August 1996

Saturday 3rd August – Wombwell Ings – A dull morning at the ings. Three Green Sandpipers on the mud, maybe the ones that were at Edderthorpe last week. The Canada Goose flock has grown to seventy three strong but the Greylag Geese are down to one individual. In the stream a Moorhen panics at the sight of me and Dill the Dog and submerges under some weed, emerging a minute or so later under an overhanging bush on the far side.

Sunday 4th August – The Pennines – The woods at Silkstone Fall are cool this morning. The greenness welcomes me as I wander beneath the tall Oaks, Pines and Sweet Chestnuts. A Magpie chuckles away whilst a Jay is noisier with its screeching call – neither seen though. A Robin makes a half-hearted attempt at song – he knows that the excitement of spring and early summer are past and now its now time to stock up before winter. The reservoirs under the Pennines are quiet – mainly a few Tufted Duck, Mallard and a pair of Little Grebe on Midhopestones. In the valley by the watching point at Midhope a Willow Warbler is still singing. When it emerges it is a dull brown colour, unlike many Willow Warblers at present which are resplendent with yellows in their plumage. Mistle Thrushes are calling and flying across the fields at the edge of the moors. No Merlin on the distant wall. Swallows are sweeping around everywhere, again anticipating the end of the good times, calling to one another. A Tortoiseshell Butterfly lands on me sleeve and sits their like a badge. Grasshoppers are calling all around – I am not sure whether they are what Dill the Dog is pouncing on or small rodents scurrying through the long grass. On the banks Harebells cluster, their delicate blue flowers shaking in the gentle breeze. Ewden Beck is very quiet, the odd Blue Tit calling. So on towards Strines. Park up beside the road and wait for a young woman to ride her horse past before letting Dill the Dog out the car – she does not mean harm but horses do not like a white tornado jumping at them from behind. Into the woods following a low, moss-covered dry stone wall. A rill runs of the hillside into a tiny weir and under a bridge which seems far too well made for such an apparently minor path. Dill the Dog takes advantage of the pools before the bridge to have a paddle. However, the woods, like everywhere else, are quiet. Only the persistent warning call of a Robin breaks the near silence – the real noise being the humming of clouds of flies. Looping round the road back to the car I scan the pines on the hillside – this is a good Crossbill site. However, there are only families of Blue Tits and Willow Warblers. Across the moor edges, folk are collecting Bilberries.

Monday 5th August – Edderthorpe – An evening trip to the waters. The wind has blown up, whipping the dust of the path into my eyes. Training the scope over the meadows before the flash and notice Lapwings swirling in the air. Something has spooked them. It took several minutes scanning before I locate a Hobby sitting on an old fence post, carefully watching the flash. When it takes off again the Lapwing flock again scatters – even the Grey Herons fly up but soon settle down again. Over to Broomhill and park up for Wombwell Ings. Two large Brown Rats scuttle along beside the road bridge and disappear down towards the stream beneath it. Flocks of Canada Geese lift up and head east towards Wath Ings. The Ings themselves are quiet, a Green Sandpiper and a Common Snipe probe the mud. The far side of the water is white with thistledown. Beside the road, the Blackthorn has a good crop of sloes, presently green but will soon turn black with a blue bloom.

Tuesday 6th August – Barnsley Canal – A quick walk down the canal. It is clear the influx of Painted Ladies has completed its life cycle, there are lots of brightly coloured and perfect specimens everywhere. The canal is virtually dry, just a long stretch of Bulrushes and other reeds. Several Reed Warblers are feeding. Beneath the small dam across the canal is a pool, maybe 4 foot across. In this pool there are several fish over six inches long. How much longer can they survive in such a small amount of water? The heavy rain that falls during the rest of the day may have helped them. Dill the Dog manages to find something revolting to roll in so we have to cross the valley to the River Dearne so she can swim the gunge off. The path back crosses a marsh which is usually reasonably dry. Now it is verdant with a wide range of plants and grasses. Tansy is everywhere, as it Ragwort and Thistles. The streams that cross the area are usually shallow but the density of the vegetation has meant back-ups of water so there is no choice but to wade, calf-deep, across them. So now both Dill the Dog and I am wet.

