Dearne Valley

Old Moor & Dearne Valley

Old Moor & Dearne Valley
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Dearne Valley

  • A wisp of sightings - 26 November

    Hi Folks! A bit of a grey and damp one today but that didn’t stop our intrepid watchers from filling a page in the Old Moor sightings book. But first, the answer to that mystery sound from my last posting. It was indeed a ‘Rockin Robin’ as described by “Redwolf” and Melonie. Well done to both. The bird in question was gently but firmly ‘ticking me off’ for encroaching upon its territory, half way down Green Lane.

    Which brings me nicely to today’s sightings. Starting in the Bird Garden, there were pheasant, collared doves, woodpigeon, chaffinch, magpies, bullfinches, blue tits, greenfinches, robins and wrens. There were also tree sparrows, a stock dove, blackbirds, goldfinches, dunnock, a great spotted woodpecker and, thank heavens, the willow tit. Not a bad list I’m sure you’ll agree and nothing to do with folk sheltering from the drizzle!

    At Wath Ings were a redshank, a great spotted woodpecker, two dunlin, 501 golden plover, 154 lapwing, three shelduck, three barn owls and a wisp of 27 snipe! Yes, we had to count them several times owing to how quickly they skittered about but the final count settled at 27. Not bad at all!

    From the Family hide were reports of 11 common gulls, 36 black headed gulls, a male and female (or possibly juvenile) goldeneye and a little grebe.

    On Green Lane were 21 redwings and a song thrush.

    Another song thrush was seen in the Tree Sparrow Farm along with reed buntings and tree sparrows. On the birch nearby a mixed flock of goldfinches and lesser redpoll was seen around midday.

    From the Reedbed trail came report of 14 lesser redpoll, 27 goldfinch, 22 long-tailed tits, two goldcrests, a great spotted woodpecker and three wrens.

    From Adwick, there were reports of a sparrowhawk, a kestrel, a little egret, magpie, 35 wigeon, blue tits, great tits, bullfinches and a flock of 29 fieldfare. At Bolton Ings, two female goldeneyes were reported by those Barnsley Birders.

    Well, that’s almost it but I did bump into Bert hanging around the Reedbed screen today who told me excitedly of a sighting of a - wait for it - penguin on the Mere! That’s a pretty impressive migration of at least 5948km – especially for a flightless bird! Poor old soul, it turned out it was a juvenile cormorant. Next time you’re at the Wader Scrape hide, see if you can see the one he meant.

    The first of tonight’s pictures comes from Peter M - a stunning shot of the reedbed after a rainstorm.

    The second, a dapper great spotted woodpecker from Roland R. Huge thanks to you both.

    And that’s about it for this evening except for the mystery bird of course. Clearly, the robin was far too easy so this time it’s a bit trickier. As ever, give your answers in the comments below. Oh, and have a read of Derek’s fantastic blog of the developments on the site. Just scroll down to find it.

  • Mud, Mud and more Mud … and … Bye, Bye to the Cows. Reserve team blog 7.

    After a dry September, the rain since has slowly turned the reserve, outside the public areas, into a muddy mess, so it’s welly time again!

    So what have we been doing over the past couple of months since my last blog?

    Whilst the weather was good in September, we made a succession of concrete sluices, some big...

    Making a “mould” for the sluice.

    Some are medium size… Some are small…

    The first of the medium size was put in place at the back of the Mere at the end of September …

    The pipe, in this case coming from Reed Bed 2, is fitted onto the plastic collar on the sluices.

    Short green-oak planks will then be slotted into the grooves you can see near the front, the number of planks depending on the level of water you want.

    This sluice replaces the plastic elbow you can see in the second picture above.  The plastic elbow fitted on the end of the pipe and would then be rotated so the other end of the elbow was either in or out of the water, allowing water to flow or not. This worked fine but it proved very difficult to rotate the elbow when it hadn’t been moved for a while.

    At the beginning of November, the two small sluices above were fitted along with a connecting pipe between Reed Bed 1 (on the right of the picture) and Reed bed 3 (on the left).

    This was done because water coming from the reservoir into Reed Bed 1 could only flow into Reed Bed 2 (see Blog 6 to understand the water flow through Old Moor), we want to keep RB 2 lower than normal to help the new rhizomes and so a new escape route was needed from RB 1. Because this was in November, the excavations quickly became a welly sucking quagmire!

    We had a slight setback when we came to move these “small” sluices, we realised that we’d built them where the tractor couldn’t get to lift them! Doh!! Even the “small” ones are too heavy to lift manually!


    The team employing an ancient roller technique to move it to where the tractor could get to it.


    Again, back in September the rhizomes arrived from Blacktoft Sands, several giant piles of them!

     I was wrong!

    In blog 6 I said that these were to be distributed by digger along the edge of the reed bed; but no!  Some were going in the middle again, so it was back to the spades, this time with a raft rather than the boat. (See blog 6)

    Though the weather was dry, the mud piles were equally as sticky and smelly as the last batch!

    However, this is much quicker than our other method of expanding the reed bed! Which is … collecting the seed heads of the reeds, growing them from seed in the polytunnel round the back of the work yard and then planting in shallow parts of the reed bed.

