A look at RSPB Fairburn Ings and St Aidans near Leeds

St Aidan's dragline - Mac Wontorowski

St Aidan's dragline - Mac Wontorowski - Credit: Archant

Opportunities to explore wildlife and nature in West Yorkshire are open to everyone.

Swan and cygnets - Alan Coe

Swan and cygnets - Alan Coe - Credit: Archant

Leeds is one of the country’s most vibrant and fast-growing cites, and with that comes a wide range of reasons to visit. World class events, and a bustling shopping and dining culture make this one of the busiest tourist spots in the UK.

If you’re looking for a more peaceful and tranquil experience when visiting the area, you can go and visit the stunning landscape and the abundance of wildlife just a few miles away from the city centre.

St Aidan's - David Botham

St Aidan's - David Botham - Credit: Archant

Nestled between Leeds, York and Wakefield, Fairburn Ings is an exciting site for family activities and serious wildlife watching.

The area was closely associated with Yorkshire’s coal mining industry but for the past sixty years, it has been a designated Local Nature Reserve after a group of locals began work to transform the area into a haven for wildlife.

Fairburn - Ken Czmeiduch

Fairburn - Ken Czmeiduch - Credit: Archant

Wetland areas created by subsidence include 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 tips. The site has been run by the RSPB for almost forty years and has flourished into one of the leading sites for avian biodiversity in the UK.

The site has recorded over 280 bird species, due in part to its location on major migration routes for a number of bird species. You can spot bitterns, willow tits, kingfishers, tree sparrows and grey herons at various times of the year.

Bearded tit - Barry Carter

Bearded tit - Barry Carter - Credit: Archant

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Wet grassland on the reserve supports breeding waders such as lapwings, redshanks, snipe and curlews, and is important for breeding and wintering wildfowl - especially gadwalls.

While the ardent bird spotter will love the number of species that visit the site, the reserve also host a number of activities that encourage children to learn and take an interest in nature. Pond dipping season runs April to October and is a fantastic way for families to get hands on with nature or you can go out on a mini-beast safari with a wildlife explorer backpack, packed with activity sheets, bug pots and everything you need to find and identify creepy crawlies.

Fairburn pond dippers - Pete Carr

Fairburn pond dippers - Pete Carr - Credit: Archant

Just a few miles down the road you can explore the main trails at St Aidan’s which take you amongst a variety of habitats including reedbed, wetland, meadows and woodland. Like Fairburn Ings, it is a place that is visited by a number of different bird species, including bitterns, avocets, black terns, skylarks, marsh harriers and meadow pipits.

The landscape is one of true natural beauty and you can enjoy panoramic views of the site from the visitor centre, where the sunsets can be incredible.

For the more active among you, the area is a great place for cycling and walking. The Transpennine trail connects onto the site from 3 access points on the south side and there are 12km of trails across the reserve.

For the latest news and information about events taking place at both reserves, you can follow them on facebook at facebook.com/RSPBWestYorks