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Post Info TOPIC: St Aidans

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RE: St Aidans


Thanks, just what I wanted to know. I am familiar with the overall site, I've seen some great birds there such as my lifer Richard's Pipit and Night Heron and an Iceland Gull we found ourselves, plus there can't be many places where you get better views of Black-necked Grebe and the chance for cracking photos like yours. Due a revisit I guess!




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Simon. There is now a visitors centre and they have just added toilets. work is on going and it was full of RSPB workers and volunteers. The centre is at the drag excavator and it only has one hide still but the way its laid out you can view/photograph birds really well. The place is huge and as well as black necks they have bearded reedlings, bitterns (although I didn't see them) as well as all the usual's. I also noticed it's in the last edition of RSPB magazine, so they are really pushing this site and its well worth a visit. Hope this helps.


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Hi Carl,

Slightly off topic but did you notice any RSPB presence there? I see they have started actively promoting the site as St.Aidans and I wondered if they had introduced any visitor facilities or such. I haven't been there for a year or two and there was just the hide run by the local birders group, which you needed permission to access, plus the locked up hut at the top by the drag excavator.




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Took my first trip here to see the Black-necked grebe (a first for me)and was not disappointed. Two showing really well (see pics) but with a lot of other birds this place is well worth a visit.


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Thursday 20th July
After work visit 7.30-10pm

- Caspian Tern
No sign since 7pm some said when it went to roost out of sight behind an island, others said it was last seen late afternoon.
Whichever the scenario I didn't see it.

Other birds of note...
- Black Tern 1 moulting adult
- Common Terns
- Scaup 1
- Little Owl 1
- Hobby 1 (chasing Swifts then catching Dragonflies)
- Grasshopper Warbler 1 seen, 3 heard only

Plus the usual good numbers of other birds around.


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20th July. 14.00 hrs.

With Ian Lyth.

Good close views of the Caspian Tern out on the spit with Black-headed gulls.

Eventually took flight after about 30 mins .... headed towards river.

It dwarfed the gulls when in flight.


Blessed is the man who expecteth little reward ..... for he shall seldom be disappointed.

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The next stop was St Aidans - the reopened reserve run by the RSPB which was formerly and to many is still known as Swillington Ings. The reserve was opened by the RSPB in May 2013 but within weeks a land ownership dispute was started. However, for now it has been resolved and this beautiful emerald bowl in summer is a must visit. In terms of facilities there is a toilet, a make yourself a coffee machine where one certainly was made and a little shop with some snacks in the form of crisps, drinks and pre-packed cakes of which the latter was certainly bought.


We sat outside of the visitor centre over looking the reserve when I noticed a raptor in the air. As we watched we noted the fork tail and it flew above the centre. Within minutes not one but two Kites flew over in the opposite direction. I had visited this area 8 times over the last 4 years and although Red Kites are regularly sighted I had yet to see one over this particular reserve.  A small falcon drifted towards the reserve flapping sometimes. The raptor fest over the visitor centre continued with a Hobby now on the list.


For those wanting to visit this reserve there are 3 bits of advice:-


1. There are no hides


2. There are lots of trails maybe even up to or even above 13km.


3. It can get hot on a hot day!


We walked up the hillside where Skylark, and Meadow Pipit dominated with an occasional sprinkling of Whitethroat and Yellowhammer. We then headed down the hillside and through the meadow towards the reed beds and pools. The air was full of the sounds of Black-headed Gulls and Warblers singing.  We heard a Yellow Wagtail calling but did not see it. I looked back and saw a large bird in the air which was rising fast and hurrying to the other side of the reserve. It looked like it did not want to be out and if it had to be out, it did not want to be this high up in the open for everyone to see. It was a Bittern! There were lots of Pochard around too. Two more Bittern flew across and another one we just missed. There were Avocets along the edges of the pools and Redshank in the meadows. There were lots of Common Terns many coming very close and some with fish in their beak for their loved ones. 


