Today was an exceptional day – even by Old Moor’s standards! Totting up all the birds spotted, gave a total of at least 62 species! And, as regular visitors know, a plus sixty day is a very good day indeed. Add to that some cracking autumn sunshine and - well, yes, you get the gist.

Here’s the summary of sightings…

That bit of sun provided enough warmth to rouse the last of the dragonflies once again. Large blue migrant hawkers were joined today by common darters, all vying for the warmest spots. There they basked and provided some excellent, close views.

Common darter basking on a picnic table this afternoon

In the Tree Sparrow Farm today was the first of those winter ‘regulars’, a brambling. Look for this one feeding among the chaffinches, probably on (or under) the table feeders.

Two lengthy bittern flights were seen today with a bird moving between the area near the ‘cuckoo tree’ (a prominent dead tree at the back of the Mere) and Reedbed One – in front of the monitoring hide.

A golden plover bathing… before being moved on by a sparrowhawk!

But for many the big draw of the day was the sight of twenty-two whooper swans resting up on the Mere. At first reported as nineteen birds, a count mid-morning revealed twenty swans with five juveniles among them. Around noon, another two adult whoopers dropped onto the Mere to see what all the fuss was about.

These are impressive swans that visit the UK from Iceland in the winter months. Instantly recognisable, their black sloping bills have yellow markings. Listen closely and their gentle, ‘bugling’ calls mark them out as more sociable than those usually silent ‘mutes’.

Whoopers visit Old Moor regularly – but sadly, they don’t stay long. To them, the reserve is just a rest stop. So, around three o’clock this afternoon, the swans began to get restless.

Sleeping birds woke and began to feed, or bathe. The group began to be more vocal and, as they swam, the birds nodded their heads to each other as if making an arrangement. The younger birds were the most excitable and positioned themselves at the back of what was fast becoming a queue of birds.

Bath time, whooper style

Watchers in the Wader Scrape hide were distracted temporarily when – at the point where the whoopers were becoming very agitated – a great white egret appeared! Sadly, it had no sooner arrived than it went, heading towards Wombwell Ings or maybe Broomhill.

Great white egret this afternoon

By now the whoopers were in formation and, at almost exactly four o’clock, the lead swan gave a call and began to beat those large, powerful wings. All twenty-two took to the skies and left as one group, circling round and heading south.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, around the same time groups of starling began to congregate around the reserve. It won’t be long before their numbers grow and maybe we’ll see another of the great autumn spectacles.

Until next time.

Anonymous