Friday, 18 August 2006

RSPB Old Moor

Situated between Barnsley and Doncaster, five or ten miles off of the M1, Old Moor is a recent addition to the RSPB's fleet of reserves and this was my first visit.

Immediate impressions were that it's been developed with families in mind. This isn't one of those quieter reserves with a hut for a reception and long pathways to the hides. There's a sizeable shop, cafe upstairs, picnic area, even an adventure playground for the kids. I'm quite certain some birding snobs would feel it's an affront to their sedate pastime, however, the number of kids enjoying a day at the reserve and getting excited about the birds, leaves me inclined to welcome the direction the RSPB have taken at Old Moor. Even if it meant fanciful claims about Red-Throated Diver and Jack Snipe, if only they were true!

The hides are tidy and even at a busy time in the summer holidays we found space to sit with a scope. They overlook open lakes, marshland, reedbeds and grassland too, with plenty of wet mud to attract passing waders.

Star bird on my visit was a Little Egret, which don't number greatly this far north, and a Wood Sandpiper was also a nice find, as was an early Curlew Sandpiper.

That's Green Sandpiper, one of a twenty plus movement.

We're in the heart of the South Yorkshire industrial belt here, so don't expect total tranquility from road noise. Enjoy the birds instead.

I'll be returning there in a couple of months, interesting to see what the colder months will turn up.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Holkham NNR

I find late summer is lovely time for birding, it's the families. Just the other day I watched a gang of half a dozen Redstart darting after each other as much as food, a nice find for the East Midlands.

A couple of weeks ago we camped for a weekend down on the North Norfolk coast, very nearby to Holkham National Nature Reserve. The site comprises a sandy shore, extensive dunes, saltmarshes, pinewoods, and some reclaimed marshland a little further inland. I was beach-holidaying with my girlfriend so didn't devote as much time to the reserve as I'd have wished but still found stunning and close views of Marsh Harrier, enough to excite any birder. Below them species like Sedge Warbler could be heard. Underfoot the dunes were full of toads, and out on the beach Little Terns skimmed the surfed, and a pair of Oystercatchers babied their one remaining chick.
We plan to make future visits, give the reserve the attention it deserves. Also not a long drive west along the coast are both Titchwell Marsh and Snettisham RSPB reserves. This part of England really is very rich for birders.

Driving back home through the quiet farm roads brought us across this Barn Owl patrolling over one of the vast Norfolk wheatfields. We've found travelling along such lanes to be a marvellous birding tactic. It may not be very eco-friendly but there seems few other ways to cover so much rural habitat in a mobile bird hide.