Helen and I decided to visit Old Moor today as it was one of those crisp, sunny January days. It was only about 4ºc according to the thermometer in the car but we had wrapped-up warmly and were prepared for it being cold.
Our first port of call on arrival at Old Moor was the Bird Garden. It was our first time visiting there this Winter and it was good to see many of the ‘usual suspects’ on the feeders once again. There were Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Tree Sparrows, Great Tits and a couple of Robins flitting back and forth on the feeders whilst a lone Song Thrush explored the grassy verges, hunting for anything edible. A rather bold Magpie alighted on the rocks just in front of the hide and I took a few pics of it before it moved away. For me, the most important thing I’ve noticed when photographing Magpies in the past is that it can be difficult to get the eyes to show up in the image; black eyes against black feathers is not easy! However, given the close proximity of this bird, I was quite pleased with one or two of today’s shots; the eyes are visible!
Moving on to the Tree Sparrow farm next, and we saw a large variety of small birds here: Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Magpie, Pheasant, Stock Dove and Collared Dove. I was hoping to see some Yellowhammer here today, but I understand from Old Moor’s blog that there haven’t been many(any??) at Old Moor so far this Winter. A single Brambling was reported here last week, but there have been no signs of quite a few other over-Winter visitors often seen here, including my favourites: Redwing, Redpoll and Siskin. Let’s hope some of these rather more exotic types get here before the Spring migration.The real star of the day, however, was a Water Rail that Helen and I saw up at Wath Ings. It’s always a real pleasure to see such a rare and elusive bird and it was completely unexpected today. This one was dabbling about at the water’s edge on the bank adjacent to the main mere. It was rather distant, but unmistakably a Water Rail. Between this bird and the Short Eared Owls we saw at Lindisfarne a couple of weeks ago, it feels like 2017 could be a really good birding year!
As we walked back down Green Lane we decided we’d earned ourselves a hot drink in the cafe. It’s a bit of a ritual for us to have a cup of hot chocolate following a Winter birding session, and I have to say it was very welcome today. Brrr!!
Bird count for the day – 40 species – a good showing for January!!