Winter’s chilly fingers reached across the Dearne Valley this morning and transformed several of its more shallow bodies of water to ice. In fact, much of Wath Ings ‘had a lid on it’ for most of the day which, for most birds, meant they had to go elsewhere to feed.
It was the sort of day that was testing to regular visitors to Old Moor and not just because of the low temperatures. The ice moved species away from the shallows and towards the deeper water. The Mere and reedbed pools were busier than usual and watchers couldn’t necessarily rely on finding birds in their ‘usual’ places.
I’d love to claim that is frost on the back of this blackbird but in fact this female is semi-leucistic (a partial loss of pigment)
There was a welcome return to Old Moor’s Early Birders this morning and the first report of the day was theirs. They found: eight little egret, forty-one cormorant, eight water rail, six bearded tit, three Cetti’s warblers, one chiffchaff, a peregrine and a lone green sandpiper. A brambling was also seen heading south over the reserve at 07:35.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next set of sightings also came from the ‘EB’s and gave details from the Reedbed Trail and a less well known area, Old Moor’s reservoir. Here today were: nine mute swan, three little grebe, seventy-one coot, twelve moorhen, thirty-six mallard, twenty-seven gadwall and 124 wigeon. There were also eight shoveler, two pochard, twenty teal and six tufted duck here today.
Finally, from the wardening team at least, the number of peregrines out there today was raised to two with two drake pintail on the Mere and another brambling in the Tree Sparrow Farm.
A peregrine tucks into a late breakfast on the Reedbed pylon this morning
On Wombwell Ings there was a single adult whooper swan and on ‘Warbler Way’ (the path between Old Moor and Bolton Ings) the recent marsh tit was still there, ‘showing erratically and briefly’ – about 250 meters west of the Bolton Hide. Here were also two Cetti’s warblers and a willow tit (Hooray!).
From Bolton Ings itself, watchers saw: ten mute swan, a pintail drake, sixteen mallard, fifty-four gadwall, thirty-two shoveler, eleven pochard, eleven teal, fifteen tufted duck, seven cormorant, five grey heron, 293 coot, two moorhen, one little grebe, one great crested grebe, three common gull and fifteen black-headed gull.
There were plenty of redwing around today like this one from Roland Rodgerson. Thanks Roland.
In Old Moor’s Bird Garden today were: great spotted woodpecker, wren, chaffinch, moorhen, blackbird, bullfinch, greenfinch, blue tit, great tit and long-tailed tit.
In the Tree Sparrow Farm there were also wren, bullfinch, long-tailed tit, three fieldfare, eight (or more) redwing and a brambling. With these were tree sparrow, blue tit, great tit, goldfinch and greenfinch.
On the Mere, as well as those two pintail, were five common gull, five lesser black-backed gull and eight herring gull. A little egret and a single grey heron could be found here along with one great crested grebe. Despite a fair amount of searching, I could find no trace of the recent goldeneye though I did see a buzzard in the ‘cuckoo tree’ at the back of the Mere.
Sunshine, rosehips and an inquisitive blue tit in the Tree Sparrow Farm today
Green Lane was busy with goldfinch, blue tit, robin and redwing. There was the odd song thrush here too but no peep from the goldcrests. Watchers who ventured into the Field Pool West Hide were rewarded for their trouble with a number of excellent kingfisher sightings.
On Wath Ings this afternoon the ice was still present and a solitary redshank waded (and occasionally skated) its way around the Willow Pool. It was watched by a female sparrowhawk for the best part of the afternoon as she sat on the fence to the rear of the spit. The only other sighting I have from here is of a single ruff.
Of course some birds seem better adapted to a cold snap than others and Old Moor’s robins today began their customary assault on the consciences of passers-by. Whilst many other species will head to the sunniest stretches of water (or the feeders), robins begin to rely more on their good looks and charm.
Their technique is simple and effective – sit in a sunny spot; wait for a human; chirrup and cock head to the side; repeat if necessary and then take your hand out!
Interestingly enough friends in Europe tell me the robins there don’t use this strategy and, by a wonderful coincidence this morning a friend in Estonia posted a short video of himself hand-feeding – of all things – a willow tit! Now that I would like to try.
Until next time.
‘Erm, I’ll have that one’ or ‘Phil fell for it!’
Hello there, it's always a shock at this time of year as to how short the days are. It's like somebody plucked the sun out of the sky and then turned the lights off before anybody was really ready for darkness.
On the upside however are days when on sunny days, the glowing embers of the sun remind us how beautiful it can be at this time of year. Especially out on the reedbeds...with a few thousand starlings chattering and murmurating. I was lucky enough to witness a massive starling murmuration last weekend. It was very impressive but what I missed, was the noise of the starlings that you get at Old Moor and also the fact that if you wish to, you can pretty much stand underneath them.
Do stay as darkness falls, hearing and watching our smallish murmuration over the reedbeds is quite something.
