Bird Brain

I aim to highlight the best birdwatching – and other nature-watching – spots across the area (and slightly beyond) and keep you up-to-date with what is happening on the birding scene.

Hello and welcome to my first birdwatching column.

I’ve been pointing a pair of binoculars at things with feathers for more years than I care to remember and I hope that you might be interested in my ornithological musings.

This is a great area for birding.

There are a number of internationally important nature reserves – the RSPB’s Old Moor in Wath-Upon-Dearne and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr reserve in Doncaster.

Then there are other important reserves like Denaby Ings near Mexborough, Sprotbrough Flash near (surprisingly enough) Sprotbrough, Maltby Low Common, Blackburn Meadows at Tinsley... well, there are lots of sites, and they are just the reserves.

You can spot birds anywhere and the wealth of greenspace around Rotherham and the Dearne Valley gives a wealth of offerings.

But why go too far from home or work to enjoy birdlife?

Look out of your window and see what’s in your garden? Put a bit of food out over the coming winter and your garden will be a pit stop for passing birds, some of which may surprise you.

Staring out of the window when I was young and wondering what kind of bird the little brown thing eating bread that my mother had put out for it was is how I started birdwatching.

For some reason, we had a bird spotting guide on the bookshelf and I tried to identify the house sparrows and dunnocks and blackbirds and song thrushes for myself.

Ofcourse, starting off, I made stupendous blunders (I was very young) and was astonished that my garden seemed full of scarlet grosbeaks. Which it wasn’t. Sadly.

But seeing an unusual visitor to your garden is a fantastic feeling. A bored Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago was boosted beyond belief when a pair of waxwings started feasting on berries outside my front garden window. A little exploring found 40 of them on a telegraph wire at the top of my street. Oh yes, that was a good Saturday!!

Even some of the more industrial sites are worth exploring for birdlife too. Factories and waste sites may look unattractive to us but to birds they resemble cliff faces and open grasssland which offer food and shelter and nest sites.

That’s why we get peregrine falcons in our towns and cities. They just love the architecture!

The Advertiser offices, for instance, are based at Manvers in Wath-Upon-Dearne which is full of businesses but the bushes and trees and open spaces that criss-cross the area are home to woodpeckers, finches, birds of prey, thrushes and much more.

Birds are everywhere – you just have to look. I want you to help me find them.

I want to explore the different places for birds in the area and root out what’s there. If you have a great birding spot that you think I should know about, let me know via [email protected].

And tell me about your birdwatching stories and experiences, via the same email address. You can even send any unusual pictures to share with readers.

It’s great to see birds in far-flung places and tick rarities off your wish list, but there is nothing like knowing your own patch really well – and there will always be surprises waiting for you.

So have binoculars, will travel. And I hope you’ll go birdwatching with me.