Ramblings

September 2001


Sunday 2nd – Edderthorpe – It seems summer has suddenly come to an end. The morning is far cooler than of late. Wildfowl are building up on the flash – Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Ruddy Duck. Large numbers of Coot are diving into the deeper water or strutting about the shallows. Snipe in decent numbers probe the areas of sedge strewn mud. The only other waders are Lapwings and a few Ruff. Sand Martins sweep across the surface of the water. Little Grebes pop up and down.

Saturday 8th September – Hickleton – A ridge of land runs south of Hickleton towards Doncaster. It is not obvious from the Doncaster road but the ridge actually commands a considerable view across the Dearne Valley, Doncaster and then north-eastwards towards the Plain of York and the Wolds. The bridleway passes through woodland at first. Robins are singing their wistful autumn song. A large patch of the very invasive Japanese Knotweed has established itself by the track. Like Himalayan Balsam, Knotweed is becoming a serious problem as it takes over areas and extinguishes native plants. The track emerges from the woods and from here glorious views are had. A tractor is dragging a harrow over a huge field – this is an area where, sadly, many hedgerows have been grubbed out to make fields like prairies. A pair of old stones stands either side of the track. The word Fearn can be barely discerned in the weathered top of one of the pillars. An Ash tree trunk has been partially sawn and burnt, yet the trunk has reformed from one edge of the stump and the branches tower high above, a picture of health. Speckled Wood butterflies flit in the bushes beside the track. Another bridleway joins, leading up from Barnburgh, maybe a mile down the gentle slope. Vermillion berries of Cuckoo Pints brighten the darker recesses of the wooded areas. Haws are now scarlet and Blackberries and Elderberries have ripened to a deep purple black. Swallows are feeding just above the stubble left by the harvested grain crop.

Sunday 9th September – Edderthorpe – Sitting on the sharp railway ballast is hardly the most comfortable birding, but it affords a fine view of the water. Swallows and Sand Martins are still here, feeding low over the numerous duck and Coots. A few male Gadwall are looking resplendent in their sharp grey and black plumage. The vast majority of drake Teal, Mallard and Shoveler are still looking dowdy in eclipse. A Ruddy Duck gets upset with a Little Grebe and chases it away. A few Dunlin, Ruff and Snipe feed in the mud. The flash has large areas of Amphibious Bistort growing, floating green leaves with pink flower heads rising above the water.

Monday 16th September – Barnsley Canal – A sharp northerly wind blows down the valley. A Robin sings fitfully. There is little colour from flowers around the canal now, only the Himalayan Balsam and Sea Aster are in bloom, both invaders to the area. The Mute Swans’ two cygnets are now full size but still grey. Rose hips are reddening. A Wren whirrs from the reed bed to the Hawthorn hedge.

Tuesday 17th September – North Lincolnshire – Flocks of Lapwings and Starlings move around the landscape. With the wind, they swoop and sail rapidly; against it they are nearly stationary. A Kestrel turns sharply over a dyke. A cloud of Rooks rises and circles above a clump of trees. A small flat reed-cutting boat is moving slowly down the dyke, the controller hidden in a plastic tent.

Wednesday 18th September – Barnsley Canal – The autumnal gales are in full blast. Leaves and twigs lie scattered along the tow path. A Chiffchaff wheeps and later sings, a pathetic relic of its summer onomatopoeic song. Both Rooks and Carrion Crows call harshly from the fields. Several Grey Herons fly up the valley.

Saturday 22nd September – Bingley – Jerrie, from California and Sue from Yorkshire visit and we head off to Bingley. The main objective is the monthly Farmers’ Market. By the time we get there, they are thinking about clearing up and we get a huge bag of organic Japanese Lettuce for 50p! A couple of big fat cucumbers and some small onions for pickling are purchased as well. We then head down to the Liverpool-Leeds canal and walk up to the Three Lock lift. We watch a canal boat passing through the locks. Over the wall by the top of the locks is a splendid display of dahlias in an allotment. Jackdaws clack overhead. A small flock of Long-tailed Tits move noisily through Hawthorns. A drake Mallard, just beginning to emerge from eclipse, comes to see if we have anything edible, but is disappointed. The highlight is a Spotted Flycatcher high on a dead tree top, flying up and twisting to catch flies. We reach the next lift, an incredible five locks linked together, but Jerrie decides her new hip is not up to climbing the quite steep path to the top of the lift. A canal boat coming up through the Three Locks is called Out Laikin’ – which means out playing, an expression left by the Vikings. We stop off in Saltaire for tea, just like real tourists!

Sunday 23rd September – Edderthorpe – A dank morning. Shoveler numbers have risen considerably and there are good numbers feeding in the shallows. Wigeon numbers are also up. Gadwall and Mallard are plentiful, but diving ducks seem to be in very short supply. I fail to find a reported Green-winged Teal amidst the numerous Eurasian Teal.

Tuesday 25th September – Barnsley Canal – A thin autumnal mist hides the horizons. Robins are singing loudly from Willowbank. The tops of Tansy have turned black. It is wet and muddy. A stand of Japanese Knotweed has established itself; it will be wise to try and eradicate it as soon as possible. The Mute Swan family glides down the canal in a slow procession.

Saturday 29th September – Edderthorpe – A gloomy, cloud covered morning, with steady drizzle. Waders feed rapidly on a long spit of mud – Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Common Snipe. Large numbers of dabbling ducks, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard are either feeding or sleeping. Cormorants rest on posts rising from the water.

Broomhill Flash – A Pectoral Sandpiper, the commonest vagrant from North America, is showing well directly in front of the hide. It walks steadily along the water’s edge feeding on insect on the mud. Large numbers of Teal, Mallard and Shoveler are asleep on the grass. A few Gadwall drift across the flash. Half a dozen Mute Swans are upended as they feed off the bottom. On the far side of the flash a Green Sandpiper, Ruff and Greenshank feed.

Wombwell Ings – A couple of dozen birders are on top of the bank by the pond awaiting an appearance by a Hoopoe which has been present for several days. It suddenly appears and flies around the rough pasturage, given excellent views. It does seem to have a knack of landing in spots that are hidden by long grasses and small Hawthorns. Fortunately, it is an active bird so it does land and give good views on several occasions.

Sunday 30th September – Pugneys Country Park – Frequent showers keep the area damp and cloudy. So a quick walk around the sandpit lake. The most obvious bird is a Black Swan, clearly an escape from a collection. It is preening on the shingle spit; its red bill striking against the black feathers. A flock of Black-headed Gulls hunker down against the wind and rain. A few get excited by one that has picked up something from the water. Great Crested Grebes are spaced out across the lake. Tufted Ducks arrow low across the area.