St Aidan’s continues to delight as summer rolls towards autumn and migration time.
Across the site, the hirondines are feeding up and getting ready to head south. Swallows and swifts, house martins and sand martins are still to be seen on the wing plucking insects out of the air. Within the next few weeks they will be off to feeding grounds thousands of miles away.
On the hillside, greylag and Canada geese are sharing their grazing space with hares and roe deer, and a barn owl has been seen hunting for small mammals. It isn’t the only hunter on the block – kestrels are frequently seen all over St Aidan’s, and we have had visits from a peregrine, several buzzards, hobbys, red kites and sparrowhawks. Glance up at the sky over the ridge & furrow and there’s a good chance you will see a marsh harrier or two.
On the ground on the ridge & furrow, the lapwings are putting the finishing touches to their parenting. Oystercatchers have also had a successful breeding season. They share the foraging with black-tailed godwits, curlew, snipe, greenshank, little egret, spotted redshank, and ringed plover, to a soundtrack of reed buntings, sedge and reed warblers. Recent sightings also include a kingfisher fishing in the ditch alongside the path.
Beautifully coiffured tufted ducks
Across the way in the reedbeds the bitterns enjoy the company of a variety of ducks and waders. There are black-necked, little and great crested grebes and their offspring. Greenshank, golden and ringed plover, wood and green sandpipers, and black-tailed godwits with their amazing long beaks are all poking about in the muddy margins. Tufted ducks, shelducks, gadwall, pochard, water rail and coots are ducking and diving, while grey herons peer down at them. And in the evenings they are all treated to regular starling murmurations.
A Leeds grey heron pondering
Astley is the best place to see the spoonbills at the moment, albeit from a distance. A spotting scope comes in very handy if you want a good view, but binoculars just about do the job. They share the lake with many adult mute swans and their adolescent cygnets, dozens of lapwing, a sprinkling of little egrets, more coots, musical curlew, dunlin, gadwall and snipe. When I was there this week, the air was full of the squeaky wheel sound of graceful common terns. A black tern has frequently been seen too, but I didn’t see it on this visit.
Little egret chasing a dragonfly snack
Walking along the southern edge of the site, I had a near miss when a green woodpecker buzzed my nose in its haste to avoid a sparrowhawk. I don’t know who was more alarmed! I was dreaming with the butterflies at the time. Common blues were surveying the flowers, as were green-veined whites, small whites, large whites and a few speckled woods.
Last but not least, the Visitor Centre and Dragline are still popular spots for little owls, while greenfinches, linnets and lesser whitethroats have also been seen recently.
There’s just one more Wednesday left before the children are back to school, so it’s your last chance for Bug Hunting. The Dusk Bat Walk on August 31st has sold out but you can still join us for the Community Muck In Day on Sunday 9th September, and Birding for Beginners with the fabulous Andy Chapman on Saturday 6th October.
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