September 1998

Wednesday 2nd September – Barnsley Canal – The area is covered in mist. This seems to make the avian life even more nervous than usual. At best there are glimpses of a small brown job disappearing into the interior of a heavily leafed bush. Eventually, a flash of white rump identifies Bullfinches, high pitched cries and a glimpse of a tiny ball and stick means Long-tailed Tit and a family of Whitethroats actually emerges long enough for a decent view. A russet bundle of spots hovers briefly by a briar – a juvenile something. The insistent twittering of Goldfinches makes them easier to identify. There are good numbers of sploshes along the canal edge – often following leap down the bank by Dill the Dog. This means the Water Vole population is healthy, unlike many places where it is vanishing fast.

Sunday 8th September – Wombwell Ings – The area is coated in a wet cloak of thick mist. A few Grey Herons are stalking like ghosts along the edge of the ings. Lapwings are heard but not seen. A pure white fungus rises from a pile of horse dung – the Dung Mottle Gill – (Panaeolus semiovatus) not surprisingly, it is inedible. Another species that has appeared is the delicate Little Japanese Umbrella (Coprinus plicatilis).

Monday 7th September – Barnsley Canal – A cool, damp morning. Robins sing from bush tops and wires. The Mute Swans are feeding close to the tow path and take exception to Dill the Dog standing close and watching. The Cob hisses and wags his tail vigorously. Small flocks of Goldfinches fly around twittering. A few Mistle Thrushes pass, high overhead. Most of the Ragwort is now brown stemmed and leaved with downy white seed heads. A few Rosebay Willowherbs are still in flower at the very top of their stalks and the large, but delicate, blooms of the Himalayan Balsam still prevail against the beckoning autumn.

Tuesday 8th September – Wombwell Ings – The sun rises, blazing in a clear sky. Something or someone has disturbed a large flock of Mallard that is gleaning the wheat field, they fly around with pairs breaking off in different directions. Swallows feed close to the ground, darting between cows browsing on the fields. The Wigeon are back with a flock of thirty plus preening on the Ings, along with Shoveler and Teal. Lapwings feed and bleat from the water’s edge. A few Grey Heron stalk the shallows although one stands motionless in a thicket of branches in the water. A couple of Snipe probe the soft mud. Young Coots with their pale throats, peck at vegetation.

Old Moor Wetlands – A flock of over one hundred Golden Plovers wheels above the meres. Great Crested Grebes are still acting territorially. A Black-necked Grebe keeps away from its larger cousins and dives for food. Twenty-one Greenfinches sit on wires. Hawthorn berries have turned scarlet. The wind is rising, cloud banking up and obscuring the sun. The first hint of rain tickles my skin – time for breakfast.

Wednesday 9th September – Barnsley Canal – Chiffchaffs are singing still in the canal hawthorn hedge. A single bush (admittedly a large bush) on the west side of the canal contains Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting and a Green Woodpecker flew through. A flock of Goldfinches feeds on grass seeds a few metres away.

Saturday 12th September – Wombwell Ings – The mornings are cooler now and it will stay that way today until the sun escapes the cloud layer. The Ings are quiet. In the distance there is a constant mumbling from the large flock of Canada Geese on the fields. Here, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler are preening at the edge of the water. A few Snipe and a Greenshank feed. A single Arctic Tern stands on the old stone gate post in the middle of the Ings.

Sunday 13th September – Edderthorpe – A bitterly cold northerly sweeps across from Grimethorpe. There are still substantial numbers of waders – Ringed Plovers, Little Plovers, Snipe, Dunlin, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, Ruff and a Turnstone. Pintails feed. Dill the Dog comes hurtling back along the bank of the wide, reed filled ditch that parallels the track. In front of her, at head height, is a very annoyed Water Rail, squeaking loudly. Given how difficult it can be to find Water Rails, my admonishment of Dill the Dog is somewhat muted! There are still plenty of Swallows, Sand and House Martins feeding over the water.

