Bird Records For Thorne Moors 1983

This was originally a typed report by Terry J. Wells and it has been reformatted and word processed by Bryan P. Wainwright (2003) with additional records included from other sources, notably Limbert, M., Mitchell, R.D., and Rhodes, R.J. (1986) Thorne Moors Birds and Man. Doncaster and District Ornithological Society: London.


English and scientific names, and sequence of birds, follows the List of Birds of the Western Palearctic (British Birds Ltd, 1997). The RSPB species of conservation concern cannot be used retrospectively, and so has not been used. Exceptional records such as earliest dates refer to the period up to 1983 only.


Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis  

Recorded on eight dates this year, with two dates in March, four in April and two in August. Seen mainly at Inkle Moor Pond, Paraffin Cuttings, Shoulder o’ Mutton and a single sighting on New Cut Drain at its junction with Cottage Dike.


Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
One adult and one juvenile flew west over the moors on 5th April, a new species for Thorne Moors.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Recorded every month except March, August, and September. There were 19 sightings of single and one sighting of two birds on 2nd July. Birds were mainly seen in peripheral drains and occasionally flying over. 

Swan spp. Cygnus                  
An unidentified swan flew low past Elmhirst pump on 31st January, and two flew south east across the moors on 11th November. Both records were considered to have most likely been Mute Swans C. olor.

Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 
Around 165 flew over the moors on 13th November and 250+ flew towards the moors on 10th December.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 
One female flew west on 23rd October and one seen on 12th November.

Common Teal A. crecca 
Resident with average counts of seven to 10 birds. The highest counts being of 80 in August, 50 to 70 in September and November.

Mallard A. platyrhynchos
Resident with average counts of two to 20 birds. Most month’s counts of were of c.25 or less with the highest counts being of 60+ in August and September.

Garganey A. querquedula
A male was seen at the Shoulder o’ Mutton on 8th May (TJW, SH, BPW). 

Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 
A male and two females were at New Cut Drain on 6th November. 

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
A pair was at the Paraffin Cuttings on 25th May, a pair was at New Zealand pump on 2nd June and a female was at Inkle Moor Pond on 23rd October.

Birds of prey

Sites given for raptors are general. Usually only the first area of observation is stated, except where sites were very far apart. A comma between records of the same date means separate records. Depending on views the same bird of prey may be recorded differently by different observers. For example with Marsh Harrier; recorded as a female by one observer or a cream-crown by another, therefore with the following records this is taken into account and only the minimum number of birds per day is taken. Totals are the minimum possible numbers, calculated for all areas, plumages and observers for that day. All are adult birds, unless otherwise stated. Some birds are not aged and sexed due to distance or poor views.

Marsh Harrier C. aeruginosus 
A female was hunting over fields near Durham’s Warping Drain on 9th May and 2nd August. 

Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 
There was a total of 21 sightings this year, involving at least two males and three ringtails. Seen from January to April with the last record from the early part of the year on 22nd April. The first returning bird was on 9th September, when a male was seen at Mill Drain Marsh, from then on records were regular to the year’s end. 

Eurasian Sparrowhawk A. nisus      
Recorded every month with a total of 39 sightings this year, the maximum being of four on 5th August. Three were seen together on 3rd October. Breeding took place and three young were produced.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus 
One was over Mill Drain Marsh on 5th July (CF).

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 
Resident, with a total of 64 sightings, though none in May. Maximum was four on any one day.

Merlin F. columbarius 
Recorded on 15 dates. Seen in January and February in the first part of the year, with records involving probably only one male and one female. A male returned to the moors on 14th September, when it was seen at the Shoulder o’ Mutton. There was one further record in September, then three records in October with the year’s maximum on 12th when two males and two females were present. There were six records in November involving two males and a female, but only one record for December of three plus birds on 18th.

Hobby F. subbuteo                                                       
First of 18 records this year was of two birds on 15th June, and from 12th July on they could be observed on practically every visit until the last record on 24th August. Five birds was the maximum count, as on 24th July, when two adults and three juveniles were seen. 

Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 
On 27th November a male was seen, with a male also reported on another date over Crowle Moor.

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Resident and recorded every month of the year with 53 sightings, maximum on any one day being 22.

Grey Partridge Perdix perdix 
Resident and recorded 16 times, with an average count of one to three and the maximum being of 11.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
A resident species with a maximum count of 35, on 18th December. Release and shooting of birds affects numbers.