Thursday 8th August – Barnsley Canal – The pool that was the canal is slightly larger following the heavy rain, but there is now no sign of fish. On the surface Common Pond Skaters dart to and fro. On the underside of the surface are Common Backswimmers – holding onto the surface with a small bubble of air. Small Whites flit around the Bulrushes. Overhead, House Martins and Swallows twitter noisily whilst feeding voraciously in preparation for the southward trip. Much higher up are Swifts. Painted Lady butterflies are everywhere, they outnumber all other species several times over. As I head along the canal on the hill side I am surprised to find a rotting Jack Pike in the meadow – the victim of a callous angler who just tossed it there, or a Grey Heron who was either scared off or found lunch a bit too much of a gulletful. In the hedgerow beside the canal path Goldfinches twitter. A pair of Linnets sit on overhead wires, the males breast brilliant red. Some moths are fluttering through the Knapweed – possibly Golden Ys but they are too mobile to observe properly. Bloodsuckers are feeding on Ground Elder flowers – their vermilion colouring giving them their inaccurate name.

Saturday 10th August – Wombwell Ings – It is almost guaranteed that if there is a cricket Test Match at Headingley, near Leeds, and England are in trouble, then it will rain. And that is exactly what is happening this weekend. Even Dill the Dog is quiet in the hide at Wombwell Ings – she is not that keen on going back out into the downpour. The Canada Goose flock continues to grow, now 70 are feeding on the common land or swimming around the Ings. Shoveler are also in evidence, although all the males are in eclipse. Five Green Sandpipers, a Common Snipe and a Dunlin are all feeding voraciously on the mud. I think there a pair of Ringed Plovers but they keep disappearing into a drainage ditch and thus fixing on them is difficult. It becomes obvious that the rain is not going to stop and the steady drip of water coming through the hide roof is becoming annoying, so we trudge back along the path to the car. The leaden skies and sheeting rain cannot dull the iridescent turquoise of a Kingfisher over the sewage transfer channel.

Sunday 11th August – Anglers Country Park – So the Test Match will probably not be a disaster for England, a draw is likely, but it has not stopped the heavy showers. One wet human and dog tramp around Anglers Country Park and see very little. Lots of eclipse Mallard; a bored looking Grey Heron; lots of sleeping Tufted Duck. The very rare Clouded Yellow Butterfly has been reported in the area, but will not be flying in this weather – if it has any sense. Sense eventually overtakes me and we retreat home. In the afternoon, squadrons of Swifts are screaming high over the town.

Monday 12th August – Barnsley Canal – An evening wander down the canal. Not much happening on the ground, but there is a large flock of Swallows high overhead, looking like a giant swarm of flies. The large Willow may have cracked its trunk as it completely covers the canal. However, it may just be that the leaves are so dense that it is simply looking thicker and lower. Coming back along the other side of the canal as it gets steadily darker. A few calls from the marsh – Sedge Warblers? In the earlier part of the year the sounds were like young love – blossoming and ringing out; now after the chicks have left the nest the calls are short grunts and mumbles, sadly all too like long married couples. A Tawny Owl slips silently between gardens of houses up the hill above Willowbank and settles in a tree, watching without a sound.

Thursday 15th August – Sheffield – The Buddleia is well named Butterfly Bush. In the warmth of Sheffield bushes in several places are in full bloom with long purple flower spikes. Feeding on them are Painted Ladies, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacock and a lone Red Admiral butterflies. Bees are also busily extracting pollen from the myriad of flowers on each spike.

