It was the most glorious day today and I could think of nowhere I’d rather be than in the Dearne Valley at Old Moor.
A Bittern has been seen quite a lot round at the Reedbed area of late and I decided to try my luck again. When I got to the Reedbed Screen the light was just great and I promised myself I would give it at least a full hour in the hope of finally seeing a Bittern.
Whilst sitting there I struck up conversation with a friendly chap named Mike Good, who, like me, turned out to be a retired teacher turned keen birder. Mike had already been there an hour when I arrived and hadn’t seen hide nor hair of anything much at all. Sadly, that was to remain the case for the next hour too!
Next I made my way along to the Reedbed Hide and stayed there for at least the next half hour. Highlights here were: a pair of Coots squabbling and doing their feet-fighting for a bit, a pair of Great Crested Grebes looking resplendent in the sunlight, and a quite tame Little Grebe which was fishing so near to the front of the hide that I had difficulty making my long lens focus on it since it was so close!
I next made my way round to Green Lane and first looked in at the Family Hide. There are still hundreds and hundreds of Black Headed Gulls dominating the Main Mere, but I did manage to get a few good shots of a Lesser Black-Backed Gull, and a beautiful Gadwall which was showing well with the sunlight showing up its feather-detail to great effect. Also, it was great to see the ‘Sand Martin Hotel’ busy with lots of Martins zooming in and out of the various tunnels provided for them. I snapped a few shots of them, but they were so fast and so distant that I didn’t expect much, and as it turns out – I was right not to!
Next I spent a few minutes in the Field Pool West Hide photographing the only Wader I saw all day – a solitary Redshank, before I emerged and met up with Mike again on the path just outside the hide. From here we walked up Green Lane together sharing various birding experiences. It turned out that Mike and I had visited a great many places in common. He was looking forward to a forthcoming first-visit to the Farne Islands, and I was glad to share some of my experiences there which I hope will be of use to him when he gets there.
As we walked up Green Lane in the direction of the Wader Scrape and Wath Ings Hides, we began to realise just how many small birds were singing around us in the trees. We photographed Chiffchaffs, a Blue Tit, a Robin and a Willow Warbler along the lane before meeting another regular Old Moor birder who told us that he had just been to Field Pool East Hide where there were Blackcaps in the trees nearby. Mike and I spent the next forty minutes or so photographing a female Blackcap, a couple of Long Tailed Tits and another Willow Warbler in the trees by the hide. All in beautiful, warm sunshine.
My knees were beginning to ache a bit after standing still for so long, so I decided to call it a day. Since I was so close to Wath Ings I thought I’d just have a quick look in. Sadly, the water level is higher than ever, so no waders at all for now.
As I made my way back down towards the Visitor’s Centre, I met and had a brief conversation with a lady called Amanda, who is one of the reserve’s volunteers. She informed me that there was an ongoing issue with the Environment Agency in trying to get a pump to reduce the water level at Wath Ings. Let’s hope that situation is soon resolved so that Wath Ings can resume its status as ‘Wader Heaven’ – in my mind at least!
Last bird of the day – as I was talking with Amanda near the entrance to Field Pool West Hide, a fabulous Sparrowhawk zoomed overhead. There was no time to get my camera up for a photo, but It was the only raptor I’d seen all day, and a welcome addition to the day’s count.