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 
Seven records, the first on 20th February, then one along Canal Tow Path on 6th April. On 30th May one was heard calling, there was then a gap until the next observation on 20th November. On 27th November a single was at Mill Drain Marsh. One or two were recorded on 11th December and the last record was of a calling bird at the Northern Canals on 22nd December.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus   
Resident, common and widespread especially in larger water bodies.

Common Coot Fulica atra
Not as common as Moorhen, and records came from Inkle Moor Pond, Shoulder o’ Mutton, Mill Drain Marsh and Paraffin Cuttings only.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 
Seen on 15th May in the colliery yard and again at the same place from 1st April and on 15th June two were present.

Great Ringed Plover C. hiaticula 
A total of 13 records, the first single was on 13th March at the colliery, usually sightings were of two birds but four were seen on 15th June. A pair bred in the old contractor’s car park, at the colliery yard. The nest with four eggs was nearly run over by a coach, on 27th June. Two young were eventually reared.

European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria           
The first of six records was of four in arable fields near Jones Cable on 22nd February; 13 were seen on 27th February. In March 24 flew over, then 200+ were in fields near the Paraffin area, on 7th September. There were only two seen in October and November. 

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 
Recorded all months except March and April, generally seen over flying the moors, but also seen at the Paraffin area where 1000 were seen (WHP), with a further two counts of 150 there. Observed displaying and holding territory near the Shoulder o’ Mutton, but no proof of breeding.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 
The commonest wader of the moors seen on 58 dates on most visits and in every month, with average counts of one or two and a maximum of 21 on 12th September.

Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 
Six records with the first in March, with a maximum count of four in any one day. Mainly seen around Pony Bridge Wood, Limberlost, Casson’s and occasionally flushed from Mill Drain Marsh and some other areas of the moors.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
The eight records were mainly of the same pair seen near the Shoulder o’ Mutton, where they generally breed. Displays were seen over the Southern Canals on 20th March.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus
One was at the Southern Canals on 13th March, one flushed from Mill Drain Marsh on 11th July and one flying over the colliery area on 11th December, were the only records.

Common Greenshank T. nebularia 
The only records were, one on peat stacks on 17th July, and one on 7th August.

Green Sandpiper T. ochropus
Recorded on 10 occasions, average number was one or two with a maximum count of four seen at the south west part of the moors, on 21st June. The general areas of sightings were from Thorne Waste Drain, Paraffin Cuttings, Shoulder o’ Mutton and north of Collis’s Tram and up to the southern boundary drain of the Canals.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
There were three main colonies this year, at Paraffin Cuttings, Shoulder o’ Mutton and Mill Drain Marsh. Numbers at the former peaked at c.100 on 17th April but there were no records from here after 8th May. At Shoulder o’ Mutton numbers decreased from c.150 from 15th May through June. Around 100 were present at Mill Drain Marsh on 8th May and numbers gradually increased to c.200 by 30th May, though by 5th June only c.130 remained.

Common Gull L. canus 
Seen more frequently than other species except Black-headed Gull, though not in large numbers, maximum count was 11 on 31st July at peat stacks between the Paraffin area and Alder Thicket. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus 
Infrequently seen, an adult and immature were loafing at peat stacks between the Paraffin area and Alder Thicket, on 31st July.

Herring Gull L. argentatus 
Generally seen over flying the moors in small numbers or feeding in nearby arable fields. One flew over on 11th December, for example.

Great Black-backed Gull L. marinus
A few birds over fly the moors occasionally. Maximum was 42 over on 11th December.

Stock Dove Columba oenas
Between two and seven are occasionally seen aound the moors, the higher count was seen on 4th December, heading to roost with Wood Pigeons. Possibly bred at Woodpecker Corner.

Wood Pigeon C. palumbus 
Around 1,000 to 1,500 can be seen coming to roost mainly at Will Pits and the eastern edge of the moors during autumn and winter. Maximum was 2,000 to roost on 18th December. Generally breeds all round the moors in woodlands such as Will Pits.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto                                    
Small numbers are seen throughout the year at some parts around the moors. These places include the north east area of the moors and other buildings, maximum was 15 at Dairy Farm on 15th September.

Turtle Dove S. turtur 
A secretive species, maximum count was 23 in fields south west of the moors on 18th July.   

