as well as at the screen are kingfishers! We’ve been treated to some great views of them this past week, with many people (myself included!) seeing their very first one! It’s well worth spending a bit of time at the Kingfisher screen to see if one puts in an appearance.
Kingfisher - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Down at Pickup hide there have been sightings of lapwings (I’ve now heard that sweet call in person!), ringed plovers, little ringed plovers and a jay has been seen on the feeders at both Pickup and the Feeder Screen. Lucky visitors have also had amazing views of a roe deer and its fawn in the long grass in the distance.
Roe deer - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Along the Discovery Trail pond dippers have been really successful, with plenty of tadpoles, great diving beetles and even a few newts! Plenty more dragonflies and damselflies are emerging and we have a few more butterflies around on sunny days such as small coppers. If you’re visiting us tomorrow (30 May), we have another Minibeast Safari running where you can learn more about different insects.
Yet again, I am ending this blog with a cuckoo. After finally hearing my first one last week, we have had visitors seeing or hearing a cuckoo almost daily, which is a real treat!
We've had a very special visitor causing quite a stir this week at Fairburn – if you've visited us in the past week or so you may have heard us all talking about our guest or you may even have had the chance to see it for yourself! I even briefly mentioned this wonderful bird in last week’s blog! Drum roll please... It is of course the spectacular spoonbill! We’ve had daily sightings of this impressive bird; with his punky feathers and brightly tipped orange bill he is in full breeding plumage! All he needs now is a girl to impress! Many who've been to see the spoonbill have also been treated to sightings of little egrets and some of our heron chicks who have yet to leave their nests.
Little egret - Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com)
Last Sunday was a fantastic day for raptors with 9 different species seen in total, including a hobby, an osprey and even a hen harrier that stayed with us for a few days before moving on! It’s always an amazing experience seeing birds of prey soaring overhead and seeing so many different species in one day is astounding! We’re still getting regular sightings of a marsh harrier over the Flashes, so be on the look out!
Staying on the Flashes, we've had a few lapwings in the area. Lapwings get their name from the odd, erratic way they fly. They are also known as peewits, after their really sweet sounding “pee-wit” call. I challenge you not to crack a smile when listening to that super cute sound!
Lapwing in flight - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Over on Main Bay, there has been plenty of activity as well. There have been around 25 Caspian gulls seen, along with common terns, shelduck and oystercatchers. The little ringed plovers are still showing well from both Pickup and Lin Dike hides.
In the world of bugs, there are loads of dragonflies and damselflies emerging right now! If you’re coming down for the bank holiday be sure to be on the lookout around the discovery trail and beyond for flashes of colour as a dragonfly or damselfly whizzes past! Why not join our Minibeast Safari running this bank holiday Monday (25 May), where our expert volunteers can show you lots of different creepy-crawlies!
And finally, if you read one of my last blog posts you may know that I have never heard a cuckoo before. Well I can now finally say that I have! Yesterday afternoon I heard that distinct call while out walking round the discovery trail! It was an amazing moment for me and definitely a highlight of my time at Fairburn so far!
I’ll confess as my alarm began blaring at 5 am on Sunday morning I did wake up in a very confused state of mind. As someone only recently out of her student days, 5 am still seemed like the middle of the night (which begins at about 3 am and lasts through to about 11 am!). But it appears I was mistaken; the sun was rising and the dawn chorus was in full swing – hardly the middle of the night!
Arriving at the visitor centre, the kettle was on and tea-making in progress before the public began turning up from about 6.30 am. We had a fantastic turn out for the dawn chorus walk – around 25 early rising visitors and a handful of staff and volunteers in total. Shortly after everyone arrived, we set off onto the reserve to have a look and a listen to what birds were about.
In total we saw or heard 50 species, which we were pretty happy about given the weather wasn’t ideal (wind whistling in your ears makes it hard to hear birdsong). The highlight for me was probably a very obliging willow warbler, who was perched in the tree tops, warbling away despite being blow around by the wind. Other species seen/heard include whitethroat, yellowhammer, blackcap, mistle thrush and skylark in addition to many others!
Willow warbler - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
After our lengthy walk, we returned to the visitor centre to warm up with a much needed hot drink! I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and learnt a lot; it was definitely worth getting up at the crack of dawn for!
Oystercatchers at dawn (taken at RSPB Dungeness, Kent) - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
The sun is shining and it’s been a lovely day here at RSPB Fairburn Ings. We’ve had a pretty exciting week of sightings across the reserve.
