BITTERN PROVES ELUSIVE @ OLD MOOR
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 a bright sunny day when I arrived at Old Moor and I first headed for the hide next to the visitor centre. On the feeders there were Bullfinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches, whilst on the ground below there were a couple of Pheasants picking up the scraps. Before I headed off to the Bittern Hide I made a quick visit to the Tree Sparrow Farm which was quieter than usual but there were still a few Tree Sparrows, Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits and Great Tits.
As I headed away from the Tree Sparrow Farm a Song Thrush flew across the path, over the fence on my right and dropped down into the bushes. As I approached the Bittern Hide I could hear a Reed Bunting calling from the reeds next to the path. On the water in front of the hide there were Coots, Black Headed Gulls and a pair of Mute Swans with several Cygnets in tow. Perched over to the left on a wooden post protruding from the water was a single Cormorant that was busy preening itself as a lone Common Tern made the first of several flights over the water.
The Bittern Hide, as the name suggests, is usually a good place to spot Bitterns and this year there have been three nests amongst the reedbeds at the far side of the water. There have been eight Bitterns fledged from two of the nests whilst the juvenile Bitterns on the third nest were yet to fledge. Sadly none of the Bitterns would appear whilst I was there and as a Little Grebe appeared in the reeds just in front of the hide I headed along the path to the Bittern Bus Stop.
Usually you can continue along the path to the Reedbed Screen & Hide but as one of the Bittern nests was close to the path, the trail had been closed at this point to avoid disturbing the Bitterns. I now made my way back towards the visitor centre where the Bullfinches were still making regular visits to the feeders. After lunch at the cafe I headed out along the Green Lane Trail, calling first at the Family Hide. In front of the hide there were hundreds of Black Headed Gulls and around fifty Canada Geese.
A little further out to the left on one of the islands, amongst the Black Headed Gulls, there were Jackdaws, Mediterranean Gulls and a Lesser Black Backed Gull. I left the hide and headed the short distance to the Field Pool West Hide where there were more Black Headed Gulls and a few Lapwings. Moving amongst the water in front of the hide there were a pair of Eels which spent several minutes moving along the surface of the water before disappearing.
Further out on the water there was a single Little Egret and as I left the hide the Eels made a brief re-appearance. The next hide I visited is the Wader Scrape Hide and here, like the Family Hide, there were hundreds of Black Headed Gulls whilst out on the water there was a pair of Shelducks with several chicks following them. On the near side of the water, just in front of the hide, a Lapwing was walking along the ground, stopping occasionally to preen itself.
A little further out from the hide a lone Oystercatcher landed at the edge of the water and it was soon followed by a Redshank. I departed the hide and walked the short distance to the Wath Ings Hide which is at the furthest point of Green Lane. From here I saw Coots, Black Headed Gulls, Little Grebes and a Great Crested Grebe. At the far side of the water there were several Mute Swans and sat on a wooden fence post was a Cormorant.
On the islands dividing the water in two there were several Pochards and after I had been there ten minutes or so a Kingfisher flew from the right, round the front of the hide and off along the line of trees to the left of the hide. After waiting a while to see if the Kingfisher would return I headed off to the Field Pool East Hide where I saw a few Mallards and down on the ground at the edge of the water there were six Starlings.
I now followed the path back round to the Green Lane Trail and made my way back to the visitor centre and called at the hide next to the visitor centre. There were a couple of Moorhens with their chicks below the feeders whilst Bullfinches were still visiting the feeders along with a Reed Bunting and a few Wood Pigeons.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Old Moor.