It’s been an exciting time in the Aire Valley recently, with lots of sightings of amazing wildlife submitted by our visitors, staff and volunteers! It’s been particularly exciting to hear of sightings of summer migrants, like common swifts and sand martins, as well as lots of interesting insect sightings. It’s a fantastic time of year to be out and about exploring both sites!

Fairburn Ings has been treated to a explosion of bird song, with screaming swifts, booming bitterns and the sound of the elusive cuckoo all regularly heard around the reserve.

Recent sightings include:

  • Buzzard, marsh harrier, peregrine falcon, red kite, and sparrowhawk.
  • Shoveler, common sandpiper, whimbrel, little ringed plover, spoonbill, oystercatcher, dunlin lesser whitethroat, avocet, black-necked grebe, common tern, arctic tern, cattle egret, bittern, water rail, teal, garganey, pochard, kingfisher, and shelduck.
  • Blackcap, green woodpecker, chiffchaff, willow warbler, Cetti’s warbler, greenfinch, nuthatch, song thrush, Eurasian jay, great-spotted woodpecker, garden warbler, coal tit, willow tit, bearded tit, sand martin, and barn swallow.
  • Very excitingly, there was a report of a common crane fly-over on 7 May!
  • A lovely array of insects, such as banded demoiselle, blue-tailed damselflies, small copper and dingy skipper.

Great spotted woodpecker at Fairburn Ings (Katie Ritchie)

Did you know...?

  • Once common in wetlands, bitterns became extinct as breeding birds within the UK in the late 19th century. However, RSPB conservation efforts have resulted in a steady increase in the number of booming males recorded since the 1990s. Their distinctive call can be heard up to 5km away!
  • Green woodpeckers have a distinctive ‘yaffle’ call, which sounds a bit like laugh - listen out for one around Fairburn Ings.


St Aidan’s is also bursting with sound again now that Spring is fully sprung - from booming bitterns and singing skylarks, to squabbling black-headed gulls. With so much activity in the reedbeds and the opening of the Little Owl Café, St Aidan’s is continuing to be a haven for both nature and people.

Recent sightings at St Aidan's include:

  • Little owl, barn owl,  peregrine falcon, hobby, kestrel, red kite, buzzard, and marsh harrier.
  • Dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, oystercatcher, turnstone, common sandpiper, little egret, cattle egret, great white egret, spoonbill, whooper swan, arctic tern, little gull, kittiwake, black tailed godwit, pintail,  whimbrel, lapwing, garganey, and gadwall.
  • Garden warbler, whinchat, wheatear, lesser whitethroat,  yellow wagtail, sand martin, swallow and swift.

Barn owl in flight at St Aidan's (Reece Smith)

Did you know?

  • Little owls can be seen in the daylight, usually perching on a tree branch, telegraph pole or rock. However, at St Aidan’s, they can often be spotted perched on the wood pile behind ‘Oddball’ – the large dragline excavator which sits by the car park.
  • The black-headed gull colony at St Aidan’s can reach over 1000 pairs in spring and summer - they make an amazing amount of noise, and provide protection for some of the rarer wetland birds breeding on site.

We hope you get to enjoy some of the spring spectacles on site soon - happy spotting!

Katie Ritchie and Reece Smith