Ramblings

June 1996


Saturday 1st June – Edderthorpe – I make an all too rare visit to Edderthorpe. The site is a flooded meadow beside the River Dearne to the east of Barnsley. To the north, the waste heap of Grimethorpe colliery towers like grey, brooding hills – although it is now becoming naturalised with Silver Birches and grasses. A pair of Shelduck are swimming on a pond beside the track that leads to the colliery. In the reeds a Reed Warbler is singing fitfully but remains hidden. Five Reed Buntings are far more visible as they chase through the reed beds. Towards the abandoned railway line, reclamation work is proceeding with grass sown and various shrub twigs planted. I climb up onto the railway and walk down it for about half a mile to come level with the flash. There are often surprises in the meadow before the flash but little today other than Meadow Pipits and sleeping Mallard. On the flash, a pair of Mute Swans look after their three cygnets. A pair of Gadwall are feeding alongside Mallard and Shoveler. Many more Mallard are asleep on the banks. Walking back, a pair of Ruddy Duck have emerged from the reeds on the pit pond. As I head back towards the road a pair of birds flash past – Turtle Doves! This is one of the specialities of Edderthorpe and I had thought it had let me down, but no!

Denby Dale – There have been large movements of Turtle Doves and House Martins on the coast in the strong winds. Although it is windy inland things seem much quieter. In the early evening I drive rather aimlessly until near Denby Dale I see a track leading off around a hill. Dill the Dog is getting more and more restless so off we go. The bank above the track is dotted with blue of Bluebells and white of Field Mouse-ear set against the green grass background. The view stretches across Deffer Woods, the mix of trees, both deciduous and evergreens making a patchwork of different shades of green. A sturdy stone built farmhouse nestles in trees near the road. Continuing around the track a large patch of gorse is glowing with yellow flowers. In old trees below, Chaffinches, Linnets and Yellowhammers are all sharing the branches, all concerned with their own business. Dill the Dog flushes a pair of Partridge who flying off scolding angrily. Far below in the half mown hay fields, a cock Pheasant is strutting and feeding. Coming back I count five species in the hedgerow and based on the 30 years per species rule, I guess that makes it about 150 years old. On to Gouthwaite Reservoir hidden in the hills. Apart from the occasional call from a Meadow Pipit, it is quiet. Then a Curlew calls from the fields on the far side. A quick scan reveals four Curlew and a fair number of Lapwings. A Grey Heron lazily flies up from the edge of the water and is immediately harassed by a pair of Crows. Heading back an almost square patch of rainbow hangs low over the hills to the south of Barnsley, shining against the steely sky.

Sunday 2nd June – Anglers County Park – As soon as I get out of the car at Anglers, I hear Linnets calling. A pair are on the fence behind the Pol. Overhead Skylarks are calling. On the Pol there are a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and two Redshank, one with pale orange legs but the other with dayglow orange legs – looking more like a plastic drinking straw than part of a bird. Meadow Pipits are gathering clumps of nesting material from the grass. Down to Edderthorpe, where a couple of Greylag Geese are feeding on the meadow. The Reed Warbler gives obligingly good views on the edge of the reed bed and two Sedge Warblers are chasing down the bushes lining the river. In the woods, the air is musky with the garlic smell of Ramsons. In the Bluebells are the browny-yellow lipped flowers of Yellow Archangel. At Wombwell Ings a male Cuckoo flies over, calling, its tail oddly tatty looking. By the river the midges rise in dense clouds. At Broomhill Flash a crèche of 20 Canada Geese are feeding on the banks.

Tuesday 4th June – Dodworth – A glorious summer’s evening. Wandering footpaths around the former pit village of Dodworth. The second path I choose crosses a field and then joins a slightly wider path beside an Oilseed Rape field. It then starts a gentle descent down to the abandoned Worsbrough to Penistone railway. On the way down the compressed earth path suddenly turns to brick cobble, albeit worn and broken. So, far from being just another old path this had once been a major track. At the bottom of the valley is a rail junction with a spoil heap on the other side of the valley. The map shows disused shafts in the woods. At one time this roadway was trodden by workers and wagons from the village to the works in the valley, but now is just fields and woodland. From the woods a Pheasant croaks. The valley is dotted with aural points of bird song.

