With snow showers in the forecast for the Pennine area, today’s foray to Old Moor RSPB reserve near Barnsley looked to be a propitious destination, and so it proved to be with fine sunny weather the order of the day. We got off to a disappointing start when Joan hit heavy traffic and couldn’t get to Bradford before the minibus left so it was not quite a full bus that arrived at Old Moor with high expectations as there had been sightings of quite a few interesting birds in recent days, including a very early swallow.
Although the weather was fine it was cold and quite windy but Old Moor is a very user-friendly reserve with lots of hides in which to shelter from the wind and we made good use of these throughout the day. We were told that water levels had been held at a higher level than usual because of restrictions on water being discharged into the river and this makes nesting difficult for the many black-headed gulls, resplendent in their breeding plumage, who voiced their disapproval throughout the day.
Many other species showed off their breeding plumage with especially fine views of snipe, shoveler, shelduck, gadwall, little grebe, pochard, wigeon, yellowhammer and bullfinch. The bird with which many people associate with Old Moor, the tree sparrow, did not disappoint and we were sorry not to hear the bittern which had been reported to be booming in recent days but nevertheless we recorded 42 species.
It was of course the day of the Spring equinox and trees were showing signs of life with leaves starting to appear on many of the shrubs and the blossom of blackthorn decorating the hedges. Flowering plants were few but included coltsfoot, cowslip and comfrey. Although it seemed too cold for any butterflies to make an appearance a brimstone was spotted but the day’s fine outing was rounded off with one very unusual sighting, that of Donald in the cafe, which goes to show that you can change the habits of a lifetime!
Thanks to John for his leadership and to Sue for her driving.
See the photos here.