On Wednesday I went down to my local RSPB reserve Fairburn Ings which is located east of Leeds near Castleford. Fairburn Ings was designated as a nature reserve in 1957 under the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act (1949) and since the 1970's the reserve has been managed by the RSPB.
Before I headed to the Pick Up Hide I had a quick look at the feeders by the visitor centre which, apart from a pair of Tree Sparrows and a single Collared Dove, were fairly quiet. After a minute or so I made my way to the Pick Up Hide which was quite busy with fellow photographers but I managed to find a spot to stand and see what was visiting the feeders to the right of the hide.
There were the usual Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Dunnocks at the feeders and after a couple of minutes a group four Long Tailed Tits landed in the branches above the feeders. They had a quick look at the feeders but were put off by a Grey Squirrel tucking into the bird seed and moved on to a fence post just in front of the hide which had a pile of seeds on the top. The Long Tailed Tits spent the next few minutes raiding the seeds on top of the post before flying off across to the trees at the left of the lagoon in front of the hide.
Out on the lagoon it was quite quiet apart from a lone Moorhen in the foreground and a Little Egret wading through the shallow water at the far side. After twenty minutes I decided to move on as there still wasn't a place to sit down. I went to the Kingfisher screen, but as the water was covered in green algae, meaning it was unlikely to see the Kingfisher, I moved on again and made my way up the hill towards the Coal Tips Trail.
During my walk up the hill a Robin perched at the edge of a tree and began to sing its delightful song, but disappeared before I could get a photo. When I reached the top of the hill I turned right along the southern side of the lake called "Big Hole" and then when the path splits in two I took the right hand path which takes you up to the Coal Tips Trail. The Big Hole had a large number of Lapwings & Black Headed Gulls milling about the edge of the water and as I reached the start of the Coal Tips Trail four Starlings flew overhead and continued south over the River Aire.
In recent days Bearded Tits had been seen amongst the reeds at the edge of the three lakes which the trail takes you round. I usually walk round the trail in an anticlockwise direction but this time I decided to go the other way up the left hand side. It turned out to be good decision as within fifty yards of walking the trademark pinging call of the Bearded Tits came from the reedbeds and a couple of seconds later a group of 6 appeared from the reeds and flew low along the tops of the reeds before dropping back down.
They repeated this trick a few times, but never staying still in view long enough for me to get a photo. Out on the water there were lots of Coots and a few Mallards and as the Bearded Tits now seemed to have disappeared I carried on to the western end of the trail. From here I could see as far as the Emley Moor Mast (TV Transmitter) as it was a very clear day and as I was walking toward the north west corner which over looks the Spoonbill Flash & The Moat I saw a flash of green flying up the hill. It landed at the base of a bush and as I approached it flew a few metres to the left and again landed at the bottom of another bush. Whilst I wasn't able to get a good photo, I was able to identify it as a Green Woodpecker, a bird which I would hear twice more further round the trail but not see.
I was about three quarters of the way round when I thought I saw a Bearded Tit moving along the reedbeds but when it stopped I was able to tell it was a juvenile Reed Bunting. Looking the other way you can see down the hill on to the Pick Up Hide and the lagoon in front of it. As I completed my walk along the Coal Tips there were two or three more Reed Buntings moving along the edge of the reedbed.
I re-traced my steps back down the hill, past the Kingfisher Screen and on to the Pick Up Hide again, where an hour and half after I had left the same people were sat there not letting other people get a look in which really annoys me. I didn't wait to see if they would move and made my way back past the visitor centre and down to the pontoons which are at the edge of the main lake.
There were several Mallards and Mute Swans as well as a pair of Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe diving for food out on the water. From here I headed back to the car and made my way home. I have been lucky enough to see Bearded Tits at four different reserves now - Blacktoft Sands, Leighton Moss, Minsmere and Fairburn Ings. The best chance for seeing these magnificent birds is during the autumn and winter when they change their diet and eat grit to help them digest the tougher food in the colder months.
I have attached my full sightings list and a few photos from my visit.