Its been a busy week at Fairburn Ings, its the school holidays so we've had plenty of visitors and a wide variety of wildlife too. This time of year is great for watching dragonflies and damselflies, they tend to hang around the Discovery trail, the smaller pond dipping pond is a good spot for dragonflies like the southern and brown hawker, the wooden fencing is a popular with damselflies, which seem to like sitting there in the sun. If you keep your eyes peeled whilst walking around the Discovery Trail you've got a good chance of seeing 8 or 9 different species including ruddy darters, blue-tailed damselflies and the stunning emperor dragonfly.
The sunny days have also brought out plenty of butterflies, as well as the comma, which Julie talked about in the last blog, we've had good numbers of speckled wood, peacock, gatekeeper and meadow brown. I always struggle to tell the difference between the gatekeeper and meadow brown, they are both orange and brown butterflies and at the speeds that butterflies fly around, it isn't always easy to pick the differences. So I've got some top tips to tell them apart.
- The meadow brown is bigger than the gatekeeper (although not always easy to tell if you don’t see them together)
- When the wings are open gatekeepers have much more orange on both the forewing and hindwing than meadow browns
- When their wings are closed they look much more similar, both have a brown hindwing, orange forewing and black eye spot at the top of the forewing, but the gatekeeper has distinctive white spots on the underside of the hindwing and the meadow brown as a couple of small brown spots.
Gatekeeper butterfly, photo from ukbutterflies by Iain Leach
Meadow brown photo from ukbutterflies by Vince Massimo
Next time you visit hopefully you’ll be able to tell whether you are looking at a meadow brown or gatekeeper, don’t forget to note it down in the sightings book too.
We’ve had several sightings of red kites this week, they are fairly frequent visitors to the reserve, but they've been having a great time here this week following the tractor cutting the hay crop on the reserve. Its a common sight at harvest time, red kites are real opportunists, in other words they like an easy meal. As the crops are cut all manner of wildlife including frogs and mice have to make a run for cover, that is all the opportunity red kites need.
There’ve been quite a few good sightings from Pickup Hide this week, the water levels are pretty low at the moment, creating some mud for feeding wading birds, we’ve had green sandpipers and common sandpipers, adult and juvenile water rails and snipe. A great white egret was spotted on the reserve this week flying over Pickup Hide.
Elsewhere on the reserve, at Lin Dike there have been curlew, wheatears, a ruff, yellow wagtail and a black-tailed godwit. There are also plenty of young birds about, there have been lots of juvenile tree sparrows and blue tits on the feeders at the visitor centre, plus young shovellers, tufted ducks and coots out on the water.
Hopefully we'll see you over the weekend, don't forget to pop in and let us know what you've seen during your visit.