RARE BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON @ FAIRBURN INGS
On Saturday May 4th 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 sunny but windy day when I arrived at Fairburn Ings, but instead of calling at the visitor centre I continued on down to Fairburn village and parked on Cut Lane.
I walked down the hill and along the road that leads towards Charlie's Hide and the area where a Black Crowned Night Heron had been spotted in the last few days. After around a hundred yards I reached a gate where the road stopped and a path continued between a line of trees on either side. To my right was the eastern end of the main lake and to my left was a long narrow body of water with gaps leading out to a larger lake.
On the water to my right I could see Mallards, Tufted Ducks and Black Headed Gulls with several Sand Martins flying overhead. In the water to the left I spotted a Great Crested Grebe diving for food and in the trees above me I could see a Chiffchaff singing away. I continued walking along the path and eventually arrived at a bridge just past the path off to Charlie's Hide. There were several other people here trying to spot the Black Crowned Night Heron and after looking through another birdwatcher's scope I could see it sat in the trees on an island close to the water's edge several hundred yards away.
It was busy preening itself but for the twenty or so minutes I stood watching it did not move so I walked the short distance to Charlie's Hide where a Grey Heron took off from the grass in front. There was not much else about so I headed back down the track towards my car where to my right the Great Crested Grebe was still moving through the water regularly diving for food. In the bushes above my ahead I had a brief glimpse of a Cetti's Warbler before it disappeared from view before singing from its new perch.
I made a slight detour over a stile and through a field where a Song Thrush flew along the edge of the field and into the trees. I got back in my car and drove along the road to the main car park and then walked along the path past the visitor centre to the Pick Up Hide. From here I could see Magpies, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows as well as Sand Martins making regular trips to and from the Sand Martin Wall in front of the hide.
I left the hide and walked round to the Kingfisher screen spotting Chaffinches and a Robin in the trees as I approached it. There was no sign of the Kingfisher so I made my way up the hill to the Coal Tips Trail where I could hear a Cuckoo calling from in the bushes. I turned to my right and headed north along the trail and on the water at the other side of the reeds I could see Tufted Ducks, Mallards, Shelducks and more Black Headed Gulls.
On the next pool I could see a Cormorant, a pair of Greylag Geese and more Black Headed Gulls as well as a few Sand Martins flying overhead. The path now went round the edge of the water and headed west looking down towards the Pick Up Hide. Half way along this section of path I could see a Spoonbill amongst the Grey Herons and Cormorants in the Heronry in the far distance. I followed the path as it turned to the left and after a few hundred yards turned left again and headed eastwards. About two hundred yards in front of me a Fox squeezed through the fence on my left and had a brief look at me, before squeezing through the fence to my right and trotted down the hill.
It stopped halfway down and looked back at me again before continuing to the bottom of the hill and disappearing into the bushes. A little further along a Skylark rose up from close to the path on my right hand side and after a brief song it landed back down at the other side of the fence amongst the tufts of grass. It sat there for a few minutes before flying off and out of sight whilst over the other side of the path a Reed Bunting flew along the top of the reeds before dropping down into them. I eventually reached the end of the Coal Tips trail and headed back towards the visitor centre but not before I had heard and then spotted a Cuckoo in the distance.
I took a quick detour to see if I could get closer to the Cuckoo along a trail taking you towards the Bob Dickens hide but I could only hear it and didn't see it. I returned to the car park and walked down the boardwalk to the edge of the main lake where there were Mallards, Black Headed Gulls and a lone Avocet and flying over the water a single Common Tern. It started to rain so I headed back along the boardwalk to my car and as I left the car park the rain started to get heavier.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Fairburn Ings.