Today Old Moor welcomed the South Yorkshire branch of the British Naturalists’ Association, a group of experienced watchers who, by all accounts, chose an excellent day for their visit. Emboldened by a bit of sunshine, many of the bird species being seen at the moment, showed beautifully. As ever, there were also a few surprises.

Here’s the summary of sightings from today…

A respectable winter total of fifty bird species were seen today though in truth there was little change from Thursday.

Two or more bearded tit were seen in brilliant sunshine on the Reedbed Trail. Also there, a kingfisher showed well on the small pond near the Bittern Bus Stop. The only other changes for this part of the reserve were in the number of little grebe calling, and the persistent singing of a song thrush throughout the day.

Male bearded tit from Gerry McShane, as seen last Thursday at Old Moor. Thanks Gerry.

On the Mere there was excitement this afternoon in the form of a first winter, Caspian gull. Picked up later in the afternoon, this is a species that seems to be seen fairly regularly at either Old Moor or Bolton Ings at the moment.

Kingfisher seen today at Old Moor on the Wildlife Ponds

Sometimes I conclude this blog with a photo or maybe a tip for your next visit, but tonight I’ll finish with a story...

Heading towards the Visitor Centre this afternoon, I spotted an experienced birder intently focused on a branch just above his head height. Less than a metre away was a robin. As I approached, the bird fluttered to the other side of the path, now watching the two of us closely.

The birder explained, “It was singing very quietly to itself”.

I mentioned that the robins at Old Moor are used to hand-outs from passing visitors and asked the birder if he had anything in his pack that the robin might be interested in.

Just at that moment a mother with two young children were passing; Tilly aged around seven and her younger brother. They stopped, intrigued by the scene.

As the birder reached into his pack for a biscuit, I quietly suggested to him that the little girl might like to help. With mum’s agreement, the birder placed some crumbs from his biscuit in the girl’s palm.

Right on cue and without hesitation, the robin flew to the girl’s outstretched hand. It was over so quickly she barely had time to react.

A few seconds later the robin returned. This time Tilly’s fingers splayed as she felt the robin’s feet tickle them.

The third time the bird landed on her palm, Tilly turned to her mother and beamed.

Tilly thanked the birder as did her mother saying, “That was magical.”

We went on our ways but not before the birder muttered, “Thanks for the tip”.

The whole thing was over in a few minutes though I strongly suspect the effects may well last much longer.

Until next time.