Monday 1st January – Home – The snow has vanished overnight, leaving a grey, wet world. The birds have made somewhat of a mess around the feeders – discarded sunflower seed husks and droppings. I must endeavour to move the feeders around a bit to try and minimise the damage. The Sparrowhawk flies over whilst I am filling the feeders and soars off towards Gawber.
Thursday 4th January – Edderthorpe – A gloomy morning of mud and leaden skies. Teal, Wigeon and Mallard are spread out across the ings. A group of Tufted Duck and Pochard are mainly asleep with just the odd one diving for breakfast. Four Gadwall are preening and washing. A Shoveler, bright white, bottle-green and red, moves through the grassy reeds. A single female Goosander sits motionless on the water near the old pit.
Old Moor Wetlands – A quick scan reveals hundreds of Golden Plovers covering the spits of gravel between ponds. A pair of Mute Swans fly low over the water.
Wombwell Ings – A Grey Heron stands in a pool of flood water on the rough meadow. Water is gushing out of drainage pipes from surrounding fields into the transfer ditch, but this seems to do little to the quantity of water still laying on the pastures. More Grey Herons stand around the edge of the ings. Goosander, resplendent males, glide across the water. A lone Shelduck is upended, feeding off the bottom.
Friday 5th January – Anglers Country Park – The white rump of a Bullfinch flashes through the dull grey morning. A Great Tit chirrups in the car park. On Anglers, several Wigeon flocks feed on the grassy banks of the reservoir. One flock near the path breaks into sustained whistling in alarm as we approach. A few Canada Geese swim near a group of rocky islets. Several dozen Ruddy Duck sleep out towards the middle of the water. Coot, Pochard, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck are active across the lake, diving and preening. However, the waterfowl numbers seem low compared to past years. The water level on ponds by the Pol is up to the slats of the bridge. A pair of Mallard splash on the Pol. Moorhens feed on the grass banks. A Great Crested Grebe chases another across water, a mass of flapping wings then both dive. A Pied Wagtail bobs on rocks by Wintersett. A Kingfisher, turquoise brilliance in the grey, crosses the water. A Wren slips through a reed bed, from where a Bittern has been reported. A Jay is calling from bare trees, another turquoise flash in the dull skies. Twenty Great Crested Grebes have congregated in small area of Wintersett. This seems unusual for a normally solitary species. Out towards the centre of the reservoir, Goosander drift across the surface. Water is flowing rapidly down the normally dry culvert from Wintersett into Cold Heindley reservoir. A line of Cormorants with beaks held high like outraged maiden-aunts glides by.
Wednesday 10th January – North Lincolnshire – It seems that some fields have dried out enough for ploughing to resume and, being so late, it continues under powerful headlights in the gloom of the afternoon’s end. Large flocks of Starlings, several thousand strong, fly in from the fields around the River Trent to the warmth of Scunthorpe’s town centre. The flock of white geese I mistook for swans last year have survived Christmas and continue to feed in a stubble field. Carrion Crows perch on fences, cawing and Kestrels hover in the deepening dusk.
Sunday 11th January – Blackburn Meadows – It is a bright frosty morning. Decent numbers of wildfowl populates the ponds, including over a dozen Gadwall, Teal (with more flying in), only a very few Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck Pochard, a single (and probably feral) Greylag, Mute Swans and Coot. A large fresh hole is in the pool bank, possibly a Fox sett. McKay’s lagoon is greasy with ice. Brown dominates vegetation. The Mute Swans chase off the Greylag. There is a thin coating of ice on the canal, but a large volume of water flows over lock gates.
Saturday 20th January – Blackburn Meadows – The sun glows from behind banks of grey clouds. All the pools are frozen over with just a small ice-free area on one. This area contains diving Tufted Duck and Coots and a Mute Swan. On the ice, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard are all asleep. In the distance, three Cormorants fly past the cooling towers by Tinsley M1 bridge.
Sunday 21st January – Barnsley Canal – The churned path is frozen into sole piercing and ankle twisting ridges but steadily softening through the steady build up of snow. It is very quiet, just the usual Coots complaining and a horse whinnying from Willowbank. Dead stems of Purple Loosestrife has rings of snow looking like a new white flowering species.
Sunday 28th January – Westwood Country Park – We crunch over frozen ground. Chaffinches are pinking in the woods. A drumming Woodpecker remains unseen. Mistle Thrushes watch and rasp from high in a dying tree above the M1-A616 link road. Great Tit, Robin and Blackbirds are singing and a Blue Tit chatters incessantly.