There was plenty of excitement on the reserve towards the end of last week as we had regular sightings of a great white egret flying overhead. This impressive bird is an uncommon visitor to the UK, so caused quite a stir over the few days it was here. Also towards the end of last week, while I was minding over the shop I noticed the visitor centre had practically emptied out. Everybody had gathered out on the deck with their binoculars out searching the skies. I eventually found out the cause of this mass exit – two bitterns had just flown straight over the visitor centre...and I had missed them! Bitterns are still being seen fairly regularly, so I am determined to get out and try to spot one for myself.
Another bird I haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing myself is a cuckoo. In fact, I’ve never even heard one before (at least not while I’ve been old enough to remember). Hopefully I’ll be able to rectify this soon, as a number of visitors have heard that famous call and there have been pretty regular sightings of cuckoos too. I’m really looking forward to this Sundays dawn chorus walk (17 May), as I might get a chance to hear my first cuckoo. There are still spaces available – call the visitor centre to book!
Cuckoo - John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Egyptian geese were originally introduced as an ornamental species and it’s easy to see why. With their striking colours and heavy dark eye patches, they are certainly attractive geese. These ornamental birds are escapees that now successfully breed in the wild. We’ve had up to five reported on the reserve at any one time, so have a look for them.
Around the discovery trail there are plenty of insects to spot - in the past week we’ve had our first blue tailed damselfly and four spotted chasers of the year zipping round the ponds. Butterflies are still frequently seen on pleasant days, lots of peacocks, green veined whites, orange tips and even a holly blue. If you want to find out more about the bugs that live at Fairburn, why not join one of our Mini-beast Safaris, running on 25 and 30 May. Also along the discovery trail, pond dippers have been catching plenty of tadpoles!
Peacock butterfly - Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)
Finally, there has been a bit of a buzz around the reserve over the past couple of days as we’ve had sightings of a spoonbill. These funny looking birds get their name (funnily enough!) from their incredible spoon shaped bill.
May is finally here and we have plenty to tell you about from the first week of the month. Bird song is filling the air, with blackcaps, chiffchaffs, whitethroats and numerous warblers all in full voice! If you don’t know your chiffchaff from your great tit, why not join our knowledgeable staff and volunteers on a guided dawn chorus walk on 17 May. Check out http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-399391 for more details.
Avocets are still a common sighting on Main Bay; you can usually get a good view of them from the duck feeding platform. It’s been a good week to spot a raptor too; there is a hobby that has been regularly putting in an appearance as well as the occasional red kite, buzzard and marsh harrier.
Avocet in flight - David Tipling (rspb-images.com)
Over at Lin Dike there have been almost daily sightings of a male garganey. Garganeys are migratory ducks, spending their winters in southern Africa, India and Australasia and their summers in Europe. The males have an interesting crackling call, which is really different from the well known quack of other ducks.
Pairs of little ringed plovers have been seen regularly at Big Hole and from Pickup Hide on the Discovery trail. A bright yellow eye ring is a great way to help spot these little wading birds. If you’re heading down to Pickup hide with the family, why not try our new Nature by Numbers quiz along the Discovery trail – ask for a quiz sheet in the visitor centre!
We’ve had a couple of sightings of Arctic terns over the past week. Arctic terns are epic migrants – travelling pole to pole from their breeding sites in the Arctic and the coast of Antarctica. Round trips average out at over 44,000 miles, with the largest distance recorded at a whopping 57,000 miles! That’s the longest known migration in the animal world, which is pretty impressive for a relatively small bird.
Arctic tern - Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
If you’ve been down at the pond dipping platforms in recent weeks, you may have been lucky enough to catch a few dragonfly nymphs. These soon-to-be dragonflies spend the first part of their lives underwater, where they feed on pretty much anything smaller then they are! In the past couple of days, the first newly emerged adult dragonflies and damselflies have been seen zooming around the ponds, so keep your eyes open if you’re down there pond dipping!
And finally, remember the blue tit in the one of the visitor centre nest boxes we mentioned back in April? We’ve been watching as the nest has developed and we are all really excited as there are finally some eggs! She began laying on 1 May and is now incubating, so hopefully in the coming weeks we will have some baby blue tits! Visitors and staff alike have been cooing over the sweet male who is often seen bringing his mate a juicy caterpillar or two – now that’s true love!
Grid reference: SE4527 (+2km)
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