Thursday 2nd August – Barnsley Canal – Honeysuckle is in blossom – massed horns of peach and cerise. Purple and yellow Sea Asters are thick on the bank of the choked south end of the canal. Red-pink heads of Orpine (or Livelong as it lasts a long time when picked because of its fleshy leaves) are lower on the bank. There a few red Haws already in the Hawthorn hedge. Tansy is in flower, as is the Great Willowherb and Wormwood. A fluttering group of young Whitethroats dive into a thick shrub by the bridge. They clack noisily. A single black and yellow striped caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth feeds on a Ragwort. Dog Rose bushes have spiky red galls called Bedeguar galls or Robin’s Pincushions. They are caused by a gall wasp, Diplolepsis rosea. Over the past six or seven years, a pond has developed at the bottom of the bank down from Tinker’s Pond. It is now nearly dry although there is still water flowing down the channel dug from the pond to the canal. The old rill that ran down the hedgerow and past the field gate has completely vanished since the formation of the pond. A beautifully marked little moth – probably a Common Carpet, flutters through the rough ground. Dozens of smaller white moths are disturbed as I push through the overgrown path. A couple of dead Roach lie on the canal edge, providing a welcome change of diet for a Magpie. Crab Apples are forming well on a single tree in the Hawthorns.
Saturday 4th August – Barnsley Canal – It is a fresh and cooler day after heavy rain yesterday. A noisy flock of Canada Geese are heard long before they appear from over the town and head north. Willow Warblers are singing and Greenfinches wheezing. The Mute Swans and cygnets are feeding on the weed that coats the canal, leaving a thin strip of open water behind them as they move towards the old loading dock. A Kingfisher approaches the bridge but sees me and turns and retreats up the canal. Its turquoise rump gleams in the sunlight. A froglet hops across the tow path.
Tuesday 7th August – Barnsley Canal – The previously dry and dusty tow-path is now full of deep puddles. Stems of grasses hang over the path, loaded down with rain drops. Walking through them results in soaking wet legs. A flight of nine Grey Herons heads up the valley. House Martins swoop low, inches over my head and almost into the reed beds. About thirty feet higher flocks of Swifts are also chasing insects. A large and noisy flock of Long-tailed Tits moves up the Hawthorn hedge and crosses the canal to other bushes. The pond at the bottom of the hill has filled again and water is rushing down the channel into the canal. A very yellow breasted Willow warbler is feeding on the path. A large flock of young Goldfinches twitters incessantly as it settles then surges up to move to a different part of the Hawthorn hedge. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flashes out of the hedge and disappears, but can still be heard. Dill the Dog is gloriously muddy – and I am not much better!
Thursday 9th August – North Lincolnshire – Great grey clouds loom for miles in all directions. Large flocks of Lapwings are forming, rising to circle the fields. Equally large flocks of Rooks and Wood Pigeons descend onto mown fields.
Saturday 11th August – Home – The Broad Beans and peas are now finished and removed. Runner Beans are producing well but the French Beans were overwhelmed by the peas and have not really developed as well as they could have. Green tomatoes have appeared and the plants are pinched out to prevent further growth so they can concentrate their energy on fruiting. Kale, Leeks, Beet and Carrots are all coming along nicely. The Courgettes are fruiting well and squashes are developing. Kay has moved the strawberry patch to a newly cleared patch by the old outhouse.
Saturday 18th August – Barnsley Canal – The freshness of the earlier part of the year is now lost in the sun’s heat and thundery rain fall. The thistles in particular are either covered in the white down of seeds which blows across the fields and water or are brown and dying. Tree leaves are dull and often under attack from a host of mites, gall wasps and other insects. However, mints are newly into blossom and looking bright. Water Mint has large oval globes of purple flowers and is strongly aromatic whilst the Gipsywort has whorls of tiny white flowers at the base of pairs of leaves up the stem and has no scent at all. A foal has been born very recently by the canal at the base of the hill down from Redbrook. It struggles to its feet and tries to follow Dill the Dog but an indignant snort from its mother sends it rushing back to her care. Blackberries are beginning to ripen, some large specimens on brambles by the water’s edge. A Peacock butterfly feeds on Black Knapweed. It is the small flash of violet in the eye of the Peacock that perfects the butterfly’s stunning colouration and pattern. There are also Small Whites, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns enjoying the nectar flow. Some Crab Apples have a bright red patch on the emerald green skin. A large bronze-winged Dragonfly skims past. Only one Ragwort plant has been invaded by the tiger-striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.
Sunday 19th August – Edderthorpe – Numerous Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall are on the flashes, males in eclipse. Tufted Duck dive. Large numbers of Coot, many youngsters, bob around. Ruddy Duck, both splendid chestnut males and duller females move in bands. One female has a train of fluffy ducklings in tow. Little Grebe dive. A Grey Heron barks. Hundreds of Swallows skim the water’s surface or roost in the small reeds. It is a wet and misty morning – more late September than August. Clumps of Toadflax, such a delicate yellow and orange grow in the ballast of the abandoned railway. Snipe probe the mud along with a few Dunlin and migrating Ruff. Young Moorhens pick delicately through the muddy weeds. I finally find my target bird of the day, a Garganey. The bird is timid and is watching continuously. Something spooks it and it is off over to the other side of the water.
