Spring inches nearer and today at Old Moor provided more of those familiar early signs of the new season. More on that in a moment but first the summary of sightings from today…

First news from the day was that there are now not one, but two places to play ‘spot the brambling’. This late winter pastime at Old Moor usually takes place in the Tree Sparrow Farm but today eagle-eyed watchers picked up brambling in front of the screen at the far end of Green Lane, near Field Pool East hide.

Today’s brambling total was three birds – just enough to make finding one (or more) interesting!

Just down the road at Edderthorpe Flash, the redheaded smew was located again today. If you haven’t yet seen this bird, it’s well worth a trip. Directions to the flash can be had in the Visitor Centre at Old Moor (or you can simply set your SATNAV to Park Spring Rd, Grimethorpe, Barnsley, S72 7BE).

Back at Old Moor, another seasonal milestone arrived in the form of the first oystercatcher on the reserve. Today’s bird could be found on the Field Pool and seen best from Field Pool West hide. If the mild weather holds, we can probably expect a few more soon.

One of the twenty-five golden plover at Wombwell Ings

On the Reedbed Trail, today’s bittern news was that there were clearly two males out there warming up for spring. How can we be sure when neither bird was seen? Well that all comes down to careful observation of their calls.

To announce their suitability for mating, male bitterns produce that eerie ‘booming’ sound that regular visitors to Old Moor in the early spring will know well. Yet at the moment, we have both an occasional ‘boomer’ and a sporadic ‘grunter’ – the latter being a male that is ‘revving up’ to booming but not quite there yet!

The two types of call (heard in different places) reinforce the notion of two males, one older and dominant, the other younger and, perhaps, lacking experience.

As ever, ALL information on these two is useful stuff. So if you do visit Old Moor and hear either call, jot down the time you hear it (and roughly where) next to your observation in the sightings record book. Thank you - I can tell you that all such ‘hearings’ will be very much appreciated.

Everwhere Old Moor's resident birds appreciated the warmer weather today

I’m almost done for this evening except to say that, on Thursday and Friday this week (14th and 15th Feb), the Reedbed path will be closed to visitors. The reserve team have been wanting to create a new ditch in that area and will finally have access to a digger to complete the job as quickly as possible. Thanks for your understanding and patience while that happens.

And on that note, I shall sign off. Until next time.

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