We caught site of the white head striped one and I watched as the Garganey disappeared into the reeds.  Then another Red Kite sighting and this one much closer but pursued by nesting Gulls. Within minutes the final Bittern of the day - they all were heading in one direction probably to feed.  It was like a Bittern relay - who could get to the other side quickest?  Then a duck rose from the meadow. The underwing pattern caught my eye - its brown head and thick white stripe confirmed its identity.


The car park closed at 8pm but we decided to head off at 6.45pm. A very good day of birding. 4 Garganey in a day was a record for me not to forget at least 3 individual Bitterns and maybe 4 individual Kites. One thing that concerned me was the lack of butterflies - a perfect habitat with the right season and weather but few sighted.

-- Edited by Sarfraz Hayat on Wednesday 24th of May 2017 08:59:21 PM


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Early doors visit today to Swillington ings / St.Aidans.

Target bird was the juv Glaucous Gull that roosted last night with the adult Iceland Gull but I was too late. A couple of familiar Swilly faces told me they had flown (most likely to the tip) before I got there, and I was a bit more cut up when one of them said I'd not long since missed an adult Glaucous Gull too! The hurt builds!

Birds of note...
1 Green Woodpecker
1 male Bullfinch
1 Red Kite
2 Kestrel
3 Great Black-backed Gull
A large flock of Lapwing and probable Golden Plover
Plus all the usual winter Wildfowl

...plus a text off Ian to notify the sighting of a Black-throated Thrush at Adwick Washlands


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Hi Simon and Mike,

Glad you enjoyed the reserve! I feel it is one of the best reserves within the North West and Yorkshire and in some ways better than Leighton Moss. I plan to go again possibly this weekend. The meadows should be full of flowers by then. I really wonder why won't more people go there.



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Rob Creek, Steve Burke and I visited here at the end of March, but Rob posted our sightings in the West Yorkshire thread. I hadn't realised this thread was for the same place; we heard the saga of the ownership of the land and access rights etc from a local on the day. Anyhow, I have copied over the bits we described as Swillington Ings to here, as they describe the same place:

Swillington Ings. [29/03/15]
"If you've never been to this place then you need to. Well worth a visit, it's a wide open wetlands area with very little obscuring vegetation. Reedbeds, marsh, lakes, spits, islands, and with access paths enabling good views.
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose - 1 single then small group over
Pochard - plenty around
Tufted Duck
Gadwall - lots feeding in fields and on water
Shoveler - most I've ever seen
Goosander - I missed 2 flying over whilst looking for Glaucous Gull
Great Crested Grebe - 4 or 5, 2 close up flyovers
Little Grebe - 2
Black-necked Grebe - 2 splendid adults in breeding plumage
Bittern - heard only, constant booming all afternoon
Grey Heron
Red Kite - 1 drifting over edge of reserve (we weren't far from Harewood House)
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - probably 5
Kestrel - 2
Water Rail - heard only
Green Woodpecker - 1 flew up off the ground infront of us and into the scrub at the riverside
Golden Plover - at least 700 total in 3 quick succession groups
Dunlin - 1
Common Snipe
Black-headed Gull - everywhere
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull - only 1 or 2 adults around (possibly more juv)
Juvenile Iceland Gull - well picked out Simon
Possible Yellow-legged Gull candidate (unconfirmed as yet, not counted in total)
Sand Martin - approx 25 through in total
Water Pipit - 1, I missed this one!
Pied Wagtail
Song Thrush - 1 on kerb at side of the lane down to reserve
Plenty of Robin
Jay - 2 feeding with Gadwall and Canada Geese
Goldfinch - I had 1 singing on traffic lights near reserve
Bullfinch - 3, 1 pair together calling, another female flew in
Linnet - 1
Reed Bunting - lots of them
Starling - a few groups around totalling a few 100
Chiffchaff - 1 seen, 2 more heard
Cetti's Warbler - heard only on way back to hide
Lots of usuals around"

-- Edited by Simon Gough on Monday 20th of April 2015 11:54:50 AM


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Visited today with Mike Ausberger after our Ouzel-ticking trip to Dovestones. Only got around part of the reserve but still had a decent time.
Highlights: Black-necked Grebe (2), Yellow Wagtail (1m), Garganey (2m 1f) Black-tailed Godwit (14), Common Tern (3 -first of the year for both of us), Bittern and Kingfisher heard. Oh and a site rarity -another male Ring Ouzel biggrin

Bus pass birdin' great innit?

