Sunday, January 27, 2019

Visit to the Aire Valley. 26.1.2019

A long standing arrangement to explore the Aire Valley , near Leeds with Matthew was finally realised and proved to be remarkably productive and enjoyable.  But , first of all, it was a call into central Wakefield , and Sainsbury's , to avail ourselves of a group of Waxwings which are feeding in  the car park's trees . There. in the grey light post dawn, the small flock of Waxwings sat in immobile relief at the top of one of the trees. Had they roosted there I wonder ?   Preening and quietly sitting out they provided  great views and a good start to the day.

On to Calder Wetlands where a couple of Great Crested Grebe, Tufted, Mallard and Goldeneye were present, but little else. We then decided to cut across town to the NE and visit St. Aidans. This is a relatively new RSPB reserve , although the final negotiations have taken some time to complete. It's now fully operational with a  Visitor  Centre and car park and a full complement of access pathways around the site.

First of all we visited Lemonroyd Sewage Farm ( no good birdwatching day should be without one ). At least one of the Water Pipits present there was quickly located together with Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Chaffiches feeding around the beds before everything was disturbed and fled. . Nearby Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit , Wren, Robin and Stock Doves were present . Matthew had a brief view of two Green Sandpiper dropping into some favoured area at the far side of the site to which we attempted to gain access for an overview along a railway embankment, but failed.

The Aire Valley has seen much industrial activity over the years and its topographical features have changed as restoration processes have been completed. The site names of yesteryear still remain though ( Swillington, Mickletown, Allerton Bywater )  although many of the actual wetland areas I knew have been subsumed into newly formed features . St.Aidans is an extensive area ,best overlooked from the hillside on which the Visitor Centre is situated.

Even before we had left the Centre the Tundra Bean Goose had been located, feeding alone on one of the nearby open hillsides. Soon after other geese ( Grey lag Geese and Canada Geese ) were disturbed from nearby fields, descended on the site and managed to "redisribute " everything !! A walk down into the centre of the reserve provided views of a variety of duck, large numbers of Golden Plover and Lapwing overflying the site and single Curlew and Redshank.. Excellent views were then obtained of two Bearded Tits feeding in a fringing reedbed. We finally made our way back up to the Visitor Centre after resolving to visit again at some future point.  The reserve is new,  with the RSPB calling for suggestions from people of what they would like to see provided there in the future. Access footpaths appear to be already in place and no part of the reserve seemed devoid of people, people running, people with dogs , people on bikes and even someone swimming. They're a tough lot in Yorkshire !  Having said all that , the wildlife didn't seem to be at all affected by this ever-moving presence and maybe the multi use provision is a condition imposed by the local ( Leeds City ) council. Certainly I'll be back, as I can imagine that, early on a May morning, the site is a rewarding place to be , although perhaps before all the lycra begins to flash and flex !!  Given it's a well known fact that the Aire valley is a well established migratory highway, anything might be expected.

Onto the RSPB Fairburn Ings Reserve nearby where a cup of coffee was first priority on the agenda, taken whilst watching the frantic activity around the feeders.  Again, good views of duck as you might expect, particularly Shoveler, and Goosander.  A walk around one of the circuits provided views of  Lesser Redpoll, a good flock of Goldfinch and a variety of tit species including two Willow Tit , one of which was the leucistic individual we been tipped off about at the Centre. Again, a site where you could spend a full day and doubtless ratchet up a very good list of species seen. 

All in all ,a good day , and all before the rain set in mid afternoon !

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