Tuesday ‘hide guide’ and fellow volunteer Amanda Palethorpe found yet another gem at Old Moor today. And what a bird it was!

But first, here’s today’s summary of sightings…

On Wath Ings, around 09.30, Amanda spotted a northern fulmar towards the rear of the main marsh. Why was this unusual? Well, fulmar are almost exclusively sea birds and Old Moor is over fifty miles from the coast. There have been sightings of fulmar before on the reserve but these are more usually ‘fly overs’, as a bird travels from one coast to another.

Today was very different. Here was a fulmar staying put; resting, initially on the far bank of Wath Ings. It is probable that this the same bird that was seen at Thrybergh Reservoir yesterday, and that it had made its way to Old Moor early this morning or late last night.

Not a gull, this bird is related to the albatrosses. With stiff wings and shallow wingbeats it glides low over the sea feeding on fish, crustaceans and sand eels. It’s also a bird that was once hunted extensively but since then has actually expanded its range.

I caught up with the fulmar around midday. At that stage it was on the water, preening but distant. Then, as if seeking a safe haven, the bird took wing and made for a bank just in front of the Field Pool East hide. Less than three metres from the hide, it looked to many that this bird was in need of a rest, perhaps unwell.

There it spent much of the early afternoon, occasionally preening but mostly asleep. Lucky watchers present had incredibly intimate views of this fantastic bird. The grey back; the smoky eye; the green and unusually complex bill; and that strange tube-like structure above.

Then, just when ‘rescue plans’ were being considered, the fulmar shook itself, waddled toward the water and took a drink. For a while it hung around in front of Field Pool East but, being a stranger, it drew the attention of the resident birds.

First a young great black-backed gull took a close look. Then the black-headed gulls registered their disapproval. Each time the fulmar wearily defended itself, knowing there was no real threat.

Finally, it decided that a quiet life was what was needed. With a few beats of those powerful, slate grey wings it was airborne, easily out-flying the gulls. Soaring across the waves, it returned to the furthest corner of Wath Ings and was last seen there around 15.40.

Although the reserve opened late to enable watchers to see this rare visitor, there was no further sign of it this evening. Fingers crossed it either turns up nearby tomorrow or, even better, it’s on its way back to the coast. Either way it was just another extraordinary day in the Dearne Valley.

Until next time.

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