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 weeks 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.
It was raining when I arrived at Old Moor but the forecast was for it to stop from lunch time onwards so I first headed for the Hide at the side of the visitor centre. This proved to be good idea as the area in front of the hide was awash with Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches and Goldfinches. Making regular visits to one feeder in particular were quite a few Bullfinches and Reed Buntings, perching on a branch to the side of it before dropping down onto the feeder. As three Bullfinches clamoured for room on the feeder a couple of Dunnocks picked up the scraps that they dropped on the ground.
I walked through Discovery Zone in the light rain and arrived at the Bittern Hide hoping that I might get a rare glimpse of the elusive Bittern in flight. Out on the water in front there were a few Coots with a Cormorant swimming across the water in the distance. To the right on the Mere there were a few Tufted Ducks and a couple of Pochards with numerous Black Headed Gulls flying overhead. During a break in the rain I left the hide and walked round the water on the Reedbed Trial and followed it deep into reedbeds to the screen from which Kingfishers, Water Rails and Bearded Tits are sometimes seen.
Sadly the only thing I saw from the Reedbed Screen were a couple of Canada Geese and some Black Headed Gulls flying overhead so I headed towards the Reedbed Hide at the end of the trail. As I walked along the edge of the reedbed to my left I heard the distinctive boom of the male Bittern only a short distance into the reeds but unfortunately I was unable to see it before it went quiet. The water in front of the hide was quiet with just a few Coots and Tufted Ducks present and over to the far right a trio of Shovelers.
After waiting a while to see if the Bittern would emerge from the reeds by the hide I started to make my way back to the visitor centre. As I approached the Reedbed Screen I heard the unique pinging noise of a Bearded Tit and it flew over the path and dropped into the reeds. As I studied the reeds trying to see if I could see it the Bearded Tit inched its way up a reed into view, but it flew off before I had chance to photograph it and disappeared deep into the reeds away from the path.
As I neared the visitor centre I saw a Kestrel hovering over a field before if flew off into the trees. Before I visited the cafe for lunch I made a quick detour and headed to the Tree Sparrow Farm. Visiting the feeders were even more Bullfinches, Goldfinches and Reed Buntings. There were also more Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Greenfinches and Blue Tits as well as a couple of Blackbirds.
After lunch the rain had stopped and I headed off along the Green Lane Trail arriving first at the Family Hide which looks out over the Mere. At the bottom of the hill on which the hide sits there was a single Magpie and a couple of Teals at the waters edge. There were however hundreds of Black Headed Gulls constantly making a cacophony of noise and over to the left amongst them was a lone Mediterranean Gull wading along the edge of an island. At the far side of the Mere there was an Oystercatcher amongst the Gulls and on the banking there were a few Canada Geese.
I left the hide and headed further along the trail to the Field Pool West Hide which was quiet apart from a few Teals, Black Headed Gulls and a single Little Grebe diving right in front of the hide. At the next hide, the Wader Scrape hide, it was just as quiet with a few Coots, a lone Wigeon and a large amount of Black Headed Gulls. As I headed for the Wath Ings hide I spotted a lone Mute Swan on a small pond. The water on Wath Ings was much higher than usual almost completely covering the strip of land that usually divides the water.
On the small bit of land that was visible there were a few Black Headed Gulls and a couple of Common Gulls. To the left on the water there were a pair of Little Grebes and to the right there were Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Mallards and further out a pair of Great Crested Grebes. After a few minutes I spotted a lone male Goldeneye and it was soon joined by three female Goldeneyes. I now headed for the final hide which is the Field Pool East Hide which was very quiet and I then went for a quick look at the screen amongst the bushes. There were Reed Buntings and even more Bullfinches perched in the bushes and feeding on the ground.
I now headed back to the visitor centre, stopping off at the Tree Sparrow Farm on the way. There were still plenty of Bullfinches and Reed Buntings about and a few Long Tailed Tits were now present as well. Before I left the reserve I had a quick look in the hide next to the visitor centre and ferreting about under the feeder where the Bullfinches had been earlier was a Bank Vole.
In the previous couple of weeks a Firecrest and a Yellow Browed Warbler had been seen at a site close to Old Moor which is managed by the RSPB. The site is called Wombwell Ings and before I headed home I drove over to it. After at first missing the entrance to the reserve I retraced my steps, spotting a Goosander on the River Dearne as I walked over a bridge and turned into Wombwell Ings. I walked up the banks of the River Dearne to the sluice gate where the birds had been spotted. I arrived at the sluice gate and in the bushes a few yards further up I spotted the Yellow Browed Warbler.
After I watched the bushes by the river for several minutes there had been no sign of the Firecrest, there were however a few Goldcrests and a single Wren. The Yellow Browed Warbler then moved down the bushes and briefly perched in front of me, allowing me the chance to get one quick picture before it disappeared into the bush and out of site. I walked back through the muddy grass to the car and headed home.
I have added a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Old Moor and Wombwell Ings.