June, 2013

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's
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Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

  • What is cuckoo spit?

    The star species of the last few days would have to be the black-tailed godwits which have been seen since Thursday at Lin Dike. There has been quite a bit of other wader action, including a green sandpiper at Pick-up hide, several redshanks at Lin Dike, oystercatchers on Main Bay and little ringed plovers at Big Hole.

    A bittern was seen at Pick-up which is the first sighting for a few weeks so it was good to hear. Also at Pick-up there has been a little grebe, shovelers and sand martins coming in and out of the sand martin wall, plus two marsh harriers and a hobby.

    There are loads of speckled wood butterflies about on the Riverside Trail and meadow browns along the trail to Lin Dike. A ringlet butterfly has been spotted on the reserve, as well as lots of common blues, brimstones and a small copper. I spotted my first lime hawkmoth on the path of the Riverside trail and I also saw a kingfisher flying down the river by Charlie's hide. It was a fantastic walk home!

    On Main Bay there have been common terns, an Arctic tern and lapwing. Dawn, our retail manager, also spotted a cuckoo flying over the bay from Newfield wood.

    There are plenty of warblers around, especially towards Lin Dike where a visitor reported sedge warbler, reed warbler, whitethroat, garden warbler and a grasshopper warbler.

    We have loads of four spotted chaser dragonflies and also black tailed skimmers, which can be seen around the ponds. Lots of brightly coloured damselflies are around too, including large reds, azures, common blues and one banded demoiselle.

    The Wildlife Explorer group spotted a froghopper yesterday, which is a small, brown insect. Sounds a bit boring but it can jump really big distances when threatened and their larvae have a clever way of protecting themselves. They coat themselves in froth, known as cuckoo spit, which keeps them safe from predators as they feed on the plant. The larva produces this froth from it’s bottom! Here's a picture of the cuckoo spit we found out on the reserve:

  • The hawkmoths are here!

    We’ve had a lovely juvenile great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder in our wildlife garden today which everyone was pleased to see. Other visitors to the feeders include a nuthatch, goldfinches, greenfinches and loads of young tree sparrows.

    Down at Pick-up hide there have been sightings of a jay, a grey wagtail, a roe deer and sand martins using the sand martin bank which is great news!

    On Main Bay we’ve had a little ringed plover, great crested grebes and oystercatchers, whilst avocets and common terns have been seen on the islands. Along the Riverside Trail, a yellowhammer and juvenile pied wagtails were also seen.

    Elsewhere on the reserve there are lots of different warblers such as blackcaps, garden warblers and willow warblers. At the Kingfisher screen there have not only been kingfisher sightings but also a fox, and a spotted flycatcher was seen nearby.

    Lots of common blue butterflies are about, along with large skippers, speckled woods, and meadow browns have also emerged now. There are lots of damselflies around including the banded demoiselle and one of our volunteers counted 29 four spotted chaser dragonflies last week and 4 black-tailed skimmers!

    We discovered a great variety of moths in our moth trap yesterday. We had three different hawk moths; an eyed, an elephant and a small elephant. The elephant hawk moth is bigger and they have different markings as shown in these photos. Both are beautiful though!

      Elephant hawk moth       Small elephant hawk moth

    We also had a brimstone moth, a burnished brass, a cinnabar, a riband wave, lots of heart and darts and many more!

    Although our reserve is home to lots of wildlife, many native species are in serious trouble. The RSPB launched its Giving Nature a Home campaign this week, and we need your help to build one million homes for wildlife in the UK. There are loads of ways you can help give nature a home in your own garden or community so please get involved at www.rspb.org.uk/homes. It’s up to all of us to help save the UK’s threatened wildlife!

    Image of Elephant hawk moth from Gordon Langsbury RSPB images.

    Image of small elephant hawk moth from Alan Kelly.

  • What wildlife's about?

    Our sightings book has been filled with loads of fantastic wildlife including birds, insects and flowers. We’ve also got plenty of young wildlife about at the moment and it’s lovely to see, there are little chicks following their parent on the water and fledglings taking their first clumsy flights.

    We’ve got loads of coots around with cute chicks, which start off with little red heads. We’ve also got great crested grebe and shelduck with broods, along with loads of ducklings and goslings.

    At Pick-up hide there have been shovelers, shelducks, gadwalls, pochards and a grey heron, plus a sand martin or two using the sand martin wall. There’s also been a cuckoo seen here and a couple of marsh harrier sightings.

    On Main Bay we’ve had a common sandpiper, ringed plover, oystercatchers and avocets. There are hundreds of swifts around, particularly over Main Bay due to all the insects there are for them to eat.

    At the opposite end of the reserve at Lin Dike, visitors have seen redshanks, a bar tailed godwit, a cuckoo and a kingfisher. Yesterday, a hobby was seen flying over the Moat reportedly carrying a swallow. Hobbies are such skilful fliers that they are able to catch birds such as swallows and swifts in the air!

    Around the visitor centre, there has been a pied wagtail sighting and a yellow hammer flying by. On Saturday, a peregrine falcon flew over the centre whilst further towards the village a red kite was seen overhead.

    There have been the usual brimstones, orange tips and speckled wood butterflies, plus a small copper, large skipper and beautiful common blues. We’ve got dragonflies as well, with four spotted chasers and the first black-tailed skimmer sighting of the year. We also get different types of bumblebees feeding on our wildflowers at the reserve; there are red-tailed, common carders, buff-tailed and early bumblebees.

    There are plenty of blue-tailed, azure, and common blue damselflies about. The males of the azure and common blue damselflies look similar and so they can be difficult to tell apart unless you get a closer look. The azure damselfly has a ‘U’ shaped marking on segment 2 of its body which is absent on the common blue.

    Just outside our visitor centre we have a lovely patch of wildflowers including red campion, oxeye daisies and viper’s bugloss. Bumblebees love the viper's bugloss like this common carder I spotted today :)