Back from my Christmas break (very nice, thanks for asking) and ready to see out the year! In a moment, a look back at some of the highlights of 2018 and another remarkable year of sightings in the Dearne Valley.

But before all that, here’s the summary of birds seen today at Old Moor…

I’m bound to miss something from the year, but that’s because – wonderfully - there is so much to remember. – And, before you say it, nothing to do with getting forgetful! ...Now, where was I?

In January, while Old Moor’s visitors were being wowed by marsh harrier and ‘Red’, the Wakefield peregrine, at Bolton Ings the marsh tit (first found at the back end of 2017) provided a rare opportunity for watchers. With both willow and marsh tits feeding side by side, here was the perfect chance to play the, “Will… er, no - marsh, definitely marsh” game.

Meanwhile visitors to Broomhill Flash were lucky enough to have a chance to see an impressive hawfinch. In fact, hawfinch reports came thick and fast all around the valley this month.

Hawfinch at Broomhill by John Clarkson. Thanks again, John.

Golden plovers at Edderthorpe took the attention for a bit but then, in mid-January, a redheaded smew turned up at Adwick Washland and stole the show.

Smew at Adwick from Gary Stones. Thanks Gary.

February provided some great sightings of bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers at Old Moor while a barnacle goose dropped in to Broomhill for a while and Adwick provided a home for a white-fronted one.

But it was Wombwell Ings that took the award for rarities in February by providing visitors with great views of Richard’s pipit, yellow-browed warbler and firecrest! Now that’s a combination you don’t get every day! Even better, two of those lingered well into March.

Richard’s pipit by Pete Garrity. Thanks Pete.

Yellow-browed warbler at Wombwell Ings

Also in March, Mediterranean gull and bittern sightings began to boom at Old Moor and whooper swan added to the early spring spectacle. Water pipit showed briefly at Old Moor before the end of the month when, in early April, avocet, sand martin and willow warblers returned to the valley. Little gull and sandwich tern visited Old Moor and garganey soon followed at Adwick along with the first cuckoo and those swallows.

Firecrest by Keith Pickering. Thanks Keith.

May provided a flurry of activity with a glossy ibis at Old Moor followed by a red-necked phalarope at Broomhill. With Bar-tailed godwit at Edderthorpe and black tern at Old Moor – May seemed to be coming along nicely. Then, on the 26th at Old Moor, as well as osprey, bittern, black-necked grebe and sanderling, a Temminck’s stint dropped in!

June’s early sightings were plentiful but two that stand out were the grey plover at Edderthorpe and, perhaps a bit of an odd choice, the bar-headed goose at Broomhill. June the 18th was another date to be remembered when a chain of watchers picked up and successfully tracked a crane over Adwick and Old Moor.

What a day! Crane over Adwick and Old Moor

Among all the other midsummer treats, both spotted redshank and spotted flycatcher were found at Adwick in August.

September was another busy month especially at Old Moor with some great sightings of hobby, yellow-legged gull, great white egret, spotted crake and – of course – the grey phalarope. In fact the latter stayed around well into October.

Grey phalarope on Wath Ings

Jack snipe sightings seemed to punctuate October at Old Moor and November provided exceptional views of the tundra bean goose at Old Moor, Wombwell, Adwick and Broomhill. Over at Edderthorpe there was a second chance to see a smew in the Dearne Valley this year.

Which of course, takes us to December and, for me at least, there is only one star of the month at Old Moor – the bearded tits of course! Come the 18 January next year, it’ll be three years exactly since these birds arrived at Old Moor and they seem to be doing okay.  They have certainly provided joy and frustration in equal measure to many visitors to Old Moor over those years.

But after all that, if you want 2018 in a nutshell, here it is. This was Old Moor’s best breeding year ever for bitterns with three nests and at least twelve chicks fledged!

So, what did I miss? Oh, I know, Happy New Year Folks!

Until next time.