June 2001

Saturday 2nd June – Winscar Reservoir – I take Kay up to see the empty reservoir. There is a bitter wind blowing across the moors. Canada Geese are high up on the cliffs above the rocky beach. They are making a dreadful racket – as usual. The haunting call of Curlews drifts across the moors from a long way off. White flashes disappearing across the heather signals Wheatears.

Sunday 3rd June – Barnsley Canal – Along the canal between Harborough Hill and the Dearne Valley Park and the flowers of Broom tumble down the steep bank side like a yellow waterfall. Young Bulrush shoots are pale green spears rising from the murky canal water. There is a cold north wind making what should be a warm June day into a chilly one.

Home – The Blue Tits in the nest box must have young as they are in and out regularly. One adult squeaks anxiously in the apple tree above me when I stand too close to the box. Everything is now growing strongly – especially the weeds! The first little broad beans have appeared. The second crop of radishes is nearing eating size. The old breed of lettuce – Loos Tennis Ball – is producing plenty of large leaves with a red tinge to them. The other old breed, Red Oak Leaf, are developing well, but are some weeks off. The potatoes are growing strongly and some will flower in the next week. The second (or is it the third) sowing of carrot seems to have failed again, but some beetroot have appeared. Runner beans, Eat-all peas and climbing French beans are all coming up well.

Sunday 10th June – New Swillington Ings – The cold blustery wind makes it far from a typical June day. Along beside the River Aire between the open cast and the Aire and Calder Canal. The mooring basin is busy. Oxeye Daisies stand high. Birdsfoot Trefoil and Kidney Vetch, both yellow members of the pea family, grow all along the base of the fence by the path. Another well represented family is the cabbages, Hedge Mustard, Common Wintercress and others are growing on the rough grass banks. Red and White Campion are in flower. So is Common Clover, but the Zigzag Clover, its big cousin, is yet to bloom. Docks stand four feet high. Massive heads of Giant Hogweed have flowered, some stems must be four inches thick. Meadow Pipits pipe and flit around from fence to bush and back. Black-headed Gulls fly up and down the river and Common (probably) Terns hawk the waters. There are at least 10 Cormorants on sand bars on the Ings with a flight of another six winging in. A few Mallard drift on the river. A pair of piping Oystercatchers wing down river.

Home – Here birds are less popular – well, Wood Pigeons anyway, which have devastated my cabbages. A line of dangling CDs may keep them off – that annoying junk mail from AOL finally becoming useful. The broad beans are growing larger. Radishes are ready, so another row goes in along with more lettuce. The potatoes are coming into flower. It turns out there are no young in the nest box, just Blue Tit eggs. The constant coming and going seems odd.

Tuesday 12th June – Home – The garden is busy with birdlife. An adult and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers have emptied the fat feeder. They search the Apple trees and the top of a Leylandii next door. They then venture onto the bird table where there is a mound of bread chunks, but are scared off by a fat Wood Pigeon. The adult plucks up courage and returns. It then goes back to the apple tree and feeds the youngster. A Greenfinch sits atop the Leylandii. A Mistle Thrush feeds at the base of the table with a number of Blackbirds of differing ages. A Robin uses the top of the rotary washing line as a look-out. Blue Tits are in the trees and Collared Doves search the grass. A pair of Magpies swagger around the lawn.

North Lincolnshire – Isle of Axholme – Here is the junction of two dykes, Folly Drain and the South Engine Drain. Folly Drain runs east to west along the A18, gathering water from other drains in the south-east of the farmland. South Engine Drain comes up from the south-west from the Hatfield Moor direction. Where the dykes meet, a Reed Warbler jugs and bubbles from the Bulrushes along the water’s edge. The two drains are then split again by a levee and head north-east in parallel and the River Thorne also joins them. They are now called, not surprisingly, the Three Rivers. They run in a straight line until they meet the mighty River Trent at Gunness. A Mute Swan with five grey cygnets slips off the bank into the water, grunting her annoyance at being disturbed. Further disturbance occurs when another Mute Swan glides under the road bridge. Her partner arches his wings and lowers his head parallel with the water and moves towards the intruder. When this fails to have the desired effect, the cob charges with much splashing and whooshing of wings. A quick flurry and the interloper is off. Yellow Water Lilies are blooming on the drain. Over on the levee between the drains and the river, bees visit Bramble blossom. Yellow Flag is in flower. Sedge Warblers scratch out their song far more intermittently than earlier in the Spring. A Wren chatters an alarm. Swallows chase under the footbridge over the drains. A flock of Canada Geese dive and splash in the water, cleaning their plumage. They then climb onto a spur of land sticking out from the road bridge to continue their ablutions. The threats have passed for the cob Mute Swan, so he starts preening vigorously. He then dives down into the water and nearly somersaults over. A Kestrel rises in circles over the fields beyond the river, flapping more than usually because of the absence of any wind to assist hovering.

