News on the Little Owls

Walking along the canal yesterday we got chatting to a couple who told us they had seen a little owl  in the tree further along the canal towards Ashton Rd., on the opposite bank just where the track goes up from the tow path to the road. They saw one  regularly until about 4 weeks ago when apparently lower branches had been trimmed from the tree. Not on our patch but at least in the area.

First butterfly

A small tortoiseshell was in the Orchard this morning – my first of the year.
A few meadow pipit were in the wet grassy areas of the reserve today. When a sparrowhawk came over they were flushed, revealing around 40.

Abundance of yellow

All the early flowers are yellow, here are primrose, gorse and the humble dandelion! I have already reported daffodil and celandine. All in the Orchard. Why is yellow so dominant at this time of year?

And a PS – I hope I am not the only one who sees at least one song thrush every time I pass through the Orchard! But that woodpecker is so noisy!!!!

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Reed Buntings, Greenfinches and Linnets


Walking round the Reserve at 5.00 p.m. we saw a greenfinch near to Cromwell Road (trees by Robin’s cowshed) and again a pair along Aldcliffe Road (at the edge of the arable field). In the orchard there was a pair of reed buntings (see photo). In Pony Wood there were still three linnets.

Volunteering Saturday 14th March

Once again I forgot to post this blog before the session. I do so now to maintain the record. Here is Jonathan’s message.

Greetings All,

There’ll be a volunteer session at Fairfield Orchard, Fauna and Flora this
Saturday morning, March 14th, starting at the usual time of 10.00am and
finishing at 1.00pm or sometime thereabouts.

On this week’s To Do list…

1. Cut back and clear the Orchard dogwood.

2. Continue clearing bramble from the hedges (and shifting the brash
accumulated last time).

3. Move brash in Big Meadow in readiness for the contractor.

4. Finish moving timber from West Field to Shed.

5. Fix the new stump in the Stump Circle (at the moment it is simply
resting in the old hole).

6. Put up new bat box donated by local children.

7. Sow a wildflower seed mix on the area in the Orchard we cleared of self
seeded thorn.

8. Plant out locally sourced snowdrops in Little Wood and woodland plants
in Pony Wood.

9. Cut back self-seeded saplings all through the Orchard e.g. at the
bottom of the Towneley path.

A small group is also continuing to repair playground equipment on
Saturday morning. We need one other volunteer with an ‘engineering
aptitude’ for this. If anyone wants to help please contact Andrew on

Looking further afield, an announcement regarding the Fairfield
Association’s recent affiliation with the John Muir Trust.
Graham Brandwood will be organising this. Details as follows:

Through our membership of the John Muir Trust, regular and new volunteers
can now sign up for, and work towards, one of the three John Muir Awards
for conservation volunteering.  There are 3 levels of the Award depending
on time commitment:
*Discovery* (approx. 4 days equivalent)
*Explorer* (approx. 8 days equivalent) and
*Conserver* (approx. 20 days equivalent over a 6 month period).

The Award is being co-ordinated by Graham Brandwood on behalf of the
Fairfield Association.  Graham will be giving a quick briefing on the
Award during the coffee break on Saturday but if you want further
information before then and/or can’t attend the session then he can be
contacted on *07855 814042* or .
Further information can also be found on the John Muir Trust website

And that’s your lot for this time,

Best wishes,


Very late dog walk along the path between the Orchard and Cromwell road, I came upon a barn owl sitting on one of the fence posts.  Not sure if it was confused by my bright head torch but it allowed me to get within 2 feet.  Only flying off when I said “hello owl”.  As it flew up another barn owl flew into my torch beam and both owls made off towards the allotments.

On the way back, two tawny owls were calling to each other in the trees by the farm house. Unfortunately I did not get chance to see them, but was entertained by their noisy calls for a good 5 minutes before I was reminded by my dog that we were supposed to be on a dog walk, and I headed home a happy man.

Snipe numbers holding up well

Today’s snipe tally was double the number recorded for early March in the past two years. A total of 81 birds, of which 6 were positively identified as Jack snipe. The Hay Meadow took us by surprise as five snipe took off right away, followed by another three. Eight is most we have found in this field. This marsh is really boggy now with loads of standing water. Perhaps they prefer these wetter conditions? Upper Sowerholme yielded seven common snipe. School Pond – more pond than rushes at the moment – provided the first Jack of the day as well as 25 common snipe. Then in Big Meadow we counted 35 common snipe and a further five Jack.

Only one woodcock today, as usual in the brambly corner of Upper Sowerholme. But lots of other birds to compensate:

* two water rail in Lucy Brook close to the Cromwell Road gate

• 20 redwing flying over from Pony Wood to land in the trees on the edge of Big Meadow

• four female pheasants in the Hay Meadow

* a total of 11 teal flying off from School Pond in ones and twos

* a moorhen and four mallards in School Pond (all possibly seen again in Big Meadow)

• three wrens in the vicinity of the old alder tree in Big Meadow