Wednesday 1st November – Barnsley Canal – After several days of high winds and rain, the morning is quiet and sunny. Although the levels of the canal and the River Dearne are high, there is less flooding than expected. A few Magpies are moving around the valley and Rooks caw from trees on Willowbank. Suddenly the first Redwing of the autumn rises from the canal-side Hawthorns to the top of an Ash. There are a few more in the hedgerow, but they are later than normal and in smaller numbers.
Friday 3rd November – Willowbank – The ground is sodden and the grass loaded with rainwater. There is much trilling and anguished calls from behind a spur. Blackbirds are calling frantically and Magpies are heading into nearby bushes. As I approach round the spur, a Sparrowhawk flies off carrying a Blackbird-sized bundle in its talons. There are grey breast feathers scattered on the ground. Despite this loss, the Blackbird population in the area is very healthy. Often, at this time of year it is swollen by continental birds moving in, but the slow influx of winter thrushes would indicate that food sources in Scandinavia remains plentiful. Thus, these Blackbirds may well indicate a good breeding season for residents. Robins are ticking in the Hawthorns surrounding the pit-head cap.
Saturday 4th November – Willowbank – After another wet night, the sun is rising with a brilliant gold light in the cold morning air. Three Fieldfares fly over westwards. Robins are singing. Far down the slope, beyond the canal, Coot are chasing across the pools of the loop.
Sunday 5th November– Barnsley Canal – The Dearne river valley is shrouded in mist. Birds explode away in every direction from the tow-path and Hawthorns – Blackbirds, Redwings, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks, Goldfinches and a Pied Wagtail. A thin coating of ice covers mud pools in the path. Redwings have arrived in decent numbers now. A pink flash of Bullfinches disappears into the undergrowth by the bridge. Cloud is building, a huge Atlantic storm is reported to be approaching and it feels cold enough for snow.
Tuesday 7th November – Barnsley Canal – Finally, after another night of rain, the Dearne has burst its banks, Fields, the loop (the old river course) and the river form a large lake. Looking up the river valley, water covers the rough meadow with islands of grass and trees. The canal has also burst its banks making the tow-path impassable. Gallons of water pour off the path and down into the lake below. Ducks swim and gulls seek food where normally crops grow and horses and cattle graze.
Darfield – Again, by the A635, the River Dearne has burst its banks and the meadows are awash. Fortunately, there are few houses built here on the Dearne’s floodplain.
A1(M) The River Don is a couple of feet below the second, higher levée. The first is submerged and trees rise out of the swirling muddy water.
Tuesday 14th November – Barnsley – The waters have subsided. In places it does not look as there was ever a flood, but one foot onto the soil soon reveals the saturation levels. Autumn is progressing rapidly into winter. The mornings and evening have a nip in the air. A hint of frost was on the grass on Willowbank this morning. Trees are all changing now into their warm autumnal hues of brown, reds, ochres, yellows and golds. Some have shed virtually all their foliage.
North Lincolnshire – Large flocks of Lapwings move slowly through the skies around midday. In the late afternoon, the sun hides behind a column of dark cloud, creating edges of red and reflecting gold off of high cirrus. Thin sheets of mist lay only a few inches above the fields. The herd of swans seen previously is in a field of stubble, but still not one raises its head to make identification possible.
Wednesday 15th November – Willowbank – A sharp frost gives the grass a light tint. A noisy group of Long-tailed Tits move through the bushes beside Smithies Lane. Three Bullfinches flit from the small isolated Hawthorns on the main slope into the main thickets. A large orange sun rises through the mists on the horizon. High above flocks of Rooks and Wood Pigeons head off in different directions.
Thursday 16th November – North Lincolnshire – The wide open fields of North Lincolnshire attract large flocks of birds. One hundred and more strong flocks of Lapwings seem to hover over the landscape. Gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed, take advantage of the remaining vestiges of the floods on ploughed and harrowed fields. Wood Pigeons in their dozens feed in stubble yet to be ploughed in. Rooks are already squabbling in rookeries. High cloud masks most of the sky, gleaming silver and gold in the south where the sun fights to break through. Later in the afternoon, hundreds of Starlings have gathered at a free-range piggery. Some pigs have a row of Starlings standing along their spines. The pigs dash excitedly across the field when a tractor of fresh straw arrives.