Darfield – Blackthorn bushes have some sloes but also objects like large, warped, pale green cashews. Clearly the result of an attack, probably an insect. Swallows skim over green barley fields.

Saturday 23rd June – Edderthorpe – The flash now has a permanent look about it. Large numbers of Coot occupy the old deeper water to the east. What was the flooded meadow, now has reeds growing and a few Shoveler, Mallard, Teal and Tufted Duck either drift around or preen. Swifts and House Martins skim low over the water. Melilots, Mignonettes and Vetches flower on the stony remains of the old railway.

Barnsley Canal – Young Blue Tits cheep and chatter noisily in the Hawthorns around the car park. All along the canal path, Dog Roses are in bloom, pinks ranging from a deep blush to almost china white. The Mute Swans have two cygnets that are feeding on the floating weed. A few Blue-tailed Damsels alight on the fast growing reeds. The humidity is intense, I am soaked with sweat just wandering along the path.

Sunday 24th June – Harbrough Hill – High up on the hill above the Dearne and a short stretch of the Barnsley Canal. Broom flowers are fading away leaving pods like peas. Below a Chiffchaff calls insistently and a Magpie chatters. This is rough ground, moving away from the abandoned furniture superstore adorned with graffiti. Tall grasses are in flower, maybe not the bright colours of the vetches and buttercups in their midst, but the delicate structures quivering in the near non-existent breeze have a beauty of their own. Willows and Birches are colonising the area and, appropriately, Willow Warblers are in song. Large leaves of Coltsfoot and Cow Parsley are developing in the grasses. Over the hill stand the floodlights of Oakwell, Barnsley Football Club’s ground. Tansy and Willowherb leaf shoots are splattered with Cuckoo Spit. Higher on the hillside, Elder dominates with its creamy white dishes of flowers. Whitethroats and Linnets sing, whilst a fat Wood Pigeon sits quietly on a dead branch and watches. Pushing through an overgrown path sends clouds of pollen like smoke up from the grasses. A Dunnock alights on a branch and sings lustily. A small group of Long-tailed Tits busily pass through and a Willow Tit buzzes. Areas like this are at risk. Regarded as wasteland, they seem ripe for development, but the diversity of plant and bird life must not be underestimated.

Monday 25th June – Manton, North Lincolnshire – A small village on the right-angled bend of a back road. The local stone is a pleasing yellow-grey limestone. A small and neat church stands on a slight rise. There are some splendid large Georgian and Victorian houses and villas in the area, along with decent sized farm workers houses – all in limestone. On the large open field, giant sprayers cascade water onto the crops. One “crop” is a field of grass cut like a good quality cricket pitch – turf for the lawns of city dwellers. It is hot, the thermometer has hit 27°C. Swathes of crimson Common Poppies flow like blood along the edges of fields.

Saturday 30th June – Stairfoot – The Yorkshire Brickwork has expanded pushing the footpath up the low hill below Ardsley. Large blocks of mudstone lay about. They are part of the Marine Band which surfaces here. The land here is tilted so that layers of clays, sandstones and coals surface in lines running North to South. Large single roses flower, an escaped garden type, but there are numerous wild Dog Roses and Sweet Briar, exhibiting every shade of pink from near red to pure white. White Greater Bindweed trumpets are open. Cinquefoil creeps over the stony ground with yellow flowers. Groundsel and Weld, typical of rough and waste ground seem to grow out of the rocky rubble. A pyramid with panels depicting fossil shells marks the Marine Band SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Greenfinches and Dunnocks sing. Yellowhammers fly over. A herd of heifers take an interest in Dill the Dog, who looks worried but is protected by a sturdy wire fence.