Old Moor – 11 May 2017

It was a beautiful sunny day in the Dearne Valley for my 86th visit to Old Moor today. I was accompanied by a couple of bird-watcher friends – Ann & Terry Godhard, who hadn’t been to Old Moor for a few years. They were keen to see how the reserve has developed over the years and so we elected to visit both the Reedbed and Green Lane trails to allow Ann & Terry to see the entire reserve as it currently is.

We started our visit by turning left out of the Visitors’ Center and heading in the direction of the Reedbed Trail.

In the Bittern Hide we got into conversation with Ian Butler, who is a very regular contributor of amazing images on the Old Moor blog. What a source of information Ian is! I only realised after we’d spoken to him for a bit that I should have been taking notes of all the places (and useful birding tips) he mentioned! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – Birding is such a social activity! Everywhere I’ve ever been birding in this country, it’s the same thing – Birders love to chat, share information and experiences. Excellent!

As far as birds were concerned, we had some close-up views of three Pochard and a lone Great Crested Grebe from the Bittern Hide whilst we were present today. A full Summer-plumage, male Reed Bunting was flitting around in the reeds in front of us and we could hear (but not see, alas) a Sedge Warbler singing its heart-out somewhere in the reeds just in front of the hide. (This was to be a recurring theme for the day – lots of birds clearly-heard but not spotted!).

Continuing on our way round the Reedbed trail, we visited both the Reedbed Screen and the Reedbed Hide. This end of the reserve was fairly quiet today, unfortunately. I did, however, notice a pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls on the spit of land over to the right of the hide, looking resplendent, if slightly threatening, in the sunshine.

We had also hoped to hear (and see!) a Bittern whilst we were here, as at least one individual has been heard doing its characteric ‘booming’ here regularly of late. Alas, this didn’t occur today whilst we were present!

After returning to the Visitors’ Center and enjoying a spot of lunch, we next made our way up Green Lane to visit each of the hides up there.

At the Wader Scrape we spotted quite a selection of birds, many rather distant from the hide, unfortunately. A lone Avocet was mingling in amongst a huge number of nesting Black-Headed Gulls right at the back of the mere, a Lesser black Backed Gull was sitting tightly on a nest – being given quite a wide berth by all the other gulls, and on one island a single Ringed Plover was accompanied by no-less-than a Little Stint (the first time I’ve seen one of those at Old Moor). These last two were very far away from our viewpoint, however,  and so no ‘decent’ photos were possible, even with my zoom lens at its maximum 600mm setting.

One other notable bird I photographed today was a lone Redshank from Wath Ings Hide. I think this same bird featured in the Old Moor blog the other day. What is particularly noticeable about it is that it has been ringed on three separate occasions, as evidenced by the various coloured rings on its legs. Does this bird enjoy being ringed, I wonder, or is just not very good at escaping?? Anyway, if it’s ringed anymore, it may not be able to get off the ground afterwards!

The last bird I want to mention today is a Goose I photographed at Wath Ings. It was probably just a (slight variant) Greylag Goose, but as it had a big white patch behind its beak, I began to wonder if it might in fact be a White-Fronted Goose. Looking at numerous photographs of both types of goose on Google didn’t give me a definitive answer. As is so often the case, bird identification can be very tricky, and causes much confusion and mis-identification. This particular individual might actually be a hybrid – offspring of a mating between Greylag and White-Fronted Goose parents. This is not uncommon, of course – last year I photographed a Pintail-Mallard hybrid which perplexed me for a time. (It doesn’t take much!)

I wish all birds were RFID-tagged with full species information etc at birth! Come on RSPB et al – get it sorted!

PS: Ann & Terry were much impressed by all the developments at Old Moor – hearty congratulations to all the staff and volunteers for their continuing excellent efforts.

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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