It’s been another couple of lovely weeks in the Aire Valley, with lots of visitors, volunteers and staff sharing their wildlife sightings with us, whether that be over social media or in our sightings book (which you can add to in the visitor’s centre)!

Fairburn Ings is now looking very lush and green, and wildflowers can be found throughout. Once again, the bitterns have been putting on quite a show for several of our visitors, and some have even been lucky enough to see an osprey flying over! There are now noticeably more invertebrates around the site, with lots more butterfly sightings being recorded, as well as the beautiful banded demoiselle, which looks like a jewel as it flies alongside the river.

  • Green woodpecker, willow warbler, sedge warbler, song thrush, cuckoo, reed bunting, sand martin, swift, Eurasian jay, reed warbler, chiffchaff, willow tit, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, long tailed tit, goldfinch, robin, skylark and great tit
  • Bittern, spoonbill, grey heron, coot, black headed gull, oystercatcher, lapwing, common tern, avocet, shelduck, great crested grebe, gadwall, pink footed goose, great white egret, little egret, kingfisher, shoveler, greylag goose, cormorant, garganey, little ringed plover and pochard
  • Red kite, marsh harrier, buzzard, osprey, kestrel and hobby
  • Mole, roe deer and common shrew
  • Brimstone, holly blue, ruby tailed wasp, banded demoiselle, blue tailed damselfly, small copper, red admiral, drinker moth caterpillar and large white

A bittern in flight at Fairburn Ings - at this time of year these secretive birds can sometimes be spotted on feeding flights. Keep an eye out around the reedbeds, and listen out for their distinctive "boom" (Photo: Katie Ritchie)

As always, St Aidans has also had many exciting sightings this past week or two - including some fantastic rarities! Near the centre of Leeds, the Aire Valley is an exceptional pocket of nature acting as a refuge for wildlife to flourish. With a variety of habitats, it’s no surprise that a variety of species thrive here.

Recent sightings at St Aidan’s include:

  • Peregrine falcon, kestrel, red kite, buzzard, osprey, little owl, and barn owl
  • Kingfisher, dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, oystercatcher, turnstone, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, little egret, spoonbill, grey heron, little gull, black-tailed godwit, lapwing, avocet, shelduck, great crested grebe
  • Cuckoo, long-tailed tit, reed warbler, sand martin, swallow, swift


Kingfishers are regularly spotted at both sites - visitors are often treated to a flash of blue as they dive into the water. Adults need to eat their bodyweight in food each day, and chicks can eat 12-18 fish a day - which means a lot of fishing! (Photo: Reece Smith)

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted mention of an osprey above - recently, one has been making appearances at Fairburn Ings and St Aidan’s. Ospreys were persecuted to extinction in the UK during the 1800s; however due to a legislation to protect these birds, the population is finally recovering. These impressive birds migrate to West Africa to spend the winter before returning to the UK to breed from late March - there are now 300 nesting pairs in Britain.


We hope to see you on site soon to spot some of this amazing wildlife yourself! Please do tell us about it too; we would love to hear what you’ve seen out and about on the reserve.