Trip reports

Old Moor and Broomhill Flash

Old Moor and Broomhill Flash
Paul Barrett

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Old Moor is an RSPB nature reserve near Doncaster, created out of an area of mine spoil. One of several man-made wetlands in the area, it is a go-to place for birders and the RSPB website advertises its star species as bittern, avocet, kingfisher and barn owl.
What a great destination for a group outing and at less than an hour away, we had time for a detour to the multi-storey bird-hide at Broomhill Flash for a quick one where it was great to see swifts zipping about overhead.
Onto Old Moor and on the coach we had a lottery to see which three people would get an afternoon in the RSPB's Bittern observation hide. Only a small number actually fancied four hours in one hide but I was one of three 'lucky' winners but an afternoon watching a small strip of reed margin closely turned out to be the best RSPB lottery prize I've ever won.
RSPB observers were working in the hide and they showed us their daily charts of the bitterns' flight paths and times as well as records of behaviours. We were treated to the male bitterns' distinctive booming calls and the RSPB observers' learned bittern wisdom. Bittern hide well, so the knowledge gained from months of daily observation has added significantly to what little was already known about bitterns, as well as improving understanding of the Dearne Valley wetlands in terms of fish stocks.
Watching out of the bittern hide was the fascination of a young bittern waiting unmoving in the reeds for its mum to return with a catch of ground up fish. Twitching reeds indicated that its siblings were travelling about in the reed bed and they came in and out of view. The adult female returned from a five hour hunting foray at 4pm and we lost sight of the bitterns but were able to follow their paths to their mother by following the shaking of the reed heads.
Other smaller birds were also busy in the reeds, and we enthused over a reed warbler, a little grebe and a juvenile bearded tit which didn't have a beard or even a moustache, but hey, a bearded tit is a bearded tit and they are very hard to see.
So what about those not incarcerated in the bittern hide? Old Moor has a great cafe, binocular sales, wild flower areas and about ten hides or screens as well as a delightful network of pathways. Several of the group saw birds to get excited about and Old Moor, having such diverse habitat, provided one of our longer sighting lists. So, here goes:
bullfinch, chaffinch, goldfinch, common sandpiper, oystercatcher, redshank, coot, black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, Canada goose, greylag goose, woodpigeon, crow, tufted duck, lapwing, swift, swallow, great tit, blue tit, reed bunting, pheasant, pochard, scaup, Mediterranean gull, moorhen, cormorant, magpie, mallard, shelduck, shoveler, mute swan, grey heron, gadwall, reed warbler, bittern, great crested grebe, little grebe, bearded tit, kingfisher, buzzard, blackbird, tree sparrow, pied wagtail, jackdaw, starling, robin, wren, kestrel.
Wendy Robinson