Doncaster Naturalists’ Visit to Slains Lane, Misson Sunday 3 December 2023.

Leaders: Jim Burnett & Colin Howes.

Following heavy and sustained rains through October and November, the River Idle had produced extensive river valley floods and most of the fields and sand quarries adjacent to the river from Bawtry, through to Newington and down to Misson were inundated. Certainly areas adjacent to Slains Lane were under water but providing habitat for substantial flocks of winter wildfowl.

With hopes of seeing good numbers of a wide range of water birds, the Nats meeting was scheduled for Sunday 3 December. However, following several days with cold air feeding down from the north east, with temperatures hovering around and below freezing, the early hours of Sunday produced a period of steady but silent precipitation, giving the Doncaster region a blanket of soft wet snow by sunrise. Were it not for freezing fog and an overcast sky, the scene might have been attractive and verging on the photogenic. In fact, it was dismal with poor visibility.

Though a smattering of birders were around, together with a single angler and the ubiquitous dog-walkers with their wet and grubby dogs, our assembly time of 10.30am came and went with no attendant Nats members.

Undaunted, our dutiful leaders strode forth along Slains Lane, distant trumpets, squeaks, whistles, squawks and quacks giving promise of a good range of species. Sadly, we couldn’t get close enough for any serious viewing or counting. Within the first 50 yards, the lane was sufficiently inundated to o’er-top Jim’s trusty boots and to find the level of the puncture hole in my right wellington.

However, looking east through the mirk, glimpses were to be had of Coot, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebe, Mute Swan and Whooper Swan.

We then tried access via the Hag Lane end and on the flooded field between Hag Lane and the Ship Inn were Coot, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Cormorant.

We walked down to the Idle Barrage where again we got distant glimpses of Whooper Swans. The road beyond the barrage was even worse than at Misson

Of passerine birds, there were two Goldfinches at the Misson end, and a Blackbird and a Robin at the Hag Lane end.

Interestingly there were signs that the Idle was beginning to subside. Rafts of Reed Sweet-grass Glyceria maxima and Fools Water-cress Apium nodiflorum, drawn over the barrage during the flood were now several feet above the current water level and a gap in the bank-side vegetation showed that water from the flooded field by Hagg Lane was strongly flowing back into the main watercourse.

Another curious phenomenon of the day were the clouds of steam billowing up from the grounds of the ‘Tunnel Tech’ Mushroom Factory.

Suffering from cold/squelching socks, at about mid-day we decided to call it a day … but no! for there on a rose bush in the layby was a sodden, all-occupants-fled Robin’s pincushion gall.

Off-piste, while driving too and from the venue there were Collared Doves in Misson, a Jay a Buzzard and flock of Fieldfares in the hedgerows through Austerfield.

Acknowledgement – Appreciative thanks are due to the anonymous donor of the Thermal Long Johns (TOG rating 0.45).