Sunday, 20 December 2009

Arctic Blast

Late on Thursday evening the snow arrived, it began failing lightly at first but in time became whipped up to a flurry as strong winds blew across the landscape, large snowflakes began to fall in blizzard fashion and soon covered the ground as far as it was possible to see. It continued on into the early hours when it was possible to watch through the window due to the bright white snow lighting the surface outside, once the eyes had adjusted to the dark almost everything could be seen.

By morning the snow had covered everything in it's path and the sun which was now just warming up shone down on the transformed landscape lighting it perfectly, the trees and shrubs glistened with trails of snow across their bows and branches and the once green lawns and fields were now covered with a good 5-6 inches of snow. The world seemed a very quiet and different place indeed, the usual hustle and bustle of passing motorists had fallen silent leaving the cold crisp but sunny morning to the birds and I.


My gardening friend suddenly appeared from nowhere as I cleared some of the more delicate shrubs of snow, sat on a branch next to me it puffed up it's red chest and ruffled it's feathers as if to say "bit chilly this morning isn't it". There was little chance I was going to unearth any worms for it but it didn't deter it from following me all around the garden for at least an hour, it's impossible to imagine what birds have to go through during these cold spells and just a small offering to our feathered friends can go a long way.



A frenetic energy seemed to building up amongst the Winter Thrushes until it consumed them and the berry frenzy began. Redwing, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush were soon busily flying to the Cotoneasters in sorties, they were joined by a few Fieldfare which in truth didn't hang around long and had departed by mid-morning. The majority of the Rowan trees have few berries left and it certainly seems that these have been targeted first, most of the Thrushes have now turned their attention to the Cotoneaster's which have grown so large they are no longer bush size but full grown trees which hold thousands of berries from almost every branch, I had hoped that they would remain for a longer period just in case we had a waxwing invasion but no such luck! A Red Kite was circling the fields and a rufous underwinged Buzzard flew over North and an hour later flew back over heading south, I've had good views of the local Buzzards and this is not an individual I recognise. Common Pheasant, Green Woodpecker, Blue, Great & a single Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Jay & Magpie all in the garden.


By lunchtime a few snow flurries had passed through and the sun was now shining brightly across snow covered roof tops and fields, the wind had dropped completely and although it was still chilly the sun brought life back to what looked like a stark white wilderness. I'd learnt from my earlier photo attempts of the Redwing that I needed a bit of light on them and the sun behind me so I wandered off to find a decent position, I found a spot and after clearing some snow from around my feet I positioned myself in good view. The Redwings took a bit of time getting used to me nearby but after a number of Blackbirds flew in and started feeding it was too much for them and they soon joined in the melee, 2 Fieldfare returned and a Mistle Thrush soon followed and entered the feast. It was incredible to see this activity up close and with little time to loose they devoured berry after berry in front of me, a few squabbles in-between mouthfuls from the Blackbirds seemed the only interruptions as they gorged themselves as quickly as possible.


I got some really good views of them feeding and in turn managed a few good photos, I usually find them quite a wary bird and often difficult to photograph due to the fact they fly off at the slightest movement. With the snow, blue sky, red berries and of course the Redwings themselves it all came together quite nicely and I was really pleased with the results. The Thrushes continued to feed long after my feet went numb and my camera batteries went dead, the cold was too much for both us and the camera and I went off to recharge.


Mid-afternoon the skies became overcast with a slight pink glow and I was sure we were in for more snow, a walk across the footpath and out in to the fields founds areas much deeper with almost 8 inches of snow. There was little sign of life and apart from a few small Tit flocks and a couple of Bullfinches calling from the hedgerows it was extremely quiet. The snow didn't return and as night fell temperatures plummeted leaving a very cold night indeed.

Saturday was similar but without snowfall, blue skies and sunny spells highlighting the surrounding countryside but the cold temperatures now leaving hidden icy patches that became treacherous underfoot. The Thrushes remained busy in the Cotoneasters all day and the majority of the garden birds were present, I am concerned however by the fact that I haven't heard a Goldcrest in the garden for the last couple of days as we usually have 2 that are always present, these cold spells can have devastating effects on this species and many succumb to the cold weather. A Red Kite that drifted over was the only other bird of note. By the end of MOTD on Saturday evening snow was beginning to fall again, a light flurry continued into the early hours adding to the covering that was already present.