February, 2015

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

  • 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. 

  • A warden’s work is never done

    What goes on behind the scenes at Fairburn? There is a busy team of staff and volunteers who dedicate their time to keeping the reserve an incredible place for birds and wildlife.

    Karen is the assistant warden at Fairburn and here is a little about the work she does.

     How long have you been here?

    “I volunteered here for six months back in 2007 and joined the staff team in 2008.”

     What does a typical work day involve for you?

    “Anything and everything, there is no typical day really. Some days I could be office based or out on the reserve in all weathers, odd things come up all the time and I am frequently called away from what I’m doing to catch wayward swans.

    The warden team is here to look after the habitats out on the reserve. In winter we maintain the habitats and build infrastructure, such as the sand martin wall. Come springtime we stop practical work for the breeding season so we don’t disturb nesting birds and wildlife. That’s when our survey and monitoring work begins to help us learn what’s using the reserve and what we need to improve on.”

    What do you enjoy most?

    I love the variety, no two days are the same and it’s great to be able to spend so much time out on the reserve. And all the amazing people of course!

    What advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a warden?

    Volunteer! As much as possible to gain experience. You’ll learn practical skills and figure out if it’s what you really want to do.  Equally, don’t expect to be outside all the time, warden work comes with its fair share of office work. Otherwise, good luck! It’s an awesome job!

  • 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 (rspb-images.com)

    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 (rspb-images.com)

    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!