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This Sundays plan was to cross the border into Yorkshire and visit two RSPB sites within the West of the County. The first would be Swillington Ings renamed as St Aidans by the RSPB and the last would be Fairburn Ings a more established reserve. Swillington Ings aka as St Aidans was opened officially to the public by the RSPB in May 2013 however a legal dispute resulted in complications leading to them temporarily closing their visitor office their but still open access to the public.

Arriving just after 9am with Craggy we started from the former visitor centre and worked our way up the small hill planted with scrub and small trees. It was a dry cold cloudy day but the sounds of Skylarks which filled the reserve lifted our spirits. Skylarks were a key target species for this reserve and large sections were left as grassland, meadow and pasture. The lake in front of the closed visitor centre had a Swan, some Coot and Tufted Ducks. As form previous experience the reserve looked bleak and devoid of any wildlife worth saving by a large conservation organisation. It is only when you follow the path back down from the hill and the cacophony of Black-headed Gulls fill the air. From the view point the wetlands consisting of lagoons, lakes and ponds fringed by reed beds and surrounded by grasslands and meadows pans out. The valley below was like a bowl covered in Golden winter vegetation. The Golden Bowl was flaked by white flakes, moving flakes which were Black-headed Gulls.

The reserve was very different to what people may expect. There were lots of people walking through enjoying the green open spaces, dog walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Lots of human activity but lots of birds and some quite rare. It was very open plan with just one hide. It was 440 hectares and if you followed every path you could easily do 13 km. I enjoyed the open plan style of the reserve as it enabled you to see more and feel an actual part of the reserve. Most nature reserves had hides but within these hides it feels like you are an observer cut off and looking at this separate world. Although I would not come on a wet day!

A boom surprised us and reminded us the elusive Bittern was present somewhere. It boomed from somewhere in the reed bed but no sighting. It repeated this 3 times through out the course of the day. A large flock of Black-headed Gulls were worth scanning for the rarer but strangely handsome Mediterranean Gulls. We searched through but no luck we moved up the path to the lake and another birdwatcher said e had been watching at least one but it moved to where we were standing five minutes ago. We moved back and picked out a dark hood with a very red beak in the colony, and then a second. A lifer for Craggy. The birdwatcher had recorded 182 species at the reserve in 2014 and he had not even seen the most.

The sun came out adding light to the golden reeds and turning the water blue. Near some lakes were gorse in bloom. The blue water, golden reeds and the deep yellow flowers of the gorse reminded you that there could be natural beauty without greenery and in the depth of the winter chill. The reserve was a true jewel and hopefully the RSPB can establish their presence their full time.

