With the Christmas season fast approaching (already!!) we made a long overdue visit to Leeds last week to stay with Emma’s family. A great time was had by all and I got the opportunity to indulge in two of my favourite Yorkshire activities; searching the moors in the vague hope of photographing some Red Grouse and enjoying a walk around the RSPB’s fantastic Fairburn Ings reserve.
My first visit to Fairburn Ings last year was memorable for the dense fog that shrouded the whole reserve in semi-darkness. Visibility was such that walking along the raised embankment between the two lakes I was only aware of their presence from the sound of the ducks. Obviously this had somewhat of an impact on what we could see but it was also incredibly frustrating when we reached the visitor centre feeders and I was unable to take any photographs. Tree Sparrows and Willow Tits, both species I see very rarely, were feeding only a few meters away but there just wasn’t enough light to get anything usable.
This time round things were looking up as we set off under clear blue skies. The closer we got though the duller it became until once again we arrived at Fairburn in the fog. In an effort to at least record something I was forced to resort to video.
The big surprise was a pair of Red-legged Partridges which were remarkably tame, especially considering the sound of gunshots that were filtering across from nearby fields. They were accompanied by the usual Pheasants (the tail of one can be seen behind the Partridges in the video above) as well as numerous Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows, Dunnocks, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a couple of Willow Tits. The surrounding trees held several Redwings and a small flock of seven Collared Doves.
Out on the lakes themselves we could at least see the water this time and spotted several Great Crested Grebes, Little Grebes and four Pintail as well as the expected winter waterfowl species. Two Black Swans present were presumably escapees but given that they can fly and have survived at least one harsh winter already (we saw presumably the same birds there last year) they count as wild in my book. All in all a great day, although I do wonder if Fairburn ever sees the sun!