Fairburn Ings & St Aidan's
Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's are former coal-mining sites which are now great places to see wildlife. They are neighbouring RSPB properties. Fairburn Ings is a reserve, whereas St Aidan's is a nature park.
If you've got the whole day, you can combine the two - for example, watching kingfishers at Fairburn Ings in the morning, and kestrels or (in winter) short-eared owls at St Aidan's in the afternoon.
Fairburn Ings & St Aidan's: what can you see?
There's a kingfisher screen at Fairburn Ings by a good fishing pool with a wire perch. It's a spot where you can reliably see kingfishers - although as you can probably tell from my photo, the light is always great. The kingfisher screen is shown on the site map.
Fairburn Ings has a stretch of the river Aire and shallow lakes in dips created by mining activity, and is home to lots more wildlife. There are herons, bitterns, tree sparrows, willow tits, woodpeckers, sand martins (from the Pickup hide in spring and summer), birds of prey and much more.
St Aidan's has a number of lakes and reedbeds near the river Aire, and an area of rough grassland called the Hillside - see the site map.
Bitterns and bearded tits are among the birds that make their home in the reeds. The lakes provide a winter habitat for ducks such as wigeon and teal.
Stonechats hop off fence posts or gorse bushes, onto the ground to forage for invertebrates and seeds. Above them, kestrels perch in trees or hover, looking for voles. On winter afternoons, short-eared owls patrol the Hillside, hunting.
Fairburn Ings & St Aidan's: how to get there
See Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's on this Google map.
Fairburn Ings is immediately north of Castleford. From J42 of the A1M, follow signs to the village of Fairburn, and from there brown signs to RSPB Fairburn Ings.
St Aidan's is about 5km west of Fairburn Ings, near the village of Swillington.
Fairburn Ings & St Aidan's: other practical information
See the RSPB website for opening times and parking charges at both locations. RSPB members should get a free parking ticket from the machine, and leave their RSPB membership card on display upside down.
Staff and volunteers at the Visitor Centres are enthusiastic and helpful, and it's well worth asking them what you might see and where.
There are regular updates on sightings from Fairburn
& St Aidan's on Twitter.