Tuesday 21st August – Barnsley Canal – A bright morning with the sun shining over the valley. House Martins feed low over the Hawthorns. Goldfinches are feeding on the downy thistle heads. A long Hawthorn and Elder hedge stands down the hill from Tinkers Pond to the canal. Young Blackcaps are darting in and out of the dark depths of the hedge. More Goldfinches are on the thistles growing at the base of the hedge. A Whitethroat flies out and across the canal. Good numbers of smartly attired Great Tits are feeding in the reed bed. A Willow Tit buzzes its way along the canal-side hedge. The yellow pea-like flowers Birdsfoot Trefoil are scattered through grass. Much activity enlivens the bushes in an area at the north end of this section of the canal. There is little water in the canal, it is mainly reed bed or even wet grasses. Scrubby Hawthorns grow on the western side between a track at the canal. On the other side of the track is an area of marsh. Swallows are resting on the branches of a dead tree. Sedge Warblers rasp sharply from the Hawthorns whilst Linnets, Great Tits and Goldfinches busy themselves finding food. A bright yellow clump of Fleabane is in the marshy environs of the canal.
Wednesday 22nd August – North Lincolnshire – At the Three Rivers junction. A Brimstone butterfly flits along the brambles overhanging the water. A large group of noisy Starlings chatter on telephone wires. Many Blackberries are already picked. A Mute Swan grunts as Dill the Dog crosses the footbridge. A Grey Wagtail flies down the dyke, undulating.
Thursday 23rd August – Potteric Carr – A wander over the small patch of rough ground by car park through a multicoloured display of blooms. Viper’s Bugloss, Evening Primrose, Melitot, Greater Willowherb and St John’s Wort.
Friday 24th August – North Lincolnshire – Across the area the harvest well underway. Great Combined Harvesters eat up acres of wheat and pour the grain into waiting trailers and then deposit large drums of straw behind them. Overhead road lights around a junction provide a very suitable perch for Rooks. Between three and seven birds sit on each arm.
Atkinsons Warren – Fairy Ring Champignons in short grass by the path into the warren. Milk Cap in the woods rising from the velvety green sward so typical of conifer woods. It is extremely muggy, a good storm would clear the air, although Dill the Dog’s reaction would not be a happy one.
Monday 27th August – Kendel Green – Hot sunshine already, although the dew in the garden was very cold on my feet when I put the washing out first thing. A Red-legged Partridge flies up from the edge of the trail. We are on the Trans-Pennine Trail heading west. It is the abandoned Worsbrough to Penistone railway line. Glorious views appear through the hedges, across the valley through which the M1 runs and up the steady slope to Stainborough Castle, Northern College. The long Georgian façade of the house looks down upon us. Large Horsetails grow beside a culvert draining Hound Hill. I search the fences and trees on the edge of Wigfield Farm in vain for a Little Owl. They seem to have left the area.
Wednesday 29th August – Barnsley Canal – Sixteen Grey Herons standing in a stubble field makes a strange sight. A Sparrow Hawk flashes over the canal and up Willowbank, causing Magpies to react angrily. Many flowers have now died off leaving the area looking brown and tired. Whitethroats feed in the bushes, preparing for the long flight south. Goldfinches take advantage of the huge outpouring of thistle down. Dragonflies are now more numerous than at any other time of year, but it is still difficult to see any details.
Thursday 30th August – Wombwell Ings – The water level is low. Yellow Wagtails flit around the mud. There are decent numbers of Teal and Lapwings present. A large flock of Canada Geese and nine very wary Greylags feed on the grass. A couple of Ruff, Greenshank and a single Little Plover probe the mud. Gypsy Wort is still in flower. In the sewage ditch stands Branched Bur-reed with its bright green spiky mace-shaped seed heads.
Old Moor Wetlands – A gloomy and damp evening that starts well with a Black Tern soaring and diving over one of the pools. A Kingfisher flies in and lands on a post in the water providing splendid views of its jewel like plumage. Another pair of Terns, probably Common, are preening on a gravel spit. There are plenty of duck around, including very good numbers of Gadwall, Common Teal and Mallard. Shoveler, Tufted Duck and an early flock of Wigeon are also on the water. Waders are represented by Greenshank, Ruff, Green Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Common Snipe. There are large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover, many of the latter still with their summer black bellies. Huge clouds of midges are gone an hour later when a breeze rises and rain starts. A Little Grebe dives right in front of the hide. The water is quite shallow so its progress underwater can be followed by the water’s swirling surface. A Sparrowhawk glides across the water causing havoc amongst the waders.