Tuesday 1st February – Barnsley Canal – Half a dozen Goosander fly high overhead down the valley. A Great Tit is doing a superb imitation of a Willow Tit as it forages the bare Hawthorns. It is moved along by an angrily chattering Wren. Further along the more usual cyclic call of Great Tits is heard from both sides of the water. A Mute Swan pen and two year old cygnets glide along. It seems likely they are last year’s group. The absence of the cob indicates that the suspicion he was killed somehow was probably correct. Will she attract a new mate this year? There is now a substantial dawn chorus of Robins and Blackbirds. Molehills cover the fields like measles on a child’s face. A single Redwing flies up the hill. There is little in the way of Haws for it to eat, the bushes have been stripped bare. A small party of Chaffinches forage near some horses.
Saturday 5th February – Scout Dike – The high level of the reservoir along with the driving wind slops water over the lip of the run-off channel. It is the first time I have seen this run-off channel actually flowing with water. A Great Crested Grebe flies across the water, its wings whirring with legs dangling along the surface of the reservoir. Scrubby bushes at the end of the dam contain noisy Dunnocks. A Black-headed Gull roost is dispersing.
Shepley – A patch of wind swept Hawthorns separate a road-side lay-by from a half-harvested field of beets. In the bushes there are Reed Buntings, Corn Buntings, Green Finches, Robins, a Wren and the lifer I have come to see – a Little Bunting. The bird is obliging by sitting at the top of the bushes and can be easily compared with Reed Buntings.
Sunday 6th February – Pugney’s Country Park – Robins singing greet the visitor at the entrance. There is a “dog walk”; for canine ablutions and beside the path I find a number of Blewits. Three male Goldeneyes court a lone female on the Fishing Lake with much head tossing. Bright yellow Alder and Willow Catkins dangle. There are Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants and Coot on main lake. Over the road beside the Sandpit over ninety Wigeon graze. A great flickering flock of Lapwings move slowly overhead with a larger flock of Golden Plover even higher. Great Crested Grebes are in a variety of states of plumage, some in winter, some developing summer plumages.
Tuesday 8th February – Leeds – A female Blackbird hops by with nesting material in her beak.
Barnsley – Strange skies all day with the squally rain passing through. Massive rainbow this morning and this evening, cloud was all along the horizon blocking the sun, but above it was different cloud which was glowing all grey and yellow.
Wednesday 9th February – Edderthorpe – The high winds of recent days show little signs of quietening. Six Whooper Swans are grazing on the meadow. The flash contains two Shelduck, good numbers of Mallard and smaller numbers of Wigeon. A large flock of gulls rise from the flash and circled high above before departing.
Sunday 13th February – Broomhead – Under a brilliant blue sky, bare Alder tops gleam golden in the morning sun. It is windy and cold. Ancient twisted and cracked Oaks are green with mosses and lichen. A few Blue Tits call through the woods. A lone Snowdrop flowers pure white in the churned mud of a ford across the stream. By the bridge Chaffinches sing, Goldcrests dart around the Spruces and many more Blue Tits and Great Tits busy the air with their calls. A pair of silhouetted ducks glide in the empty expanse of the reservoir. They disappear in the glare of the sun reflected off the water. A Treecreeper slips silently up the trunk of a fir. There is a slight dusting of snow on the moors. Near Silkstone, a Jay lands by the road ignoring the passing traffic.
Saturday 19th February – Barnsley Canal – Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins and Dunnocks contribute to a swelling dawn chorus. Teal and Little Grebe are displaying on the loop. A pair of Canada Geese appears to have taken residence. Green shoots are pushing through the dead Bulrush leaves. A Woodpecker is drumming in the distance. Dill the Dog chases a female Pheasant across the rough meadow. The recent wet weather has filled the canal with silt-laden water. The tow-path has been churned into a quagmire.
Saturday 26th February – Hooton Pagnell – A track leads into woods between the villages of Hooton Pagnell and Hickleton. It passes Bilham House Farm. Snowdrops are blooming everywhere, their delicate white petals hanging down towards the leaf litter. Wild Garlic shoots are pushing their way up into cool late winter air. Great Tits, Robins and Blackbirds are singing. The path ends by a ruined house, presumably Bilham House. There is not a lot left and bricks and stone laid out on pallets may mean that even less will remain soon. Goldfinches flit up from the track into young trees. Chaffinches are singing and chasing in territorial disputes. Holly trees stand thirty to forty feet high – one, unusually has a bare trunk, whilst most the others are covered in branches bearing dark green shiny leaves. From the next ridge towards Hooton Pagnell a disused, sail-less artesian well stands in the valley below. The landscape needs interpreting, which I fail to do. There is are young woods, trees maybe 15 years old, but there are old rotting stumps of much larger trees dotted here and there. Large stones lay around, probably from fallen walls. Some areas of fields are ploughed, others are already green with winter wheat shoots. Dog Mercury shoots are emerging on banks. Names and dates have been carved into Beech trunks, many over 20 years ago.