    Reeds growing in the polytunnel.

    This method has worked and has produced useful parts of the reed bed, but it’s a bit hit and miss! Some have flourished and produced head high reeds, the ones to the left of the Reed Bed hide for example, others have survived but remain stunted, like the strip in the middle of reed bed 2, and some have died.

    Initially they are flimsy and fragile and, until the rhizomes get a hold they remain so. So the mud full of rhizomes from Blacktoft is most welcome! Even if it is sticky and smelly!

    The remaining piles were recently distributed by the digger …

    Here’s some of the rhizome filled mud in the foreground and along the edge to the left. The Reed Bed Hide can just be seen to the right of the gate, behind the reeds.

    Here’s some more along the Spit in front of the Reed Bed Hide, which can be seen in the background.

    Reed Bed 4 looking splendid in the autumn sunshine, the RB Hide is at the far end.

    Turning the other way, this is Reed Bed 5.

    At the end of September through October we upgraded some of the footpaths, particularly the one leading to the Bittern hide.

    A new wheelchair rest area was built on the slope …

    The seat moved to the other side …

    A handrail put on the slope …

    And finally the path surface was upgraded …

    We had a bit of a setback when we upgraded the path to the new pond dipping platform, shown below; when we used the roller on it there was water underneath which the vibrations of the roller turned the surface to quicksand and the roller sank!

    Other changes done at the same time were …

    Part of the seat taken out of the Bittern “Bus Stop” to enable people in wheelchairs to shelter from the rain…

    A new path from the car park, now sporting a zebra crossing and double yellow no-parking lines…

    And the Bittern was installed at the bottom of the slope from the Bittern Hide. I’m told it was made from supermarket trolleys that had been fished out of the River Dearne!  I think he looks great! (Definitely male, you can tell by the feathers!)


    Into November, the next job was out at the wind pump next to the reservoir …

    The eddy created in the reservoir by the pumped water was cutting back the banking at the side of the pump…

    If it was allowed to continue it may have destabilised the wind pump, so something needed to be done. You can also see here the difference between the river level (inside the concrete chamber) and the reservoir level.

    The team looking down a hole!

    The answer was to cut off the water flow using plastic shuttering. The hole was then filled with concrete and the shuttering backfilled with sticky clay. Plenty of that around!


    November was also the month when we said bye-bye to the cows... sniff! (Hooray!) We used to have Highland cattle the whole year round but there was very little food for them in the winter and so the cows are managed differently now. This year they’ve been around from Spring to Autumn, so come next Spring they’ll be back!

    The first to go were the very amiable ones from Edderthorpe …

    The ones at Old Moor had had a couple of contented weeks on the Field Pools but then the food started to run out and so they had to be moved off. Dave the warden was saying that really the only good grass left was where we didn’t want them to be! The cows must have heard him because they then proceeded to explore most of the reserve, leaving their mark wherever they went, right up to the field behind the workyard … a long way from the Field Pools!

    By the time we went to round them up ready for the farmer, they were in three separate groups. One group was on the bank between Wath Ings and Field Pools, the second group was on the embankment at the back of Wath Ings and the third on Wath Ings itself.

    Spreading the team into three, the cows were soon rounded up, being unusually cooperative for them!

    Much as they have been useful keeping the vegetation down and have been entertaining over the year, especially to this blog, they have proved to be a handful and we’re not sorry they’ve gone; one less thing to worry about!

    And so it’s bye from me too for now, ‘til the next time.


  • Tuesday with a nip in the air...

    I don't know about you but I quite liked the nip in the air today. Late autumn/winter should have it I reckon!

    Thank you to Craig for sending the sightings to my inbox.

    Here goes from the book today....

    In the bird garden there were... all the usual suspects including male and female woodpeckers and a willow tit and a pied wagtail was seen in the courtyard.

    Yellowhammers have arrived at the tree sparrow farm! The males are a very amazing yellow, look out for them. :)

    Green Lane - another exciting sighting, this time of 14 lesser redpoll, there were also and equally gorgeous 25 goldfinches, redwing, a song thrush, long tailed tits and a sparrowhawk.... maybe after one of these lovely birds...

    Wath Ings - a barn owl, a 'large squadron of teal', golden plover and 2 snipe.

    Family hide - a green sandpiper, dunlin, 12 common gulls, 45 black headed gulls, 2 little grebes, a goosander, a male and female goldeneye, a lesser black backed gull and a peregrine.

    A green woodpecker was seen around the ponds and goldcrest were seen near the family hide and the field pool east.

    A jay and a female great spotted woodpecker were seen of no fixed abode and it looks like there was a herring gull on 'Boneyard Island' (that's a new one!) from the Wader Scrape!

    That's it from the book today so here are a few photos :)

    From Dave Round, a lovely pic of a tree sparrow, thank you Dave.

    From Ian Butler, 'ninja turtle greenfinches' as Ian put it taken from the bird garden. Thanks Ian! 

    And finally from Andrew, that late chiffchaff!

    That's me done...have a good evening. :)