September 1999

Saturday 4th September – Edderthorpe – A thin mist fills the air, but the sun in the cloudless sky will soon disperse it. The flash has receded considerably in the dry weather. Mainly Teal search the mud for food. Lapwings call continuously. A Sedge Warbler chacks in a bush, sounding very similar to Blackcap. A Garganey preens on the far side of the flash. Snipe stalk across the mud. A large covey of Grey Partridge wander down the still unopened road.

Sunday 5th September – Hood Green – “Keep Out” says the sign at the top of the road leading to the old pit site. Apparently the site has been bought and folk are not welcome on it any more. A pity as this was one of the best sites locally for Birch Boletus. I head off through the woods around the back of the site. A stone-walled channel, dry of water, runs down the woods. A Chiffchaff is singing and a Willow Warbler wheeping. Path skirts the old NCB site and then crosses through more woods to another spoil heap beside the disused Worsbrough-Penistone railway line. There is as large new ironwork sign beside the track – “Welcome to the South Yorkshire Forest”. A path branches back towards Hood Green, crossing a field of cows. Canine and bovine eyes watch each other warily. A Green Woodpecker flies across from one wood to another. Crane Flies flit up from the grass at my passing.

Wednesday 8th September – Barnsley Canal – The sun rises over the canal. A fine mist drifts along the surface like steam. Robins are in full song and a lone Chiffchaff calls from Willowbank. Few plants are in flower now, just some Mints and Michaelmas Daisies along the water’s edge. Thistles and Willowherbs are white and fluffy as they prepare to cast their seeds to the wind. Rosehips have yet to reach their full ripeness but Haws are rich red. A Spotted Flycatcher and female Bullfinch sit atop the dead tree at the old dock. Two Grey Herons stand in the skeletal limbs of a tree in the loop marsh.

Thursday 9th September – Barnsley Canal – The afternoon is hot. There is little movement from bird life. However, good numbers of butterflies flit along the canal edge visiting the Michaelmas Daisies – several Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, lots of Green-veined and Small Whites and a beautiful little Small Copper.

Thursday 16th September – Wombwell Ings – A cool dawn with a greyness that means autumn is approaching. On the Ings there are Teal, Mallard – many males in new bright breeding plumage – Shoveler, Snipe, Lapwings, a single Golden Plover, Black-headed Gulls – inquisitive as ever, Swallows skimming surface and hunch-backed Grey Herons. A young Mute Swan flies across fields, head turning this way and that, watching what is below. A flock of twittering Linnets passes over.

Sunday 19th September – Blackburn Meadows – Another quiet morning. Coot peck at the weed on the surface of the ponds. A pair of Mute Swans sleep in the middle of the water. It appears to have been a good year for Little Grebe as there are several diving in both ponds. A Grey Wagtail flies up the canal, piping.

Tankersley – A small hamlet, indeed little more than a farm and a church. I am looking for Sloes. A Mistle Thrush rasps. Rosebay Willowherb has fought its way up through a Hawthorn hedge to emerge into the light over six feet above the ground. Pale yellow-green mace-like flower heads of Ivy adorn a crumbling wall. Dill the Dog chases a cock Pheasant which squawks loudly and lumbers up into a tree. A Kestrel perches on wires, its tail moving in all directions to maintain body stillness in the wind. Robin sings from a Holly, a Chiffchaff calls half-heartedly deeper in the wood. I fail to find a single Sloe.

Monday 20th September – Crowle – The rain continues. On some waste ground that has been cleared for development that is yet to happen are large stands of thistles. Their downy heads attract a large flock of Goldfinches. Meadow Pipits, resplendent in fresh plumage, stand on a pile of tarmac.

Saturday 25th September – Newmillerdam Woods – Mixed woods of mainly Silver Birch, Oak and Beech. A few fungi are growing on the leaf litter and lots of Birch Polypore (once used as a razor strop) on the Birches. Long-tailed Tits and Jays call through the foliage. A Robin peers angrily from a branch, ticking.

Pugneys Sand Pit – A large flock of Canada Geese are now on the flooded pit. Lapwings soar and dive over the water. Four Great Crested Grebe glide slowly around, keeping a distance from each other. Four Grey Herons stand on the bank, motionless like sentries. On the pond, a few Teal preen and Moorhens slip off into the reeds. There is some movement overhead, mainly Mallard and Cormorants travelling between waters.

Calder Vale – Magpies churr and Robins sing along the old railway track. Most flowers have finished but a few Common Toadflax brighten up the ballast with their yellow and orange lips. A flock of Mistle Thrushes rasp overhead. Elders are heavy with shining purple-black berries. In the Birch brush on the pit site, there are Birch Boletus the size of dinner plates. However, they are mushy and wormed, but there are enough smaller, fresher specimens for a good meal. A Chiffchaff calls from the woods by the Calder & Hebble Navigation.

Sunday 26th September – Wombwell Ings – A leaden sky broods over a sodden landscape. Puffballs are emerging on the path and Dung Mottle Gills growing through the piles of horse droppings. The hide is surrounded by travellers’ horses, which upsets Dill the Dog, who growls and barks. There is a good showing of Teal, 140, but little else. Lapwings cries plaintively as they wheel and swoop around. Grey Herons wade through the Ings and a Cormorant stands on a concrete post drying its wings. The track alongside the River Dearne as it heads towards Wath lays beside a large mown field. Wood Pigeons and a few Collared Dove glean for dropped grains. The great slag heap is now green and planted with hundreds of saplings. A patch of ground is carpeted with Red Clover and Kidney Vetch. Up the embankment of the old railway to check the dense shrubbery below, but the rain returns. Thirty-three Greenfinches sit on wires. Small pale brown slugs glide over the track.

Home – A House Sparrow pokes disconsolately at the Sunflower seed feeder. A quick check reveals it is empty again. I fill it up and pour a pile of mixed seed onto the bird table. A few minutes later Blue, Great and Coal Tits are all flitting in and snatching seeds. A pair of Coal Tits chase each other through the Lilac tree. A Robin, usually so bold a species, seems quite reticent about leaving the cover of the Lilac foliage. The House Sparrows return. A little later I send Dill the Dog out to chase off the Grey Squirrel from the table, where it is gobbling down the seed. The squirrel nips up the telephone pole whilst Dill the Dog rushes around below, never thinking to look up to where the squirrel sits on a foot-step, quietly watching.

Thursday 30th September – Goole – The port of Goole sits where the Aire and Calder Canal and the River Don (now called Dutch River) meet but do not join. The canal ends in the docks whilst the river continues to join the River Ouse, which is then joined by the Trent to become the River Humber. The docksides reveal the main cargoes appear to be timber, scrap metal and cars. Across the flat fields to the south a pillar of cloud is coloured as a rainbow as the setting sun refracts its water vapour. In the canal dock lay a number of old commercial barges. One carries a banner advertising the “Yorkshire Evening Post”, recalling the days when newsprint was delivered to the presses in Leeds by canal barge. On a piece of recreation ground is a model ship made of earth bound by wicker. There is a good crop of Puffballs here. A rasping flight of Mistle Thrushes passes over in the darkening evening sky.