Coach Trip To Fairburn Ings & North Cave – 29th March 2015

Despite the poor weather forecast and an effective start time of 6.30am, due to the beginning of British summer time, 24 of us set out for what was to be a very enjoyable day’s birding. Arriving at the western fringes of the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings, we were greeted by the distinctive call of the Chiffchaff, a sure sign that spring had sprung! On a short walk along a path to the first hide we were delighted by brief views of a Willow Tit and a splendid male Sparrowhawk perched in a willow tree. From the hide overlooking the lagoon there was a good variety of duck on view, including Pintail, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Teal and Shellduck along with a pair of Great Crested Grebes performing their magnificent display ritual. Back along the path we had close views of reed buntings before the short coach trip onto the main reserve centre where two Red-Legged Partridges were spotted in a field opposite the car park.

The feeders in front of the Visitor Centre were very busy with a good variety of smaller birds including, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Reed Buntings. Out on the main reserve we were given the location of a birch tree to search for a pair of Tawny Owls that had been regulars over the previous few days but they had moved on or were very well hidden! A lucky few were compensated with views of kingfisher but out on the main lagoon there was a good variety of duck and gulls and a single Avocet was joined by its mate, and stayed in view long enough for us all to see. Back to the coach for 1pm we journeyed on to North Cave, a Marsh Harrier was spotted from the coach from the motorway as we approached the turn-off.

North Cave proved to be a real surprise. It is four years since the group last visited this reserve, run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and things have certainly changed considerably since then. The history and development of the site is very interesting and shows what can be achieved. The existing 96 acre site was bought by the Wildlife Trust after a failed planning application for landfill and the subsequent enlargement in phase 2 of 105 acres was the result of cooperation with Humberside Aggregates. In return for supporting the extraction of sand and gravel the land is restored for wildlife and given over to the Wildlife trust along with funds for hides and management. A final third stage currently underway will be completed in 2020 adding another 140 acres to what will be a very significant habitat and reserve.

Our first port of call was to a splendid new wooden hide/viewing platform opposite the mobile café, the entrance to which had a colony of some 15 to 20 House Sparrows in the hedgerow. From the platform itself we had close views of a Kestrel hovering over the lake that held a couple of Avocets, numerous ducks and gulls. It wasn't long before Brian identified the two reported Mediterranean Gulls amongst the many Black-headed Gulls. Walking up the lane alongside the new wetland areas we had close views of a solitary Ruff and good numbers of Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, as well as Dunlin and Redshank. At the end of the lane was the magnificent new Crosslands Hide, which was a 60 square metre timber framed construction with a straw bale infill giving good views to the newly opened up and developing areas of the reserve. It was from here that a few members spotted an early Swallow and Sand Martin, the latter being one of some 500 birds that have bred in nearby quarries and feed over the reserve according to records from previous years.

Around the rest of the reserve which consisted of more lakes and mixed habitat we added Little Grebe, Red legged Partridge and Brambling to our list. We had been lucky with weather so far but by late afternoon the wind was gathering force and by 5pm I think everyone was more than happy with their day’s birding. As a group we notched up an impressive 77 species.

STEVE McG.

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