Saturday 8th June – Edderthorpe – The weeks have been mainly hot sunshine with a few clouds. However, yesterday was duller but very hot and humid, so it came as no surprise when lightning flashed through the pub window last night. When I left for home the thunder and lightning has ceased but the rain poured down in sheets. This morning has a pure, fresh air to it. Near Edderthorpe Rooks circle above some woods. A vole runs across the road in front of Dill the Dog who pounces and, of course, misses. She is spinning in circles with her nose as a fulcrum trying to work out where the little fellow has gone, but to no avail. Few birds on the water at Edderthorpe, a single Mute Swan, a few Mallard and a pair of Shelduck. The Reed Warbler is still singing and flitting about the reed bed on the pit pond. A few Orange Tip butterflies, both males and females are feeding on the flowers beside the path along with a Painted Lady and a Silver-Y Moth. It comes as a bit of a surprise when I phone up BirdLine in the evening to hear that there has been large movements of butterflies and moths from the Continent because of the hot weather – in particular Painted Ladies and Silver-Y Moths.

Sunday 9th June – Pugneys Country Park – A Quail has been reported as calling at Pugneys Country Park, but not a whisper of it this morning. Still good numbers of Willow Warblers, Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings calling. A Cuckoo flies calling around he fields near Sandal Castle. Find the first Puffball of the year and a ring of Fairy Ring Champignons. Across to Anglers Country Park where more Painted Lady butterflies are feeding on a weed patch. The two resident Redshanks stand on one of the tall boulders in the Pol. A tern flies over but it will go down as a Comic as I cannot work out whether it is Arctic or Common. An electric blue Blue Damselfly hovers, flies forwards and backwards over the grass.

Tuesday 11th June – Edderthorpe – The weather is switching between sunshine and heavy showers. At Edderthorpe, the path towards the pit road is slick with mud, make walking a skating affair. A Stock Dove flies off the meadow in front of the ings. Beside the ings itself a male Wigeon is resting. This is the first June Wigeon I have recorded. Other than that, there is a small group of Mallard, Shoveler and Coots. As I turn to leave, a Snipe drums high over the meadow.

Thursday 13th June – Barnsley Canal – Down to the canal to collect some horse dung for the compost heap. Dill the Dog looks surprised, she thought that stuff was strictly off limits! A Cuckoo is calling from the top of Willowbank. The meadow in the valley bottom is covered with yellow Meadow Buttercups, Red Clover and white Parsley family (well, carrot family actually, but goodness knows which one). On the canal a pair of Coots watch us warily whilst their three chicks pick at insects on the water’s surface. Much fussing as a family of Willow Tits flits up the Hawthorn hedge. Near to the back of houses on Smithies Lane, a Sedge Warbler is still giving it all in song.

Saturday 15th June – Edderthorpe – Still glorious summer weather, but few birds. Today at Edderthorpe the brightest moment was a pair of Yellow Wagtails standing on the path eyeing the air above them for insects. Two Reed Warblers were calling from bushes – usually a migratory activity. Little movement on the Ings – all the wildfowl were just snoozing in the hot sun.

Sunday 16th June – Bingley – For no particular reason I end up in Bingley this morning. A small market town on the River Aire to the west of Bradford. A walk through woodlands beside the river is to a chorus of Blackbird. Robin and Wren song. A Nuthatch creeps along a branch seeking insects. The same objective is on the minds of several Coal Tits who hang from leaves whilst searching them. Several groups of juvenile Mallard travel down stream with no adults in sight. Returning upstream I find the Ailsa Well in the backyard of businesses. Steps lead down to a dank underground rectangular basin of water. The well was known in the 15th Century and renowned for its extremely hard water. It was supposed to be a Holy Well and cure many afflictions but no saint appears to have any connection with it. On the other side of the railway bridge, the steps to the station have a stone entrance with MR (Midland Railway) on it. Beyond is the Liverpool-Leeds canal. Walking up the canal path leads to Bingley Three Lock lift – mile further up – the Bingley Five Lock Lift. Here five locks tower up a steep hill raising the canal up so it can continue into and across the Pennines. A Grey Wagtail flicks its tail on the canal edge. The air is musky with the scent of Wild Garlic.

