October, 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

  • Recent sightings: you might need an umbrella

    We’ve got an exciting new fungus to add to the list this week – pleated inkcap fungus, which was spotted in both village bay field and the play area outside the visitor centre. This delicate little grey fungus is widespread in the UK, and occurs on short grass. It is also sometimes known as the ‘little Japanese umbrella’!

     

    Pleated Inkcap

     

    You can’t go far on the reserve without seeing shiny black clusters of elder berries, which are poisonous if eaten raw. In folklore, the elder tree was once regarded as the most magically powerful of all trees, and it was thought that if you planted an elder by your house it would keep the devil at bay!

     

    Elder berries

     

    As far as bird sightings go, it’s been a bit sparse over the past few days with the murky weather keeping visitors at bay, however, we’ve had a few sightings of note.

    Firstly, a grey wagtail has been seen at Pickup hide today – these lovely little yellow-rumped wagtails are a charming sight around waterbodies and rivers.

    Visitors were charmed yesterday by a very obliging juvenile female kingfisher at the kingfisher screen, which stayed in view for over an hour as she practiced her fishing skills.

    The great white egret is still hanging about, with our latest recorded sighting of it being Wednesday. Speaking of hanging about, a lone swallow was also spotted yesterday – what with the chillier weather setting in, it’s about time the last of the swallows headed south!

    Come down to the reserve for a stroll in the lovely autumn sunshine – the view over big hole on my walk home last night was stunning! Don’t forget to tell us what you’ve seen!

     

    Sunset over big hole

  • Bye for now

    Today’s blog is a little sad, as we say goodbye to Karen, Fairburn Ings’ assistant warden. Karen is taking a year off for her maternity leave, so congratulations will be in order soon! It’s been a heck of a day for her to go out on though, as no sooner than we all got into the office this morning, we got the alert for a red-necked phalarope over on new flash!

    Everyone promptly rushed out of the office in a convoy of cars and we sped up the road to set eyes on this tiny little wader. Red-necked phalaropes are very rare in the UK, and hence are on the UK red list, with only small breeding populations found in the western and northern isles of Scotland.

    To give an idea of how rare a sight they are on this reserve, it’s only the third EVER recorded sighting, with one being seen on the river Aire in 1957, and another spotted on the reserve in 1976! Ironically enough, the small pool directly opposite where the bird has been all day is named ‘phalarope pool’, after a Wilson’s phalarope was seen there in 1972.

     

    Red-necked phlarope in winter pluage

     

    As it was in its winter plumage (or a juvenile), it didn’t have a red neck, but it was still a lovely sight, bobbing about in circles on the water, all the while pecking at flies. Unlike other waders, phalaropes have lobed toes which enable them to swim strongly in the water, which is where they spend most of their time. Unusually, the duller coloured male looks after the eggs and young after laying – quite a charismatic and interesting little bird!

    After the excitement of the morning, we didn’t imagine that we’d have another fantastic sighting of a great white egret at Pickup pool straight after lunch! One of these large and beautiful white herons was here last week, so we’ve been really lucky to see it twice.

    All in all, it’s been a very eventful day – now we just need to wait and see what Karen’s baby will be called – the general consensus is Phalaropus for a boy or Egretta for a girl! So long Karen, all the best and goodbye for a little while from everyone at Fairburn!