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Then maximum was 11 on 30th May and there were nine on 5th June. On 31st August, two jueniles were seen one of which was being pursued by a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk. First and last dates were 20th April and 7th September. 

Little Owl Athene noctua
The only record was at southern end of Dairy Farm track on 2nd January.

Tawny Owl Strix aluco
There were 10 records, one of a dead specimen at the Alder Thicket. Areas of sightings were Elmhirst Wood and a pair calling at Woodpecker Corner on 26th July. Other calling birds were heard in daytime from several other areas of the moors. 

Long-eared Owl Asio otus
The only record came from Will Pits on 25th May.

European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus 
Casual sightings were few, on 2nd June a pair was flushed from along the southern boundary of Southern Canals. A female was disturbed from the western boundary of the same area on 6th June.  Four were seen or heard from various parts of the moors on 29th June. Other obeservations came from the annual surveys that were conducted over several nights this revealed a total of 30 territorial males.     

Common Swift Apus apus
Present from April and generally seen over the whole of the moors and fields, but mainly seen over open areas of water such as found at the Shoulder o’ Mutton, Mill Drain Marsh and Paraffin Cuttings.  The maximum was of 250 on 15th May and 7th August. 

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 
Four records, the first flew across Mill Drain March on 11th July and one was along a drain at Elmhirst pump, on 18th September. Nearby one was at Woodpecker Corner on 14th October and on 23rd October one was at Bell’s Pond.

Green Woodpecker Picus viridis 
Present all year with a total of 51 records noted mainly from Woodpecker Corner, but also from Mill Drain Marsh, Pony Bridge area, Elmhirst area, Shoulder o’ Mutton and colliery area. Two were seen at Pony Bridge area on 27th July and the maximum count was three.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
A resident species with a total of 29 records noted from Woodpecker Corner, Mill Drain Marsh, Pony Bridge area, Elmhirst area, Shoulder o’ Mutton and colliery area. The maximum count was three on 23rd January.

Sky Lark Alauda arvensis 
A widespread breeding species on the moors and surrounding fields, and present all year. The maximum count was 25 on 30th January.

Sand Martin Riparia riparia 
Only two records, involving three birds, two of which were over the Paraffin area.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 
The first record was of a single on 6th April and a total of 35 were seen on 14th August which had risen to a maximum of c.60 by 22nd September. Breeds in buildings on the moor edge, such as the old and new Elmhirst pump houses, but has also previously bred under brick bridges before these were replaced by corrugated steel framed ones. Last record was of six were on 25th September.

House Martin Delichon urbica
The first record was of three, on 15th May then followed one bird in June and five birds in August. On 9th September a total of c.40 were seen moving east in small parties of between seven and 14. The last record was of three in October.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
First record was on 22nd April, and the maximum was of four on 15th May. The last two were seen on 28th August.

Meadow Pipit A. pratensis
Present all year with average counts of between one to nine birds and a maximum count of c.130 on 23rd September around the Shoulder o’ Mutton. 

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Recorded on nine occasions mainly as single birds but with one count of five and another count of three. Recorded first on 17th April and then every month up to 28th August which was the last record of the year. 

Grey Wagtail M. cinerea
One flew from the colliery across the end of Jones Cable towards Elmhirst, on 8th October.

Pied Wagtail M. alba
Normal counts are between one and two with the highest counts of 10. Breeding takes place in the stacks of drying peat around the moors. 

 Troglodytes troglodytes
This species was badly affected by the last 1982/83 winter and has yet to regain its former numbers. From the 67 records received throughout the year the high counts were of 10 to 15 birds as counted on two occasions, but the highest count was of 16 on 29th October. 

Hedge Accentor Prunella modularis 
Seen all year mainly on moorland fringes, maximum count was five on any one day. 

Robin Erithacus rubecula
From the 72 records of this species from all around the moors, normal counts were of one to four birds, sometimes in a family group with a maximum count of 10 on 29th September. 

Rufous Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos 
First record was on 26th April, when a single bird was heard during the day at Pony Bridge Wood. There were five records revealing a minimum of 10 to 11 territorial males. Maximum count was of nine on 4th May, and on 8th June one was heard from the small wood at Elmhirst pump. The last record was of three on 11th June.  

