Monday 3rd October – Fleets Dam – The sky is grey and the air is damp and clinging. Repairs have been made to the weir and the workmen whose lorries blocked the path last week have departed. Three Grey Herons sit around the south end of the lake. A dozen or more Black-headed Gulls patrol the perimeters of the water. A small flock of Long-tailed Tits move along the river, surprisingly quietly. A Kingfisher flashes up from beside the lake and off downstream. Leaves on the trees are yellowing rapidly, but there is a still lot of green to be seen.
Deffer Woods – I have been due to undertake a Tawny Owl survey for the BTO for some time now, but bad weather and my ankle injury has held things up. As twilight falls it is grey but relatively still, so I set out. I have to listen out for Tawny Owls at the centre of five tetrads (two kilometre squares of the Ordnance Survey grid). I arrive at the first, the entrance to Deffer Woods. As soon as I step from the car, a Tawny Owl hoots from the other side of the road. It then flies across the road and up into the tree above me. I enter the woods a short distance and the hooting Tawny is answered. The respondent then flies across the track and joins the first owl. There is considerable hooting and calling. A couple of minutes later, another Tawny starts to tuwit back across the road and is soon answered by a fourth. After ten minutes I leave these calling owls and move to the next site. Here, and indeed and the remaining three sites, I hear precisely nothing!
Wednesday 5th October – Home – Early evening and a first for the garden – a Nuthatch on the peanut feeder. A few minutes later a Coal Tit visits one of the seed feeders. There are plenty of apples lying around for the thrushes and the beak marks on many windfalls shows they are taking advantage of this autumn bounty.
Monday 10th October – Barnsley Canal – My ankle is still seriously restricting the distance I can walk. According to my GP it is simply a matter of time for the damaged ligaments to repair themselves. The mornings are now decidedly autumnal. It is barely dawn when I get up, much cooler and leaves flutter down like snow. Bird song along the canal is a patchy affair, bits of song here, a few mutterings there. Fungi are growing well. Fly Agaric stands tall and bright red, the white scales that give the spotted effect have washed away. A few Boletus are waterlogged and worm riddled. There are several species of Russula present also. A large patch of pigeon feathers scattered across the path indicates that one of the local Sparrowhawks has been successful in the hunt. Blackberries are almost finished, but the Hawthorns still carry a heavy crop of haws.
Tuesday 11th October – Home – This morning I glance out of the kitchen window and am surprised to see a Grey Heron lift off from the vegetable patch. It is always nice to different species visiting the garden, but I think I would prefer this one to stay away and leave our population of frogs and toads alone!
Wednesday 12th October – Home – There are few berries left on the Mountain Ash (or Rowan) by the front gate. However, a Blackbird still finds enough to have a good breakfast. Later in the morning several Blue Tits are searching the branches and trunk for food. Out in the back garden, there is an area of pigeon feathers under the Flowering Cherry – the Sparrowhawk is back.
Monday 17th October – Barnsley Canal – It is a miserable damp and grey morning. However, this does not stop numerous members of the Tit family from noisily searching the hedges for food. Willow Tits buzz, Long-tailed Tits squeak and Blue Tits chatter. A large number of Blackbirds are also in the Hawthorns. It was clearly a good breeding season again. A Grey Heron flies down the valley calling harshly. Moorhens scramble across the canal in a panic as Dill the Dog trots by. Several small groups of thrushes fly over, but they are too high and fast for positive identification. A Sparrowhawk and Carrion Crow squabble over Willowbank.
Fleets Dam – Mid afternoon and the gloom has barely lifted. Here, as along the canal to the north of the Smithies Lane, Long-tailed Tits are noisily moving through the trees. A large flock of twittering Siskins land at the top of a tall Ash tree. There are only a couple of Black-headed Gulls circling the lake and a young Grey Heron standing on one of the water oxidisers.
Tuesday 18th October – Barnsley Canal – Another damp morning, cooler but brighter than of late. This is fungi weather and there are numerous in the wood thickets and out on the grass. Under the Hawthorns, Milk Caps (Lactarius group) are widespread. Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria are in a second flush under Silver Birches. A few decaying Boletus are also under the birches. On the hillside, Fairy Club species are rare, just a couple of clumps of Golden Spindles Clavulinopus fusiformis and one of White Spindles Clavaria vermicularis. However, the Hygrocybe species, bright red and bright yellow are everywhere. On top of the hill, there are a few Field Mushrooms Agaricus campestris which I collect and Puffballs Bovista nigrescens are in the grass. Grey Herons are flying up and down the valley, croaking noisily. Several large flock of winter thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares pass over.
Home – The Nuthatch is again on the peanut feeder. Three Magpies stalk around the vegetable patch, hopefully removing unwanted pests. Young Greenfinches feed on the mixed seed feeders.
Monday 24th October – Fleets Dam – It has been raining overnight and continues this morning. The River Dearne has risen substantially and is pouring over the full width of the weir. A Grey Heron flies around the lake, but there is little else around – sensibly everything is sheltering from the rain.
Wednesday 26th October – Willowbank – The weather remains wet, although there are breaks in the rain. Flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares continue to move through, calling as they do so.
Barnsley Canal - Old Mill – It has stopped raining. The jaw of a large Pike rises from the water and sinks again. It is not clear what it was after. Water can be heard pouring off the new Retail Park high above the canal. Whereas once it would have seeped more slowly into the soil, it now runs quickly off the tarmacadamed surface.
Thursday 27th October – Fleets Dam – The rain has cleared and it is a warm and fine day. Indeed, weather forecasters believe that records for temperature could be broken today. A large pond has formed in the horse meadow on the other side of the River Dearne. Mallard are taking advantage of this and several drakes attend a couple of ducks. Further up the field, Redwings are feeding on the ground and flying up into a Hawthorn to spy out the land. A couple of Black-headed Gulls wander around the lake, diving down to investigate any possible meals. A Grey Heron stands on the water oxidiser.
Sunday 30th October – The Pennines – A grey morning with the threat of rain in the air. The clocks have gone back, so we are again on Greenwich Mean Time. We start with a stroll up the Old Waggon Road from the Cawthorne Road. There are a goodly number of a common toadstool I have never been able to put a name to. They are fairly large with a pale cap, darkening towards the centre. Along the hedgerow are Common Ink Caps and in another field are the bright white domes of Shaggy Inkcaps. The house at Furnace Bridge has a fine display of Chrysanthemums and Dahlias. We then head off towards the Pennines. A road out of Upper Cumberworth goes through the village and then across the Huddersfield Road and up to Lane End. From this tiny hamlet, roads lead out across a patchwork of dry stone walled fields. We take the lane that leads to Victoria. There are splendid views in various directions; to the north, there are patches of sun on the moorland. Woodland areas are multi-hued as the leaves turn. Victoria is again a tiny hamlet with a large pub. Clearly it exists as it is the junction of roads across the moors. We turn down towards the massive Hepworths’ Pipe factory at Crow Edge, water and drainage pipes stacked up as far as the eye can see. Then on to Carlecotes and along the side of a deep valley that once held the Sheffield to Manchester railway, to Winscar Reservoir. Here the wind is blowing hard. Flocks of winter thrushes are buffeted as they pass over. A large flock of Wood Pigeons flies up from the bottom of the stream valley. The water level is not high, despite the recent rain. From the roadway across the dam, we can look down on another hamlet, Dunford Bridge. A spaniel passes, walking along the wall of the roadway. I cannot imagine Dill the Dog doing this, she would fall off within a few feet.