Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cormorants & Constellations at RSPB Old Moor

Spent a beautiful winter's afternoon and twilight today at RSPB Old Moor in the Dearne Valley.

The "Cormorants & Constellations" Event started with a spot of guided wildfowl watching. Then as the sky darkened, a glimpse through some powerful telescopes provided by the local Mexborough & Swinton Astronomical Society as Venus and Jupiter came out to play between the rolling clouds. This stargazing was timed to coincide with the BBC's Stargazing Live programmes. Some enthusiastic young astronomers in the making were there with their families today, enjoying all that Old Moor and the MSAS have to offer to the Patrick Moores and Professor Brian Coxs of the future!

Thanks to the all wonderful staff at Old Moor, including John and Jeff who took us on guided walk No 2 to the Wader Scrape as the rain swept down and the wind buffeted the water.

Started by seeing Bullfinches and Blue Tits from the visitor centre and then wandered into the play area before the walk, where a cloud of Magpies sat in a treetop before flying rattling exuberantly over our heads.

In Wader Scrape, we looked across towards Darfield church tower, past a stormy scene alive with wildfowl and other birds battling the elements. Flocks of Lapwing, a Great Crested Grebe in its winter plumage, Goosander, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, a Great Black-Backed Gull sitting dominating an island, Little Egret, and a male Pheasant scuttling across in front of the hide. Many more, including Carrion Crows, flocks of Starling in the distance over Darfield way, and, of course, a row of Cormorant, proud to know the day named in their honour was going so well!

Jupiter with its moons and Venus shining bright, the evening star in all its splendour, made the stargazing part of the evening a joy in spite of encroaching cloud cover. The Gannets Cafe for a warm cuppa and a bite to eat warmed us up nicely again, with accompanying footage of the earth from the International Space Station. Over in the Classroom, another film was showing, very popular indeed, you had to be quick off the mark to secure a seat! Shows how popular Old Moor is, and with very good reason!

The whole visit was a delight as always. Reminded me how much I love Old Moor, how it's been too long since my last visit, and how good it will be to head back there as soon as health and opportunity permits.

Our friends Sue & Col, and my mum arriving for the fun
This wind turbine sounded ready to take off in the gusty January wind!

Me, three layers of thermals (TMI!), bins, silly woolly hat and walking stick with inbuilt seat affectionately known in my house as the "Ironing Board" for its rather-bulky-but-comfy design. Vanity's not one of my many vices, obviously!
Magpies flocking. They're like Marmite - love 'em or hate 'em. I adore them, the zany clowns of the crow world!
The free giveaway info cards to tie in with BBC's "Stargazing Live"

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