TUNEFUL SKYLARKS @ FAIRBURN INGS
On Sunday 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.
It was a bright sunny day when I arrived at Fairburn Ings and after a quick visit to the visitor centre I headed to the Pick Up Hide. The water in front of the hide was very quiet but the feeders to the right of the hide were very busy as usual. There were regular visits from Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings. A lone Willow Tit and Coal Tit also made regular visits with Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Pheasants on the ground below the feeders.
A couple of Long Tailed Tits now perched in the bushes waiting for their turn on the feeders and they were soon joined by a pair of male Reed Buntings. After half an hour or so I moved on to the feeders fifty yards south east of the Pick Up Hide which were a lot quieter but there were still a few Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a single Reed Bunting. I continued on to the Kingfisher screen but after quarter of an hour there had been no sign of the Kingfisher so I followed the path up the hill towards the Coal Tips Trail.
On the water called Big Hole there were several Black Headed Gulls and on the banking at the far side were a few Goats grazing on the grass banks. Once I reached the Coal Tips Trail I had a look at the first lake where Bitterns had recently being heard booming. On the water I could see Coots, Gadwalls, Mallards, Shovelers, Black Headed Gulls and a Great Crested Grebe. I now started my walk on the Coal Tips Trail walking in an anti clockwise direction on the loop round the three lakes and on the second lake there were several more Coots and a pair of Great Crested Grebes.
As the path turned westwards I heard the distinctive call of the Green Woodpecker but as often as it called out I could not see it. About one hundred yards further on I spotted a Little Egret flying from right to left closely followed by the first returning Spoonbill after their successful breeding at the site last year. Out amongst the forty plus Cormorants were at least twenty Grey Herons perched in the trees forming Fairburn Ings Heronry.
The Spoonbill had disappeared amongst the trees at the edge of the water and as the path turned south two Buzzards soared overhead. As I turned eastwards to complete the loop the Buzzards were still soaring above me and as I finished the loop Reed Buntings were flying from reed to reed and dropping to the ground out of site. On the other side a Skylark rose up from the ground singing its distinctive tune hovering high up in the air before dropping down to the ground amongst the grass. The Skylark did this a couple of times as well as flying low along the grass before disappearing into the long grass and out of sight again.
On the first pond I spotted a lone Lesser Black Backed Gull amongst the Coots and Black Headed Gulls. As I continued back towards the visitor centre I made another brief stop at the Kingfisher screen but sadly after ten or so minutes there was still no Kingfisher. I made another visit to the Pick Up Hide where there was a Kestrel hovering over the tall grass searching for food and one of the Buzzards had landed on a fence post in the distance.
The feeders were still very busy with all the aforementioned birds and had now been joined by Tree Sparrows. I walked back to the visitor centre and in the very small man made pond a female Mallard was busy washing herself and when she climbed out of the pond a male Mallard dropped in for a wash. Down on the main bay there were lots of Black Headed Gulls and Mallards as well as a couple of Tufted Ducks and a single Mute Swan. As I drove back past some of the pools and lakes I spotted a trio of Pochards swimming close to the road.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Fairburn Ings.