It was an unseasonably summery day when I visited St Aidan's this week. A clear-blue-sky day with barely a breeze to stir the reeds. The insects were certainly taking advantage of the warm weather, with ladybirds taking to the air en masse. A few Small and Large White butterflies were exploring hedges and flowers all around the Park, while Small Coppers have been seen around the reedbeds and by the sluice. Migrant Hawker dragonflies were busy with some autumn mating in the reeds at the egde of Bowers Lake.
Migrant Hawker mating wheel
Of all our dragonflies, the Migrant Hawker flies the latest in the year, and can be seen from July into November. This species was a migrant visitor until the 1940s, before gradually becoming a resident breeder in the UK, and moving northwards.
Raptors have been frequent visitors to St Aidan's recently, with sightings of marsh harriers, red kites, and buzzards over the Ridge & Furrow and the Hillside. A peregrine was reported over on Astley too. And kestrels can be seen all over the Park. A sparrowkawk has put in a few appearances close to the Visitor Centre – where the tree sparrows share the hedge with reed buntings, greenfinches, goldfinches, dunnocks, and a song thrush. Plenty of tasty morsels there, then!
Male kestrel by Lowther Lake.
Around the Compound, Dragline, Car Park and Visitor Centre there has been plenty to see, including a green woodpecker, a great spotted woodpecker and a little owl, stock doves, starlings, and a jay, while the first redwings of the season passed by on the 7th. More then 20 golden plover flew over on the 6th. Take time for a coffee in the Centre - you never know what might fly by while you're admiring the view.
In between coffees, you can choose to head west towards the reedbeds. Up on the Pastures and Hillside there have been curlew, yellowhammers and another jay. The goosefields have played host to a flock of more than 70 linnets, greenfinches, reed buntings, meadow pipits and a ring-necked parakeet.
Stonechat points the way
In the Reedbeds there are several grey herons, many coots, bearded tits, a bittern, pochard with their amazing red eyes, cormorants, moorhens and tufted ducks. Beyond the reedbeds Astley is the place for shovelers, teal, gadwall and lapwings and Fleakingley Reservoir is welcoming another bittern and a little grebe.
A kingfisher has been seen doing circuits of the Park, following the ditch along the edge of the Ridge & Furrow and down along the southern edge of Main Lake. Other visitors to the Ridge & Furrow include stonechat, lapwing, redshank, curlew, a hobby, snipe, a jack snipe and Canada geese. A barn owl was seen hunting on the 6th.
Heading south, now, to Lemonroyd where great crested grebes dive alongside coots and tufted ducks. There was a family of mute swans camped out on the Causeway when I walked down – 5 healthy and rather large cygnets with mum & dad. On Main Lake there are teal, wigeon, pochard, and the ubiquitous coots.
Pochard: Ben Hall RSPB Images
The Warrens, in the trees to the south of Main Lake, has been upgraded since my last visit. Gone is the muddy path. Now there is a proper track leading to a set of new benches from which to watch the great tits, blue tits, dunnocks, blackbirds and robins on the feeding station. Or just sit and gaze over the lake listening to the calls of long-tailed tits like I did. There's plenty of sky, too, if marsh harriers are your thing.
Main Lake has a fair population of mute swans, cormorants, teal, mallards, gulls, pochard, and wigeon, with the muddy edges delighting dunlin and lapwings.
Continuing up past Lowther Lake to Bowers, I heard wrens and robins and saw a lone great crested grebe enjoying some solitary fishing on Lowther. Bowers offered great crested grebes, tufted ducks, coots and young mute swans.
Other sightings over the past week include a whooper swan at Black Pipe Bay, 80 pink-footed geese flying over, grey wagtails by the sluice, and a redpoll at the old lock.
Coming up at St Aidan's on Sunday 14th October is the next Community Litterpick. Stay all day, or just for an hour. It all helps! On Saturday 20th October come along to the St Aidan's Binocular & Telescope Hands On Day.
The St Aidan's Half Marathon takes place on 21 October from 10am. The reserve and car park may be busier than usual. Read more here.
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