We were off on our travels once again this time staying in the UK, and traveling north to the county of Northumberland. When the alarm went off at 5.00 am there was a really strange light outside. It was a very eerie yellow light. Friday was very hot and humid, and overnight the forecast thunderstorms had moved up from the south. It would seem that at the precise hour we woke up the clouds were allowing a small amount of the rising sun through and this was refracted as a golden yellow light. Looking out from kitchen to the south the sky was dark, and the sun was casting a very strange rainbow.
When we set off at 5.30 we almost immediately drove into rain, and heading north on the A34 towards Oxford there was a dramatic fork lightning show in front of us. The rain finally eased as we turned onto the A43, and by the time we had reached the M1 the roads were dry and we were leaving the storms behind us.
The journey was around 380 miles, so we intended to stop a few times along the route. The main stop was to the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings just outside Castleford. I have heard this reserve mentioned many times but never actually visited it, so here was an opportunity.
The reserve consists of wetland habitats that have been created as a result of subsidence around several old coal pits. The RSPB now manage the area which consists of
open water, wet grassland, reedbed and wet woodland. While other
habitats, including dry grassland, deciduous woodland and lagoons, have been
restored on the former coal spoil heaps.
As pulled into the car park the sun was out, and it was quite humid, away to the south west the skies were a little murky so it was doubtful how long we would get. There is an area of pools and ponds around the visitor centre, and it was here we explored first. As we walked along the paths it seemed that every birch tree held a singing Willow Warbler.
In the reeds alongside the small streams that ran through the area were a lot of blue-tailed and Azure Damselflies. These would sit either on the path or on the leaves. This one a Blue-tailed.
The one damselfly that I wanted to photograph, a Banded Demoiselle refused to stop, and eventually flew through the trees and out of sight
A blind over one of the small canals provided the opportunity to look and wait for Kingfishers, but they never showed, and to be fair I would not have wanted to fish in the water as it was covered in pollen and seeds from the trees.
The path then opened up and to our right hand side there was a large pool known as the Big Hole with Black-headed Gulls, Lapwings and a few juvenile Herons on an island, and on the water several pairs of Tufted Duck
We took the path that we thought ran alongside the River Aire to the north east, but while the river was there we couldn't see it due to the dense trees. Blackcaps and more Willow Warblers sang from within the trees, and above us we could hear Common Terns.
Where the sun was able to break through the leaves there were Speckled Wood butterflies.
And a slightly different view.
A visit to one hide was quickly aborted as it was infested with mosquitoes, and with the dark clouds now above us we decided to head back to the visitor centre. just before we reached the centre it started to rain, so we opted for a cup of tea, which we took to the balcony overlooking some feeders.
This proved a little bit of a bonus as while the reported Willow Tits didn't appear, a party of Tree Sparrows did and it was possible to get some close photographs.
I hadn't seen Tree Sparrow for at least 20 years and this year I have had some great views both at Dungeness in April, and now here today even better views.
Above us were four nestboxes, and the adults were waiting to go into them,
A pair of Bullfinches were using the feeders and while I do not normally like pictures of birds on feeders this male Bull finch looked too impressive to pass up.
The rain by now had stopped and the sun was back out, and it was again quite hot. We decided to go back along the trails by the visitor centre in the hope that we may find the demoiselle again. As we set off I noticed a large raptor drifting over the trees, Red Kites seem to be everywhere these days.
First stop was the Pick Up hide that overlooked open water. The water though was not the main attraction, once again feeders were attracting a family party of Tree Sparrows, the youngsters begging for food from the adults when they could probably fend for themselves now.
Three young birds would sit on the branches of the bramble waiting to be fed. they are just beginning to get the characteristic black spot around the ear coverts.
Suddenly all the small birds flew off, and on the feeder appeared this Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Along the right hand side of the hide was an artificial Sand Martin Bank, and for once it was occupied by actual Sand Martins. the birds would fly in and chatter away to each other at the entrance to the hole.
All very social.
From the hide we headed back to the areas where we had seen the damselfies earlier in the hope of finding something else.
There was no sign of the hoped for Demoiselle, but there were plenty of Azure Damselfies. This one a male
And here a female.
And finally all together.
The reserve is quite large and in the time we had we only grazed the surface. It was a pleasant way to break the journey, stretch the legs and to catch up with some of the birds we don't get enough of in Hampshire.
We finally arrived in Seahouses, or more specifically North Sunderland around 16.00, as we arrived the rain caught up with us although by now there were no storms just a short shower. We settled into the B&B, and with that the anticipation of another interesting week.