As we enter the quiet winter spell it’s an ideal time to develop your identification skills if you are new to birdwatching, or just enjoy a walk taking in the surroundings. The discovery trail is an excellent place to spot our smaller birds, plus redwings and fieldfares.

Redwing - Pete M

Take the time to stop for a while and see what you can find. Little gems such as goldcrests and treecreepers are easier to spot during the winter months, and don’t forget the feeders at the visitor centre where a 30min coffee break can produce such birds as willow tit, nuthatch, bullfinch, great spotted woodpecker and if you’re lucky a sparrowhawk looking for a meal. Not forgetting the flocks of finches darting around overhead, watch where they settle and see if you are lucky enough to find a lesser redpoll or siskin amongst them.

Wren - Pete M

The cattle egret looks as though it has departed for pastures new; the last recorded sighting was on the 9th December. It spent a total of 16 weeks on the reserve and was a bonus to what has been a great year at Fairburn.

Cattle egret and friend - Pete M


A great white egret was on spoonbill flash on the 1st December, infrequent visits of pintail and goldeneye have also been noted. Up to thirteen curlew have been seen in the surrounding fields as well as a single pink-footed goose on the 15th December, mingling with a flock of Canada geese. The resident whooper swan is still to be found on spoonbill flash. Raptors noted include a marsh harrier on 6th December and a pair of peregrines which are seen regularly around Lin Dike. A chiffchaff can also be heard and seen along the footpath close to the hide.

Main Bay and Village Bay

A single whooper swan visited on 1st December and up to 9 pintails have been seen. A juvenile glaucous gull has also been seen in the gull roost on four occasions. Three kingfishers were seen in the cut lane area during the webs count on 9th December.

Kingfisher - Pete M

Coal Tips

Raptors noted were a hen harrier early in the morning on 4th December and a marsh harrier later the same day. A barn owl has also been seen on a couple of occasions. Two bearded tits made an appearance on the 14th December but remain elusive. Up to four thousand starlings have been seen at dusk and the goosander roost count on 9th December was 121, the highest count so far. A woodcock was also seen at dusk around big hole; sightings vary from this area to the riverbank trail near to Red Shale Road.

Discovery Trail and visitor centre

A kingfisher was seen from pick up hide and also little egret and sparrowhawk. A surprise visitor to the hide, which surprised the occupants , was a weasel scampering along and disappearing down between the floor boards, only to stick it’s head back through for a second look and captured below on a phone!

Weasel - Joe Seymour

Other sightings of interest in the area of the feeders at the visitor centre have been of treecreeper, nuthatch and a chiffchaff.

The gull roost has contained up to 4500 herring gulls with the odd lesser black-backed gull making an appearance and a juvenile glaucous gull as mentioned earlier in the blog.

Herring gull - Pete M