Monday 14th September – Barnsley Canal – The weather continues to signal the end of summer and hints of the cold to come. A group of eight young Wood Pigeons sit atop a dead tree in the loop marsh. Elderberries hang in lusciously purple-black bunches. Rose Hips shine scarlet. Likewise, the Haws are turning through vermilion to deep scarlet; a good crop awaiting the devouring winter thrushes. A large flock of Great, Long-tailed, Blue and Willow Tits moves noisily along the tow path Hawthorn hedge. The Mute cygnets stand, preening on the nursery nest, almost as big as their parents now. Willow Warblers move silently through the foliage, intent on seeking caterpillars. A Great Spotted Woodpeckers rises to the top of a dead branch and surveys the surrounding area. The surface of the canal swirls as dozens of Pond Skaters move away from the edge, disturbed by my footfall.

Dodworth Hill – Looking far away across South Yorkshire, the tongue of West Yorkshire that sits across the top of the county, and then The Wolds of the East Riding. Between are the cooling towers of Ferrybridge, Eggborough, Drax and Eastrington Power Stations – sites where maybe the ’84 miners’ strike was lost. South the hills roll towards Sheffield and Rotherham and then on into Derbyshire. West, the concrete finger of Emley Moor transmitter and the Pennine Moors. The wind blasts me and in the distance the propellers of the wind farm mills spin.

Saturday 19th September – Edderthorpe – A mist swirls gently over the Dearne. Two Jays slip into cover from the road and a Kestrel wings over head. The grass is soaked with dew. A goodly collection of waders on the mud – Dunlin, Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Lapwings, Grey Plover, Ruff, Ringed and Little Plovers. A Green Woodpecker flies past calling loudly. On the water are Mallard, Coot, dozens of Little Grebe, Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck. However, this is not a peaceful, pastoral scene, behind me is the roar and clanking of road construction machinery. A Great Spotted Woodpecker glides from bush to bush along the Dearne. At the top of the bushes are Greenfinches, Reed Buntings and Linnets.

Sunday 20th September – Wombwell Ings – A thick mist covers the valley, so birding is soon abandoned. However, the autumnal dawn chorus, made up mainly of Robins, gladdens the heart.

Wombwell Dam – In the hills between Wombwell and Worsbrough are extensive woodlands. Some are older, managed woods of Beech and Sweet Chestnut, the rest young, bracken covered sandy woods of Oak, Silver Birch and Beech scrub. A few Robins sing and Willow Warblers wheep.

Silkstone Fall – Later in the morning it is a beautiful summer’s day. Up through the conifer and Oak woods, across the Barnsley-Penistone line and up onto Silkstone Fall. The hillock itself is a massive pile of slag. On top there are growths of Fly Agaric and Earth Balls – both poisonous, but only a solitary Cep. Coming back round the other side of the hillock, I find the gate to a small pond open. This gate has always been padlocked in the past, so I cannot resist a peek. The pond is scummy with algae, but this does not stop Dill the Dog adding it to her collection of waters she has jumped into! The woods here always seem quieter than they should be. Only the occasional rasp from a Jay, odd burst of Chiffchaff song and, most commonly, a Blue Tit chirping. Stalks of bright orange-red berries of Cuckoo Pints brighten the woodland floor. There are chewed remains of Horse Chestnut conkers on the ground, left-overs from Grey Squirrels’ lunches.

Monday 21st September – Barnsley Canal – Again a thick mist encloses the area. Robins sing and Wrens scold and tick from the ghostly bushes. A small flock of Mistle Thrushes are feeding on the glowing red Haws. Spiders’ webs are white lacework adorning the bushes and taller grasses. The top of one grass is bent over and a circular web affixed to it resembling a crazily cracked monocle.

Sunday 27th September – Filey – All the good birds are at Spurn, so I am at Filey! The area is covered by a thick fog. I walk around the Arndale Ravine. There are twitterings and tickings from the bushes below but little is moving. On the far side is a flock of Goldfinch and a few Greenfinches are feeding on the large ornamental rose hips. I wander over to the Church Ravine but again, little is moving. On the closely mown grass on the cliff tops, large numbers of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails feed, concentrating on the very short grass cut in circles for golf. Back at the Arndale Ravine, a Northern Wheatear stands on the roses, but again little else. Suddenly a possible explanation appears, a Sparrowhawk shoots low through the bushes and trees. By now, my cold is making me feel quite ill, so I retreat.

Monday 28th September – Barnsley Canal – A cool, wet, grey day. Blackbirds cluck anxiously in the Hawthorns. Moorhens flick their tails with its white outer feathers as they disappear into the overhanging brambles. The Mute Swan cygnets are exercising their wings. They are now as big as their parents.