CRACKING CURLEW SANDPIPER @ OLD MOOR


On Friday I visited Old Moor which is a nature reserve managed by the RSPB in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley. I had originally planned to go on Thursday, but it was forecast to rain all day, which it did. 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.


As I usually do when I visit Old Moor, I started off walking through the Discovery Zone to the Reedbed Trail. There was a Robin singing away at the top of a bush and a Grey Heron fishing at the edge of a small lagoon. At the start of the Reedbed Trail is the Bittern Hide where last year I saw a Bittern & Little Bittern flying over the reedbeds. In front of the hide it was very quiet with just a few Coots on the water and a pair of Wrens emerging from the reeds and landing on a branch a few times.


To the right of the hide you can see the north west corner of the Mere on which there was a pair of Teals, several Gadwalls, Shovelers & Mallards. At the edge of water a single Little and Great Crested Grebe were diving for food and out in the middle of the water there a few Wigeon amongst a few Herring Gulls, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and Black Headed Gulls. Flying over the reeds in the distance were a couple of Cormorants and Crows and a lone Goldfinch came flying towards the hide calling out as it flew over the hide and disappeared.


After about twenty minutes I made my way along the Reedbed Trail which follows the edge of the reedbeds before turning right into the reedbeds to a screen where Kingfishers and Bearded Tits can be seen at certain times of the year. Kingfishers & Bearded Tits were seen here on Friday, but unfortunately not whilst I was there. What I did see though was a single Robin in a tree just to the left, another Wren behind me emerging from the reeds and briefly perching on a bridge before disappearing again. Before I moved on to the Reedbed Hide at the end of the trail a flock of approximately fifty Starlings flew overhead in two groups heading for the visitor centre.


In front of the Reedbed Hide there were several more Coots, a couple of Moorhens at the edge of the reeds and a few Gadwalls & Wigeons. Over to the left I spotted a group of five Snipes at the base of a small clump of reeds with four of them asleep with their long beaks tucked in and one of them standing at the edge keeping a look out for any predators. On the water in front of the hide a family of Mute Swans was looking for food before the three Cygnets started flapping practicing take offs from the water. The Cygnets then came together moving their necks and heads about like they were performing a well choreographed dance. At one point they even had all three beaks touching making a heart shape before dispersing and heading back over to their parents.

As it was approaching midday I decided to make my way back to the visitor centre for lunch. I checked the Reedbed Screen as I headed back, I had apparently missed the Kingfisher again, but there was still a Robin hopping about in the trees. As I approached the visitor centre a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the trees and disappeared amongst them as a Kestrel hovered over some bushes a few yards away.


After my lunch at Old Moor's excellent cafe I headed out along the Green Lane Trail and as I approached the first hide a small group of Lapwings were up and flying in a circle before dropping back down onto the Mere. The first hide is the Family Hide and it overlooks the Mere where again there was a lot of Wigeon, Shovelers and Teal as well as a couple of Tufted Ducks. On the mud flats at the edge a trio of Pied Wagtails were working their way along the mud as a group of about a dozen Linnets circled above before landing in the short grass bank to the far right hand side.


After a minute or so they took off circling again before heading south over the hide and out of sight. I moved on to the next hide which is only a few yards further down the trail on the right and looks over grassland and water. On the water in front of the hide there were a couple of Teals & Shovelers but not much else. In the distance on the grassy area a large group of Crows came in over the trees and landed, a group or flock of Crows is known as a Murder of Crows.


The next hide looks over the Mere on the left and the Wader Scrape on the right. Over on the Mere again there were a few Shovelers, Teal & Wigeon but also a group of Cormorants & Gulls occupying a small mud bank. Over on the Wader Scrape there was a single Little Grebe amongst over a hundred and fifty Canada Geese. Over on the bank to the far right hand side there were the remains of a bird which was more than likely killed by a Sparrowhawk. Back on the edge of the Wader Scrape the Little Grebe had moved to the edge of the water and tucked its head under its wing and gone to sleep. A couple of male Pheasants then appeared on the grass banking separating the Mere and Wader Scrape.

The penultimate hide sits overlooking Wath Ings and has usually been the best place for seeing wading birds. On the left hand side of Wath Ings there was a group of five Greenshanks making their way through the shallow water probing the mud for food. There was also a small group of Shovelers & Wigeon on the edge of the grass that splits Wath Ings in two. Just before I moved round to look at the right hand half of Wath Ings a Green Sandpiper flew in through the trees and landed on the far left hand side.


On the right hand side of Wath Ings there was a large number of Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and well over a 100 Wigeon on the grassy muddy area right in front of the hide. Working their way along the mud at the waters edge was a group of Ruffs, but hiding amongst them was the absolutely cracking Curlew Sandpiper, a bird I had never seen before!

A Grey Heron flew in and landed on the far side of the water, closely followed by a Buzzard which caused all the Lapwings, Wigeon and Gulls to take to the air en masse to avoid it and settling down nearer to the final hide which was further round to the right. After watching the Curlew Sandpiper for a few minutes I moved on to the final hide which is halfway round the small loop at the end of the Green Lane Trail. The Wigeon had mostly settled in front of this hide after the Buzzard's visit looking through the mud for food. In one of the small pools in the mud a Pied Wagtail was busy washing itself before moving over to a small pile of stones where it was joined by another Pied Wagtail.


I made my way back along the trail towards the visitor centre, calling in at the first two hides I had visited on the trail. As I was walking along a group of Long Tailed Tits flitted from branch to branch at the edge of the trail as well as a couple of Wrens in front of one of the hides. Before returning to the visitor centre I went to the Tree Sparrow Farm which has recently been refurbished and is a good place to spot small garden birds.


On the left hand side a lone Goldfinch and Great Tit were hiding in the bushes, only popping out to visit the feeder and they were soon joined by a Blue Tit. At the back of the feeders area a group of Pigeons were trying to access the food in the feeders with a Collared Dove sat on top of a post waiting it's turn. At the feeders on the right hand side it was a lot busier with Coal Tits, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, a pair of Bullfinches and a lone Dunnock all visiting with the Bullfinches also picking up the scraps on the ground.


I had a quick look in the hide attached to the visitor centre where a group of six or seven Collared Doves were feasting on the food left out. There was also a Blackbird in the trees and as I was leaving in the car a Jay flew across the road and disappeared into the trees on the other side. I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list which had a new record of forty-six different species of bird for me.

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