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Single birds were seen on three dates, the earliest ever was on 15th April along Pony Bridge Tram, on 24th July (no location) and along Canal Tow Path on 2nd October.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra    
The first of 15 records was on 26th April, when two were seen. There were three records in May, with five seen on 8th and 15th then eight seen on 30th. A maximum of 12 were seen on 1st July, which is a very low count with numbers having decreased by 50% or more in recent years. On 2nd June a pair were seen feeding young.

Common Stonechat S. torquata 
A single was seen at Elmhirst pump on 20th October (PB, TJW).

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Recorded on 13 occasions the first was on 14th March, the earliest ever date (JE). Two were seen on 16th March and one was at Angle Drain-Middle Moor Tram junction on 26th April. During May two were seen on 8th, one on 15th and two on peat stacks on 25th, and one on 5th June. On 2nd August three were seen from Elmhirst pump along the Dairy Farm track, with singles following on 1st, 22nd and 27th September. The last record was of one on 12th October.

Blackbird Turdus merula 
Fairly common throughout and breeds, though most numerous on the periphery of the moors and numbers swelled by the winter visitors from the continent. Maximum count was 27 on 30th October, a very low count compared to previous years.

Fieldfare T. pilaris 
The last of the winter records was of 30 at the western boundary of the Southern Canals. The August record refers to two birds that flew over the colliery in a north westerly direction. The first 18 returning birds were flying west over Mill Drain Marsh in two flocks of five and 13. On 29th October c.150 were recorded and the maximum was 250+ on 10th December. Last and first dates were 7th March and 29th September. 

Song Thrush T. philomelos 
The 37 records were mainly of single birds with no recordsin February or May. The maximum was of eight and there was a further record of seven. Breeds across the moors but more so around the edges.

Redwing T. iliacus 
From the 11 records the last of the winter was of a single on 8th January. Returning birds appeared on 23rd October, when 15 were recorded. Numbers increased with 100 on 29th and the maximum of 150 flying west on 30th October. Six were seen on 11th December. 

Mistle Thrush T. viscivorus   
Only four records of single birds were received. One was at the colliery yard, another was on a peat wall at the Shoulder o’ Mutton, and the other two records were presumed to be fly-overs since no location was stated. 

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia 
Seven records all of single birds were received. Seen and heard in all months of its stay. First and last dates were 22nd April and 24th July.

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Of the 10 records seven were of single birds and one date when three were counted with the maximum being nine on 15th May. First and last dates were 8th April and 28th August. 

Reed Warbler A. scirpaceus
Most of the 17 records were of between one to seven birds with six recorded on the first date and a maximum of 12 recorded on 15th May. On 24th May a nest probably of this species was found along Canal Tow Path containing four eggs. On checking the nest on 7t June an Adder Vipera berus was coiled inside having no doubt devoured the eggs. First and last dates were 8th May and two on 22nd September. 

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
A single was seen on 15th May and another single was with a party of Common Whitethroats at the eastern boundary of the Southern Canals.

Common Whitethroat S. communis             
The first of 24 records was of 13, with several counts of 10 to 12 reaching a maximum of 22 on 15th May. More often only one to five were counted. First and last dates were 8th May and 9th September. 

Garden Warbler S. borin
The only record was of two on 15th May.

Blackcap S. atricapilla           
Recorded on 12 dates, the first on 17th April the maximum was four on 15th May and the last one was on 28th August.  

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
There were 18 records with the first at Pony Bridge Wood and the maximum was four. First and last dates were 7th April and 2nd October. 

Willow Warbler P. trochilus
A pair was heard in the colliery area on the first date, with a maximum of 30, which is 70% down on recent years. First and last dates were 7th April and 10 on 14th September. 

Goldcrest Regulus regulus
From the 29 records it was seen up to mid-April, but no records in March. Three returning birds were seen on 22nd September, then present to the year’s end. 

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
The first record equal the previous earliest date, on 4th May. Five records from Pony Bridge area, Elmhirst pump, colliery yard and Durham’s Garden, with a maximum of three. On 16th May one caught a Peacock butterfly Inachis io but then had great difficulty trying to eat it, dropping it several times while trying to kill by banging it against a branch. 

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Generally seen in small groups of five or six, occasionally 10 to 15 all months of the year, with 47 records, and the maximum being 22 on 2nd January. Of these 12 were at Pony Bridge area and the rest in the colliery area.

