November 2003

Monday 3rd November – Fleets Dam – The autumn has roared in with a front bringing gales and rain. Last week I “hoovered” up the leaves from the back and front of the house. Now there it is carpeted again. Likewise the track alongside the River Dearne is covered in the yellow lozenge arrowheads of Willow leaves. No fishermen have braved the blustery elements, but the Grey Heron seems to have no respite – now it is the gulls that annoy it.

Tuesday 4th November – Grange Gate – The calm after the storm. High wispy clouds dull the sun, but although the air remains damp, the wind has dropped and there is no rain. Clamber up the muddy gully into the stunted Oak woods above the abandoned railway line. No fungi to be seen anywhere. Back down and off of what was the Barnsley-Cudworth line. A ditch runs along the recreation field from the Mill of the Black Monk – probably the oldest building in the district, now restored as a pub. The ditch is lined by thick undergrowth and Hawthorns. At least fifty Fieldfares fly off. Numerous Redwings also dart around the area, whilst Blackbirds feast on the bountiful crop of scarlet haws. Trees are glowing with yellow leaves.

Wednesday 12th November – Barnsley Canal – A Sparrowhawk drifts south high over Smithies. Everywhere is wet. Rasping Mistle Thrushes pass overhead. Rose briars have lost all their leaves but remain adorned with deep crimson hips. The bare trees reveal last season’s nests, empty and decaying. A Willow Tit flies ahead, calling. A Kestrel flies off. Some Hawthorns are already depleted of their berries, others retain a feast for the winter thrushes in the colder weeks to come. Flocks of Greenfinches and Redwings flash through the bushes. Flocks of Wood Pigeons descend on the winter wheat field.

Thursday 13th November – The Fleets – A Great Tit is bright as a button as it hops through the bushes. High above a Cormorant circles to orientate itself and then heads north. Black-headed Gulls patrol the lake. Redwings and the occasional Song Thrush slip through the Hawthorns and over the river. It is quiet, the lull before the forecasted storms to come tomorrow.

Thursday 20th November – The Fleets – A young Cormorant, with a bright white breast and stomach, circles the lake but seems to be unable to decide whether to land or not. Two Grey Herons are squabbling about landing rights as usual. A number of Black-headed Gulls are on the water, whilst others search the water’s surface for food. A large fish flops across the surface several times creating large rings spreading across the still lake. Magpies seem excited and are calling raucously and flying to and fro. Blue Tits, Redwings, a Dunnock and a small charm of Goldfinches feed in the Ashes and Hawthorns.

Saturday 22nd November – Barnsley Canal – A sharp overnight frost has left the fields and bushes covered in rime. It looks like the contrast control has been turned down on the world. A Reed Bunting and Willow Tit hop around the bushes. A Wren darts along the canal bank and disappears into a thicket of brambles. A Carrion Crow flies purposely over the valley. A Kestrel sits on electric wires. There is an irregular but frequent ticking sound as the frost melts and water droplets hit the carpet of leaves on both the ground and the surface of the canal.

Saturday 29th November – Old Waggon Road – A miserable day – a fine and persistent drizzle, cold and grey. A flock of Fieldfares fly overhead, calling and descend on a plantation below the M1 motorway. Another smaller flock is at the top of an Oak standing in the winter wheat field.