January 1997

Sunday 5th January – Pugneys Country Park – Although the weather is slightly milder, the ice remains. At the fishing lake is frozen and a mixture of Gulls – Herring, Great Black-back, Lesser Black-back, Common and Black-headed – stand on the ice. The main lake is still mainly clear of ice and wildfowl from all over are taking advantage of the water, or just sleeping. Ruddy Duck, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Mute Swans and Canada Geese are all present. A flight of seven Cormorant come in from the north and start diving as soon as they land. Huge flocks of winter thrushes flit between the small Alders by the car park.

Wednesday 8th January – Barnsley Canal – Down the canal much of the area is covered with frozen snow and the old river loop is fully frozen. Despite the Hawthorns being stripped bare of berries, there are still several hundred Fieldfare and Redwings present. On occasions they all lift off into the grey skies and wheel around almost silently. A Wren hops along the frozen canal beneath brown, withered rushes. On the rough meadow below the canal there is a line of freshly thrown up molehills. They are frozen solid. Greenfinches flit between the small Hawthorn scrub and a Reed Bunting alights on the ground amongst some remains of straw put out for the horse and seeks some left over seed.

Saturday 11th January – Wombwell Ings – Although it is slightly milder, it is still cold enough for most ponds, flashes and ings to remain frozen. The air is clammy and cold. At Broomhill Flash a small area of water remains open and there are several upended Mute Swans are feeding continuously. Over 20 Goosander are swimming up and down the narrow channel. A large number of Wigeon and Teal stand on the ice. The best birding is in the scrubby car park. Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and Corn Buntings are flitting around the Hawthorns. Wombwell Ings is completely deserted; all the flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers have departed.

Sunday 12th January – Pugneys Country Park – A thaw has now set in. And so has the mud! Another (abortive) attempt to find the female Ring-necked Duck. I have to walk right round the main lake to get the sun behind me but no joy. However, there is a red-head Smew in the middle of the lake along with a large flock of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon and Coot. There are also a few Ruddy Duck and lots of Mute Swans.

Wednesday 15th January – Sheffield – Early for a meeting so Dill the Dog and I go for a wander around Endcliffe Park in Sheffield. A busy park, full of runners, walkers and dogs and only a couple of miles from the city centre. As I stroll next to the stream I hear a loud scolding and immediately find its owner, a Nuthatch. I muse that the stream looks typical for a Dipper but it is too much of a built-up area. As I walk around a bend my face must have been a picture, for there, in the middle of the stream, is a Dipper! It flits off under the bridge under the road. Just as I leave the park to go to my meeting, I hear a high pitched call and immediately see a Treecreeper – possibly the first time I can say I have positively heard one.

Sunday 19th January – Winscar Reservoir – The area is covered in fog. As I head up towards the moors it gets thicker. I visit the Reservoir above the village of Dunford Bridge. Last summer the reservoir was nearly empty with deep channels weaving between high outcrops along the bottom. Now it has largely refilled although just how far it has risen is not visible through the fog. On the moor above Red Grouse are calling in the blanket of grey.

Tuesday 21st January – Pugneys Country Park – A bright, frosty morning. The main lake is an expanse of ice with several open pools. As usual the different species occupy different pools. Lots of Coot, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebes in one, Goldeneye, Mallard, Mute Swan and Pochard in another and Canada Geese, more Tufted Duck and Coot in a third. Oddly the Mute Swans and Mallards are in the hole in the middle, the deepest spot. A lot of gulls – Black-headed, Great Black-backed, Herring and Common – stand on the ice or chase each other around. Three Cormorants fly over, seemingly looking for more open water.

Thursday 30th January – Barnsley Canal – The grey mist clings to my hair and face as I wander down to the canal. Up on Willowbank the winter thrushes seem to have disappeared. Robins sing and a Long-tailed Tit flits between bushes. On the river loop a pair of Little Grebe are diving. On the canal edge a Moorhen walks carefully over the dead reeds beside a big beef calf that is munching on Blackberry bramble leaves. Blue Tits chatter excitedly along the Hawthorn hedge and a Willow Tit buzzes as it hops along behind them.

Friday 31st January – Caldervale – Following the path along beside the Calder-Hebble Navigation. There is a light frost chilling and firming the mud. A pair of male Bullfinches flit along the bushes in front of me. Out from the tunnel through the high railway embankment and into a field. Here the temperature must have dropped even lower. The canal has a glazing of cracked ice across it. Over the other side is a copse of Alders providing a feast for a flock of Redpolls. Across the field is a wood hiding the site of another abandoned coal pit from which come the ringing tones of Great Tits. As I head back a Green Woodpecker flies along the railway embankment and disappears into a copse but reveals its presence with its laughing call.