Fairburn Ings 8th March 2019

Another day at Fairburn and the passage of a week makes all the difference to the hawthorn bushes on the way – they’re suddenly green! The blackthorn is at my favourite stage – full of round white buds just ready to burst out, and every year I think the bare black twigs look like they’re decorated with tiny pearls.

Daffodils are out in profusion round the Discovery Trail and as I stop to admire them, en-route to fill the bird feeders, a cheeky robin flies straight into the bucket and pinches a seed! He comes back for more, so I offer him a few and he hops onto my hand several times until he’s had enough. I’m always amazed at how little a robin weighs. If it weren’t for his pin-like claws, you’d hardly know he was there.

Red-crested pochard

Elsewhere on the reserve there’s a good selection of water fowl and today there’s a red crested pochard attracting a lot of attention from birders. It’s a striking bird with a high domed head, more orange than red, and a red beak.  They’re common in Spain and some, mainly escapees from collections breed in southern England, but they’re still uncommon in the north. 

At the moment herons are a big feature at Fairburn. We have lots of facts about herons for children round the Discovery Trail and this forms the basis of a popular quiz. We have various types of heron – grey herons, little egrets, occasional cattle egrets and great white egrets, and of course bitterns. About 25 grey herons are currently sitting on their sky-blue eggs, waiting for them to hatch in 2 weeks time. Then there’ll be weeks of frenzied ‘feeding-flights’ where both parents will be hunting for anything - fish, small mammals, frogs, toads, newts, snakes and even other birds to feed their hungry chicks. Grey herons look so completely out of place on their nests high up in the trees, and when the youngsters climb out of the nest and stagger around waiting to be fed, the whole pantomime is fun to watch as they all nest together in the Heronry. It’s clearly visible from the Coal Tips Trail

Grey heron