With the happy confluence of a much-needed day off work, and some decent weather, it seemed sensible to get out of the house and do a little birdwatching. There were a few options, but in the end I decided to check out a relatively new reserve I’d not visited before; RSPB Old Moor.
Old Moor is just outside Barnsley in South Yorkshire and encompasses around 250 acres of wetlands with reedbed, open water, and marsh.
We started out by checking the reedbeds on the off-chance of Bittern and Bearded Tit, both of which are on-site. But neither were forthcoming. There were however several Coot, Moorhen, Great-Crested Grebe, and Tufted Duck.
Tufted Duck are another on my list of under-rated birds. The black head of the male actually shows an iridescent sheen when the light is good, and both sexes have a beautiful steely blue-grey bill.
Looking across the mere from hides on the South-West side of the reserve, there were plenty of Black-Headed gulls, Wigeon, Gadwall, and more Tufties.
While scanning the islands I also spotted a couple of distant Stock Doves.
Next to the doves is what at first glance looks like another Black-Headed Gull. But on closer examination it’s actually an adult Mediterranean Gull. The hood goes a bit further back towards the neck, and it lacks the black tips to the primaries along the wing.
And here’s a Black-headed for comparison:
I’ll be honest though, and it feels like a guilty admission, I’m not a gull person. There are birders who obsess about every age and seasonal variation of multiple species of gulls, scanning fields and rubbish tips in winter for a Caspian or an Icelandic. I just cannot bring myself to care that much!
On or around the feeders near the shop and café there were a number of smaller birds including Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, and Tree Sparrow. Plus the usual collections of Robins out to mug birders of their flapjack.
Some of the muddy scrapes were home to small flocks of Linnet. Hard to spot and identify, to the extent it feels like there should be a prize to anybody who can spot all the birds in this picture:
They were scattered by a bird of prey just after this, but sadly I didn’t get a good look at it. Presumably a Sparrowhawk.
At this point I was having a lovely day out, and it’s a fabulous reserve. But nothing had blown me away. But the Wath Ings Hide at the Eastern end of the reserve changed that. The sun was getting lower and there was a glorious golden light flooding across the water. Fortunately this coincided with several of my favourite birds coming out for an afternoon feed near the hide.
Lapwing (or Peewit, or Green Plover, or Tuit, or any of a range of alternate names) are a lovely delicately marked bird, with an extraordinary range of vocalisations, like swanee whistles converted to electronica! The perfect light showed how that green wing is actually home to a rainbow oil slick sheen of colour.
There was the now standard Little Egret too, a bird that has over ten years gone from a rare visitor to widespread resident, a migration that is entirely natural, if driven by a warming climate. Still photos sadly cannot show how he was working the mud over, shaking his feet to disturb potential prey.
Incidentally, I learned this week that there is some evidence to suggest some species of egret was resident in Britain in Medieval times. This may have coincided with a brief climatic warming around 1,000 years ago (The Medieval Warm Period).
A Little Grebe was bobbing around in front of the hide too, frustrating multiple photographers by diving every time they pressed the shutter release! Fortunately it did manage to stay up long enough to give a couple of good views.
There were a few Mute Swans across the site, and I did manage to grab a quick photo of this one as it buzzed a few unperturbed Teal.
There were also a good number of Shoveler. They were mainly off into the light which made them difficult to see, but this is a bird that you cannot mistake even in silhouette. However they also spent an inordinate amount of time with their heads underwater.
Finally, there were at least a dozen Snipe enjoying the sun and probing for tiny crustacea. I took far too many photos of these delightful little birds, so I apologise for the excess!
Actually when I took this picture I thought there was only one bird. It’s only just now I spotted the second! Something must have flown over and made them nervous. But it highlights that cryptic camouflage.
I even had the time before the light faded to get a little washed out and grainy video of them:
That’s it from the day. It’s definitely a site I’ll be visiting again. I’ll leave you on an artistic image of a plant. Or is it an auto-focus failure? I’ll let you be the judge.