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Thursday, December 20, 2012

You 'slag' lol, only joking .... its Fairburn Ings!

I drove down the AI(M) recently to get my car seen to by my nephew and on passing the turn off for Ferrybridge within 20 minutes of setting off I realised that Fairburn Ings, a notable RSPB reserve, was closer to me than I'd previously thought so a couple of days ago I decided to pay said reserve a visit. 

Now it was a dullish day but rain was forecast for the next 3 or 4 so I thought I'd better make the most of things and since I'd done the vast majority of my Christmas shopping the day before I reckoned I deserved a treat.

Fairburn won't win any awards for being picturesque, situated just a few miles outside of Castleford and in the shadow of Ferrybridge power station, its the remains of an old Yorkshire coalfield. Big old slag heaps, although now now largely covered with vegetation, loom large wherever you look and the various water bodies (the result of subsidence of former coal-mine workings) have a distinctly gritty, industrial feel. The RSPB though have done a smashing job here though and with a breeding Avocets and regular rarities seen here, its one of the top reserves in the North of  England.

How's this for an industrial looking bird hide!
My lens, with a fixed aperture of 5.6, is not a great performer in poor light so just as well that Fairburn is one of those photography friendly reserves with plenty of hides and those screens with holes just big enough to poke a long lens through!

No Avocets this time of year of course but plenty of Goosanders around (I reckoned on about 30) and here's a pleasing shot of 3 males.

Lots of Grey Herons about too, always good to capture ...... they stalk around in the reeds


hang around in trees .....


...... and have been known to catch the odd fish!

 Cormorants on the other hand are maybe not the most photogenic of creatures and I know the anglers around here and elsewhere hate them because they take fish by the bucket load. Fair do's I say and just as Peregrine Falcons have I'm sure learnt that the Weekends are great for hunting racing pigeons, maybe Cormorants seek out gangs of rubber clad men with rods & poles! There were about 10 perched high up on overhead power lines surveying the scene when I was there but this one taking a lunch break made for a better picture!
Around midday the cloud cover intensified rendering anything but close up shots a bit of a lottery. Shame really because after being a tad frustrated by skittish winter thrushes I was coming into to reasonably tame Redwings and Fielfares. I pulled off a few reasonable shots and given the light these haven't turned out too bad but I think a return visit on a bright day is definitely in the offing! The Redwing came out best I think because although I managed to capture the Fieldfare feeding on berries  there was an unseen twig in my near vision that's definitely taken some detail away from the bird's shoulder area .... (argh, why do we look too closely!)

Around the visitor centre at Fairburn there are as many bird feeders as I've seen anywhere. It costs me a tenner a week to keep my garden stocked with various bird seeds and fruit so it must cost the RSPB a small fortune! Money well spent? Yes definitely ... as well as ensuring small birds survive harsh weather snaps, bird feeding stations provide an instant hit for people young and old, capturing their attention and of course their donations!

Great for the odd photo opportunity too, although from a photogenic point of view, any bird captured actually on a feeding station does tend to look a bit 'naff', so I tend to look for 'landing' shots .... where a bird lands immediately before or after feeding. Here's a few examples from 30 minutes or so at one of the feeding stations at Fairburn with not a fat ball or a peanut sack in sight, why if I hadn't already told you these could have taken in some remote arboreal forest!
Long Tailed Tit

Tree Sparrow

Reed Bunting

Looking at that last picture reminded me of the many Reed Buntings I saw over wintering France (many more than you get here ..... flocks into the hundreds!). No different race than you get here as far as I'm aware but here's a couple of Frenchies .... better light!! 

Lastly here's a pretty smart looking Black Headed Gull, not anywhere near the feeders but I have them occasionally in my garden picking up the scraps that all the other birds tend to leave ... pizza crusts usually! I have to say that I tend to have a bit of blind spot about gulls generally but having seen many fine pictures of gulls of all descriptions on various blogs recently (most of them better than this one!), I'm determined to give them more of a look. I'm not convinced they make pleasing subjects for the camera but my word there seem to be more rare / unusual gulls being seen these days ..... Caspian Gull? Never heard of them before this year!


  1. Fairburn doesn't to look to bad,though that hide reminds of the old tool shed at work lol. Great post Tim, if I'm ever in the area I'll have to pop in.

  2. Great photos. Love you birds over there. Thanks for stopping by my blog.