It is with great pleasure that I can announce to you all that we have bitterns breeding at Old Moor!
This is fantastic news and I can't tell you how pleased we all are.
The chicks are anything up to 2 weeks old and I suspect it will be the end of June before they fledge. We have our fingers firmly crossed that they succeed as there are no guarantees in this world.
We know there is an active nest out there because the female keeps making regular flights around the reedbed to look for food. This is very typical behaviour and is enough for us to say that a female must be feeding chicks somewhere. Hopefully we will see fledged birds or be able to find the nest once the breeding season is well behind us. For now though, we will not be going anywhere near the nest.
The female's flights get less frequent as the chicks grow and we are already noticing a bit of a drop in frequency. But we are in the process today of setting up specific viewing arrangements for visitors to the site. Hopefully we can maximise your chances of seeing a bird but please do follow the on site instructions.
The best chance of a good view is actually on the flood bank before you start the reedbed trail. We have set up a gazebo here to show people the birds and will be looking for volunteers to help us. Please get in touch with Jo (Tree Sparrow) if you are interested.
From here you can see the bird whenever it flies and the views are excellent. In fact there is no need to actually go all the way out to the reedbeds for the best views.
Out in the reeds, we are still happy for people to use the hides, but what we are asking is that you don't stop and watch from the area that we have taped off (red and white tape along the fence line) because the female is regularly flying into here to exploit a food source. Once landed you would never know she was there but if a crowd were to form in that area, it might make her divert her flight and we want her to act as naturally as possible.
So, please keep on walking and there is a good place to watch from just before Bittern Hide that we have clearly marked.
Bitterns have a habit of returning to the same food source until it is exhausted and then moving on to the next good spot. Things may therefore be subject to change so watch this space. Please respect the birds and do not trespass in search of a view or photo.
Matthew (the extremely chuffed Site Manager)
Thought you might appreciate some sightings news in the absence of Dave.
I haven't seen the diary at all today so the following is based on either things I have seen or heard about.
There is still plenty to see at the moment - stuff is moving through on migration so the offer changes daily.
Old MoorThe Bittern was seen flying over the reedbeds this morning. It was being mobbed by Black Headed GullsDown at Wath Ings there was a Grey Plover and a Marsh Harrier went through about lunch time.The Avocets are still around in number on Wader Scrape and we still have the Med Gulls.
EdderthorpeThere is now mud showing again at Edderthorpe and this is drawing in the birds. Sanderling, 5 Avocet, 2 Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Several Ringed Plover and a couple of Little Ringed Plover. But the best bird here today was a drake Garganey.
AdwickTwo Whooper Swans flew over West early morning. A very late record for this species. On Adwick itself, two Quail were calling. These were back from the new flooded fen on the north side of the bridleway. Listen for the distinctive "Wet my lips" call early morning or late evening. Hirdundines (Swallow, Swift and House Martin) were very evident, hawking low over the fen and there were two different broods of redshank chicks and lots of lapwing chicks. In the afternoon a Hobby paid a visit and 2 Avocet dropped in for a while.
Some good birds in there and lots of other stuff on top of the brief highlights I have trawled up from the memory bank..
Have a great weekend everyone
Hi readers :-)
Here I am once more .. inside your PC ... It's a mess in here !!
You need to 'defrag' at once !!
Old Moor had some good stuff to report again today and there was plenty to see all over the reserve ..
Beginning on the Wader Scrape ..
Reported from here were 2 little-ringed plovers, 2 ringed plovers, 3 turnstones, 7 avocets, 4 dunlins, a sanderling and 3 common terns ...
Over on Wath Ings were 5 dunlins, 2 black-tailed godwits and a whitethroat ..
The Field Pool had a redshank, a snipe which was heard drumming (very talented snipe we have here), little grebes, yellow wagtails (no numbers) and a flock of linnets ..
The Mere had 2 Mediterranean gulls (An adult and 1 first Summer), 2 lesser black-backed gulls and a common sandpiper .. The 'lessers' are already making inroads into reducing the number of black-headed gull chicks too !!
Seen on Green Lane were a reed warbler, a sedge warbler, a lesser whitethroat and reed buntings .. You'll also be thrilled to know (as I was) that the bog bean is now in flower !!
A stoat was spotted near to the Visitor Centre and a last report was of a family of 6 kingfishers which were seen on the River Dearne near to Wombwell Ings .. Great stuff !!!
So there you have it ..
I will now depart from your screen and leave you to enjoy the rest of your evening in peace ..
In the absence of Bert, as forewarned in yesterday's blog, I thought I'd give you the highlights that I can remember from today:
At Old Moor, the best birds were a second year Little Gull, 2 Med Gulls, several Avocets, a Bar Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, the Black Necked Grebe on the Mere, a male Whinchat and small passage of Arctic Terns totalled around 20 by late evening.
Edderthorpe had 4 Shelduck, 2 Oystercatcher 2 Avocet and a Common Sandpiper.
