Sunday, 24 June 2018

Leeds Birdfair

Yesterday was the third Leeds Birdfair at Rodley Nature Reserve. We got there early (as usual) so we could have a walk around first.

There were 'guides in the hides' at the first couple of hides and they were keeping an eye on the Grebes. We were lucky to see the Great Crested Grebes displaying a little before their youngster got in the middle of them! Also on the lagoon, Little Grebe, Mallard, Swans, Black-headed Gull and lots of Sand Martins flying around too.

Looking in one of the lift up boxes by the willow path we saw Toads.

On the duck marsh a Lesser black-backed Gull had a bird in the water, one of the guys who'd been watching when we went in thought it was a Starling. A Crow was trying to muscle in on the catch so the Gull flew off and ended up dropping it in the water! I spotted a Teal just behind the bank, which I later found out was the only one on the reserve as they usually move on to their breeding grounds for the summer. Gadwall were present along with their young.

A Reed Bunting stopped on the fence by one of the feeders.

We saw some beautiful Cygnets from the reedbed hide and a couple Coot chicks which were a lovely grey/black colour. A Pheasant was screeching by the hide and the Cormorants where in their usual place on the pylon.

In the reeds we heard more Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler and on Tim's field Crows and the odd Jackdaw were strutting around. A walk down the riverside brought a Whitethroat in the trees, a Chiffchaff calling and a few moths, butterflies and damselflies coming out with the sun including Small Tortoiseshell and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Carpet Moth

Blue-tailed Damselfly



A green Weevil was sat on top of a plant and Ladybirds were hidden amongst the leaves, we saw quite a lot of Ladybird larvae too.

In the Wild Flower meadow we were buzzed by Swallows and saw Meadow Brown butterflies everywhere, though they rarely stayed still. I just love the giant Dandelions, though I don't think that's their proper name!? 

On to the visitors centre where stalls were set up and where a strong smell of food kept wafting across to us as we'd been walking. So a couple of bacon sandwiches, a cuppa and a bun later we explored the stalls. I noticed a stall with vegetarian options, which looked lovely but I didn't see that till after we'd eaten!

Represented were The RSPB, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, BTO Gardenwatch, Spurn Point, Yorkshire Dragonflies, Yorkshire Naturalist Union, Leeds Swifts, Start Birding, Swillington Ings Bird Group, Leeds Green Spaces, A gentleman with some stunning photos offering workshops whose name i'm afraid I didn't get, a book stall featuring lots of Yorkshire based nature books, a local homemade jam/preserves/honey stall, I believe Calverley Beekeeping. An optics stall was also set up overlooking the reserve. Apologies if i've forgotten any!

The volunteers were doing a fantastic job running everything, the cakes and buns looked (and were) delicious and it was just a really good friendly atmosphere all round. I couldn't help picking up a couple of books......because well they're books! My daughter made a dragonfly and we picked up some information about a dragonfly challenge in July, you can find out more here. I ended up joining the Swillington Ings Bird Group and picked up their report for last year. I also discovered they cover a lot more than just St Aidan's so further exploring is required!

We'd decided to do the bird song walk at 2pm run by Linda from Start Birding who is also behind the Birdfair itself. There was quite a few people and we took a nice (if rather hot) walk around the reserve, with Linda picking out the birds singing - a Dunnock started us off - and giving us lots of information on the birds themselves. Also picked out were Swallows, Reed Bunting and Warbler, a Mistle Thrush landing on Tim's field (where we learnt it wasn't doing so well due to the lack of rain this year so far), a hovering Kestrel, Blackcap, Wren, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and finally a Whitethroat, which we'd failed to hear earlier but put in a burst of song as we were finishing the walk! We also talked about Swifts and how Leeds Swifts are working with other groups around the UK to help the declining population. I noticed later Chris Packham had tweeted about the bird fair and the work of Leeds Swifts. We were also lucky with a Weasel which ran down the willow path in front of the group! 

As it happened it wasn't the only Weasel we saw, we stopped to look over the gate in the car park, watching the Swallows flying around and the cows all lying down, as we walked away I turned around to watch a Damselfly and a Weasel was running across the gate where we'd just been stood!

We really enjoyed the day and i'm looking forward to next year already!

A few other photos from the day. 

Blue Tit

Small Skipper


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Fairburn Ings

Saturday morning we set out for Fairburn, they have set up a viewing point for the Spoonbills on the site and we thought we'd go have a look. We were there as it opened and saw young Tree Sparrows around the feeders.

The route to the viewing point is well sign posted and a lovely walk, we could hear a Cuckoo calling up near the Coal Tips.  

At the viewing point it didn't take long for us to spot the Spoonbills, one kept flying in and out of the trees to the second bird sat on the nest. We got talking to a couple of guys and they offered views through their scopes. The birds are stunning and the bills quite a work of art! I believe later that day they the eggs started to hatch, so here's hoping for successful 'teaspoons' again!

The viewpoint was getting busier so we moved on to let others take a look. One of the Spoonbills flew past us as we walked back across the field. From the pickup hide we could see Sand Martins are using the wall now, you can just see one on the photo.

