Dearne Valley

Old Moor & Dearne Valley

Old Moor & Dearne Valley
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Dearne Valley

  • Stop and smell the (dog) roses - Sightings, 25 May.

    Hi Folks! Before I wax lyrical (or something like that!) on another marvellous day of wildlife watching in the Dearne, first an apology. Yesterday, the fantastic Jenny from the visitor centre asked me if I would remind all you lovely people about the 20% discount on 12.75kg sacks of bird food that we have on at the moment. Well, my head was so full of sightings that I clean forgot! So before I go any further, may I mention that there are considerable savings to be had on bird food in the RSPB shop. I think the offer runs until 2 June. Stock up now!

    There, that feels better. Now on to those amazing sightings from the day. I shall start with sightings from Bolton Ings. Here there were reports of chiffchaff, willow warbler and a pair of dazzling kingfishers.

    Turning to Old Moor, in the Bird Garden today were mallard, collared dove, magpie, bullfinch, tree sparrow, brown rat, great tit, woodpigeon, chaffinch, blue tit and robin.

    The darlings of the reedbed at the moment! A water rail and two of the seven chicks seen at the Reedbed Screen. Photographed by, who else but, Mel Plant! Thanks Mel. [click the image for a better view]

    Did I say one water rail? I meant two! This remarkable image comes from Ian Butler. Thanks Ian!

    On my way to the other hides, I couldn’t help but enjoy the perfumes of the reserve’s many dog roses. Rosa canina and Rosa rugosa are now in full bloom and richly scented with their spicy perfumes - some of the strongest and sweetest scents found in any roses. Why not stop on your way around the reserve and give your nose a treat!

    This one's R. Rugosa. Inhale deeply. [click the image for a better view]

    From the Field Pool West hide were sightings of two little egrets as well as little grebe, lapwing and jackdaw. In fact, the jackdaws were engaged in the hazardous business of stealing lapwing eggs. I say ‘hazardous’ because those lapwings are pretty fearless birds and were doing a great job of keeping the jackdaws at bay. Just imagine a lapwing beak being propelled at their considerable speeds and aimed at a jackdaw’s vulnerable underside and – well, you get the picture!

    A disgruntled jackdaw! [click the image for a better view]

    Out on the Wader Scrape things were as busy as ever. Six ringed plover, five little ringed plover, four redshank, four avocet – one pair with four chicks – and six common tern and the odd shoveler could all be found there today. Once again, there was also a hobby over the Mere today.

    A very long shot of those proud avocet parents on the Wader Scrape. [click the image for a better view]

    Of no fixed abode today were – wait for it – willow tits (hooray!). I was beginning to worry that no-one had spotted these for a while. Phew.

    And that takes me to Wath Ings hide where once again there were some sensational views of a sedge warbler. One very avid watcher I met today said that he had hurried to Wath Ings this morning expecting there to be queues! There were not – well, not until the word had spread a bit – but if you were one of the lucky people to have seen and heard this fantastic avian virtuoso then it was probably a highlight of your day! Firstly, a sedge warbler is more often heard than seen. Then it is seldom seen well. So, to have a bird that shows well, sings well, for long periods of time and consistently in full view – well, that’s a pretty good spectacle in anyone’s book!

    Louis, aged 10, saw and photographed the sedge warbler. He also contributed the following sightings: a great crested grebe on the nest, avocets with chicks and little ringed plovers. Well spotted Louis!

    Louis' grebe photographed by John Sanderson. Excellent work there John! [click the image for a better view]

    That’s almost for today except for a few last images. This one comes from Ian Butler and shows one of our bitterns landing on the edge of the reedbeds. Great to see Ian!

    Finally, love them or loathe them, there is no denying how photogenic black-headed gull chicks are! Here are two having a paddle on the Wader Scrape.

    Aww. [click the image for a better view]

    Until next time.

