Trip reports

Trip to Old Moor RSPB Reserve January 2012

Adult and child birdwatching

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


This trip was memorable for two main reasons - a luxury coach with matching crimson curtains and head rests and extremely strong winds. The latter so brawny that we were threatened with being moved off the M1 over the exposed Catcliffe link by Sheffield, though in the end a lower speed limit saved us that inconvenience.

On arrival at Old Moor, set in the coal measures of South Yorkshire, we were welcomed by one of the volunteer wardens - anxious glances were exchanged as she merrily advised us not to hang around beneath their nearby eco turbine in case the howling wind blew the blades off and decapitated someone! Fortunately the appearance of some smart Bullfinches and Tree Sparrows in the hedge opposite distracted us and we disembarked for a closer look. The turbine was indeed screaming and twisting like a dog trying to slip its lead so everyone scurried past sharpish into thevisitor centre.

Old Moor is noted for its excellent visitor centre and restaurant which are in converted stone farm buildings. In fact the restaurant was so good more of us went straight there rather than to the nearest hide! There was the added attraction of views onto the bird feeding station which was almost as busy as the coffee bar. During the day Great -spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit, and large
parties of Long-tailed Tits were seen among many other species. A male Sparrowhawk took advantage of the feed in and helped himself to an unfortunate Greenfinch.

The reserve was fashioned from a series of subsidence pools which were the result of extensive coal mining in the past. It forms part of a number of linked nature reserves in the district. Although not particularly pretty to look at, the area has long been good birding country based around twomajor habitats, reedbeds and grassland. There were plenty of hides situated at the water's edge giving very good views of wildfowl, perfectfor the photographers and although the wind didn't help it was interesting to see how the wildfowl coped with the heavy weather. Generally they seemed unperturbed, dabbling and diving as they
were bounced around by the crashing waves. There were very good numbers of Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, a few Pintail and Shoveller with the diving fraternity represented by Goosander, Pochard, Tufted Duck and a pair of Goldeneye.
The Lapwings kept out of the wind for most of the day, staying put on terra firma, but a flock of about 40 Linnets busied themselves continually feeding, flying up into the full force of the wind but somehow managing to get back down to forage.
Things were generally much quieter on the reed beds although up to three Bittern had been seen on the reserve. A lone Little Grebe was seen from the Bittern hide and a Little Egret performed a brief fly past. One sharp-eared member heard the lone resident Cettis Warbler. The only mammal sighting of note was a stoat hunting on the sunlit grassy bank giving one lucky young lad a great action photograph. Despite the adverse conditions a total of 57 species was
logged, Old Moor proving an ideal venue under the circumstances as the hides offered protectionfrom the elements and close views of our beloved birds.

Ben Reavey