January 2003

Friday 3rd January – Barnsley Canal, Old Mill – The temperature has plunged overnight and it has snowed. It is thawing by dawn. The morning is grey, wet and unwelcoming. A male Goosander flies overhead. Long-tailed Tits call insistently in the wet, dripping Ashes. Moorhens bob towards the shelter of reeds. The River Dearne is high and rushes under the footbridge. Downstream, two more male Goosander and a female bob on the water.

Sunday 5th January – Home – Further snow fell on Friday night and has remained in the freezing temperatures. Numerous Chaffinches and Greenfinches throng to the bird table along with fat, waddling Stock Doves and sleek Blackbirds. There are large numbers of Blackbirds in the area; many will be continental birds that winter here. Blue Tits chase around the feeders and a Coal Tit darts in, grabs a nut or seed from the table and departs to eat it in cover. There is bright sunshine all day but it turns grey at 15:00.

Tuesday 7th January – Fleets Dam – Slight snow overnight and the sky remains grey, although the clouds are high. It is -2°C and crunchy underfoot. The pools in the Willow carr are frozen. A Jay squawks somewhere ahead. Much of the large lake is frozen. Gulls stand on the ice at the far end. A Grey Heron flaps across, croaking loudly. The gulls rise and mill about until the heron has settled again. All the rubbish that had built up behind a broken willow branch across the river has been washed away. A Robin hops along another broken branch over the water.

Tuesday 14th January – Fleets Dam – Another dull and damp day, with the wind rising. Two Cormorants pass over, high above the valley. A Moorhen flutters silently across the river. There is little on the lake, only one fisherman braving the poor conditions.

Home – Decent numbers of Greenfinches are regularly coming to the feeders. Fat feral pigeons descend on the seed on the table and gobble it down. Blue, Coal, Long-tailed and Great Tits are regulars. The latter have been inspecting the nesting boxes. Over the road on the old reservoir site, there is a large flock of twittering Goldfinches.

Saturday 18th January – Home – High clouds blaze red and orange at dawn. The glorious spectacle does not last long as the sun rises and the fires diminish.

Fleets Dam – Both Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits are chasing through the trees, but in pairs rather than the flocks of recent weeks. However, there is a small flock of Siskin twittering as the feed on an Alder. Mallard are on the ponds but the main lake is quiet, mainly due to the large numbers of fishermen lining the banks.

Wednesday 22nd January – Barnsley Canal, Old Mill – A slightly brighter day as there is gap in the low pressure weather fronts moving across from the Atlantic. The woodlands down from the canal still look sodden. There are, however, signs of rebirth as buds swell on the twigs of the trees. Robins, Blackbirds and a surprising number of Song Thrushes in a small area are all singing their little hearts out.

Sunday 26th January – Dearne Valley Park – Overnight winds are beginning to die away, although stronger gales are forecast. We are later than usual and the park is busy. With Dill the Dog still in season, it is difficult finding a route to walk that keeps her away from other dogs. We wander across the bridge that stands on the base of an old railway bridge, across where the other line crossed the Dearne and along beside the bottom of the lake. Blue and Great Tits scurry about in the trees overhanging the river. A Wren whirrs across the water.

Monday 27th January – Scissett – This is one of a series of mill villages (including Denby Dale and Clayton West) lying on the River Dearne north west of Barnsley. Off the main road to Wakefield lies a series of mill ponds. One of the old mills houses a Victorian steam engine which is on display at weekends. War memorial plaques are on the wall. The river runs through stone walls. The dry stone wall of one of the cottages is being rebuilt. A large Victorian villa, Highbridge Lodge, stands at the entrance to the drive to Bagdon Hall. Of course, all the mills are now have other uses, retail and storage and so on.

Tuesday 28th January – Fleets Dam – Violent winds are buffeting the trees. It is not that cold but the wind creates a considerable wind chill. Despite the bleakness of the weather, lime coloured catkins dangle from a willow.