Here is a list of birds that we saw:-

1. Black-headed Gull FI

2. Common Gull

3. Lesser Black-Backed Gull FI

4. Great Black-Backed Gull FI

5. Mediterranean Gull

6. Herring Gull FI

7. Cormorant FI

8. Kestrel FI

9. Buzzard

10. Marsh harrier

11. Pheasant FI

12. Golden Plover

13. Lapwing

14. Dunlin

15. Redshank

16. Black-tailed Godwit

17. Snipe

18. Oystercatcher

19. Bittern

20 Grey Heron FI

21. Water Rail

22. Coot FI

23. Moorhen FI

24 Great Crested Grebe FI

25. Little Grebe

26. Teal FI

27. Wigeon FI

28. Shoveler FI

29. Pintail FI

30 Gadwall FI

31. Mallard FI

32. Shelduck FI

33. Tufted Duck FI

34. Pochard FI

35. Goldeneye FI

36. Goosander FI

37. Greylag FI

38. Canada Goose FI

39. Mute Swan FI

40. Wren FI

41. Long Tailed Tit FI

42. Blue tit FI

43. Great Tit FI

44. Stonechat

45. Robin FI

46. Dunnock FI

47. Goldfinch FI

48 Reed Bunting FI

49 Meadow Pipit FI

50. Pied Wagtail

51. Skylark

52. Starling

53. Song Thrush FI

54. Blackbird FI

55. Jay FI

56. Magpie FI

57. Carrion Crow FI

58. Stock Dove

59. Feral Pigeon FI

60. Woodpigeon FI

We then made our way to Fairburn Ings and first stop was at the café for a Mocha and a slice of chocolate orange cake! Once inside it was time to work that off. We made our way to the feeding screen to see if any Willow Tits were around.

Fairburn Ings was in complete contrast to Swillington Ings in my eyes. It was less open plan, more trees and with the smaller pools a large lake which was more of a favourite for the diving ducks and views could be quite distant.

On the feeders we managed to get sightings of Willow Tit which made repeated visits. Only one bird was seen at a time so it was likely it was the same bird. We were told there were just 5 pairs present on the reserve. Willow Tits are a fast declining species which are found in select pockets of the country now. It was my first sighting of the year and a lifer for Craggy. We managed to see all the other regular feeder birds but the Bullfinch. We did pick up a pew pew pew and managed to locate a male in a tree. In the bare branches the male Bullfinch who was clearly in his best breeding plumage looked like a shiny juicy red apple. Another rarity was the Tree Sparrow which was seen in reasonably good numbers on the feeders.

We walked along the trail and managed to hear a Kingfisher, see our first Sand Martins of the year and a singing Chiffchaff which gave very good views eventually but for a few seconds. Towards the end of the day we were pointed in the direction of a Tawny Owl, saw a flock of Redwings, and then Fieldfare, a covey of 12 Red Legged Partridges and 3 Little Egrets from the Lyn Dyke Hide

We managed to add the following new species on the day list at Fairburn:-

61. Goldcrest

62. Willow Tit

63. Coal Tit

64. Treecreeper

65. Chiffchaff

66. Sand Martin

67. Tree Sparrow

68. Chaffinch

69. Greenfinch

70. Bullfinch

71. Redwing

72. Fieldfare

73. Jackdaw

74. Great Spotted Woodpecker

75. Collared Dove

76. Red-Legged Partridge

77. Little Egret

78. Tawny Owl

NB: Birds seen at St Aidans and Swillington Ings are in the first list and will have FI in the sentence. Water Rail, Kingfisher and Bittern were just heard. Notable omissions were House Sparrow, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail and for that part of the world - Red Kite. An American Wigeon was present at a lake in Normanton but we decided against going to see it. The following birds were seen but :-

1. Peregrine - seen by Craggy only in Rawtenstall

2. Mistle Thrush perched on a lamp post seen just as we got onto the m62 but not seen by Craggy

3. Rook - seen at usual spot on m62 in the Rochdale borough.

4. Linnet - small flocks of finches seen although written of at Reed Buntings - I forgot they could have ben Linnet and forgot to observe them.


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Sarfraz Hayat wrote:

Some photos off the reserve on my flickr site:-


Looks like a stunning place. Some nice habitat too.

