Old Moor – 11 Jun 2016

I went to Old Moor today for the first time in over two and a half weeks, and a full week since my last birding trip anywhere else.

I was actually in two minds about going to Old Moor – because there’s a very rare MEGA bird there at the moment. A Little Bittern, which was present around the same time last year, has returned and has being ‘wowing’ the crowds at Old Moor once again. I read about it on the daily blog whilst in Scotland last week and had been wanting to try to go all week since I got back.

However, for one reason or another, today – a Saturday, was my first opportunity to go. I knew it had been ‘standing room only’ in the Bittern Hide last weekend, and rather guessed it would be the same again today. That coupled with the fact that it was a very dull, damp and humid day didn’t bode well from the start!

When I arrived at Old Moor I was rather surprised to find that the car park wasn’t any busier than usual. Perhaps it wouldn’t be mobbed with birders today after all?

I made my way round to the Bittern Hide, outside of which were various groups of people scouring the skies in hope of seeing the Little Bittern. When I opened the door and went inside it was just as I had feared – ‘standing room only’ once again. Hardly surprising though given that both the ‘ordinary’ Bittern and the Little Bittern have been showing very well, and regularly all week, including earlier-on today.


A very busy Bittern Hide, as seen from the rather more deserted Wader Scrape Hide.

I decided not to stay; hides can be creaky, damp and occasionally unpleasant places to be in, but this one was full of people and there was nowhere for me to sit, so I decided to depart. Perhaps, if the bird is still there, I might try again one week-day next week.

I visited the Family Hide for a few minutes where I watched a pair of Oystercatchers with a lone chick between them, and then walked up Green Lane visiting all the hides up there. There wasn’t a lot showing today, perhaps due to the cloying, damp atmosphere and uniform, grey sky; it was very still without a breath of a breeze at all.

I did see lots of Black Headed Gull chicks at various stages of development from the Wader Scrape, and then I watched a rather sad episode unfold from Wath Ings Hide: A female Pochard was swimming around with her brood of seven or eight chicks in tow. I noticed that one chick was quite a way distant from the rest and was rapidly swimming towards the group to rejoin them for safety. When it got close to the other chicks, the female Pochard drove it away. The chick tried several times to join up with the others, only to be driven-off each time.

It was only then that it dawned on me that the solitary chick wasn’t marked quite the same as the others – it wasn’t one of hers at all! It was a Mallard chick which had obviously become separated from its own family. The female Pochard was having none of it, with enough chicks of her own to look after. The poor Mallard chick seemed quite distressed, and no wonder! With so many predators around the site, its chances of survival wouldn’t be great if it wasn’t quickly reunited with its own family. I scanned the area of water I could see from the hide, but sadly there was no sign of any Mallards with chicks. I left the hide hoping that the chick would be ok, somehow…

On the way back down Green Lane I managed to capture one, single image of a Sedge Warbler darting through the undergrowth. The only other things of note that I photographed today were some of the irises along the lane. They are looking glorious now, and they, at least, tend not to fly away, thank goodness!

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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