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 cloudy day when I arrived at Old Moor and I first headed for the hide attached to the visitor centre where there was just a single Robin and a Magpie. I now walked across to the Tree Sparrow Farm where visiting the feeders were Blue Tits, Great Tits and Tree Sparrows. There were also a couple of Wood Pigeons perched close to the feeders whilst overhead at least twenty Goldfinches were swirling about in the sky before landing in the tops of the trees about a hundred yards away.
I left the Tree Sparrow Farm and headed for the path leading to the Bittern and Reedbed Hides. When I arrived at the Bittern Hide it was very quiet with just a few Coots on the water in front of the hide and a couple of Mute Swans over to the right. After a short time I left the hide and followed the path through the reedbeds to the Reedbed Screen as a couple of Cormorants flew overhead. It was just as quiet here so I walked the short distance to the Reedbed Hide which was much busier.
On the water in front of the hide there were Mallards, Gadwalls, Wigeons and Pochards. A little further out there was a lone Great Crested Grebe and a trio of Little Grebes as well as several more Coots. The Gadwalls, Little Grebes and a single Wigeon moved a little closer to the hide and over to the far left, next to the reeds I spotted a couple of Moorhens. It was now approaching midday so I headed back through the reedbeds to the visitor centre cafe for lunch.
After lunch I headed back to the Tree Sparrow Farm where there were still Blue Tits and Great Tits visiting the feeders but they had now been joined by a few Greenfinches. I now walked to the Green Lane trail and the first hide I reached was the Family Hide which looks out over the Mere. Out on the Mere I could see another Great Crested Grebe and more Coots as well as half a dozen Tufted Ducks. Gathered round some rocks near the edge of the water were several Lapwings and round the edge of an island a short distance out were several Shovelers.
Just before I left the hide a Kingfisher flew low along the water's edge from left to right and then up and over Green Lane towards the water at the other side. I walked the short distance to the Field Pool West Hide which looks out over water and a large area of grassland. On the water there were Gadwalls, Mallards and a Little Grebe just in front of the hide and over to the far left hand side were Wigeons and Mute Swans. A lot further out, wading along a narrow water channel that ran across the grassland, was a Grey Heron looking for food as a flock of Canada Geese flew over the hide and landed on the grasslands.
The next hide was Wader Scrape Hide which looks out over both the Mere and the Wader Scrape. To the left on the Mere there were Coots, Teals, Cormorants, Black Headed Gulls and another Little Grebe. To the right on the Wader Scrape there were more Lapwings and a pair of Pied Wagtails working their way along the edge of the water. On the grass banking separating the Mere and Wade Scrape there was a large group of more than sixty Linnets feeding. The Linnets suddenly rose up and flew round in a circle before landing more or less where they had taken off and they repeated this a couple of times before I left the hide.
The next hide is the furthest from the visitor centre and is the Wath Ings Hide and from here I could several different waders. In the far distance there were more than two hundred Golden Plovers and in amongst them were three Dunlin and one Ringed Plover. Cutting Wath Ings in half is a narrow strip of grass and at the far end I could see a trio of Black Tailed Godwits at the water's edge. Nearer the hide I could see Gadwalls, Mallards, Shovelers, Coots and another Little Grebe.
Round to the far right hand side, about three quarters of the way across the water, turning in circles was the rare Grey Phalarope which was now in its third week of its stay at Old Moor. The Grey Phalarope is a rare but regular visitor during Autumn with four to six hundred visiting the UK each year but they are usually at the coast so it is even rarer to see one this far inland. The two hundred or so Golden Plovers suddenly rose up into the air and after a few minutes flying high in the air over Wath Ings they settled back down where they had taken off from.
I now moved on to the final hide which is the Field Pool East Hide which looks over the far right hand side of Wath Ings. From here I was a little closer to the Grey Phalarope but it was still almost two hundred yards away with the light making the water shimmer a greyish white colour and the bird difficult to pick out. As I followed the path back down Green Lane a few Starlings flew overhead and before I went back to my car I paid one final visit to the Tree Sparrow Farm.
There was a Pheasant walking through the grass and visiting the feeders were Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches. Feeding on the ground were Wood Pigeons, Robins and a single Dunnock and a pair of Blackbirds. There was also a couple of Goldfinches perched on the large area of Teasels just beyond one of the feeders as a Collared Dove flew down and landed on top of one of the feeders. Just before I left a male Sparrowhawk flew low over the tops of the bushes chasing a small bird. It followed it round to the right, low over the hide and Teasels before the small bird managed to escape and the Sparrowhawk perched high up in a tree at the far side for a few seconds before flying off and a minute or so later the birds started to return to the feeders.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to RSPB Old Moor.