Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Wintery musings from Somerset

Blimey, this is the second posting in less than 24 hours (here). I must have had a bang on the head or paid the electric bill. Something like that. Well the news is all about snow, wintry conditions and how we're all heading into months of freezing temperatures. I've long thought it was an interesting omission of the climate change journalists a decade or so back, in that they forgot to tell us in the middle of their sooth sayings that we'll all frizzle in the summer, that in the winter there'll be a lot more energy in our weather systems, and therefore more moisture in the air, which when the air turns cold could lead to more snow than we've been used to of late. I'm not complaining for one. I love snow. Makes life difficult travelling, but it's beautiful to look at.

Unlike this chap who was seen walking in the 1/2 inch of snow we had this weekend on the Somerset coast. Note the sartorial elegance of his baggy trousers, the raffish tilt of his bobble hat, and what is he wearing under that fleece? It is a smorgasbord of bulges and sticky-outy bits. At least I think it is what's causing that effect. Anyway just after this we were chased by a herd of frisky bullocks, obviously desperate to discover the source of those many bulges. Maybe they thought is was hay!

So far, as alluded to, down here we haven't had much snow. More of a dusting really as can be seen from the window of my house this weekend. Its enough to keep me happy at the moment, especially as we're all travelling to WWT Welney on Friday to make a radio programme in front of a live audience on Saturday. I hope we get snowed in, then I can indulge in some birdwatching on the fens.

The snow that fell on Friday night was unexpected, as the forecast said it would miss us. And so in fabulous sunshine on Friday morning, I put my weks washing out.... Oh dear this was the view on Sunday morning, a mere 48 hours later. Eventually it defrosted itself and dried and was put away. But it was well rinsed through, and smelt fresh. By the end of the weekend the snow had all but melted here, but the temperatures were freezing all day yesterday and today I woke to more snow, the lightest of powdery snow gently falling as dawn broke.

What is worrying me is that although I have all the feeders out and full, there are hardly any birds about. Its puzzling. I back onto open countryside as far as the Black Mountains in Wales. I've only been in this house since December 2009, but lived just around the corner for 10 years and used to have loads of birds there. But here all is quiet. I appreciate my garden is mainly grass and decking, but at the back of me are many thick shrubs, then nothing but classic dairy farmland of grass and hedges for 2 miles to the Bristol Channel.

There are cats about, but there always have been. So where are they? I noticed on Ragged Robins blog she mentions a lack of collard doves. Funnily enough I saw my first one for ages this morning. Collard doves are in a decline for reasons no one really knows, but this weather must affect them as they are birds of much further south in Asia. Last winter took its toll on many birds at the northern edge of their range. Luckily for many a good breeding season helped restore the population balances, but this cold snap, if it is prolonged could cause another population crash of this years juveniles, especially of the smaller passerines, such as wren, goldcrest and so on. I hope they come to the feeders soon.

One bird I shall not worry about is the Jay. This glorious bird sits most morning outside my office window. Today I had my camera with me and managed to snap this shot through the glass. I tried to lift the window but off it flew. Jays are common in Clifton and used to be very secretive. Now though they are becoming bold, or bolder. And I love the fact they are around these busy streets. If jays weren't crows, or so common, people would be desperate to take photographs of them. Just look at the plumage of a Jay the next time you have a chance and see how beautiful it is, with that lovely flash of electric blue along it's flanks.

Another beautiful bird is the goldcrest. Slightly harder to see in the wild so I was thrilled and delighted when, this afternoon as I sat dunking a kit-kat into a mug of tea, Julie e-mailed me with a sketch she'd just finished today. Being a gardener Julie is not working at the moment, so practising her art which she hadn't done much of for years. The photo I believe doesn't do it justice as it was taken on her mobile phone and I had to photoshop it, but I love it. I love all wildlife drawings which are what I call half finished. Just the two birds and some twigs in this case, it really doesn't need anything else. As a teenager I fell in love with a Danish painter called Mads Stage who produced fabulous scratchy evocative drawings, Julie's style is quite similar. Lovely

Well that's enough of this winter wildlife, it's time to head home into the Bristol traffic and then have a nice cup of tea.


  1. Lovely Jay picture. I've not managed a decent picture of one yet. As you've seen today, the snow is getting thicker here! Hope it doesn't last till the end of January.

  2. A very interesting read Andrew. I would love to get a photo of a Jay, I haven't even seen one for what seems like years!

    I wonder if there could be a Sparrowhawk around which is inhibiting your garden birds.

    I do like Julie's sketch, how I wish I could do that!

    I also enjoyed your previous post which I missed commenting on, the scenic photos were beautiful and I particularly liked seeing the Whoopers.

  3. A great posting Andrew - sorry it's been a while since I left a comment on here - strange you don't have many birds as the ones here are eating me out of house and home!! Bird food in France is quite a bit more expensive - thought I'd stocked up enough on the Fat Squares and Peanuts :-) Love Julie's sketch as well! Take care Miranda

  4. Thank you Emma, Shy Songbird and Miranda, especially for the comments on Julie's drawing. Still very fiew birds in my garden, it may be a sparrowhawk, they're around, or a new cat in the neighbourhood which seems to be inflicting itelf on my birds :-(

  5. We have snow here now as you saw on my blog. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love Julie's drawing. She captured the lively spirit of the Goldcrest. I think this is the same bird that we have here in the States which is commonly called a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I have an old issue (1978 -79) of The Larousse Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe by Bertel Bruun. They have the Goldcrest scientifically as Regulus regulus. In my current Field Guide to the Birds of North America it is Regulus satrapa. I hate it when the powers that be don't use the same scientific name for the same birds. Maybe they aren't the same but the pictures sure look alike. Collared Doves are becoming quite common here. Just a few short years ago we would drive for hours to have a look at an annual. Now we merely have to drive into town to spot one. I can't wait for the day I see one at our feeders. I think they are such handsome doves.