Willow Tit Parus montanus 
A common resident with 75 records, with generally one or two birds seen but several counts of 14 and a maximum of 16 on 28th August. 

Coal Tit P. ater
Seen infrequently usually in singles or pairs, with 13 records in all. Maximum was four on 5th an 7th March.

Blue Tit P. caeruleus 
A resident species with 79 records the maximum count being 26 on 22nd September.

Great Tit P. major
Seen every month with 36 records and a maximum count of eight on 18th March.

Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor 
One was seen at ‘long meadow’, Inkle Moor on 5th April (WHP).

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
The commonest corvid on the moors after Carrion Crow, with 75 records, but it appears that this species is in decline. Maximum count was only 10 compared to 30 to 40 in recent years. 

Magpie Pica pica
Virtually always seen on the fringes of the moors, but on 2nd October one was seen flying east over New Cut Drain at the Canal Tow Path. The maximum was 20 on 23rd February.

Rook Corvus frugilegus
Despite the fact that there is at least one small rookery to the south east of the moors, it is a rare bird over the moorland. This year was no exception with a single on 27th November. 

Carrion Crow C. corone
Resident and generally seen singly or in pairs with the highest counts being associated with roosts. Maximum was 58 flying over Mill Drain. 

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 
Not a very common moors species, usually only seen flying over in small parties. Larger counts came from human habitation around the moors with a maximum 125 at west end of Jones Cable, on 11th December.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Nine records of mainly single birds with a maximum of c.50 feeding near the grain store at the Dairy Farm on 19th February. 

Tree Sparrow P. montanus
Recorded 12 times mainly as single birds but with two counts of 20 on 30th January and 17th April. Possibly breeds at Woodpecker Corner. Recorded every visit at the west end of Jones Cable, around the old sewage works and rough fields particularly as on 23rd October when noted to be very numerous (BPW).

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
There were 41 records, with several counts of 50+ during September feeding in arable fields to the south of the moors. The maximum count was 56 in the colliery area on 21st November. Singing males were recorded on several occasions, with one at colliery area and one at Pony Bridge Wood on 27th March. Another sang at Inkle Moor and one at colliery area on 1st April.  

Brambling F. montifringilla 
The first of three records was of 100+ at the colliery yard on 23rd October. Three were seen on 30th October and one on 6th November.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Recorded on 29 occasions through most months of the year but not during March, May or July. Very small numbers are the norm though on two occasions c.50 were seen feeding in arable fields to the south of the moors, on 13th January and a date in September. 

Goldfinch C. carduelis 
Most of the 15 records were from the west and south sides of the moors between Alder Thicket, colliery area and Elmhirst. Average counts were of between one and four birds with a maximum of 10 at the Alder Thicket was on 4th December. 

Siskin C. spinus
Two were seen at Woodpecker Corner on 1st April, two more records followed with c.14 at Elmhirst, on 24th October, which then flew to Woodpecker Corner. On 4th December 10 were at the Alder Thicket with Goldfinches. 

Linnet C. cannabina 
Present all year and breeds amongst Heather Calluna vulgaris. Average counts are of one to 12 with sometimes 20 to 30 though higher counts of 100 were recorded from the colliery spoil tip on 27th September with 80+ along Jones Cable on 29th September. Maximum was 120 on 23rd October.

Common Redpoll C. flammea
Resident but with no records for March or May. Records were normally of single birds with odd flocks of 10 to 30 and several counts of 40 and the year’s maximum was of 50 on 10th November.

Common Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula 
Seen all year in small parties with a maximum of 18 on 27th November.

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
There were two records of birds flying over Mill Drain Marsh on 30th October and 13th November (ML).

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
A very common resident, seen mainly in pairs or small family parties, though in winter large flocks can accumulate, the largest of which gather at arable fields around the moor’s edge. Maximum count was 70 on 23rd January.

Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus 
Usually small counts of singles or pairs though larger numbers can be seen in winter. The maximum count was 14 on 29th June. 

Appendix 1. Category D and Escaped Species

Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild

A juvenile at Jones Cable just near the sewage works on 20th June (SH, BPW).

List of Observers


David Beaumont, P. Burnham, Trevor Ede, Jack Eversham, Clive Featherstone, Steve Hiner, S.T. Holliday, David Hursthouse, Martin Limbert, Claud Marshall, William H. Priestley, Bryan P. Wainwright, Terry J. Wells.