I'll get on with the sightings. Today they are from the book and from Twitter. Thanks go to Lauren for emailing them my way.
From the Book
On Wath Ings we had sightings of chiffchaff, redshank, 2 kingfisher, ruff, snipe, green sandpiper, pied wagtail, kestrel and a stonechat.
A shelduck, 2 female goldeneye, a pintail, a green sandpiper and a marsh harrier were spotted on the Mere.
Today from Green Lane came sightings of 3 redwing, a jay, a sparrowhawk, a great spotted woodpecker, goldcrest and a willow tit. I'll do a 'hooray' for Andrew. :)
A water rail and linnets were seen from the reedbed hide, a peregrine was on the Wader Scrape, the usual suspects were in the Tree Sparrow Farm today and the marsh tit is still around on Warbler Way.
Finally for today from the book come sightings from Bolton Ings: a Cetti's warbler, stonechat and a jay.
Sightings Via Twitter
From Bolton Ings via John Seeviour - 2 mute swans, a great crested grebe,37 mallards, 4 gadwall, 8 shovelor, 2 tufted duck, 14 pochard, a grey heron, a kestrel, 218 coots, 22 common gulls, a green woodpecker a jay and redwing.
That's all I have for today so I'll finish with a photo...or two.
First, a mute swan in the last of the light on a sunny day...
And a chaffinch on a bit of a windy day.
That's it, have a lovely evening.
Just after watching the starlings’ murmuration this afternoon at Old Moor, I walked back to the Visitor Centre dimly aware that all around me birds were settling down for a long, long night. Blackbird were still clucking and robin were finding suitable perches. Cormorant and egret were heading to the Willow Pool. Pheasant were taking up positions in the birches and maybe somewhere, sixty-odd wrens were gathering at a communal nest box.
At present our night is fifteen hours and eight minutes long and of course it will get even longer for a while yet. In fact, at its longest, night in the UK is over sixteen hours. That’s a very long time for some species to go without feeding and, worse, to be vulnerable to night time predation. All the more reason for us to help out where we can and a timely reminder, if we haven’t already done so, to clean and top up those feeders. It’s the least we can do to help make the short days productive ones.
A goldcrest on Green Lane this afternoon
First report of the day came from John Clarkson at Edderthorpe Flash. Here today were: forty-one wigeon, about 180 teal, thirty-seven golden plover, 130 lapwing, five dunlin, one green sandpiper, around forty redwing, nine bullfinch and a curlew. Thanks John.
From Wombwell Ings, Alan Whitehouse recorded: forty-five Canada geese, one shelduck, 119 wigeon, sixteen shoveler, twelve teal, seven mallard, three gadwall, one little egret and thirty-five lapwing. There were also two mistle thrush, three redwing, fourteen grey partridge, five meadow pipit, one redpoll, two bullfinch, a grey wagtail and two pied wagtail. Thanks Alan.
On Adwick Washland this evening were three little egret, thirty-five pied wagtail and twenty-one meadow pipit.
Ever wondered what a happy goldeneye looks like? Wonder no longer.
At Old Moor, in the Tree Sparrow Farm today there were sightings of blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, bullfinch, chaffinch, coat tit, collared dove, dunnock, goldfinch, great tit, greenfinch, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, pheasant, redwing, reed bunting, robin, tree sparrow and wren. To my knowledge there was –strangely – no report of either kestrel or sparrowhawk here today.
In the Bird Garden, many of the same species were seen but we can add two willow tit (hooray2!) and a female great spotted woodpecker. A grey wagtail could be seen today on Knoll Beck, near the Trans Pennine Trail.
A female great spotted woodpecker in the Bird Garden today from Ian Morris. Thanks Ian.
On the Reedbed Trail today were sightings of four Cetti’s warbler, one peregrine, seven snipe, one bittern, a green woodpecker, at least one stonechat and around 2000 starlings at dusk. This is in addition to little grebe, great crested grebe, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, mallard, coot, moorhen and mute swan.
On the Mere this afternoon were: three male pintail, one female goldeneye, two grey heron, one great crested grebe, three lesser black-backed gull, fourteen herring gull, eight common gull and another peregrine from time to time.
A kingfisher on the Willow Pool this afternoon
On Green Lane a pair of goldcrest were shadowed by a chiffchaff and on the Wader Scrape were wigeon, one little egret and three mute swan. The latter group comprised of a female and two juveniles and, at one point this afternoon, one of those youngsters had clear pushed her luck just that bit too far.
Tough love from a mother mute; wigeon feeling awkward
All of which takes us inevitably to Wath Ings. Here today were two redshank, one ruff, two green sandpiper, a kingfisher, two grey heron, two pied wagtail, a green woodpecker, a fieldfare and a peregrine.
Finally, at 16:10 – aka dusk – seven little egret came in to roost, the grey heron total reached five and there were three peregrine hunting.
I shall leave you with one last image from the day: almost literally. Here’s a shot of part of tonight’s starling performance.