  • Prince Char-Ming! – Sightings, 24 May

    Hi Folks! Isn’t it great when you open your emails on a Sunday morning to be met with sights like this…

    Yes, 'Mr Water Rail' himself – ace photographer, regular contributor and all round good egg Mel Plant sent me the image above with a note that he had counted “seven water rail chicks crossing the channel by the reed bed screen yesterday following an adult, one at a time about a minute or so apart…..Great news.” Great news indeed Mel and, of course, with the possible exceptions of avocet or snipe chicks, the cutest offspring on the reserve. All together now, "Aww"!

    I did manage to spent a few hours out and about today. I started at Wombwell Ings where there were two redshank along with skylark, swift, sand martin, lapwing, jackdaw, chiffchaff and blackcap.

    More cuteness but this time from Ian Butler. Here a little grebe chick attempts to keep up with mum. Thanks Ian!

    From Wombwell, I travelled on to Old Moor where in the Bird Garden today were blackbird, blue tit, bullfinch, chaffinch, collared dove, dunnock, goldfinch, greenfinch, great tit, magpie and tree sparrow.

    On Old Moor's Wader Scrape were three avocets, one with chicks, a pair of lesser black-backed gulls, a pair of oystercatchers, a pied wagtail, swift, two ringed plover, a little ringed plover and many, many, (cute) black-headed gull chicks!

    Taking of cute - sorry, coot - here's one of our resident birds seeing red! (for a change)

    Lastly, I spent a very happy hour today at Wath Ings hide being treated to a remarkable show from one of the reserve’s sedge warblers. This little virtuoso sang from the brambles on the right hand side of the hide, incorporating bits of chaffinch, reed bunting and willow warbler into his own syncopated song. Those broad eye-stripes and his ability to draw on other musical sources put me in mind of the extravagant new wave bands of the 1970s and 80s, perhaps - as Adam and his Ants would have it - our very own Prince Charming!

    So, I shall leave you with both an image of the singer and a pair of sound clips of parts of his performance. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

    Until next time.

  • Wildlife Explorers

    The Old Moor Wildlife Explorers group had another fab session this month.  Here is Jo Stavert-Dobson with the details:

    A word from the Wildlife Explorers!

     May news

     “What a Hoot!” we had at our May meeting with activities themed around the wonderful world of owls. We also welcomed some new members to our group who are keen to become fellow Wildlife Explorers.

     The children flew through an owl identification trail and showed that they were also wise young owls in a “Twit Twoo?” owl true or false quiz! Along the way we were also pleased to see the wildflower seeds we planted last month sprouting galore in the Education Garden. Hopefully they will produce a magnificent display later in the summer.

     Once full of fantastic owl facts, we headed back in to the classroom to set up our very own little forensic crime lab…investigating Barn owl pellets collected on the reserve to see what our feathered friends have been feasting upon. We had some very meticulous and careful scientists in our midst identifying teeny tiny bones galore. 

     The meeting was rounded off with some owl art for the children to take home as a reminder of these beautiful and fascinating birds.

     Diary Date for budding Wildlife Explorers

     The next Wildlife Explorers meeting is Saturday 20th June, 10am-12pm when our theme for the session will be “Dipping and Diving!” when we will be exploring the weird and wonderful underwater life of our ponds. If you know any children who you think would enjoy our group then come along and join the fun! New members are always very welcome.

     Wildlife Explorers Group Information

     Would you like to know more?

    Wildlife Explorers is a fun, friendly group for children who enjoy exploring nature and wildlife. The group normally meets in the classroom at Old Moor on the third Saturday of the month from 10am until 12pm and costs just £1 for rspb members, £2 for non-members. Each meeting has a different theme and usually a mixture of outdoor and indoor activities, exploring, games and crafts all led by a team of CRB/DBS checked volunteers. The group is aimed at children of Primary School age (5-12) but under 8’s must be accompanied by an adult for the duration of the session.

     For more information or if you would like to join our group as a member or are interested in knowing more about joining our volunteer leader’s team then we would love to hear from you. Please contact Delia Clifton on 07521 140326 or email