Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Frozen cold

Some winter cheer - best wishes to anyone who's reading that you have a happy and successful 2011.

You may have heard that the UK's been suffering the coldest December for a century: it's certainly been an interesting one down here in Devon! A bit of chilly weather in mid-December, whilst the rest of the country was gripped by ice and snow, left some of us feeling smug and happy that we lived in the 'soft south'...

Pre-snow, Exminster Marshes in the first hint of the cold weather: the pools all frozen and almost every bird on or around the main storage lagoon on the site. Picturesque, though.

A pale and watery sunrise,  reminiscent of Turner's work. Only in England...

Reed Bunting

However, a short while later a 20cm layer of snow appeared overnight, wiping the smile off my face. A nice selection of interesting birds promptly appeared in the garden, including the expected Brambling, Redwing and Fieldfare, and a thoroughly unexpected Moorhen, walking down the neighbours' hedge!

Chaffinches were confused by the depth of the snow

A poor and grotty photo of a nice bird in the garden: Redwing

Even the squirrels were out making snowmen

Moorhen wondering what on Earth is going on.

And of course, a sunny day makes a perfect opportunity for a walk and a chance to take some pictures.

The river Bovey, as it ripples and roils downstream to join the Teign


Holly in the Bovey

Holly in the Bovey. Again.

Snow, snow, snow...

Freezing fog dusts a lone oak on the edge of the Parke estate

The river Bovey between Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh, steaming in the early morning sunshine

Frozen birch

More frozen frosty snowy trees. You know the score.

Yarner woods looking monochromatic and chaotic

The clear skies and even layer of snow also made a very nice combination to take the camera for a walk when we headed over to my parents' place for Christmas.

Haldon Belvedere in the evening sun

Nice male Brambling. Through the parents' double-glazing.

Blue Tit

The lure of a handful of apples was enough to bring in plenty of Blackbirds and Starlings, with Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare thrown in for good measure. One female Blackbird in particular was extremely aggressive, chasing everything - even Fieldfares - off 'her' apples.

Blackbird vs Song Thrush

Blackbird makes victory salute after a first round KO

Apples: they've got tough skins...

...takes some effort to get...


...bit of...(aargh)...

skin off!

Just as a thaw was predicted, the temperatures tumbled lower: Boxing Day morning saw a rather nippy -7C at my parents' house, close to Exeter (I know it's nothing compared to many others, but cold enough for us, thankyou very much!) - a walk around Exminster Marshes that morning was particularly interesting.

To begin with, the canal was frozen solid. A small hole in the ice was kept free by a group of Coot, with a pair of Gadwall and a single Little Grebe - all moving rather sluggishly in the cold.

The Exeter ship canal, sans ships.

Coot freezing into the canal

Spot the Gadwall

Coots still freezing in the ice. Little Grebe huddling in for warmth.

A little further along the canal, a small seep of flowing water into a ditch was providing a life-line for a Water Rail; normally a bird which is extremely wary - this one was presumably so close to the edge that it let us wander past a few metres away without running for cover.

Water Rail, on the edge

At the Turf Locks hotel, a disconsolate group of Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Oystercatcher huddled on the frosty grass, whilst Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit flew up and down river, searching for the earliest opportunity to get onto fresh mud before it froze solid.

Black-tailed Godwit - looking odd because its legs are tucked in to its belly, rather than flapping along behind - they look oddly chesty in this pose.

Turf locks jetty

Lapwing heading over to check whether the marshes are snow-free yet. Nope.

Crystals on the fringes of the snow

To cap it all, ice floes were floating down the river Exe on the ebbing tide, with cargoes of Lapwing and Dunlin. Quite, quite surreal!

Lapwing and Dunlin drift downriver on ice-floe.

Reed-heads in the growing sunlight

Lapwings looking mournful in the snow

Lapwing on ice

Cheers... to a successful 2011!

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