Old Moor – 11 Feb 2019

It was Old Moor again today on a mild, still and fairly sunny February afternoon. I had looked at the Recent Sightings Blog and noted that a couple of Brambling in the Tree Sparrow Farm and a Green Woodpecker on Wath Ings had ‘wowed’ the crowds yesterday, and so I decided I’d visit today to see if I could manage to get a few good photos.

On arrival I had a quick look in the Bird Garden to see what was about. Unfortunately, not much on this occasion, so I carried-on to the Tree Sparrow Farm for my first proper stop of the day. Almost immediately I spotted a Brambling on the ground and grabbed a quick frame. Irritatingly, that one frame was to be the only one I managed to get before the bird disappeared, and it’s not a great image, given that most of the bird’s head is obscured by a twig! Grrr! I stayed in the Tree Sparrow Farm for another half hour or so, but there was no reappearance of the Brambling. Other birds on show, however, were: Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Pheasant, Blue Tit, Tree Sparrow and Dunnock.

Reed Bunting

This female Reed Bunting posed nicely for a portrait in the Tree Sparrow Farm

Next, I ventured along Green Lane and had a brief stop in the Family Hide. The water levels are high at the moment, (as they should be at this time of year to allow a good build-up of the tiny invertebrates that are the staple diet of so many birds come the breeding season, at which point the water levels are allowed to drop again), and so there weren’t many birds around the margins of the mere. However, two pairs of Teal were dabbling about in the sunshine just in front of the hide, and a lone Green Sandpiper was once more present on the mud-bank to the far right of the hide, adjacent to the House Martin nesting wall.

My next port of call was Field Pool East Hide from which I could see an assortment of birds including a great many Shoveler and Black-headed Gulls. Also present were a few Tufted Duck, a few Coot and a couple of Mute Swans. The sunshine was pleasant and it was nice just watching the water from this hide, so I enjoyed a contemplative half hour just watching the birds. Occasionally, one or more Shoveler would fly past my position and I tried to photograph one or two in flight, but with mixed results!

 

Next was Wath Ings, which has always been my favourite hide at Old Moor, and is practically always busy with bird-watchers and photographers like myself. Once again, the high water levels meant that there was almost no exposed mudflat today, but what there was, was covered in a mixture of Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls. As I watched this large grouping of birds, I soon noticed a solitary Magpie in amongst the other birds, and thought how incongruous the bird looked amongst all the others. However, of course, it’s a function of the very fact that Magpies are so opportunistic that there are so many of them in the UK. Whilst sitting in the hide, I suddenly heard the (very) distant ‘yaffle’ of a Green Woodpecker. I kept watching, but there was no sign of the bird, alas.

Spot the Magpie

Spot the Magpie!

After another half hour or so I decided to call in at the Wader Scrape Hide as I began making my way back down Green Lane in the direction of the Visitor’s Center and Car Park. From the Wader Scrape I was able to add several more species of birds to my daily count, which included: Cormorant (there were around twenty of them on one of the islands today), Shelduck, Goosander, and to my amazement – a single Golden Plover which dropped down out of the sky and joined a flock of Lapwing on one of the islands. I took about six photos of the plover, which was probably around 150-200 metres away from me, before it and all the Lapwings were ‘spooked’ and flew up into the air and circled around overhead, alongside a flock of Linnets which had also risen-up in alarm at some unseen threat. I managed to take several more images of the Plover before I lost sight of it completely. I was very pleased with that unexpected sighting, however.

Golden Plover

A Golden Plover along with a flock of Lapwing. There is also a single Linnet near the top right corner of the image!

I couldn’t pass Field Pool West Hide without having a quick look in there. Whilst up at Wath Ings I had overheard a couple of birders saying that a Kingfisher had been spotted there at least twice through the day, so I tried my luck there for a bit. No kingfisher turned-up in the fifteen minutes I was there, however, and as the light was beginning to go, I decided not to linger too long. Just outside the hide, however, I was treated to a great view of a male Bullfinch eating berries atop one of the trees. It didn’t seem to mind my presence, and allowed me to approach quite near whilst snapping away at the beautifully-attired bird.

Bullfinch

A lovely male Bullfinch feeding on Rowan berries

A brief revisit to the Tree Sparrow Farm to look for the Brambling again proved fruitless, and I spent the last few minutes of my visit photographing a pair of Blackbirds and a Moorhen in the Bird Garden.

Still no Green Woodpecker photo to my name, boohoo, but I’ll keep trying!

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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