Evening Folks! It’s another of those ‘two-for-one’ blogs tonight. The first bit is me and the sightings. The second part comes from Liz Harding, Old Moor’s Community and Volunteer Engagement Officer. She will be giving you an update on how the ‘Giving Nature a Home in the Dearne’ project is coming on.

So, first a quick update on the sightings – no change. That quick enough for ya? - Oh alright, here’s a slightly longer version. Two bearded tit were showing close enough today for some visitors record the encounter on their phones! One male and one female were seen near the ‘corner’ of the trail, just by the Monitoring Hide. Other than that and the sight of all those pink-footed geese on the move, it was business as usual.

Here’s the summary of sightings from today…

Before I hand over to Liz, here’s a crackin’ shot of the male bearded tit from Mark Braden. Thanks Mark.

Right then, as promised the rest of tonight’s blog comes from Liz....

How did you get into wildlife?  I used to hold tadpoles in the tiny pool of my cupped hands above the pond in my child minder’s garden.  I used to love them wiggling against my hands and spotting which had the beginnings of tiny legs, before lowering them back in.  I also paddled in streams, crossed fields and scrambled up trees with my collie in tow.  And, I went to a monthly wildlife group run by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.  Maybe you have similar memories of mud, adventure and discovery, or older people sharing their knowledge and passion for wildlife with you?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Our National Lottery Heritage Fund is well under way and the project has begun with a lot of ground works at Old Moor, especially around our Visitor Centre.  These works are being done speedily so that the disturbance is complete before the breeding season at the beginning of March.  Wild play, the new family hide and surfacing the carpark are a small part of the four-year project which includes three years of ecological improvements to our sites, especially Wombwell to better control water levels for breeding lapwing, avocet and redshank and installing a predator fence.  At Old Moor, we will reprofile scrapes to benefit waders, create a new wader scrape on the field pools and create a heronry at Wath Ings.  We are very excited about how transformative the project will be and how it will benefit both wildlife and people in the Dearne Valley.

Old Moor plays a key role in the Dearne Valley reserves as a haven for wildlife and to educate and nurture enthusiasm for nature in all ages.  Nature needs as many allies as it can get.  We hope that engaging with a wider audience and diversifying the people who enjoy Old Moor, will translate into more members, more advocates for wildlife and perhaps future conservationists.  The project aligns with the RSPB’s core objectives to create, protect and maintain habitats, provide environmental education for all ages and advocate for the environment.

New family hide being constructed by Gilleard Bros Ltd

So, what stage are we at with the project?  We need to have the new family hide and wild play equipment in and carpark laid by the end of February ahead of the breeding season.  As such, we have carpark, wild play and family hide contractors all on site at the moment and they are making progress every day.  Plans and more information are available from the information hub in the Visitor Centre or ask a member of our team.  Our warden team have dismantled the old family hide, dodging spiders along the way, and the steels and foundations for the new hide will be put in very soon, rain permitting.  The new hide will have fresh interpretation and an outdoor shelter for our school visits.

The car park is on track and various spaces will be available at different times as has been the case so far. Our Wild Play is in three main sections: the discovery zone, the sand pool by the Toyota pond dipping platform and our secret water zone (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) by the two oaks on the way to family hide.  There are pictures and plans on the Project Hub in the Visitor Centre.  Apart from a section of the Discovery Zone, all paths are open as usual.  Green Lane remains open and on the Discovery Zone you can still access the stepping stones and the reedbed trail.

We are very much in the muddy stage of our muddy to marvellous plan, so please be careful out there and thank you for your understanding.

Liz Harding, Community and Volunteer Engagement Officer