The new month in the Dearne Valley began with a brilliantly sunny - if blowy - day. Sadly, for those of us impatient for spring, there was little change in the ‘bird mix’ at Old Moor. That didn’t mean though, that there wasn’t plenty to enjoy.

Here is the summary…

Before I crack on with Old Moor, it was great to see the range of sightings on offer at the remarkable Adwick Washland today. Almost certainly, the marsh harrier seen there was the same bird that later paid a visit to Old Moor. But there were also fieldfare still, little egret, grey partridge, redshank, ringed plover, water rail and the stonechat trio to be seen here too.

The aerodynamically challenged coot in today's wind!

At Old Moor, there was little change in the Bird Garden and Tree Sparrow Farm. However, on the Reedbed Trail, there was the previously mentioned marsh harrier; plenty of little grebe calling; and at least one Cetti’s warbler.

A cormorant bathing this morning

But yet again, the birds that drew most attention were the bearded tits – or reedling if you prefer. At least five birds were seen today: a pair fed by the turn in the path, near the monitoring hide; another female fed alone near the screen; and two more females showed beautifully, close to the bittern bus stop.

A male bearded tit as seen today near the Monitoring Hide.

Watching them today, I was struck by just how ‘stubby’ the beardie’s wings are. As you can see from the photo above, those wings do seem out of proportion, shorter than you’d imagine given the size of the bird and the length of that tail.  But then today the views were so good I got to spend some time watching their flight.

The brisk breeze today turned reed stems – as one watcher put it - into the best fairground ride in the world! As the beardies fed, those large black feet held on tightly to the reeds and the bird was thrown backwards and forwards as the winds thrashed at the reedbed.

When the birds had exhausted one reed head, they flew to another. This was when I noticed just how powerful their flight is and how accurate. At one point, a reedling was flying into the wind while its target reed stem swayed and buckled in the breeze. Not only did the beardie make progress against the gusts, but he also tracked and targeted his landing to perfection. Given how rough conditions were today, it was a very impressive feat for a small bird.

Another view from this afternoon

Meanwhile, much larger birds on the Mere and Wader Scrape were also having trouble with the winds. Oystercatcher were propelled like screaming orange fireworks and gulls wheeled across the water paddling their feet as they came in to land.

The wader that it’s hard to ignore!

There was no sign of the recent Caspian gull today nor of the Iceland gull that visited on Thursday. But there were plenty of black-headed gull, lesser black-backs, and herring gulls to keep watchers searching for the unusual.

A selection of gulls on the Scrape today

After I left Old Moor, there was most probably another large roost of starling too. At the end of last week, local watchers reported some fair-sized murmurations around sunset. At the time of writing that’s 17:46, sadly well outside Old Moor’s opening hours. However, now that the roadworks are starting on the Broomhill Roundabout and the scrub has been cleared, there is a great view of Old Moor’s reedbeds from anywhere along the road or in Broomhill Park.

No guarantees of course, but if you are looking to enjoy this particular natural spectacle, a vantage point to the west of Old Moor is your best bet.

Until next time.