Water has been falling rapidly over the last couple of days on Edderthorpe and as long as this continues we should start to see more of the site emerge from beneath the water. On a brighter note, 8 lapwing chicks from two different broods managed to escape to the flood bank ahead of the rising water last week. A small mercy in the midst of a breeding disaster.
Houghton Washland, just to the South of Edderthorpe, partially filled with water last week and this has been pulling the birds in since.
This area had no standing water prior to the flooding but does have a population of breeding lapwing. Several of them had water brushing up against the nests at the height of the flooding but survived in tact and they have started to hatch over the last day or so. Also here today were 5 Avocet, 2 Little Ringed Plover, singing Lesser Whitethroat and 3 Wheatear.
I started my day at Adwick which has also seen a massive drop in water level and is back to near normality.
The Lapwings here all seemed to escaped the raised water levels and it looks like there are 17 pairs this year (up from 8 last year). Redshank probably fared badly though as their activity suggests they have failed. There were still three pairs this morning though and they may nest again. Snipe can breed any time up to August so the rain won't have been a problem for them. All it will have done is help wet up the site to make it even better. There has been a drumming (displaying) bird for the last few days and I had two this morning.
Other species included Gadwall, Shovelor and Tufted Duck and farmland birds are well represented with loads of Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Grey Partridge. It has been pulling in waders this last week or so (Black Tailed Godwit, Avocet, Dunlin, Ringed Plover etc etc) but nothing this morning. Best birds for me were two Yellow Wagtails picking their way round the new fen.
So, there you have it. Plenty to see in the Valley at the moment.
Have a good weekend
As it's the Chelsea Flower Show at the moment, my mind has turned to the fantastic wild flowers which we have on our reserve. The long-awaited warmth has brought more of them out to put on a show for us, so it seems rude not to take a few minutes to look at some of them!
I love the old names that many wild flowers have, which often relate to their uses as medicinal or food plants. Whilst some just seem to be a bit odd! Which brings me on to Herb Robert.....
This small pink flower grows low to the ground, with red stems and is one of the geranium, or cranesbill family. The pointy bit protruding from the seed head of plants in this group are supposed to be reminiscent of a crane's bill, you know! As a geranium, it has strong smelling oils in it's leaves and it's uses include rubbing it on the skin as a mosquito repellent. Although it does also get called 'stinking robert', just so you're warned!
Another nice one, with a funny name, in flower now, is Black Medic....
This is a member of the clover family and is one of several types of 'medic' which have yellow flowers. This is called 'black' because it produces small, hard, black seeds. Which no doubt have some medical use, but I couldn't find it out if it does! Shame.... Like other clovers, it's a great nectar source for our bumble bees.
Another nice, yellow flower around now and over the next few weeks is Yellow Rattle....
When the flowers finish, the seed heads start to swell and ripen. As they turn brown, the stem can actually be shaken like a rattle to hear the seeds, errrr, rattle around inside them! This is a useful plant to have in the meadows because it's actually a parasite on grass roots. That means that it takes some of it's food from the roots of the grass, rather than produce everything it needs itself. This is helpful because it weakens grasses, helping control the growth, so there are more opportunities for flowers to grow and not be squeezed out by tough grasses. More flowers equal more insects. Yay!!
I'm going to break up the yellows with another fab pink flower, which is one of my favourites. Ragged Robin, is quite rightly, rather ragged in it's appearance....
It stands around 40 cm tall and loves damp areas, which is why a lot of our meadows have a good lot of this. Not sure what the 'robin' part of the name is in reference to though? Maybe a mate of Herb Robert's?! Pinks and purples are common colours for flowers because of various insectss being able to see ultra-violet light. They glow a luminous shade to bumbles and butterflies, which helps make them extra irresistible. No danger of them being over-looked and remaining un-pollinated!
Another lovely pink/purple to see, is Common Vetch....
There are various types of vetch on the reserve, but there's nothing undesirable about the straight forward, common kind, I think! It's a beautiful member of the pea family, closely related to the clovers. It forms small pea-pod seed heads later in the summer, just to show the family resemblance.
The last one for today, is a return to the yellow flowers we're seeing a lot of at the moment. It's a particular favourite because it's the food plant for an important caterpillar which lives on Old Moor....
Birds Foot Trefoil is another member of the pea family, which only grows around 10 cm tall, but it's a brightly coloured beauty.
It's the food plant of the red listed (of high conservation concern, with dramatically falling numbers) dingy skipper butterfly. There is a population of these butterflies on Old Moor and Gypsy Marsh, so they are really important sites for maintaining them into the future.
They may be brown, but they are velvety and delicately patterned. Even our Bert thinks it's unfair that they're called 'dingy' - and he can't really cope with anything that isn't a bird!! So it must be a bit harsh!
I hope that you get chance to visit us at Old Moor this weekend, whilst the weather is so kind to us. Remember to take a look at all that's around and enjoy the colours and scents (or smells!) of the flowers that are such an essential part of our reserve.