Some of my photos. www.flickr.com/photos/nickish77

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Some photos off the reserve on my flickr site:-



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I visited the new RSPB reserve St Aidans today near Swillington in Yorkshire. Today was the opening day and we decided to arrive early so we would not have to struggle parking. Arriving at 9.20am there were just 4-5 cars parked and there appeared more staff and volunteers than visitors. Although within the next minute 3 more cars arrived and within the next 10 minutes there appeared to be 12-13 cars in total. The staff and volunteers were very welcoming and optimistic. I did feel sorry for them and was worried the turn out would be quite low. The visitor centre is quite small with a toilet, a coffee machine, sandwiches and some cookies. The café has a view over a lake and a meadow which looked quite bleak and had 1-2 birds present on it. Recent sightings included Garganey, Little Gull, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red Kite, Whinchat, Bittern and Black-necked Grebe.
We set off on the Hillside Walk at first where a number of trees have been planted to create a small woodland. In the scrub and hedgerows were Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Whitethroat and Blackcap. The sky was alive with the sound of Skylarks who must have nested in the Pastures to the right along with Meadow Pipits who were also busy parachuting in excitement. It was a beautiful day and once upon the hill we got a lovely view of the reserve and were impressed. Below us lay a patchwork of wetland, reedbed and pathways with a frenzy of Black-headed Gulls in the air. The pasture was speckled yellow with buttercups and there were a number of Orange-tipped Butterflies.
We took a slightly wrong turning heading towards the woodland and then just to remind us it was Spring we heard a once familiar call of the season. It was a Cuckoo and it was calling from very close. I saw two Kestrels in flight coming very close but then I realised that one was in fact a Cuckoo! I was shocked and excited as I had never seen one before and hoped to finally see one this summer. My thoughts drifted to the other bird maybe that was also a Cuckoo? I could understand why some could confuse them with Sparrowhawks and Kestrels. I had waited years to see a Cuckoo and maybe I managed to see two, the second one would always be the one that got away. From the woodland sang a Chiffchaff and present were a Great Tit and a Chaffinch.
We followed back to where we came from and decided to do the Reedbed Ramble. We left the peace of grassland and meadows with its symphony of Skylarks behind and into the world of the raucous cacophony of the Black-headed Gulls. On the left was the Albert reedbed where Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Buntings greeted us with their song. The former two were the loudest yet only the latter was kind enough to give good views. On the right were Fleakingley Reservoir and Astley Lake. Common wetland birds such as Moorhen, Coot, Greylag goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Grey Heron were present at various spots around the reserve. Cormorants, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebes were also present. Flitting above were Swallows, Swifts, Sand Martins and some House Martins. We stopped before Astley Lake and out of the vegetation flew a large bird over our heads. It was the closest and only in flight view I ever had of a Bittern. They appeared to be much stockier than Grey Herons. Redshank, Avocet, Oystercatcher and Lapwing were some of the more common waders present.
We then headed around the Victoria reedbed on one side and the Lemonroyd Lake on the other. A Common Tern passed above our head. Woodpigeons, Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Carrion Crows and Magpies were present around the various area the latter two often being driven of by the Black-headed Gulls. A juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull was also present. We stumbled upon a pair of Black-necked Grebes, a bird which looked out of place here due to its striking colours. Back onto the grassland and we came across a Pied Wagtail, a Linnet flying over and a Willow Warbler singing from some scrub. We were told that a drake Garganey was showing well from a pool behind the Bowers Lake but it had disappeared by the time we arrived. It had moved to another part of the reserve. There were 4 drakes seen around the reserve but none by me.
After 4 hours we decided to call it a day and have a rest. We had a coffee which was free today and then decided to move onto Fairburn Ings. I was very impressed with the reserve and it is one of the few that can rival if not better Leighton Moss in the north. It did look bleak and empty at first but then it was teaming with life in some areas. It is a unique mixture off wetland, reedbeds, grassland and meadows with a recently planted woodland. There are plenty of walking trails but no hides! In fact one hide but I think that was closed off or the path to that was not that appealing to go too. The car park was almost full when we left. A complete lack of passerines here almost tits, finches and thrushes missing in numbers and variety of species. I would recommend visiting the reserve. I may even go back in early July to have a wander again. Maybe the meadows will come to life by then?

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