Old Moor – 18 May 2017

It was another glorious, sunny day in the Dearne Valley today, as I arrived at Old Moor. Whilst walking from the car park to the Visitors’ Center, I could hear a variety of birds singing in the trees and bushes near the entrance. There was very little breeze, and so I hoped I might see a few Warblers today.

As I began walking onto the reserve, I was met by a very tame Robin, perched by the path. That’s not so usual at the time of year when there is an abundance of food and they don’t have to come begging. This one obviously didn’t get the memo! It made a welcome start to my bird-photography session though, as I captured a couple of close-up frames of the bird, enjoying the morning sunshine.

As I began to walk up Green Lane, I was pleased to see a family of Tree Sparrows bathing in a puddle on the path. As I approached, they flew up into a nearby bush, which allowed me to count five of them – an obvious parent and some very noisy fledglings!

A quick stop in the Family Hide provided me with some close-up views of several Lapwings – always beautiful birds, with their irridescent plumage. Apart from the Lapwings, the mere in front of the hide was still dominated by the (very noisy!) Black Headed Gulls which are currently breeding on the islands. They’ll soon be gone now, however, and peace will return to the mere!

Lapwing

A Lapwing outside the Family Hide

From the hide at Field Pool West, I watched a Grey Heron being harried by a couple of Black Headed Gulls. The Heron was trying to find somewhere to land, but the gulls were having none of it! I have to be honest and say that I never have sympathy for Herons nowadays, not since watching one swallow a Little Grebe chick whole a couple of years back, whilst the distressed parent looked-on, powerless to stop the much-larger Heron devour its (still-living) young.

Gull & Heron

A Grey Heron being harried by a Black-Headed Gull

Further up Green Lane I was lucky enough to take a number of photographs of a lovely Willow Warbler which was perched in a tree, singing its heart-out, immediately above my head! Nearby, a Sedge Warbler was also giving a hearty rendition of its long, elaborate and rambling song.  These birds are unquestionably two of my favourite singers.

Sadly, the Sedge Warbler was rather-more obscured by reeds than I would have liked, so I couldn’t get a clear shot of the first one I’ve actually laid eyes on this year! I’ll have to visit Blacktoft Sands again soon, I’ve always had more success photographing Sedge Warblers there.

Next, I visited the Wader Scrape Hide. Black Headed Gulls were once again the ‘headline’ species on view. However, on the grass in front of the hide, some Canada Geese were out parading their latest fluffy offspring. I challenge anyone seeing such cute little goslings to be able to resist taking at least one photograph of them!

Canada Gosling

A Canada Gosling – I think I’ll call it Ryan!

I finished today’s short visit with a spell at Wath Ings. Here I watched a Lesser Black Backed Gull as it patrolled around the mere and the exposed mudflats. I couldn’t help but think that it was keeping its eyes peeled for any unattended chicks that it could predate. A pair of LBB Gulls are currently incubating eggs on a nest on one of the Wader Scrape islands, and they’re going to be in need of plentiful food supplies shortly. The Spring is a very special time to visit a bird reserve such as Old Moor, because you can see so many young birds which have recently hatched. However, it can also be very distressing to watch any stragglers being picked-off by any of a good number of predators, hunting for any easy meal.

Pochard

Flying Pochard male

My last picture for today is of a male Pochard flying across the mere in front of the hide. I always love to see a Pochard, with its unusual, red eyes and similarly coloured head. They’re usually to be found dabbling-about on the water, their heads under the surface more often than above, in my experience. So I was very pleased to capture one in mid-flight today.

Another enjoyable visit to Old Moor then; it’s still my favourite RSPB reserve!

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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