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.
It was a bright and very warm day when I arrived at Old Moor and I first headed for the hide next to the visitor centre. The bird feeders were quieter than usual with Blue Tits, Great Tits and a lone Robin present. The ground below the feeders were busier with a pair of Bank Voles and a single Rat hoovering up the scraps dropped from the feeders. After a quick visit to the Tree Sparrow Farm, where there was a lone Bullfinch, I headed through the Discovery Zone to the Bittern Hide.
On the water in front of the hide there were Coots and a pair of Great Crested Grebes with one of them being a juvenile. After about fifteen minutes I made my way along the Reedbed Trail, spotting several Dragonflies and Butterflies at the edge of the path and a Reed Bunting was briefly perched at the top of the reeds. A couple of hundred yards later I reached the Reedbed Screen where I spent the next twenty minutes hoping to see the Kingfisher or a Water Rail I had heard calling from the reedbeds.
Sadly I would not see them but I did see a brief glimpse of a Bearded Tit as well as a couple of Reed Warblers moving to and fro across the water channel in front of the screen. I now walked on to the end of the trail and the Reedbed Hide where there were Coots, Moorhens and Great Crested Grebes on the water as well as a few Dragonflies at the edge amongst the reeds. After a few minutes one of the Great Crested Grebes started fishing about thirty feet in front of the hide and it got closer and closer with each dive under the surface of the water.
It spent the next forty minutes or so feeding and preening itself just in front of the hide. I now left the hide and headed back along the Reedbed Trail and I saw more Dragonflies and Butterflies including a Brown Argus butterfly near the start of the trail. As I walked through the discovery zone I saw a Reed Warbler moving through the reeds and then over the path and disappearing into the reeds on the other side.
After lunch I headed out along the Green Lane Trail, stopping first at the Family Hide which looks out over the Mere. It was a lot quieter on the Mere than my last visit with the number of Black Headed Gulls greatly reduced. There were also Cormorants, Lapwings and at the water's edge a few Jackdaws. On the barbed wire fence just in front of the hide a Common Darter dragonfly kept landing and then flying off a few seconds later before finally settling down.
I moved on to the Field Pool West Hide where there were a few Lapwings and Mallards as well as a Grey Heron fishing in the shallow water on the far side. After a few minutes I left the hide and followed the trail up to the Wader Scrape Hide which, like the Family Hide, was quieter than usual. There were Coots and a few Black Headed Gulls with a group of three Little Egrets about one hundred yards from the hide. There were also a few Lapwings and Pied Wagtails at the edge of the water and a group of Linnets flew over the hide and disappeared south over the Green Lane Trail.
The next hide I visited was the Wath Ings Hide which was a lot busier with several Lapwings, Black Headed Gulls and Mute Swans. In the shallow water to the right of the hide there was a lone Green Sandpiper and further out there was a quartet of Black Tailed Godwits. A couple of Snipes also flew low over the water before landing and disappearing into the tufts of grass amongst the mud. Round to the left of the hide there was a pair of Tufted Ducks and diving for food was a lone Little Grebe in its summer plumage.
On an island, amongst some wild flowers and tall grass, was a lone Mute Swan watching over two of its young as they fed at the edge of the water. Over on the edges of the mud banks to the right there were now several Pied Wagtails and a lone Starling looking for food. A minute or so later a trio of Snipes flew across the front of the hide and landed over to the left and landed at the edge of the grassy island where the Mute Swan was.
At the far side of the water I spotted a trio of Grey Herons and a couple more Little Egrets and as I left the hide a fourth Grey Heron flew over to join its comrades at the far side. I now headed on to the final hide which is the Field Pool East Hide which was fairly quiet apart from a few Black Headed Gulls and Lapwings with a trio of Pied Wagtails along the water's edge in front of the hide.
The temperature was now in the high twenties and I left the hide and followed the Green Lane Trail back to the visitor centre. Before I left I made a quick visit to the Tree Sparrow Farm where there were a few Tree Sparrows and a couple of Dunnocks on the floor. In the undergrowth next to the hide at the visitor centre, the rat was still ferreting about looking for food and a Robin was sat on a branch above it.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Old Moor.