November 2004

Tuesday 9th November – Barnsley Canal, Old Mill – Song Thrushes and Blackbirds fly up off the scrub beside the old canal wall as the car headlights sweep over them when I enter the car park. Along the steep slope above the canal come the ticking of Robins and Wrens, muttering of Blackbirds and then a full blown Robin song. The sun has not yet risen. Goldcrests fly into an Aspen, looking like little leaves tumbling in a wind.

Friday 12th November – Willowbank – Pre-dawn, overcast and very dark. A couple of birds go up. At first I thought they were Partridge, but when they went up again, the jizz said Woodcock to me. The silhouettes were only up for a flash, so I will never know.

Friday 19th November – Willowbank – Yesterday a wide band of rain spread down from the north-west. I had a miserable drive back from Widnes on the M62 with my view constantly greatly diminished by road spray. By five o’clock it had turned to snow. There was a light covering of wet snow when the band passed beyond us, leaving clear skies. So this morning, Willowbank has a coating of hard frozen crusty snow. In the sky, Venus and a few stars stubbornly defy dawn. Blackbirds chatter out alarm calls and a Rook caws. On Monday, Dill the Dog had a hysterectomy and one of her teats removed as there was a lump. Today, she is trotting down the hillside just like normal. Oh, that our recovery time from major surgery were so quick.

Tuesday 23rd November – Fleets Dam – An afternoon wander around the lake. A few Black-headed Gulls are standing around; one circles the water seeking food. A Redwing pulls a plump red Haw off its twig. A Blackbird watches from the same Hawthorn but does not seem inclined to protect its abundant harvest. Another good breeding season for Blue Tits is evidenced by the numerous birds flitting around the trees, searching every nook and cranny for sustenance. There are also decent numbers of Long-tailed Tits which are piping their high pitched call and their flocks move through the trees.

Sunday 28th November – Anglers Country Park – It seems, and probably is, an age since I was last here. The Hawthorns and Birches around the scrape have grown well and now hide the water from the path. From the hide, it is clear that the reed beds and other grasses have encroached on what was bare shingle and open water. A couple of Mallard and Wigeon feed on the far side. On the main lake, there are substantial numbers of Coot. Also present are good numbers of Tufted Duck, a few Pochard, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorants and Mute Swans. A flock of Lapwings fly around the sky covered with pillows of grey clouds. A small flock of Fieldfares alight on the boundary hedge; a couple of Redwings also are there. Oddly, there is only a single pair of Canada Geese present. A flock of about fifteen Golden Plover arrow low over the water before soaring up and away. Stands of introduced Dogwood adorn the hedgerow, its bright red bark shining out from the sober natural vegetation. Around the entrance to the car park is a decent sized flock of Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, Blue and Great Tits. On Wintersett reservoir there is much the same mixture as on Anglers, although the missing Canada Geese are here in fair numbers as are the resident Ruddy Duck. Dill the Dog seems to have fully recovered from her operation and is in a disgraceful state with mud covering her from head to foot.

Tuesday 30th November – Willowbank – A heavy overnight frost has left the ground crunching beneath my feet. A large area of cloud drifts off south east and a bright moon lights the scene. It is wan and ghostly. I cast a strong moon-shadow. Crystals sparkle in the mining waste that is under the grass and exposed on the paths. A Song Thrush sings somewhat unconvincingly further up the hill. Blackbirds call out in alarm at nothing in particular. A cockerel calls from by the canal.

Wombwell Ings – As with Anglers above, it has been far too long since I visited the Ings. It is a bright sunny afternoon, blue sky with a scattering of cloud. The Blackthorn bushes by the old road are denuded of leaves and Sloes, but the Hawthorns along the banks of the River Dearne are loaded with ruby red fruit. Blackbirds and the winter thrushes are feasting on this bountiful harvest. The winter thrushes are wonderful birds. Down from Scandinavia, the Redwing has a distinctive creamy eyestripe and, in flight, a red flash on its flanks. The Fieldfare is a magnificent thrush, upright with a steely grey head and rump and a rich brown back. The Ings are larger than they used to be, water has claimed more of the rough pasture which is home to a herd of gypsies’ ponies. There is a good selection of wildfowl present; Wigeon, Pochard, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler. A pair of Goosander sail serenely around the water. Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings fuss. There is now a small island of reeds and dead plants. A Grey Heron hides away in here.