Wednesday 19th June – Tankersley – A field of rough grasses near the Wentworth Industrial estate is dotted with tiny purple jewels, but what are they? The leaves are needle-like – very similar to Purple Toadflax, but the flowers just seem wrong. It’s some sort of legume as there is a pod of seeds attached to the stem. A mystery. The grasses are coming into flower and many have a blob of white froth on them – Cuckoo Spit. These are the protection around the egg and larva of the Froghopper, a type of aphid.

Saturday 22nd June – Carlton Marsh – The meadows at Carlton Marsh are truly resplendent. Great blotches of purple Tufted Vetch and yellow Bird’s Foot Trefoil against the variegated green of grasses, dotted everywhere with Ox-eye Daisies. All sorts of vetches are growing on the banks along with an occasional Sweet Briar – a rose that gives the colour its name. Below, in the marsh, a Reed Warbler skulks through the sedges seeking insects. On the top of the reed bed a male Reed Bunting sings half-heartedly, whilst a female is seeking food. The Mallard drakes are beginning to moult into eclipse. There are other birds flitting through the dense Hawthorn and Blackthorn bushes but they are virtually impossible to see. Something brownish emerges from one bush, shoots across the open space and then up, over and into the next bush – identification time about half a second!

Sunday 23rd June – Hoylandswaine – To the west of the Barnsley-Manchester road, near the village of Hoylandswaine, are a number of footpath signs. I decide to investigate one. The path leads down beside a meadow into a wood. It descends to a small, almost dried-up stream and across a wooden bridge and climbs the slope opposite. The wood is dense and little can be heard apart from the odd Blue and Great Tit calling. The wood emerges into another meadow, this time with cows who look threateningly at Dill the Dog. However, she keeps beside me and we cross onto a broad track. From a scraggy bush, a family of Whitethroat scold us loudly. Off this track leads another path heading steadily down hill towards another wood. The meadows have, sadly, clearly been treated with herbicides as the grasses all look the same and only a few straggly buttercup family flowers hang on – none of the rich flora of a traditional hay meadow. The wood at the bottom encloses another track, the Silkstone-Thurgoland Bridleway. A lake is hidden beside the woodland but the banks are filled with anglers, all talking loudly, so little bird life here. Follow the Bridleway for a while but then branch off as Thurgoland is the opposite direction to the car! The area is dotted with small farmhouses and barns. A mixture of hedgerowed fields and woodlands provides a wonderful mixture of habitats but it is still very quiet. Near the Huddersfield-Sheffield road I can hear a Green Woodpecker yaffling, but it refuses to show itself. I branch off again in the general direction I want to go and reach another woodland – this time a mixture of conifer and broadleaf. Possibly the same stream flows through this valley, which is much steeper. On reaching the footbridge we are again scolded, this time by a family of Chiffchaffs. The woods and fields above the valley are full of Pheasant and rabbits – much to Dill the Dog’s delight and she becomes somewhat truculent about my shouted instructions to stop chasing them. Passing another farmhouse, the reason for all the Pheasants becomes clear when I see large breeding pens in the woods. Heading back across the fields a pair of Red-legged Partridge whirr off and a raptor (or possibly a Cuckoo) appears from trees and disappears into the next stand in a twinkling. A hedgerow is full of young Starlings. Heading back towards the car, I notice Dill the Dog has blood on her leg. She had a cut on her dew-pad earlier in the week which looked like it was healing, but a quick inspection shows it is much deeper than I originally thought, so it is off to the vets where she is kept in for a stapling job – not her idea of the right way to finish a walk!