Yesterday morning ( Saturday ) Matthew and I visited Fairburn Ings RSPB NR, near Castleford in the Aire Valley, a large, linear wetland reserve with a variety of different accompanying habitats. The weather was great ( until a torrential downpour in the afternoon, which we just missed ) and birdsong was in full swing in the glorious sunshine. Reed Warbler song brought a roadside reedbed alive and Blackbird and Whitethroat similarly performed in a nearby hedgerow with at least one Cuckoo calling in the distance. Common Terns and Black'headed Gulls "hawked" over the large water area, with groups of Grey lag Geese and Canada Geese moving overhead to nearby feeding pastures. We recorded an increasing number of different species and were very satisfied with what we'd seen by the end of our visit. My only gripe is with the opening and closing times at some RSPB reserves which are somewhat late and somewhat early, but let's not allow that to spoil what was an otherwise great day.
One thing we both remarked on, and which always fascinates me if I'm honest, is the changing fortunes of some species. Having lived away from Yorkshire for a number of years I find myself contrasting what "used to be" with what I now find. And it's not all bad news either , although we are faced with some parallel situations that generate serious concern. But let's set those aside for later treatment. Many years ago, as a young birder, I would have been thrilled by sightings of breeding Cormorants and Common Terns and numbers of Gadwall and of Common Buzzard. Changes that, understandably, are perhaps taken for granted by our emergent generation of young birders. But what of more exciting changes still, and changes that have taken place in the relatively recent past too ! What of Little Egrets, of which we had several yesterday, of Avocet, of which a pair of birds appeared particularly hefted to a small island, of Cetti's Warbler, which sang lustily from roadside bushes adjacent to marshland and of Red Kite, a single bird of which drifted around at the western end of the reserve. Such would have been a red letter day of first class proportions ! Not all changes have been the product of direct conservation initiatives, e.g. the release schemes for Red Kite, but are still a part consequence of consistent action by conservation organizations like the RSPB who have continued to protect a wide variety of sites through direct ownership. A role that RSPB , Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and local authorities must receive recognition for. Long may that situation continue
For this day, at least, there were several things to really celebrate and enjoy. Let's draw strength from that enjoyment and stiffen our resolve and commitment to address the parallel problems referred to above. Beyond this, the task is to simply get out and enjoy the great variety of birdlife which is available to us!