Monday, 29 November 2010

Winter Visitors

A bit of a catch up posting today.....

I wonder if I am the only person in the UK not blogging about the snow and the weather. Oh go on then. The snow in Northumberland is bad, friends of mine in the upper reaches of the Coquet Valley have nearly 3 feet outside their door. Luckily the man of the house works for the National Trust so has a 4x4 to get to work, but other than that nothing much is moving. There's a nice news clip from the BBC News here. Good to see Rothbury in the news again.

Actually this posting had been planned for last week before the snow arrived as I found myself in the Lake District, Windermere to be precise and Dumfries and Galloway for work. And while the weather was cold, it was just lovely frosty mornings and blue, blue skies. I drove south on Wednesday evening and by Thursday morning, the eastern side of the country was under a blanket of snow. I remember as a child the huge snowfalls an easterly wind brought into the north east.

Back to my trip. There can be few better places than the Lakes on a cold and frosty winters afternoon. Last Wednesday having a few hours to spare before driving home (and to miss the chaos of rush hour traffic on the M6) I went for a very pleasant walk around Grasmere. Which is where these photos come from. Nothing too spectacular, just pleasant.

A couple of other views which caught my eye on the way.........

On the way to Grasmere I stopped off en route to walk around the Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick, which I last visited nearly 20 years ago.

View from the circle itself...

This was Wednesday last week, which saw me start that day off at Caerlaverock in Dumfries and Galloway. An early start was needed, as I was there to record a Living World on Barnacle Geese. this meant that at 6.30am on a cold, frosty and wonderfully moonlit morning, I found myself standing on the Solway merse (salt marsh) watching the dawn rise over the Lakeland Hills. And we waited and we waited and then, as if one bird decided to go, 2-3,000 barnacle geese flew over us, calling. What a fabulous sight, something I'll never forget. It was such a privilege to be allowed on the the WWT Caerlaverock site before dawn and be down there in the moonlight, just myself, the presenter and the man from the WWT, in the frosty silence.

Night time isn't ideal for a photo so I took this one above the afternoon before, when I did a recce. And then after the recording the geese themselves in the adjacent fields.

Caerlaverock is a special place as although a WWT site, it doesn't contain a collection of pinioned or research birds. So every bird on the reserve is a wild bird. The barnacle geese here are almost the entire Spitsbergen breeding population, so a lot of conservation effort goes into their winter welfare. But everything there is wild, including about 100 Whooper Swans, which a week or so before were in the arctic, but now make this area their home for the winter.

I love whooper swans. I remember years ago 2 or 3 arrived on the lakes at Cragside in Northumberland and watching them in this wild place, the estate being closed to the public for the winter, I could observe them unhindered. A true call of the wild in the winter.

Finally, this Sunday sees the final Living World of the year. On November 1st I travelled to Shropshire to record a raven roost. Ravens are another of the fascinating birds this Island should be proud to have living here. Big, superb flyers, steeped in folklore, and well just too clever for us.

En route to the roost sight, (which sadly I can't telly you where) we visited a raven nest. Ravens build a nest as big as an eagles, and this one was in a Scots pine, no taller than 30 or 40 feet. What is remarkable is that in Shropshire all bar a couple of raven nests are in trees and increasingly near lowland farmland. This much persecuted bird, is finally making a comeback into lowland Britain.

So make a date in your diary, Sunday December 5th at 06.35hrs on Radio 4 to listen to 2 raven experts from the Shropshire Raven Study Group extolling the excitement of these wonderful birds. The link to the programme is here. A shameless plug I know, but having seen the roost, and witnessed tumbling and pairing flight displays as early as November 1st, I want to share this experience with the blogging world.


  1. Lovely photos, Andrew and a really interesting post. Casatlerigg looks much quieter than when we were there last month when it was heaving with visitors. Will certainly listen to this year's last Living World Programme it sounds fascinating.

  2. Thanks Robin, will welcome any feedback re raven programme.

  3. The Living World programme on ravens was excellent Andrew. It was really informative and atmospheric and I loved the snippets on folklore. Its really great to see the ravens recovering so well and spreading eastwards across England.

    What I love abou the Living World programmes is that I can always visualise the scene so clearly and feel as though I am actually there.

    The ancient trees programme from Herefordshire was very good too and made me want to visit and see the trees for myself. Do you know if members of the public can visit the Croft Abbey Estate?

    Congratulations on such excellent programmes and roll on the next Series!