Saturday 17th August – Edderthorpe – The call of a Green Woodpecker greets me as I get out of the car. However, whilst I hear it frequently during my wander over to the Grimesthorpe spoil heap and back, I do not actually see it. I imagine the Reed Warblers are going to be the same. There are several in song from the depths of the reed beds that fringe the spoil heap run-off pools but they are impossible to see. But eventually there one slips through the edge of the reeds and then quickly back inside again – and this one is not one of the singers. The flash at Edderthorpe has virtually dried up now, just a small pond remains. I can see there are gulls and several waders in the water, but it seems pointless getting to the nearest point to scan with the scope as there is a considerable heat haze rippling the view. A Little Grebe is diving in one of the pools. There is another pair on the Dearne at Wombwell Ings. These Ings are also greatly reduced in area. A few Shoveler and a Mute Swan are on the water and a lot of Lapwings stand around on the mud. A couple of Green Sandpipers feed but little else is present. Over the river large russet Dragonflies hawk for insects.

Sunday 18th August – Rother Valley Country Park – It is a fluffy time of year. At the park, south of Sheffield, the air is full of white, downy seed from thistles and Willowherbs. It drifts across the River Rother and the lakes – it looks like snow across the path. A few Goldfinches have discovered the bonanza and are feeding on the thistles. Across the river a family group of Whitethroats are feeding in bushes. There are numerous warblers around but are proving elusive by slipping into the depths of the thick vegetation. However, there are frequent views of young Willow Warblers – all bright and yellow now. In the corner of the main lake a Highland bull and cow are standing belly-deep, appreciating the cooling of the water in the increasing heat.

Saturday 24th August – Anglers Country Park – News on BirdLine that there was a Ring-necked Duck at Wintersett, Anglers Country Park. Wander through the woods to the south of the reservoir and scan a few duck through the trees. One looks odd, all black with a spiky tail. Get the scope on it and it is a Common Scoter. Check an inlet on the way to the Country Park but little there, and even less after Dill the Dog launches herself into the water. A walk around the Country Park reveals very little. There is a report of Whinchat on the notice board – a species that has eluded me this year – but no sign now. The shingle islands on the Pol are covered with the red-brown, dried out spikes of Dock, actually more attractive than they sound! A Mute Swan is on the Pol, stirring up the mud with its feet and then ducking its head down to feed in the mud. Scan the ducks on the lake but only Tufted Duck. Trout are jumping all over the place,except where the fishermen are standing! Join another couple of birders to scan the northern end of Wintersett and after a few minutes one of them finds the Ring-necked Duck – a scruffy individual in a flock of Tufted Duck, Pochards (first of the season) and Coot. However, I do get decent views of the bill. I return the favour by finding the Common Scoter for the other birders, which promptly rears up in the water and flaps its wings just as the book says Scoter should do.

Sunday 25th August – Wombwell Ings – Breezy day at Wombwell Ings. Groups of Canada Geese are honking their way between the Ings and Broomhill Flash. Yellow Wagtails are feeding on the mud, along with Lapwings, Snipe Ringed Plover and Teal – the latter all looking the same as the males are still in eclipse. A single Ruff, Green and Common Sandpipers are feeding at the water's edge. Scanning the area is difficult because the local travellers horses have decided to visit the hide. One scratches himself contentedly against the side of the hide making the whole structure quiver, not too handy for scoping. Other just stand right in front of the hide viewing slits and look in at us. Telling them to go away in both pleasant and more profane language has not the flighted effect. Dill the Dog sits on the floor close to a woman birder giving out the occasional little bark. She seems to find comfort in the sisterhood, probably as I am totally unsympathetic.

Bank Holiday Monday 26th August – Anglers Country Park – Dull and showers. And very little in the way of birds. At Anglers I watch a Grey Heron eating frogs. The poor frogs are bright green and make every effort to stop themselves being engulfed by that wide throat, but to no avail. I meet Chuck who has his bitch with him. She and Dill chase around the wet park land like things possessed. Dill the Dog manages some spectacular slides as she slips on the verdant grass.