Across the water we could see Gadwall and Moorhens with chicks. One came up to the edge of the water, which was also popular with the Pheasants and a Woodpigeon! A Green Woodpecker flew over. 

At the screen a couple of Squirrels were in and out of the undergrowth and all around we could hear the chirping of Great Tit fledgings, I think at least half a dozen but they were constantly on the move and quite well hidden in the trees.

We only walked as far a Big Hole as we were a little pushed for time today, we discovered (as is the norm!) we'd just missed a Bittern flying by about five minutes! We did see Lapwings, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Skylark and Swifts overhead. 

There were daisies all the way down the banking, beautiful to see. We found a Cinnabar Moth and a Blue-tailed Damselfly. My daughter has started taking her own photos of the flowers we find, she's getting quite good!

We saw a lot of Ladybirds all over the reserve

We walked down to the main bay before we left and saw the Avocets, the chicks were asleep on the mud and the parents were doing a good job of keeping away the Black-headed Gulls, a Shelduck was getting grumpy with the Mallards and behind us a Reed Bunting perched singing loudly. 

The guys we'd been speaking to earlier had mentioned about a Little Owl being seen just across the road from the reserve and my husband spotted it as we were driving off, a very nice little bonus!

Friday, 8 June 2018

30 Days Wild & a Patch Update

30 Days Wild started on the 1st June, a campaign to encourage people to do something wild even for just a few minutes each day. Not too difficult to do a little something each day for me, every day first thing I sit with a cuppa watching the birds in the garden for the Garden Birdwatch and for pure enjoyment! I Birdtrack my walk to work each morning and every evening sit with the best view of the garden in hope of seeing a Fox or a Hedgehog and if I check out of the patio doors sometimes a Pipistrelle bat. What i'm not so good at is regularly blogging about it but i'll try and post a little more over the month!

Onto a patch update, our Swifts were back over the house on the 8th May, a couple of days later than last year, although there was only 2 at first, we have 4 or 5 on a regular basis now, which is about right, we don't get many but a few is better than none! A couple of Swallows are back at the farm near work and this past couple of weeks a few House Martins have been around our street too.

The end of April saw Warblers passing through the garden, all Chiffchaff I think.

A few Black-headed Gulls are back around, usually in the centre of town and quite a few Herring Gulls fly over the house.

We have lots of juvenile Starlings taking over the garden, a couple of juvenile House Sparrows and one juvenile Robin but we only saw that a few times and then it disappeared. Our feeders are constantly being visited by Great and Blue Tits, the Blues especially are backwards and forwards right up until dusk. Only one visit from a Coal Tit in the past month though.


This one is not a great photo but it gives an idea of just how many Starlings we're getting at the moment!

Blue Tit

Other regular visitors include Blackbirds, Woodpigeons, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Goldfinch and a Magpie. Unfortunately one of our local Magpies got hit by a car last week whilst being chased by another, beyond help i'm afraid.




Squirrels are still visiting often and we have mice coming to the window feeder, there are slight differences between them so it's not just the same one. The Hedgehog had been coming in nightly but I haven't seen it since last week though that may be because it's getting darker later i'm going to bed before it comes in! We did have a funny moment a couple of weeks back where a Fox got spooked by the Hedgehog and it jumped half way down the garden!

We've also had a few moths in the garden, Brimstones nearly every evening, I managed to get a slightly blurry photo as it rested on the ivy. Also a beautiful Cinnabar moth, possibly from one of the caterpillars we had on the Ragwort last year.

Cinnabar Moth

Brimstone Moth

Down in the woods the Blue and Great Tits have fledged lots of youngsters, their chirping follows you around, a good year for them. A Blackcap pair were nesting but they seem to have disappeared unfortunately, i'm not sure what happened there. Woodpigeons are still nesting in quite a few of the trees and we have seen at least one juvenile Robin. There is a general lack of Chiffchaff in the woods this year, i've only heard one singing, last year there were several and 3 or 4 Blackcap too so a little disappointing. There are both Song and Mistle Thrush in the woods and we hear the Song Thrush singing often.


Stock Dove 

Great Tit 

Song Thrush


The park in the centre of town has plenty of birds, Rooks, Jackdaw, Magpie, Crows, Woodpigeons, Blackbirds, both Song and Mistle Thrush as well as the smaller birds too - Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Wrens and Dunnocks. I even had a Greenfinch one morning, these are few and far between here.

Dartmouth park seems to be lacking in the smaller birds possibly due to the removal of all the bushes and trees they frequented, at the moment it's just a barely grassed patch of land.


I've finally spotted the Red Kite around town, though everyone else in the family has managed it to see it this year, i've only been able to add it to the patch list about 3 weeks back. A Heron is around often, it landed on the neighbours roof at one point, apparently it's eaten all the small fish in their pond.......karma maybe for her dislike of our lovely local foxes and wishing she could shoot them........

We've had a constant flow of Holly Blue butterflies around our trees and ivy, they do not like posing for photos though! There's also been a few Speckled Wood and the odd Large White.

The flowers in the garden have been blooming and we've had lots of bees around.



And finally some photos of the Sparrows that frequent the front garden.