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 and for the past few days a Hawfinch had been making regular visits to the trees round the car park at Broomhill Flash.
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. I had only gone a few yards when I spotted a Kestrel sat just a few feet above me and it was looking at me as I took a picture, not at all bothered by me only being a few feet away. After watching the Kestrel for a couple of minutes I made my way to the Bittern Hide with a Great Tit, Blue Tit and Robin flying across the path in front of me.
From the Bittern Hide it was very quiet due to the lagoons being partial covered in ice and due to the fact it was half covered in low lying mist. Out on the water in front of me there were still a few Mallards and Coots in the parts of the water not frozen, but out to the right I couldn't see a thing as the mist was too thick. After a few minutes I decided to move on and as I descended the hill from the hide and crossed the short wooden bridge a Robin was perched on the end of a branch not more than two feet away looking straight at me.
I spent the next few minutes watching the Robin as it flew from branch to branch, occasionally to the ground. I now made my way round the left hand side of the reedbed, spotting a lone Reed Bunting in a tree as I passed it and arrived at the Reedbed Screen hoping to see either the Kingfisher or a Bearded Tit. However the water in front of the Reedbed Screen was frozen making it extremely unlikely that the Kingfisher would be making an appearance. I waited at least fifteen minutes but there wasn't a single bird and I continued on to the Reedbed Hide.
The view from the Reedbed Hide was no better as the mist had descended even further and all I could see was a couple of Tufted Ducks and Coots. As the mist showed no sign of lifting I decided to head back towards the visitor centre making a quick call at the hide next to the visitor centre. From the hide I could see Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Greenfinches visiting the feeders. To the right of the hide, beneath a feeder, emerging from the fallen branches and leaves was a Bank Vole coming out for a few seconds before disappearing back into its hiding place.
Joining the Bank Vole in looking for food amongst the undergrowth was a pair of Blackbirds and a lone Dunnock with a Robin watching on from above. In the tree branches above the feeders there was a couple of Collared Doves and a Wood Pigeon and as it was now midday I headed for the cafe. From the cafe I spotted a male Bullfinch visiting the feeders and there had been reports of more than ten at the Tree Sparrow Farm which I would visit later.
After lunch I headed out on the Green Lane Trail and my first port of call was the Family Hide which looks out over the Mere. Like the Reedbed Hide the water in front of the hide was largely covered by mist but I was able to see a single Cormorant perched on a rock and a couple of Black Headed Gulls. On a wooden post to the right of the hide a Peregrine Falcon was sat partly shrouded in mist and it soon flew off up over the Green Lane Trail and out of sight.
As the mist was preventing my view of the water I moved on and headed for the Field Pool West Hide. The water in front of this hide was also partially frozen but on the far side a Green Sandpiper and Redshank were probing the exposed mud with a few Crows out on the grasslands beyond. In the distance to the left of the hide there were a few Teals and a lone Mute Swan but not much else so again I moved on to the next hide.
As I was walking to the next hide the Peregrine Falcon made two low flights along Green Lane above my head. This particular Peregrine Falcon was born this year at Wakefield Cathedral and had been sighted at RSPB St Aidans earlier in the year but now seems to have taken up residence at Old Moor. The next hide is the Wader Scrape Hide which to the left looks out over the Mere and to the right over the Wader Scrape.
The Mere was still obscured by the mist so I took a look at the Wader Scrape which was almost as bad but I was still able to see a few Mute Swans and large group of Teal. Fishing along the edge of the water was a Little Egret making its way back and forth the waters edge and occasionally moving in to slightly deeper water. I now moved on to the Wath Ings hide which is always busy and although it was also partly covered by mist I was still able to see a good variety of birds.
To the right there was a large group of Lapwings and further out and more central there was an even larger group of Lapwings with small number of Black Headed Gulls amongst them. The large group kept disappearing and reappearing through the mist as it got thicker and then lighter several times. Just in front of the hide on the edge of the water at the bottom of the bank a Snipe was making its way along the water's edge probing the mud for food before it stopped right in front of me to clean itself and then tuck its beak in and go to sleep.
A little way out in to the water, on the edge of a mud bank another Snipe was now looking for food and it was soon joined by Redshank and Green Sandpiper. Round to the right a group of more than thirty Linnets landed on an exposed grassy mud bank before rising up and flying off a minute or so later. At the bottom of the bank in front of the hide, the second Snipe had flown over and landed a few feet to the right of its sleeping fellow Snipe and started to make its way along the waters edge towards it.
At this time a Pied Wagtail flew in and landed on the mud bank recently vacated by the Snipe. After spending a few minutes on the mud bank the Pied Wagtail flew off as a lone Linnet and Starling arrived on the island and started to forage for food. A Wigeon moved close to the mud bank and made its way around the edge probing for food before giving up and swimming back across to a large group of Wigeons half covered in mist.
Both Snipes now moved across to the mud bank, chasing each other along its edge before one flew off round to the left hand side of Wath Ings. I moved round to the left hand half of the hide, but it was nowhere near as busy with just a couple of Shovelers present, but one did move close enough for me to get a good picture. I now moved on to the final hide on the Green Lane Trail, the Field Pool East Hide and as I sat down the large group of Linnets were flying across in front of the hide and landed in a tree about one hundred yards away to the right at the top of a tree.
They soon moved off but just a minute or so later they all landed in at tree just fifty yards away and just as the Linnets had landed, a large group of the Lapwings took off to the left of the hide and began swirling round in the air in front of the hide before descending and landed roughly where they had taken off from. As I left the hide the Linnets took off and I started to make my way back towards the visitor centre. Just before I reached the visitor centre I paid a visit to the Tree Sparrow Farm which is always busy.
Today I was able to see Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches, Dunnock, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings, Pheasants and a single male Bullfinch. As I turned to leave the Tree Sparrow Farm I noticed in the bushes just next to the entrance there was a Goldcrest hoping from branch to branch but before I could get a picture it moved further into the bushes and out of sight. I then had a quick look in the hide attached to the visitor centre which was quite busy.
The Bank Vole was still popping out of its hiding place whilst Great Tits, Blue Tits and Greenfinches were visiting the feeders whilst feeding on the ground were Dunnocks and Blackbirds. Wood Pigeons kept flying down from the branches and picking at the seeds left out on large rocks. A male Bullfinch now came to eat these seeds, briefly perching on the handle of a garden spade and before long the number of Bullfinch had increased to four male and one female.
I now made my way through the visitor centre and back to the car and before I headed home I made a visit to Broomhill Flash which in recent days had a sighting of a Hawfinch in the trees above the car park, but sadly it did not make an appearance for me. I have added a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to Old Moor.