On Thursday I visited Old Moor which is a nature reserve managed by the RSPB in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley. As well as Old Moor the RSPB also manages Wombell Ings, Bolton Ings and Gypsy Marsh which are right next door to Old Moor. They also look after Adwick Washlands which is a couple of miles east and Edderthorpe Flash which is a couple of miles north. There is also Broomhill Flash which is managed by The Garganey Trust.
Old Moor itself is made up of Reedbeds, Grassland and Meadow with several large lagoons. There are 3 trails - The Discovery Zone, Green Lane & Reedbed - the Discovery Zone is a short circular trail which has 1 hide next to the visitor centre, the Reedbed trail which has 2 hides and a viewing screen and takes you out into the reedbeds and finally the Green Lane trail has 6 hides and takes you north east into the grassland and lagoons.
In the last couple of years Old Moor has been very successful for breeding Bitterns and there has even been a Little Bittern visiting the reserve. Last year I was very lucky to see the Bittern flying over the reeds and then when I was sat on the cafe balcony the Bittern made three flypasts within a couple of minutes whilst being chased by a Gull.
Today I decided to take the Reedbed trail first, heading to the Bittern Hide (where I had seen the Bittern last year) and upon arrival I had apparently just missed the Kingfisher. On the lagoon in front of the hide there were several Coots and a lone Great Crested Grebe. On the Mere to the right of the hide were quite a few Lapwings and several Little Grebes as well as a few Coots.
After about 20 minutes I returned to the Reedbed trail and continued on into the reedbeds and as the path turned east towards the viewing screen a Hobby flew over my head at breakneck speed and across into the trees behind me. I waited a few minutes to see if the Hobby would emerge from the trees but it did not and I continued on to the viewing screen.
The viewing screen can be a good place to spot Bearded Tits, Water Rails and Bitterns, however today the channel in front of the screen was quite overgrown so I walked to the Reedbed Hide which is right at the end of the Reedbed trail. This hide is right on the edge of a lagoon and there were several Coots in front and 4 or 5 Little Grebes making a lot of noise in between diving for food and in the distance a pair of Mute Swans were swimming about just in front of the reeds.
As it was approaching lunchtime I retraced my steps along the Reedbed trail and as I arrived back at the visitor centre it proved to be a good decision as it started to rain. After lunch I headed out on the Green Lane trail and the first hide you reach is called the Family Hide and faces north west over the Mere. On the mud flats in front of the hide there were several Lapwings and Canada Geese, whilst perched on each of the large rocks was a Cormorant. In the distance were a few Gadwalls and a few Sand Martins were also flying about to and from the artificial Sand Martin wall on the far right hand side.
I left the Family Hide and moved on to the Field Pool West Hide which in the past has been a good place to see Kingfishers. In the thin line of water at the bottom of the bank in front of the hide several Canada Geese were in attendance with a few Moorhens moving along the edge of the water at the other side. A few feet into the grassland at the other side of the water a Little Egret was stood watching the Canada Geese as they parted to let a Mute Swan and its six cygnets swim through with the Cygnets following their parent in a long line behind it.
I then moved on to the next hide as Yellow Wagtails had been reported amongst the cattle. The next hide is called the Wader Scrape Hide which overlooks the eastern half of the Mere and also the Wader Scrape. Out on the eastern half of the Mere were several Coots and a couple of Gadwalls in the distance. Moving across to the Wader Scrape the cattle were grazing on the island amongst the vast amount of Canada and Greylag Geese but there was no sign of the Yellow Wagtail.
Moving along the near left hand edge of the Wader Scrape a Common Sandpiper was moving back and forth probing the mud for food. On the far side, sat on the waters edge a Grey Heron was sat looking back towards the hide as a pair of Meadow Pipits flew in and landed at the waters edge but left just a few seconds later over the hedge to the side of the hide. Before I left a Linnet flew in landed where the Meadow Pipits had been and I then had a quick look amongst the cattle to see if the Yellow Wagtail had appeared but sadly it hadn't.
The next hide is the furthest from the visitor centre and is called Wath Ings Hide and looks out over two large lagoons separated by a long thin strip of land which was full of Lapwings and Canada Geese. In front of the hide in the bottom right hand corner of the left lagoon a lone Green Sandpiper was moving along the edge of the water before being chased off by a Lapwing. On the left hand lagoon there is an island with a few large trees on it and at the end facing the hide amongst the tall grass at the edge of the water 3 Garganeys were fast asleep.
On the banking on the far side of the left lagoon another Grey Heron was moving down towards the water. In between all the Lapwings and Canada Geese on the thin strip of land dividing the lagoons a Little Egret was stood and near the end of the strip of land sat on a fence was another Grey Heron. Up the right edge of the left hand lagoon a Snipe was weaving in and out of the Lapwings at the waters edge and just in front of the hide a trio of Shovelers had left the lagoon and settled on the land.
On the right lagoon the Green Sandpiper had re-appeared and began to make its way round to the right along the edge of the lagoon. Out in the distance another large group of Lapwings stood in shallow water with a single Ruff, Black Headed Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls amongst them with a lone Golden Plover hiding between two Lapwings. Further round to the right on mud flats another large group of Lapwings were sat with a group of approximately 25 Starlings and a single Little Egret moving amongst them.
I moved on to the last hide at this end of the reserve, the Field Pool East Hide, which overlooks the southern half of Wath Ings. On this part of the lagoon more Lapwings were on the far and right hand sides and on the shallow pools and mud flats another Green Sandpiper was pushed to another pool by an arriving Greenshank which is noticeably larger than the Sandpiper. It was now approaching 3pm so I made my way back towards the visitor centre calling at Wader Scrape & Family hides on my way back.
Before you return to the visitor centre, there is the Tree Sparrow Farm Hide which overlooks several feeders and nest boxes. As I was looking out of the left hand side a Spotted Flycatcher appeared in the trees which was the second Flycatcher I have seen this year with the Pied Flycatcher at RSPB Ynys-hir being the other. Whilst I was trying to get a picture of the Spotted Flycatcher a pair Robins were moving from bush to bush and several Goldfinches were visiting one of the feeders.
Moving round to the centre a Linnet briefly visited one of the near feeders whilst on the far feeders at least 20 Greenfinches and 6 Collared Doves were tucking in. There was also a pair of Chaffinches and female Bullfinches on the feeders and a Magpie picking up the scraps. The Tree Sparrow Farm is usually a good place to see Yellowhammers, but today there were none in attendance. I had one more look at the Spotted Flycatcher before it disappeared and then I headed back to the visitor centre.
I have attached a few photos and my full sightings list from my visit to Old Moor.