GREAT WHITE EGRET RETURNS @ FAIRBURN INGS
On Thursday 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 1970s the reserve has been managed by the RSPB. The reason for my visit was the sightings of a Great White Egret and a Smew in front of the Lin Dike Hide.
So instead of going to the main car park like I usually do, I parked in the secondary car park at the western end of the reserve. I walked along the path to the Lin Dike Hide and the stream that runs along the right hand side of the path was very high, almost reaching the path.
Upon my arrival there was currently no sign of the Great White Egret or the Smew, but there were a few Shelducks and Black Headed Gulls patrolling the waters in front of the hide. Further out on the vast expanse of water in front of the hide were several Mallards and a few Mute Swans as well as a couple of Little Egrets dotted around the edge of the water.
In the distance, at the far end of the water, the Great White Egret suddenly popped its head up from the reeds and started making its way out of the water towards a gap in the fence and walking through. Half way up the left hand side, amongst a group of Tufted Ducks, a single male Goldeneye appeared alongside the same number of Teals, Wigeons and Gadwalls.
Just as I was watching the Goldeneye the male Smew made an appearance constantly diving for food before disappearing completely a few minutes later. A male and female Goosander now appeared near the trees at the edge of the water a little further up the left side from where the Smew had been. At this point the Great White Egret took off at the far side of the lake and made its way down the left hand side, before disappearing among the tall grass to the left of the hide.
A Grey Heron, high in the sky, flew towards the hide but continued over the hide and out of sight as another Grey Heron landed in roughly the same area as the Great White Egret. At the waters edge, perched on top of some reeds I briefly spotted a single Reed Bunting and Stonechat before they disappeared from view. A Little Egret now took off from half way up the left hand side of the water and flew low over the water directly at the hide before landing a short distance in front just to the left. It began making its way along the water's edge, digging its foot into the mud and shaking it to try and dislodge any food that was hiding in the mud.
The Little Egret moved along the edge of the water for several minutes before being temporarily scared off by a couple of Moorhens and Black Headed Gulls. There was now a lone Pochard and a few Lapwings up the right hand side of the water and the number of Shelducks had now risen to four and as another Grey Heron flew over the water I now made my way back to the car. As I arrived back at the car park I spotted another Grey Heron standing in the stream on the other side of the road.
I now got back in my car and drove down to the visitor centre and headed for the Pick Up Hide. The water in front of the Pick Up Hide was very quiet but the feeders to the right of the hide were very busy. There were several Chaffinches as well as a few Blue Tits, Great Tits alongside a couple of Robins and Dunnocks. On the ground under the feeders there were several Moorhens & Pheasants picking up the scraps dropped from the feeders.
Moving through the branches at the top of the trees was a lone female Bullfinch and a single Willow Tit now made regular visits to the feeders. The Robins were now perching on the bramble bushes before making use of the feeders. Looking back out over the water, in the distance, I could see a large group of more than forty Cormorants and just the other side of the water a Roe Deer was now disappearing into the bushes. I now made my way back to the car and headed home, spotting a Great Crested Grebe in the water by the side of the road as I drove home.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Fairburn Ings.