Old Moor welcomed twenty-eight members of North Staffordshire RSPB group today and by all accounts they chose a crackin’ day to visit!

Here’s the summary of birds seen…

One of the more unusual sightings of day was the arrival of twenty-six whooper swans that had chosen to rest themselves on Wath Ings. What’s more, they’d brought a friend – a black swan, a bird that breeds in the southern regions of Australia!

Black swans were brought to the UK as ornamental birds, like peacocks, and some have ended up living in the wild. This particular Aussie seemed to be very comfortable with its truly wild companions and, later in the day, left with them, heading towards Langsett.

Whoopers are regular visitors to Old Moor and especially in the winter months. These birds visit us from Iceland and are a similar size to the more familiar mute swans. However, unlike the mutes, whoopers have bills with unique yellow patterns on them that spread more than half-way along from the base.

They also sound very different. It was terrific to hear their honking calls echoing across the main marsh today. Here’s half a minute of what that sounded like…

The swans weren’t the only surprise today. With limited ‘island space’ on the main marsh today, lapwing, snipe and snoozing wildfowl had to cosy-up close. With so many birds sharing the scrubby remains of the ‘spit’, it would have been easy to overlook snipe and even smaller waders.

Lapwing, teal, shoveler and dunlin on the main marsh today

Seemingly from nowhere, seven dunlin made an appearance and then flew to the far, back corner of the marsh.

On the Reedbed Trail today, a very vocal Cetti’s warbler was heard mid-afternoon along with the unmistakable calls of bearded tit.

Add to that peregrine, sparrowhawk, buzzard, goldeneye, goosander, twenty-four pink-footed geese over and heading south – not to mention a starling murmuration against a glorious sunset and … well, you get the picture.

A quick check of the ‘Species –o –meter’ today reveals a reading of 48 – which for mid-January is a fitting tribute to the incredible diversity that Old Moor supports.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Until next time.